Bishop King introduces 20.1.5 discipleship initiative


During their baptismal covenant, each person who becomes a member of The United Methodist Church makes known his or her desire to live their daily life as a disciple of Jesus Christ and commits themselves to grow in their faith.

In South Georgia terminology, this is known as “growing Christlike.”

While thousands make the commitment – there are more than 120,000 United Methodists in the South Georgia Annual Conference – many don’t fully understand what it means or exactly how to become more like Christ.

“Just because you have come into The United Methodist Church and become a member doesn’t mean that you understand and are committed to the promises you made in your baptismal covenant,” said Bishop King, episcopal leader of the South Georgia Conference. “There are a large number of members who do not understand that this is an expectation.”

To more clearly convey expectations and provide a format for instruction, during the recent Annual Conference session Bishop King introduced his 20.1.5 initiative.

Designed to help South Georgia United Methodists keep their baptismal commitments and know Christ more deeply and intimately, Bishop King’s 20.1.5 initiative follows his Five-Star program, a system by which pastors, clergy and congregations participate in and develop the 10 timeless values of scripture, prayer, Sabbath, the Lord’s Supper, fasting, fellowship, stewardship, evangelism, witness and justice. The five stars are the teaching star, the fellowship star, the stewardship star, the witness star and the justice star.

From now until the 2015 Annual Conference session, the South Georgia Conference will focus on the teaching star. Scripture, prayer, Sabbath, The Lord’s Supper and fasting are the values included in the teaching star.

The 20.1.5 initiative represents 20,000 South Georgia United Methodists earning their one teaching star by following five steps that include prayer, reading, participation in a small group, and tracking and reporting progress.

“The focus is on knowing Jesus Christ better so we can make disciples,” Bishop King said during his Annual Conference episcopal address. “When you want to get something done you really have to focus on it.”

The initiative isn’t meant to add to people’s already overflowing plates of responsibility, he said, but to focus them on one element of discipleship and to encourage them in their faith walk.

“This is a way of simplifying our way forward,” Bishop King said. “This goal will help us to become more effective as followers of Jesus and more effective as we grow in our discipleship.”

One has to know Jesus to follow Him, he said, and church membership and attendance do not, by themselves, equate a deep, intimate knowledge of Christ.

“Discipleship means to be a student, to be a follower,” he said. “I’m not going to be able to follow Jesus if I don’t know him.”  

One of the five steps to earn the teaching star is to read and study one of the gospels this year. Bishop King and the Appointive Cabinet have committed to studying the gospel of Mark. People are also encouraged to discuss their gospel readings in a small group and to report their progress (a process for reporting will begin in September).

“We want a minimum of 20,000 members of our Annual Conference committed to learning more about Jesus Christ so that they can follow him more and so they can be more like him.”

The 20.1.5 initiative is for both clergy and lay persons, and gives them a structure and format for growing more Christlike. It also outlines the expectations and gives incentive and encouragement.

“This is what we expect of you as a member of The United Methodist Church and this is what we expect when you say that you are a Christian,” Bishop King said. “We expect that you will grow in your faith through instruction.”

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Steps for Teaching Star

  1. Pray for God to order my steps as a disciple of Jesus Christ
  2. Read at least one gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John)
  3. Participate in a gospel discussion group, Sunday school, Bible study, CLU, etc.
  4. Keep score of 1, 2, and 3
  5. Report your score