From the Desk of Pastor Clay

“[Jesus said,] ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

(Matthew 28:19-20, NRSV)
During our annual conference session back in June, Rev. Ben Ingebretson gave a short talk about discipleship models and inspired all of us to think about what our discipleship model in our church is and how often we think about it. If you have been around the Canton UMC for long, you are sure to have heard ours: to make disciples who make a difference. But what if it is more than just our motto? It is an entire vision for ministry. 
Make Disciples (of Jesus Christ)…
I was at a training a few years ago at the conference office and Rev. Rebecca Trefz asked us this question: “What is a disciple and how do you make one?” What would you say to that? At its core, a disciple is someone who follows or learns from someone else. This means that it is possible to be a disciple of something else: a brand, a politician, a political party, a football team, or even a denomination. So, it is important for us to specify: we are set on making disciples of Jesus Christ.
How is it that we make disciples of Jesus Christ? First of all, it starts with us. Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? Looking back at that definition, are you following and learning from Jesus? Jesus spent most of his time teaching the disciples because what he was doing and hoping to accomplish was so different from what they were used to. What Jesus continues to do and accomplish is so foreign to us, too. So we have to learn, too. Through the study of scripture by ourselves or by gathering with other disciples we learn about Jesus and what he wants from and for us. Disciples are serious about learning.
Disciples of Jesus also spend time with him. In the hours before his arrest, Jesus yearned for time with his disciples. They ate with him, talked with him, and sang with him. As God changes our hearts and gives us new desires, chief among them will be love for him. We seek and spend time with those we love. Through prayer and quiet time, we spend time with Jesus and grow closer to him.
After we become disciples of Jesus Christ, the onus shifts. It is not enough for us to simply be a disciple. We are called, as Jesus told his disciples at the end of Matthew’s gospel, to go and make other disciples. We are witnesses to Jesus’ work and love in the world. As disciples of Jesus, we have the opportunity to share our faith and share the importance of Jesus in our lives. It does not have to be this big, flashy event; it can be as simple as asking a friend to coffee. Jesus has done mighty and powerful things in our lives, and there can be nothing easier to tell people. I know it feels hard, scary, or impossible, but once you start speaking from the heart, God moves in our hearts and gives us all the confidence we need to share our faith.
...who make a Difference…
How do we make a difference? The amazing thing about this question is that every one of us is going to have a different answer. That is how the Holy Spirit works in our lives; we have all been given a different mix of gifts, talents, passions, and interests. How I make a difference is not the exact same way that you make a difference; and that is okay! The beautiful thing about our church is that there are all kinds of ways to make a difference (and even some ways that we have not dreamed of yet!).
Maybe you want to make a difference here in the church. We always have ways to make a difference here! Chi Alpha is coming back in the fall; maybe now is the time to pray about how God is calling you to be involved. Are you technologically inclined? You can help during worship! Musically inclined? You can share a special during music or join the choir. Do you like swinging a hammer and building things? We can help you find a place to make a difference!
Or maybe God is calling you beyond the walls and serving the community. This summer is your time! Canton is such a busy place, and there are all kinds of ways to make a difference!
There’s an old story about making a difference that goes like this: “One day a man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a boy hurriedly picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, ‘Young man, what are you doing?’ The boy replied, ‘Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.’ The man laughed to himself and said, ‘Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference!’
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, ‘I made a difference to that one.’”
I made a difference to that one. No matter how we choose to make a difference, no matter how big or small our actions feel, you make a difference. We can make a difference for one or many, and it all counts. Your way of making a difference may look different than my way, but it is exactly how God wants you to do this all-important work.
In line with our discipleship model, let us make disciples of Jesus Christ who make a difference.
In Christ,