This Lent, the 40-day period of reflection and preparation that precedes Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, is like no other in recent memory. It comes on the heels of an impeachment process which further emboldened an already shameless president; news that Russia is continuing to meddle in U.S. presidential elections; and early presidential primaries and caucuses that may well signal who will vie for the presidency in November. At the denominational level, United Methodists are preparing to meet for General Conference 2020 to entertain proposals and protocols on how to move forward into separate denominations.
As we slide toward authoritarianism in the U.S., and schism in the UMC, the sense of disempowerment is palpable. This is a crucial time to look deep within to see what treasure can be fashioned from broken, earthen vessels.
While Lent traditionally emphasizes the merits of discipleship, we must ask ourselves if it is enough to act as mere disciples or students of Jesus. The truth is, the focus on discipleship has created a certain amount of passivity. It seems that Christians are implicitly counseled to wait on Jesus to “do something” or to “teach us something”—as though rehearsing his death and resurrection will yield some new insight. Frankly, many churches are as hamstrung—as national leaders appear to be— when it comes to acting with visionary faith on moral and ethical matters.
The Forty Days of Apostleship is designed to counteract the disempowerment that grips much of our nation and our churches. Rather than continue to wait on Jesus to impart a new teaching, it is time to take the next step in Christian evolution: to move from discipleship to apostleship.
This spiritual evolution from discipleship to apostleship is essential to throw off the cloak of passive disempowerment. That’s because biblically speaking, apostles operated at a whole different level than disciples. Disciples had faith in Jesus. But apostles had to develop the same kind of faith that Jesus had. Otherwise, they could not do the kinds of things Jesus was training them to do. These apostles had to move from believing in Jesus to believing like Jesus. It was this shift in consciousness and perception that allowed them to act as Jesus did—healing the sick, driving out demons, and proclaiming the Kingdom.
Nowadays when Christians act as apostles, they enter the world of co-creation. They co-create new partnerships with God, manifest new miracles, pray gutsier prayers, tap into their super-powers, unleash the potential of those around them, and courageously step into possibility.
Today’s Christians need a new challenge even as today’s world needs new hope. Discipleship was always and only meant to be the first step in a Christian’s spiritual journey. Apostleship is and has always been the end game. It’s what Christians are designed to do.
Apostolic Christians are poised to be the kind of Christians to whom Jesus once said: Go into all the nations to teach others what I have taught you.
It is time for Christians to finally be the kind of change they have been looking for.