Preaching the Gospel
The mission of the United Church of God is to follow Christ's footsteps in "preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (Matthew 4:23). Our model is the Church described in the book of Acts. This record provides us with an accurate spiritual compass in a confused and contentious world.
Scripture is clear that, just as Jesus commissioned His apostles to preach the gospel—the good news—of God's coming Kingdom, so has He commissioned His followers today to continue that mission. The conviction to preach the same message Jesus taught focuses the mission of the United Church of God and organizes its priorities.
The main collective task Jesus has required of His Church in all ages is to proclaim to all nations that He will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to establish the literal Kingdom of God on earth and to explain how we may have a part in that Kingdom (Revelation 11:15; 17:14; 19:16).
We also take seriously Jesus' command to "go therefore and make disciples [students of Christ's teachings] of all the nations, baptizing them ... [and] teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). The Church described in the book of Acts certainly did so, teaching that we must keep the commandments of God.
It placed top priority on obeying God's Word from the heart.
From these Scriptures we see that the mission Christ has given His Church is twofold. First, it is to preach the gospel throughout the world. Second, it is to make disciples among those who hear and heed when the gospel of the Kingdom of God is preached to them.
However, we fully realize it is not possible to fulfill this dual mission strictly through our own efforts. Just as Paul recognized that in His efforts "to preach Christ's gospel ... a door was opened to me by the Lord" (2 Corinthians 2:12), so we understand that God must open doors for the same message today. In regard to making new disciples, Jesus likewise explained: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him," and "no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father" (John 6:44, 65).
We understand that success in fulfilling this mission must come first and foremost from our Creator. Christ's involvement in preaching the gospel message did not stop when His original apostles died. He promised to work with His followers in fulfilling the commission He gave them "even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
We have great confidence in Christ's promises and instructions as revealed in the Bible. The United Church of God takes seriously its role of working within and according to the blessing of God in proclaiming to today's world the same gospel Jesus preached.
Announcing the future
Commissioning the gospel's proclamation throughout the world is only the beginning of God the Father's plan to reconcile humanity to Himself. Many have incorrectly assumed that He is desperately trying to save the whole world now, in today's age. But that simply is not so.
Certainly, Jesus commissioned His Church to proclaim repentance and salvation to the nations at this time. Yet proclaiming Jesus' teaching about repentance and salvation is vastly different from actually being able to lead all people to salvation in this age. The task of fully reconciling and saving the world is to occur only after Christ returns to earth.
The apostle Paul tells us that announcing mankind's future reconciliation to God is part of the Church's mission: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19). Notice, God has committed to His Church "the word"—the preaching or announcement—of that reconciliation.
Notice Paul's explanation of this enigmatic truth: "For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob'" (Romans 11:25-26).
This saving action of which Paul wrote has not yet occurred. It will occur, however, not only for Israel but for all other nationalities as well—but only after Christ returns as the King of Kings over the Kingdom of God (Ezekiel 37:12-14; Matthew 12:41-42).
The good news of God's coming Kingdom is a message the world at large has never grasped. But it is one everyone desperately needs to know because it proclaims the awesome future and destiny of mankind and the means to achieve it (be sure to read "God's Great Purpose for All Mankind" on page 8).
Reaching the world with a message
The Church's primary collective commission during our age, the present era, is to announce—to inform the world about—the coming of God's Kingdom, not to establish it. That is why, when asked what would signal His coming and the end of this age (Matthew 24:3), Jesus emphasized that the Church is to continue announcing His coming Kingdom, even to the very end of this age. That is why He said that "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (verse 14).
The original Greek word here translated "preached" means to announce or proclaim as a herald.
The United Church of God takes this responsibility seriously. To comply with Christ's commission to proclaim the gospel message, we utilize many tools.
Most prominent is The Good News magazine, published six times a year and mailed to hundreds of thousands of subscribers. The magazine is sent free of charge, anywhere in the world, to anyone who requests it. Drawing on writers from around the globe, it goes into almost every nation on earth.
Published in four languages—English, Spanish, German and Italian—the magazine contains spiritually uplifting and educational articles written from a biblical perspective on a variety of subjects, including prophecy, human interest, marriage and the family, Christian living, history, archaeology, lives of individuals mentioned in the Bible, scriptural teachings and analysis of societal and world trends.
A radio program of the same name airs weekly in cities across the United States. Featuring ministers of the United Church of God, the program covers topics like those the magazine deals with. Television programming produced by United congregations airs on cable-access community television channels in many U.S. cities. (For radio and television schedule information visit us online at www.gnmagazine.org/radio and www.beyondtoday.tv)
The Church publishes many booklets, also free, to supplement these efforts and delve into biblical topics in greater detail. Readers and listeners may request them from any of our regional offices or from our Web site, www.gnmagazine.org.
Each year we print hundreds of thousands of English-language booklets and articles and mail them around the world. In addition, we offer some of our booklets and articles in the Spanish, German, Italian, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Estonian languages.
The United Church of God also publishes a full-color, 12-lesson Bible Study Course to help students gain a deeper understanding of the Scriptures. This course is designed to explain the major themes and teachings of the Bible in easy-to-understand language. It addresses many fundamental questions about God and the way He wants us to live.
The first lesson of the course addresses the basic questions of God's existence, the Bible's role in showing why God created men, women and children, and the ultimate purpose of life. Then it guides students through many of the most intriguing and inspiring portions of the Bible, unlocking the real purpose for our being—and how we may live fulfilling lives while accomplishing God's great purpose for us. Lesson 4 addresses the challenging question: Why does God allow suffering and evil in the world?
Thousands have been helped to change their lives for the better through this course. As with our other publications, we and our coworkers provide it freely to all who request it. And, as with other publications, we are developing it in languages other than English.
Using electronic tools
Recognizing that people increasingly seek information via the Internet, the Church uses this important tool to reach an even wider audience with the gospel. In addition to making all of our publications available for request or downloading over the Internet, we offer a separate daily study aid—our Internet-based Bible Reading Program, available at www.ucg.org/brp.
It leads students through the entire Bible over the course of two to three years. Typically covering a chapter a day, this free, in-depth program provides the reader with a systematic reading schedule along with clear, easy-to-follow commentary, maps, charts and graphs to thoroughly explain the Scriptures. These Bible aids are intended to help all those who desire to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
We also offer several E-magazines (electronic magazines) and occasionally other publications only on the Internet. Virtual Christian Magazine, for example, offers a variety of biblically based articles 10 times a year. You can find it at www.vcmagazine.org.
The main objective of Virtual Christian Magazine is to provide instruction in the practical application of Christian principles. Virtual Christian Magazine shares stories of God personally interacting with human beings and features living examples of faith, love and hope along with practical solutions to life's challenges. The magazine is full of encouraging, inspiring and motivational stories about God helping us overcome and live a life centered on Christ and His teachings.
We publish a separate quarterly E-magazine, Youth United, at youthmagazine.org (now Vertical Thought at verticalthought.org). Geared for teens and college-age readers, Youth United features articles to help young people deal with the pressures and pitfalls of their world with a God-centered approach. The site includes a question-and-answer section in which young people can receive personal answers by E-mail from ministers and others trained and experienced in working with youth.
The United Church of God also has a letter-answering staff available to reply to questions from anyone. These can be sent through postal mail to any of our regional offices or by E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A call for repentance
Almost immediately after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His apostles with further instructions. "And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem'" (Luke 24:45-47).
Wherever they went, His apostles continued preaching that everyone "should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20).
In this light, the role of the Church of God with respect to the world around it parallels that of the watchmen of ancient cities. In ancient Israel, towns positioned watchmen on the city walls or nearby hills. Their responsibility was to warn their fellow citizens of impending danger, such as a hostile army that might be headed their way.
God at times compared His prophets to these watchmen. But an important difference is that His prophets' warning came from Him, not from their own observations and perceptions. For example, God told Ezekiel: "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me" (Ezekiel 3:17; compare 33:7).
Most people today are unaware that a considerable portion of Americans and people of British heredity are descendants of the ancient Israelite tribe of Joseph. Many Bible prophecies make it clear that these people in particular will be greatly affected by ominous events at the end time as a direct consequence of their national sins, so they need to be warned by those who understand the truth. (For a clear and thorough explanation, be sure to request our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.)
Jesus foretold that there would be an unprecedented time of great tribulation before His second coming (Matthew 24:21). This time of anarchy and upheaval will affect the entire world, including the modern descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Fully aware that much of the Bible is prophetic, the United Church of God publishes several booklets, and regularly features articles in The Good News magazine, focusing on world events in the light of Bible prophecy. Additionally, the Church regularly publishes World News & Prophecy, a newsletter devoted to understanding current events within the framework of Bible prophecy. Like all material published by the Church, you can receive it free of charge by contacting our office nearest you or from our Web site at www.ucg.org/contact/.
The United Church of God does not push its beliefs on anyone. Matthew 24:14 says the gospel would be preached "as a witness to all the nations." It is up to each individual whether he will hear and accept that message.
The Church's role in this regard is to proclaim the gospel and the need for repentance, go through doors as God opens them and take opportunities as they are presented to us to reach ever more people with the vitally important message of His soon-coming Kingdom.
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