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United Methodist Church's Focus and Future 1 PDF Print E-mail
Written by David   
Monday, 19 November 2007
My bishop sent an email out on our conference email list updating us about the Convocation of Extended Cabinets. According to the UM News Service the "Convocation of Extended Cabinets" met for the first time in 40 years. Out of this convocation came, in some ways, a fresh and renewing vision for the UMC. Using the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,7 (I have no idea where 6 went), they stated: 
  • One mission statement.
  • Two breathing lessons.
  • Three simple rules for living as United Methodists.
  • Four focus areas for our United Methodist Church in the next quadrennium.
  • Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.
  • Seven Vision Pathways to the Future

After reading through these directions, I was surprised. Not only did I feel they were quite good, I started experiencing something else; hope. Hope is something, as a UM, I've found elusive for quite a while. So, I want to take some time to reflect on these six (There's number 6! glad to have it in the mix) directions or focuses.

"One Mission Statement: Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

If I had any critique it would be for this first one. I think the statement is good, but we have yet to define what a disciple really is. My conference mission statement has been to make disciples. I know many churches have as part of their vision or mission statement to create disciples. But what is a disciple?

We write these statements as if we are all agreed on what a disciple is, but I'm not sure that we are. It is time that we define what a disciple of Jesus really is. Is it someone who attends the services each week? Is it a member? Is it someone who is one a committee? Just what is a disciple?

My observation is that for many a disciple is the same thing as a member. Our mission is to make disciples, yet, we never ask on any statistical reports how many disciples we have. We do ask how many members we have. If this first statement is going to make a difference, we need to know exactly what a disciple is, then we need to determine if we really are making them.

I believe a disciple is more than a member. Members may or may not come to church. Members may or may not be faithful or generous in giving their talents, time, or treasure to God's purposes. Members may or may not become a part of the ministry at a local church.

A disciple is one who is following Jesus by living a sacrificial life. Someone who will not only participate in ministries, but also is willing to go through the process of becoming a leader. For too long the UMC has been busy creating members, but I'm not sure we have been creating disciples.

On the good side, if we take the rest of these recommendations seriously, then we will, once again, be in the business of creating disciples. These disciples will be the ones transforming the world for Jesus.

I will post on the other items at a later date.

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