Fine, so McLaren wants to be called a “disciple”. We get it:
We might say that Christians are people who have entered a certain sedentary membership or arrived at a status validated by some group or institution, while disciples are learners (and unlearners) who have started on a rigorous and unending journey or quest in relation to Jesus Christ. It’s worth noting in this regard that the word “Christian” occurs in the New Testament exactly three times and the word “Christianity” exactly zero. The word “disciple,” however, is found 263 times.
A New Kind of Christianity, pp.28-29
I guess because Christian leaves a bad taste in his mouth. All I can say is that his entire argument falls flat. One might as well say that a disciple is one who still has a lot to learn and should keep their mouth shut until they know better, and that a Christian is one who has so imitated Christ that people started noticing the fact.
And what should we care that Christian/Christianity is in the Bible only sparingly by word count? This proves little, if anything. It certainly does not suggest that to be a Christian implies a sense of pride or deserved-ness somehow not embodied in those same disciples. I think a simple reading of the Gospels would bear that out!
I appreciate his point that we need to guard ourselves from an attitude that we have arrived doctrinally or “spiritually”, striving with humility lest we get ahead of ourselves. Rather than jettison either term, I might suggest we be both learners and imitators; constantly aware that we have distance to travel to fully become God’s new creation, but nevertheless fully aware that we are (and are becoming) imitators of the one who goes before us (Jesus Christ); and not on any “quest” beyond where he himself leads.