By the Rev. Dr. Timothy Ozment
What does God require of you if you want to be a healthy disciple?

That’s a question that has been asked for a long time.  In the Old Testament Micah gives this response:
"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8, NIV)

Part of Micah’s answer is that we need to walk with God. I take that to mean we need to love God, to walk step-by-step with God, and be so close to God that we are always in God’s protective shadow. The other half, though, has to do with how we treat one another. To act justly and to love mercy are relational words that describe how we treat others. 

When the Pharisee asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, 
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV) 

Being a healthy disciple isn't just about our relationship with God, but also our relationships with our neighbors, community, and the world. God has invited us to be in partnership with Jesus, who is not going to do the work of the church for us; and yet, God doesn’t expect us to do it alone either. Instead, we are invited into a partnership with God who has made decisions about where to be at work, and then invites us to join the Holy Spirit at work in those places. So, part of the question for healthy disciples is not, “Does God want us to be involved in mission and ministry?” The question is, “WHERE is God calling us to be involved in mission and ministry?” 

And yet, we are often hesitant to jump into mission and ministry. In part, because we may think it takes a professional to do that kind of work and we feel unqualified. We may think this means giving up a year of our life, leaving for Africa or Asia, and trekking across a malaria infested jungle to bring the word of God to the lost. Maybe our imaginations don’t go quite that far; but volunteering for a ministry with people or in situations we don’t know or understand may seem daunting. The reality is, being in mission and ministry for God is really not that difficult. 

A few more questions may help us understand how important and easy it can be: Where are our neighbors in need? Do they need someone to mow their lawn for them? Do they need a babysitter for an afternoon? Do they need a meal taken over? Do they need help taking their groceries out of the car? Do they just need a bright smile and a hearty wave? 

You see, when we love our neighbor as we love ourselves, when we do for them what we wish someone would do for us, when we answer the nudging of the Holy Spirit to step up and step out in grace to bless someone’s life, we’re in mission and ministry. We don’t need to wait for a committee meeting to bring good to our neighbor’s life.  We don’t have to wait until church-inside-the-building is back in full swing to improve the tone of our neighborhood. 

Jesus makes it surprisingly simple. Love God, love your neighbor. That’s it. If you get those two simple things right, you’re well on your way down the road into mission and ministry, and you are showing signs of being a healthy disciple. 


is the Directing Pastor of First United Methodist Church - Peoria