Interview by Scott Ashley
Scott Ashley: Let's begin by talking about some of your background in United. What roles and responsibilities have you had in United since we began?
Roy Holladay: I was one of the members of the transitional board [chosen at the early 1995 Indianapolis conference], then on the Council of Elders from December 1995 forward. Early on I was selected to be on the Strategic Planning Committee, which I chaired until I became chairman of the Council.
I was also in charge of the Home Office Location Committee, and then, once the location was settled upon, our committee had to choose and find the location of the home office building and take care of this type of thing.
The last two years I've been serving as chairman of the Council. Also, for about three years I served as regional pastor in United, pastoring three churches in Florida—Fort Myers, West Palm Beach and Miami. More recently I've been pastoring two churches, East Texas [centered in Big Sandy] and Texarkana.
As a member and chairman of the Council of Elders, you've emphasized the concept of Christ-centered servant leadership as the theme of the ministerial conferences in 2000 and 2001 and the most recent ministerial regional conferences. What's your motivation and thinking behind that emphasis?
Servant leadership is fundamental to our spiritual development as a church. It was a major emphasis in Christ's ministry and instruction to His disciples. It is fundamental to understanding the mind of Christ. I just gave a sermon on the mind of Christ and one of the points I mentioned is the fact that Jesus Christ's emphasis was simply on service. He said He came not to be served, but to serve.
One of the reasons for emphasizing this is to help us realize we must all be on a course for understanding and applying the mind of Christ. That's a lifelong quest; it's not something you accomplish overnight. Do any of us truly implement the servant leadership style of Christ completely? Certainly not. It's something we all have to work on.
The concept of servant leadership touches every area of our lives. It involves the ministry and their leadership, administrators and their leadership, it involves husbands, wives, mothers, siblings, bosses, department heads, deacons, camp counselors, project coordinators—it involves any area where we are serving.
Basically what we're talking about is growing to the stature and the measure of the fullness of Jesus Christ. We quote the scripture that God is love. We can also say that God is a servant. Who is the greatest servant in the universe? It's the Father and Christ. So you and I, if we're going to become like them, will have to have an approach of servant leadership. As we progress into the future, developing future generations and a future ministry, we will be much more effective if this becomes the basis of our approach.
You've announced that you're stepping down from the Council after you assume the office of president. What's your thinking and the reason behind that decision?
I believe that, for me, I need to devote all of my attention to the responsibility of the president. To try to do both jobs justice, I would be divided. As chairman of the Council and a Council member, and in trying to do the job of a regional pastor and pastor, I've found that I've been pulled in different directions. For me, I've found that it's better that I don't wear too many hats at one time.
I also think it provides a clear distinction of duties and responsibilities. The Council has oversight of the president and the administration, and therefore I think this arrangement will allow me to concentrate more on the administration. We'll certainly work closely together. I think it also allows the Council an opportunity, any time they need to discuss the president or administrative matters, to have me just step out of the room and then have the full Council involved in a discussion without me being there. Sometimes that produces an awkward situation.
What will be your focus as you assume the office of president?
One of the major focuses will be concentrating on the Church as a whole. Pastoring for nearly 40 years has helped me develop the attitude and approach of a shepherd. My main concern will be the people of God as well as the commission God has given us. He has given us an overall charge to preach the gospel. I feel very strongly about that. That's something we've been intricately involved in from the very beginning of our calling into the Church. We need to continue to carry that out.
We have a mission statement to preach the gospel, make disciples and care for those disciples. That's biblically based and should be the driving force behind what we do. My focus will be on preparing the Church for the return of Christ, developing unity within the Church and carrying out the mission statement we've been given.
What have you learned over nearly 40 years as a pastor that will help you most as president?
Hopefully what I've learned has been having the heart of a pastor and shepherd, and loving God's people. One of the things I've learned is that God has added to the Church as He pleases, and He gives us a responsibility to care for, serve, love and look after those people. I feel strongly that the president and administrative staff are there to serve the Church.
Over the years I've learned that working together and giving others responsibilities helps them develop their talents and abilities. I want to have a shepherd's heart, a pastor's heart, to be able to love God's people and serve them.
How do you see your relationship as president with the various international areas?
The primary responsibility of the president is with U.S. administration, and to support international areas as the Council may direct me.
I feel strongly this is the United Church of God, an International Association. When that name was chosen, it was chosen because we realized it wasn't going to be only a U.S. work. It would be an association of national councils that would be working together.
I think we have an international work to do and the U.S. administration and president are here to support and serve in that. I'm going to try to see what the needs are. Every budget includes general subsidies that go out to a number of the international areas, so the better acquainted I am with their needs, the better I can make recommendations to the Council regarding what those needs are and help bring forth a budget to assist them.
Even though I haven't served overseas as much as some of the other men have, Norma and I have traveled to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and England and have been able to meet with a number of the brethren. We're looking forward to serving them, to assess from them what their needs are so we can help them.
What do you see as the strengths of the United Church of God?
One of our strengths is our doctrinal integrity and process. Also the fact that we provide pastors to look after local congregations and to serve and help them. We are united doctrinally. We have a strong emphasis on preaching the gospel to the world. We are strongly united in those purposes.
The United Church of God has existed for just over seven years now. What would you like to see the United Church of God be doing, practicing and look like seven years from now?
One of the most important things for us is how well we're fulfilling the mission of the Church that God has given us. We have to be constantly evaluating how well we're doing this and how we can improve. I think we'd all like to see us more effectively preach the gospel, make disciples and care for those disciples.
I think the president has to focus on the overall big picture. I'd like to see us even more united. That's not a condemnation that we're not united now, but obviously we can become even more united, more focused. We need to become more focused—the ministry, the membership, the entire Church—on the calling God has given us and preparing ourselves for the Kingdom of God and to preach the gospel to the world.
I'd like to see us have a more Christ-centered servant leadership at all levels of the Church. I'd like to see us be a growing church. We hope that God will continue to bless us, spiritually and numerically.
We're beginning to implement a new process for training new leaders at all levels of leadership throughout the Church. I'd like to see us growing in all those areas so that seven years from now not only will we have a stronger ministry, but we'll have new ministers who've been brought on-line who all believe in service and looking after God's people. I'd like to see that approach at every level.
Leadership isn't just something the ministry exercises. Service is something that all of us have to learn. We're all being prepared to be rulers in the Kingdom.
What are the major issues or challenges the United Church of God will face in the next five to 10 years?
We are a spiritual organism, so obviously the greatest threats are those that are spiritual. Satan is the unseen enemy that never gives up. He will continue to attack us. I think he will especially come after United because if God continues to bless us, Satan will see us as one of his major threats.
Satan doesn't want to see the gospel proclaimed; he doesn't want to see people given hope; he doesn't want to see people converted and baptized. So as time goes on I think he will try to attack us, to destroy us, to undermine us. We'll have to constantly be aware of that and vigilant against his attacks.
Another of the major challenges is to keep the Church—the ministry and the membership—growing spiritually, to inspire them and mentally challenge them. Again, that's not implying that we're not growing or we're not mature, but we have to constantly spiritually mature. The Bible uses the analogy that we're the children of God and we have to become perfect. In the Bible the word perfect means "to mature." For us to mature and become like Jesus Christ is a process that continues until the day we die.
Another challenge is the aging ministry. We must be teaching and grooming a stream of ministers. We must also be doing the same thing in teaching the next generation. There has to be an emphasis on that because not only do we have an aging ministry, but we have an aging membership. We need to bring along the next generation of children and young people. They are our primary resources.
I think we also have to be preparing for future growth. We have to control our growth to fit within our resources. We need to be searching for new and better ways to do what we're supposed to be doing.
If God grants us more time to go on, the Bible indicates that we will be faced with complacency, being comfortable and possibly filled with lethargy. So we face the challenge of how do we continue to keep people committed, inspired and encouraged? How do we stimulate growth and give a clear vision to the membership and the ministry so we stay fired up with a burning desire to finish the work God has given us?
A challenge in the future could be the financial situation. None of us knows how the economy will go. Right now we're blessed, but what if the economy collapses? Also, our members are growing older and retiring. Unless God begins to replace those, our income is going to decline. We face a challenge in how we handle those situations.
Sharpening our focus for the work God has given us, our ability to reach various age groups and work with them, and our ability to utilize the various instruments God has given us for preaching the gospel are all important.
We have a multifaceted approach of preaching the gospel. Not only do we have TV, radio and the printed word, we now have the Internet. There may be other ways that open up in the future that we're not even aware of now. We haven't put our eggs in one basket.
We're trying to use an approach that will reach out and touch as many lives as possible. We know that not everybody listens to radio, watches TV, reads or is on the Internet. But when we're using all of these, we begin to affect and reach a larger number of people. As God opens those doors we need to be aware of them and walk through them.
You were part of the UCG/CGCF task force that eventually led to the merger of the two groups. Do you foresee any similar developments with other groups, large or small, in the future?
I would certainly hope so. You'd always want to see movement towards unity of God's people. However, I think the big issue is unity, not merger. Mergers can only come out of unity. That begins in the way that people think as individuals and organizations.
When you look at the scattering that's out there, I think we all pray daily that God would bring us back together. We can do our part by being open. United has been that way from the beginning. We've said that we're willing to have anyone attend our services and Feast sites as long as they're willing to meet with us in peace. We don't put other restrictions on them. Yet we realize that unless two walk together and agree, we're not going to go in the same direction.
I think we all pray for unity, yet we realize this is something that God's going to have to work out. It's not something that's going to come about just because of our own human effort. We certainly should be open and receptive, but I think God is going to have to bring about getting more of us together.
One of the budget items discussed by the Council and included in the budget this year is assistance for lease or purchase of local church buildings in some areas that meet appropriate criteria. What are your thoughts on that subject?
The job of the president and the administration is to carry out the policies and directives of the Council. The Council has established a building policy and has indicated that they would like to see a limited amount of funds in the budget to be able to jump-start a few buildings, possibly one or two a year. My job as president will be to carry out the Council's directives and policies.
On a personal level, I feel that having buildings in some areas will be very helpful and encouraging to the brethren. As an example, Houston built a building where they had a great need because they were being bumped from their hall so often. In the Big Sandy area we're pursuing that presently. This year we will be bumped from our hall about 23 or 24 times. We're looking at having a facility where we can have some stability and be a service to the neighborhood.
What are your thoughts about such local-involvement projects as cable-access TV and humanitarian projects?
Everything we do, whether locally or centrally, must be filtered through our mission statement. If it doesn't fit within the mission God has given us, then we shouldn't be doing it.
United started with the idea that local areas would have a more direct involvement, and the Council from its inception has tried to support that. In talking with Peter Eddington the other day regarding media operations, he mentioned that since he's been the operational manager over that area, he's tried to give his advice on any suggestion that's come from a local church area. Some things have been tried and haven't been successful. But if they've wanted to try it, he's never said no; he's always given his support. So the administration has been supportive of those types of things.
Some things can be done very effectively on the local level and others are done more effectively centrally. Printing a magazine and sending it out is done much more effectively on a central level as opposed to a local level. We want to see all God's people use their abilities and talents effectively and to develop them. The administration is here to help support that.
Obviously any local initiatives need to be evaluated because many things have been tried in the past that haven't worked. One of the things Peter has done, and the Council has been appreciative of, is that if something has worked well, he tries to pass that on to other church areas so they can take advantage of it. Basically what we're saying is that we're all working together.
What are you most looking forward to as president?
I would say having a greater opportunity to serve the Church, to work with God's people and to be directly involved in the preaching of the gospel. On the Council you're one out of 12 setting policy and giving direction, but the administration and the president have the opportunity to implement those things and move them forward. I'm really looking forward to doing that and helping to make that happen.
I'll also have the opportunity, since I'll no longer be pastoring on a local level, to get out to local congregations more. For my wife and me, our first love is pastoring God's people. I look on the job of the president as helping to get out and serve the churches and get more acquainted. We're going to try to get out as often as possible to get the pulse and feelings of the people. I'm also looking forward to working closely with the ministry and developing a working relationship there.
What do you think will be your greatest challenge as president?
That's a difficult question because situations change as time goes along. Right now I'm looking at the fact that we have an aging ministry and membership. One of our biggest challenges is being able to bring along new ministers. But as always, a challenge is to preserve the unity within the Church, to continue to have a church that's growing and maturing, and in essence to prepare the Bride so she's ready for Christ when He returns.
We know that we have a challenge of preaching the gospel, but why are we preaching the gospel and why is God calling people today? We're being called to become kings and priests and rulers, to assist Jesus Christ as the Bride of Christ. If we're going to be assisting Him, we're going to be servants, following His lead and direction. We've got to be prepared and stay focused on that.
One of the hardest things for all of us, and I include myself, is to stay focused on that calling and to remind ourselves constantly of why God has called us, what we're being prepared to do. We're being prepared to help all humanity have an opportunity to be in God's Kingdom and to be of service to them. That's always been one of the main challenges—to not lose that focus of why we've been called, especially when you read in the Scriptures that in the end time lethargy is going to be a problem.
Is there anything else you'd like to say or add that we haven't covered?
After having served on the Council and as chairman of the Council, [I realize the importance of being] extremely supportive of the Council, realizing that they're the governing body. They're the ones who set the policy and give the direction, and as president I'm there to make sure those are carried out. I'll work with the operation managers to carry them out and report back to the Council on how effectively they're being done so that we're all working together.
I look on the job of the president as helping to assist the Council and serving the membership. My basic responsibility is to oversee the home office operation and to serve the churches in the United States and to interface with the international areas as the Council sees fit and as they desire. We're here to serve, and any ways I can expedite that and make it work more effectively, I'll be doing so. UN