Church, ministry, making disciples – all these things are “not about action, but interaction,” six young adults told the delegates at General Conference April 24 during the denomination’s first Young Adult Address.
These words rang with a spirit of truth for the Rev. Malcolm Frazier, the United Methodist campus minister at Howard University.
The ministry at Howard is a reconciling ministry. It is one of the first Wesley Foundations to be intentional about welcoming all people. It is also committed to mission, sending hundreds of students to the Gulf Coast to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
For Frazier, ministering to young people, or ministering to anyone, involves unflinching authenticity and nurturing meaningful relationships.
He embraces the story in Luke 7 in which Jesus is a guest at a banquet, but welcomes a woman from the street into the company.
“The guest became host, and the host was about welcome,” said Frazier, who believes the doctrine of the Trinity is one of relationship and one that the church needs to explore if it is to attract young adults.
The faithfulness and effectiveness of the ministry at Howard attracts all kind of people, with all kinds of questions and all kinds of gifts.
It’s a model, Frazier believes, that the mainstream church might pay attention to.
And while, interaction is essential, action too is being stressed at General Conference.
At worship April 25, Bishop João Somane Machado of the Mozambique Annual Conference, told the story of a pastor who was appointed to a new church and gave a wonderful sermon on his first Sunday about the need to be active in ministry in the community and to do mission outside the walls of the church.
The congregation complimented the pastor on his wonderful sermon.
The next Sunday, the pastor preached it again. The congregation was confused, but didn’t say much. The third Sunday, the pastor preached the same sermon once more.
“Something isn’t quite right,” the chair of the staff-parish relations committee remarked and the people agreed.
They approached the pastor, complimented him once again on the sermon and inquired if he knew he was preaching the same thing each Sunday.
The pastor replied emphatically that he did, and that he would preach these same words, again and again if necessary, until the people truly heard them and put them into action.
The same can be said for the church as a whole, which says and hears all the right words, but fails to act.
Bishop Machado asked the delegates why The United Methodist Church, which is facing decades of declining membership, seems to be stalled in its efforts of making disciples.
“The church is blessed with men and women, lay and clergy, with tremendous gifts and vitality. We need to do what we say,” Machada stressed. “It’s the actions we are missing.
“A world with hope is only possible when the church goes back to its principle mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world,” Machado concluded. “But not just disciples,” he continued, “we need true disciples. To transform the world we must be transformed ourselves.”
For Frazier and the students at Howard, that transformation is coming in sharing their lives and faith in relationship with each other and God. It’s action and interaction interwoven in faith.