“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son ad of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” – Matthew 28:19-20
In the next couple of days I will be in Tucson, AZ, for a continuing education event. I will get a chance to listen to William Willimon – a former United Methodist Bishop and currently a professor at Duke Divinity School. We have been asked to read Willimon’s book “Bishop: The Art of Questioning Authority by an Authority in Question”. Let me be honest – the title didn’t sound too exciting. I purchased the book, let it lie around a bit but finally I could ignore it no more. In a fit of extreme boredom I picked it up and began reading – Wow, was I wrong.
Willimon writes in a challenging honest way. Now remember he is United Methodist – so the structure of his church is different, especially when it comes to how pastors change calls. But here is the challenging thought – Willimon says it is time for us to remember – God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, expects something from us in Jesus’ name. Willimon says it is time for churches to begin living out the gospel – to be about spreading the good news.
We might argue however that times have changed – people are not coming to worship like they used to and that is why church attendance is declining. Willimon lifts up quotes from the late 1700’s where the same statements were made as to why worship attendance had dipped in some locations. So here is my question – do we care? Do we really think that a living faith in Christ matters?
Willimon is clear – pastors, church leaders and all of us who profess that Christ is our Lord and Savior will be held accountable for our actions. However, he is not a status quo kind of person. He pushes us to speak and live the Gospel boldly today. So another question – how are you living, speaking, being the Good News of Jesus Christ where you are? How are you inviting others into a life-giving relationship with Jesus?
This book speaks boldly about holding one another accountable – especially church leadership. What does it look like to hold your synod staff accountable? What does it look like to define the most important ministry God is calling you to in your congregation and then creating a plan to engage it? What does it look like to hold pastors and church leadership accountable for leading an outward-focused, disciple-forming community? If we were to begin doing this, what would we have to give up?
I entrust this book to you but more importantly I entrust your praying – thinking – dreaming to the task of proclamation.