What if we prioritize ’being’ disciples over ‘making’ them?
CrossOver reflection for Week 24 • Beginning May 19, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 37
Rev. Lowell Greathouse
“We dare to believe that through tiny little seeds like us, through the yeast of our little ecclesia, through the spreading branches of this expanding movement, the world is beginning to change.”
Brian McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking(Chapter 37)
Recently, I was at a national church gathering where several people said, “If we had been focused on our church’s mission in St. Louis, what happened at General Conference wouldn’t have happened.” When I heard these statements, it made me wonder if there really isn’t a problem with our church’s mission statement.
Perhaps we need to stop and examine ourselves for a moment. Maybe we can’t “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” until we first take time to act
Until we manage to get this right, there’s really no need in trying to convince others about what we think it means to follow Jesus, because those around us will look at the evidence found within our own lives to determine what it means to be a Jesus follower. It’s like the famous quote, often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”
The truth is, people are watching; what we do and how we act makes a difference. That was clear from all the media coverage that occurred following our church’s St. Louis gathering. And what people saw there was what they think United Methodists believe it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Personally, I think we missed a great opportunity to demonstrate to the world what following Jesus is all about, and we won’t get that same opportunity again.
What should people have been looking for? Paul helps us with this in his letter to the followers in Galatia, when he lists a series of behaviors that he calls “fruit of the Spirit.” Paul’s list includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I’m not sure those would be the first words that people would use when describing what they witnessed in St. Louis. And that’s a problem.
It’s hard to make disciples of others when we struggle with the basic principles Jesus taught so much ourselves. Jesus calls us to live in the world in a totally new way that challenges the assumptions of power, privilege, and position. Jesus calls us to see the world differently and treat others in a more loving manner.
As we see in Chapter 37 of McLaren’s book, living in ways that point toward justice,
Brian McLaren, in reflecting on the scripture passages referenced in Chapter 37, says, “We are partners in an earthquake of liberation!” This is an amazing undertaking, and it all starts with God working through us. When we are in sync with God’s Spirit in this way, it is something that is hard to ignore.
Transform the world? Sure, but this begins with our own transformation first. And the truth is that we’ll have other opportunities to make a difference in the world. In fact, the next opportunity may just happen in our very next personal encounter! That’s how it has taken place from the beginning of the Christian movement—and because of this, the world continues to be transformed!
Rev. Lowell Greathouse serves as Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church.