When I began writing my blog back in 2010, I entitled it This Focused Center based on a version of 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 from The Message (a paraphrased translation of the Bible by Eugene Peterson) “Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.”
In my first blog entry I wrote, “I offer this blog out of a conviction that we need to turn and return to a deeply Trinitarian expression of the Christian faith. More explicitly, it appears to me that much of contemporary mainline theological/cultural reflection appears to have a vague sense of God, a passing acquaintance with Jesus as Lord, and little conception of the work of the Holy Spirit. I want to invite us to be focused as explicitly Christian; that is to say, living out of the focused center of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – crucified and risen for all!” I have not changed from that deep conviction. Put simply, people (which includes all of us!) need the fullness of the gospel, the good news, that in Christ as Lord (ruler, master!) we encounter God in human flesh in and through the very presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
This journey we are on is, at its heart, about being faithful disciples – disciplined committed followers of Jesus Christ as Lord. It is about an ongoing encounter with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit active in daily lives and the life of our world. Our journey of faithfulness is built on what is called the Great Commission of Christ. It comes from our marching orders as Christians given by the risen and reigning Lord in Matthew 28:16-20.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
There is a line from William Shakespeare’s history play Henry V, which clings to my soul. ““This is a stem / Of that victorious stock and let us fear / The native mightiness and fate of him.”
In the days ahead, there will be more and more conversation (and consternation) on “the Way Forward” for the United Methodist Church and the upcoming Called General Conference to be held in St. Louis, Feb. 23-26. It is not an understatement to acknowledge that we are pressed down and shaken by deep divisions at the core of the United Methodist Church. Possible schism looms before us. Truly, truly we need to “breathe deep, Jesus is still Lord!”
In the tumult of our time, I want to urge us to not lose focus. The Great Commission of Christ – “go and make disciples” is reflected in our Mission – “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” This is our WIG – our Wildly Important Goal! We reach for the WIG through our driving values of 1) Christ at the Center, 2) a focus on the local church, and 3) development of lay and clergy leadership. We understand faithfulness is inseparably linked to fruitfulness in narratives (gospel stories) of life and church (the body of Christ – 1 Corinthians 12:27) transformation with a rise in average worship attendance and professions of faith (new disciples!). Together the narratives and metrics share a story of faithfulness and fruitfulness.
To that end, I offer one more narrative, one shinning example, of committed faithfulness and fruitfulness being lived out in a church of the Central Texas Conference. It comes from the “God Squad” at First United Methodist Church of Moody and Moody-Leon United Methodist Church. Pastor Josh Pruett writes,
“...there are now 70 kids here each Wednesday and this Wednesday night, (1/30/19) we hit 80, not counting adult helpers. We feel so blessed that we are trusted by these kids and we are thrilled that they are evangelizing and inviting others to come with them. They are fulfilling our mission better than the adults!
However, having 80 kids is not the best news! In September, we had 21 youth give their life to Christ for the first time or rededicate their life to him. Just this past Sunday, we have had our first baptism of one of these youth as well. God is so good and we here at Moody First and Moody Leon wanted to share our good news with you. May God continue his work here.”
Our unity lives in adherence to the God inspired, Christ led, Holy Spirit empowered mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Wherever we are on the spectrum of issues that divided us, I call on us together to stay focused on mission; to stay committed on the WIG – making disciples of Jesus Christ. Let the words of the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the deeply troubled (and divided!) church at Corinth sink into the marrow of our bones. “Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)