The Church of God movement now involves nearly 700,000 active adherents in 6,600 congregations in 89 countries of the world (in the U.S. and Canada we about 2,400 congregations and over 230,000 persons who attend worship services at these congregations). Congregations associate voluntarily within those various countries and those indigenous churches maintain fraternal ties. There is no hierarchy or head office, per se. There are, however, some organizations established for co-operative work in publishing, education, missions etc.
Church of God Ministries Inc. (Anderson, IN) coordinates the work of the Church of God in the U.S. and collaborates with appropriate ministry bodies within Canada. Other countries such as Kenya, Argentina, and Japan have formed similar organizational structures to facilitate their joint ministry efforts. Again, these offices are organized to serve the congregations and facilitate the national and world involvement of local groups. We know that many tasks can be done only as we unite in prayer, planning and sacrificial giving. Church of God (Anderson, IN) is sometimes used to distinguish our body from others with a similar title, but no connection.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN WESTERN CANADA Thirty-one congregations in the four western provinces have formed an assembly for cooperative ministry. A coordinating staff functions in the office in Camrose, AB, but all officers serve as volunteers.
Deer Valley Meadows, a retreat center near Alix, AB is owned and operated for the benefit of many groups in the Christian community.
Western Canada Assembly is an independent, federally chartered entity, but maintains a fraternal working relationship with Eastern Canada and U.S. assemblies. Congregations are locally controlled and associate with the Assembly on a voluntary basis.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF GOD MOVEMENT
In the decades following the American Civil War, the religious scene in the United States was dominated by a neglect and even denial of much of what had been previously held as “basic” within the Christian community. The resulting turmoil stimulated a multiplying of denominations within Protestantism. In the midst of this troubled setting, a grassroots movement arose around 1880 in Midwestern North America. They were concerned about the many divisions amongst believers and the general drift from basic Biblical teachings. This new movement was a reformation movement and they took for themselves the simple New Testament designation “Church of God” not to become another denomination, but to identify themselves as part of the universal church of God to which all true Christians belong.
The emphases of this fledgling, loosely organized movement were:
Affirming the spiritual nature of God’s church rather than human organization or institutions Condemning of those things that caused divisions among Christians
Calling of Christians to live holy lives with God’s enabling
Gleaning the great truths of Scripture that had been reclaimed by the previous reformations
At first, because there was a shunning of denominational trappings, more effort was given to spreading this message among Christians than in starting up congregations. Their message spread quickly and within the first three decades the message was rooted on every continent.
NATURE OF THE CHURCH OF GOD MOVEMENT
Terms can define but sometimes mislead. Without pigeonholing, the Movement considers itself conservative, rooted in Wesleyan-Arminian evangelicalism, a part of the Anabaptist free-church tradition. We have been very eclectic as a participant in the Protestant tradition.
There is variety from congregation to congregation and culture to culture, as most bodies have. The objective has been to simply be an up-to-date version of the church found in the New Testament.
In methodology, style of worship and church programs, Church of God congregations function similarly to other mainline, evangelical groups. Effort is made to concentrate on what Christians have in common, building bridges instead of walls.
With roots in the “holiness movement” there has always been a strong emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and in the body of the church. Through the Spirit we experience God’s active presence in our lives:
Making us aware of our sin and need of God
Giving us assurance of sins forgiven
Giving us a new birth
Helping us understand the truth and meaning of scripture
Enabling us to become Christ-like in character
Bestowing gifts to serve
Endowing with the power to share our faith story with others
“Are you charismatic? Are you Pentecostal?”
Yes and no. We are charismatic if by that you mean persons and churches empowered by the Holy Spirit to build up the church on mission in the world. Yes, we are Pentecostal if by the term you mean the Holy Spirit was given to the early church and continues to come, empower and call the church to servant ministries. No, if you mean by charismatic or Pentecostal an emphasis on speaking in tongues as the sign of a spirit-filled life or the freedom for persons to speak in tongues at their own discretion in public worship.
“Are you a mission-minded church?”
Definitely. The Church of God emphatically asserts that all Christians are called to world and local missions, and that some individuals are particularly gifted for special assignments in the missions tasks. North American and International missions efforts are facilitated and resourced as a result of the partnership between local congregations and Church of God Ministries. Though the focus of missions is often on those who are called and sent, we believe that the total church is responsible for taking Christ to men, women, and children everywhere. Our churches voluntarily pool their prayers and financial support to accomplish together what none could do alone.
“What do you teach about Jesus’ second coming?”
We believe that Jesus will come again, but we have no idea about the date or time Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32-37). Our eschatology (knowledge or study of last things) emphasizes that when Jesus comes for the second time to receive the church, all things of this world will end, and those who have believed on Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will go with him to live eternally. Our view of the Kingdom of God is that it is a present reality – we believe that when Jesus came to earth, he launched his kingdom (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; Luke 17:20-26) and his kingdom is in the hearts of men and women who give him their allegiance.
“Do you have certain standards?”
Yes. We believe the Bible is clear on many points of morality and ethics and we expect those who are a part of the Church to live accordingly. There may be conscience-questions where Christians tend to differ in their conclusions as to what Scripture teaches in specific applications. In life-style the Church of God tends to be conservative as the call of Scripture is to positive, holy living that honors God.
The Church of God movement gladly acknowledges that it is only a part of the “church of God” in the Biblical sense and does not use the name in a denominational way. We are a movement within the greater body of God’s family. Christians have much to learn and appreciate in each other, and our movement wants to foster that kind of openness and fraternity.