Nearly 2,000 years ago, at the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus Christ arrived on the world scene with a specific message. Mark 1:14 tells us He came "preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God" (emphasis added throughout).
But what did this message entail? Christ's gospel—the word gospel meaning "good news"—focused on the wonderful future God has in store for us, including His promise of world peace, which all of humanity will enjoy after Jesus comes to earth a second time. As the Prince of Peace and the King of Kings, Jesus will establish the Kingdom of God on earth and begin instituting lasting peace and universal justice. The Kingdom of God is, in fact, the central theme of all that Jesus preached and taught.
John the Baptist, Jesus' immediate predecessor, likewise focused his message on the certain coming of this Kingdom. Like Jesus, he emphasized the need for one to repent—to turn away from wrong living—before being able to enjoy an active role in the Kingdom (Matthew 3:1-2). John's message was the continuation of the Old Testament prophets' teaching that mankind's misrule would come to an end with the permanent reign of the Messiah (or, in the Greek language of the New Testament, the Christ).
After Jesus concluded His earthly ministry, the early Church continued to spread that same good news, the gospel of God's coming Kingdom, throughout the Roman Empire and beyond (Acts 14:22; Acts 28:31; 1 Corinthians 4:20; Colossians 4:11).
Jesus also revealed that the Church He founded would continue to proclaim the same message even to the time of "the end." He promised that "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
He also promised to remain ever with His followers who would fulfill that mission. "And remember," Jesus said, "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20, New Revised Standard Version).
Jesus' message, the gospel of the Kingdom of God, defines the mission of the United Church of God, an International Association. That same message, unaltered and undiluted, clarifies what we stand for in a world filled with a bewildering variety of religious beliefs, customs and opinions.
Such clarification is sorely needed today. What did Jesus actually teach? Though a third of the world professes Christianity, almost no one seems to know what genuine Christianity really is—for so many who profess to follow Christ ignore much of what He taught, often without much thought or even realizing they are doing so. Non-Christians are thus left with a rather confused impression of the Christian religion.
To illustrate, over dinner one evening a man from India, of the Hindu faith, turned to an American writer and asked a penetrating question concerning the professed faith and the practice of the Western "Christian" nations. How, he asked, can you reconcile the teachings of Jesus with your massive weaponry and endless wars?
Like many serious thinkers, this man observed that both sides in wars between Christian nations pray to the same God while they slaughter their fellow believers in Christ. Why is this? he asked. How can this be?
These are penetrating and difficult questions, but they are not confined to the Christian world. Many Muslims have also warred against each other, as have those of other faiths, for centuries—even as they taught peaceful coexistence. Yet, while we might expect this from the non-Christian world, many are at a loss to explain the bloodstained history of the Christian West.
Anyone who seriously examines history can conclude only that it's virtually impossible to reconcile the actual teachings of Jesus of Nazareth with the dismal performance of nations professing to follow Him.
But some ask even harder questions: What is the ultimate purpose for human life? Why does so much evil plague the world? Why doesn't God put a stop to violence and war? Will He ever bring about long-lasting peace, and how?
The world desperately needs answers to these and other important questions.
Do answers exist? Yes. The message Christ brought—the gospel of the Kingdom of God—provides the answers and solutions that few have heard or understood. And this is the message of the United Church of God—a message desperately needed in a world of wars and conflicts that continue to escalate just as Jesus foretold.
Religion as a whole has failed to provide solutions to mankind's dilemmas. Part of our mission is to fill that gap, to make available hope and solutions that faithfully and accurately reflect the teachings of the Bible.
In the following pages we outline the mission and key activities of the United Church of God, an International Association, and the beliefs that drive them.