In the new year it is customary to consider our position in the world. We do this by taking stock of the year past and look ahead to the days to come. We review our hopes and dreams and try to align them with “resolutions” or practices that we promise to adopt in order to make life better. Sometimes it’s I’ll make healthier food choices, or I’ll get more exercise, or I’ll spend more time with my family, or I’ll read more…pray more…spend less…etc.
As we come to the new year in the church it is also a good time to consider our position in the world; to take stock of the year past and look ahead to the days to come; to review our hopes and dreams and try to align them with resolutions or practices that we believe will make life better.
When we are making personal resolutions, it’s easy to pick and choose what we think we want to adopt or drop. But when we are talking about the church, what kind of life ought we be pursuing? What kind of things ought we adopt or drop?
We can look to the governing documents of our church – The United Methodist Church – for help. Did you know that the United Methodist Church has a Constitution? It does! In it the purpose of the church is laid out with structure that is designed to support fruitful ministry. Each local church is unique, yet is part of a connection, a living organism within the body of Christ. Being a connectional Church means in part that all United Methodist churches are interrelated through the structure and organization of districts, conferences, and jurisdictions in the larger family of the denomination. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist church describes, among other things, the ministry of all UM Christians, the essence of servant ministry and leadership, how to organize and accomplish that ministry, and how our connectional structure works. Our church extends way beyond our doorstep; it is a global church with both local and international presence.
We have the capacity, through the gifts God has already placed within the Church to extend our reach to touch lives in Uganda, or Estonia, or Guatemala, or Flint, or Alaska, or wherever there is a needy soul. We have an expansive mission presence and experienced capable people who serve the UM Committee on Relief and Global Ministries.
As we come to the new year – let’s reflect together on this question: What are our passions? What are we capable of? Where are we going to touch lives? We know where we have been. We can look back to the days of families filling the pews and the classroom wing being fully utilized on Sunday morning. But then we have to turn and look at the days to come. What vision do we have to continue the mission of the church: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world? Changed lives change the world. If we want to be a part of what God is doing, we have to figure out what practices to adopt and which ones to drop so that we can change lives and make life better.
We exist to make disciples. Jesus said: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) This is the mission of the church – every church. A disciple is a learner – one who follows until they are mature enough to lead and teach others. Disciples make disciples. The possibilities are out there. We have the resources. Do we have the desire? The courage? The passion for the mission?
I pray that God will stir up a hunger in our hearts and fan into flame the gifts the Spirit has given for the work He has prepared in advance for us to do.
Happy New Year!