By Bishop Scott J. Jones
Methodism has been a missionary movement since its very beginning. One of the earliest description of Methodism’s purpose was in John Wesley’s “Large Minutes,” the earliest version of the Methodist Book of Doctrines and Discipline:
“Q: What may we reasonably believe to be God’s design in raising up the Preachers called ‘Methodists’?
A. To reform the nation and in particular the Church, to spread scriptural holiness over the land.”
I believe that Wesley captured the New Testament’s vision of the Church. We serve a missionary God who intends to save the world. That God has chosen first a people (the Jews) and then the church (followers of Jesus) to accomplish that purpose.
In two places the New Testament gives a cogent description of the mission. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells his followers, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The church of Jesus Christ is a missionary organization whose purpose is to follow these commandments. We are to “make disciples” and be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.
In my experience vital, growing congregations are those who have a high level of clarity about their mission. This fits in with the best leadership advice being given to all organizations today. Patrick Lencioni in his book The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business says that clarity is crucial, and the first point of clarity is to know why the organization exists. Clarity of purpose leads to vitality and success. That is especially true of the church.
We in the Global Methodist Church are seeking to focus on our mission. The statement we have adopted in this transitional time has four parts: to make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly, and witness boldly.
We are going to focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ. We are Jesus followers who want to help all persons make the commitment to follow Jesus. John Wesley said that the general theme of the whole Bible is the way of salvation.
That discipleship process starts with prevenient grace—the unmerited love of God for each human being and the whole of creation that comes before we are even aware of it. We know that the world is broken and sinful. But we have the good news that God is love and has not given up on his creation.
Convincing grace is that action of God that teaches us how broken we are and how much we need a savior. Justifying grace is the love of God that restores us to a right relationship with the Lord. It is offered to us without price and becomes effective if we receive it by faith.
Sanctifying grace is the life-changing process of making us more and more holy and empowering us to love God and love our neighbor more and more. The God who saves us just as we are never leaves us just as we were. By the grace of God we are empowered to live an abundant life of service to others. We can become the men and women God intended us to be.
The way of salvation depends on the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. While there are several means of grace (including prayer, Bible Study, holy communion, small groups and works of mercy) weekly worship is a primary way of connecting with God. When we gather for worship, we believe that the Holy Spirit is present, and our passionate worship allows God to shape our hearts and minds. In the Global Methodist meetings I have attended, participants have powerfully felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. God is shaping us through worship! In such times we learn once again who we are and whose we are.
The goal of the Christian life is sanctification. That means we are becoming more and more like Jesus who was “love divine” come down to earth. We are thus called to love extravagantly. Christ commanded that we love God with every part of our being and love our neighbors as ourselves. We need to actively seek justice, to feed the hungry, to heal the sick, to visit the lonely, and to care for God’s creation. The world has a lot of needs, and Jesus’ followers should be at the forefront of fixing the problems plaguing humankind.
It is God’s purpose that all humanity should come to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. God’s plan for accomplishing that is to have Jesus’ disciples be witnesses. We are not the saviors of the world—that is Jesus. But we are witnesses to the goodness and power of God to change lives and heal the problems we have created for ourselves. We can use the words of the contemporary gospel song “All my life You have been faithful/And all my life You have been so, so good/With every breath that I am able/ Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God.” Our witness must be faithful to the truth of the gospel and offered to those who do not yet follow Jesus as his disciples.
Years ago I quit praying “God, please bless what I am doing.” Instead I now pray every day, “God, help me be a part of what you are blessing.” God is in the business of saving the world, and I am blessed to be a part of what his Holy Spirit is doing in that mission. The Global Methodist Church is focused on our mission.
Bishop Scott J. Jones is an episcopal leader in the Global Methodist Church.