Lord, let it begin with me
By Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.
We must take a serious look at ourselves and our current reality. How committed are we to God’s mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?”
Do we truly want to be fruitful and faithful?
I don’t doubt our work ethic at all. We are a hard-working group of Christians. If working hard could help us make disciples and transform this world, those two goals would have been accomplished sometime in the past. God knows we’ve tried hard to pull ourselves out of this downward spiral in the United States.
Many have been praying for God to do a new thing among us. If that “new thing” is to happen it will only have a lasting effect if it is what Robert Quinn calls a “deep change.” Quinn writes to us in his book entitled by that name, Deep Change.
“There is an important link between deep change at the personal level and deep change at the organizational level. To make deep personal change is to develop a new paradigm, a new self that is effectively aligned with today's realities.
“This can occur only if we are willing to journey into unknown territory and confront the wicked problems we encounter.
“This journey does not follow the assumptions of rational planning. The objective may not be clear and the path to it is not paved with familiar procedures. This tortuous journey requires that we leave our comfort zone and step outside our normal roles. In doing so, we learn the paradoxical lesson that we can change the world only by changing ourselves."
Therefore, Quinn would say that the answer to the question, “Are we committed to making disciples?” is not the right question. The right question is, “Are we personally committed to ‘deep change’?”
Only after a significant number of us are willing to practice “deep change” inwardly can we expect deep change within the UMC.
Quinn speaks to us in a time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. All of the tried and true ways are failing us. Our church is no longer the center of the community. The laws of the land no longer give the church “favored nation status.”
Today, the Christian Church finds itself in a world with values more in common with the first century Mediterranean world when those practicing the faith were punished, than with the values of the 1950s when the church was the center of U.S. communities.
Our values often conflict with the values of our communities and the world in which we live. How do we make disciples in this kind of climate?
If there ever was a time, in which we needed spiritual power it is today. So, I say, “Dear Lord, let it begin with me!”
Within the commission, we are pushing hard to get men to look inward at their relationship with Jesus.
Do not misunderstand me. This is not a solo walk. This will only happen within a community of similarly committed men.
No wonder Jesus’ first stop on His missionary journey was along the seashore to recruit others. As we move through the season of Advent why not use these four weeks to be in prayer about inward transformation that could be the beginning of a journey to lead us through the New Year.
We have tried everything else; why not, “Let it begin with me!”
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., president
General Commission on UM Men