As I begin to visit and engage in conversations with Western District Conference congregations and their pastors, discipleship and missions are the two themes, among many others, that have been predominant our discussions. Both discipleship and mission are relevant to the life of the church today and they will continue to be in the future.
In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer asserts that "Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ." Looking at it from another perspective, we could say that Jesus' way defines the way of his followers.
Consequently, I am reminded that confession and following defines our identity. Who Jesus is and what he does is intimately connected to who his disciples are and it clarifies what is expected from them.
Confessing Jesus' name equals following him on his way and going into his mission. Therefore, one cannot claim to be a follower of Christ and not be obedient to his commands and to his life-transforming teachings. In addition, one is challenged, daily, to be mindful and active in his redemptive work: mission.
For example, consider the Great Commission as both an invitation and a command. It is less of a contemplative approach and more of an "all hands of deck" approach. As conferences, individually and collectively, we need to be reminded that we are a generation of disciples called to make disciples in a holistic way.
To be Christ's disciples means a new humanity. We are learners, who follow Jesus and learn from him, under the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit. We are to learn to be obedient to the will of God, though it might mean suffering and death, primarily to our ego and personal agendas. It also means rising to a new humanity.
Friends, it is not about the Church; it is about Jesus and it is about the kingdom of God.
If this assertion is correct, then we are invited to reflect and think on at least two questions: What does it mean to be a new creation and what does nonconformity mean?
Let us be reminded that in spite of not being of this world, we are in this world. Hence, our missional job as the church is to provoke people to have a personal relationship with Christ and to a transformational life experience.
This mysterious God, revealed in Jesus Christ, called us to be his followers and invited us to kingdom living. We are people called to God's mission.
Mission and discipleship cannot be set apart from each other, because a follower of Christ is challenged to be in mission at any time and in any context as part of God's redemptive work for our local and international communities (Acts 1:8).
The church is an organism that seeks to be incarnated in the realities of its community and its people. The church is a guest in the community where the coming of the kingdom is proclaimed in both the spoken word and service.
The church becomes the people of God only when it journeys toward God and his mission.
If a church wants to hold a strong identity of being the people of God, then the church needs to consider fully engaging in its immediate community which is to say: go, be a disciple maker!
"Missional" is more than a theory elaborated from a desk, a lecture in a classroom, or a table discussion at endless meetings. It is more than a service project in a marginalized area, whether in a far-off community that looks very different than us or abroad or at home and so on.
A missional community of disciples is formed by committed Christians that live out God's mission in their hometowns and abroad, incarnating in the reality of a given community the transforming gospel of Christ.