By: Eric Van Meter and Christa Meland
The world needs to be shaken up—and it’s the church that needs to make that happen, said Rev. Junius B. Dotson, Discipleship Ministries’ general secretary.
Dotson told Minnesota United Methodists that the problems of our time are clear to see. Every day, we live in a climate marked by extreme polarization, a new “war on drugs” that is disproportionally impacting people of color, growing income inequality, and numerous threats to the poorest and most helpless among us.
In response to these and other very real threats, the church needs to lean into its prophetic witness. “If there was ever a time for the people of God to reorder our priorities…to relentlessly focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ…then it is for such a time as this,” he said.
Dotson’s remarks were part of a Tuesday night camp revival at Lake George Park that also provided opportunities for attendees to pack birthing kits for women around the world, enjoy fellowship, eat at food trucks, and enjoy a bounce house and splash pad. Prior to Dotson’s message, a choir from Brooklyn UMC in Brooklyn Center gave a beautiful performance.
Dotson told attendees to imagine leaving annual conference and getting back to their communities to have people say, “Hold it, hold it! Don’t let them loose in our town. They’ve been turning the world upside-down.”
He said the story of Paul and Silas in Acts 17 depicts the kind of leadership necessary for such an upheaval. These early disciples helped bring to fruition a living example of the teachings of Jesus set forth in Luke’s gospel.
“If we are to turn the world upside-down, we need to have some confident risk-takers,” he explained. “Paul and Silas were on the go. This post-Pentecost, Spirit-filled, holy church was on the move…The church is at its best when it is on the move. The church is best when it is going out.”
Like Paul and Silas, modern church leaders who hope to turn the world upside-down must be confident risk-takers, secure in their identity as children of God. They must be willing to leave places of security and stability in favor of becoming a church on the move.
“Methodism at its core is a ‘going’ church, a ‘going’ faith,” he said. “We too are on journey of going and growing…We must always seek ways to expand hope’s reach…so we are able to multiply disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Such movement will also require leaders who are courageous and resilient. Dotson acknowledged the difficulty of ministry, the inevitable obstacles that come with turning the world upside-down. Any leader who hopes to address big problems can expect adversity.
Paul and Silas demonstrate an unwavering commitment to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. At the center of every movement, Dotson insists, is one person who is wholly committed to and reliant on the Spirit of God. They knew who and whose they were in Christ Jesus.
“Do you know who you are in Christ Jesus?” he asked.
Despite the size and scope of the problems before us, the church is called to live into the responsibility to address them. Churches and individual leaders may seem under equipped to address these big issues, but that has always been the case. Paul and Silas had nothing but the gospel, and yet found themselves before a judge because they were such a threat to the powers in place.
The call to turn the world upside-down is no less present in the Minnesota Annual Conference. Dotson encouraged attendees to begin living into it, starting immediately.
“You are a child God,” Dotson said. “A lot of us aren’t first to share in our faith. It’s because we don’t remember who we are. Sharing the gospel has some risk—the risk of rejection, the risk of being made fun of, the risk of being called holier than thou…but letting people know that they matter to God…that is worth the risk.”
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church