Commentary: Faithful disciples, signs of revival
It’s been a year since almost 200 United Methodists gathered for a 20-hour experience of worship, prayer and holy conversation. The Gathering of the Aldersgate Covenant, held at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, was an open invitation to pray for spiritual revival in the UMC.
As we prepared to return home, we joined together in a covenant of continued prayers for the revival of The United Methodist Church so that we will be empowered to faithfully carry out our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Additionally, we committed to offer Spirit-led actions in our various places of ministry that will prepare us for, and be expressions of, spiritual revival.
During this Pentecost season, which began with the 277th anniversary of John Wesley’s “heart-warming” experience on Aldersgate Street in London, we’re reminded that the Methodist movement began because of the faithfulness of one man. The Holy Spirit continues to work in us, transforming our lives individually and as a community of faith.
Several participants in last year’s Aldersgate Covenant Gathering recently shared how their discipleship journey was impacted following the event:
- “I have sought to be an ambassador of revival: reclaiming the word/concept, inviting others to pray for the Holy Spirit to come, lifting up signs of the Spirit at work among us, and challenging others to seek and trust in God's will and work among and through United Methodists.”
- “I continue to pray for revival. I share prayer requests and stories of revival happening in our own communities.”
- “I encourage folks to seek personal revival as the starting point we all must have. I have sought out persons who I know I have disagreements with on the major issues and have asked for forgiveness for my attitude towards them and expressed a desire to find a common ground.”
- “Pray, pray, pray and be fearless in living out the ways that God calls us to love one another!”
- “My hope for the future of the church was renewed at the conference. This hope has inspired me to try to move through each of my new activities believing God will lead the church. I believe I can make a difference when I stay connected with God through prayer, searching the Scriptures, worship and service in order to share God's love and joy within my church family, my family relationships and my community involvement.”
- “Continued opportunities for joining together for prayer are essential. These gatherings without a motive or agenda other than listening to God are vital to our ability to discern how we should move forward.”
The beginnings of the Aldersgate Covenant 21 years ago focused on creating legislation that resulted in the 1996 General Conference’s adoption of a mission statement – later amended by the 2008 General Conference – that proclaims, “The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.” (Paragraph 120, The Book of Discipline, 2012)
The legislation also included a “Rationale for Our Mission,” and “The Process for Carrying Out Our Mission,” (Paragraphs 121, 122). These paragraphs, often overlooked, give substance to the why and how of disciple-making. They remind us, like the statements above, that the fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission comes through trusting in the Spirit to lead the way.
Polarizing rhetoric and actions may garner the most attention and consume our conversations, but the day-to-day disciplines of worship, prayer and service continue to bear witness to Christ’s presence amongst us. Could it be that spiritual revival is happening through individuals and congregations who are faithfully following the Spirit’s leading?
This year, quite appropriately, Aldersgate Sunday and Pentecost Sunday both fell on May 24. Would that the” tongues, as of fire,” represented in our United Methodist Cross and Flame logo, fall afresh on the Church! (Acts 2:3) We continue to offer prayers for disciples of Jesus Christ who are committed to seek spiritual and missional revival through the Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, come!
*Mueller is the bishop of the Arkansas Annual (regional) Conference, and Casad is a former executive secretary of the United Methodist Connectional Table. Both served on the Aldersgate Covenant gathering’s steering team.
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