What Process Would Create United Methodist Excellence?



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Making Disciples?

Helping people to follow Jesus is a great idea. It focuses on their growth thru God's salvific grace and sanctifying grace. But as Matthew once pointed out, "The laborer is worthy of his hire." We who are helping these folks focus on their own relationship with God through Christ have to be able to make a living for ourselves. We are part of an institution that asks us to grow as an institution, which itself needs money to pay operating expenses, salaries, and apportionments.

The sad thing is that for us, "Making Disciples for Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World" doesn't count unless those Disciples choose to make a profession of faith and to become members of our churches. That becomes the definition of "success."

Ergo, people whom we help become Disciples of God through Christ, if they never set foot in our churches, don't count. In many ways, this is the same phenomenon as our efforts to help people who are indigent or lost and who come to our offices seeking help. We can do what we can to help them, sometimes at a tremendous effort in time and money---it still will not change them. And, if they come to our churches, they literally frighten our members in worship services. They quickly catch the vibes and leave the congregation, while still asking us for help. When we can't do that anymore, they move on to another church, or another community, and the process starts all over again. This is hardly Disciple-making. Trying to do that with people whom we are seeking to help become Disciples, seriously, will tend to foliow the same pattern, unless they can somehow become active members of our congregation.

The truth of the matter is that for most UM Churches, we are not really in the business of making new Disciples, or helping people make a conversion of their lives to a personal relationship with Jesus. We do our best with those who have already made that their conversion, and who are ready to pursue their Discipleship for the transformation of the world, within our congregations. Our theology simply is not one that tries to get people to convert, because, unlike Baptist-type of theologies, we do not see a person's conversion as an end goal. We see it as the beginning of their faith life. Therefore, we are ready and open to receive them and work with them, once they have converted in their faith. Without seeing the conversion of a person into Discipleship as a goal, there really is no incentive to carry out that process which ultimately can seem of limited productivity.

I think we need to rethink our institutional goals.

Tom Griffith more than 9 years ago

practicing what we preach

developing spiritual disciplines and holding each other accountable for them is of course literally from the "playbook" of Wesley, but as long as the powers that be (both clerical and lay) in effect punish pastors for doing anything that might reduce numbers/income, and otherwise focus on quantities over quality, this is a classic double-bind at best.

dirk more than 9 years ago