From the Bishop


October 2013:

Do we have another option?

   Bishop Young Jin Cho

May the grace and peace from our God be with you.

We are at the gate of the beautiful season of fall. Soon the trees will change their colors, and we will see the beauty of autumn leaves again. Having four seasons is a real blessing to us.

This month the Advocate is introducing a progress report on “All Things New-Equipping Vital Congregations (EVC).” In my article for the February issue of the Advocate, I shared my thoughts on the Vital Congregations Initiative. Since then, the Bishop’s Steering Team for Equipping Vital Congregations has continued to get together and has worked hard to implement this initiative in a systemic way. All the other teams, like the Data Team, Prayer Team, Communications Team and Discipleship Circles Team, have also been working hard envisioning a new future for our conference.

One of the critical teams for systemic implementation of Vital Congregations is the Discipleship Circles Team. They have discussed and prayed for many months and wrestled with the need and identity of the Discipleship Circles. They seriously raised many questions: Why do we need Discipleship Circles? Many clergy are already taking part in various kinds of small groups like covenant groups, lectionary groups, peer learning groups and fellowship groups. Why do we need another group? What is the purpose and uniqueness of Discipleship Circles? Will it be truly effective for clergy and laity to sit down together and share vital signs? Will these circles really help the churches to move forward?

It has been a long journey for the members of the Discipleship Circles team. Now, we have a clearer picture about Discipleship Circles and are preparing for pilot groups. I am deeply grateful to the members of the Discipleship Circles Team for their dedication to the journey.

Discipleship Circles will help clergy and laity to grow spiritually in the first stage of their journey. During this stage they will work to build up their trust for one another and prepare themselves for dealing with difficult questions. When the Discipleship Circle members are ready, they will move to the next stage and begin dealing with their reality based on vital signs. They will pray and work together to move toward more faithfulness and a more fruitful future. This will not be an easy task, but it will be worthwhile to try. It will be far better than sitting and doing nothing.

As I say wherever I go, ministry as usual is no longer an option. We cannot just sit and wait for another glorious day. Our reality is far more serious than before. Most of all, we need to ask ourselves whether United Methodist churches today are truly biblical, authentic and vital churches. If not, what plan or vision do we have for the renewal and revival of our churches? What other alternative do we have for a more faithful and fruitful future? If you do not have any other alternative for our future, why not prayerfully consider Discipleship Circles?

In Discipleship Circles we hope to grow together spiritually and to tackle our declining reality seriously. We United Methodists are not strangers to this practice. The class meetings and covenant groups were the essence of the Methodist movement. The Discipleship Circles will rediscover this legacy. I invite you to pray seriously about these circles and to take part in one of the pilot groups. There may be frustrations and challenges, but if we tackle and overcome these challenges, I believe that we will be blessed by Discipleship Circles.

I have another prayer request this month: From Oct. 16-24, about 40 Virginia clergy will visit South Korea for a pilgrimage for spiritual renewal. This is a continuing education program aiming at learning the importance of mission and ministry being based on strong prayer. While we stay in Korea, our daily schedule will begin with attending early-morning prayer service, which begins at 5 a.m. every day. . We will also visit universities founded by American missionaries and many vital churches. In this pilgrimage we will learn the importance of mission and get a global perspective on our faith and churches. Your prayer support for this pilgrimage will be deeply appreciated.

Every day I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to serve the Virginia Conference. May the Lord continue to bless and lead our churches in this beautiful season.

Young Jin Cho




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