Is preaching the gospel your church's method?

The writer and his wife, Bonnie, attend a variety of congregations. They visit the Church of God Southern West Virginia in Charleston, W.Va.; the Church of God Parkersburg, W.Va.; the Independent Church of God, Portsmouth, Ohio; the Church of God International, Morehead, Ky.; and the First Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, Chapmanville, W.Va. (a Sabbath-keeping congregation that was never associated with the WCG).

By John Havir

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.--A challenge for many who organize as churches is understanding the differences between mission statements, objectives and methods. These tools help organizations stay focused and continually remind organizers and clients why the organizations exist.

Throughout most of its history the Worldwide Church of God had "preaching the gospel" as part of its mission statement. At first glance, people might conclude that this was a good thing to do.

Preaching the gospel is a valuable method. But, when people confuse a method and a mission statement, they oftentimes become distracted from the overall mission and neglect other important methods in their religious walk.

As many of the Church of God offshoots continue to place preaching the gospel into their mission statement, they perpetuate the tendencies of the past.

So it is good to ask: Are you distracted from the overall mission, and do you neglect other methods?

What is the mission?

All organizations should exist to help people (including companies' clients) achieve a desirable state of being. The mission statement declares where a company intends to direct its clients.

The mission statement also declares directly or implies that a gap exists between what should be and what presently exists.

Ask yourself if the following mission statement reflects the above principles: "It is the mission of Valley Health Systems to provide quality health care to all individuals, emphasizing outreach to those who are underserved."

The preceding mission statement implies the following:

  • The desirable state of being is good health.
  • Some people experience poor health care when they desire quality health care.
  • A gap between the well served and underserved exists.

The writers of mission statements for Church of God organizations should include the same elements. Where do organizers plan to direct their clients (church members)? What are the gaps the organizations intend to close?

In the end, where do Christians want to be?

They want to:

  • Be in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).
  • Possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:33).
  • Receive salvation (Romans 1:16).

What gaps exist that Christians should seek to close? They should close:

  • The gap between the love for God and enmity for God (Matthew 22:37-38; Romans 8:7).
  • The gap between the love for fellowman and hate for man (Matthew 22:39; Galatians 6:10; Leviticus 19:17).

Based on the preceding scriptures, we could write a mission statement for a Church of God organization:

"The mission of the church is to aid individuals in attaining the Christian goal of salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God and the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The church attempts to help all who desire to love God with their heart, soul and mind. The church also encourages love and good works toward fellow saints and all mankind."

Increasing and decreasing

Since missions and objectives are easy to confuse, what is an objective?

An objective is the goal of increasing or decreasing certain elements to enable people to reach the desired state. For many with a Church of God background, this may be easier to identify than a mission statement.

What should increase to reach a worthy objective?

  • Truth as opposed to error (John 8:31-36).
  • Sound doctrine as opposed to unsound doctrine (Titus 2:1).
  • Knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9).
  • The gospel message (Matthew 24:14).

But what would occur if truth, sound doctrine, knowledge and an awareness of the gospel increased, yet no one repented? Ultimately the greatest increase must be repentance by the individual. Conversely, the most important element organizations should help individuals to decrease is sin in the individual Christian life.

Methods: evangelism and godliness

The manner in which God allows Christians to be a part of conveying His expectations are the methods. The Bible lists many methods for realizing and declaring God's expectations. We may divide them into two categories:

  • Showing God's way (godliness).
  • Telling about God's way (evangelism).

Christians may involve themselves in telling about God's way by doing the following:

  • Preaching and teaching (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • Writing (the apostles wrote letters).
  • Exhorting (1 Corinthians 14:3).

The following are a couple of examples of how Christians can show God's way:

  • Visiting the sick, orphans and widows (James 1:27).
  • Clothing the naked, feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty (Matthew 25:31-46).

Unfortunately, some Christians take an either-or approach and decide to emphasize only the evangelistic methods or godliness methods. Others adhere to a single-method approach within the two types.

But all methods can be effective in declaring God's will for mankind and leading unbelievers and saints to greater repentance.

On the Day of Pentecost Peter used the preaching method. Many repented and were baptized and received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).

Yet Peter also wrote that a wife's manner of life could be the influencing method to help her unbelieving husband come to repentance. Peter stated she could cause him to repent without even saying a word (1 Peter 3:1-2). Peter was not held captive to using only one method.

What does a church do?

Based on Matthew 28:19-20 and 24:14, many offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God include the preaching method in their mission statement. In essence, a method becomes the mission.

Christians should remember that, when a method becomes the mission, the mission becomes blurred, and other methods are not given enough priority.

I hope your church is helping you and others into the Kingdom of God, the righteousness of Jesus Christ and salvation.

As the church teaches, the members learn more about God and His will. This should lead individuals to repentance.

How is this accomplished? By any method that effectively gets the job done.

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