Are we working to fulfill the right mission?
By Jim Boesch
Since the 2008 General Conference, the mission statement of the global UMC has been “to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” According to conversations with Protestant and Roman Catholic friends and acquaintances that’s pretty much the mission of all Christian church organizations.
Is this the right mission for UM men to pursue?
As I see it, is the answer is “yes” and “no.”
Yes, it is the right mission in that it is indeed true the ultimate mission of Jesus’ church is as he directed us in His Great Commission:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Of note here is the fact that this command of Jesus’ to the disciples was given them at the end of their developmental time with Him on earth and they were maturing in their faith and commitment to His cause far beyond where they were when they first began to follow Jesus.
And while that is also the charge of His local churches in which you and I worship our Creator God, our personal missions and purposes are different; at least in the beginning stages of our faith journey.
Do you remember Jesus’ first direction to the men He was selecting to become His disciples that would indeed one day begin the process of changing the world?
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
In offering you the advice of “you can’t do what you don’t know” and “you can’t sell what you haven’t bought,” I conclude Jesus’ first earthly mission was actually to make disciples of the men He chose before they could in turn go out and make disciples of others. In other words, when the 11 men were effectively maturing disciples from having followed Jesus for more than three years, He stated they were now ready to begin influencing others in their discipling pathways.
So no, it isn’t the right mission for our local church men in that Jesus’ command to the disciples was for them first to become disciples to eventually be able to make disciples of others.
Jesus didn’t say we had to begin day one of our journey by making disciples of the people God put into our everyday lives; rather He said to follow him first and in doing so He would prepare us to influence other people to be more like the Christ. That’s a huge difference and one that we can handle if we begin to change to become His disciples before we seek to change others.
To become Jesus’ disciples in our local church communities, we first need to discern our personal purpose and mission. What is God’s plan for our role as kingdom builders and servers where he has us planted right now?
Becoming disciples ourselves will often be the hardest part of our faith journey. On the surface of our daily struggles, this can be a very daunting challenge for us to achieve in our pursuit of becoming like the Christ.
We are living in a global society where the influencing distances between all of us is shrinking as we seek to influence each other more readily with our ideologies, beliefs, and actions. With the breadth of communication resources and vehicles available for the 88 percent of U.S. residents owning a mobile information sharing device, it is no wonder that we can be overwhelmed with the vast array of ways to make something out of someone else. How many emails will it take? How many tweets? How many Instagrams?
Add to that the fact that we are not always sure how well we are doing at living each day as a practicing, growing disciple of Jesus Christ ourselves and things can really get confusing.
This challenge of finding out what our personal missions are as part of God’s kingdom will be better served through transformational discipling relationships with other men who share this common bond of desiring to become more like Christ. This can be an outcome of the community of our local churches.
In summary, as we start planning for 2017, our ministry through men should be more tuned to supporting men in their first becoming disciples themselves to one day being able to make disciples of others.
A church full of men becoming disciples of Jesus Christ themselves will certainly be capable of making disciples of others.
I would bet on that outcome.
Merry Christmas and may 2017 be a discipling year for you and your loved ones.
Jim Boesch, deployed staff
General Commission on UM Men