The Path of the Disciple
(Four series that fit together)
The stated mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This won’t happen by accident; we don’t fall into discipleship. It requires effort and intention and a disciple-making plan. We at Discipleship Ministries invite each congregation and worshiping community to develop an intentional discipleship plan in their local context. There are resources and mentors that you can access on our website to help you develop and implement your plan. Please call upon us to help you if you have not already begun such a journey (https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/discipleship-system-example).
The Worship Team at Discipleship Ministries invites you to consider reflecting on this discipleship journey in the first half of this long Ordinary Time season. There are four distinct parts to this reflection, each designed to help the community consider the whys and wherefores of taking our mission seriously. We invite reflection on the joys and the struggles of following Jesus as we live out our faith in this confused and confusing world. And through it all, we offer our fully engaged worship to God as we gather week by week, confessing and renewing and recommitting ourselves to being disciples of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So, join us as we worship together and reflect on the path of the disciple.
The Weight of the Call: Part One of 'The Path of the Disciple'
A disciple is a follower. That means there must be someone to follow and that someone wants followers. Considering that, in the gospel accounts, Jesus said “follow me” more often than he said, “believe in me,” we can be confident that there is a call to follow laid upon anyone and everyone who seeks to draw closer to Christ. It could even be argued that the whole of the life of faith is wrestling with that call to follow him.
Yet even a cursory reading of the gospels will reveal that Jesus never undersold this call. He never tried to convince us that following was an easy or a simple thing. There is effort here; there is sacrifice demanded; struggle and lifelong commitment are needed. So, we begin our summer worship contemplation with consideration of the weight of the call. What is being asked of us, we who seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ?
Throughout this four-part series, we listen again to the call of the whole people of faith, when God called Abraham to be the beginning – the genesis – of a new nation. Then we lay this ancient call alongside the words and deeds of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew as he confirms and enhances and redirects the call to be the church at work in the world. But here in part one, we are especially mindful of the radical nature of the call to leave everything behind and to live into a new reality, only then to discover the added responsibility of inviting the whole world to come to know the one we follow. We are to live as witnesses, not hidden away tending to our own souls, safe and secure behind the walls of our sanctuaries. We aren’t called to safety, but to a risky and transforming faith that leans into the kin-dom of God daily. Jump in as we consider the weight of the call.
The journey begins this week. Movement is a key element to worship in this series. Movement through the flow of worship – from gathering to proclamation to response to sending; movement within the worship – greeting others worshiping with us, coming forward for prayer or anointing or sacrament, standing and sitting and kneeling, maybe even a dance signifying the joy of the journey; and ultimately the movement from worship to world where we carry the gift we have claimed out into the community around us. How do we signify movement, the journey of faith?
This week, we focus on the starting point, hearing and responding to the call. Even when it scares us, or challenges us, or asks a lot of us. Are there those within your community who have launched a new ministry or taken a step out in faith? This might be a time to let them share their testimony, to tell the story of hearing or feeling or sensing a call from God. They might share the obstacles that they have overcome or still wrestle with. There can be an invitation to join or to support with prayer or resources, but the emphasis is on hearing and responding this week. And on being daunted or overwhelmed by the risk involved.
This would be a good time to commission a mission team or to receive a report on the work of those who have traveled and the lessons learned or experience gained. It may be a time to commission each member of the worshiping community to the call of discipleship, reminding everyone that our faith is not an occasional thing, but a true calling or vocation.
Worship could also include space for listening. Not all are convinced that they are being called. So how can we find ways of hearing God’s call? Prayers of petition, of invitation, can reside next to moments of silence that give the Spirit the opportunity to speak to our souls in the safe space of the loving community of faith. When we deepen our relationship with God in Christ, we come closer to being able to trust in the unknown.
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.