UCG and the Great Commission, Part 1

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

~ Mt 28:18-20 (NIV)

 

Last Saturday, 2 May 2009, the United Church of God an International Association (UCGia, or UCG within this article) began its 2009 General Council of Elders (GCE) meeting.  Mr Bob Dick gave the sermon that Sabbath, which was broadcast via the web and phone links all over the world.  The theme for this year’s conference is “Making Disciples, a Whole Church Effort”.

Coincidences happen, I guess.  Or, are they coincidences?  Just the day prior I was once again reading that UCG doesn’t put much effort into spreading the Gospel.  That is interesting in light of what Mr Dick spoke about, actually.  First, though, some background:

  • UCG spent the first couple of years organizing and reaffirming basic doctrines.  Whether you agree with all of them or not is besides the point I’m making here.  What they did is re-examine everything because it had become evident that through the years much distortion had entered in.
  • During that time, UCG began printing magazines, study papers and booklets.  They built up a base from which to preach.
  • A few unofficial individuals and congregations began to do radio and TV shows.  Although they were not nationally broadcast, it did off-load a great deal of the evangelizing effort from the home office.
  • Meanwhile, UCG began producing electronic copies of its material and put it on the web.  Much as Mr Armstrong took advantage of new technology in his day, UCG took advantage of the web and began building up a presence on the web.
  • As time went forward, the UCG home office began consolidating the TV and radio efforts.
  • UCG continued to build up its web presence.  Today, it can be found on Facebook, Twitter and has a blog on WordPress.  There also is a smaller “Google knol”, which is a beta software program that is sort of a cross between a blog and Yahoo! Answers.  UCG commentaries and Beyond Today programs are regularly posted on YouTube.

Compare that to another COG that is of a fair size.  The Living Church of God (LCG) started out as Global Church of God (GCG) when Dr Meredith was disfellowshipped from WCG (although, to be fair about it, he was neither the first nor the last).  In contrast:

  • GCG hit the ground running to preach the Gospel.
  • GCG began producing a regular magazine and TV program as soon as possible.
  • GCG unfortunately did not iron out all of its doctrines, cross the t’s and dot the i’s, and there was a church split.
  • Dr Meredith went out to start LCG, which, while smaller, is still considerable size for a COG.  GCG is no longer, to make a long story shorter.
  • LCG continued in its zeal to evangelize and has a rather nice looking magazine with good articles as well as a reasonable TV presence.
  • The toll of this is obvious, however.  From what I can tell of their website, they offer only about 1/3rd of the booklets that UCG does.  Their web site is much, much smaller (and could use some work, IMO).
  • To my knowledge, LCG has no blog and no presence on a social networking site (such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter).  They have not kept up with Web 2.0 technology, and if Web 3.0 becomes a reality, they will be left further behind.

So, if the number of TV stations you have lined up is your measurement, then LCG has an obvious advantage.  If the web is your measurement, though, then UCG has an obvious advantage.  Between the 2 of them, it would appear as well that UCG has more booklets and doctrinal material.  If any of this is in error, I’m sure someone will correct me.

Now, I have no problem with criticism based upon facts.  There are certain “criticisms” of UCG that may or may not be valid, depending upon your viewpoint.  Certainly, many in the COG community would disagree with their form of church government.  While I don’t agree with the viewpoint, I can at least acknowledge and respect it.

But I do not see where “UCG does not place its top financial priority on proclaiming the Gospel” is valid.  In fact, they have on their seal: “Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People”.  Instead of rushing out in zeal without knowledge, UCG had wisely chosen to do 2 things:

  1. Ensure they are standing upon a firm doctrinal base.  You cannot declare a message unless you are clear about what the message is.
  2. Ensure they have a Church in which to grow people once they come into the fellowship.  God’s people need to be fed.  In the case of 1995, many of them required spiritual healing.

Mr Dick’s sermon this past Sabbath pointed out the importance of creating disciples.  That is really what it is about, after all.  The Great Commission is often viewed as a directive to evangelize, but that is only part of the story.  The KJV only says to “teach all nations”, but that has been fixed in modern translations, including the NKJV.  Mt 28:19 says to “make disciples of all the nations”.  After evangelizing, the teaching doesn’t stop!

 

0 Comments

  1. Very good points and I agree for a while. Maybe a few years, possibly even five or six years, but 14 years later (1995) is simply too long to make the claim that UCG has done what has been needed. Yes, the Internet is a nice tool but having a TV program is simply a better and more effective way to reach people. UCG's leadership to this day still has no idea how to make decisions and that is one reason they don't go out and do the work.

  2. John D Carmack

    @thomasj19: Your observation about making a decision is certainly valid. All one has to do is say "Move to Texas?" to highlight that point. Even then, though, it is more of an administrative decision that a mission decision, so I'm not sure that even that decision hinders the work. I'm really curious to see where the COE is going to take UCG given their recent change in membership.

    I'm not so sure that TV is the best way to reach people, though. Cost has always been a factor in TV, so the standard has been to put TV shows on around 5 or 6 am. Most people are watching news at that time, if anything at all. Not only is the Internet cheaper, but it is truly international, rather than regional, and videos can be watched on demand. Even in countries with severe censorship, it is difficult to control access over the web. Cellphones with web access make this even harder.

    People searching for answers are more likely to find them on the net, whereas TV necessitates being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. In addition, people who are searching are much more likely to respond.

    Many more companies are realizing the value of the net, and they are putting fewer dollars into costly TV ads. On the web, you can reach more people, more quickly and cheaper.

    I highly doubt that TV will be the same in 5 – 10 years, anyhow. The upcoming generation is not used to waiting, which programmed TV necessitates. They are also less likely to plan activities around a TV schedule. Witness the popularity of Tivo, for example. Furthermore, I think TV and the Internet will continue to merge and streaming video on demand will become standard in a few years.

    That's not a prophecy, btw. 🙂 It is my opinion, though, and that's why I believe that the Internet is more effective.

    I think that simply comparing dollars spent doesn't tell the whole story, either. Some technologies are cheaper. The question is how many people you are reaching with those dollars.

    All of the larger COGs use a mix of media to proclaim the Gospel.

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