God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Notes for Sunday Message: “Making Disciples: Coming Out of Our Shells”
This Sunday we will continue exploring way and methods of making disciples / followers of Jesus
Scriptures: John 11:1-3, 17, 38-44
Hardly a day goes by without me hearing that individual churches want to grow. I hear it from pastors, from laity, from parishioners, and even from people who want nothing to do with an organized religion. I think it has become a nearly universal mantra these days… at least in some circles.
I am not at all surprised by that desire because it is rooted in our relationship with God, in the Holy Spirit’s tugging on our very souls and in our gratitude for the experiences and spiritual fulfillment that all of us share in the context of a Christian community (Buddle).
The Gospel reading that we heard earlier today is sometimes interpreted as Jesus coming to our church buildings and calling us to come out and go into the world. It makes a lot of sense.
All of us are here because sometime in the past someone took the Great Commission to make disciples for Jesus seriously (Matt 28:16-20). In the past, someone got out of their comfort zone and helped us to find God. As a result we feel responsible to carry this legacy forward and to be good stewards of our ministry, traditions, communities and the history represented in our church buildings.
What I am trying to say is that this desire for numerical growth is rooted in our faith and in the source of our hope.
Paul wrote that “… faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb 11:1). That faith and that hope help us to face each and every new day with their joys and frustrations.
That faith and that hope also have to manifest themselves somehow in the way we act and interact with each other and with our neighbors (James 2:18, 20, 26).
That is where we run into difficulties. Although most of us recognize the need to do something, we resist doing anything different from what we have done in the past in order to translate and embody our traditions and heritage among those who don’t seem interested in what our communities of faith have to offer. It is as if instead of getting out of our buildings when Jesus is calling us to come out, we insist that instead Jesus should come inside, fix a stained window or two, provide us with a new carpet, and fill our pews with new members.
All of us are clear what people coming into our congregation can do for us. What we are not so sure about is what being a part of our community life might mean for them (Buddle). From that perspective, we act as if our desire for the numerical growth is rooted in self-preservation, not in our relationship with God. Although self-preservation is a natural human response, it does not provide a compelling spiritual invitation to our neighbors.
Making disciples means that we have to find ways to engage others in our families, neighborhoods and communities where they are, rather than where we want them to be for us. It means listening to their stories, to their actions and to their lives and helping them to discover where God is already present in their life’s journey.
Buddle, The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar. “Bishop Mariann’s Blog.” 17 01 2013. edow.org. 18 01 2013 <http://www.edow.org/bishops_blog/2013/01/17/what-do-we-mean-when-we-say-we-want-to-grow>.