Stay true to your identity. Adapt to changing circumstances. Go forth with hope.
The leader of the United Methodist Church’s disciple-making agency shared a game plan – grounded in Luke 10:1-9 – for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ during an Aug. 2 worship service at Mt. Hebron UMC in West Columbia.
“A winning game plan stays true to the identity of the team,” the Rev. Junius Dotson, CEO of Discipleship Ministries, told those gathered for the South Carolina Lay Servant Ministries Academy. “If you are a running team, you run the ball. If you are a passing team, you pass the ball. If you are a going team, you go.
“Some of our churches are simply stuck. We have been running the same play since 1950 – and it is time to call an audible. We don’t abandon our game plan – making disciples of Jesus Christ – but we must adapt to the circumstances we find ourselves in.”
Extending the analogy, Rev. Dotson compared the way many churches operate today with how a football team huddles before each play.
“Our endless church meetings are like huddles,” he said. “It’s easier to sit in the huddle and talk about who should be in and who should not be in, as opposed to going to the highways and byways and seeing all the people God has called us to reach.
“But the huddle accomplishes nothing on its own…those watching will lose interest. Instead, they want to see what difference the huddle will make. They want to know that now that you’ve huddled, can you score? They want to witness what you are going to do as a team with the adversaries on the other side of the ball daring you to go public with your private conversations.
“We’ve had enough meetings. The world doesn’t need to see any more huddles by the body of Christ. What people need to see is the church of Jesus Christ – made of men and women from all backgrounds and cultures – scoring touchdowns for the Kingdom of God.”
So while the message – that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ who died on the cross for us – never changes, Rev. Dotson said, how we connect to people must.
“We are ministering in challenging times – both inside and outside of church,” he said. “We minister to a generation that has lost faith in the ability of social and religious institutions to make the world a better place. We minister to a generation that has become preoccupied with self-help and self-fulfillment and personal gratification.
“We are called to offer Jesus to a hurting world. It is time to adapt, because the credibility of our mission hangs in the balance.”
Rev. Dotson likened what is going on in the church today with a recent experience he had with identity theft.
“Identity theft is when somebody literally takes over your identity and they fraudulently act like you,” he said. “But as horrible as identity theft is, surrendered identity is more deadly than stolen identity.
“When we neglect our core mission, we surrender our identity. Surrendering means you have intentionally relinquished who you are, you have voluntarily sold out God’s divine ministry and purpose for your life.”
In a world seemingly filled with bad news, Rev. Dotson said, people are hungering for something else; they are drawn to good news.
“Nothing changes a life like the word of God when it is shared as good news, shared in all of its fullness, when every dimension is disclosed, when every promise is revealed,” he said. “And when Jesus is the center and the substance and the subject matter, people will come running and ask, ‘What must I do to be saved?’
“Now that’s a winning game plan. But the gameplan is worthless if we don’t implement it. We have a gameplan, but it requires passionate disciples of Jesus Christ who are committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ.”