Beware of artificial division of Christian duties

TUKWILA, Wash.--It is a mistake to view the great commission as a "corporate responsibility," said Ken Westby, pastor, writer and founder and director of the Association for Christian Development and editor of a journal, The New Millennium.

The great commission "is essentially an individual responsibility and response to Christ's command to His disciples to make disciples," he said. "It is also a mistake to segment the commission into two separate functions: preaching the gospel and feeding the flock."

An "artificial division" of the duties of a Christian obfuscates the responsibility of Christians in answering the great commission to "make disciples," he said. "It has also justified church organizations and ministers to usurp the great commission from the responsibility of individual members in the Body of Christ."

Mr. Westby, who until 1974 served as a church pastor in the Worldwide Church of God, made his remarks to introduce a seminar-A Mission for the Scattered Church-he and his friend Brian Knowles of Arcadia, Calif., plan to present in Milton, Wash., May 30.

Mr. Knowles is former managing editor (in the 1970s) of the Worldwide Church of God's magazine The Plain Truth, an elder and a specialist in Hebrew studies and origins. Among Mr. Knowles' writings are books on repentance and the failure of churches.

"The process of disciple-making includes several things," Mr. Westby said: "sharing the glad tidings, baptizing those who respond and repent, and teaching and feeding the new disciples."

Elders and the nonordained share complementary roles, he said, "but historically the growth of the church has come from its individual members introducing family, friends, neighbors and strangers to the great hope."

A priority of elders should be to equip disciples to make more disciples, he said.

"By this process the gospel reaches out to all nations and is transmitted from generation to generation. The great power of the Body of Christ is its ability, through its many members, to personally bring the Kingdom's powers of the age to come to sinners in need of the Savior."

The May 30 seminar is an effort to learn more about Jesus' mission for the Church of God, say its organizers.

"You will also enjoy the music of exceptional artists singing their hearts out for God's glory," Mr. Westby said.

The seminar is scheduled to include three sessions.

  • The state of the church with diagnoses and remedies: Who are the walking wounded, and how did they get that way? Why don't authoritarian cults of personality produce spiritual growth? Gifts of the ministry equip the saints, restore truth and clarify focus on God and Christ.
  • What should Christians be doing? What is the work? Should Church of God members be making disciples, and, if so, how? What resources are available? Does God impart special gifts to members in the Church of God tradition that are vital to disciple-making?
  • Workshop session: Participants will discuss constructive ways to keep spiritual lives moving Godward: using gifts to God's glory; how to do personal evangelism; making the proclaiming of the gospel one's personal mission.

The seminar will take place Saturday, May 30, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Adult Activities Hall of the Milton City Building, 1000 Laurel St., Milton (between Seattle and Tacoma). Participants will break for lunch in nearby restaurants.

Organizers hope that an offering they plan to take up during the sessions will recover seminar expenses.

Call Shawn or Merrie Foster at (253) 922-3765 or the ACD office at (206) 575-3365 for directions and more information. Or check the ACD Web information including directions and a map of the location.

Mr. Westby invites participants to stay over the next day for Pentecost services at the same location, from 10 a.m. to noon.

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