June 30, 2014
By Fred Koenig
Making disciples of Jesus Christ is at the core of the mission of the United Methodist Church. But what is a disciple, and how is one made? The Missouri Conference Core Practices Team invited those gathered for Annual Conference to enter into a conversation about discipleship making and Intentional Faith Development on Thursday evening.
Rev. Kim Jenne explained that the Core Practices Team has been focused on the Five Practices, and has recognized the need for churches to refine their discipleship process. Rev. Chris Dumas reported that 70 percent of churches participating in the Healthy Church Initiative have prescriptions related to intentional faith development. A recent survey of churches revealed several issues related to this:
- Confusion about difference between mission and vision
- A majority were unable to identify their discipleship process or characteristics of mature disciple
- Inconsistency in use of language faith development
- Children were not involved
All United Methodist Churches carry the same mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Vision statements describe the various individual ways churches relate to this mission.
To define what a disciple is, the Core Practices Team offered the following scriptures:
- John 13: 34-35 - I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
- John 8:31 - Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.
- Luke 14:33 - So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
Discipleship tends to have four components:
During the table discussions, many groups said they have clearer practices related to mission than any other aspects of the church. Jenne said she hopes people leave Annual Conferences realizing they aren’t alone in having difficulty in the disciple making process, but also don’t have too high of expectations in thinking they can make big changes over night.