Nearly 900 clergy, laity and youth from across the South Georgia Conference recently gathered in Macon for the inaugural Disciple Covenant Conference, held February 11-12.
Held at the Macon Centreplex, the event was designed to help individuals and teams develop plans for disciple formation.
“I expect every United Methodist – everyone who says they believe in God – to develop a disciple plan for themselves and for their team or congregation,” said South Georgia resident Bishop James R. King, Jr. during the conference’s opening worship and presentation. “The mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. You’re not going to do that without a plan.”
The purpose of the event, according to Bishop King, was to “focus together on what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.” After each presentation, attendees were given time for personal reflection, team discussion and disciple plan formation. Development of discipleship plans should happen when attendees return home, he said.
“Not all Christians are disciples,” Bishop King said. “There is a big difference between being a Christian and being a disciple of Jesus Christ.” That difference, he said, is between affiliation - being a Christian - and formation – being a disciple.
Bishop King also spoke about ten timeless values of the Christian faith: prayer, scripture, the Lord’s Supper, fasting, Christian conferencing (fellowship), baptism, witness, justice ministries, Sabbath and stewardship.
“All of us are called to exercise these values regardless of the programs we use to employ them,” Bishop King said. “Practice these daily to bring the vision of God to reality.”
Each of the event’s three speakers, Bishop King, Dr. Eddie Fox and Dr. Lovett Weems, spoke about one of the ten timeless values.
Preaching on the importance of Sabbath, Bishop King stressed the importance of renewal, saying that even Jesus snuck away at times.
“Isolate to regulate your life, look for warning signs, and take a vacation moment every day,” he said.
Friday evening’s events closed with a healing service.
On Saturday, Dr. Lovett Weems, executive director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, discussed the importance of stewardship. Contrasting two congregational cultures, the “Pay the Bills” church and the “Live the Vision” church, Dr. Weems outlined 12 specific ways churches can help their congregants give more generously.
Dr. Eddie Fox, world director of evangelism at the World Methodist Council, preached on the value of witness.
“We are the ambassadors of God,” he said. “We will bear witness by our word, deed and signs. It’s together that the world would know who Jesus is.”
Worship music for the weekend was provided by Chapel Hill United Methodist Church Praise Band from Henderson, Ky.
Bishop King closed the conference with an exhortation to focus on disciple-making efforts.
“A disciple is one who has been convinced that Jesus is Lord and is now committed to follow Him, to learn from Him and to be like Him. There’s still much to do before we see the kingdom of God on earth!”