January 2016:

Thy will be done

Happy New Year! May the grace and peace from our risen Lord be with you.

The season of Christmas has passed, and we have welcomed a new year. God has given us a brand new opportunity to live for the glory of God. I pray this year will be filled with joy, peace and God’s many blessings.

During this year, we will have many joys and celebrations, but also face many challenges and difficulties. We do not know our future, but we know who will lead us. We are not alone in our journey! Our risen Lord, who is faithful to keep his promises, is and will be with us. Therefore, we are very excited about the future our Lord will lead us into.

One of the important events on our schedules this year will be our General Conference (GC) which will be held in Portland, Ore., from May 10-20. Delegates representing The United Methodist Church from around the world will get together to celebrate our mission and ministries, to envision the upcoming years, to consider petitions and to make changes in the Book of Discipline, if the church discerns it necessary.

My prayer and hope is that GC will faithfully and prayerfully discern the will of God and reflect God’s will in making all its decisions. If GC becomes only a battleground for political agendas, it will be a great shame not only to the whole United Methodist Church, but also to our Lord who is the head of our denomination. All of us need humility, open-mindedness and a willingness to follow our Good Shepherd who leads us today.

The Council of Bishops has invited each Annual Conference to designate a day for a 24-hour prayer vigil for GC. These prayer vigils will be held for 131 days from Jan. 1, 2016, to the opening day of GC, May 10. Interestingly, The United Methodist Church has 131 annual conferences throughout the world. The Virginia Conference chose April 10 as our day for a prayer vigil. It will be a conference-wide day of prayer, especially for GC. The detailed plan on how we will organize our 24-hour prayer vigil will be announced later.

I believe a new future will dawn for us if we go back to the Lord and join the movement to restore a biblical, authentic and vital church. A reactive plan to save our denomination will not work. Introducing a couple of new initiatives or programs may help our churches to some degree, but this would be like putting on bandages and will not bring a new future. For the past 40 years, we have tried this many times, but we have not seen much fruit.

What does it mean to restore a biblical, authentic and vital church? We may discuss this question from many perspectives, but I think the most important thing is to truly honor and respect the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our mission and ministries. It means to switch gears from my vision to Christ’s vision and from my ministry to sharing in Christ’s ministry.

We United Methodists often perceive ourselves to be too capable to humbly honor the Lordship of Jesus Christ and to seek the Lord’s will. We try to do all our planning by ourselves and ask God’s blessing in the end on our finalized plan. We are not used to seeking and discerning the Lord’s will from the beginning to the end of our planning processes. So churches are busy doing many activities, but we do not plan or align our activities following God’s will or God’s vision for us. We may not have the spiritual depth to go in this direction.

It is for this reason that I emphasize that we need to open ourselves to God through deep prayer. This is the reason I say that we need to humbly seek the guidance of our Lord for our new future. We need to trust that God’s plan is far better than our plan, and God’s wisdom is far better than our wisdom. Do we truly believe that Jesus Christ is the head of our church? Do we truly believe that the foolishness of God is wiser than our wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than our strength (I Cor. 1:25)?

Seeking God’s way will always be the best way for our lives and for the church, although God’s way is not always a highway. So, when we pray, especially for GC, we need to pray that God’s will be done in our GC as it is in heaven. I love this hymn:

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou are the potter, I am the clay
Mold me and make me after thy will
while I am waiting yielded and still.

In our Lord,

 

 

Young Jin Cho

 

 

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