Steven Covey suggests that when we plan any process or any new system we should “start with the end in mind” and then work backwards to plan the steps to reach that desired end result. Lyle Schaller has noted that “systems produce what they are designed to produce” so that if we don’t like the results, we need to change the system and not blame the results.

Both of those bits of wisdom occurred to me this week when I met with the Imagine Indiana Design Team. This is the group that is working on an Implementation Plan to bring for a vote to the North and South Indiana Conferences in 2008 in response to the 2007 vote to move toward creating a new, unified conference in Indiana in 2009. The Imagine Indiana Design Team was working on plans for structures – clusters, districts, regions, role of District Superintendent, role of Bishop, role of staff, etc. – and they began with a working definition of discipleship. I was really impressed with their thinking – to begin planning our structures by focusing upon the end result – what is a disciple of Jesus Christ? I realize that lots of people are in hurry to design the size, number, and shape of districts – or to talk about where a new conference center might be located – or to prepare a tentative conference budget for a new conference – or to resolve the issues of equalizing clergy pension and health insurance benefits. The Imagine Indiana Design Team will get to all of those issues, and they are already working on finding the right information to deal with those issues.

But their starting point in the meeting this past week was this: what is a disciple of Jesus Christ? How can a new conference help local churches and other ministries to be more effective in creating disciples of Jesus? It is a great place to start – to start with the end in mind.

For your information, here is their working definition. It is a work in progress, so please provide feedback to the Imagine Indiana Design Team at their e-mail address (ImagineIndiana @ InAreaUMC.org (e-mail address is now questions@inumc.org)):

“A disciple is a person who follows the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, experiences the forgiveness and acceptance of God, demonstrates the qualities of the Spirit,

And who shares in the life and witness of a community of disciples, including baptism and the Lord’s Supper, participates in God’s suffering and transformation of the world, anticipates a future life in the presence of God,

And who thereby leads others to become disciples.”

I don’t know if they have the perfect definition of a disciple of Jesus Christ, and I know they will continue to tweak that definition, but I sense that they are starting at the right place – starting with the end in mind.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner