More God, Less Us

A couch big enough for an entire denomination’s therapy session?

The mission of the Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

I’ve never been entirely comfortable with some of the implications within the United Methodist mission statement. I believe that it gives too much responsibility to people, sinners like you and me rather than God. I think we place the cart before the horse. Our misspoken mission statement has contributed, in one form or another, to our current predicament. We sit on the edge of schism because we don’t know who makes disciples. We honestly believe that the power to make people into disciples of Jesus Christ comes from within us and not from God. I think the potential to transform the world and make new disciples comes from God and God alone. We’ve been worshipping our abilities or at the least, an imagined power within us to do more than we capable of achieving.

I can hear it now. “Of course, we don’t transform the world alone. We make disciples with the help of Jesus. We’re only borrowing these words from scripture.” The problem is we don’t say what we mean. If you were to survey the average church member, they’d claim responsibility for making new disciples.  Why? This is what we teach. I think we’re wrong. God is making disciples and we’re taking credit at charge conferences.  That’s not cool.

If we don’t say it, we don’t mean it. We could reword and rephrase our mission statement to emphasize a divine-human partnership or place the totality of someone’s spiritual transformation on their encounter with God. We choose not to do this. We continue to claim that Methodists and Methodist churches make disciples. United Methodists have a difficult enough time making decisions about paint colors and changing light bulbs. Jesus makes disciples in personal interactions with people. We have a hard time finding the time for committees to meet. It seems so pretentious of us to grant ourselves the authority of world transformation and disciple making. That level of narcissism scares me when a parishioner comes into my office in need of a mental health referral. Do we need a denominational therapist?  Should we be facilitating God’s good work, not claiming credit for all God has done?

“Hi, we’re an aging mainline denomination with delusions of grandeur. We think we have greater spiritual authority and powers than we do. We want to serve God and help others do the same. Do you know a good therapist?”

Imagine asking that question instead of trying to figure out how we implement the trust clause and keeping the mission statement we’ve got?

I vote, “more God, less us”.  How about that for a mission statement?

Richard Lowell Bryant