Michael Bishop 20 Jun 2016
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I was in a leaders meeting this week in the Tongaat Methodist Church and I asked the leaders to call out some of their hopes and dreams for the church in Tongaat. A number of them spoke of their longing to see more children and youth being drawn into the life of the church (which is something that you have also expressed – in the series of interviews we did with some of you recently, this was a dominant theme. We’re hoping to have some very exciting news on this front soon!).
Another lady then spoke up and said her longing was to see adult members who were on the periphery of the church community being drawn in, and becoming active in the life and ministry of the church. “Absolutely”, I said, “that is one of the key tasks of the church – to ‘make disciples of all people – teaching them to obey all I have commanded you’ as Jesus said”. We are called as the church to help people become deeply committed followers, apprentices, students, disciples of Jesus. Well and good, but the next question is ‘how?’ - what is our strategy, our practical approach to making disciples?
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, was nothing if not methodical :) and he had a very effective method. At the time he was preaching in England, there was another great evangelist at work – George Whitefield. Scholars say Whitefield was perhaps a more effective preacher, but Wesley had a far better approach to training and encouraging those converts to ensure that they became mature disciples of Christ. He used small groups – little communities that met weekly where members were encouraged, cared for, challenged, and grown. It made all the difference!
Our strategy for making disciples at UMC still centres on small or home groups. There will always be people who for whatever reason are not able to join a group and so we also offer courses through the year, and provide quality reading material through our Upper Room bookshop, but the heart of our approach is these fantastic disciple-shaping communities. We’d love you to join a group if you haven’t already. I hope someone invites you this morning to join their group :)