As far as I was concerned, it was all in a day's
work. What impressed me about the humility of the participants was that,
regardless of any previous rank, everyone who was there wanted to do nothing
more than serve.
At one point in the feverish events, I had to be
several places at once. Just as I was ready to head off on an urgent mission,
someone grabbed my arm and told me I needed to guard the door to the hallway
where the food for lunch was being prepared.
A former evangelist, whom I have known for many
years, saw me looking frantic and asked what he could do to help. I told
him I was supposed to make sure no one went through these doors, but I needed
to be elsewhere too.
He assumed the attitude of a deacon, moved in front
of the doors and said: "Go ahead. I'll stop anybody who tries to go
through these doors."
It was the perfect example of the spirit of humility
recalled by Mr. Hulme a year later.
Following the train of thought started by Mr. Hulme,
I remembered several other elements of the original conference that stood
The spirit of Indianapolis is embodied in at least
four keys crucial to the formation of what is now the United Church of God.
The other three are faith, hope and empowerment, and I would like to take
a little time to examine these other three aspects.
The faith required to move
- Faith is more than just a feeling. We know from
Hebrews 11:1 that faith is substantive. In fact, faith gives us evidence
of things that are not seen in the physical realm. The book of James goes
even further. In James 2:20 we read that faith without works is dead.
It was faith that enabled Peter to climb out of
the boat and walk across the water toward Christ, and it was his lack of
faith that caused him to sink moments later (Matthew 14:31).
I believe our initial move required more faith
than has been required of me in my 33 years in God's church. None of my
family had any problem with continuing to believe the things we had been
convicted of, and proven, so many years ago. But then there was "the
I remember mentioning to people the possibility
of moving away from our previous organization's new non-Sabbath-keeping
approach. I was cautioned about waiting and watching for God to intervene.
Some described their situation and compared it to Israel waiting for the
Red Sea to part, saying they felt as if they were running up and down the
banks of the Red Sea but nothing was happening.
And nothing did happen until we stepped out on
faith. The combined faith of a small group of God's servants started the
ball rolling in Indianapolis. There our faith was in God.
A year later we are still walking across the water.
From time to time we begin to focus on physical concerns, then we sink a
little. But, on the whole, our faith in God is still strong, and those physical
concerns have not managed to sink us.
Out of misery, hope
- "Hope deferred makes the heart sick,"
as Proverbs 13:12 points out. Over the last few years we were told that,
simply stated, our hope in Christ was only here and now. As 1 Corinthians
15:19 states, that is a miserable point of view. If this life is as good
as it gets, then we are of all men most miserable.
At the Indianapolis conference, we began to come
out of our misery. Watching ministers and their wives enter the building
that first night in Cloverdale, I saw tired, apprehensive faces. As people
saw old friends, their load began to lighten. We began to sense that this
effort might offer us a way out of our hopelessness.
By the end of the meetings, we were brimful of
hope, a hope that renewed and strengthened our faith in God.
Over the past year our focus may have drifted from
the direction that was so clearly set in Indianapolis. After all, by its
very nature the United Church of God comprises many diverse parts making
up one body. We have been learning how to administer church affairs from
a viewpoint completely new to most of us.
From time to time, when it seemed that the hope
that was renewed in Indianapolis might be deferred, people became apprehensive--sometimes
visibly upset. But each time I have seen God's Spirit stir strongly among
His people. We continue to move forward in faith, not moving away from the
hope of the gospel (Colossians 1:23).
Empowerment: the remarkable difference
- While humility, faith and hope were unquestionably
key components at Indianapolis, the one ingredient that made things remarkably
different from ever before was empowerment. After all, most of the people
at the conference had served God faithfully for decades. To suggest that
our humility, faith and hope began only in Indianapolis would be doing
God a disservice.
As we came together with humility, faith and hope,
we began to work together in a manner that was new to us. No one man wanted
to be in charge. In fact, at Sabbath services the day before the conference
out of a room full of long-time ministers--many of whom had been evangelists--I
had a hard time finding anyone to give the opening and closing prayers.
We all just wanted to be there and be led by God.
That no one person stood up and said, "I am
in charge; I know what God wants us to do," meant that we each had
to move forward in faith, working together to accomplish God's will.
What followed was incredible. We were empowered
to seek God's will and serve His people without first getting permission
from a human authority. Without the encumbrance of an organization dictating
what was right or allowable, we were able to grow and bear fruit as never
Congregations at work
At our recent regional conference, I listened to each pastor give an account
of the past year. God has obviously blessed the process. Congregations have
become empowered to draw on the gifts and strengths they have to do a work.
Individuals in the congregations have grown tremendously.
Brethren who were in the background before have
stepped out and contributed to local efforts in a big way. Some of the efforts
have involved the use of television and newspapers. Some have involved helping
brethren in other countries. Still others have focused on youth programs
that actually help!
In some cases, congregations are combining efforts
to pool their strengths and accomplish things on a regional scale and beyond.
I expect to continue to see and hear of local efforts
to do a work, with the type and scope of effort exhibited as varied as the
sizes and types of congregations we have.
Perhaps this may well be where our greatest work
will be done.