With all of the uncertainty and division in our denomination and around the globe, we often find that the purpose and mission of the church has been lost or swept aside in the desire to keep everyone together and safe. Looking at many of our churches today, one might think we were created for maintaining buildings and structures instead of being missional people passionately in pursuit of growing God’s kingdom.
The mission of [The United Methodist] Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Local churches and extension ministries of the Church provide the most significant arenas through which disciple-making occurs. – The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016, ¶ 120
It is vital that we reconnect with our purpose
I’ve been working alongside a group of pastors and lay people to study our United Methodist mission statement – piece by piece, word by word – so that we can better grasp what it means in today’s context. We are remembering who we are and whose we are, and in that remembering, we are rediscovering what we are called to do. I’d like to invite you to remember with us for a moment.
"We’re remembering who we are and whose we are, and in that remembering, we are rediscovering what we are called to do." – Anne Bosarge
Reclaim the mission, remember your call
- Make – Make is a verb that requires purpose, action and creativity. In order to be a people who make something, we must be willing to invest time and energy toward creating and innovating. Making is more than just busyness. Makers are movers and shakers in the community and within their spheres of influence. Makers cannot be passive consumers.
- Disciples of Jesus Christ – A disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who wants to become like Jesus, seeking to imitate not only his actions, but his mindset, choices and motivations. Disciples are Christians – “little Christs.” Notice that we’re to make disciples of Jesus Christ, not of our local churches. Sometimes we are so busy pointing people toward our local churches that we forget our job is to point people to Jesus.
- For – The word “for” is a purpose word, explaining why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you hope to see from your work. This little word is important to remember because without it the disciples you make will turn inward and focus on themselves. “For” begins to point us toward the purpose and reminds us of our why.
- The transformation – The purpose of discipleship isn’t just information, it’s transformation. Transformation is not just incremental change or helping people live a little bit better than they did before – it is a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance. Are you seeing transformation happen in your churches? Are you seeing people’s lives being changed as a result of the work you are doing to make disciples? This work we do is significant and paves the way for the Spirit to dramatically alter people’s lives.
- Of the world – This work isn’t just for us, it’s literally for the sake of the world. We don’t become disciples so that we can look better or build bigger churches, we become disciples to help others experience the transforming love of Christ.
Engage in and accomplish the missionThe denomination’s mission statement is not just for the institutional church – it is a mandate for every individual member within the church! Making disciples isn’t institutional, it’s personal.
Assess your personal and corporate alignment with this mission by asking yourself and your local church the following questions:
- Making – Are you actively seeking to develop relationships with people who don’t know Christ? Are you creating new ways to introduce them to Christ and bring them into the family of faith?
- Disciples of Jesus Christ – Do you see the people in your church becoming more like Jesus? Are they growing in maturity in the way they express their love to Jesus and others? Do you point people to your church or to Christ?
- For – Why does your church exist? Why do you do what you do? Who are you “for?”
- The transformation – Do you focus your programming and ministry on conveying information or creating the opportunity for transformation? In the last year, whose lives have you seen transformed by Christ?
- Of the world – Are your ministries primarily focused on the people inside the church or outside the church? How do you seek to reach people who look and think differently than you?
I’d like to hear how you are making the mission statement part of your everyday life experience! Reach out to me, Anne Bosarge, via email and share your transformational discipleship story.
Anne Bosarge serves as Director of Leadership Strategies and Local Church Resources in the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church. In 2022, Anne has led a group of 21 pastors and their laity teams on a journey, called “Reset,” to reclaim and remember the mission of The United Methodist Church.
The contact for this story is Joe Iovino. Contact him by email.
This story was published on November 17, 2022.
For further study, or to lead a group in your congregation, consider A Disciple's Path: A guide for United Methodists.