“The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
How Disciples get made:
_______________, ____________, ____________
Mark 1: 15-20
Matthew 6:5-14, 7:7-11
Luke 24:25-27; John 5:39
Ephesians 4:29-32; Colossians 4:6
Matthew 5: 13-16, 7:12; Galatians 5:6; James 2:14-26
Ephesians 6: 10-20; Luke 23: 33-43; Mark 1:
It’s that time of year again. The forms for Charge Conference have arrived. It’s time to get ready for this annual review of how we are doing as a church. Everybody gets to have a voice in this process. You are all invited to the next Church Council meeting on Wednesday, September 12, at 6pm. And everyone can attend the Charge Conference on Sunday, Nov. 4 from 2 to 4pm at Aldersgate UMC in Bellevue. During these meetings we will evaluate how we are doing at accomplishing our mission and we will set mission-related goals for next year.
In preparation, maybe it would be helpful to review just what the UM mission statement means (on the cover). How do disciples of Jesus Christ get made? How do they become Christians who transform the world?
So, let’s deal with the first question, How do disciples of Jesus Christ get made? The simple answer is that Jesus makes them. Jesus convinces us to drop what we are doing, get up, and follow him. At the beginning of his earthly ministry, he made disciples out of fishermen from Galilee. And at the end of his ministry, while hanging on the cross, Jesus was still proclaiming the Gospel, still inviting followers, still acting with grace, compassion, and love, and he made a disciple out of the thief hanging next to him.
Jesus has never quit making disciples, and he will never quit. Jesus is on a mission, and he is relentless. Mark chapter 1 gives a nice summary of how Jesus goes about making disciples. He calls them to repent, and they stop what they are doing. He calls them to believe the Gospel, and they put their faith in him. He calls them to follow, and they get up and walk after him. Repent, Believe, Follow. You can put those three words on the top row if you’re taking notes.
As a church, we get to be a part of Christ’s disciple-making mission. First by making sure people know the story of salvation. Through worship, song, sermon, and study, we make sure Jesus’ call to discipleship is heard and understood. The Church provides a space where we can confess, ask for forgiveness, be assured of forgiveness, and follow Jesus’ will for our lives.
Jesus’ followers are commanded to engage in six activities that make his disciple-making efforts more effective. These activities help make people more receptive to Jesus’ invitation. The more a Church engages in these six activities, the more likely it is that Jesus will be able to make disciples there.
The six activities that create an environment conducive to disciple-making are prayer, scripture, fasting, holy conversation, communion, and works of mercy. That’s the witness of Scripture, it’s my own personal experience, and I’d like to know if it’s your experience as well.
The first one, Prayer-- St. Paul encourages the Christians of the church in Ephesus to pray hard and long, pray for each other, pray for him. What forms of prayer help you to repent, believe, and follow? Personal prayer, with a friend or friends, as a church? Has a prayer ever forced you to confront an unpleasant truth about yourself? Ever experienced a prayer that drove home the truth that Jesus is your Savior? What about a prayer that prompted you to put your faith into action? How is our church doing at this activity?
The second activity, Scripture-- St. Paul calls God’s Word an indispensable weapon. We can make use of God’s Word in many different ways. Read it, study it, reflect on it as an individual or in a small group. Listen to a sermon based on it. Sing hymns or listen to songs that set the words of Scripture to music. Are there passages of Scripture that convince you to make a change in your behavior? Ever heard a sermon that persuaded you that no matter what you are going through, ultimately, eternally, everlastingly, there is hope with Christ? Have you been part of a Bible Study that encouraged you to “practice what you preach.” Has Scripture encouraged you to repent, believe, and follow? How is our church doing at this activity?
The third activity, Fasting-- This summer five of us experimented with fasting. We read a pamphlet about it, met as a group, and agreed to try the Daniel fast one night a week. You remember the story of Daniel in the Lions Den from Sunday School? Well in another part of that book of the Bible is the story of Daniel eating only vegetables and drinking only water found in Daniel chapter 1 verse 12. The idea is that since meal preparation time would be minimized, that would leave more time for prayer and private devotions. It sounds like a good idea, but does it work? Has fasting been a disciple-making activity? Has the Spirit of Christ worked in us during our fast? Has fasting brought about moments of repentance? Is our faith in Christ stronger as a result of fasting this summer? Are we more responsive to the call to follow Christ?
The fourth activity, Holy Conversation. Have you ever talked to someone who talked about their faith and it made you think, wow, I’ve kind of been slacking off? That would be Jesus, taking advantage of that opportunity to prick your conscience. What about a conversation about Christian Belief that was an aha moment. “Oh, now I get it. Now I understand what the preacher has been going on and on about.” Or a discussion with someone that left you feeling inspired and all charged up and excited about following Christ? How is our church doing at this activity?
The fifth activity is Communion. Ideally, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of each month as a church or when I share communion with folks who are in the hospital or assisted living facilities or confined to home, this should be a sacrament, an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. A grace that has the power to convict us of sin, reassure us of forgiveness, and motivate us to be disciples of Christ inwardly and outwardly. I want communion to be as sacred and holy for you as it is for me, a true communing with Christ. Have we come close to reaching that goal this year?
The last line is Works of Mercy. Every participated in a service project and it forced you to realize that there is a limit to your patience? I hate it when that happens. On the upside, that feeling reminds me to trust in Christ for salvation rather than try to earn it by myself. What about an act of compassion that did more for you than it did for the recipients? Something that humbled you and gave you a feeling of contentment, fulfillment? Has our church offered enough opportunities for folks to engage in works of mercy this year?
Paul advises the Ephesians that they will need to practice spiritual disciplines throughout their lives. Jesus commands us to pray, study, fast, commune, act and speak in a manner that is consistent with the message of the Gospel. There’s no time off. No point when we can claim to be good enough and no longer need to engage in these disciple-making activities.
The church helps Jesus make disciples, by providing opportunities for people to obey Christ’s command. These spiritual practices can take many forms, and the form that works in one community doesn’t always work in another. Or we can get so used to one activity that it becomes too familiar. It becomes rote and no longer works as effectively to convince us to repent, believe, and follow. And that’s why we perform an annual review of our ministries, so that we can encourage the activities that are making disciples and drop those that have served their purpose.
So that’s disciple-making 101. But wait, there’s more. This last part, transform the world. How does Jesus turn us into those kinds of disciples, the world-transforming kind? That’s next Sunday’s sermon topic.