By Neil Earle
The Terror Attack on America has reminded us all most forcefully of what the Worldwide Church of God has always known – the precariousness of life in this present evil world. Titus 2:11-13 says it very well: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'no' to ungodliness and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the Blessed Hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own."
Of course our hearts go out to the victims. This has been the worst week in modern American History. We will never forget it. We grieve with those who grieve. Providentially, our regular Bible Study was held on that ugly Day of Infamy, September 11, 2001, and it turned into a prayer meeting for America and the suffering people. All those who were there went away strengthened, encouraged, and with a much greater hunger and thirst for the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom which is only here now in part (Colossians 1:13).
This letter you are reading was supposed to go out on September 11 but it is even more timely now. Paradoxically, the news is very good as far as our local congregation goes. August registered the largest average church attendance in 2-3 years. The number of regular donors has jumped. There seem to be new faces in church every week. The sense of excitement and optimism among us is palpable since God blessed us with the new facility at the Friends Church in February. God seems to be preparing us for something. So this is a good time to rededicate ourselves to Kingdom Work, to sharing the Good News with those who need it.
It is also a good time to begin thinking about the long-range future of our church. As I have been explaining for two years, the Worldwide Church of God is decentralizing. Momentum is moving to the local congregation in terms of evangelism, hall rental, offering accounting and receipting and paying a minister's salary and expense. This is all new for us. We have begun collecting weekly offerings in Glendora. For now, they are still being processed in Pasadena. But in a short time, perhaps as early as next year, our congregation could be responsible for processing and receipting our own donations and keeping 85% for the local area. That is a significant amount of money. Do we know what we want to do with it?
Our traditional fall festivals focus on the time when Christ Himself will return to bring peace and justice to this earth. But a sub-theme has always been fasting and prayer as spiritual preparation for it. The traditional Day of Atonement service stresses fasting (Leviticus 23:26-29). If you will be fasting on or near that day, consider our church's future in your prayers – the wisdom we will need to navigate the new challenges ahead; the need for new families to help shoulder the burden in the years ahead; the need to check ourselves to see if we have become distracted from pulling together as a group. Our mission is crystal clear: To proclaim by word or example the most important message any human ear can hear – the Rule of Christ and the Kingdom of God.
These requests are not legalistic requirements but pastoral suggestions. Fasting and prayer is basic Christian discipline (Matthew 7:16-18). Paul praised Timothy for putting the church's needs ahead of his own (Philippians 2:19-20). We can use this extra time of worship and fellowship to continue praying for America's safety and the ongoing pain this nation will experience in the week and months ahead.
Surely we have been reminded most painfully that nothing in our lives is more important than the work we have been called to do. Thank you in advance for your support. Our upcoming fall festivals will provide excellent opportunity to rededicate ourselves to Jesus Christ and the work of His Kingdom, the only Kingdom that will finally stand. Here are the meetings we will be holding in this area. We'd love to see you at these special occasions for prayer and pulling together:
Traditional Day of Trumpets Service: Monday night, Sept. 17, at 7:30, Friend's Church, 827 S. Lone Hill Avenue, Glendora.
Day of Atonement Service: Wednesday night, Sept. 26, at 7:30, Neumanns Club House, 1205 West Cypress, San Dimas.
Fall Festival: September 28-October 1, Riverside Convention Center, Riverside. (Please phone toll free 1-877-693-9077 to register and receive further information.)
Call me (626-256-4919) or e-mail me (email@example.com) if you have any questions about directions or if you need transportation. Let's pull together even more, brethren, in the days ahead. We must find ways to continue to be useful to God and Christ. The world needs what we have. And in this dark time let our lights shine out.
May God bless and protect us all.