By now most of us have learned that the mission of The United Methodist Church is: “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” That mission statement is biblical; it is in our Book of Discipline; it is the mission of our denomination; and it is the adopted mission statement of our new Indiana Conference. The Imagine Indiana Team began with that statement as it worked to redesign our conference structures and priorities.
Lest that mission statement become just a slogan or a bumper sticker without any real meaning and purpose, it helps to develop a more complete definition. We might begin with Eugene Peterson’s definition of “abide” from John 15 where Jesus tells us that his followers must abide in him. Peterson (author of The Message) says “abide” means “a long obedience in the same direction.” I like that, because it reminds us that being a disciple / follower / learner is a life-long journey.
May I also recommend we take a fresh look at the definition of “disciple,” which was contained in the Imagine Indiana report? That report was about more than just the structures and alignments proposed for the new Conference. It also included significant definitions and concepts, which can guide our life together in Indiana as United Methodists who are followers of Jesus. Here is that definition:
A DISCIPLE is a person who
forgiveness and acceptance of God,
follows the life and teachings of Jesus Christ,
demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit,
shares in the life and witness of a community of disciples,
including Baptism and the Lord’s Supper,
serves in some form of ministry every day,
participates in God’s suffering and transformation of the world,
anticipates a future life in the presence of God,
AND WHO THEREBY
yearns to lead others to become disciples.
No definition is perfect. It is imperative that we engage in Christian conferencing to continue understanding our call to be disciples of Jesus. But this definition can be a helpful as we seek to “abide” in Christ and grow in faith.
Our Indiana Conference Leadership Table has committed to engage in regular devotion and prayer around this definition, asking ourselves questions like, “Have I made a firm commitment to Jesus Christ? Am I growing in my experience of God’s grace? How is my life making clear my desire to follow Christ? Do I truly yearn for others to become disciples of Jesus?”
Such questions might guide a Sunday school class, a covenant group or individual devotion. It is my prayer that we all become disciples of Jesus Christ, who are committed to transform the world into the likeness of Christ. Being a disciple of Jesus is not just a slogan, it is a “long obedience in the same direction” as we abide in Christ.
Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Conference of
The United Methodist Church
“Making a Difference in Indiana
and around the world.”