Bringing the Message and the Mission Back into Focus

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Collage: Handel Smith, Ryan Chapman, Paul Dreger, David Ferguson.

By Carl Stagner

Imagine a world where churches were less focused on method, and more focused on message. Picture a scenario where more congregations were so busy with the mission that they didn’t have time or energy to bicker over which programs get the largest share of the budget. What if believers were known everywhere as disciples who make disciples, who make disciples? It’s possible. It’s even biblical. But it’s not commonplace. In mid-October, three members of the Domestic Ministries Team of Church of God Ministries returned from a pastoral leadership summit in Akron, Ohio, that zeroed in on this divine dream. Several Church of God leaders are now gearing up for training over the next year to help Church of God congregations bring the message and mission back into focus.

The message of God’s love through Christ and the mission to share Christ is a foundation for ministry at the local church that transcends the latest evangelism strategy or discipleship trend. It’s “Jesus is the subject” lived out in practical terms, and it’s built on the Great Commission and the Great Commandments. Such radical ideas presented at the Imagine Pastoral Leadership Summit are really nothing new. But because the North American church has ventured so far off track, we’ve sometimes confused method for the mission.

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Photo: Engaging pastors and leaders at Imagine.

“For too long we’ve made methods and ministries the focus—more rooted in human endeavor than divine direction,” Paul Dreger, national SHAPE coordinator explains. “But the message of love and the mission of making disciples are universal, Christ-centered, God-ordained, non-negotiables of the gospel of Christ.” For the Church of God, Paul explains, the “intent of Imagine is to bring congregational life back to a foundation of fulfilling the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandments.”

Attending the leadership summit with Paul were Ryan Chapman, director of domestic ministries initiatives, as well as several Church of God pastors and leaders from across the country, including Charles Myricks of the National Association. Handel Smith, chief domestic officer of Church of God Ministries, was also there for the historic occasion. He called the truth that resonated among the gathered pastors and leaders “an amazing applicational, missional message for reactivating churches and ministries—multicultural, intergenerational, relationally relevant churches.” According to Handel, a Church of God Ministries representative who visits churches across the country with wisdom and resources to reactivate plateaued and declining churches, the principles espoused by Imagine can help our movement get back to the “first-century basics of loving God and loving people.”

For the past twenty years, the ongoing relationship between the Church of God and the brains behind Imagine has led to some of the most important, life-changing steps the movement has taken. From the Galatians 6:6 marriage retreats for our pastors, to the development of the SHAPE curriculum and the call to prayer through Cry Out to the Lord this year, David Ferguson’s counsel has been greatly appreciated. We expect the influence of Imagine to be no different.

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Just imagine what God has in store for the Church of God in 2017!

Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/world-ministry-fund/.

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