I love the movie Bull Durham. The classic movie centered on the Durham Bulls is a go-to movie for baseball fans, like myself. It is one that needs to be watched, perhaps, in this season of being absent from our national pastime.
There is a scene that I love in the movie. Crash Davis, played by Kevin Costner, goes into a monologue about his beliefs and values, while trying to win the interest of Annie Savoy, who is played by Susan Sarandon. While crude at times, Davis expresses his beliefs about everything from when presents should be opened at Christmas to the need for a Constitutional amendment banning the designated hitter.
I agree with that last one.
What I have always admired about that speech is how free flowing Davis is with his belief statements. He knows who he is and how he will live them out. There is a firmness in foundation upon his core beliefs, regardless of how unique they may be, that defines who he and how he lives out his life.
Can we say that as followers of Christ? Do we know what it is that we believe and what it means to live them out?
We do a good job, often, in saying that we love Jesus and want to follow him. It is the “now what” of what we believe and how it influences our daily lives that we often struggle with. Why? Perhaps because for too long we have equated faith in Jesus as merely a ticket-out-of-here ride to everlasting life and not always seeing how there is a both/and aspect to faith. Yes, we desire salvation for all eternity, but salvation that does not produce faith and good works is a dead faith as James 2:17 reminds us. Faith in Christ must give itself to belief in what it means to follow Christ and actionable steps in living out our faith.
It is why I believe discipleship is important in the life of the church. Our Wesleyan heritage is centered on the idea of discipleship being at the center of our shared life together. When John Wesley and others formed the Methodist movement, they did so with a desire to inspire a deeper faith in Christ through worship, communion, accountability, discipleship, and missional engagement. These were done through societies, classes, and bands. They were not part of a menu of options for people to pick and choose from, but they were the requirements of what it meant to be in connection with one another.
This focus on discipleship enabled a deeper shared life together that shaped all aspects of their lives. In the societies, there was a focus on worship through prayer, reflection, and communion that enabled an empowered life of worship. Through the classes, there was an opportunity for teaching what it meant to follow Christ and how to live it out. Through the bands, there was the opportunity for accountability and connection.
In all of this, though, there was the opportunity for ministry and mission, so that faith in Christ did not simply become ascribing to a set of principles, but having the life of Christ breathe in and through one another. It inspired ministry to the poor and forgotten of England as a response to a deeper engagement of discipleship.
Discipleship is key in the life of the church, as is the liturgy of the church. I believe that the liturgies of our church can help form us in engaging whose we are and what it means to live for Christ. I am not one who believes that the ancient cannot help us today. Instead, I believe listening to where the movement of Christ has been throughout time can give us confidence in knowing that we are not alone in wrestling with deeper questions of faith.
Thus, I believe it is important to understand how these liturgies and, too, the creeds can shape us. Our baptismal and communion liturgies remind us of our connection to God, our commitment to the Lord, and how we are to live for Christ in all things. The creeds of our faith, the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed, teach us that there are beliefs about God we all hold in common, even when there is disagreement on what it may look like to follow Christ today. They give us the boundaries of shared agreement, while reminding us that we can be in communion with other believers even if we do not share similar practices because we hold these basic beliefs about God in common.
I believe in these things, so that the church and, more important, each of us as followers of Christ can love God, grow in faith, and serve the Lord. We are not static beings that are not called to grow. We are dynamic followers of Christ who are moved daily into deeper discipleship through worship, study, prayer, and what we share in common with one another in our faith, so that we can go forth and make disciples of all people.
That is what I believe it means to seek deeper discipleship in my life and the life of the church.