Tag Archives: Transformation

Church Vitality – Are We Making Disciples? – Small Groups

I’ve been having some conversations on methodistconnexions.com about church vitality.  Most UM pastors are aware of recent studies on “church vitality” which attribute it largely to five areas of the church.  The areas which are factors in vitality are pastoral leadership, lay leadership, vibrant worship, small groups, and children and youth ministries.  

I see all five of those areas as important.  But as I did into the call of the gospel to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World” I think that the importance of “small groups” gets over looked in the wars over worship styles and clergy or lay leadership effectiveness.

John Wesley was a practical theologian and an organizational genius.  Wesley was never a systematic theologian so some of his greatest theological insights often get overlooked by theologians who cannot imagine theology without a grand system.  But I’ve yet to read about any leader of the Church who could envision a means of spreading the gospel and organizing that spread of the gospel better than Mr. Wesley.

Wesley’s organization of the church into “societies, classes, and bands” was really the largest experiment in structuring the church into small groups for study, prayer, worship, and discipleship in the history of the Church.  It was this structure which allowed people to gather with other believers in Christ to share their joys and sorrows, their victories and failures and to ask each Methodist in turn, “how goes it with your soul?”  

These small groups held each other accountable and accomplished much of the task of the Church of making disciples of Jesus Christ rather than just church attenders.  These discipling groups in turn led to the spiritual growth and revival which allowed circuit riders to spread the gospel all over the American countryside leaving little Methodist societies meeting wherever they went.

Later in our history as Methodists we abandoned the classes and bands for the newer latest and greatest idea known as “Sunday School.”  Our societies became churches, our classes and bands became Sunday educational classes, and we lost much of the discipling character of the original Wesleyan genius.  

Now in the 21st century we are finding that Sunday Schools are dying on the vine.  Even large churches have a hard time keeping Sunday School classes going.  But churches that are doing discipling ministries through small groups are feeding the vitality of the church.  People are again sitting in someone’s home and asking their sister or brother in Christ “how goes it with your soul” and it is making a difference in those churches that have established such ministries.  

If churches are to be vital and caring, if they are to be discipling communities who teach people to be more than church attenders, then a strong return of something akin the Wesley’s small group system is a must.  I do not believe you will have a vital congregation without it!

The motto of the UMC is to “Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.” For that transformation to happen in the world it is going to have to begin in us. It is going to have to begin with us becoming and making disciples.  

Transformation, Sanctification, Perfection

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

Spiritual transformation is the goal of the Christian life.  The motto of the United Methodist Church is “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.”  Why transformation?  Because transformation because doesn’t just want to forgive us of our sins, God doesn’t just want to redeem us, God wants to sanctify us and transform us.

In other words God wants us to change, grow, mature, be more like Him and His Son Jesus Christ every day.  He wants us to progress and move forward.  He doesn’t want things to stay the same for us leaving us in our old barren and empty lives.  He was to transform our life of sin and loss into a life of love, grace, peace, and joy.

Sometimes some Christians will say words like “I was saved on…..” and then give you a day in which they what they perceive as a their first experience with Christ.  Now the truth is that the day you became a professing Christian is not at all the day you had your first experience with God.

Before you even knew that God was there, before you could respond to God love, before you can move towards God he loved you and offered you his love through his Prevenient Grace.  But then when you first experience the Justifying Grace of God that doesn’t end the story.  No!  the first time reconciled with God through Christ was only the beginning!!

Now God’s Sanctifying Grace has been working, is working, and will work to make you more like Jesus every day, to transform you life, and yes to seek to lead you on to perfection (that is the full measure of Christian maturity God wants for you.)   Perfection, in a Wesleyan sense doesn’t mean you are perfect but that Christ is working perfectly in you.

When I attended my first Annual Conference of the Iowa UMC I heard the Bishop talk about “perfecting a motion.”  It wasn’t terminology I was familiar with.  But it was clear what it meant.  That the product the conference was seeking to create could be made better, fuller, more whole, and more worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The rough draft (you and me) needs to be made whole.

It isn’t enough for a Christian to declare “I was saved on…”  That’s talking about the past.  The truth is that God has redeemed us, is redeeming us, will redeem us and will work on us to make us the people he created us to be.

I want to be forgiven.  But I don’t just want to be forgiven.  I want to be transformed!!

Transformation Worship Experience

Last night the Contemporary Worship Design Team at First United Methodist Church chose a name for our new contemporary worship experience which will begin September 5th at 8:30 a.m. The worship time will be called “Transformation.” The name Transformation was chosen because it reminds us of the transforming power of Jesus Christ to bring us His redemptive love and grace, to give us the grace to grow as Christians and to transform our lives into the kind of people God wants us to be.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

When we begin Transformation it will be a new worship gathering, in a new location in the church, at a new time, with a new order or worship and a new and fresh opportunity for us to worship together.

I am very excited with the work that the Transformation Worship Design Team is doing and will be doing in the coming weeks as we prayerfully work to make this a gathering that will glorify God, help our church to worship the living Christ, and allow us to invite new friends into our church fellowship!

Let’s Be Transformed!
Tim Bonney