By Carl Stagner
Unity, one of the Movement’s foundational doctrines, has, for too long, been preached but not practiced. The move from theory to practice, from conceptual to functional, is desperately needed, and is possible when Jesus is the subject. Church of God congregations in the Michigan cities of Detroit and Flint, for example, understand this. That’s why they’ve come together to worship the Lord and to partner for the betterment of the cities. When the people of God are united, not only is the community better off, but so is the church. In southeastern Michigan, a historic fall gathering demonstrated this blessed reality.
Each day, for six days, more than three hundred people, representing numerous local Church of God congregations, packed the house at Metropolitan Church of God in Detroit. Attendance topped four hundred on the closing night of the event, following nearly a week of evening services that headlined no well-known artists or big-name evangelists. Instead, this revival was planned and pulled off by local churches, led by local worship teams and choirs, and featured the preaching of local pastors. For an hour-and-a-half each day, Church of God brothers and sisters—many of whom would otherwise never cross paths—worshiped together, sat under dynamic preaching together, got to know one another, and partnered together to make a difference in the community. Each evening, an offering was collected—not for any one church, but for a local parachurch organization.
“The people of Detroit and Flint, like so many cities, have needs that could overwhelm the local church,” Albert Grant, pastor of the Church of God of Detroit, explains. “By supporting these parachurch organizations, it added an opportunity to learn about some unique ministry and service organizations in the community. These organizations provide valuable services for people we encounter and gives our members opportunities for involvement.”
Some of the parachurch ministries included one that helps pregnant women find safe and suitable housing, one that focuses on the homeless population, one that offers assistance to local families in need of assistance, and one that helps young men get back on the right track. These organizations were given space and opportunity to speak about their ministries. “The revival was a special time for renewal and to challenge us to see the bigger picture of what Jesus is doing through many people and places,” Albert explains, “and to encourage us to stay focused on Jesus and what Jesus wants to do through us.”
Because it really is all about Jesus. He is the common reason for what we do, the subject of our mission. Though our differences may threaten to divide, they can give God glory when our emphasis of Jesus is stronger. “It must be intentional, and there must be someone who can be trusted in leadership, along with a core of committed persons, who believe that diversity through unity is worth breaking down geographical and cultural barriers. We can avoid sameness and celebrate our uniqueness, embracing our differences, but we must be intentional about living out the Lord’s prayer in John 17 that we be one. In so doing, we not only build stronger unity in the body of Christ, but we also set the example for the rest of the world to follow.”
Through sermons that expounded on truth found in Ephesians 4:1–6, each speaker offered encouragement and challenge to the gathered saints at Metropolitan Church of God. Albert Grant, who also chaired the program committee for the event, remembers most vividly the body of Christ functioning together, everyone doing his or her part. There wasn’t a popular name on the lineup of speakers; there was only the Holy Spirit bringing the hands and feet (and mouth, and so on) of Christ together in harmony. “I was reminded that, as born-again believers, we have been raised together and made to sit in heavenly places together, but God wants us to get together as we sojourn right here in these earthly places.”
There is still much work to be done, but Albert believes the event last fall was a catalyst to promote further functional unity in the area. “We still have a way to go,” Albert explains. “We’re already planning a ‘Church of God Family Reunion’ with food, fellowship, and games, scheduled for May. Our job has just begun.”
In Michigan, across North America, and around the world, God is on the move in the Church of God. Join the movement. Reach our world. Donate today at give.jesusisthesubject.org.