No Cross, No Discipleship
May the grace and peace from our Lord be with you.
The 2015 Annual Conference session is over! We are now in a new conference year. During the summer months the conference office will be a little slow, but we will continue to work for our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
I thank God that this Annual Conference gave us a chance to think about our mission more seriously. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? What are the differences between members of the church and disciples of Jesus Christ? How can we develop a system or a road map to make Jesus’ disciples? We were challenged and learned that the time has come for us to move from members to disciples.
As we heard and learned, members are concerned about “me” and my needs. In today’s world, membership means seeking maximum benefit with minimum investment. It is important to members whether the church will meet their needs or not. I do not think it is wrong for the church to work to meet the needs of its members. We need to provide care and love that members need.
But if the ministry of the church only stays there, meeting the needs of its members, we cannot be faithful to our mission. Being and living as disciples of Jesus Christ is a life-long journey. We need to help our members grow to become disciples of Jesus Christ. Growing into disciples of Jesus is more than taking a class and learning about Jesus’ life and teaching. It is related to our values, our priorities and lifestyles. The call to discipleship is a very serious challenge for us, although it is what the Christian life is.
In his book, Shift, Phil Maynard defines discipleship as follows:
- Discipleship is not just about learning about Jesus. It is about becoming like Jesus.
- Discipleship is not just about education. It is about transformation.
- Discipleship is not just about knowledge. It is about behavior.
Meditating on the meaning of discipleship, I found that one word is a key for our discipleship. It is the “Cross.” In growing from members of the church to disciples of Jesus, the most critical decision we have to make is whether we are willing to bear the cross to follow Jesus or not. Our Lord Jesus Christ made it clear to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)
Members seek self-satisfaction, but disciples seek self-denial. Members seek saving their life, but disciples seek losing their life for the Lord. I think this is a fundamental difference between members of the church and disciples of Jesus Christ. But in today’s church, “Cross” is not a popular word. Bearing the cross is the thing we want to avoid. We like to follow Jesus without bearing the cross. Many people want to follow Jesus as long as they feel comfortable while doing so.
This is one of the reasons we are losing the vitality and authenticity of our faith. This is also a reason people outside the church criticize us as hypocrites. We need to rediscover a biblical and authentic discipleship. We need to get out of our comfort zones and follow our Lord, although that road has many challenges. Even though that road asks us to die for the Lord, we need to say, “Yes” to the Lord because by dying we live in Christ. We need to remember, “No Cross, No Discipleship.”
It is still true, even in today’s IT era, what Thomas A Kempis said in his book, The Imitation of Christ:
Jesus has now many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross.
Many He has who desire consolation, but few tribulation.
Many He finds who share His table, but few are willing to endure anything for Him.
Many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of His passion.
Many revere His miracles, but few follow the shame of His cross.
Many love Jesus so long as no adversities befall them.
Where will we find a person willing to serve God without receiving something in return?
In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho