This Church is Not Yours, But Mine
May the grace and peace from our risen Christ be with you.
We are still in the “Great 50 Days” after Easter and looking forward to Pentecost. It is really a beautiful season, and I cannot but sing to God “How Great Thou Art” when I observe the changes in nature. Starting this month our conference will be getting busier, preparing for the upcoming General Conference and our Annual Conference in June.
I want to express my deep appreciation to all of you who took part in the Virginia Conference Day of Prayer. On April 10 we had a 24-hour Prayer Vigil. Each district developed a plan, and many churches joined in this prayer movement. I want you to continue to pray for the General Conference which will be held in Portland, Oregon from May 10-20. The Council of Bishops will meet before (May 5-10) and after the General Conference (May 21). Please keep on praying for the delegates and for only God’s will to be done in this gathering.
Today we, the UMC, are in desperate need of renewal and revival. I think the essence of our renewal is to rediscover the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our life, in our churches and in today’s world. This is the reason I have been saying, “Let Jesus Christ be the Lord in our mission and ministries” for our new future. It is our calling as disciples to live out our faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our daily lives. If we do this, the church can grow to be a biblical and authentic church in discerning and obeying the Lord’s will in our mission and ministries.
I still remember one of the most important awakening experiences in my ministry, one that affirmed this faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It was about 15 years ago. As a follow-up to the third phase of a Five-Year Long-Range Plan at the church I served, Korean UMC of Greater Washington, we started a process of renewing our small group ministries. This plan was adopted by the Church Conference, and we prepared for this renewal plan for more than a year. First, we trained small group leaders and as a pilot project tried 5 small groups with a new format for a year. After a year we received positive responses from all our pilot groups and decided to expand this new format to the entire congregation. The renewal plan was aimed at transforming our small groups from fellowship groups to disciple-making groups. Although we prepared this process thoughtfully and cautiously, much criticism and opposition began to spread among church members. Why is Pastor Cho asking us to meet twice a month in today’s busy world? Isn’t it enough to meet once a month? Pastor Cho was influenced by a small group seminar and tried to implement it without considering our situation. One of our long-time members came to me and said, “Rev. Cho, this plan is splitting the congregation. I decided not to join a new small group. Please honor my choice.” I was deeply disappointed and full of frustration.
On Sunday when the congregation was scheduled to choose their small groups and commit to this renewal process, I went to church early in the morning and knelt down before the Lord. My heart was full of worries, anxieties and frustrations. There was no peace in my heart. I prayed and waited in silence.
After a while I heard soft and comforting words in my heart: “This church is not yours, but mine.” At the moment I heard this voice, I was relieved from all my anxieties and worries. “Yes, Lord. This church is yours, not mine. I will leave the future of this church into your hands. If you allow us to move on, we will proceed. But if you have a different plan, we will gladly obey your guidance.” On that Sunday, I shared this experience in my sermon and asked the congregation to forgive me if I had pushed too much. More than 60 percent of the congregation committed themselves to the new format of small groups. The renewal plan was successfully launched that year.
Yes, the churches are not ours, but yours, Lord. Amen.
In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho