Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Church in transition


The Church of God, Anderson is a people in transition. Immediately at hand will be the selection of a new General Director of Church of God Ministries to succeed Dr. Ron Duncan, in his retirement. Ron (Dr. Duncan) is due a word of praise (recognition). He took over at a difficult time, following the church’s rejection of the leadership of Dr. Robert Pearson.

The church had undergone national reorganization. Several unhealthy things had happened, like the demise of “Vital Christianity” and the Church Extension Debacle, which was never satisfactorily resolved. It became a  time of questioning leadership, agencies, even our mission. Dr. Duncan was not the choice of many of us, but he served quietly, faithfully, and persistently. Looking back over his tenure, I see efficiency, resolve, and steady progress with an effort made to maintain transparency, and I  for one would say, “good job Ron!”

As we look ahead and anticipate a general acceptance of Pastor Jim, Lyons, I for one, feel good about Jim’s choice. I like Jim personally. I like his unorthodox entry into Church of God life, as indicated by his very transparent biographical sketch. I like that he has West Coast roots, even though rooted in Anderson as a pastor (and Radio pastor of CBH) for the past 21 years. I look forward to a period of progressive growth in the church, believing that Jim is in touch with the world we are here to win, that he is in relationship with the global church, and that he has some sense of the neighbor living on Main Street.

Only recently we were given opportunity to ask questions of the new pending Director, which I started to ignore, but thought better of. I am incorporating my questions here because they reflect some of the transition I  think we need to complete if we are going to succeed in our mission as a religious body. Things I want to know include:

1. What does Jim envision for us as a religious body? If Dr. Doug Welch is correct, we have transitioned from the Church of God Reformation Movement to the Church of God, Anderson. It will shock some to read such words; others will deny it. Many will not understand it. We have a basic body of biblical truth that we profess as people of God, but the basis of our message is no longer come to Zion (Anderson) and flee Babylon; nor, is our message necessarily based upon prophetic projections as taught by Warner, Schell, Riggle, and Smith. Today, we find our commonality in our personal relationship with Jesus the Christ.

2.I want to know how Jim proposes to lead us into a genuine practice of Christian unity that practices dialogue and cooperation with the larger family of faith rather than simply compete with them. We’ve preached unity for lo these many years, but our practice falls far short. And, too many among us avoid contact with those who are “not of us (Anderson). We have to do more than criticize denominationalism; we must begin working in cooperation with Christians of many rather than be in competition with them.

3. I  want to know how Jim defines our movemental mission. Does he see us as a purifying force to cleanse the institutional church,  or does he see preaching Christ and winning the lost as our primary mission, under God. I think I know what he will say, but I am not pursuaded that we yet understand this question for ourselves yet, as a Church or Movement. How will Jim Lyons help us redirect and/or regain that needed focus?

4.As a pastor who served a good many years in the “hinterlands”, outside the comfort zone of Midwest America that birthed us under Fisher, Warner, and company, I want to know how Jim will help us develop a North American General Assembly that truly reflects North America rather than a few core Midwest states. Our administrative governance is out of balance and badly needing balancing that provides much wider participation and voids some of the nonchalant volunteerism.

I have written elsewhere regarding our need to become a global community. We still have too much colonialism in our ecclesiastical thinking. We may have birthed the Church of God in Africa and elsewhere, but they are no longer children and we need to perceive them as adult peers, and we had best be listening to what they are saying. They are perfectly capable of teaching us today. Be that as it may …

5.Some of us in the North American church believe we are paying too high a price being without a viable national or international publishing ministry (hard-copy magazine). How would brother Jim counsel us as related to a renewed publication, even if subsidized? From the days of D.S. Warner, the Gospel Trumpet was subsidized (if nothing else, by general offerings).

Beginning with Enoch Byrum, Gospel Trumpet Company expanded its product line to subsidize production of the Gospel Trumpet, and the company succeeded at this exceptionally well and you can read the story in THE GOSPEL TRUMPET YEARS. I’m over simplifying the story but in the main, the General Assembly saw this successful company, managed by well-heeled business interests, and short-circuited the process, while the church failed to support the published magazine. We all lost in the process and we have no willingness to support such a magazine today, although it was the greatest dynamic in our growth from the earliest days.

This will raise many questions I hope. We are in transition – to go nowhere, or to go everywhere. We can fade into dusty pages of a history book. Or, we can be the dynamic force that our core message conforms us to be. I,for one, look forward to Jim’s leadership because I believe we are today more of what God intended us to be than ever before. What we most need to do is BE AVAILABLE … God is ABLE if we  AVAIL …

From Warner’s World, I  am

Monday, April 1, 2013

Living Out Easter

Easter passed almost without notice this year. Our local church had no Easter Sunrise celebration and the day was passed preparing for a change of pastors, allowing Pastor Jim to exit properly and Pastor Jeff to make his grand entry. Otherwise, the event of the day was a fundraiser for the youth and their pending Missions Venture.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus was born to a peasant couple like Joseph and Mary, or John the Baptist to the ordinary Zecharias and Elizabeth.One of the keys to this question is found in Luke 1:6, speaking of Zecharias and Elizabeth: “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (KJV).

In recent years one scandal, one moral or financial tsunami, after another has hit somewhere around the globe of God’s Global Christian Church. If it wasn’t Jim Baker or Jimmy Swaggart among the Pentecostals, it was financial scandal within a mainline Southern Baptist financial organization, or the misguided mismanagement of The Board of Church Extension in a Wesleyan Holiness body like the Church of God, Anderson.

For many a hurting soul, it was a predator priest, protected by his connections to the powers that be at the Vatican. More recently, the media has focused heavily upon the “REIGN” of the new Papal Ruler (the people’s papa). I’ve even heard numerous questions about the new Pope Francis breaking “tradition” and parting from the affluence and autocratic powers of this theological ruling monarch of that political state called the Vatican.

Within my own faith family, we are all filled with wonder as to how the Rev. Jim Lyons will translate his powers as a newly-elected official – the unofficial Pope within our small “popeless” Protestant Denomination, as he replaces Dr. Ronald Duncan as our GENERAL DIRECTOR.

Across the board there is that struggle between unconverted but powerful people in places of religious authority. Listen to the oft-quoted LORD ACTON: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."  This statement arose as part of a quotation by the expansively named and impressively hirsute John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902).

This historian and moralist was best known simply as Lord Acton, and he was popularized for expressing the following opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

The BATTLE OF ETERNITY is being lived out day by day in the struggles of ordinary men and women. Some seek success and power and influence. Unfortunately this sneaks into the church and the family of faith under various guises. History is filled with the corrupt behavior of men seeking to be the CAESAR AUGUSTUS of the Church of Rome. I see it today in smalltown Protestant churches where a pastor desires to streamline his congregants into an efficient decision-making machine to help bring them into some new and improved (always bigger, more powerful and influential with people).

What I observe is that most often Said Pastor covets the power of leadership that allows full control and eliminates democratic procedure, dialogue, or dissent. Said Pastor wants final word, which  being translated means absolute power. Herein lies the real struggle of humanity. This person wants full control: wants to sit on the throne of his-her life. In other words, the real struggle with sin is Self versus God, and who is in control. 

As a child I was taught it is a sin to go to a movie. I knew couples who argued over “bobbed hair” and women dressing stylishly, altho men were given much greater latitude for gold watch fobs across expansive bellies.  As an adult, I have learned more sharply defined levels of real  sin, the distinctions we  draw in our social relationships and the abusive political configurations we construct that  allow those who have the most to legally take away from those who have less—if any at all; and confine real and equal justice to only those WHO HAVE and want more power and affluence.

The Jesus of Easter died at the hands of a religious establishment that was strictly self-seeking and had little truck with the common good. He died holding on long enough to do one more good deed (if you will), long enough amidst his own agony, to hear out the penitent thief on the cross and assure him that his eleventh hour confession was heard in God’s Court of Justice.

Jesus threatened not only King Herod when born (cf Christmas story) he is a threat to every person who wants that ultimate control of life, be it El Queda, or Donald Trump or Barak Obama or John Q. Citizen. Living out Easter will be done by the humble people of Main Street: Joseph and Mary, Zecharias and Elizabeth, and I hope Pope Francis will be among them.

It will include all who love God supremely and who love their neighbor equally to themselves. Living out Easter will create harmony and good will and will delete the pompous, bombastic behavior of those who would bend the world to their style or thought or faith.

From Warner’s World, we are