How does the new General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries spend his summer? If you’re Rev. Junius Dotson, you spend it going from Annual Conference to Annual Conference, where you can speak directly to the maximum number of United Methodist clergy and laity about the importance of making disciples.
He opened with a story about a philanthropist who addressed the unemployment problem in Ireland by launching a major road building initiative. At first people worked with great vigor, happy to have a job with purpose. Later they realized the roads were not needed and didn’t connect to anything, and they became listless in their work.
“Many churches have a bazillion programs, but they have lost their fire because they are building roads to nowhere,” Dotson said. “We often make the mistake of confusing getting more and more information about Jesus with being in relationship with Jesus.”
Dotson referred to Acts 2: 42 – 47, and it’s description of a church relentlessly focused on making disciples. He quoted Mike Breen, author of Building a Discipleship Culture, as saying “If you build a church, you will rarely get disciples, but if you make disciples you will always get the church.” He also referred to Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle model, in which someone’s “Why” is kept as the center of focus of everything they do (the what and the how).
“When you know your Why, your What has meaning,” Dotson said. “It moves from being a simple activity to something of significance.”
Dotson cautioned the church leaders that the longer a program exists at a church, the more the church is in danger of losing the memory of why it was started in the first place. He implored that part of their responsibility as leaders is to keep the why ever before their people. Dotson’s own personal Why is that he likes to see people who don’t know Jesus enter into a relationship with Christ, and see what happens with their lives. Through church he gets to see impassioned people who previously didn’t know each other, now connected as a team who are passionate for Jesus.
He encouraged season pastors who might be losing their excitement to spend intentional time with young clergy, listen to their stories and get reconnected with their why.
Dotson shared four adjectives encircling the discipleship process that he asked people to reflect upon.