A recent sermon on Mark 10:17-31 has me creating a gospel parallel. On the road, Christ meets a man who is rich and principled. Lying, defrauding others, murder, adultery, disrespecting parents and God do not mark his life of privilege. However, theological turmoil about life after death makes him raise an important eschatological question with Jesus. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Learning that obeying the commandments is not enough. While selling all he has and gifting it to the poor is enough, if he follows Christ, the rich, young ruler turns away from Christ. Jesus expects too much. For the moment, all hope of attaining eternal life is gone. Are United Methodists in the same position with the obligation to Make Disciples?
Suppose United Methodists encounter Jesus on the road like the rich young ruler. Instead of eternal life, United Methodists ask our Lord “how can we grow the church?” “Implement the Great Commission,” Christ retorts. With ONE MIND United Methodists reply “Been there, done that.” Undaunted, Christ expects more. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all humankind unto me.” Believing that, which worked in the 18th and 19th centuries no longer works in the so-called Post-Christian era, United Methodists grieve our membership loss as if it were a life sentence.
The First Parallel
Mark’s Gospel: “It’s hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Hard does not mean impossible.
Bishop’s Story: It’s hard to grow the church if United Methodists believe
it cannot grow. Many UMC’s contend that their efforts to implement the Great Commission and other growth strategies are not bearing fruit. Are we a denomination whose faith is as small as a grain of mustard seed?
The Second Parallel
Mark's’ Gospel: “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Do something sacrificial in nature to accomplish God’s ends. Intentionality, at its best, may be the old but familiar combination of faith
Bishop’s Story: In some circles the charge to make disciple inspires critique. Isn’t it somewhat arrogant to talk about making
a disciple? Is not the Maker of heaven and earth also the Maker of disciples? True. Bu when the second partner of the Godhead says “Go make disciples” via baptism and teaching of the commandments, it points toward how essential the people of God are in the process of making disciples. Making disciples is our work and witness unless we adopt a position or perspective not consistent with Jesus’ discipling process. We don’t call impossible what our Lord says is possible, namely: the making of disciples.
The Final Parallel
Peter and John were two of the best at making disciples. Ironically, temple priests and Sadducees described them as “unlearned aka ignorant and ordinary men” at the heart of Pentecost, the birth of the church. But they noticed a few other things that set them apart and made them effective. They were bold men of faith who were transformed because they had been with Christ.