Monday, March 5, 2012

Holiness & Unity; Heritage & Truth!

Do I think the Church of God has abandoned holiness and unity? NO, I don’t, nor do I believe it ever will!

I don’t always apply Church doctrines the same way I did when I first began in ministry. Nor does the Church of God Movement apply itself in precisely the same ways it did in earlier years, when it was a much different and much smaller body of believers. My experience tells me a greater percentage of our churches are practicing a healthier kind of both holiness and unity than ever before.

Having said that, I will admit we went through a drought in the preaching and teaching of holiness. There was a time when we, as a Reformation Movement, were an end in itself; we were overly concerned with the “Reformation Movement”, which we saw as a movement of holiness and unity--and an end it itself. Barry Callen, writing as the Editor of the holiness journey, “The Wesleyan Journal” has done much to improve our understanding of our holiness roots in Church history; in turn, helping us realign ourselves and return to our holiness heritage.

As such, Dr. Callen (among others) has gone far in helping us understand who we are as a people, and to understand that we were intended to be a “Re-formation Movement” and not simply a “Reformation Movement” (cf. Marvin Hartman/Gospel Trumpet/10-19-80/p7). I hear a great deal more about our holiness heritage today, as well as more holiness preaching-teaching, than I did when I began ministry in the early fifties

I can offer you all kinds of reasons that prevent Church of God people from practicing Biblical unity--
1. like being considered liberal, (ecumenical),
2. like fear of being considered “not Church of God” (not seeing the church),
3. like having a romanticized view of our history, and I could add
4. other reasons, like insufficient biblical teaching, doctrinal differences, et al.

But one thing I know: if every Pastor taught the same sermon every Sunday, using the same passage of Scripture, we would, even then, not all be in total agreement. This was not understood in earlier times, nor was it always accepted. However, I thank God for the freedom we experience today, as well as the degree of unity we experience among ourselves, and for the love that binds us together as family when we do experience those differences.

Finally, in confronting this question, I admit I do believe the Church of God Movement has “fallen short of the mark”. By that I mean we abandoned our major mission of “go into all the world preaching-and-teaching as you go”? That lesson imprinted itself on the mind of this “Church of God boy” when I became a Seminary student in a non-holiness denominational seminary and discovered people out there in what my church taught me was “Babylon” who actually were more mission-minded and evangelistic than the Church of God. They did not live up to the teachings of holiness and unity as we thought they should, but they willingly shaped their priorities more intentionally and remained more biblically focused on reaching the world for Christ than did the church of my “holiness upbringing.”

We proudly waved our “denominational flag” that proclaimed the imperative of A UNITED CHURCH FOR A DIVIDED WORLD. Yet the truth was, we failed to perceive the intent of our claim. As a young pastor, I heard many a sermon from John 17, pointing to the need for the church to unite so that a lost and divided world "MIGHT BELIEVE.” Church Unity is not an end in itself; it is to help the world experience belief in a Christ who is THE CORE MESSAGE OF THE CHURCH and the only HOPE OF THE WORLD.

The Church of God Reformation Movement got derailed in becoming an Institutional Organization and “we” lost sight of prioritizing God’s “Unfinished Reformation” … “God so loved that he gave…"

As a result, we are too much a part of this “uncommitted-to-anything culture” and that severely hinders us. More than ever before, I believe that IF WE EVER AGAIN CATCH THE VISION OF GOD‘S UNFINISHED RE-FORMATION, our commitment to Christ (and to holiness & unity) will take care of itself because we will then actively pursue every avenue of cooperation possible. We will use every means possible, to reach every person possible. That will drive us out of Anderson, Indiana, and will cause us to network throughout Christendom, until we circle the globe as part of a network bigger than we are.

From Warner’s World, this may sound radical, but Jesus was pretty radical, unless you took Him seriously …

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