“Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So, they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’ For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’ When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:1-11)
What is your call to ministry? No, I am not just talking to clergy, but to the laos, the whole people of God, clergy and laity together, I am speaking to every person who calls Jesus Lord, who has given their life to God, who have been baptized – and even to many who have not yet been baptized: What is your call to ministry?
The United Methodist Church is a discipling Church. It is in our mission: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” We exist to help form, train, equip, support, employ, and unite gifted men and women to take their active and integrated place in the body of Christ. We do this by creating environment, space, and experiences to relate to God and neighbor; by exploring our scriptures, theology, and tradition together; by practicing the means of grace individually and communally, and by engaging in active service for mercy, justice, peace and compassion. We jointly discern and discover gifts for ministry, passions for service, and ways to act most effectively. When we do this together faithfully, God’s will is done, and the world is transformed. Personal discipleship is communal discipleship that results in transformation of self, Church, and world. It is a sublime and elegant system.
Each congregation is essentially a discipleship system. We move people from an initial care for God to a radical commitment to God to an affective union with God and one another. We move from believing in Jesus, to following Jesus, to becoming like Jesus, to becoming the incarnational body of Christ. In a discipling Church, no one stays unchanged. A discipling Church is a place of perpetual becoming – in Methodist teaching, a place where we are being perfected in love. But the Church is not the goal or destination; Church is a means to an end. The Church is not the building we go to, but the building we go to is where we are formed and transformed to BE the Church for the world. Our purpose is never in our building, but only out in the world.
This year is a turning point, liminal space, grace margin for the Wisconsin Conference. We are preparing to become the Conference we have never been before. We have a vision, not just to reach new people, but to reach thousands of new people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We see new immigrant populations, new generations, untouched classes, races, and people as opportunity to share God’s love and grace. We will do this with new ministries and with existing congregations; we will do this in our cities, suburbs, exurbs, and rural communities. We have a heart, a passion, and a commitment to serve the most vulnerable, fragile, and at-risk people in our culture and community. We are raising the bar and challenging the commitment level of our entire Conference. This is why Launch Out! is so critically important – our resources must match the God-shaped, God-sized vision we have for our life together.
It is not enough to simply believe. It is not enough just to respect the teacher Jesus. It is time to get up and follow, recognizing that we will be changed, and that in time, together, we will BE the body of Christ for the world – for The United Methodist Church is a discipling Church!
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).