Throughout this summer worship series, we have hoped to stir some excitement about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. We’ve been honest about the difficulty but also considered some of the joys that come with following this path. This final part of the series is in some ways a pinnacle. The community that gathers for worship is reminded that we are indeed following a God who is at work in the world. We are seeking signs of God’s presence as we live and work in a hurting yet beautiful world around us. There is no more difficult but ultimately joyous exercise than that.
Whether you call them “God-sightings” or “glory moments,” being alert to the presence of God is a fundamental requirement for the disciple. Some might even argue that it is these discovery moments that keep us going on the pathway to discipleship. They are oases or rest stops along the way that refresh us and remind us that we are not alone and that we do have strength for the journey.
What this series has not done, however, was lay out a specific plan for your local church to design its own intentional discipleship system. We couldn’t. Each community must find the path that fits its context and uses the gifts of the people and the leadership of the local congregation. If you have a plan in place, then this summer has been a boost to keeping folks going in that process. If you don’t have such a plan and need help getting going, then SeeAllThePeople.org is a good place to start. There are tools and guidance here to help any congregation take seriously the call to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” You could also visit UMCDiscipleship.org and type “developing a discipleship system” into the search function and find all kinds of articles to answer your questions and give you areas of focus as well as sample systems from other congregations to help you develop your own discipleship pathway.
Whether you are just beginning to chart your disciple-making path or you are well-versed in the ways to help church members become disciples, a vital reminder for all is that we are seeking the face of God in the world in which we live and work. At the same time, we begin to realize that for our neighbors and friends, we may become the face of God for them.
Many years ago, there was a television commercial that began with the line, “What are you hungry for when you don’t know what you’re hungry for?” A powerful question to be sure. I think their answer was crackers. But the question itself seems deeper and more profound than that. Advertising often tries to take spiritual hungers and offer physical solutions because they have something to sell, but it leaves us unsatisfied in the end. So, what are we hungry for? That’s the question we’re wrestling with this week; pardon the pun.
So, what should our worship contain as we consider what we are hungry for? Confession? Well, certainly, confession is always appropriate for worship. But what are we confessing? Our hungers? That is part of being human; we are made to be hungry. The confession might center around how we respond to these hungers and which hungers we choose to try and meet. Remember, Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt 5:6). So, maybe our confession ought to include the fact that we aren’t hungry enough. Or that we let our hungers for righteousness and justice be satisfied with something less than justice for all. Or that we concentrate on physical hunger because that is always easier to meet than the deeper needs that people have, which might require more from us than we really want to give.
Worship is where we can announce that we are hungry for God. We come and call upon the Lord to meet us in worship, to fill us, and send us out into the world full of that presence and that hope. Worship this week can be a reminder that we are seeking the face of God when we gather but also when we scatter. Our hunger for God is not only met when we gather for worship but also when we are at work, when we are in fellowship, when we engage in conversations and build relationships, when we serve and love as we are sent to do. Let the benediction not be an end of our searching, but an invitation to carry the search for God’s presence beyond the walls of the church.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.