The Vision Statement of the United Church of God has been revised and submitted to the GCE for approval. What's the vision of the church? What part do we each have to play?
To live up to Christ's vision, each member should regularly attend Sabbath services and understand the need to be involved.
A few years ago a longtime friend and member of the United Church of God told me that before she died she would like to be in a church organization whose members “truly love one another.” I still remember those words. For years they have haunted me.
Is the United Church of God such a church? Do all the members truly love one another? It is a hard question to consider. But it is a necessary question to consider.
The Council of Elders recently revised its vision statement for the strategic plan. It now reads as follows:
“The vision of the United Church of God is ‘A Church led by God’s Holy Spirit, joined and knit together by what every member supplies, with all doing their share and growing in love to fulfill God’s great purpose for humanity to bring many children to glory’ (Ephesians 4:16; Hebrews 2:10).”
The Council decided on this statement after careful consideration and many hours of revision to the current Strategic and Operations Plan. The entire plan, including this vision statement, will be placed before the General Conference of Elders at its annual meeting on May 6. Once ratified, this plan guides the daily operations of the church toward accomplishing its mission.
Everything in the plan is geared to accomplish the mission of the church. If the church carries out all areas of the plan, the body of people will move closer toward this stated vision. In other words, everything in the plan, and everyone involved in carrying out the plan, will be moving to the realization of this preferred vision—the place, or position, or condition, we desire.
Now look again at what the vision is. “A Church led by God’s Holy Spirit, joined and knit together by what every member supplies, with all doing their share and growing in love to fulfill God’s great purpose for humanity to bring many children to glory (Ephesians 4:16; Hebrews 2:10).” This is a scripturally based vision.
How can we achieve this overarching vision? How can we in the United Church of God come to truly and deeply love one another as Christ loves us? It is a challenging and daunting task. But one we must rise to meet if we are to live up to Christ’s statement, “By this all will know you are My disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:34).
The good news is that Jesus Christ knows it can be done. This thought from Ephesians 4:16 shows what in reality is His vision for His Church—of which He is the head (Ephesians 1:22). Christ and the Father have already envisioned the Church of God as being knit together with each person supplying something to the work of unity and growth in love. Imagine this: They already know what we are capable of doing and have provided the encouraging and inspiring vision showing the reality They see as the future.
Can we comprehend that God already sees this reality in place? Can we begin the work of moving toward this great vision and look around us today and see where and how we can make this happen?
It will take each member in each congregation working hard to make the place where the “spiritual family” comes together a place of peace—where everyone who walks through the door is welcomed and made to feel at home. Do you welcome visitors and new people when they arrive? Do you keep in touch with those not able to attend, letting them know they are remembered and missed? Everyone in attendance at services needs to feel welcome and safe and able to find a role to play in the life of the congregation.
To live up to Christ’s vision, each member will need to know why they need to be involved and in regular attendance at Sabbath services. We must understand we need to be there—not because we are indispensable or the most important, but because we need the support of others and in turn need to support each other.
You provide a link to someone each week by your presence, your words of encouragement, sometimes just by showing up. As a member, your presence alone can make a difference because you have the Holy Spirit and a key fruit of that spirit is love. If a smile and a greeting, a hug and a handshake, a listening ear and well-placed word are anything at all, they are expressions of care, concern and love. God has a way of taking even the simplest and smallest of expressions and magnifying them in others’ lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.
You and I will have to come to know that we need to come and hear the truth taught each week because it is a lifeline to spiritual sanity in a world that works overtime to strip away faith and belief.
It will require every pastor, elder and member to faithfully teach the truth of the Bible and make it come alive in the hearts and minds of every man, woman and child in each week’s service. God must speak through us all in word and deed. When we take seriously this collective responsibility, we will open ourselves to become vessels through which God’s power can flow out to others.
The good news is that you have a part in making this vision a reality. Jesus Christ is making it happen each week as the bride is prepared for the future marriage. We can choose to be a part of it and make it happen where we are and wherever we go.
It is not a mistake we chose the name “United” as our description of this organization within the body of Christ. Despite the sorting and sifting of the past 17 years, God has preserved this church. Today we still remain standing with an even firmer commitment to the mission of preaching the gospel and preparing a people. Our vision is even clearer. We know where we need to be and how to get there. Now is the time for each of us to rededicate ourselves to the collective calling and duty laid out before us.
I still hear my friend’s words: “Before I die I want to be in a church whose members truly love one another.” Let’s begin today to achieve this vision. We have taken large steps in the direction of the vision—but the vision requires an ongoing effort. Let us increase our clarity of the vision Jesus presented—and with God’s help make that vision our life’s work.