Discipleship is all about relationship. During the fourth week of the Arise & Build series, Kong Hee shared how he developed a deep connection with his discipler, Dr. David Yonggi Cho.
By Dawn Seow
When Jesus ascended to heaven, His entire ministry was entrusted to a group of people who had followed and lived life with Him for three and a half years–they were His disciples. Last weekend, Oct. 21 to 22, the fourth of an seven-week series culminating in City Harvest Church’s Arise & Build pledging weekend, senior pastor Kong Hee spoke from his heart on the topic of discipleship.
The congregation might have been surprised at the sight of a sofa set in the middle of the stage that day. City Harvest Church’s online radio station, City Radio, had brought its talk show Coffee With Kong into service that day. Producer Bernard Loh conducted a live and completely unrehearsed interview with Kong on the topic of discipleship. To Kong’s surprise, Loh had also invited three special guests each day to share stories of what it meant to be discipled by the senior pastor directly. The stories reflected that much of discipleship is not taught, but caught as the disciple serves next to his discipler.
After the “talk show”, Kong shared his own stories of the time spent with his discipler Dr. David Yonggi Cho, founder and Senior Pastor Emeritus of the largest church in the world, Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea.
“It is easy to find teachers and mentors, but it’s not so easy to find a father in the faith–someone who will nurture you, protect you, provide for you, impart the life in Christ Jesus for you,” Kong said. One’s father in the faith, or a discipler, is for a lifetime, an individual dedicated to guiding one as one grows in God.
Mentors and teachers, on the other hand, impart skills and knowledge to us—those relationships often are seasonal. The apostle Paul eventually overtook his mentor Barnabas and grew to the same level of apostle Peter, such that he could rebuke Peter openly when Peter was in the wrong. Barnabas and Peter would have been fathers in the faith to many other people, but to Paul, they were his brothers, and at best mentors, at certain periods of his life.
“In my 37 years being a Christian, I have many mentors who gave me knowledge of the Bible, taught me skills for preaching, pastoring, leadership skills or they provided opportunities for development. But when it comes to imparting the Christian life, there is only one man I would say is my real spiritual father, and that is Dr. Yonggi Cho,” declared Kong.
THE ART OF BEING A DISCIPLE
Using his relationship with Cho as an example, Kong shared with the church some keys to being a disciple.
#1 You must love his ministry. “I fell in love with Dr. Cho’s ministry in 1982 when he came to Singapore for the first time,” said Kong. It was a healing crusade and Kong witnessed a man who had lost all use of his legs stand up and walk when Cho prayed for him. “There and then, I became a fan of Dr. Cho’s, and learned from a distance how he does ministry.”
#2 You must love his philosophy of life–how he views life, ministry, and God. To understand Cho better, Kong would read his books and listen to his messages. He realized that Cho would never gossip or say anything negative about any ministry or anyone; so when he fellowships with Cho, Kong would also avoid juicy gossip or negative comments.
#3 You must love his Christian values. “Remember, your discipler is going to challenge your values and develop your character, so you need to be sure that his values are right,” Kong said.
#4 You must love him as a person. Kong reminded the church “If you only love the ministry, philosophy of life and Christian values of a person, he or she can at best be your mentor because all you want to learn are their skills. If you cannot love or respect the person, he or she cannot impart into your life. When I admire a person because he is living out the life of Jesus Christ, I know I will fully follow him for the rest of my life.”
#5 There must be chemistry. The person needs to love you back. Likening a disciple-discipler relationship to that of a marriage, Kong said there must be chemistry and the two people need to fall in love spiritually.
Paul was a spiritual father to many but not John Mark, even though he was one of the writers of the Gospel. There was simply no chemistry between them–they just could not click. “Even in Jesus’ circle of disciples, there were different levels of chemistry and he had different level of relationships with His disciples,” noted Kong.
When it comes to discipleship, Kong urged the members to trust in the sovereignty of God. “Trust that He will bring the right person to disciple you,” he said. “There is a Chinese saying: when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive. At every stage of our Christian life, we just need to grow deeper in Jesus and at the right time; the right mentor and right discipler will show up. ”
#6 You must not lust after his gifting. There is a difference between loving and lusting, when you love somebody, you want to give to him or her; when you lust after somebody, you only want to get from him or her. When the disciples followed Jesus, they did not know that He would eventually give the ministry to them; they followed Jesus simply because they love the Man. On the other hand, when Lucifer was not guaranteed the position, he rebelled against his Heavenly Father.
#7 You must love who he loves. This includes his wife, family and friends. Kong gave an example of how, because he loves Cho, he would also love and serve Lee Young Hoon, the senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church, Cho’s successor whom he loves.
#8 You must want to build a relationship. Discipleship is relationship; the disciple must be interested in spending time to build a friendship with his discipler. Using his relationship with Cho, Kong explained that if he becomes a “wallflower” and doesn’t speak up when he is with Dr. Cho, “it is going to be hard work for him to have a conversation with me. I want him to enjoy his time with me, so that he will be excited to see me the next time we are meeting.”
At the same time, a disciple also needs to ensure that he does not tire his discipler out by asking too many questions or giving his opinion about everything. “It’s not an interview, it’s a conversation; a friendship. You need to make sure that the time spent together is enjoyable,” he explains.
#9 Be an encourager to your discipler. Choose to be a bearer of good news. “The last thing you want to do is to go to your discipler and say, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of bad news on the Internet this week huh?'”
To be a blessing, Kong shared that he would be familiar with Cho’s values and philosophy so that he would not offend him unnecessarily; he would be sensitive and give him undivided attention; he would enjoy his time with Cho, doing things that Cho likes to do.
He would also share his struggles with Cho when it is appropriate. When Kong struggles with something, he would often pray to the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit would then drop a word into Cho’s heart to minister to him.
At the end of a day spent with his discipler, Kong would ask himself if he has blessed his spiritual father. The underlying factor in the relationship of the disciple and discipler should always be love.
In closing, Kong encouraged the church to reserve the title of spiritual father or mother for a person who would be like Jesus to them; and to be open to be mentored and discipled.