Our ministry vision for the Virginia Annual Conference is to be disciples of Jesus Christ who are lifelong learners, who influence others to serve.” – Bishop Sharma Lewis

On the basis of much listening to the people of Virginia United Methodist churches, much analysis of the common themes that emerged from all of that listening, and much prayer and listening to God, Bishop Sharma Lewis has shared with us her vision for the ministry of the Virginia Annual Conference. In the Sunday sermon at the recent annual conference session held in Hampton, Bishop Lewis described the process, the rationale, and the potential impact of this vision. She heard people say again and again that they wanted to learn more – about the Bible, about the Wesleyan way, about how to share their faith, about how to make disciples. She also heard many people talk about how important it is to the life of their church that they have ways to serve others. She heard people say that they needed help in being better at making disciples of Jesus Christ through their personal witness. These themes emerged repeatedly across the conference as the bishop visited all 16 districts for listening sessions called Chat n’ Chew.

The personal passion of the bishop is to focus on discipleship. She is deeply committed to sharing far and wide the love and power of the living Lord Jesus, so that more and more people can know the joy of following Jesus. “Take Jesus to the streets!” she has said. She wants to be known as the “discipleship” bishop.

Add the bishop’s personal passion to the repeated themes that emerged from the people across the conference, and you end up articulating the vision quoted above. There are three key phrases in the statement that give focus to understanding it: (1) lifelong learners; (2) influence others; (3) to serve. We are invited to focus on our learning, influencing, and serving; all so that we can be disciples who make disciples. The three phrases break down into contemporary language the key elements of discipleship. They form the focal points for where the needs of the Virginia Conference and its mission field intersect with the gifts and passion of its leader, and for the next season of our life and work together, these three focal points will help us find forward momentum and alignment for our resources, energy, and prayers.

By 2020, the bishop wants every church in the conference to have a clear discipleship plan that will work in its context to be and make disciples. I look forward to working with all of the churches in the Alexandria District to making this vision into a reality, step by step.