Thursday, May 1, 2008

Church of God and Mutual Accountability

Another word.......before I return to Michigan (following Winchester Pastor’s Fellowship).
I have been part of the Church of God Reformation Movement since 1927. I believe we have a serious identity crisis. There is “too much” that is right with our message for us to be divided by how we interpret and identify our place in Christendom.

There are far too many wrongs to be righted in our world for us to sit on our blessed assurance. Beyond that, there is far too much need of our message for us be satisfied with our sectarian squabbling about whether we are a “reformation movement” within current denominationalism or whether we are (as some insist) the ultimate--final--reformation, defined by some as the Evening Light.

How we identify our place in Church History matters greatly. We need to consider this matter because it fragments us widely today and plays a huge role in how we perceive each other within our splinter groups following of D. S. Warner’s quest for holiness and unity. More on that later.
For the present, I suggest that our stance within the believers' church tradition requires us to be bound together in mutual accountability. To be less than that, and wallow in the shallows of individualism, is to divorce ourselves from a serious part of our faith tradition. Not only do we have a relationship with the larger Christendom to re-consider, we need to rediscover our interdependence upon one another.

It was important in the days of Warner, Michels, Byrum, and Smith, and it bound them in a common cooperative effort of reaching their generation for Christ. The Gospel Trumpet publishing effort became the glue--the focal point--in that cooperative assault on the strongholds of Satan. It may be even more important today, because (1) we have lost that sense of cooperative frontal assault and (2) we do our work like a bunch of cowboys playing Lone Ranger.
Two of the finest young men the Church of God in Michigan ever produced were two brothers that grew up on the southwestern Michigan lakeshore as part of my generation. Bob and Jim Macholtz. grew up in First Church St. Joe, where they participated actively in that strong contingent of stalwart youth that left First Church to attend Anderson College (now AU) following World War Two (They came home and changed their congregation from German speaking to English services)..

Sometime during my freshman year at AC in 1945 I heard this story in a testimony shared at the old Park Place Church down on 8th Street. It seems that an Earlham player put a late hit on Jim Macholtz during a Hoosier gridiron classic. Still down, Big Jim picked up his sturdy-German frame, stood tall for a moment, then bent down and helped his opponent to his feet, saying quietly, "We don't play football that way at Anderson College."

I never forgot that incident, growing up at the same time they did just 20 miles up the lakeshore. Bob and Jim Macholtz were both outstanding athletes and I remembered their father from camp meeting. They were two of the finest young people the Church of God in Michigan ever produced. Bob could see promising possibilities in baseball and Jim became an outstanding football player, in addition to catching for his pitcher-brother.Both invested many years at AU. Dr. Jim Macholtz eventually retired as the illustrious Athletic Director and the name lives on at AU‘s Macholtz Stadium.

Jim's words signal a mindset for me that many of “our generation” received from our Church of God heritage. We worshipped, we worked, and we witnessed, as volunteers bound in mutual covenant--a believer‘s church. We were bound together in the biblical language of St. Paul; we lived the body language of the Bible.

So, when I read Gil Stafford’s Church at the Crossroads and Ron Duncan’s current statement, I recall the mid-80’s when Ed Foggs was reminding us that we are an interdependent fellowship--not just a loose collection of mavericks (unbranded cows). It isn't enough that we balance our beginnings with our futures; we work hard in the church to be contemporary. And, we while pursuing the "now," we actualize the eternal.

If we are really serious about discussing the Duncan document and reclaiming our heritage, a good place to begin would be to rediscover our mutual accountability to each other and to activate our Declaration of Interdependence in this Church of God Family of Faith.
The Great Commission from our (common) Lord is too Biblical and too vital to world needs for us to continue to playing Lone Ranger & Tonto.


rusty said...

hey brother, as always i enjoyed your thoughts. something i have been pondering lately: should the national office take over credentialing pastors instead of doing it state by state? although most states follow the credentials manual published by anderson, some do not. other states make additional requirements and their time line is different. is this fair? it seems very republican (each state governs itself, with limited national support) but is does it help or hurt?

Wayne said...

Rusty: What Anderson has tried to do is lead us in a uniform credentialing policy. I remember too many bad situations created by troubled pastors cross state lines and re-creating even more problems. In one case I knew of, a leading state simply allowed a questionable person to migrate elsewhere so they did not have to deal with him. He left problems behind and created problems where he went. I support state and national being "mutually accountable" but we need a "uniform" procedure. Wayne