From the Bishop
Is Jesus risen indeed?
Bishop Young Jin Cho
May the joy and peace from our risen Lord be with you all.
Spring has come! April is a beautiful and joyful month. Flowers bloom, and trees are changing their clothes with green leaves. We see vital signs of new life and new beginning.
April is also the season of Easter. All Christians shout to the world: “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
Yes, Christ is risen! Because Christ is risen, our Lord is still alive. We have never heard that Jesus died again after His resurrection. Because He lives, Christian faith is more than having knowledge about God. Being a Christian is more than becoming a better person. Being a Christian is more than being a member of a church. Being a Christian means having relationship with the risen Christ. Our mission is more than proclaiming that Jesus was risen from the dead 2,000 years ago. We are called to witness that the risen Christ is still alive and leads our life and the church.
But unfortunately, sometimes we ask ourselves if Christ is risen indeed in our own mission and ministry. Dr. Graham Standish, who will lead our upcoming Elders’ Retreat in April, says in his book, Becoming a Blessed Church: “Many churches simply aren’t open to God. They let the will, ego and purpose of the dominant voices in their congregation, whether the pastor’s or that of a few strong members, drive the agenda. Instead of seeking God’s call and purpose, they argue over who is right and wrong. Declining churches tend not to be open to God’s presence. They worship, meet and engage in ministry and mission, but their sense is that God is in heaven, we are on earth, and all that matters is doing good deeds so that we can get into heaven.
“The congregants have no sense that Christ is in their midst, and that this presence of Christ can bless them and make their churches places of love. So they continue to engage in the practices of the church, but they do not expect an encounter with Christ. Finally, these churches have no awareness that God’s grace and power can work in their midst. They have no awareness of the Holy Spirit. They are unaware of that when we become open to God, God’s spirit flows through the church to make miracles happen.”
Is Christ risen indeed in our life and mission and ministries of our churches? It is important to believe that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. That is the foundation of our belief. But the risen Christ should be alive today in our life and ministries.
I agree with Dr. Standish’s diagnosis on declining churches. Many of us think that we are in charge of the church’s mission and ministry and can turn the church around. We thought and tried with this conviction for the past 40 years. Now, we know where we are and our reality. I believe that the time has come to go back to our basics. This is the reason I say, “No spiritual vitality, no vital congregations!” and “Let Jesus Christ be the Lord!” Without the presence and guidance of the risen Lord, we will get the same result. Without rediscovering a vital relationship with the risen Christ, we will continue to decline and gradually die. Without honoring the Lordship of the risen Christ in our mission and ministries, the church will not move toward a new future.
We still have time and hope, because the risen Christ has never given up on us. If we rediscover our proud tradition of prayer and spiritual disciplines and humbly seek the face of the risen Christ, we can have a different future. Because Christ still lives, we can face our challenges. Because the risen Christ is still the Lord of our lives and our churches, we can dream a new dream. To Easter people, death is not the final destination, but the empty tomb.
In this joyful season of Easter, let us ask these questions to ourselves: Is Jesus Christ risen indeed? Is He risen indeed in our mission and ministries?
In our Lord,
Young Jin Cho