Church of God: A Movement of Critical Presence

Before any business of the 77th International General Assembly got underway on Tuesday morning, July 31, 2018,Presiding Bishop Timothy Hill called for the privilege of addressing the General Council. The following represents the heart and vision of the address, which was followed by a powerful period of prayer, laying on of hands, anointing with oil and a parade of ministers and laypersons who represented the core of the future of the Church of God:

Two years ago, as I stood to accept your nomination as General Overseer, I remember saying to you that the Church of God must be a church of Continual Prayer, Committed Purpose and Critical Presence. I used those words intentionally to simply convey the message that “it has to matter that we are here.”

To say that we are a church of Critical Presence is not in any way meant to indicate that, in and of ourselves, we are the remedy to the many ills and issues of the world. But it is to say that we, the Church of God, as part of the Body of Christ, are a channel through which the Holy Spirit may flow in order to bring healing and restoration to a world desperate for redemption.

Our movement must never be content to withdraw into the dust-covered museums of irrelevance. Nor should we succumb to being a subculture of meaningless existence, heavy on paper-thin rhetoric but short on Gospel execution and implementation. We must make a Gospel difference and a Kingdom impact.

The church does not exist in a bubble or a vacuum. We live and do ministry in a socio-economic context, influenced by a world-view, political ideologies, and spiritual forces. It is within this context that we are called upon to share the Gospel, live out the Gospel, and contend for the Faith. Those with discerning eyes will recognize that the space around us is not neutral. There is a battle for dominance and secular forces have a clear agenda to frustrate and derail our mission. The world is seeking to promote morality without religion and render the church inconsequential. This is not a new agenda; it is just camouflaged in the garments of post-modernity.

When we strip away all the euphemistic language, it boils down to good versus evil, righteousness versus unrighteousness, morality versus immorality, and love versus hate.

The church can only be effective in this age if we recommit to the mission of Jesus Christ. This mission is about truth and love. We must perceive truth through the eyes of Jesus Christ and live and speak this truth through the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit.

The desperation gripping our world today places a renewed Gospel demand on the Church of God. To sneak in and out of Orlando without speaking something of kingdom significance, and without doing something of human impact, will not justify our being here. A thousand and one issues are screaming for resolve and most every institution is crying out for reformation. Yet the truth is, we are not in the world today to reform the world. Our mandate in the world today is not political. It’s not social and it’s not economic. And while every issue is important and most likely affects someone we love somewhere, we must not be seduced by the idea that if we can “fix” this and then “fix” that and then “fix” the other, everything will be fine. We were never invited to “fix” this or ‘fix” that. The calling of the church is to proclaim the un-compromised Gospel of Jesus. Whenever that which is central, becomes peripheral, then that which is peripheral becomes central. Every issue in America and the world today is of significant importance yet there seems to be few acceptable answers. Since we were together last in Nashville, our world has been in a constant state of convulsion over issues that no one knows what to do with. Name the issue – any issue:

• Poverty
• Terrorism
• Racism
• School Violence
• Immigration
• Substance Abuse
• Sexual exploitation and human trafficking
• The denigration and abuse of women and children
• Abortion
• Unemployment
• Healthcare
• Leadership Transparency and accountability

On and on I can go and every individual would place each issue in a different order of importance. However, I want to name you the most concerning issue in America today. It’s not poverty, immigration or any other that I may have listed. The greatest issue in the world today is…. a lukewarm church, listless and unable to effectively make a difference in this world.

The very definition of lukewarm-ness describes too many churches on the global landscape. They are too cold to be hot — and too hot to be cold. In such a Laodicean state, these churches face the grave danger of the Master’s expulsion. He cannot endure any church in such condition.

Some are like the Church of Ephesus, “they have abandoned their first love.” It wasn’t an accident. Ephesus didn’t “lose” anything, but they drifted away and pushed the main thing aside while pursuing other passions. It wasn’t that they didn’t love Jesus at all, they just simply did not love him like they used to.

I ask the Church of God today, “Do We still love Jesus like we used to?” Do we love him enough to forsake personal agendas, political agendas, prideful agendas and adopt His Harvest Agenda – His “people” agenda?

• Hurt people
• Lonely people
• Hungry people
• Sick people
• Lost people

We’ve come to Orlando this week united under the banner of “FINISH in the Spirit and Power of Pentecost.” For two years now, you have embraced, as never before, the mandate to:

Find Unreached People
Intercede in Prayer
Network together
Invest in Church Planting
Send laborers around the World and
Harvest ripened fields and bring lost souls to Jesus

This is the Great Commission on course for a Great Completion. But hear my heart: We are a Pentecostal Church and Pentecost must not be viewed apart from the Great Commission. Likewise, the Great Commission should not be viewed apart from Pentecost. They are intertwined and interwoven together.

You’ve heard me say for a while now, “We were not filled with the Spirit for our enjoyment, but we have been filled for our employment.” We are not Spirit-filled so we may sing louder, run faster, or engage in more vigorous worship. We have been filled with the Holy Ghost in order to effectively fulfill the mandate of Christ in Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you and you shall be my Witnesses.” That’s it.

For whatever reason we often feel that this simple mandate isn’t enough. So we go out looking for better methods. Seeking the latest and the greatest methods of men reminds me of David doing his best to bring back the Ark of the Covenant. He employed a lot of brass, and a lot of boards that were moved along by Big Wheels. However, with the first bump in the road, disaster struck and revival was sidelined for the next three months.
Listen to me! God isn’t looking for better methods out of this meeting this week. He’s looking for better men – better women – better pastors – better evangelists – better leaders who will lean on him, understanding that, “It’s not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord.”

Our theme strongly conveys our dependency on the power of the Holy Spirit for us to be able to FINISH the Great Commission. But it also implies a frightening antithesis. If we are so dependent upon the Holy Spirit, how would we ever assume that we could do any of this without Him? Do we really want to try this without His help and participation?
We must return to Pentecost again.

• The Suddenly of Pentecost
• The Sounds of Pentecost
• The Sights of Pentecost
• The Speech of Pentecost

All so we may experience the Significance of Pentecost. It’s time for us to get the microphone back. We gave it up to those who said, “You cannot be Pentecostal and reach this generation.” We gave it up to the crowd who said, “The days of miracles, signs and wonders are over.” We gave it up to those who said, “A younger generation won’t embrace the message of holiness and conviction.” We gave it up to those whose message is much more apostate than apostolic. Many have been seduced by doctrines of devils, and now, too many who once burned with Gospel Fire have become clouds without water carried about by the wind. They are as trees whose fruit has withered, twice dead and plucked up by the roots.

We must get our voice back and proclaim again that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. We must get our voice back and proclaim that the day of the Lord is at hand. We must get our voice back and proclaim that righteousness exalts a people but sin is a reproach to any nation. We must get our voice back and speak truth. Speak clearly and speak firmly. We need to stand firmly on the “Jesus platform” again. This Assembly cannot be about but one agenda. We must get back to delivering Jesus to the world again by the Power of the Holy Spirit.

When Peter went into the home of Cornelius, he proclaimed Jesus.
• Jesus – born of a virgin
• Jesus – living a virtuous life
• Jesus – dying a vicarious death
• Jesus – raised in a victorious resurrection
• Jesus – coming in a visible return
As he preached Jesus, the Holy Ghost “fell on them as in the early church in the upper room.” Why complicate it? After we work through all of the resolutions, after we debate and adopt motions, and throw “points of order” around like confetti, let’s get back to the simplicity of the Gospel. It’s Jesus preached and proclaimed in the Power of the Holy Spirit.

As I close, I’m pondering the question that Mary asked when visited by the Angel Gabriel. When Gabriel announced that she would carry and birth the Messiah, Mary asked one question, “How shall this be?” This was not a question expressing her doubt. She just wanted an explanation. God is not short on explanations. He has an answer.
When I first began to broadcast the idea that the Church of God could be a leading participant in FINISHING The Great Commission, I asked the same thing, “How shall this thing be?”

In preparing the Agenda, I asked the Executive Council to look at six primary areas to help facilitate the FINISH Commitment. I saw us at a crossroad and was reminded of Jesus sending his disciples to Bethphage – a place where two roads came together. Once there, they released two donkeys and brought them to Jesus. He would choose the unridden colt to be his transportation into Jerusalem which would demonstrate that He has not come to do away with the old law but He has simply ridden it out.
With no disrespect intended, I asked the council that day, “Could it be that we are a church tethered and bound at a place where two roads meet?” The road of the past has intersected with the road to the future – and we are bound in between.

I asked the council to join me as agents of release and consider for this agenda these six possibilities:

Visional Actualization
• Doctrinal Affirmation
• Ministerial Activation
• Generational Assimilation
• Structural Acclimation
• Spiritual Acceleration

After reflecting on each of these again, I asked the same question, “How shall this thing be?” I received the same answer that Mary did. How? The Anointing of The Holy Ghost.
The Angel said, “The Power of the Holy Ghost will come upon you and the Power of the Most High will overshadow you and that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
That’s the answer.
How do we reach into every nation? The Anointing of the Holy Ghost
How do we find the unreached? The Anointing of the Holy Ghost
How do push back against the darkness in this world with any hope of impact upon the harvest? The Anointing of the Holy Ghost
How do we expedite healing to the nations and reconciliation to the races – and also bridge the generations that exist in our churches today? The Anointing of the Holy Ghost
How will the Church of God arise into a new manifestation of relevance, a dispensation of revival and a demonstration of anointing? The Anointing of the Holy Ghost

This General Council Agenda is vitally important. It has been seasoned with prayer, study and discussion. It has been seasoned with vision. Vision that declares in clarion tones that we – the Church of God – accept the call to share the gospel in the Spirit and Power of Pentecost. We embrace the call to share the Gospel as a 21st century movement and with great commitment, we will contend for the faith.

Yes, this agenda carries numerous resolutions. These resolutions point us to the future and every motion propels us to relevance.

Does it matter that we are here? I answer that question with a resounding Yes! Yes, it matters because we are here to FINISH the Great Commission and witness a fresh wave of Pentecostal Power.

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