In a recent post on the church’s mission-essential tasks, one of the sub-tasks I listed was this:
Reorient – address obstacles to faith and holiness
I listed this as part of the second mission-essential task:
Integrate Disciples into the Community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
By “addressing obstacles to faith and holiness,” I mean that repentance and liberation from sin characteristic of Wesleyan theology. The church helps its new members begin the process of reorienting their lives away from enslavement to the world, the flesh and the devil toward freedom for joyful Christian holiness.
The early church addressed this aspect of making disciples with its extended catechumenate. Catechumens not only learned the basics of the faith, they were liberated from the power of the world, the flesh and the devil by prayer and exorcism. The church watched over the catechumens in love, encouraging them, exhorting them and holding them accountable for the commitments they were making.
Early Methodism accomplished this same task with its system of classes and bands. Methodists met together in small groups to hold each other accountable to life under the General Rules and to seek perfection in love. They exhorted each other and prayed for each other as they sought to lay aside all known sin.
The same process has been largely (but not completely) secularized in twelve-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. The process begins with the awareness that we are powerless over the most destructive parts of our lives, and the belief that God can restore us to sanity. Accountability, encouragement and acceptance help people on this path find freedom and wholeness.
In mainline churches today, I always hear that God loves me and accepts me. I don’t always hear about God’s power to free me from enslavement to the broken and destructive powers of this age, those within me and those around me. I don’t hear much about my entanglement in sin and the brokenness of the world, powers to which I’ve surrendered and which now control me. And I don’t hear much about the means God has provided in Jesus Christ to liberate me from my predicament.
The church must rediscover the enslaving and entangling power of personal sin and offer believers a path to freedom in Christ.