Sermon Starters — Covenant Discipleship With Youth

by Chris Wilterdink

Background:

Covenant Discipleship groups are an expression of smaller group meetings that have been present in the Methodist movement since the beginning. Methodism’s founders saw group participation as integral to a person’s faith. Covenants are God’s way of being in relationship with humanity. Discipleship is a way of following Christ’s teachings. Covenant Discipleship offers a pattern to live a life after the life that Jesus lived.

Considerations:

How will you raise awareness of “Christianity as a social religion” (as John Wesley called it) while considering generational differences in social interaction? Think of the social spheres that your church operates within. Remember how social acceptance or non-acceptance felt in your teenage years. Find out what has changed in terms of social interaction since your teenage years.

How can you use stories of young people (in scripture or Methodist history) to frame covenants and accountability as ways that young people can further their discipleship? What words or terms could be friendlier, more familiar, or less intimidating than the ones used by Wesley himself? Look at Wesley’s own story of the Holy Club at Oxford for examples of a group encouraging each other through covenant.

Sermon Starters:

Disciples who live by a covenant together, are an “every day” people. They seek to honor God and love neighbor every day. Seemingly small every day acts, when done every day, become the mustard seeds of faith that can move mountains. Every day people, doing every day things, every day can transform the world and themselves for the better. Young people often hear messaging about being “world changers” and “making the world a better place” There are many stories of young people doing extraordinary things. Perhaps when we see those extraordinary things, we can be inspired. However, perhaps we can also see those things and feel like we could never do something that great or grand. Covenant Discipleship is an model where people are encouraged to do “everyday things” everyday, and over a lifetime those actions move mountains. What about John Wesley’s life, your church life, your own spiritual or physical journey have been improved because of regularity and routine? Is routine harder or easier to come by nowadays? Consider worms, and just how much land they actually turn over and how much life they inspire by processing waste.

Look for use of the word “worm” as something less than human or undignified, particularly in the Christian tradition. Play with worms as an image for that we do, and God’s grace does, that is often unseen – yet ends up adding up over years to make the biggest differences in our lives. Refer to Charles Wesley hymns on worms for more inspiration!

Explore young people’s ability to take originally utilitarian technology and make it social. Young people at the wells and oil presses in Biblical times. Young people taking the printing press and using it to spread ideas and commentary. Telephones, television, the Internet, texting. Young people have always been able to adapt the technology of the day and use it in social ways. If John Wesley’s “Rule of Life” or “General Rules,” or even the Great Commandment(!) feel utilitarian, imagine what it would look like to put them in the hands of young people and what they might do to “socialize” them. How could those frameworks influence social interactions and accountability in ways that make disciples? Explore how technology can complement, not compete, with a life of discipleship through social connection.

Key Teaching Points:

  • Discipleship is a way of following the teaching of Christ and patterning life after the one that Jesus lived. Mark 12:29-31 (the Great Commandment) sums up what that life means.
  • We enjoy a permanent and unbroken relationship with God (Heb 9:15) because of covenants. By engaging in covenant with each other, we participate in the same kind of relationship that God seeks with humanity.
  • Methodism has a history of small group support structures, including covenant discipleship groups.
  • Becoming a “disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” is a lengthy process, that social connections and support from a group of peers can support.
  • We can be participants in God’s covenant with humanity.

Questions to Wrestle With:

  • From the perspective of a young person, what role does social accountability play in their lives? (Think social media, virtual interactions, as well as in-person avenues)
  • Does the language we use in our church designate responsibility for transformation to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit? Does the language we use in our church encourage personal action?
  • What does my church know about the Great Commandment? How do they already live in to that scripture?
  • Where are young people already connecting with each other? What topics are drawing young people into conversation both within and outside the church?
  • How could a better understanding of the Works of Piety and Mercy inform and transform the life of a disciple?

Charles Wesley’s Use of “Worm”

Behold him, all ye that pass by,
The bleeding Prince of life and peace!
Come see, ye worms, your Maker die,
And say, was ever grief like his?
Come, feel with me his blood applied:
My Lord, my Love is crucified. (#27:2)

Thee we adore, eternal name,
And humbly own to thee
How feeble is our mortal frame,
What dying worms we be! (40:1)

Will he forsake his throne above,
Himself to worms impart?
Answer, thou Man of grief and love,
And speak it to my heart! (124:2)

Honour, and might, and thanks, and praise,
I render to my pardoning God,
Extol the riches of thy grace,
And spread thy saving name abroad:
That only name to sinners given,
Which lifts poor, dying worms to heaven. (198:3)

Jehovah in Three Persons, come,
And draw, and sprinkle us, and seal
Poor guilty, dying worms, in whom
Thy dost eternal life reveal;
The knowledge of thyself bestow,
And all thy glorious goodness show. (253:2)

 

Ye seraphs, nearest to the throne,
With rapturous amaze
On us poor ransomed worms look down,
For heaven's superior praise! (254:7)

Earth from afar hath heard thy fame,
And worms have learnt to lisp thy name;
But Oh! the glories of thy mind
Leave all our soaring thoughts behind. (307:4)

Poor worms of earth, for help we cry
For grace to guide what grace hath given;
We ask for wisdom from on high
To train our infant up for heaven. (455:2)

Will he forsake his throne above,
Himself to worms impart?
Answer, thou Man of grief and love,
And speak it to my heart!

Categories: Covenant Discipleship With Youth, Sermon Starters

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