One of the most moving films I have experienced is Martin Scorsese’s film Silence, based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 book. The film follows two Jesuit priests in search of their mentor, a missionary to Japan. What the two find is the suppression of Christianity by the emperor and the forced recantation of one’s faith to avoid imprisonment and death. I have wondered if the title “Silence” is multi-faceted in that the emperor wishes to silence the Christian witness, while those who remain faithful to Christ experience whether or not God is silent to their pleas. Some recant their faith, but others, even when silent, remain faithful to Christ. The symbol of a small, hand-made cross, cupped in the hands of the last dead Jesuit, communicates his faith and commitment had never really left him.
In the last several years I have had the privilege to talk with Christians from the Congo, China, Nigeria, Egypt, Somalia, Nepal, Myanmar, and Iraq. Mine has been an easy journey. Internally there have been challenges and struggles, yet as a traditional American pastor, following Christ has not come with great cost. I wonder if I have been guilty of not taking discipleship seriously. Certainly, I have studied, prayed, fasted, preached and taught, but how deep of a disciple am I? How much absolute trust do I have in Christ? Enough to die with only a small, hand-made cross in my hands?
I once had the experience of worshiping with a Congolese congregation and heard the people pray and weep for those they left beside the road. It took me a few minutes to realize this was not a figure of speech. Those Christians were literally praying for those they left beside the roads as they were fleeing the eastern Congo. I remember the Korean missionaries I have met who have courageously entered Syria and Afghanistan as disciples of Christ, in their desire to make other disciples. Compared to the Global South Church, has North American Christianity become so comfortable with the notion that discipleship is only a private endeavor, rather than being part of Christ’s Kingdom breaking into time and history to save and sanctify a lost humanity? Have we lost the passion “to go and make disciples”?
Completing my eighth year as an Executive Minister, I realize something continues to stir within me. This stirring prods and pokes at me and occasionally wakes me up at night. I suspect it is the Holy Spirit. What kind of disciple am I? I am challenged by Christ all over again: to be humble enough to learn from the expanse and depth of Christ’s followers and to join a new but timeless Holy Spirit-formed movement under Christ’s reign, encompassing a created order and pointing to eternity. Sometimes making disciples is like baking bread from scratch: it is an old recipe, but you can do it fresh every morning.
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