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Witness Express 6 (Feb 2010)

January 29, 2010

Christian Union Witness Express

 

Looking Back – What It Means To Be Christian Union
by Joseph CunninghamJoseph Cunningham

Against the dark backdrop of the slavery controversy that culminated in the Civil War the early founders of the Christian Union churches started a movement in the best tradition of the Protestant Reformers of earlier centuries. Churches had become embroiled in controversy and strife about the political issues and viewpoints of the American society of the 1860s.

Disturbed by the situation and the un-Christlike attitudes and conduct of many church members Christian ministers and lay men and women gathered in Columbus, Ohio in February 1864 to provide “a more perfect fellowship in Christ and a more satisfactory enjoyment of the means of religious edification and comfort.” In order to provide these basic benefits of a church they felt it necessary to organize “a religious society under the style of THE CHRISTIAN UNION.” From this small beginning has come the Christian Union congregation in which you and I fellowship today.

So we have a rich and sound heritage that honors Jesus Christ and provides the foundation upon which our families and community can enjoy God’s blessing and prosperity.

These early founders of the Christian Union churches set an excellent example for us. Instead of continuing the feuding within existing churches, these leaders set about establishing new congregations throughout the Midwest. Congregations were founded on Christian Union principles as far north as New England and as far south as Florida and west into Texas and Colorado.

Seven essential principles served as a basis for the union of believers in fellowship and worship:

  1. “The Oneness of the Church of Christ.” This means that all people who trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are members of Christ’s Church. When true believers meet there is an immediate spiritual bond.
  2. “Christ the Only Head.” This is not just a rejection of the Roman Catholic papal claim but the claim of all humans who may want to control the Church. Jesus Christ is alive and well. Through the Holy Spirit He maintains administrative control of His Church.
  3. “The Bible the Only Rule of Faith and Conduct.” This is not so much a rejection of human guidelines of conduct, but a placing of the Bible in authority over tradition and human rules.
  4. “Good Fruits the Only Condition of Fellowship.” The early founders set the example of producing the fruits of the Spirit. And they expected that each believer would exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (James 3:17; Matthew 7:16).
  5. “Christian Union Without Controversy.” In order to head off any repetition of the kind of strife from which they had separated, our early leaders set this cardinal rule. This is the biblical teaching of Ephesians 4:2, 3.
  6. “In order to avoid the autocratic rule of bishops and superintendents or overseers the founders instituted congregational government. Pastors are called by the congregation rather than being appointed by high church officials. Elders, teachers and officers are selected by the people for the local ministry. In this way “Each Local Church Governs Itself.”
  7. “And to avoid the political intrigues of the past, they set the rule that “party politics” would be discouraged within the church…”Partisan Political Preaching Discountenanced.”

In keeping with the third ‘principle’ above the founders “vowed their true and hearty faith in the received scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the word of God.” The scriptures give sufficient guidance for our belief systems and our lifestyle choices. So we believe the Bible and encourage each other to read, study and follow its teachings. Most of our churches have Sunday morning Bible school, and most have midweek Bible studies as well. This helps keep us in tune with God and His will for us.

In order to continue the Christian Union vision of our founders we have as our goal to be Christians that fulfill the Great Commandment of Jesus-(John 13:34, 35)-“”Love One Another As I Have Loved You.” Wholeheartedly loving one another, we have wonderful fellowship in our worship and bless one another in our ministries.

And as our founders we are Great Commission believers. Jesus left a charge to His followers, including us, before He left “”wherever you go, make disciples [followers of Me] of all nations [people, ethnic groups]. Baptize [set them apart by water baptism] in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to do everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

So we have a rich and sound heritage that honors Jesus Christ and provides the foundation upon which our families and community can enjoy God’s blessing and prosperity.

Jim EschenbrennerC.U. Futurecast
by Jim Eschenbrenner

From the inception of Christian Union our founders envisioned a movement fervently pursuing being the church without the encumbrances of bureaucracies and politics. The future will lead us back to those roots in order to move forward and be a post-denominational association of committed Christ-followers that are loving, serving, joyful congregations genuinely open to the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Christian Union church of tomorrow will be seeker-sensitive without being consumer-oriented. It will make the gospel interesting without being entertaining, and convicting without condemning. It will be both effective and faithful, serious and joyful, cross-generational and mission-focused. It will redefine felt needs and meet spiritual needs.

The church was not meant to be a stagnant, tradition-bound institution but a dynamic, Christ-centered household of faith; a place of worship where the spiritual disciplines are modeled, the psalms are prayed and maturity is nurtured. The church will be a community marked by the cross and blessed with resurrection hope.

The future of Christian Union is full of hope and possibilities as we focus our attention on the Bride of Christ – His church. From the very beginning, according to the accounts left for us in the book of Acts, the church was meant to be a dynamic, Christ‑centered household of faith. A gathering of committed Christ-followers – that are loving, serving, joyful congregations genuinely open to the work of the Holy Spirit.

From the inception of Christian Union our founders envisioned a movement fervently pursuing being the church without the encumbrances of bureaucracies and politics. The future will lead us back to those roots in order to move forward and be a post-denominational association of churches with the following attributes:

  • A passion for fulfilling the Great Commission which is sustained by the Great Commandment. Loving God, serving Him who is our Master and King, understanding His love for people and being His hands, His feet, and His voice in order to make disciples who make disciples who make a difference. This zeal will mean building and maintaining facilities will no longer be a priority.
  • A commitment to BE the church will replace building little kingdoms and result in moving from personal preferences and power-plays to Biblical principles; from democratically governed churches to a New Testament form of shared leadership where the pastor is the leader of the elders.
  • A focus on people not programs. The past has proven that programs don’t reach people. People reach people. People mature and begin to practice the spiritual disciplines as they serve, live, study and pray and fast with other people. The Fruit of the Spirit will be evident as Bible studies, prayer times and children’s ministry move out of the church building and into the community.
  • An emphasis on credibility and integrity in our pastors and leaders. Culture, politics, and sin have attacked the office of pastor and many who have filled that position. To accomplish the needed integrity, a formal one-on-one training of pastors will be instituted and will include the recognition of senior mentor pastors to help prepare other pastors for a lifetime of ministry which is “above reproach.”
  • A focus on accountability and partnership, not independence. Churches will seek ways to partner with other churches to reach people who are far from God. This will be accomplished through prayerful and careful alliances, the sensitive use of technology, and the stewardship of resources. Churches will be known not for their autonomy but for their dependence on one another.
  • A renewed zeal for the power of language to tell thought- provoking stories and ask penetrating questions in order to explore, learn, apply and share the life-changing Word of God. The pastor/teachers of the future will express both personal and corporate vulnerability that reflects maturity, not indifference. They will take Biblical integrity seriously and passionately seek spiritual vitality rather than cheap emotional hype.

The Christian Union church of tomorrow will be seeker‑sensitive without being consumer‑oriented. It will make the gospel interesting without being merely entertaining, and convicting without condemning. It will be both effective and faithful, serious and joyful, cross-generational and mission‑focused. It will redefine felt needs and meet spiritual needs.

The household of faith will not be a fun center or an escape from boredom, but a place of worship where the spiritual disciplines are modeled, the psalms are prayed and maturity is nurtured. The church will be a place where peer pressure, self‑centeredness, anonymity and affluence are resisted; a community marked by the cross and blessed with resurrection hope.

This is our goal and if we are serious about the power of the Holy Spirit leading our churches into the future, we are going to be living constantly on the threshold of God’s new and powerful work. We will not only have to live with change, ambiguity and opposition; we will want to – just as the early church did in Acts. The church was not meant to be a stagnant, tradition‑bound institution but a dynamic, Christ‑centered household of faith.

One Christian Union Farmer’s Impact on Missions

Virgil Bixler was a farmer in northwest Ohio. Before his death he established a Family Trust which upon his death was to be distributed by a legal firm he had employed. In addition to relatives and associations in which he was interested he left a significant portion of his estate to a local church and 35% to the “Ohio Council of the Christian Union Church (for Foreign Missions only).” The first of the distribution checks to be received by the Ohio Council was for $192,500.

Since Christian Union has a Mission Board with “full authority . . . to act in all matters pertaining to the General Missionary work, both home and foreign,” the Ohio Executive Board met with the General Council Mission Board and shared the information about the funds. It was agreed that these funds should be used for projects that would be of a permanent or on-going nature rather than current operating expenses or mission personnel support which is the responsibility of our members and congregations.

The Mission Board began the research as to what projects would be the best use of these funds.

The Ohio Executive Board had already decided that a project should be designated in memory of the Virgil Bixler family. This project was a permanent subsidy of a TMI Motorcycle Sunday School Circuit. $12,000 was sent to Teen Missions for this purpose.

The General Mission Board set the following projects in conjunction with our missionaries and their supervising boards:

$2,100 was sent to Word of Life for an air-conditioner for the School of Youth Ministries in Taiwan. $5,000 was sent to Ed and Rae Ann Montague to provide walls and a restroom for a Mexican church. $24,000 was sent to Isaiah 61 ministries for radio stations in Mali, West Africa at the request of Don Callison. $15,000 was sent to Far East Broadcasting Company for pre-set radios and $2,800 for a computer server for the radio station on Saipan where Dean Brubaker served. $35,000 was sent to Teen Missions for the “Three Nations Project.” This is to provide land and buildings in the area where Sudan, Congo and Uganda come together and serve this area by providing a Bible School, with Rescue Units for refugees in this area; included: classrooms, dormitory and a well and water system. Lee Sonius requested $30,000  to be used by his mission, HCJBGlobal, for a solar-powered FM radio station, pre-tuned radios (solar-powered) and a well as a continuing ministry associated with the station in Africa. In addition, to the organization with which Randy Spacht serves, $15,000 was sent to provide support for pastor-missionary training schools in India. The General Mission Board decided to set aside $40,000 for a fund to bring missionaries out of dangerous or emergency situations. There are still funds for a couple of projects which have not been finalized.

The General Mission board will make a full report at the up-coming General Council to be held in Excelsior Springs Missouri June 8-10, 2010.

God moved on this Christian Union farmer to give these funds through which many will be won to Christ around the world. What is God saying to you about the funds you may leave when you go to heaven?

CHRISTIAN UNION BIBLE COLLEGE
www.christianunionbiblecollege.com

Online Classes:
GB 101    Bible Study Methods
GB 121    Defending the Faith
HI 101    Survey of Church History
ME 203    Survey of Missions
NT 102    New Testament Survey
NT 214    Acts
OT 101    Old Testament Survey
TH 103    Christian Union History & Organizations
TH 203    Survey of Christian Doctrines
YM 101    Intro to Youth Ministry

www.cubconline.org

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