I have enjoyed our recent practice over these last weeks since we finished the “Questioning God” series of taking time to ask and answer questions during worship. I think it’s important that we join together in an environment where both thinking and questioning are important elements of our worship and our faith. To me, this is strongly Wesleyan and core to being United Methodist.
A recent question came in through the church office that I would like to address here rather than in worship because it connects with some ongoing work that some PB UMC leaders are doing. The question submitted is: What is a disciple?
First, some background. Our Readiness 360+ group has been hard at work since our church was invited to participate in this pilot revitalization program, and from this group began our recent Acts Bible Studies. More information can be found from R360 members here and here.
Part of the ongoing work that R360 is undertaking is to create a Discipleship Plan, or a defined method by which PB UMC members and worshipers may move further along a continuum toward being deeply committed disciples. In part, this is one way we live into the United Methodist mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
But in order to create that plan, we first had to address that same question: What is a disciple?
It is important to recognize that we United Methodists may understand discipleship a bit differently than those who are Presbyterian or those who are Baptist. Following that logic, we may also agree that discipleship here at Pacific Beach UMC may look different than at UMCs in other parts of the country where cultures and demographics are strikingly different; and perhaps discipleship at PB UMC may even be somewhat different than nearby churches like Mission Hills UMC or First UMC. These differences aren’t necessarily profound, but simply a reflection of our uniqueness as a congregation and the gifts we bring together to this community and to this congregation.
As we come to understand the unique culture and tradition of Pacific Beach UMC and our ministries and where we show strengths for ministry, we believe that a disciple can be seen as person who fully and completely lives God’s love in such a way that – in partnership with other disciples – the world is naturally and powerfully changed for the better. We live this out completely in our participation in the ministries of the church with all the gifts we have to give – we think of this as our head, our heart, and our hands.
A difficult truth is that very few of us live out our lives in this way. In a recent conference that I attended at my alma mater, Rev. Adam Hamilton offered the observation that only 10% of Christians describe themselves as persons who are at that place of fully living God’s love in a way that incites positive change (Hamilton uses the Wesleyan phrase “sanctification,” which is being made Holy). 20% describe themselves as on that road but not yet arrived. 30% describe themselves in a period of growth. And 40% describe themselves as yet on an even longer journey.
Wherever we see ourselves on our journey of discipleship, let us work toward being people who look forward with joy and hope toward being people who live God’s love so fully that we begin to make this world better than it has been.
I believe the journey is life-long; I believe the journey is as challenging as it is rewarding; and I believe it is God’s powerful call on us all. I look forward to journeying with each of you.
Grace and peace…