A Denominational Purpose Until Jesus Comes
This coming summer in Portland we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our denomination. A significant milestone such as this invites us to not only reflect on God’s past faithfulness but also seeks to refocus our role in God’s mission. Since last October our leadership has been engaged in studies to determine the purpose of The Evangelical Church and Evangelical Church Missions as we move into the next 50 years and beyond. In our October meetings, the General Church Council approved 6 recommendations which will go to the General Conference for adoption.
Before I present the official language of these 6 recommendations, I would like to make some personal observations reflecting upon the process, discussions, and decisions that have led to these recommendations.
A New Generation
Our current generation of leaders is taking ownership of The Evangelical Church and Evangelical Church Missions. The founding generation for the denomination is passing away. This means that the new generation of leaders have inherited the two organizations that make up our denomination. In the process of this past year there were two things I saw take place:
This current generation developed a deep appreciation for what our founders went through fifty years ago and determined that our denomination is a good thing and should continue.
This current generation began to forge a future built upon the foundation laid by our founders.
A Purpose Driven Future
We declared that our denomination will be focused on a purpose, which leaders from every conference have agreed to work together to fulfill. This purpose was found already expressed in The Discipline (paragraphs 309 and 951). The three main elements of both of these paragraphs are:
Share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the lost so that they might be saved.
Lead believers into the Spirit-baptized life of Christ-like holiness.
Send empowered and equipped disciples into the world to share the Good News.
These three actions are what it looks like to make disciples, and this will be our laser focus. Whatever we do as a denomination will be guided by these three actions. We will work to equip ministers who can develop these three actions into the disciple-making culture of their churches. We will hold ministers and churches accountable to this purpose, and we will work to provide encouragement and empowerment to all churches to fulfill the calling Christ has given to all of his followers.
These two developments have the potential to get us back on track as a denomination. We have far too many churches that report little to no conversions or sanctifications each year. (50% report from 0-2 conversions per year. Less than 1 sanctification per year per church is reported across the denomination.) We are not living up to our name. We are evangelicals; People of the Good News. We are transformed by it and live to share it. I believe in the past year we have a new generation of leaders who are standing up to say, “This is what we will be, period!”
General Church Council Recommendations
Here are the official recommendations adopted by the General Church Council which will be presented to the General Conference at our meeting next July.
The General Church Council (GCC) recommends The Evangelical Church (TEC) continue as a denomination making the necessary changes needed to provide effective fulfillment of our purpose and fiscal stability of the General Church.
The GCC recommends TEC affirm the heart of ¶309* and ¶951 of The Discipline as the purpose for which the conferences work together.
The GCC affirms the consensus to streamline General Church board structure by reducing the number of boards and the number of people on the boards and recommends the Good News Commission make a report to the GCC no later than October 2018 with their recommendations.
The GCC recommends that the General Church support and encourage the development of the movement within the movement.
The GCC recommends the continuation of the study of Evangelical Church Missions taking into consideration its ability to assist the denomination in the fulfillment of purpose.**
The GCC recommends for the sake of fiscal stability the General Church needs to develop an operating budget based upon the existing funding paradigm while, continuing to explore new funding paradigms.
I can truly say after the year long process we have been through and the decisions that are being made as a result of that process, I am more excited today about our denomination and our future than I have been in the entire time I have been in this denomination. I believe God is moving us in the direction to be all He has called us to be and then we can truly be evangelicals.
*¶309 in the 2014 edition of The Discipline does not contain the full purpose statement approved by the Annual Conferences in 2016. That purpose statement now reads, “The purpose of The Evangelical Church is to glorify God by proclaiming to all people the gospel of salvation from all sin in this life through faith in Jesus Christ so that they might be transformed to live the Great Commandment and fulfill the Great Commission.”
**The preliminary report of the ECM study group has recommended the continuation of ECM as a sending agency of TEC with modifications to be made to its structure. This recommendation has been accepted by the General Board of Missions and the study for modifying ECM’s structure continues by the study group.