Monday, September 14, 2020

Preaching the Gospel by Tapping into Reserves of Church Manpower

There are potential ways of preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world that have not been tried in modern times in the history of the Church of God.  And these ways, by themselves, do not necessarily require a lot of money.

From the time of Mr. Armstrong, from around the end of 1933 and beginning of 1934, the Church of God has primarily preached the gospel to the public through the use of channels of communication that cost money, such as: radio, printed magazines and literature, TV, paid Internet advertising, print advertising, and public meetings in rented halls.

These types of methods are still important and will remain important as long as they are available.

But members have not gone house-to-house.  They have not stood on street corners handing out literature.  They have not approached strangers to try to tell them about the gospel.

The Church of God has understood that these methods are not appropriate.  And I agree that we should not do these things.  From a practical point of view, people often take offense at these things.  Those who use such methods are viewed as being pushy.  The reaction is usually negative rather than positive, and these methods can do more harm than good.

Besides that, members, realizing the likely reaction, usually are not willing to do these things.

Television, radio, and print advertisements are different.  They are not as intrusive.  People can pay attention, or switch attention to something else, as they do with other programming, advertisements, and messages.

But new technology has opened up a new way.

I am talking about the Internet and public forums and blogs.

The Internet is full of forums and blogs.  Many people own their own blogs and participate in the discussions that take place in many blogs.  It is a whole new community, worldwide in scope.

And in these forums and blogs, people expect discussion, sometimes controversial discussion.  If done appropriately, you can express your views in blogs that many people will see without coming across as pushy or offensive.

If done appropriately.  If done wisely.  That is a big qualification.

But if done right, it may have the potential to be a way of preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to our Israelite nations and to the world.

It does not necessarily cost a lot of money.  But it is labor-intensive.  To make a program of this would require the time and effort of many COG members.

Whether this would really be effective or not, I do not know.  But it is something that could be tried in addition to (not in substitution for) the traditional means of preaching the gospel through radio, TV, print, and advertising that the Church has always used, and has always cost money.

How would it work?

The Church would train and supervise members to set up their own blogs and memberships in forums and social media platforms and then engage in discussions in the forums and in the other blogs about matters concerning the gospel and the warning, and some members may do this without training and supervision.  Some blogs and forums that members enter comments in might be religious in nature.  In the member's blogs or social media and forum profile pages would be links or references to COG websites that can guide those interested to booklets and videos that cover the full range of God's message and truth.  Once in contact with the Church's official websites, they can be guided, if God is calling them, to make contact with a minister and be prepared for attendance and possible baptism.

For example, let's say there is a blog or forum in which there is a hot discussion among various people about evolution - some for evolution and some against evolution.  Call this blog-A.  A COG member, having set up a blog of his or her own, could write and publish a post showing some flaw in the theory of evolution and show that evolution is wrong.  In the side bar of the member's blog could be a couple of links - one perhaps to the Church's official website for all literature, another to a particular booklet on why evolution is false.

With that preparation, the COG member could then start to participate in the ongoing discussion in blog-A, using his identity or profile that can lead interested readers to the Church member's own blog.  The member can add his comments to blog-A, participating in the discussion.  Interested readers can follow up on that member's profile and identify and find the member's blog.  There, he may enter his own comments in the member's blog and maybe go to the links in the sidebar.

Some individual COG members probably have tried something like this from time to time, but never, as far as I know, has a Church of God fellowship actually organized and encouraged something like this.

There will be a learning curve.  There are right ways to do this and wrong ways.  There are wise ways and foolish ways.  Mistakes will be made, but we can learn from our mistakes.  Over time, an effective program can be developed.

But this should never be a substitute for the proven methods Mr. Armstrong has used and the Church has used of broadcasting, print, advertising, and public meetings.  Those methods cost money, and that money should come out of the tithes and offerings of the members.  Members should still support those traditions methods and support a fellowship that uses those traditional methods with their financial contributions.

But some members have more than money to contribute.  They have time.  They have Internet connections.  They can contribute in other ways, donating their time and effort, in addition to contributing their money.

The Church of God is scattered.  It may become more scattered in the future, perhaps because of persecution.  Television doors may close at some point.  But notice an example from the book of Acts.

"Now Saul was consenting to his death [Stephen]. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:1-4).

Notice, the Church of God, except the apostles, were scattered, and they went everywhere preaching the word.  It was not just the apostles who preached the gospel.  It was the Church of God, the scattered members.  You don't have to be a minister, necessarily, to preach the gospel.  The Church of God has always taught that members are to set a good example and answer people's questions about their faith (neighbors, family members, friends, co-workers), without being pushy, and sometimes this leads to the conversion of others.

Discussing the truth of God in blogs and forums just takes this a step further.

There are pitfalls.  There will be problems.  There will be mistakes.  But the Church of God and its members can learn and improve over time.  

Another way COG manpower can be used is something Mr. Armstrong did.  When a minister organizes a public meeting, members can distribute flyers announcing the meeting.  This is cheaper than advertising.

Another way that has been used before - response cards.  The Church can produce a printed booklet on a subject, and mail-in cards can be printed advertising that booklet.  Card display cases and cards can be placed by members in various businesses and locations after getting permission from the owner.

Here is a possible method for preaching the gospel that I have not seen used, but may be made possible by the Internet.  I don't know if this would work, but here is an idea anyway.

People often search the Internet for information about a breaking news story.  Let's say there is an earthquake in some part of the world.  People will go to Google and type in "earthquake" and the country where it happened.  Google will present a list of stories, and the person will click on several and read them for information.  Some people will spend a lot of time on this, depending on their level of interest in the story.

Google updates its search results very quickly to respond to this demand for information, even hourly.

If the Church set up a website, or several, specializing in information about news events, when a story like this breaks, they could quickly put together and upload a new webpage for the story and properly submit it to the search engines.  The Church's webpage can report the story using other news sources, giving links and credit to those sources, but summarizing the story in a useful way.  The article might be a couple of pages, and towards the end the content of the article can transition to what the story means in terms of prophecy or some other Bible truth, then give links to COG literature.

In a way, this would be similar to a technique used in the old Plain Truth magazine.  An article would cover basic information on a topic, not referring to the Bible right away, but towards the end of the article a transition would be made to a more biblical view, and the reader would be invited to request a booklet giving the Bible view of the topic.

This is not something every member can do.  Certain skill levels are needed for writing, editing, webpage construction and uploading, etc.  But it would be a team effort and many hands would be required, and various members may be able to do different parts.

And because news stories break 24 hours a day, the work involved can come at any time.

What are the functions that would be needed?

First of all, there is monitoring.  Someone has to watch the news and spot and report to COG headquarters any news story that has the potential to be used this way.  Not all news stories would work.  For this, there should be a schedule, and qualified and trained members would volunteer or "sign up" for various times slots, to monitor the news for that time slot.  So maybe one member might volunteer to check the news from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Others would volunteer for other time slots till nearly the whole week is covered, 24 hours a day.  There will always be a Church member watching the news, looking for the right kind of story that the Church can use to preach the gospel.

The whole week might not be covered because we should not do this on the Sabbath.  But even there, with the Church worldwide over many time zones, there can be members in different parts of the world where it is not the Sabbath, so even most of the Sabbath can be covered.

When a member spots an appropriate news story, he calls a project coordinator, at Church headquarters or elsewhere.  The
coordinator may call a minister for an OK.  Coordinators and approving ministers will also be scheduled in shifts.  Someone with authority makes a go / no go decision.

If it's a go, a qualified person or team is notified and an article is written, maybe in an hour.  An editor is standing by to edit.  Team members can quickly gather facts about the story and assemble the links and credits.  Maybe one writer can write the main top part of the article while another writer is simultaneously writing the transition and link to COG literature.  A webpage programmer is standing by to put it together, upload the new page to the website, and notify search engines.

Everyone needed for these can volunteer to be available, at various times, in shifts.

I don't know if this would work.  I am fairly sure it has not been tried.

The Church of God membership represents a vast pool of manpower.  There may be ways to tap into this manpower to preach the gospel.  Maybe others have more ideas on how to do this.

But as I have said over and over, the Church should still use the traditional methods that cost money.

How much money should a COG fellowship spend on the gospel compared to feeding the flock?

Historically, with Mr. Armstrong and others that followed him, I think close to half of the tithe and offering income is a good balance.  A fellowship that spends 45% of its income on feeding the flock, 45% on preaching the gospel, and 10% on administration and overhead, is probably making a good, balanced effort to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to our nations.

If any fellowship tries to do this, they will be developing methods and learning lessons that they can use to preach the gospel, but those lessons can be shared with other fellowships to do the same.

Also, these kinds of efforts may cross organizational boundaries.  That is, one fellowship can get the ball rolling, but various members of many fellowships, or scattered members who have nowhere to attend, may contribute.

Christ is the head of the Church.  But He is not head of only one fellowship or one part of the Church.  He is head over every man and woman who has the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9).

We are all one team.

There is an account of the apostles forbidding one from casting out demons because "he does not follow with us".

"Now John answered and said, 'Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.' But Jesus said to him, 'Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side' " (Luke 9:49-50).  See also Mark 9:38-40.  

Notice, Christ did not say, leave him alone.  He did not say to be neutral towards him.  He said, in effect, he is on our side.  Not neutral.  On our side.  We are all on the same team.

Maybe we should act like it.

No comments: