If you have been a United Methodist very long, you surely are familiar with the “mission statement” of the denomination — “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Every once in a while, it’s helpful to remind ourselves of these words.
I happen to think this is a solid mission statement. It’s Biblical (see Matthew 28:19), concise, and practical. It is a good orientation for every local church.
Ken Kelley, Missi Mulligan, Cindy McSpadden, and I have been part of a year-long stewardship training sponsored by Texas Methodist Foundation for the past nine months. One of the things that we have been encouraged to do by our trainers is to craft an intentional “discipleship pathway” for our church, and to consider ways to implement it. We have learned that financial stewardship is but one part of what it means to be a Christian disciple.
In other words, we have been challenged to remember that our main reason for existence is to form disciples. Kessler Park UMC exists to move each of us toward a more faithful following of Jesus.
I have begun to think deeply about what it means to create a “discipleship pathway,” and I realize that we can’t start that work until we determine precisely what it means to be a disciple. What does a disciple of Jesus look like? How does s/he act? What kinds of things do disciples do?
Once we have a clearer sense of what a disciple of Jesus looks like, we can begin to shape our worship, programs, and missions so that they move people in this direction, so that they become transformative and life-changing.
I don’t know about you, but I want to follow Jesus more closely. I know that I struggle to stay on the path, that I sometimes lose sight of him up ahead, that I easily get distracted by the shiny things on the side of the road.
And sometimes I just don’t feel like following Jesus. I’d rather follow my own interests.
That’s because this discipleship thing is hard. Nobody said it was easy. In fact, Jesus himself said, “If you want to follow me, you have to pick up your cross and follow.”
Thank God for this community of disciples, this church full of saints and stragglers like me. Because in our fellowship, I find new inspiration to keep on going. When I see you following Christ, I am encouraged to get back on the road.
So over the next year, I plan to keep working on this “discipleship pathway.” I don’t know yet what it will look like as a formal church program. I don’t know what it will be called, or how we will put it into practice.
But I do promise to work on it, so that you and I, all of us together, may become better and more faithful disciples. Watch out, world, here we come!