UCG Asks Why a Church?

Ancient Laodicea


In an email today, the United Church of God (UCG) sent out the following:

What and why a Church?

The Bible describes the Church as a loving and zealous community of believers—those who commune and communicate with each other and strive for unity! God wants cooperative coworkers to work together in the gargantuan task He has given His Church.

Consider the circumstances of the early New Testament Church: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44, emphasis added throughout). In the King James Version of the Bible, the English word together appears 484 times. God likes togetherness!

What did Jesus say would be a primary identifying sign of His followers? “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

In the Bible, love includes unselfish actions of service, not only emotions. How can Christ’s disciples serve one another if they don’t know each other and aren’t together? Hebrews 10:25 emphasizes the need of “assembling of ourselves together . . . and so much the more as you see the Day [of Christ’s return] approaching.”

The preceding verse, Hebrews 10:24, stresses the need to “stir up love and good works” among one another. Through Christian fellowship with other believers, we do just that—encourage, strengthen, comfort and help one another. God knows that it’s difficult to survive spiritually on our own—that we need the support and encouragement we get from being with others of like mind.

The focus of church services should be about worshipping God and learning more about His Word and how He wants us to live. Paul describes the Church as “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15, New International Version). The Church is the primary source through which God’s truth is taught and learned.

But another focus of the Church is on giving of ourselves to one another. Notice this essential evidence of spiritual conversion: “We know that we have passed from [spiritual] death to life, because we love the brethren . . . By this we know love, because He [Jesus] laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:14, 16).

The most common fulfillment of “laying down our lives” is that we give of our time for our brethren.

Members of God’s Church should be striving to become like Jesus Christ, but are far from that perfection. Each member is a “work in progress,” endeavoring to be “transformed” by God and gradually “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 12:2; 8:29).

Every member is at a different point in his or her spiritual progress. Sometimes problems arise just like we read about in the New Testament. But we know that God expects those He has called to His Church to work on themselves and to love, forgive and encourage others.

Most of those are very good points.

And while I agree with basic points, I should add that the email was not clear enough about one of the most important reasons to have a church.

Which is?

To help get Christ’s gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14) and to “[g]o therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19a).

And that is one of the main reasons that I attend the Living Church of God as opposed to UCG.  UCG seems to emphasize togetherness so much that it simply does not emphasize public proclamation enough and this is reflected in how it spends its revenues.

On the other hand, it needs to be mentioned that many today think that they do not need to be actually part of a church.  That is simply not consistent with the teachings of the New Testament.  Here is one section of scripture that UCG referred to, that many “independents” do not seem to care for:

24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24).

Churches are not perfect.  And yes, I attended with UCG for several months before LCG (formerly GCG) had a local group in my area.

The churches in the New Testament had many problems (Corinth comes to immediate mind), the leadership sometimes did not get along (Paul and Mark come to immediate mind), and sometimes the leaders made errors in their preaching (Apollos comes to immediate mind).  But people still should try to be part of the church.

Here is another reason to be part of the church from the Apostle Paul:

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ– 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

And while some independents seem to believe that they can better protect themselves from doctrinal errors than ordained church leaders, I would simply state that God did not have the Apostle Paul write the above in vain.

Christians should be part of a church.  And obviously, I believe that those who look into the Bible most seriously are most likely to support the Living Church of God.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Attending the Church of Choice This article discusses whose choice is important to worship God; should you attend the church of your choice or the church of God’s choice?
Unity: Which COG for You? Why so many groups? Why is there lack of unity in the Churches of God? Has it always been this way? What can/should be done about it?
Independent Members of the COG: Herbert W. Armstrong Comments, Plus Questions and Answers What did Herbert W. Armstrong teach about being independent of the organized Church? Should independents who claim to accept Herbert W. Armstrong’s teachings be part of LCG?
Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God This article provides quotes information from the two largest groups which had their origins in WCG as well as commentary.
Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert W. Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work? Some say the Church should mainly feed the flock now as that is what Herbert W. Armstrong reportedly said. Is that what he said? Is that what the Bible says? What did Paul and Herbert W. Armstrong expect from evangelists?
There are Many COGs: Why Support the Living Church of God? This is an article for those who wish to more easily sort out the different COGs. It really should be a MUST READ for current and former WCG/GCI members or any interested in supporting the faithful church. It also explains a lot of what the COGs are all about.

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