Everyone knows Bishop Cho’s main focus; his great passion in his four years as our leader was prayer. Why prayer? Because every great revival; every great movement of the Holy Spirit throughout history has begun with prayer. Prayer is the doorway to living a life alive in Christ. Prayer turns us from seeking our will (even in God’s name) to seeking only “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

And now Bishop Lewis comes forth with the vision God gave her for this Annual Conference. She did not arrive in Virginia with a vision or a plan. No! Bishop Lewis traveled 7823 miles to all 16 Districts; and she listened to the hearts of the laity and to the hearts of the pastors:

  • She listened to the old and to the young
  • She listened to the small churches and to the large
  • She listened to members of the majority population and to members of minority populations, and
  • She listened to rural and to urban folk.

Bishop Lewis listened, and prayed, and then listened to God.

At Annual Conference, Bishop Lewis spoke forth her vision in a powerful worship service on Sunday morning. As I saw the throngs of people at Hampton rise to their feet, praising God with vigorous clapping and loud shouts, I saw a “new thing.” Hearing the Bishop’s passion and conviction, a song arose in my heart: “Give me Jesus.”

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
Just give me Jesus

Yes, Bishop Cho’s “thing” was prayer; now Bishop Lewis’ “thing” is Jesus. Specifically, she is calling us to “go deeper” as disciples: to, like John the Baptist, grow smaller so that Christ might grow larger in our hearts. Bishop Lewis defined a disciple as follows:

A disciple of Jesus Christ is a life-long learner, who influences others to serve.

By 2020, the Bishop expects each local church to have an intentional process for disciple-making. Over the weeks and months ahead, I am sure the Bishop will unpack for us what that might look like. I expect that “disciple-making” can vary considerably depending on the church’s community context, size, and demographics. But the outcome is clear: disciples are people who understand that faith is about a life-long journey of seeking God and allowing the Holy Spirit to conform our hearts more and more to be like Jesus’ own heart. Disciples are on a life-long journey of learning—about God, about how to share Jesus, about how their own God-given skills can be used to further Kingdom work. Disciples do not keep their faith to themselves, but live in community, and share Jesus with others—by word and deed. So, disciples “influence” others. And finally, disciples serve: they serve their neighbor, they serve the Lord, they serve the church, they serve the poor. Disciples act on their faith in ways that are visible to others.

At charge conferences this fall, my hope is that we can have “holy conversation” about what your church is doing to create intentional paths to deeper discipleship: including introducing new people to a life in Christ. Thomas Kelly, the 20th century Quaker, writes about the love God stirs up in our hearts as “cosmic mothers tenderly caring for all” (A Testament of Devotion, 75):

Whenever any heart has tasted of the heavenly Love, there is the Father-Love grieving over prodigals, there is the shepherd heart yearning over sheep not having a shepherd, not knowing where are the green pastures, nor even aware that there are green pastures to find, there is one of the sons of God mourning to see his fellows raking together the sticks and the straws while over their heads is held the crown of life. (ibid, 76)

At Annual Conference this year, my heart was “strangely warmed.” Through prayer and through intentional daily reading of Scripture, God speaks to us in this generation:

Our soul waits for the LORD;
he is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:20-22)

I believe that God is at work in a new way in our Conference, and that as disciples, we are called to offer hope to a groaning and troubled world. As Jesus said to his disciples:
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

Over the summer, I hope your own prayers will turn to “Give me Jesus” —and that you will ponder how God is sending you to deepen in discipleship.