One of the biggest weeks of the year for us here in Cincinnati begins Friday evening with the annual Winter Family Weekend. It is the largest gathering of United Church of God members in one place. It will be larger than any Feast site.
The theme this year is “In the world, but not of the world” based on Jesus Christ’s final prayer for His disciples in John 17.
This year, we have 300 more players registered for basketball and volleyball with about a dozen more teams. All available rooms at the Great Wolf Lodge were immediately sold out.
We have just posted the brochure for all the events at https://www.ucg.org/files/wfw_2017_brochure_1.pdf . You can see the diverse activities for all ages. They range from seminars to Young Adult Professional Networking to games and dances. Of course, the many sports activities will be ongoing in two separate venues.
I give special thanks to Frank Dunkle and Troy Phelps who are coordinating this mega event for the Church along with many volunteers.
We will start with a Bible Study on Friday evening by pastor Jay Ledbetter. The featured sermon on the Sabbath will be delivered by Andy Lee, an elder from Cleveland, Ohio. It will be webcast and many congregations will be connected.
The weekend gives a special opportunity for us to mingle and network with one another as well.
Progress on the Video Studio
We are reviewing the contract with the builder who we selected to construct our new video studio. Once that is done by next week, I’ll be able to sign the contract and we can move on with the construction.
Donations are steadily coming in for the studio. In our last Beyond Today subscriber letter, we spoke about the importance of this project for producing multiple video products and there has been encouraging steady support from our readers.
The importance of video is increasing, with YouTube now the second most-frequented search engine after Google. People increasingly want to get information in video format on their phone or tablet. For many, it’s easier to absorb knowledge by watching than by reading. With the ability of the Internet to stream a previously unheard-of volume of material, we want to be right there as those who preach the gospel message in more than just television, but in multiple other emerging video formats.
We don’t know where technology will take us in the years ahead, but we want to be in the lead. The modern day Work of God was catapulted by a visionary who saw the power of radio only 14 years after its invention and became a leader in the field. I pray that God will grant us the vision and courage to do likewise! The new studio will allow for multiple formats to be produced, including formal, studio audience, informal, podcast and other variations. We thank all who have shared this vision with us! Please mention to people that we are still seeking donations to fully fund this project.
Visiting — Pastoral Development Program
It was my turn to conduct the Pastoral Development Program online class this past Tuesday evening, and I spoke about ministerial visiting. It is a vital, perhaps most important responsibility of the ministry alongside “preaching the Word” and being apt to teach. It is in visiting that the strength of a congregation is built because a bond is developed between the ministry and brethren. In 1 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul speaks about the establishment of congregations through planting, watering and looking to God to give the increase. But, the tensile strength of that congregation is gauged by how it survives a crisis. Consider what Paul says in this chapter: “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13 1 Corinthians 3:12-13 12 Now if any man build on this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
American King James Version×).
The building of a strong congregation takes time. It takes time to bond and build trust. What is built with gold, silver and precious stones will survive. Wood, hay and stubble (inferior construction) will burn up.
Paul was not only an evangelistic preacher, but one who followed up and cared for the people he had preached to. He made a special effort to pass through areas where people had come to conversion so that he could see their progress: “Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing’ ” (Acts 15:36 Acts 15:36And some days after Paul said to Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brothers in every city where we have preached the word of the LORD, and see how they do.
American King James Version×).
When I began my career in the ministry in 1969, visiting was greatly emphasized as the number one duty of the ministry. We were expected to make about 15 meaningful visits each week to new prospects and to the general membership. These bonds have a lifetime effect.
Some say that people “don’t want visits.” I do not believe this. They may not want one because they haven’t been visited for so long they may think that there is something amiss when the minister tells them he’d like to visit with them. I do know that when an effort has been made by the minister to connect with the brethren, the results are good. Face-to-face contact brings good will and trust.
I’ve written on this topic before and had ministers and brethren alike comment about how much a visit meant in forging a personal relationship. Some members commented that they had never been visited after being baptized. One commented that over decades in the church he’s only had two visits from the ministry.
The United Church of God has a strong ministry, and while our pastors are asked to care for many churches, I do believe that there is a clear path to visit with your pastor and get to know him better and him to know you. Then, when you really need him to help with one of life’s challenges, you will have created the path for a more comfortable resolution to the matter at hand.
In the online class, we had a good discussion, as those online contributed their experiences and advice for all.
Has it been ages since your pastor visited you? Ask him to come by for a visit.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.