St. Joseph United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has been spearheading a non-attractional church plant on the Fort Wayne’s south side the past few years called Kristo’s Hands and Feet. Steve Mekura, the effort’s leader, recently reviewed an updated discipling plan with leaders from St. Joseph. What the leaders discovered was that Kristo’s wasn’t a project that simply flowed from the mature Christians of St. Joseph to the non-believers and new believers in the south part of town. God turned it around and now the Kristo’s project is actually challenging and shaping how St. Joseph members view disciple making where they live too. Typically God, huh?
Here are comments from one St. Joseph member…
“The conversation completely changed for me when Steve started describing his formalized discipleship plan. My heart was not open to the idea. I thought our mission field is filled with people that often aren’t home, miss events, etc… there is no way we’re going to be able to convince them to stick to such a plan. I was skeptical that the idea of laying it out in such an intentional way, to people who have only begun to walk with or understand Christ, was way too much to ask.
“Then I started thinking about myself, “How would I react if someone from our church leadership asked the same of me?” What if there was something to hold me accountable for areas my personal spiritual growth is struggling and how I could be discipling others – which would both elevate my growth and impact others. The thought was still terrifying and seemed like a huge undertaking – but the possibility of the growth it could bring began to be exciting.
“Then the conversation turned to responsibility … if I’m spiritually responsible for discipling those around me through the church activities I participate in, how does that change the way I act? What if everyone had that change in mentality, so that we are all discipling each other? Putting aside the community for a moment, how would that change the culture of Saint Joseph? What would it look like if instead of saying, “I get to hang out at camp with 27 senior high youth,” the conversation changed to the challenge of discipling them? What if when we returned from camp, someone held me accountable for each person and asked what conversations I had with them … how I helped them grow for Jesus. It would change the dynamic completely. It could change the dynamic of Saint Joseph completely. If it spread across Fort Wayne, it would change Fort Wayne completely.
“I commented that following Christ was never supposed to be easy, but we tend to make it very easy. Maybe it’s time to make it more of a challenge. Steve’s comment about ministry doesn’t end when he crosses Coliseum stuck with me too. We need to be engaged in ministry at all times.
“The way God is leading us is consistent with what I felt at camp this year as well. God loved us first, which the speaker turned into a verb: firstlove. My takeaway from that week was, “Firstlove. Love first.” If we combine a genuine love for everyone with an intentional missionality focused on making true disciples, the possibilities are pretty exciting.
“Now, we do have to be careful not to make ministry a corporate chore. It still needs to flow out of a joy and not a duty … but if God is giving us joy by serving him, it may be important to formally recognize that comes with duty and responsibility as well. – Ryan”
— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development