I am writing this as the Discipleship Matters conference comes to a close. Hosted by the Rev. Jay Sidebotham and the RenewalWorks ministry of Forward Movement, we have gathered to focus on how to create a culture of discipleship in our congregations. In other words, how can we get past maintenance and instead foster spiritual growth and commitment to following Jesus in our churches?
There is much good news here. In congregations small and large, people have shared ways in which their efforts have worked. People have found ways to get people reading and engaging with scripture. Others have changed the focus of adult formation to make room for transformation. Preachers have gotten more serious about their craft. Lay leaders have found it rewarding to consider vocation in their ministry both outside and inside the church. Where congregations have been willing to make the commitment to discipleship, there has been much fruit.
So what keeps us from getting serious about Jesus in our churches? One speaker contrasted the forces of life in Christ with the forces of death that resist growth and transformation. I think there's something to this. At a less cosmic level, being a disciple of Jesus is costly and uncertain, whereas many come to church seeking comfort and constancy.
Is it worth it? Absolutely! Jesus is the only source of an abundant life that has nothing to do with material goods or external measure. In Jesus Christ, we find our true joy. When the church is about Jesus Christ and not mere comfort, we find that we have a precious gift to share with the world. Look around, and you'll see people everywhere who are longing for hope, meaning, and purpose. We Christians have something to offer, especially when we get serious about the hard work of following Jesus.
Check out the tweets at hashtag #Discipleship16 for some insights from the conference. I don't think we're ever done learning how to follow Jesus. Our prayer book talks about growing into the full stature of Christ, and we never quite get there in this life. What is next for you? What does discipleship look like in your life?