General Secretary: “Vital congregations never lose focus of their ‘why.’”

By Rick Wolcott*

“Discipleship, first and foremost, begins with me.  In other words, you cannot teach what you do not know.  You cannot model what you do not practice.  You cannot lead where you have not been.”

That was just one of the messages that UMC Discipleship Ministries General Secretary the Rev. Junius B. Dotson shared with congregation members and community leaders during his Myers Lecture presentation at Church of the Saviour UMC (North Coast District) in Cleveland Heights.

“We are in a year of discipleship,” said the Rev. Gregory Kendrick, Jr., Church of the Saviour pastor of connections.  “From September 2017 through August 2018, everything we’re doing is about intentional discipleship.  Rev. Dotson coming here is critical and crucial for us because what we learn will help transition us into a year of outreach and mission that will begin in September.  I think it’s important to link the message of discipleship and the message of mission together.”

“These are interesting times.  These are difficult times,” Dotson said.  “We live now, and minister, in a generation that has lost faith in social and religious institutions to make the world a better place.”

To restore that faith, churches need to identify and claim the reason that they exist.  They need to embrace their ‘why.’  Dotson explained that process begins by following the words of The Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations.

“That is our ‘why’ as the body of Christ,” Dotson said. “Vital congregations are vibrant and vital because they know their ‘why,’ and they stay connected to their ‘why.’ They never lose focus of their ‘why.’”

“Rev. Dotson being here and being able to talk through the ‘why,’ and the importance of the ‘why,’ helps to inform our ‘how’ and our ‘what,’” Kendrick, Jr. said.

“In too many churches across our denomination, we mistake activity for accomplishment; we mistake meetings for ministry; we mistake information about Jesus for intimacy with Jesus,” Dotson said.

He said that when a church is intentional about discipleship it has a clear plan and a clear process for helping people live into their baptismal covenant to support the church with their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness.

“Do you know what those are?  Habits of disciples.  So how are we intentional about teaching the habits of discipleship?” Dotson asked.

“Every church should be able to answer this question, ‘What is our intentional plan of discipleship?  What is our process?  How do people grow and progress spiritually within this body of Christ?’”

Click on the video to watch Rev. Dotson’s presentation in its entirety.

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.