Staying Connected Part I—Being a community of disciples
March 23, 2023 / By Pastor Daniel J. Bradley, Faith Journey United Methodist Church
As United Methodist’s we talk a lot about the “Connection,” and I believe there is power in that spirit. However, it is the Pentecost power of the Holy Spirit that binds the Church together in grace and hope for the future.
Some will say that hope is a dangerous word. I argue that hope is what we must hold onto in this world. Without hope in God and his Son Jesus Christ we have nothing. So, I put a lot of stock in hope and the assurances that faith offers us as a people of God.
Every day we are bombarded with the reality of the consequences of sin. We see the worst through our “idiot boxes,” what my grandfather calls the television. The only thing we have to hold onto is Christ, amid the storm; and that my friends it is more than enough. The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians about his desire to know Christ:
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.” –Philippians 3:10-11
The notion that the institutional Church is burnt out may be an accurate depiction, but never doubt the power of God through the work of the Holy Spirit to blow a fresh wind over the hot embers. Out of the ashes and embers, a new flame will emerge in grace, thanksgiving, and salvation. However, if that new flame is not tended to with the addition of fuel and the continual fanning of the flame, it will never grow beyond its potential. We have to contribute to the renewal of the Church of Jesus Christ or we will never see it reach its full potential.
In this season of renewal, it is essential to remember our connection to Christ and to the Church does not exist in a void. It is an interdimensional interdependent relationship with Christ that makes all things possible. If you think you can accomplish this task on your own, you’re sorely mistaken. The work of ministry is accomplished through the local church and extension ministries in connection with the Conference. That mission of the United Methodist Church is to: “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
In Mark’s gospel, the disciples are sent out to the mission field. But, before they are sent out, they are sent given specific instructions:
“And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.”
The disciples were sent out as a community to communities that had not heard the good news of Jesus. They were taking only the clothes on their back and the sandals on their feet. Their very survival forced them to rely on the hospitality of the communities that they visited. There was no budget drawn up for this operation. Jesus didn’t hold a ‘charge conference’ to have the members vote on whether or not to proceed with this mission. They were disciples commissioned by Jesus and sent out for the work of the kingdom of God.
The work of the Church of Jesus Christ is kingdom work. We were not called to be lone-ranger Christians. We don’t do this work alone; we must do faith together for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the only way that we can experience the fullness of God’s plan of salvation for all of humanity.