Friday, August 7, 2009

The Pathway in The Encourager

With my apologies to those at The U who read The Encourager, I want to post my column from this month's edition which gives an overview of what is going on with The Pathway to Discipleship this fall.

After many years in Texas, I am still getting used to the less dramatic change of seasons. In Western New York, you could feel and smell the first hints of autumn and you knew that summer would soon end and things would change. There would soon be new school clothes, new school supplies, and eventually new classes, new friends and lots of new learning.

Even without the radical change in temperature, the change of season can draw us into new things. As adults, we can still embrace the possibility of a new year of learning and growing. I invite you to engage in the journey of lifetime through the Pathway to Discipleship. The pathway is simply a means to engage in the process of growing in our Christian walk, of beginning or continuing to look to Jesus that we might look more like Jesus.

The journey begins with u|connect, an introduction to life in The United Methodist Church, life here at University and to life in the pathway. There are two upcoming u|connect opportunities: August 9 and September 27th both at 5:00 p.m. This class is designed for those who are considering membership in the church or who have recently joined. But, I have been asked, “What about those who have been around the church for a while and want to really engage in becoming a disciple?” On September 20th at 5:00 p.m. we will offer u|re|member, a version of u|connect specially designed for current members of the church. Whether you have been here six months or were here for the building of the south sanctuary, this is a great opportunity to experience what all of our new members are experiencing and see how you might fit into the Pathway to Discipleship either as a student or a leader.

After u|connect, the journey continues in the Meeting Phase, where we ask the question “What is my need for Jesus and what do I do about?” Fall brings us three offerings in this phase. Jesus 101, which introduces us to Jesus through a look at his life as recorded in the gospel of John runs Wednesdays from October 7 through November 11. Alpha looks at many of the foundational truths and doctrines from scripture regarding Jesus and gives people a chance to discuss them with others in a small group format. It is offered Mondays for ten weeks September 14 through November 16. Finally on October 23-24, we will present Jesus for Seekers and Skeptics. This short retreat centers on some common questions in the hearts of those who still have some doubts and concerns in their hearts about the idea of a relationship with God including: “Is hating the Church a reason not to like Jesus?” “Will God really send non-Christians to hell?” “Hasn't science defeated faith?” and “Isn’t this just about getting a get-out-of-hell-free card?” Pastor Adam, our J.S.S. team and I recently completed our first retreat and it was an amazing experience. We are looking forward to being part of the experience again in October.

If you have completed the Meeting Phase, fall is a great time to continue the journey of discipleship in the Message Phase where we ask the question “What is the news about Jesus and what do I do about it?” Our premier offering in the Meeting Phase is Disciple Bible Study. Disciple I is a study that moves from the very beginning of creation in Genesis to the compelling images of hope in the book of Revelation. There are 17 sessions on the Old Testament in the fall and 17 on the New Testament in the spring. This program is more than Bible study; it is a transforming small-group experience. Because of the small-group nature of Disciple, space is limited. We are currently offering sessions Sunday, Monday and Wednesday evenings and Monday morning. For those who aren’t ready to commit to the long-term, consider Invitation to the Bible, a day long retreat that offers a lightening-fast tour through the Bible, plus a chance to learn about some of the tools and methods that will help you to read and study the Bible on your own. If you want to read and study the Bible but just don’t know where to start, join us on Saturday, September 19.

It has not been quite a year since we officially rolled out the pathway. We are excited that we already have people entering the third phase, the Mission Phase where we ask, “What is my call from Jesus and what do I do about it?” We have people engaged in Coach’s Directed Study exploring their calling through Bible study with one of our coaching pastors. We are sending people on The Walk to Emmaus to hear what God may be calling them to next. And in August, we launch the final piece of our pathway with The Pastor’s Academy led by Directing Pastor Charles Anderson. Rev. Anderson will lead this group through study and discernment about the principles of spiritual leadership. I have had the opportunity to view the syllabus for the course and it looks amazing. It is high expectation but it will be very high return.

This is an amazing season in the life of University United Methodist Church and fall is a great time to get connected. We are already seeing the fruits of The Pathway to Discipleship. New members are becoming committed, engaged disciples of Jesus Christ and that is why we are here. Perhaps you are ready to begin the same journey. Perhaps it is a road you have already walked and it is time to go back to walk alongside someone else. To get started, contact Laura Mick, Elizabeth Mooy-Fink or Michael Andres in the Discipleship Office.



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