During this past week our time has been consumed with the quarterly meeting of the Council of Elders here at the home office. Meetings ended at noon today. You can see videos of some of the meetings online at http://coe.ucg.org/videos.
The Southwest Regional Ministerial Conference preceded by a Sunday Leadership Conference will begin this coming weekend in Temecula, California. Several of our home office staff are traveling there today and tomorrow.
United or Untied?
(I would like to share the following editorial written by Steve Nutzman who is Northwest regional pastor living in Boise, Idaho. It was originally published in the Pastoral Communiqué, a ministerial publication. It underlines a mindset very much needed for all us in the United Church of God.)
Have you ever inadvertently typed "Untied" when you meant to type "United"? By simply reversing two letters we end up with a word with an enormously different meaning.
The word "united" can be defined as "involving people or groups working together to achieve something, made up of members who share the same purpose or interest." This definition can easily apply to the United Church of God.
What if much more of the fruit of God's Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) had been displayed by the ministry and membership over the years? It would literally have changed church history! That is very sobering to think about.
It seems clear that church splits can and do emanate from a strong desire for power. This desire for power often is linked to ego and pride. Unfortunately, ego and pride have been present among some in both the ministry and membership—we need only to examine the modern-day record of splits and strife within in the Church of God.
Anciently, these attitudes were the undoing of Satan. You know this story well. "'Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your stringed instruments; the maggot is spread under you, and worms cover you.' How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit" (Isaiah 14:11-15 Isaiah 14:11-15  Your pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of your viols: the worm is spread under you, and the worms cover you.
 How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
 For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also on the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
 Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
American King James Version×).
On his power trip, Lucifer allowed himself to be filled with ego and vanity. Perhaps hurt pride also became a factor in his rebellion. Because of his arrogant pride and vanity, he thought he actually could dethrone God the Almighty! We do not find in the Bible any bigger ego in the universe than his. Since Satan is the "prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2 Ephesians 2:2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
American King James Version×), we must all fight this attitude of self-importance, self-exaltation and self-promotion that he broadcasts.
Paul states that the antidote for ego is a strong dose of spiritual reality: "For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself" (Galatians 6:3 Galatians 6:3For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
American King James Version×). The person with this attitude actually places himself above Christ, who said that He could do nothing of Himself and that we can do nothing without Him (John 5:19 John 5:19Then answered Jesus and said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for what things soever he does, these also does the Son likewise.
American King James Version×, 30; 15:5).
Over the years we have all observed individuals who have gone off track over a variety of issues. It might have been over a pet doctrine, a position of leadership (or lack of it) in the local congregation, or an offense of some kind. At the end of the day, Satan, the universe's biggest ego, does not care what we get upset about, as long as we get upset.
Unity is a very important concept to God and unity with God bears good fruit. Notice in Psalms 133:1 Psalms 133:1Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
American King James Version×: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" Here unity means "together, alike, all at once, all together" (Hebrew yachad). Good means "favorable; festive, pleasing, pleasant; well; better; right; best" (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words).
Additionally, Paul instructs us how to dwell together in unity. "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:1-6 Ephesians 4:1-6  I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called,
 With all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love;
 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling;
 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
American King James Version×).
As elders and members, we should ask ourselves: are we always "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?" Most of us have personally witnessed over the years that personal agendas or attitudes of superiority do not achieve unity or peace in the Church. Rather, we are to treat one another with lowliness of mind—which is based on humility—and bear with one another in love. Granted, bearing with one another in love can be challenging since we do not share the same views all the time! But when this happens, we can rejoice that we are all serving the same wonderful God and have His Holy Spirit in us, which is the unifying force. When we focus on God (rather than ourselves), the fences that divide us are torn down and the all-too-common practice of making a mountain out of a molehill stops. This is because the "unity of the Spirit" working in us brings about "the bond of peace."
One of the many strengths in the United Church of God since 1995 is the safeguarding of doctrinal integrity. While we rejoice in this major success (and it is an extremely vital one), many of us could add that one of our major drawbacks has been in the area of administrative stability. Some have taken advantage of our administrative structure in United—abusing it to influence others to follow their self-generated issues.
It is a sad truism in the Church of God community, but history teaches us that to create a following one has to invent issues to stir the pot. Human nature enjoys being upset about something, and manufactured points of division often serve the intended purpose. Again, Satan does not care about what invented issue stirs the pot, as long as the pot is stirred.
The success of our chosen form of governance hinges on mutual submission to one another in a bond of peace with lowliness of mind. It takes the heart of a servant of God to do this. No church administrative structure on this earth is perfect. There will always be areas of weakness, but with God in us, all of the real or manufactured issues can be overcome by the power of Jesus Christ in us.
Jesus Christ led the way in being a perfect model of true servant leadership. He did not promote His own agenda nor compromise His Father's business; instead He came to glorify His Father and to do the will of His Father. "And He said to them, 'Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business'" (Luke 2:49 Luke 2:49And he said to them, How is it that you sought me? knew you not that I must be about my Father's business?
American King James Version×)?
If we are to have the mind of Christ Jesus, then we must walk in lowliness of mind and esteem others (members and ministers alike) better than ourselves. Differences of opinion are inevitable but, with the mind of God in us, we will work out potentially divisive issues of governance and issues among ourselves.
Let's notice something from the book of Amos 3:3 Amos 3:3Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
American King James Version×: "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" The New International Version adds, "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?"
We have all agreed to walk together. As brethren, we should always strive to work together in a unified manner as we serve God the Father and the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ. The spiritual fruit is very, very good ("how good and how pleasant") when we work together in a harmonious manner—UNITED.