Book of Discipline Provides Enlightenment and Inspiration
When it comes to recommending great reads, The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline is unlikely to be found on anybody’s Top 10 list. However, because I am required to have at least some working knowledge of its contents, I can tell you that there is, in fact, great value, wisdom, and even inspiration in the book.
Each year, I have to update my license with the conference, and as part of that process, I am required to submit a variety of assignments and other documents. This year, one of my assignments called for a review of and a response to The Book of Discipline’s stance on the “nature and mission of the church.”
What I found was enlightening and encouraging, beginning with a review of our call as believers, which originates with this fundamental assertion: “The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
We, of course, already know that, but it never hurts to remind ourselves of our primary objective. The book goes on to provide important instruction for us when it states, “local churches and extension ministries of the Church provide the most significant arenas through which disciple-making occurs.” This emphasizes the value of our purpose as a church in the community, and affirms Oak Chapel’s more than 200 years of service in and to the community.
Among other instructions, The Book of Discipline tells us that we are to “proclaim the gospel as we seek, welcome, and gather others into the Body of Christ.” As we know, this is a real challenge, especially these days when church membership and attendance are dropping at a precipitous rate. In order for us to ensure the future of our church, we need to continue reaching out to others, particularly young families, and encourage them to join with us in active membership.
The Book of Discipline further supports this effort by reminding us that “we are called together for worship and fellowship and for the upbuilding of the Christian community. We advocate and work for the unity of the Christian church, and we call all persons into discipleship under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Unity is critical to our mission. We need not agree on everything, but we must be committed to one vision “to minister in the world through witness by word and deed in light of the Church’s mission.” Furthermore, it is vital that “the visible church of Christ as a faithful community of persons affirms the worth of all humanity and the value of interrelationship in all of God’s creation.”
Right now, the “visible” church is fading and in danger of one day becoming “invisible,” but we can change that narrative by helping the church to re-emerge as a guidepost for the way we live. All we need to do to bring that to fruition is to “surrender to the Lord, follow His Word, obey His commands, and love our neighbor.”
Love for others commences with spiritual growth in Christ, which is described in The Book of Discipline as “a dynamic process marked by awakening, birth, growth, and maturation,” all of which leads us to “live in active expectancy, faithful in service to God and neighbor, patient in waiting for the fulfillment of God’s universal love, justice, and peace on earth as in heaven.”
Until We Meet Again, Be Blessed! – Pastor John