Last updated: July 7, 2023

Megan Byers, Pastor of Discipleship at The Harvest Methodist Church in Missouri City, TX, grew up experiencing what she aims to create. Her parents were church planters in London, England, when Megan was born. She experienced church “on a smaller scale where everyone has to participate,” she explains. In addition to gaining a deep passion for missions and the global church as a child, Megan belonged to a relatively small denomination, The Brethren in Christ. Those in her church were deeply passionate about people coming to know Christ and growing in intimacy with Him. “It was an assumed thing in my childhood that we would be in a small group,” Megan says. Her church was involved in Bible quizzing, which kids enthusiastically took part in even when it meant sacrificing other extracurricular activities such as sports and music.

Seeing a lack of desire for deeper discipleship among churchgoers is understandably disheartening for Megan and fellow disciplers. According to Megan, we live in a time when people are overcommitted and can tend to prioritize money, work and other activities over worship, small groups, and Sunday school classes. “One of our hardest tasks is presenting the vision for why discipleship is not only necessary, but leads us to a life that is full of joy and peace… full of rich connections that make life worth living,” Megan explains of her role at The Harvest.

Communicating with people consistently, especially when their worship attendance is low, is a modern challenge. “We now have so many forms of communication, whether it’s social media, email, text, physical mail; hitting the right stream of communication for the right demographic and communicating consistently enough, when people are not deeply committed to church as a whole, is a challenge,” Megan says.

Challenges notwithstanding, Megan continues the work of deeper discipleship, describing her role as “making spaces for people to grow in intimacy with Christ and with the body of Christ.” She oversees discipleship for all ages, “cradle to coffin.” She also created a team that brainstorms about creative and Spirit-led ideas for getting people in those spaces and encouraging their growth. Her team is in the midst of experimenting with Wesley bands, one-on-one relationships, small groups for all ages, and discipling in the home. As they brainstorm, Megan says she is “thrilled by the energy and momentum of calling our lay people to disciple and seeing the light of the Holy Spirit in their eyes as they commit themselves to being disciplers.”

Megan’s upbringing in small, discipleship-rich communities melds with her contemporary perspective about how people grow. According to Megan, we depended so much on information over the last century. Currently, we are growing to understand that “discipleship happens in relationship and takes longer than we used to think it did. To truly be formed in the image of Christ also requires significantly more depth of relationship.”

She believes Wesley bands are one of the best ways people can grow in their relationship with Christ, because those environments foster deep trust, confidentiality, vulnerability, connection, and commitment to one another. “For me, I’ve grown in my willingness to engage in the long haul; to not expect that if somebody engages in a small group, they’re going to be deeply transformed within a year. So I think we have to be patient.”

What sustains Megan during the slow work of discipleship is, first, remembering that she’s joining Jesus in His mission. “It is God’s job to build His church, and we’re participating in that work with Him, and it’s God’s job to transform lives, and we’re coming alongside Him in that. He’s as deeply committed to the growth of His church and to the growth of disciples as I am. I can rely on His presence and do the best I can while inviting as many people along for the journey as possible.” Secondly, Megan reminds herself that ministry includes some trial and error. Sometimes someone turns out not to be quite right for a ministry role or a certain Wesley band. Yet even when something is not working the best, God can transform those things for good. Finally, Megan has learned the value of depth over numbers. She and her fellow disciplers have learned to focus on a smaller pool of participants who are going deeper rather than on “gathering large groups of people in spaces where there might be a lot of information transfer.”

Megan earned her M.Div. from Asbury Seminary in 2017. During her first semester, she was deeply convicted of her need for this education. “I would not have the depth of understanding as well as the capacity for study if I hadn’t participated in this life at Asbury.” She recalls studying scripture with incredibly knowledgeable professors and students; powerful leadership courses, particularly about disciple-making systems that keep the kingdom growing; the deeply formative spiritual and community formation; and the theology of John Wesley.

“Man, I fell in love with Wesley. I loved studying him,” Megan says. “I don’t think I would have come to understand Wesley’s models of discipleship bands and classes and societies had I not been involved in life at Asbury… The need for that kind of ministry hasn’t changed in all the time that it’s been since Wesley was active.”

The timeless practical ministries of John Wesley are sure to continue as disciplers such as Megan continue their patient work to bear fruit for the kingdom.

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