From the Desk of Bishop Mark J Webb: 2019 Issue 2 of the Advocate
October 29, 2019 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb
Editor's Note: This letter from Upper New York Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb originally appeared in the 2019 Issue 2 of the Advocate, which focused on Discipleship Systems. Click here to read the entire issue.
The mission of The United Methodist Church is to partner with God in “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The United Methodist Book of Discipline in paragraph 122 defines the process by which we carry out this mission. We make disciples as we:
· proclaim the Gospel, seek, welcome, and gather persons into the body of Christ
· lead persons to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and the spirit and profession of faith in Jesus Christ
· nurture persons in Christian living through worship, the sacraments, spiritual disciplines, and other means of grace, such as Wesley’s Christian conferencing
· send persons into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Christ by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, caring for the strangers, freeing the oppressed, being and becoming a compassionate, caring presence, and working to develop social structures that are consistent with the Gospel
· continue the mission of seeking, welcoming, and gathering persons into the community of the body of Christ.
This is the job description of every United Methodist congregation in Upper New York. As clergy and laity together, we are invited to this work. The good news is that God has provided us with every gift and every resource necessary to accomplish the task!
As Junius Dotson, General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries has reminded the Church: “We are not called to fix churches” – we are called to invite others into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. We are called through the power of God’s spirit and our witness to Christ in our lives to multiply the number of people who love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. We are called to multiply the number of people who call themselves disciples of Jesus Christ! When that happens the Church and the body of Christ increases its strength within and its impact beyond. I love the quote from Christian author and speaker Mike Breen, who says: "If you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples. But if you make disciples, you will always get the church."
As United Methodists we have always been and must continue to be involved in a disciple-making movement! Everything we do must be examined through the lens of the question, “Will this lead to another person saying yes to the invitation to follow Jesus Christ, growing in a relationship with Jesus, sharing with others the difference Jesus has made in their life in word and deed, and THEN inviting others to that same journey?” If multiplying followers of Jesus Christ is not our ONLY purpose, we are simply being disobedient to God’s call and plan for the body of Christ!
To fully live this task, we need to be intentional. Reaching the reality of our purpose does not happen by accident. The church must teach our purpose, repeatedly; the church must be willing to clear away the clutter that prevents it from accomplishing the purpose; and the church must equip for this work, those who are already “here” and those whom the Spirit brings.
In Upper New York, we are committed to a disciple-making movement. We are committed through resourcing congregations and holding one another accountable to the work we have been called to do. Our goal is for every congregation in Upper New York to have an intentional discipleship system as the foundation of their ministry. We will accomplish this goal – we must!
A system creates results. Every church has a system. The question is does your church have a system that produces the result of people choosing to follow Jesus Christ? An intentional discipleship system recognizes our ONLY purpose is to multiply followers of Jesus and clearly provides a path that allows people to grow in their faith, acknowledge the gifts God has given them to serve others, to be witnesses of their faith through words and action, and invite others to say yes to Christ.
This edition of the Advocate offers tools for strengthening the intentional discipleship system you already have or developing one so that you become a part of the disciple-making movement. I encourage you to read each page, to avail yourself of the resources, reach out to those who can assist, and then share with others what you are learning and experiencing.
Our mission is clear – We are called to invite people to a life of following Jesus. May we boldly say YES to that mission and join the disciple-making movement for the glory of God and the transformation of the world!