The Western North Carolina Conference extended cabinet met, Monday, August 21, 2017, for the purpose of continuing to support and encourage our clergy and United Methodist Churches in building sustainable discipleship processes.
We continued to affirm our commitment to focus on the Great Commission and to seek the needed leadership for Kingdom work. Together we embraced Ephesians 4:
“Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of serve, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (v.11-13).
The cabinet noted that our annual conference has experienced much change in recent years and reaffirmed our desire that lay and clergy leaders might give greater attention to systems and processes that create new disciples regardless of the changes around us. This work will require mature passionate spiritual disciples who can develop new leaders that make disciples for Jesus Christ.
These leaders, lay and clergy, will model the knowledge, skills, and willingness to build relationships which are engaged in Kingdom work; rooted in the Wesleyan means of grace; building community with other disciples; and demonstrating changed lives. The spiritual gifts of each individual will be discerned and embraced.
We celebrated the churches where this teaching and training are taking place in our conference and recognized that growing churches include congregations of every size. Growth in discipleship is related to faithfulness, not church size. The cabinet was careful not to confuse the language for strategy and processes with our language for values; one of our key values is that all persons are loved by God and are of sacred worth.
Whatever and whenever the specific process for making disciples is shared, there is an emphasis on building relationships, introducing others to Jesus, training and preparing new leaders, and cultivating passionate spiritual disciples. The outcome is a community that is fruitful and reproduces itself.
With a renewed conversation on the ways we might engage the genuine partnership of laity and clergy working together, the cabinet acknowledged that the future of the church does not depend on “sending the right leader and making the right appointment as if it all depended on the minister alone,” but on the mutual partnership of congregations and leadership working together to serve and invite others to be like Jesus.
This service will challenge members of our churches and our leaders to spend time in the “third places.” While the church used to be that third place in our culture, increasingly they are somewhere else–soccer fields, coffee shops, pubs–places beyond home and work where we are most likely to meet others, form new friendships, and invite them into situations where they can make a difference.
Finally, we gave thanks for the many responsibilities of our church leaders, and acknowledged that focusing on the ways that make disciples is not something to be “added” to our work, but to confess that for too long we have not given enough attention to the Great Commission.
From this perspective, we collaborated on the ways in which we might encourage our clergy, inspire our congregations, work in partnership with our colleagues in ministry, and direct more attention to the needed work of making new disciples.