By Carl Stagner
For this moment in history. For all time. “Jesus is the Subject” is more than a catch phrase—it’s new life breathed into our very existence. It has already reinvigorated ministries across the movement, inspiring the Church of God back to its foundation, its purpose, its core—Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Six Church of God pastors, including Tom Dougherty, Stephanie Collins, Milton Grannum, Steve Nelson, Mitchell Burch, and Mark Fast, have each weighed in on what “Jesus is the Subject” means to them. Here’s what they said:
Why do you believe that “Jesus is the Subject” is the right emphasis for the Church of God at this critical juncture in the movement’s history?
Tom: Christianity has drifted slowly to a place of spiritual complacency and tolerance for sin. We have slowly begun to justify everything we do, and have fallen ever-so-slowly into giving in to sin. This is a critical time in the Church of God. We must preach “Jesus is the Subject” and teach people to recognize it has always been about Jesus. The Church of God must stand up, and not let Jesus be diminished because of what the world thinks. We must stop the “if-it-feels-right” mentality, and make Jesus the subject.
Stephanie: The emphasis “Jesus is the Subject” is crucial for the Church of God at this point in history. Throughout the history of the movement, we’ve focused our time, energy, and money on many things that have been good, but may not have kept Jesus the subject. It is critical that we shift our focus again to what we know it should have always been: keeping Jesus the subject of all things. If we ever lose sight of keeping Jesus the subject, we’ve failed as Christ-followers and as a movement. This motto is the right emphasis for what we’re doing because it is more than a cute hashtag—it is the biblical truth that we must be committed to if we are to receive God’s blessings and anointing in the Church of God.
Milton: I am personally and excitingly impressed with the recognition that Jesus is indeed the church’s subject. The critical juncture of our movement today, and the critical juncture of the entire world today, can scarcely be compared to the life-challenging nature of the world in which the church came into being, and the issues and political systems that threaten the very lives of the early apostles and Christians. Yet they understood their divine assignment, and leaning on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, they made Jesus their focus at the expense of their very lives. I believe that ISIS and its diabolical activities will challenge and force the Christian church worldwide to return to “Jesus is the Subject.”
Steve: I believe we have come to a place in the history of the Church of God of staleness or, as Scripture puts it, lukewarmness. This is the result of congregations and individuals making all kinds of other things (and some of them very good things) the subject. We have been in desperate need of a truly unifying purpose for decades, and only Jesus is that purpose.
Mitch: Organizational focus and re-focus is imperative in the church because it re-ignites the leadership and constituents to move toward its mission and ministry vision. It is the “Nehemiah Principle” which is the “re-statement” of the vision every twenty-six days. “Jesus is the Subject” is a powerful statement that speaks to the very heartbeat of the church and its ministry purpose.
Mark: We must make sure we’re focused on the essential things. It’s not about petty differences or personal preferences, but rather on proclaiming Jesus!
What does “Jesus is the Subject” mean to you, personally? What does it mean for your church?
Tom: This question profoundly touches the depths of my heart. On August 13, 1992, my wife’s and my life were changed forever. My wife had gone to a women’s leadership meeting in Anderson, and my five-year-old son and I were at my wife’s parents’ in Washington, playing a board game. I randomly asked him this question: “Luke, what is most important to you?” He said, “Daddy, God is.” I said, “What do you mean, Son?” He said, “Daddy, I just want to live for Jesus, that’s all.” I didn’t know that eight hours later he would be in a freak accident that would have him on the lap of Jesus whom he loved so dearly. I know parents talk about their kids’ faith, but everyone in our church who had ever been around Luke knew he had something special with Jesus. Jesus was always the subject for him. Jesus was the subject for Luke during his entire short life. The church began to flourish following Luke’s death, and people understood all the more that “Jesus is the Subject.”
Stephanie: In my life, “Jesus is the Subject” reflects the truth proclaimed in Matthew 6:33. If I am constantly seeking Jesus above all things in my life, everything else of importance will be worked out for my good. The same goes for my church and ministry. If our focus is always on Jesus, keeping him first and submitting to his authority, nothing but God’s blessing and anointing can come. If Jesus ever becomes a secondary source in our ministry, we are likely to forfeit any blessings and favor he would have offered us. As C.W. Naylor so eloquently wrote all those years ago, “The Bible is our rule of faith, and Christ alone is Lord.” If Jesus ever becomes anything less than Lord of my life or of my church’s life, everything we do will be meaningless. If Jesus is the subject, however, everything we do will further the kingdom.
Milton: Most individuals, corporate or nonprofit organizations, and churches fail because they major in the minor things. Jesus is the major person and his mission is the major thing that God and the Holy Spirit are focusing on in the world. “Jesus is the Subject” calls me back to a consciousness of why I am saved, and what is my God-given mission. It helps us to recapture why the Church of God movement began in the first place—it was not to simply build an organization or to have great religious experiences and activities, but to proclaim Jesus. This is still our highest calling.
Steve: Jesus had a mission, and before the ascension, he charged his followers to continue that mission. I view the mission of the individual follower of Christ, and the church, simply as going to those who are far from God with this message—“Jesus loves you!” In the sentence “Jesus loves you,” Jesus is the subject. You (those the message is taken to) is the object. Loves is the verb. I am that verb. We are the verb! When Jesus is the subject, we become an action word—his love in action—to those who are far from God, in order to help them draw closer to him.
Mitch: “Jesus is the Subject” is not just a focus statement I use in ministry or church. It is a personal conviction! In every experience, in every relationship, in every decision, in every crisis, in every victory, I desire to make Jesus and his will the main influence and consideration.
Mark: It means that everything flows out of a personal, vibrant relationship with Jesus. For our church, it’s clearly making the main thing the main thing. It’s an emphasis on our unity in Christ!