Monday, April 16, 2007


I have been doing some thinking today. I found myself reviewing back on some of the history of the Church of God (Cleveland, TN). The COG has the distinction as the oldest Pentecostal denomination in the United States, going back to 1886. The people who started this great church had broken from the mainline churches of the day, Baptist and Methodist. They wanted a church that was free from man-made creeds. They wanted a church that was a true New Testament church. Early on, they were led by a man named R.G. Spurling and his son.

After about 10 years, the church, then called the "Christian Union", experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. 130 folks were in attendance, and they spoke in languages that they did not know, just as the early church did, as documented in the book of Acts. What they experienced was just was the Lord Jesus himself said that the disciples would experience. They received the power of the Spirit of God in their lives. And it showed. Really, the COG was a missionary church from its beginning.

As the members of the denomination would move, they would start new churches. They were Biblical pioneers. They began foreign missions when they sent their first missionary to the Caribbean.

Why do I take the time to write out a brief history of the church? Because I see in those few original members something that we need to retain in the COG today. They were missional, meaning that they were focused on the mission of Jesus. They preached the Gospel to all who would listen. They were outward-focused.

I think that we in the COG today need this reminder. I have been in quite a few churches in the COG, and some are mission-focused, while others are not. Not that the leadership of such congregations wants it that way, but people have a tendency to get comfortable and complacent with the status quo. We lose our drive and passion to win lost souls sometimes. As a result, some of our churches become a museum of the past, rather than pushing on to the future. A place that people focus on the great things God did "back then". But, friends, we serve a God who desires to move and bless us now.

That brings me to the 2nd part of this article. We have in the church world as a whole those who seem to swing far the other way. There are Pentecostal pastors that would rather its members not speak in tongues, or pray with gusto, in the services. They feel that such manifestations only push the unbeliever away that might attend. Now, I feel that all must be done decently and in order, as the Bible plainly tells us, but even the apostle Paul said that when the church is operating in the gifts of the Spirit, it will draw those unbelievers to know the truth. Should we act like monkeys in the zoo? No, but we mustn't stifle the Spirit of God, either. How in today's world can we remain Pentecostal in our practice, yet outward-focused in our mission?

Many churches today are doing what they can to reach those who don't know the Lord. I applaud them for that. There are many programs and ideas to facilitate church growth. But at what expense do we change? We are a Pentecostal church. We have a conservative view of the Bible. We believe it is God-inspired. Some churches, not COG's, have gone so far to "reach" the unbelievers out there as to take a lower view of the Bible, to begin to question the things of God. While I don't believe we can have "all the answers", we have all the answers that God's Word gives us. In a culture that questions everything, I feel that it is high time we had some answers to give them.

The title of the blog entry today, "Missio-costal", is not to be take to seriously. The only label we Bible-believers should go by is Christian. But, I think that we need to get back to the basics. That is just what our early COG forefathers did. It is called the Great Commission. Preaching the Gospel to every creature is what Jesus commanded us to do. Church growth will happen as we seek to do the Lord's will for his church, the Body of Christ universal.

How do we do that? By being the Body of Christ in this world. We need to reach people where we see them every day. At work, at school, at the doctor's office. You get the picture. And sure, they will even come to our churches, and we should be ready for them. We will win them as we reach out to them were they are at. One of my favorite scriptures is in 1 Corinthians 9:

"To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some." (vs.20-22)

I should cap off this article today by saying that there are many churches in the COG that are reaching the harvest without sacrificing our experience. I am blessed to be part of one that is. Churches don't have to sacrifice one or the other. Too many today hear words like "emerging" and "missional" and immediately, the defenses go up. If we stick to the Biblical model, I don't think we will go wrong.

Well, that is it today, folks. God bless!

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