Most of us are witnessing the greatest single reorganization of Sabbath-keeping congregations in our lifetime. What is our role as individuals?
Over 300 people met in Indianapolis April 30 through May 2, 1995 to lay the groundwork for a new organization, The United Church of God An International Association. Immediately many questions come to our minds. What will this organization be like? Who will be a part of it, who will not?. What will it teach? Will it preach the Gospel to the world? What will be expected of this ministry and the membership? Can a government with voting work? Will it grow large enough to eclipse the Worldwide Church of God? Or will it fall apart and fail?
Others, presently comfortable in another group may ask “who cares?” The important issues are: What does the Eternal think about it? And what will you (each individual person) do about it?
We see a number of good things that the United Church of God has done (see accompanying article). They have declared peace among the other groups, asking their members not to try to recruit others. They acknowledge the other Sabbath-keeping groups as brethren, not some lower-level of the church. They have asked members to pursue a peaceful policy in the disposition of local congregational assets. They have welcomed all serious attendees—we assume this forgives disfellowshipments that may have been made due to questionable doctrinal differences.
On the other hand, there are significant questions that have yet to be answered: Will the gracious policies mentioned above continue or will they be curtailed? Will members respect UCG ministers that were dogmatically supporting Pasadena Protestant doctrines only a year or so ago? Will members be able to recommend men to be good leaders (as in Deut 1 and Acts 6) or will they be required to accept whichever minister is assigned? Can a government with voting work at all? Will the Spirit of God be allowed to work in a powerful way, or will there be great emphasis on the financial aspects of the organization?
As the men at the conference had much debate over exactly what their organization should be doing, so will the many members, onlookers, and opponents. What will our approach be? If we basically agree with this effort, will we help in it or will we just watch and comment? If we think this effort is a mistake, will we leave it alone so the people can learn a lesson or will we condemn and discourage their efforts?
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom this master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My Master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 24:45-51).
Our master told us to be doing the work when he returns, not fighting those that we think are doing it incorrectly. We need to pray and fast about our part in His work. If you come to see that it is the Eternal’s will to help the efforts of the United Church of God, then do it with your might! There is an incredible amount of work to be done when an organization first starts. There may be a need to find a new hall, a new piano, new people for new responsibilities. Ministers and assistance recipients may be without payments for weeks—they may need your help. Publications, feast information, booklets, contribution receipts and other things may not be as pretty or as timely as you are used to—be patient.
There may be difficulty in finding someone to answer your questions in a timely manner. But perhaps, you can pray and search the scriptures, finding the answer yourself. Perhaps, if you have known the Truth for a number of years, you can be a teacher rather than one still needing the “milk of the word” (Heb 5:12-13).
If you believe that it is not the Eternal’s will for us to help the United Church of God, should we not live in peace? The Eternal may well do his greatest work through groups other than the UCG, but do we have any justification for making trouble for them? “Then John answered and said, ‘master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, “do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is for us” (Luke 10:49-50). This is a general statement from our Savior showing that we should not try to stop someone that is teaching in His name just because “he does not follow us.” The disciples were not told to follow or try to unite with the other person, but they were told to stop trying to “stop him.”
Remember the parable of the minas in Luke 19:11-27. Not every servant was equal: even though some accomplished twice as much as the others with the same resources; they were both accepted into the kingdom. But the man that was thrust out was the man that had a “good excuse” for why he could do nothing!
— Norman S. Edwards