Laity Sunday 2018: Overview

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by Jodi L. Cataldo

"Offer them Christ, Thomas." These words are said to have been John Wesley's last words to Thomas Coke as he stood on the pier, sending Coke off in mission to America. As part of that mission, Thomas Coke was to ordain Francis Asbury and others into ministry. These faithful missionaries, Coke and Asbury, did just that: they offered Christ, resulting in a movement of astronomical proportion. The movement was alive! It was growing! It was responsive to the biblical mandate of “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19, NRSV).

When Coke and Asbury agreed to serve in mission, to go and make disciples through “offering Christ” so others had an opportunity to make a commitment to Jesus, they gave their lives in a mode of humble service. Recall what Jesus had said to the early disciples: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NRSV). Coke and Asbury did indeed go into the world in outreach and mission, offering hope and using the method of Methodism to make disciples through proclamation of the gospel, seeking, welcoming, and gathering as they offered (and received) hospitality to (and from) those not yet in the body (SOCIETIES). They offered Christ by providing opportunities for people to commit their lives to God (CLASS MEETINGS) and nurtured them in Christian living to help them find a true sense of purpose in life, as they learned what it means to live out their beliefs through participation in the means of grace (BANDS); then they sent them out through engagement with the world to be disciple-makers themselves by again offering and receiving hospitality (SOCIETIES).

During the Wesleyan Movement, both Coke and Asbury carried on John and Charles Wesley’s legacy of equipping and empowering laity to be in ministry. They then provided leadership for this methodical system of discipleship. Through the ministry of the laity, more and more people made a commitment to Christ, were nurtured in the faith, were equipped for ministry, and were sent out to be in ministry with others. The movement was alive because the partnership ministry of the laity and the clergy was also alive.

Today, when we reach out and receive new people by building relationships with them, are we also offering opportunities for them to commit themselves to Jesus Christ? Are we offering opportunities for growth in personal holiness through relationship with Christ and others? If we are to reclaim the movement and truly #SeeAllThePeople, we must be harbingers of HOPE—the core process of discipleship, the method of Methodism:

  • Hospitality—We go into the world in outreach and mission, offering hope through proclamation of the gospel, seeking, welcoming, and gathering as we offer (and receive) hospitality to (and from) those not yet in the body.
  • Offer Christ—We provide opportunities for people to commit their lives to God through baptism by water and Spirit and profession of faith.
  • Purpose—We nurture people in Christian living to help them find a true sense of purpose in life, as they learn what it means to live out their beliefs through acts of piety and acts of mercy, Christian conferencing, and regular participation in the sacrament of Holy Communion and other means of grace.
  • Engagement —Through engagement, we again offer and receive hospitality.
     

On Laity Sunday, we celebrate that we are all called, laity as well as clergy, to go and make disciples in a world so desperately in need of hope through our humble service. Jesus modeled the process for us in Mark 10:45, and Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury lived itnout in their own lives. Therefore, go!

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