The General Assembly of the Church of God is rapidly approaching. Several items of significance are on the agenda. I am hopeful we will finally free women to serve in any office to which they might be called. I am slightly anxious about the restructuring of the ministries of the general church that will be reported. I oppose the proposal that we move from convening the Assembly every two years to every four years, but I am not losing sleep over it. These are significant items that will affect the mission of the church. Our current leaders are challenging us to think missionally about all of these decisions; that is refreshing.
The business of the General Assembly has not always been focused on mission. Many times I have attended the business sessions and grieved over our debates about tertiary items. I was especially disillusioned at a session in the late eighties or early nineties. I recall sitting on one side of the great room and moaning my complaint to God, “Is there any hope for the Church of God? Father, have we gone too far down the path of institutional blight to be renewed?”
To my surprise, God responded with a question, “Do you see that man wearing the yellow shirt?”
I looked across the arena and focused on the one man wearing a bright yellow “missionary” shirt, sitting in a sea of dark suits. He was too far away for me to recognize, but that was apparently irrelevant. “Yes, I see him.”
“Do you think I can revive him?” God continued His query.
“Yes, Lord; I believe you can,” I replied with naiveté.
“Do you believe I could revive every one of those men sitting in that section with him?”
“Yes Lord, I know you can.”
“What about that whole side of the room?”
“Okay, Lord. I get it; If you can breathe life into dry bones you can breathe life into all of us, into the entire Church of God.”
I am a Wesleyan Pentecostal. Therefore I am an Armenian; I believe free will is God’s design and gift to humanity. God has acted and is acting for our redemption and deliverance. He will not force His grace on us. He waits for us to repent, believe, and act. Whosoever-will can turn and be saved. Whosoever-will can be revived. But sometimes I function more like one waiting on the providence of God than one rushing full speed into His promises.
Perhaps the greatest insult Cheryl ever hurled into my spirit had to do with this passivism. Our discussion about my refusal to “get ahead of God” was rather intense. She blurted out with passion, “You’re not waiting on God; you’re just a closet Calvinist.” Oooh, that hurt. I guess I was predestined to face my functioning limited atonement that day.
I wish I could say my doubt about the future of the Church of God vanished at that Assembly never to rise again. But that would be a “word of faith” denial of the truth. I often grieve about lost opportunities and forsaken landmarks. I have wondered out loud if we were not the Titanic soon to vanish in the dark waters of post-modernity. I have great respect for our current leaders, but I wonder if it is not too late.
It is too late. Great leaders cannot save us. Streamlined organization and more effective programming cannot deliver us from ourselves and our times. Not yet dead, but neither fully alive we lack the needed drive for revival, and that may be our salvation. We cannot save ourselves, but then again, we never could.
Our hope is that we do not belong to ourselves. We belong to Christ who gave Himself for us. We are His to do with as He pleases. And He has made it plain that He pleases to sanctify and empower His church. He will clothe us in righteousness and glorify us in His glory.
I have great hope in the renewal of the church. God can and God will if we but choose to give ourselves fully unto Him. I sense a great wind beginning to blow and it will not cease until the chaff is gone and the dross is removed and the parched is flooded. This move is not dependent on me or you, but neither will it be without us. From God and unto God be all glory and honor and power.
June 24, 2010