December 2018 Member Letter
December 6, 2018
The month of November was extraordinarily busy. Travel to the Philippines for the International Leadership Program (ILP) and then to Florida for the retirement of Harold Rhodes took up the first half of the month. The last two weeks were focused on some family time for Thanksgiving and the annual meetings for the camp directors and the Festival coordinators. There was very little downtime!
We did make some major strides with the new office building in the month of November, even though we have now accumulated a full 16 days of lost time due to the extremely wet weather in September and October. In our last meeting with the builder we were assured that the projected finish date is still mid-January. While we had hoped for the end of December, mid-January is acceptable. Our current lease ends Jan. 31, 2019, but if we go even one day into February, we will need to pay a full month’s rent. So, it is important that we complete the building and move in before Feb. 1.
I want to add here that we are all extremely pleased with the way the new office is coming together. In our most recent meeting, one of the officials with the building company commented on how beautiful the building was and what a value we are getting for our money. This was very good to hear. A project of this nature isn’t something we do every day, and it is always good to hear someone who knows the building industry make such positive comments. We will post another building update to the members’ website this week.
Our trip to the Philippines in early November was part of one of the most important programs in our recent history—the International Leadership Program. This program began with a discussion in November of 2017 in the wake of two ministerial deaths. Todd Carey, our pastor in Virginia, died in the early days of 2017, and shortly thereafter Manuel Quijano, our pastor in Peru, also died. The thought of replacing two pastors, especially one from outside the U.S. was quite daunting. We determined that a structured approach to leadership development was crucial for our future. In the U.S. we had already put in place a number of programs that have begun to bear fruit. Elsewhere we were using the Christian Leadership Training Program and the Pastoral Training Program, but we needed something specifically tailored to the international work. This was the catalyst for the ILP.
As we were getting ready to launch the new program earlier this year, we lost another pastor, Norman Julag-ay, to death. This added a greater sense of urgency to our plans. The program was designed with two components: first, to get the program started, a weekend series of classes, to be held in 10 regions of the world and, second, a series of classes to be webcast every other month from our studio in Texas. So far, after four weekend conferences (Guatemala City, Monterrey, Santiago and Manila) and three webcast classes, we have seen a renewed enthusiasm for serving in the Church. More than 200 men and women have attended these first four weekends. We now have the beginning of true leadership development on what is for us a large scale in areas outside the U.S. The program has already proven to be unifying and profitable for the international work of the Church.
In the weekend classes we cover subjects such as “The Basis for Doctrine”; “Doctrine, Teachings and Traditions”; “Ceremonies of the Church”; “Principles of Marriage”; “How to Prepare Messages That Change People”; and “The Proper Use of Authority and Government Within the Church.” I really wish everyone could hear these presentations, especially “The Basis for Doctrine” by Leon Walker. Mr. Walker asks some very important questions about what we are teaching in our congregations—is it truly doctrine, established by Scripture, or is it one man’s opinion?
During these weekends, Mr. Walker and I both speak about doctrine, opinions, teachings and traditions. It seems we sometimes confuse these. It is possible for an elder or pastor to unwittingly give messages that support his opinion without first confirming the official teaching of the Church. His opinion may be correct, but sometimes we may assume something that isn’t true.
We also have traditions in the Church. They are important, but do not reach the level of doctrine. The apostle Paul instructed those in Corinth and Thessalonica to “keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you” (1 Corinthians 11:2) and “stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). This shows that traditions taught by the Church are to be followed. As an example, the Blessing of Little Children is a special ceremony of the Church that we traditionally do on the second Sabbath after the Feast each year. We are following Christ’s example of laying hands on the little children and blessing them. This is a beautiful ceremony that we look forward to, but it is a traditional ceremony established by the Church. While it is supported by Scripture and the example of Jesus Christ, we acknowledge that there is no recorded example of this being done in a New Testament congregation.
In our focus on developing leaders, we also plan to combine a special Young Adult Leadership Weekend with the upcoming Winter Family Weekend. This will be in place of having a separate weekend later. The theme for both the WFW and the YALW is an admonition to be “grounded and steadfast” (Colossians 1:23), which requires a good understanding of our doctrines.
My presentation during the YALW will be based on Ephesians 4:14, where Paul warns us not to be “carried about with every wind of doctrine.” I am amazed at times to encounter a lack of understanding about even basic teachings of the Church. Take, for example, the biblical name of the Church, a fairly straightforward and simple teaching. When the Church is referenced in the New Testament, it is called the “Church of God.” With 12 such passages in the New Testament, it seems clear that this is the name given to the Church throughout Acts and the Epistles. Today we use the name “Church of God,” but with an additional adjective to describe the work of the Church or its location, such as, “Church of God, a Worldwide Association,” or “Church of God—Ghana.” To ensure we are not “carried about with every wind of doctrine,” we must be grounded in the fundamental teachings of the Word of God.
Please pray for the success of the Winter Family Weekend, as well as the success of the new International Leadership Program. In 2019 we are scheduled to conduct classes in an additional six regions of the world: Elmina, Ghana; Auckland, New Zealand; Kigali, Rwanda; Johannesburg, South Africa; London, England; and on the island of Jamaica.
As we enter the month of December, please be careful in your travels, as our society will be headlong into the celebration of Christmas with all the attendant physical dangers—drunk drivers and crowded roads, leading to more accidents, injuries and even death. And, of course, there is also the spiritual debauchery as people celebrate a pagan festival while claiming it for Christianity.
Also, I want to ask for your prayers on behalf of our brethren who are suffering illness at the present time. It is difficult to get a handle on whether there is more illness among the brethren these days than 20 years ago, but it certainly seems so. Please don’t forget those who are suffering. God is our Healer, and we rely on Him and His mercy to heal those who are sick. My prayer list has gotten much longer in the past few months, and I am sure it is the same for you. There are a number of cases that are truly heartbreaking. Please continue to pray for God’s intervention.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,