The stated mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This won’t happen by accident; we don’t fall into discipleship. It requires effort and intention and a disciple-making plan. We at Discipleship Ministries invite each congregation and worshiping community to develop an intentional discipleship plan in their local context. There are resources and mentors that you can access on our website to help you develop and implement your plan. Please call upon us to help you if you have not already begun such a journey (https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/discipleship-system-example).
The Worship Team at Discipleship Ministries invites you to consider reflecting on this discipleship journey in the first half of this long Ordinary Time season. There are four distinct parts to this reflection, each designed to help the community consider the whys and wherefores of taking our mission seriously. We invite reflection on the joys and the struggles of following Jesus as we live out our faith in this confused and confusing world. And through it all, we offer our fully engaged worship to God as we gather week by week, confessing and renewing and recommitting ourselves to being disciples of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So, join us as we worship together and reflect on the path of the disciple. Below are links and information on each of the four sections of the series:
Part 1: The Weight of the Call
A disciple is a follower. That means there must be someone to follow and that someone wants followers. Considering that, in the gospel accounts, Jesus said “follow me” more often than he said, “believe in me,” we can be confident that there is a call to follow laid upon anyone and everyone who seeks to draw closer to Christ. Yet even a cursory reading of the gospels will reveal that Jesus never undersold this call. He never tried to convince us that following was an easy or a simple thing. So, we begin our summer worship contemplation with consideration of the weight of the call.
Throughout this four-part series, we listen again to the call of the whole people of faith, when God called Abraham to be the beginning – the genesis – of a new nation. Then we lay this ancient call alongside the words and deeds of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew as he confirms and enhances and redirects the call to be the church at work in the world. But here in part one, we are especially mindful of the radical nature of the call to leave everything behind and to live into a new reality, only then to discover the added responsibility of inviting the whole world to come to know the one we follow. Jump in as we consider the weight of the call.
Part 2: Learning to Grow
Having accepted the call to become a disciple and to help others become disciples, we now begin to understand what we don’t know. Or rather we embrace what we have to learn. Sometimes we get the impression that the end of faith is that initial yes to Jesus. As important as that confession is, it is only the beginning of the path to becoming a disciple. So, let us consider together what it means to be a disciple. Let’s embrace the truth, even when it is difficult and takes effort, even when we learn of the commitment that is involved in following Jesus.
Because we also discover the joy in serving and loving and working for justice. It may be hard, and we may mess up at times, or lose focus, but we’re learning and we’re growing. Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ isn’t an instantaneous event, but a lifelong process. Wesley called it sanctification, this process of becoming more like Christ, and acknowledged that it is a journey. But we’re on the way, or as Wesley claimed, moving on to perfection in love. There’s a lot to learn as we grow.
Part 3: Imagining a New Reality
There is optimism to the disciple’s path, a destination always in mind and heart as we move through the world. These aren’t rose-colored glasses that make things look better than they are, but a certainty that the church is still a force for good in the world, that justice is still within reach as hearts and minds and behaviors are changed. And that there is a God who will bring the new reality into being in and through us and sometimes despite us. That means we work for the winning side.
Just think, what could we accomplish if we were certain we wouldn’t fail? What invitations could we issue, what hope could we offer, what joy could we share if we could see the new reality God has in store for all of creation? It all begins with the ability to imagine a new reality.
Part 4: Searching for the Face of God
Whether you call them “God-sightings” or “glory moments,” being alert to the presence of God is a fundamental requirement for the disciple. Some might even argue that it is these discovery moments that keep us going on the pathway to discipleship.
Whether you are just beginning to chart your disciple-making path or you are well-versed in the ways to help church members become disciples, a vital reminder for all is that we are seeking the face of God in the world in which we live and work. At the same time, we begin to realize that for our neighbors and friends, we may become the face of God for them.
The Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.