Earlier this month, several of us from Mt. Haley attended the Michigan General Assembly of the Church of God. This annual meeting gives us the opportunity to learn about what is happening in ministries around the state and even around the nation. The main speaker this year was Jim Lyon, the General Director of the Church of God in the US and Canada.
He shared some amazing news with us, and I’d like to share those updates with you, too.In the eighteen months he has served as General Director, Jim has frequently mentioned a handful of slogans that speak into what we do and how we do it. Most recently, at this meeting, I heard him use a new slogan several times: “We are not in the church building business; we are in the change-the-world business.” By this, he means that our primary task is not to be focused on creating bigger and better congregations, buildings, and worship experiences. Instead, we are to be about the task of changing the world, for the sake of the kingdom of God.
- Mt. Haley still has several thousand dollars stored up in its bank accounts, even after paying for the new garage at the parsonage (which, again, is a real blessing to Tara and me). How will we change the world with the resources which God has entrusted to us?
Jim also talked about how our theology has some challenges. For instance, we emphasize holiness as a theological virtue, but we tend to interpret holiness as adherence to external rules (don’t do this, don’t do that). We proclaim unity, but we have created church structures that are “separate but equal,” including a free-standing African-American organization which holds its own annual convention (the National Association of the Church of God). We believe in the priesthood of all believers, which means that everyone (not just pastors) has a responsibility to go directly to God with their concerns and to act on God’s behalf when others are in need. However, this belief has led us to be skeptical of pastors and other leaders who try to exercise real leadership but are accused of grabbing for power. We are theologically conservative, which means that we value tradition and scripture and historical doctrines of the faith; on the other hand, when some to be culturally relevant for the sake of the gospel message, they are accused of abandoning the truth.
- Mt. Haley is a wonderful church family. Yet we are not without our challenges. How is God calling us to trust him with our beliefs in holiness, unity, leadership, and tradition? How can we take risks, inspired by the Spirit of God, for the sake of the kingdom of God?
One troubling reality of Christianity in America is that the number of congregations and Christians in this country are in a long-lasting, steady state of decline. We are, as we have discussed at length in recent sermons, a post-Christian nation. On the other hand, churches in other parts of the world are growing rapidly; in India, for instance, over the past twenty years, leaders have planted 75,000 new congregations. (Read that again and let it sink in.) There are now three or four times as many Christians in the Church of God outside the United States and Canada as there are in the United States and Canada.
- At Mt. Haley, how aware are we that we belong to a global movement? How willing are we to learn from the witness and example of Christians in other countries? What kinds of challenges do we face in our post-Christian culture?
These are just a few of the many reasons why I found this year’s General Assembly to be a meaningful, thought-provoking experience. Did you know that each year Mt. Haley is allowed to take one “lay person” (non-pastor) as a delegate to the General Assembly? Talk with LeAnn and David Hadley to see what they thought of this year’s program. Maybe next year, you will be the delegate for our congregation! What do you think?