By Todd Seifert
Lay members of The United Methodist Church admonished their peers who are delegates to General Conference to remember that they share in the responsibility of making disciples of Jesus Christ in the world.
The laity address included lay leaders from the Upper New York, Virginia, Missouri, Tennessee, Zimbabwe, and Great Plains conferences, with each sharing a sense of urgency for the people in local churches around the world to do more to share the love and mercy available to all through Jesus Christ.
“Our ongoing challenge comes from the need to embrace all that discipleship entails,” said Scott Johnson, lay leader from the Upper New York Conference. “Now, it would be wonderful if discipleship was only about the joy, peace, and wonder. But we know that following Jesus isn’t all about mountaintop moments, praise songs, and potlucks.”
Johnson told delegates and guests that despite many encouraging signs within the church, the denomination’s statistics — presumably referring to declines in worship attendance and membership — show we need to do more. He bluntly addressed the laity in the audience.
“The challenges facing the church are, in part, the result of the failure to live the discipleship we claim,” Johnson said.
Too many members of the church, Johnson said, are willing to sit on the sidelines of ministry, due in large part to the discomfort many people have in sharing their faith in Jesus. He also noted the difficult work from which some people shy away when ministering to people who are more difficult to love than others are.
“Some of us have been willing to accept this behavior because of fear,” he said. “Far too often, we will settle for people willing to fill pews and offering plates, hoping that ‘the Jesus thing’ happens at some point. While we have valid reasons for that, our Lord demands and deserves better.”
Todd Seifert is communications director in the Great Plains Conference.