The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. For many in the United Methodist Church this statement reflects one of the best decisions the church has made since1968. Many contributed to making it happen. In keeping with the Great Commission, there is a kind of ring to it. The problem, of course, is that the church over the course of time has failed to organize and operationalize it. It has become a slogan to repeat rather a commandment to carry out. (Perhaps I am too cynical on that.)
However, over the last few years, the church has tried to go beyond the original biblical mission of making disciples to the heavy claim of transforming the world.
I don't know how many people will agree with the following, but I don't think I am alone when I say that the phrase "for the transformation of the world" is quite pretentious. I am not sure how this phrase was added to the original statement, which was to make disciples of Jesus Christ, but I am not convinced it is a phrase any serious and thoughtful person can accept. Transform the world? Really? We can transform the world? I thought God was the transformer! In a church that has trouble growing its Sunday school, we United Methodists claim we can transform the world? Hmm...
The present mission statement of the United Methodist Church leaves a great deal to be desired. It reflects a kind ingrained hubris on our part to think we can improve upon the words of our Risen Lord. In addition, it involves not a few messianic fantasies about own abilities and motivations. And worse, it portrays a theological ineptitude, if not downright Pelagianism. In keeping with the Liberal Protestant tradition, it displays a real failure to come to terms with sin and evil. Who are we to say we are going to transform the world, as if we are now the Creator? Given the atrocities of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it is difficult to know how any sane person could make this statement with seriousness.
Question: What would happen if we kept our mission to the following: Our mission is to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Period! Brief, to the point. What would happen if we took all the best practices we have at all levels of the church and put them forth in our ministries to make disciples?
Let's stop pretending, and let's start exploring and putting into motion what it means to make disciples. And then, just maybe, we can let God do the rest; that is, we can let God do what God does best: transform the world!