The following feature appeared as the keynote article on the Church of God in the annual Progress edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner. The edition charts the progress of organizations and businesses in the Cleveland and Bradley County area from the year 2019. The feature ran on February 18, 2020.
In 2019, the Church of God announced new initiatives and celebrated milestones as the denomination headquartered in Cleveland since 1904 continued its ongoing focus to finish the Great Commission.
At the 2016 Church of God General Assembly, newly elected General Overseer Tim Hill unveiled in his address his vision for the FINISH Commitment. He outlined the strategy as a “Global Church Focus on the Great Commission.”
In the nearly four years since that inaugural speech, Hill and church leaders around the globe have put forth the goals, commitments, and scriptural references for each of the letters of the acronym, FINISH. In addition, numerous resources have been developed to assist pastors and church leaders to promote and implement the initiative, including the website cogfinish.com.
Hill outlined the six objectives which have come to define his term as general overseer:
“To finish the Great Commission, we must FIND the lost and disenfranchised, including the unreached people groups around the world, engaging them in love and winning them to Christ,” he said. “We must INTERCEDE, making prayer and worship the highest privilege and greatest responsibility of every believer.
“We must NETWORK servant leaders of all generations, including pastors, ministers and laity for shared ministry engagement. We must INVEST our resources by strengthening the Church through strategic partnerships for care, church planting, education, leadership development, and discipleship. We must SEND disciples to all nations, actively sharing the gospel through Holy Spirit empowerment, and we must commit now to reap a world HARVEST with a global church focus on the Great Commission FINISH.”
On Jan. 22, 2019, Hill unveiled the next step of the initiative to the Church of God International Executive Council calling it “FOCUS 2020: Preparing a Foundation for Great Commission Success in the Next Decade.”
The details of FOCUS 2020 included 10 articles, all beginning with the letter A:
• Accelerate spiritual renewal through prayer, the Word, and discipleship;
• Address relevant issues through prayer and transparent communication;
• Advance local church growth (membership) through prayer, revival, and revitalization;
• Activate budget missionality through prayer and Great Commission intentionality;
• Achieve debt elimination through prayer and focused financial stewardship;
• Acquire church planting endowment through prayer and maximization of resources;
• Attain optimum ministerial effectiveness through prayer and resourced training;
• Assist in identifying and empowering new generations through prayer and purposed engagement;
• Align for international, state and regional impact through prayer, ministry and benevolent partnerships; and
• Arrange for maximum Gospel delivery through prayer, multigenerational and multicultural laity and ministry mobilization.
Like the FINISH Commitment, FOCUS 2020 includes three visional commitments each.
While not the primary topic, to help promote FOCUS 2020, the vision was introduced as part of a series of Global Ministry Forums that took place in 2019 at more than two dozen sites in the U.S. and around the world. The Forums were mandated at the 2018 General Assembly as a way to discuss four primary questions to be debated at the 2020 Assembly in July. The questions were also part of a survey distributed in 2019. The forums began with a gathering on Feb. 7, 2019, in Fountain Valley, California, and concluded on Nov. 15 in Manila, Philippines.
One of the ways the Church of God advanced the FINISH Commitment in 2019 included the unveiling of a worldwide prayer initiative called #WePrayCOG. It was launched in October and involves 40 weeks of focus on prayer leading up to the 2020 General Assembly in July. A goal for #WePrayCOG is to engage individual prayer partners around the globe, involving 5,000 local churches, 40 consecutive days of daily prayer between Easter and Pentecost Sunday, and a final 40 hours of prayer at the Assembly at the Indianapolis Convention Center.
In May 2019, one of the Church of God’s iconic ministry training programs marked its 40th anniversary as hundreds of interns and their families traveled to Cleveland for a commissioning celebration of the Ministerial Internship Program (MIP). In the past 40 years, more than 25,000 candidates and spouses have completed the MIP, and more than 7,000 pastors have served as supervising pastors throughout the world.
Another milestone anniversary was marked in 2019 with the 50th anniversary of Church of God Girl’s Ministries. The first girls’ clubs, established as local Ladies Ministries, envisioned the need to train teen girls as Scripture admonishes in Titus 2:3-5. As a result, the Church of God girls’ organization Young Ladies Auxiliary (YLA) for grades 7-12 was officially formed. Later in 1982 the name was changed to Young Ladies Ministries (YLM). Other programs have been added through the years, including JoyBelles (fourth through sixth-graders) and BlueBelles (first through third-graders) and finally, Little Sweethearts (3 to 5 year-olds).
For the third year in a row, Church of God Women’s Ministries hosted Faith, Fire, Freedom celebrations. Four locations were designated as regional rallies and began July 27 with an international location in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The three remaining rallies were held on consecutive Friday nights in October in Nassau, Bahamas, Lexington, Kentucky, and Pueblo, Colorado.
In 2019, the former USA Missions Department of the Church of God became two separate entities. The initiative formerly known as Church of God Church Planting has been relaunched as the Church of God Church Planting Network and will be part of the Church of God World Evangelization Division of the International Offices.
A second aspect of the relaunch is the church revitalization progress will now be coordinated through the Office of Church Health and Revitalization. Another aspect of the ministries is the simultaneous launch of two new websites dedicated to the aspects of the Church Planting Network and Church Health and Revitalization. The sites are cogcpn.com and churchhealthcog.com, respectively.
The relaunch and restructuring of the ministries reflects the growth and progress of a concentrated effort to not only plant new churches across the U.S., but to monitor and assist the health and vitality of existing congregations through mentoring and resources.
Headed into 2020, the Church of God has a worldwide agenda of events and initiatives that will define the next decade and beyond. #WePrayCOG will realize fulfillment of its goals and FOCUS 2020 will be further defined and promoted as the 2020 International General Assembly approaches this July.
The official agenda for the Assembly will be released in April and will cover topics addressed at the forums, as well as a number of other issues. The theme for the 2020 General Assembly will be “FINISH Focus: The Church on Mission,” reflecting the continued focus of the Church of God to never lose sight of its primary vision, to win lost souls to Christ.