Sunday, September 23, 2007

Following Jesus and Being United Methodist

Another item floating around the methoblogosphere: the excellent article written by Ben Yosua-Davis about the generation x/y gathering earlier this year.

I didn't attend the event, but parts of the article really hit the head on the nail for me, articulating the split personality I often feel as a person fully immersed in the denomination, the organization, the structure, the way of functioning of the Untied Methodist Church, and the growing sense that to be a real disciple of Jesus, I'm missing the boat entirely doing what I'm doing in the way we're doing it.

Ben writes:

"Participants voiced both deep love for and deep frustration about the denomination. They expressed a passionate loyalty and appreciation for United Methodism, yet also a conviction that the church they love may end up killing them spiritually. This pain does not come out of disconnected idealism, but rather an intelligent, painful realism that has made many realize that their leadership in traditional parish ministry and traditional churches is bringing them farther away from God's call for their lives.

A deeper issue ran under the surface of almost all the conversations, namely, "Can I follow Jesus, be faithful to my call and remain United Methodist?"

There was a sense among many (although not all) that the church has not created space for young adults to be faithful disciples as they understand it. Instead, like a round peg in a square hole, they feel jammed into ministries that do not fit their gifts, into churches where they feel sucked dry and futile, into ministries that others define for them, without any room to explore what it means to be both Christian and postmodern at the same time. There was a sense that for many, The United Methodist Church is not looking for gifted Christian ministers; rather they are looking for by-the-book, work-within-the-system professionals who would pay their dues, innovate only within the system and not rock the boat."

"Can I follow Jesus, be faithful to my call, and remain United Methodist?" That is the question, isn't it? Is it easier to be a disciple inside or outside of the organized church? Is there room in the church for people who really want to be disciples? Isn't it funny that we have to even ask these questions?

Jesus throughout the gospels is asking us for everything - a full commitment, a complete commitment, a commitment to give our whole life up. Yes, he calls us to do that at the same time as he offers complete forgiveness, unconditional love, free grace. But discipleship, the kind Jesus is talking about, is total. I find, honestly, that it is hard to ask that of people in the church - we're not set up in churches to communicate that what God wants from us is everything. We're set up in way that tells people we're ok with whatever they want to give. (I'm not just talking dollars here - I'm talking people - what they want to give of themselves.) We're set up in a way that doesn't encourage pastors to be disciples, really. I feel like it is so easy for me to go through the motions of being a disciple, the motions of following my call, without pushing myself beyond what is required.

I'm looking for something more. I'm wishing someone would demand something more from me - more authentic discipleship. I think people who are really searching for God, to follow God, don't want someone to tell them how easy it is to do and fit into their already full lives. They want - or at least I do - someone to tell them it is time to repent - to change the mind's direction - and be a disciple.

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