MethodistThinker.com is presenting a retrospective on Bishop Lindsey Davis’ 12 years as the episcopal leader of the North Georgia Conference, now the largest United Methodist conference in the U.S. His tenure in North Georgia comes to a conclusion at the end of this month.
In 2005, Bishop Davis was one of the featured speakers at the UM Southeastern Jurisdiction Ministers’ Conference at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.
He spoke to the assembled pastors and leaders about the primary task of the church: “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” (At the 2008 General Conference, this phrase was adopted as the official mission statement of the United Methodist Church.)
Following is an abridged transcript of Bishop Davis’ remarks, delivered on the evening of July 8, 2005 at Junaluska’s Stuart Auditorium. (Full audio is below.)
After the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost, what do we see? We witness an embryonic church constantly on the go…. They were mission driven — and their mission was to make disciples for Jesus Christ so that they world might be transformed….
From the very beginning, the early disciples understood that the Christian faith is a movement, not an institution.
[John] Wesley and the early Methodists drew upon this kind of biblical understanding — and they used words like “spread Scriptural holiness” and “redeem the lost” and “renew the Church” and “reform the nation to serve the present age,” so that they might also “flee the wrath to come.” You can hear the message throughout our Wesleyan language.
But we struggle as a denomination, do we not? We’ve lost membership for 40 years, and that loss has significantly diminished our ability to transform the world….
The Lord will bless a church that has a passion for souls. And our problem is that we’ve remembered about spreading holiness and we’ve remembered about reforming the nation, but we’ve forgotten the “flee the wrath to come” part. That has robbed us our sense of urgency and our passion for souls….
I want to talk to you like family members for just a moment. Most of us are long-time members of the United Methodist Church, and I want us to be honest…. Are we not in many ways comfortable and content? More than willing to pay the price of membership — but the real question is this: Are we willing to pay the price of discipleship? It’s a very different question. Are we willing to pay the price of discipleship — of following Jesus wherever Jesus might lead us, and at whatever it might cost us to go there? Are we willing to pay that kind of price?….
I yearn for all of our churches to be faithful, servant congregations — a church that is mission driven, passionate about sharing our faith with others, constantly discovering the needs of the world around us and then going to meet those needs….
I want us to make a difference for the sake of Christ. I want us to be salt and light to the world. I want us to act like we really believe that the Great Commission just might [be fulfilled] in our lifetime.
Friends, we’re living in the first century of Christianity all over again…. Many gods and idols are being worshiped. Spiritual hunger is rampant. The harvest is full. And I believe God is calling us out of our sanctuaries and even out of our denominational structures — and certainly out of our affluence and out of our safety — into those places where we can once again join Jesus on the mission field.
Click the arrow below for streaming audio (23 min.) — or you can download an mp3 (5.4MB).