Our purpose as The United Methodist Church is to “make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Disciple is not a word that we use today, so what does it mean exactly? In Jesus’ day, rabbis invited students that they deemed worthy to walk with them and learn from them as a disciple. This meant that the person not only wanted to learn from their teacher, but they wanted to be like the teacher. They wanted to walk with God and through life as the teacher walked. We are called to be Jesus’ disciples to walk in faith as he walked in faith, to approach the world as he approached the world, to love God as he loved God, to love other people as he loved other people. Being a disciple is about trust, belief, and behavior.
When Jesus looked into the eyes of his disciples, Andrew, Peter, Philip, Nathanael, Matthew, and all the others, and called them to come and follow him, they were not instantly like him. If fact, it took them journeying with him and learning as they walked together. It took them going through not only his life, but his death and resurrection for them to “get it.” Becoming a fully devoted disciple is a decision, a process, a journey. Usually, it’s not a straight-line journey like traveling a highway, it is a journey with twists and turns, backtracking, and times of pushing forward. It reminds me of a quote by John Oman.
“While human beings make canals that go on a direct and unwavering course until they reach their goal, God made the rivers which meander from mountain springs, over plunging falls, through crooked valleys, in slow and wily ways to meet the sea. Our destinies are like the rivers.”
I would say that our journey to become fully devoted disciples is like the rivers.
Our Desert Southwest Conference purpose gives us some guidelines for how we make disciples: We are a courageous church: loving like Jesus, acting for justice, united in hope. How are you growing as a disciple? As you go through the week, check yourself – would people see the character and actions of Jesus in me right now? As I visit your churches, I am going to be looking for and asking, “How is your church helping people hear the call of Christ to be his disciple? How is your church helping people at all different places on the Christian journey grow in their discipleship, grow to become more like Christ?” I am looking forward to learning and growing with you.
Together in his service,