“We need more members!” is a common litany I hear when I visit congregations. “No,” I typically respond, “we need more disciples.” It turns out that my response echoes that of Dwight Zscheile in his book, People of the Way: “the vitality of our identity as the church depends on the vitality of our discipleship.” (Page 89.)
Discipleship takes us to a deeper place than membership. A clearer sense of our discipleship is what is needed as we reorient ourselves from being the church of the establishment to renewing our identity as the body of Christ.
As one who grew up in the Episcopal Church, when I identified myself as an Episcopalian, most people had at least heard the name, or had some sense that we were a church. Today, most people outside the Episcopal network don’t know how to pronounce it, much less spell it. We need go deeper. We need to claim our role and identity as Jesus’ disciples.
Dwight suggests that an important first step in the journey to discipleship is to immerse ourselves in scripture. He acknowledges that many Episcopalians are intimidated by scripture, in that people often feel that they are supposed to already know its content.
"Dwelling in the word" is a process that engages us in scripture - not so much to master its content but to probe scripture’s mysteries. Engaging in scripture at a deep level brings us closer to our soul, which is the place where God’s invitation to join in God’s work is more clearly understood.