Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is a lifelong commitment. It is a journey that never ends. When we are baptized we are claimed publicly by God and lifted up by the church. When we make a commitment to Christ, it is not the end or the climax but rather the beginning. It is that time when we are justified by grace through faith, receive the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ and commit to a life time of growth. We Methodist Christians believe strongly in lifelong discipleship. We call this life journey sanctification. Sanctification is the lifelong journey to grow towards perfect love of God and neighbor. Worship, Bible study, mission, service, and leadership grow out of a disciple’s journey. Our understanding of them deepens and matures and they become a sign of where we are on that sanctified journey.
You may or may not know that the United Methodist Church’s mission statement is simply and powerfully “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Our own Woodville UMC mission statement highlights the call to “nurture faithful disciples…” All of this discipleship emphasis is rooted in the Great Commission of Jesus found in Matthew 28. Jesus does not send out the 11 disciples to go and recruit church members. He does not say go get people to profess their faith in Christ. He does not start his commission with going and getting as many people baptized as possible although he quickly gets to baptism in the commission. He does not even say go and “save people,” Jesus is pretty clear that He does the saving through us, its not because of us. All of these are important but Jesus’ last words in Matthew to the 11 disciples were to “go and make disciples…” baptizing and teaching all to obey Jesus’ commands (remember that the Great commandment is to love God and love neighbor…see sanctification above). So, the Methodist way is deeply rooted in Scripture.
This Fall at Woodville UMC we are going to place heavy emphasis on discipleship, we’ll call it Disciple: Being One, Making One. I’m not only encouraging you, I’m exhorting you, pleading with you to take your own discipleship seriously. Many of you do that. Many more have the desire. As a church we will help you, as your pastor I will help in every way possible to plug you in to opportunities for worship, study, fellowship and service. Please take notice of all of the small group offerings that will be available starting at the beginning of September as well as Sunday school. When discipleship is a priority in our lives and our church, God is glorified, we are blessed and the world is transformed.