The practice of discipleship is a "contact sport" and cannot be ignored, said the men's ministry organization of the United Methodist Church at its quadrennial meeting in Indiana.
The General Commission on United Methodist Men held its 12th National Gathering last weekend at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, with approximately 600 attendees for the two-day event.
"Most members of the United Methodist Church can recite the mission statement of our Church, taken from Matthew 28:19–20. What appears to be missing in many places is a systematic way within local churches to make disciples that are transforming the world," said Gilbert Hanke, general secretary and CEO of the General Commission on United Methodist Men, in an interview with The Christian Post.
"So each of the presentations and workshops was directed toward making a positive impact on the men and to help them grow in their discipleship; to be a disciple who makes more disciples."
Hanke noted that the gathering was designed in such a way "that men would have a positive impact on disciple making at their local church." During workshops, added Hanke, attendees "were challenged to develop an on-growing relationship with Jesus Christ."
The Rev. Eric Burton-Krieger, pastor of adult discipleship at St. Luke's UMC, told CP that he believed his church was chosen to host the gathering for multiple reasons, among them being that the congregation has a strong men's ministry.
"Our own ministry to men has been going through a season of growth and rebirth, and so there is both energy and volunteers ready to help make an experience like this happen.
"My sense is that people left with new ideas about reaching and connecting with younger men and deepening their individual church's work in making disciples for the transformation of the world," he said.
Held Friday and Saturday, the National Gathering featured workshops on local ministries and three local mission projects were undertaken by attendees.
The four featured speakers at the National Gathering were Mississippi Area Bishop James Swanson Sr., president of the General Commission on UMM; Shan Foster, national director of MEND, a YWCA program combating domestic violence; Kevin Watson, assistant professor at the Candler School of Theology; and South Carolina Area Bishop Jonathan Holston.
Hanke told CP that even though fewer than 1,000 people had signed up for this year's National Gathering — less than the number who attended in 2013 — that "Across most denominations, large meetings are smaller now than in the past decades. Compared to other denominational men's events, 600 is pretty good. We planned for 1,000, and we are thankful for each man and woman who attended."