From Clyde Kilough: I’m sure we are all delighted to have this newsletter in hand and welcome it as an improved communication tool. Personally, I’m looking forward to being able to keep you informed on media matters as we push forward with the work God has given to us.
First, I want to thank the U.S. pastors for their quick responses to last week’s survey to determine the level of member Internet access. We are exploring ways to provide our media materials to those who do not have Internet access, and the information from this survey gave us some hard numbers from which we can accurately project costs for printing and shipping materials. It was interesting to find from the survey that 83 percent of member households in the U.S. have Internet access, and 17 percent do not. Eighty-three percent is slightly above the nation’s average, which has been steadily climbing for the last decade. The Internet has revolutionized the flow of information—both in good and bad ways, some would argue—and it is truly the most amazing communications tool the world has ever seen! However, we do not want anyone left behind in the information loop just because they do not have access to it.
How we fill those needs may vary, depending on what works best in various regions of the world. What we do here may be different from what we do somewhere else. For example, David Baker recently conducted a similar survey in the Philippines and found that a wide diversity of Internet accessibility exists for the members there, ranging from 5 to 10 percent in one area to 99 percent in another. However, for many, “access” means through Internet cafés, not the luxury of going to a home computer any time they wish. And, as he put it, “When they leave the Internet café, the material remains behind and they have nothing to hold onto.” Members and ministers in other areas of the world also face similar challenges.
So what can we do for them? Thanks to some creative thinking and suggestions, we are experimenting with putting articles from our Frequently Asked Questions on our website into a trifold brochure format. (By the way, the FAQ section will soon be renamed “Bible Questions and Answers” to reflect more accurately the nature of the content.) At the Filipino ministry’s request, our first project was to reproduce the statement of our Fundamental Beliefs. The length of this document required a quadfold on 8½-by-14-inch paper instead of a trifold on standard-size paper. Most of the material we can produce, however, will fit nicely into trifold versions. It’s not a glossy, full-color, picture-filled booklet, but neither is it of poor quality or design. It certainly offers the potential for filling this challenge, however. For example, as we convert these FAQs to trifold, we can send the files electronically to ministers in any area of the world. They can then print locally on-demand the quantity they need—and do so relatively inexpensively. Each pastor can have immediate access to whatever topics he needs and can quickly provide written material to either members, prospective members or for any other desired distribution. We will await the results of this experiment, but we’re hopeful that this will, at least for the time being, provide an effective and economical alternative for those areas where preaching the gospel through the Internet presents greater challenges.
For members without Internet access here in the U.S., we have some very interesting possibilities for inexpensively printing One Accord on demand from a central location and shipping bulk copies to each pastor to distribute locally. Our initial research looks like this will be very feasible, and we anticipate having more information for you soon.
The point is, with creative thinking and good teamwork, we can come up with new ways to solve—even sometimes on a localized basis—the challenges that exist. We are committed to always looking for new and better ways of problem solving.
This week we are having an important meeting with those who are directly involved in building the website that will be our main venue for proclaiming the gospel to the world. I have explained previously how we will be converting what is now our main website (cogwa.org) to become the member site and will construct a new site exclusively for reaching the general public.
This meeting will focus on our strategies for developing the highest-quality website possible to effectively reach the world with the gospel. Even though most of us are not in the technology field, I suspect that we have some degree of appreciation for the complexity of such a task and the time involved. Multiple factors have to be considered and coordinated, such as site design and organization, content presentation, navigation, functionality and usability, user engagement, generating return visits, search engine optimization, etc. Within each of those areas are numerous fields of discussion and technical details to work out. As usual, there is more than one way to approach website design, so we must sort through all the options and recommendations to determine what will work best for us. We have a great team in place, though, and I know this meeting will produce some very good fruit as we move forward in this area.
We are also moving forward in a related area, content development. You will recall the outline laid before you in the teleconferences a few weeks ago describing our strategic plans in all areas of operations. We still have some finalizing to do on the specifics of the content development plan, but I am aiming to roll this out to you shortly.
Have you ever sat down, brainstormed and tried to enumerate all the possible subjects there are in the Bible to write about? The number of issues that are areas of essential knowledge that people need to understand? The magnitude of doctrinal deception that exists in the world today that needs to be clarified? In a word, it’s massive! We generally describe our commission as “preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God,” but when you start cataloging the specific issues that pertain to everything included in what that means, the list grows huge!
We envision people coming to our website and easily finding general “silos” of information. For example, they would see categories directing them to subjects such as God and the Bible, understanding your purpose in life (through the holy days), the gospel of the Kingdom, the commandments of God, how to change your life, answers to life’s tough questions, what lies ahead (prophecy), how to make your life better (marriage, family, interpersonal relationships, overcoming), etc. Clicking on any of these “silos” would take them to a vast number of related topics and subtopics. This is where the organization efforts are focused right now. Before we ask you to sign up to work on these areas we want to give you a well-organized, structured presentation of all the topics that will need to be tackled. We’re working on this and will put it out to you as soon as possible.
We have also been doing some preliminary planning for the needs of the media center that will be built in our offices. Video will be a vital element to not only the website, but for the ongoing education projects for the Church. So much of what we can do with video will depend on being established in the office, so we are very eagerly looking forward to getting settled in.
You received last week, of course, the first edition of One Accord, and everyone involved deeply appreciates the feedback and encouragement that came in from so many members and ministers alike. We also welcomed the constructive comments that offered suggestions for improving it. As managing editor Liz Glasgow wrote to Larry Salyer and me, “In all honesty, I hope it is the worst issue we produce. In other words, I hope each subsequent issue gets better and better.” I’m confident that you will see a steady improvement in quality and content, and that this publication will produce very good fruit for members of the Church around the world.
That’s it for now—back to packing and getting ready to move!
From Jason Lovelady: Traditionally in the month of December the Church will receive significantly more donations than in any other month of the year. Based on the average monthly income that we had received so far in 2011 and the traditional year-end “December bump,” we hoped to receive between $800,000 and $850,000 in donations for the month of December. We are very encouraged to report that we received more than we expected—over $1,000,000, which included donations postmarked in December but deposited in the month of January. Due to such an exceptional month of income for December, we will end the fiscal year 2011 with a total income of $8,728,000.
In addition, we also are encouraged to report that COGWA’s unrestricted cash on hand to begin the fiscal year of 2012 will be over $1,300,000, not including the funds restricted for preaching the gospel. While we do not have the same level of cash reserves that we have in the past and while we will still need to watch our cash flow carefully in 2012, it is a blessing that we will end this fiscal year with reserves in the bank.
It has truly been a miraculous year when you think of how we began the year financially (with practically nothing) compared to where we have ended the year now, with over $1,300,000 of unrestricted funds in the bank. We are so very grateful and give thanks to God for blessing the Church with the resources needed to serve His people this past year and for providing a basis from which to do so in the future. We also are very thankful and appreciative of the Church members and others who have generously and faithfully supported the work of the Church through their tithes and offerings in 2011.
Annual Donation Receipts
From Jason Lovelady: As we continue with our reorganization, we are now able to provide timely receipts for everyone for their donations. Next week (Jan. 30) we will begin mailing the annual receipts for 2011 from East Texas. Once you receive your receipt, please review it for accuracy and let us know if you have any questions. Any questions can be directed to [email protected].
We also want to thank all of you for your support during our first year. Above all, we want to give God the thanks for the wonderful blessings He provided this past year.
Personal Correspondence Activity: December 2011
From Cecil Maranville: We sent out 37 emails or letters in December. Yet another group of 150 Church of God members in Kenya contacted us about associating with COGWA. They are new to us, and they were not with our former association. Initial exchanges indicate that their beliefs and practices are quite similar to ours. Tim Waddle will be able to visit them (along with others) on his trip to the country next month.
We received more requests for printed literature from people with limited access to computers or printers. These requests typically come from third world countries.
Someone who has a COG background (although not a COGWA member) wrote that the true Church must be bearing fruit when preaching the gospel. He asked, in light of that fact, if there have been any people coming to our organization right out of the world. Coincidentally, I had written to someone only hours earlier who had learned about the need to keep the commandments from our website. She wrote that she was so strongly convicted that she couldn’t wait any longer to begin attending church, and she asked if we have a congregation nearby. (We have one in her city!) Of course, there have been other new people who have come to COGWA even in our short history, but the timing of the two letters made it easy to answer the first person’s question about whether new people are being drawn by our work.
We exchanged counseling messages with a family dealing with a drug-addicted family member and the various consequences the problem has brought on everyone. The proverbial saying about ripples traveling far from the drop of a pebble is never more true than with drug addiction.
Another person asked about the spirit that “distressed” King Saul. The writer wanted to know what this “spirit” was, as opposed to the “Spirit” of God. A related question came from a person who asked about spirits that confused people or caused kings to lose battles. This person wondered what part God played in these matters.
Two people asked about proper activities on the Sabbath. One was from a minister who had read our FAQ on how a Christian should keep the Sabbath, which ends with an invitation to write us if further information is desired. The implication is, write for information about specific questions. He just wrote, “Yes, I want further information.” But he didn’t say on what issue! So we gave him some additional general information about how the Jews historically attempted to create a catalog of acceptable behaviors, which did not work. And we explained more about how God wants us to use His Spirit, in conjunction with His Word to make judgments as we encounter life issues. The other person asked if it would be permissible to attend the wedding of a nonbelieving family member on the Sabbath.
A person wanted to know if it is permissible for a Christian to purchase a lottery ticket. Another asked several questions about Paul’s vision recorded in 2 Corinthians 12. And a person wanted a detailed explanation about the difference between God punishing and God disciplining someone. The writer was under the impression that they mean the same thing and that God would never “punish” or therefore “discipline” a believer.
We exchanged messages with someone who sharply criticized us for telling people what God wants them to do about Christmas. After receiving our reply, he said his issue was with our using the Old Testament as instruction for Christians. That opened the door for us to explain why we use the entire Bible for guidance instead of just the New Testament.
One wanted to know COGWA’s origins, and another questioner wanted specific information about how we are structured. Lastly, we received a most unusual request for information about a local COGWA congregation from someone who had attended a public meeting sponsored by a different COG organization. Seeing many old acquaintances from when this man had attended decades ago, he asked about one deacon who had made a strong impression on him. “Oh, he’s with the Church of God, a Worldwide Association” was the reply. So, he left that meeting and searched us out on the Internet!