United Church of God

GCE 2013: Darris McNeely on Creating an Environment for Growth

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GCE 2013

Darris McNeely on Creating an Environment for Growth

Darris McNeely gave the second keynote address at the GCE, titled “Creating an Environment for Growth.” Mr. McNeely pointed out that when the congregation in Antioch was in its early stages, it was something very different for the Church. In Jerusalem, which was the center of the Church at that time, a congregation in a gentile city like Antioch was new and different. They weren’t sure what was going on. They decided to send someone to find out what was going on.

They had a choice in who to send, and this choice defined what would happen at that time. They sent Barnabas. He was the right man for the job. Barnabas’ very name means “son of encouragement,” which is exactly what he did. He didn’t go to Antioch to “put things straight” or to “investigate.” He went to help and to encourage the Christians there to continue to follow Christ.

Barnabas had vision. He could see repentance and conversion in people. He saw the grace of God working in the people of Antioch. He saw an environment and an opportunity for growth. The people in Antioch had a gift for evangelism. They had true riches in God’s ways, and they wanted to share it with the world.

Perhaps Paul had the people of Antioch in mind when he wrote about spiritual gifts in Romans 12 and other places. He experienced the grace and gifts of God working in the people there. No doubt it had an impact on him.

We need to be a Church that expects growth. Not just in new converts, but also in spiritual growth among the members we already have.

One thing we must do to see this growth is something Barnabas did in Antioch: he listened. He listened to what was happening and how God was working there. We have to be willing to listen to one another and know one another deeply. We have to remove our own egos and agendas from the equation and truly submit to one another.

A second thing we must do is have an encouraging attitude. Barnabas was above all an encourager. No one knew what to do with Paul after his past behavior against Christians. Most people probably wanted nothing to do with him. But Barnabas gave him a chance. Barnabas encouraged him to act with strength in the Spirit and serve God powerfully.

Thirdly we must have trust. We have to trust each other. In doing so, we trust the Spirit of God within each other. Mr. McNeely mentioned that he had looked into what the founding ideas of the United Church of God were 18 years ago. He said that as he revisited some of our material from that time, it was remarkable—we were talking about all of these things. They’re built into our founding principles.

Mr. McNeely concluded by encouraging the audience that we can commit ourselves as a Church to a love that suffers long and is kind, that does not envy; that does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. A love that never fails. And in so doing, we can create an environment for growth.