FOLLOWING THE LIGHT provides excellent documentary history of the teachings, testimonies, trials and triumphs of the Church of God Movement (Callen/Warner Press/2000/82. This is one of several books I have been reading and/or reviewing while rethinking issues involving who we are and why we are whatever it is we are.
I read Callen's book when published and found reviewing some of our better writers quite refreshing. Ben Reid especially inspired me. Facing the 21st century, Big Ben thought only of breaking down the walls: “The Church of God faces its second century with a full agenda marked ‘unfinished business.’”
“Back to the Blessed Old Bible” is a wonderful heritage hymn. Yet, as Ben wrote, it “must be more than a nostalgic reminiscence of our Bible-thumping, proof-texting pioneers.” Pretty strong language!
It must be, he insisted, “the under girding strength of our preaching, teaching, writing, and searching . . . without getting bogged down in semantic battles about plenary inspiration and infallible versus inerrant.”
The Church of God, he wrote, “must proclaim that the Bible is our only rule of faith and practice and is the only trustworthy revelation of God and his Christ and of God’s will for us through the Holy Spirit.” Note what he declared about breaking down the walls (italicized for clarity):
“Yes, after one hundred years we are still grappling with the problem, prospect, and potential of Christian unity. How exciting is the prospect that perhaps in our second century, should Jesus tarry, we shall learn more effectively how to put into practice our proclamation that there is ‘one way and one Spirit, one hope and one God!’
In our future, racism must continue to die among us so that we will no longer be embarrassed as we preach that we are a ‘united church for a divided world.’ Our arrogance must continue to die, so that truly we will ‘reach our hands in fellowship to every blood washed one” without our thinking that ‘coming home to Zion’ means coming to our Anderson-centered organization.
We must see that union in Christ, fellowship in Spirit, and unity in one spiritual body do not mean amalgamation into one organization. We must be a spiritual movement that ignores, overlooks, and works around denominational structures and rejoices in, relates to, and recognizes always our fellowship in the Spirit with every member of the body of Christ, whatever their racial or cultural heritage and whatever their theological or denominational history.”
Reid was a man many of us loved and respected immensely--a black man. Ben pleaded for the racial unity we practiced before we caved in to certain social and political norms. Big Ben was both a hulk of a man--300 plus; he was a spiritual giant who practiced what he preached as he led the Crenshaw Blvd church of Inglewood, CA well beyond 5,000 members.
Ben’s educational ministry formed the foundation for his powerful evangelistic ministry that was both ecumenical and evangelical. “Ecumenical” is a tainted word among us, although we profess to quest after holiness and unity.
Our “unfinished agenda” requires that we return to the Bible's “unfinished agenda.” Jesus left that “Go…“ word with the church (all of us)--all the world--all of it.
His agenda calls us to become one in purpose, regardless of ethnicity, doctrinal orientation, or church polity. Our mission is bigger than rallying the “true church” to Anderson, IN (or NAC). Our mission is more than competing with denominations we denegrate as “Babylon.” Jesus invites all of us us to cooperate, complement, and be HIS UNIVERSAL CHURCH, SO that by every means possible, we REVEAL HIM to a hurting world needing HIS HEALING.
Future “growth is assured as long as we believe and accept the Great Commission as our way of life,” concludes Ben. Future “impact upon the entire religious world [will be] assured as long as we remain open to the “wind of the Spirit.”
As a so-called Reformation Movement, we have presented a poor imitation of God’s church. We’ve been too busy threshing "Babylon" with “come-outism, too busy debating proper eschatology, too busy defending personal autonomy, too busy resisting personal accountability. These are secondary issues! However important they are to your ecclesiology, they do little to reveal the grace and glory of the MAN OF CALVARY.
Jesus really meant for everybody to know that God loves them, and that‘s about it from Warner’s World,