August 2015:

Starting the final year

 This month I would like to share the second part of my Episcopal Address which I delivered on June 19 during the 233rd session of our Annual Conference in Roanoke.  It was slightly edited.

Dear Friends,

Soon I will start the final year of my ministry as your bishop. During the upcoming final quarter, I will continue to focus on four areas of my ministry: All Things New-Equipping Vital Congregations, strengthening the spiritual foundation of our mission and ministries, developing new faith communities and nurturing a culture of coordination and cooperation. However, I would like to emphasize the following two important things.

(1)  The upcoming conference year will have many challenges, especially over the issue of human sexuality. The 2016 General Conference will be crucial for the future of our denomination. My prayer is that in the midst of all these discussions and conferencing, The United Methodist Church will not forget the most important thing: our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

This is the reason I have chosen “From Members to Disciples” as the theme for this 2015 Annual Conference. Growing from members to disciples is the most important change we need today. During this Annual Conference session, and in the months to come, we will think about and define the meaning of “disciples.” What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?  

Another question we need to ask ourselves is whether our churches have road maps to make disciples of Jesus Christ. I want to challenge all the churches in our conference to wrestle with this question: Do we have an intentional or discerned disciple-making system? How do we make disciples of Jesus Christ? 

“From Members to Disciples” will also be the theme for our 2015 charge conferences. I encourage the districts to start more Discipleship Circles and invite the churches to two important plans that the office of Congregational Excellence is preparing. One is the Five-Talent Academy program on Nov. 10. The topic will be “Stir up the Fire: Wesley’s Way of Making Disciples.” And the other is “Real Discipleship Survey” created by Rev. Phil Maynard. This program will soon be available to our local churches.

(2)  Many of you know that my election to the episcopacy was a miracle. Nobody, including myself, expected me to be elected. But by the grace of God, I was elected, and by another grace of God, I was assigned to the Virginia Conference. From the beginning of my ministry as bishop, my prayer has been, “Lord, I believe that you chose me because you have a reason or a plan for me and for our church. What is this plan? What is your expectation for my ministry? What do you want me to do?”

My discernment of this question has been prayer. This is the reason I have been teaching or preaching on prayer wherever I go. Henry Nouwen said, “Prayer is the center of the Christian life. It is the only necessary thing. It is living with God here and now.” For the upcoming conference year, I will keep focusing on the only necessary thing: prayer. 

I will continue to challenge clergy and laity to devote at least one hour daily for their spiritual discipline. I will continue to invite the churches to become Prayer Covenant Congregations. And during the new conference year, I will visit each district to meet the clergy and laity of the Prayer Covenant Congregations and to encourage them to keep on praying.

Although our beloved church faces many challenges, if we pray, if we humbly seek God’s will, we can overcome these challenges. We are called to be more than conquerors. A crisis is dangerous, but in Christ a crisis will be an opportunity. A crisis will help us to open ourselves more to God and to changes. Prayer changes the situation we face, but most of all, prayer changes ourselves. 

I am very excited about what our God will do when we kneel down and surrender ourselves to the Lord. The past was good, the present is better, but the future will be best if we continue to build our ministries in prayer. So, in closing I would like to invite you to join me in singing my favorite prayer: 

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. 
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. 
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Amen.

In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho

 

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