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John Wesley taught that balance is essential when it comes to all things, especially discipleship. For example he believed that discipleship involves a balance between works of piety and works of mercy.
Works of piety are the spiritual disciplines that help Christians love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. They include prayer, the Lord’s Supper, worship, Bible study, and fasting. The works of mercy are what Christians do to love those whom God loves: feeding the hungry, giving clothing to the ill-clad, welcoming strangers, visiting the sick and prisoners, and so forth.
First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, LA provides opportunities for members to grow in holiness of heart and life by practicing a balanced discipleship. There is a strong emphasis upon the importance of both works of piety and works of mercy.
The congregation offers members and visitors many opportunities for Bible study, prayer, small group study, and group or individual spiritual direction. The congregation offers five worship services each week: Sunday morning at 8:30 and 11:00, Sunday evening at 6:00 pm and Wednesday at 12:10 pm and 6:00 pm. The Lord’s Supper is celebrated at both services on Wednesdays. One of the purposes of these works of piety is to prepare the members for service in the world in works of mercy.
Members of FUMC are encouraged to serve locally and globally. The congregation provides money, goods, and volunteers for a number of local ministries that serve the poor of Baton Rouge. Members regularly visit and offer the love of Christ with prisoners in local prisons with Kairos Ministries. Other members serve through mission trips through the Appalachia Service Project and Volunteers in Mission.
Some Questions for Discussion
- What works or piety and works of mercy are central to the life of your congregation? Which are more heavily emphasized?
- What might need to be added or modified to create a more balanced process for forming disciples in your congregation?
Steve Manskar is Director of Wesleyan Leadership at the Discipleship Ministries. He can be reached at smanskar@UMCdiscipleship.org.