The heart of our work in the Arkansas Annual Conference is to “create vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities and the world.”
In other words, we’re all about discipleship. Discipleship matters. Deeper discipleship matters. Daily discipleship matters. And, ultimately, personal discipleship matters most of all.
But there’s personal and then there’s personal.
Personal discipleship is never primarily a matter of just what you think (although being thoughtful is critically important), advocating for a particular political ideology (although living out your faith is essential), or spending time on social media lecturing others when you think they are wrong (although there are times you have to speak boldly).
Instead, personal discipleship is focused on how your ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior transforms how you deal with people. After all, you’re not just living for yourself. You’re an ambassador for Christ. And that means you do what Jesus did – lead with compassion. Sure, he called people to repent and challenged them to change. But first, he always led with compassion.
Quite simply, you are to share Christ’s love before you do anything else. Sometimes this means loving someone with whom you disagree, someone who is difficult or someone who is different. At other times, it means giving money to support Lydia Patterson as part of the challenge grant from the United Methodist Foundation, joining with others in clean up after the devastating floods from earlier this spring or making sure your congregation is involved in feeding hungry children through 200,000 Reasons. And at still other times it means befriending someone who needs to experience Jesus’ love up close and personal.
In a day and age when the United Methodist Church is deeply divided over matters of human sexuality, our nation is polarized over politics and social media seems more hateful than helpful, what you do matters. So take seriously what Jesus has done for you. So seriously it turns you into a person of compassion. Then lead with that compassion. Because when all is said and done, discipleship is always personal.