The General Rule of Discipleship,

To witness to Jesus Christ in the world, and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

is a rule of life that guides the church’s mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It keeps the congregation centered on Jesus Christ and his mission in the world. The rule names, and points the congregation toward, the habits Jesus taught his disciples when he summarized his teachings in Matthew 22:37-40

‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

Jesus taught his disciples to participate in loving God through acts of worship and devotion. Loving God obliges disciples to love whom God loves by practicing acts of compassion and justice. The Holy Spirit works in each disciple leading and prompting them towards obedience to Jesus’ way.

The baptismal covenant describes the way of life Jesus teaches. It is deeply personal but it is not private. Disciples need the love, support, and accountability of fellow disciples in the congregation. That’s why the congregation makes important promises (The United Methodist Hymnal, page 35, § 8):

Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life?

With God’s help:

We will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ.

 We will surround one another with a community of love and forgiveness, that we may grow in our trust of God, and be found faithful in our service to others.

 We will pray for one another, that we may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.

The congregation keeps the first promise (“We will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ.”) when it helps members live as witnesses to Jesus Christ in the world. A witness is a representative. He or she gives evidence of who Jesus is and what he is up to in the world.

We witness to Jesus Christ in the world when we re-present his gospel of forgiveness, love, and justice with our neighbors. The gospel Jesus embodies and proclaims is the reign of God that is breaking out in the world. He describes the kingdom of God in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29) and Matthew 11:4-6

… the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.’

Witnesses to Jesus Christ in the world re-present God’s love and forgiveness in ways that are good news to people who do not know Christ. They invite people into God’s reign to experience forgiveness, love, and joy and to new lives as citizens of God’s kingdom.

The congregation keeps the second promise (“We will surround one another with a community of love and forgiveness, that we may grow in our trust of God, and be found faithful in our service to others.”) when it encourages members to live their baptism through habitual practice of the means of grace: acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion. These practices are described by John Wesley in the General Rules: do no harm by avoiding evil (acts of justice); doing good of every possible sort, as far as possible to all people (acts of compassion); and attending upon all the ordinances of God (acts of worship and devotion).

Finally, the congregation lives the third promise (“We will pray for one another, that we may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life.”) when it intentionally seeks the guidance of the Holy Spirit in prayer.

Prayer is where God promises to meet us. It is where we show up and open our hearts to the justifying and sanctifying grace we need to live the Christian life in the world.

If congregations want to make disciples of Jesus Christ, then they need to be communities of prayer. One way to do this is to adopt the ancient practice of praying the daily office. John and Charles Wesley prayed the daily office of morning, evening, and night prayer. The Book of Common Prayer was their guide to daily prayer and worship. You may also use the Orders for Daily Praise and Prayer in The United Methodist Hymnal on pages 876-879. Guides for daily prayer are also provided in A Disciple’s Journal: A Guide for Daily Prayer, Bible Reading, and Discipleship 2018. Learn more about praying the daily office here.

The General Rule of Discipleship is a rule of life for congregations to faithfully live the baptismal covenant. It guides small groups that develop role models who guide and help baptized members live the Christian life. Prayer opens hearts and minds to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and equips the people of the church to live as Christ’s representatives in the world and citizens of God’s kingdom.