The mission of the United Methodist Church is to “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Sounds good. But it’s pretty vague, especially given our fragmented theology. I thought it would be useful to explore in greater detail what we’re trying to do here (in our local setting) when we try to make disciples.
First a word of clarification. I take the work of disciple-making to be the work of all disciples. All of us have been called to take part in this ministry. In other words, if I am a disciple, I am also a disciple maker. Thus my personalized version of the UMC mission is to make disciples who become disciple makers.
When I look at the Five practices of Fruitful Congregations model that has been adopted by our (Texas) annual conference, I find that it doesn’t match up exactly with the model of disciple making I’ve been using. In this post, and the posts that follow, I will try to use the Five Practices jargon along with some of my own. Some items won’t fit exactly, but hopefully it will work ok for the time being.
Here are the characteristics of growing disciples that I look for in the area of what some call spiritual maturity. Obviously real spiritual maturity is greater than these (and includes the elements to follow later), but these focus particularly on our relationship with God. The closest category I see in the conference lingo is “Fervent Prayer and Study of Scripture” – which is not really very close by my reckoning.
- Disciples have at some point in their lives personally received the forgiveness and grace offered through Jesus.
- Disciples practice a continuing love relationship with God that is real and personal.
- Disciples are radically in love with God.
- Disciples have assurance of their salvation – a conviction that they are loved by God and accepted as his children because of the work of Jesus.
- Disciples are committed to the Lordship of Christ – in their lives and over all.
- Disciples understand where they fit into what God is doing in history.
- Disciples have a desire to know God more and more.
- Disciples have a fulfilling and fruitful prayer life.
- Disciples spend time reading and studying the Bible every day.
- Disciples spend time listening to God each day.
What do you think about these characteristics – taken as goals for discipleship, not necessarily current reality?