As followers of Jesus, we are all called to fulfill the Great Commission. With that in mind, leading people to Christ and making disciples is the goal that has been set before us. We see throughout the New Testament the pattern and practices of Jesus that call us to be fishers of men and lead a life worthy of the gospel.
The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.Tweet
In his sermon, “Disciples Multiply,” Bob Ingle speaks on the topic of discipleship. He says,
“Our mission as a church must be clear if it’s going to be accomplished. We are a Gospel-Centered church making disciples of Jesus Christ. That’s who we are and that’s what we do. Our aim is not to get people to make a decision for Christ but to become a disciple of Christ. Many think Christianity is simply saying to God, ”You can have me after I die.” Not true. Being a follower of Jesus means saying, ‘I don’t want my life or my way. You can have all of me right now and forevermore.’ Being a true disciple requires me to abandon ownership and surrender control of my own life and completely give it to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
What are you doing to help further the kingdom for the transformation of the world?
The Gospel Defined
“And they were preaching the gospel there” (Acts 14:7 NKJV).
What is the gospel? We know we should preach the gospel and live by the gospel, but do we know what the gospel is?
A literal translation of the word “gospel” is good news. Now, sometimes before we can appreciate the Good News, we first have to know the bad news.
Here’s the bad news: We’re all sinners. The Bible says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT). And 1 John 1:8 tells us, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth” (NLT).
If you’re sharing your faith with someone, don’t assume they’ll necessarily know what sin is. In the Bible, we can translate the word “sin” in different ways. We can translate it as “trespass,” which means to cross the line. Another translation comes from the Greek word hamartia, which means “to miss the mark.”
When the Bible says that we’ve sinned or missed the mark, it means that we’ve fallen short of God’s standard for humanity. And what is that standard? It’s perfection.
Are we perfect? No, we aren’t.
That is where Jesus comes in. Because God knew we could not hit this mark, because God knew we could not be perfect people, Jesus died on the cross for our sin. That’s the good news. Romans 5:6 says, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners” (NLT).
Here’s the first verse every Christian should memorize: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NKJV).
That is the gospel in a nutshell. Share it with someone. Let’s not turn the Good News into bad news by the way we deliver it, distort it, or leave out parts of it. Let’s deliver the explosive, dynamic, gospel.
The beginning of July marks the beginning of the United Methodist New Year. Pastors have either been reassigned to their current church, they or the congregation have asked for a move, retirement, etc. Sometimes people don’t understand why we do what we do. This article gives a good background at how we came to be an itinerant church.
Our unique system of deploying clergy has its roots in the earliest days of Methodism. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, preached up to 40,000 sermons in his lifetime. He was an “itinerant” preacher, traveling from town to town in England, setting up Methodist societies.
“John Wesley believed that itinerant preachers who moved from place to place were more effective than those who settled in, grew comfortable, and wore out what they had to say,” says the Rev. Belton Joyner.
In a letter to the Rev. Samuel Walker in 1756, Wesley wrote, “We have found by long and consistent experience that a frequent exchange of preachers is best. This preacher has one talent, that another; no one whom I ever yet knew has all the talents which are needful for beginning, continuing, and perfecting the work of grace in a whole congregation.”
In the early days of Methodism in America, a pastor — most often a circuit rider — might be appointed to half of a state or more. His appointment might be for only three months, after which he moved to another circuit. Thousands of the oldest United Methodist congregations today trace their history to a circuit rider.
These riders traveled from place to place to begin Methodist societies. Eventually, especially after the establishment of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784, most of these societies became congregations. This practice continued and became the basis for the itinerant system The United Methodist Church uses today.
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.
God’s Mission, Our Mission
God’s Holy Spirit calls the Church into being for mission. The Church experiences and engages
in God’s mission as it pours itself out for others, ready to cross every boundary to call for true
human dignity among all peoples.
As Jesus said: ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the
least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
UMCOR, The United Methodist Committee on Relief, takes this call to heart. As the
humanitarian relief and development arm of The United Methodist Church, UMCOR is the
hands and feet of Jesus whenever and wherever disaster strikes.
In 1940, Bishop Herbert Welch, representing the Methodist Committee for China Relief,
proposed the creation of the “Methodist Committee for Overseas Relief (MCOR),” in response to
displaced and vulnerable populations in the wake of World War II. Welch commented that
MCOR would serve as a “voice of conscience among Methodists to act in the relief of human
suffering without distinction of race, color or creed.” This mandate remains true to this day.
MCOR grew from providing necessities to refugees and displaced populations, to getting
involved in reconstruction, rehabilitation and repatriation of refugees and prisoners of war,
restoration of churches and civil operations, and reconciliation – an effort to restore peace and
When the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Methodist Church united into The
United Methodist Church in 1968, MCOR became UMCOR. – The United Methodist Committee
on Overseas Relief.
Later, UMCOR expanded its scope to include agricultural and community development projects,
as well as medical relief and development, and disaster risk reduction programs.
No one in 1940 could have foreseen the depths and breath of what UMCOR is today.2
This transformative work is categorized into three areas:
• Humanitarian Relief/Disaster Response
• Sustainable Development
• Global Health
If you’d like to give to UMCOR Sunday, please mark your offering as such. There will be envelopes available to you on Sunday.
1 Theology of Mission, Global Ministries, https://www.umcmission.org/Learn-About-Us/About-GlobalMinistries/Theology-of-Mission 2 New World Outlook, 75 years of UMCOR. Christie House, editor.
One Wednesday a year, sometime in February or March, you notice people at work, school, or elsewhere with a smudge on her forehead. Then you remember it is Ash Wednesday and they must have received the imposition of ashes.
This practice we use to mark the first day of Lent may seem odd. People go to church mid-week to have a cleric place dirt on their foreheads.
In the early days of the church, it was even more dramatic. Pastors did not dip their thumbs into the ashes to draw the shape of a cross on your forehead. Instead, they poured or sprinkled ashes over your head.
Under other circumstances, most would run from the filth of ashes. Yet we participate in this practice that is growing in popularity. In fact, the receiving of ashes seems to connect with all sorts of people.
The Rev. Kim Kinsey offers ashes to a youth on the sidewalk outside of Christ United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, NM. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Kim Kinsey.
In “A Service for Worship for Ash Wednesday” in the United Methodist Book of Worship, two suggestions of what worship leaders may say as they make the sign of the cross on another’s forehead are offered: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” and “Repent, and believe the gospel.” Each points to an aspect of what the ashes represent.
Remember that you are dust…
Ashes were an ancient symbol of our humanity. In Genesis, we read that God formed human beings out of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word translated dust, is occasionally translated ashes elsewhere.
When Abraham felt the need to acknowledge the difference between him, a human being, and the infinite God, he referred to himself as dust and ashes. “Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord,” he said, “I who am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27).
…and to dust you shall return
Our humanity also calls to mind our mortality.
After expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the first humans are told by God, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19 NRSV). A sobering thought for each of us.
Ancient people wore ashes as a sign of mourning. For example, Mordecai puts on sackcloth and ashes to grieve the many deaths he sees coming from an order King Ahasuerus gives to kill all Jewish people (Esther 4:1-3). The prophet Jeremiah later calls the people of God to “roll in ashes” as a way of mourning the coming devastation from an opposing army (Jeremiah 6:26).
Receiving the imposition of ashes is a powerful way to confront our humanity and mortality. They remind us that we are not God, but God’s good creation. In them we recognize that our bodies will not last forever, and come face-to-face with the reality of our eventual death.
Ashes also signify our sorrow for the mistakes we have made. People in ancient times wore sackcloth and ashes as a way of expressing their repentance of their sins.
When Jonah reluctantly preached to the people of Nineveh after the giant fish spit him up on the beach, the King and his people put on sackcloth and sat in ashes. God saw this act of repentance and spared the people (Jonah 3:1-10).
In the New Testament, Jesus warms the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida saying, “if the miracles done among you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have changed their hearts and lives and put on funeral clothes and ashes a long time ago.” (Matthew 11:21 CEB).
The dried palms from the previous Palm Sunday are burned to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday. Photo by Kathryn Price, United Methodist Communications.
On Ash Wednesday, we confront our sin. We recognize our inability to live up to all God has created us to be, and our need to be forgiven. No matter how far we have come in our spiritual journeys, each of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The palms waved the previous Palm Sunday to welcome Jesus as our King, are burned to form the ashes. In a sense, they serve as a reminder of how far we fall short of living up to the glory of Christ.
…and believe the gospel
While this all may sound fatalistic, it is not the end of the story. Lent leads to Easter, the day we celebrate that though our bodies are temporary and our lives are flawed, a day of resurrection will come when we will live in the presence of God forever.
One Wednesday every year we worship to remember who we are, and hopeful of who we can be.
The Advent wreath began as a German and Scandinavian home devotional practice used to mark the four weeks of Advent. Families would light a candle for each past week and the current week at their dinner or evening time of prayer. The configuration of candles, whether in a line or a circle, did not matter. Neither did the color of the candles (all colors are used in homes in Europe). What mattered was the marking of time and the increase of light each week in the face of increasing darkness as the winter solstice approached.
As Advent wreaths began to be used by congregations on Sundays in some places in Europe and America beginning in the late 19th century, several adaptations were made to make them work better in public worship spaces. Candles needed to be larger and more uniform than the “daily candles” handmade or purchased for home use. They also needed to be more uniform in color to fit with other décor in the sanctuary. That is why candles used in the Advent wreath are usually purple or blue, to coordinate with color of the paraments used during this season.
This shift in context from home to public use also made it important in the eyes of some for the candles to be given a meaning more that simply marking time and increasing light. This led to special ceremonies being developed for lighting these special candles each week.
As this practice began to catch on by the mid-twentieth century, several church supply houses who sold Advent wreaths and candles for public worship also developed resources, banners, and bulletin covers assigning a theme to each week, and thus each candle, based on scriptures from the one-year lectionaries used at that time. Those themes were Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace, in that order.
Today, almost no one uses those one-year lectionaries, so those themes may not always fit the scriptures we hear in worship. The one exception is the Third Sunday of Advent, where the current lectionaries have continued to support the centuries old observance of “Gaudete” or “Joy Sunday.” That is why church supply houses often offer rose or pink colored candles for the wreath for use on this day.
So how may we talk about the meaning of the Advent wreath today?
We can reclaim the original home use of marking time with the hope of increasing light as we await the return of Christ, that day when “The city no longer has need of the sun or the moon to shine upon it, because the glory of God illumines it, and its lamp is the lamb.”
And we can develop meanings or themes for each week based on the focus of the scriptures themselves. After all, the candles and the wreath are an accessory, not an end in themselves. Their meaningfulness comes from how we use them to point toward Christ, the world’s true light, who was, and is, and is to come.
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.