Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pondering Discipleship

I'm still thinking about Sunday's sermon, and where to go with it. 1 John 1-2's light/dark dualism really attracts me. I know it's last week's lection, but I think I'm going with it anyway, and thinking about darkness as the absence of light.
I've recently read a blog post by Dan Dick called, Do United Methodists want to be disciples? that has raised a lot of questions for me (which you can see in the comments if you read the post).
Firstly, his post reflects a different understanding of what a disciple is than what I grew up with, which is fine. He very graciously gave me his operational definition, and I concur wholeheartedly with what he's thinking.
Except that I would use different terms. I've bloggend before (although I'm too lazy to link) about my concern with understanding the operational definitions of some of the words we use. One of the reasons I work hard to make my sermons accessible and easily understandable is to share my own operational definitions of certain words so that we're all on the same page. I wonder how many people will read Dan Dick's post and not think about that....
The mission of the UMC in our Discipline is "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." My operational definition of disciples would be followers of Christ who are growing in their relationship with God and seeking ways to serve God outside themselves. That frankly gives me a lot of latitude to consider someone a disciple: the children in my church are disciples, and have stories and ministry and mission to share. The older adults in my church are disciples, and have stories and ministry and mission to share. As does everyone in between.
That's not to say that everyone in the pew or on the roll is a disciple. Some don't really want to put the work into it, and it is work. It does take effort. Some are still learning, and havent' tumbled to the reality that our faith is a life's journey, and not a moment's decision. But most of my folk I would call authentic disciples, who try to live out their faith in their everyday lives and who look beyond themselves when thinking about the Kingdom of God.
And I'm pretty pleased with that. It's not been true everywhere I've been, but it is true here. We're not all called in the same directions, but we seem to be willing to support one another. We don't always agree, and sometimes feel that God is leading us on divergent paths, but we've struggled to stay one body, to find commonality, and to accept that sometimes we just won't agree. I've painted a fairly utopian picture, and it's not that clean or easy, but it is, I think, discipleship on a corporate level.
And I think that's a faithful working definition for disciple.


  1. ah vocabulary... such a tricky bugger! good for you though in trying to define for yourself, and the people you serve... so everyone is on the same page. so important!

  2. Thanks for these thoughts.

    (Word verification: propers. I give them to you!)


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