Discipleship – Growing In Christ
When John Wesley established the Methodist movement, he offered three “General Rules” that continue to be a part of our doctrinal heritage today. These “rules of discipleship” provided a means by which persons seeking to live in the way of Jesus could evaluate their relationship with God. They are:
- Doing no harm, avoiding evil of every kind.
- Doing good, by being merciful and doing good of all possible sort to all people.
- By attending upon all the ordinances of God
It is the latter provision – attending to the ordinances of God – that are the means by which we “grow in Christ.” These are the practices which we engage in which help us to better understand who God and Jesus is; which deepen our relationship with God; and provide the means by which we grow in our faith. For Wesley, these “ordinances” focused on what are often known as the traditional “spiritual disciplines.” These discplines have been practiced through the ages, and are means by which God’s grace is revealed to us.
Thus, the “Discipleship” area of our ministries, is focused on those ministries which help people become better disciples of Jesus Christ. Disciples are those who wish to follow in the way of Jesus and to structure their lives on Christ’s teachings. The work of discipleship is the forming of people in the way of Jesus, helping them to grow in their love of God and neighbor. This work is the primary mission of the United Methodist Church, which says that we are about “…making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
As we’ve thought about the means by which people are led to grow in Christ in our church at this time, we believe that the following focuses are needed:
Discovery and Connect
The starting place of discipleship is discovering the place and power of God in the world, God’s revelation to us in Jesus Christ, and God’s amazing love offered through Jesus. This task of discovery (often called evangelism in the past) invites people to participate in activities in which God is revealed and to enter into conversation about the life of faith. Discovery is not about “winning souls” in a manipulative way, but rather is about sharing what God has done in our lives, and inviting others to join us in the journey towards God.
While discovery is the starting place, the movement toward deeper discipleship is dependent on helping persons connect to God, one another, and the world. Connection in our context is about helping people to connect to the various growth and service opportunities in the church and to connect to other brothers and sisters in Christ to allow for learning through others experiences of God.
The Discovery and Connect Team will be a new team helping to create connections that invite folks to consider Jesus in their lives, and to connect with the ministries of our church. This is an area that has been lacking in recent years, but is vital to our work together as we seek to bring new people into the life of discipleship.
The work of being a disciple is about being formed in the image of Jesus. While this involves acquiring information about God, Jesus, and the Bible, the work of formation is much deeper in that it is about engaging in practices which help us to be transformed. Thus, Christian formation involves learning, but also engaging in the practices of prayer, reading, fasting, and other things which move our faith from our heads to our hearts.
While there are many ways to organize the work of Christian formation, we continue to believe for developmental reasons that an age level based structure is still the most effective means of carrying out this work. As such we propose two teams focused on the specific needs of persons in those age ranges:
- Adult Formation Team
- Youth Formation Team (15forward)
Many will notice the omission of a children’s formation team at this time. Our committee talked together we had to acknowledge the realities we currently face as a church:
- We have very few children (if any) involved in the worshipping congregation.
- We have struggled to identify persons willing to develop and organize a viable and vibrant children’s ministry.
- Our current work with children (which is not insignificant) is more focused into connections with the community (CDC, MDO, Shadetree) than on formation of existing children as disciples.
As such, we believe that we should not focus on staffing a ministry in which there seems to be little support. If persons are committed to rebuilding a children’s formation ministry from scratch, we would be willing to consider the addition of a children’s formation team. However, at this team we do not see the energy needed for this work. As for the oversight of the Child Development Center and Mother’s Day Out programs, that will addressed in another section.
Worship is the primary gathering of the Christian community at City Road Chapel, and the main point of connection with the largest group of persons in our church, as well as an entry point for new persons seeking to walk in the way of Jesus. Worship involves:
- The communal praise of God, usually on Sunday mornings but at other times as well.
- The lifting of our voices in music to praise and learn about God.
- Participation in the sacramental life, including the regular partaking of communion, and the bringing of new persons into the life of faith through baptism.
- The proclamation of the Good News of God’s grace to one another and the world.
- The building up of the body of Christ to that Christ’s body is empowered to carry out God’s work in the world.
The Worship Ministries Team works together to ensure that worship is vibrant, meaningful, and relevant to both old-timers and newcomers alike. This team should be engaged in the ongoing evaluation of our worship life together, and creating opportunities by which disciples can connect to God and on another through worship.
Fellowship and Play Team
Formation doesn’t only happen through learning and worship. Christianity is, at its core, a communal experience. John Wesley, the founder of our Methodist movement, acknowledged this in his observation that there is no religion but social religion, no holiness but social holiness. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means that we are part of a community of other disciples gathering together in an intentional way to fully be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. A primary means of building those relationships is through fellowship and play.
The Fellowship and Play Team is charged with creating opportunities for participants in the City Road community to gather simply to be present with one another and to enjoy one another’s company. While Jesus certainly engaged in the work of teaching and healing, he is also portrayed as one who enjoyed sitting and the table, eating and engaging in good conversation – so much so that the Pharisees condemned him for being a partier. While God’s work in the world is serious stuff, disciples of Jesus are called to also have fun! This “play” builds relationships of trust, enhancing our growth in loving God and neighbor.