I Believe in North American Missions
There is a place for constructive criticism, even in the church, but if the criticism is not contributing to the health of the body of Christ, I have some alarming news. You may be cancer. Cancer cells look different from other healthy cells, ignore signals from healthy cells, and diminish the blood supply to healthy cells. Cancer cells will not stop dividing, will not stick together, will not mature, and will not repair.
It’s true, “Some of you have been hurt by the church or discouraged about your experience with the church,” as Timothy Tennent aptly noted, “but the Church is what God is building in the world. Allow Him to restore your vision for the church—because there is no true access to His holy presence without your brothers and sisters.”
I love my church, and by “my church,” I mean the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI). Let me take a moment to share why—scripturally and practically—I love the UPCI.
Scripture describes the church as a fellowship of saints. In fact, “saints” became the Apostle Paul’s favorite name for Christians throughout his letters to the church. But what is intriguing to me is that the call to be saints was not primarily to individuals. In the old covenant it was a call to the whole nation of Israel, and in the new covenant it is a call to the whole body of Christ.
In the Corinthian epistle, for example, Paul opens the letter with these words, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (I Corinthians 1:2). Referring to the church as “saints,” Paul reminds us of the call for the whole community to live in unified holiness. Through the infilling of the Spirit, God has created a fellowship of saints, a community that demonstrates to the world “the truthfulness of the gospel of grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.” (See II Corinthians 5:17-19).
As a North American Missionary I have experienced this love in a remarkable way. In June of 2011, my family and I assumed the pastorate of a daughter work, and we have seen the gracious work of Jesus Christ unfold in our church and city over the past five years. Average annual attendance has grown from around twenty to ninety-six people with a record attendance of 150. Most of all, we have seen twenty-eight people baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and eleven filled with the Spirit.
In November of 2015, New Life Hutto became an autonomous work affiliated with the UPCI, and in February of 2016, the church purchased three acres across from our community central park and less than a mile from the downtown area.
When it came time to purchase this property we applied for a Sheaves for Christ property grant, and we were moved to tears when we received the news that we would be receiving $25,000 toward the purchase. Why tears? Because after selling our home, after working a number of odd-jobs to make ends meet, and after seeing our church community make significant financial sacrifices to take this crucial step, we were still short of our goal.
It was the gracious generosity of UPCI churches, the youth, and young adults of the General Youth Division that enable our church to complete this purchase through the property grant provided by the Sheaves for Christ offering. Now for the first time in the history of our city a United Pentecostal Church will be established by the grace of God and the sacrificial love of our UPCI fellowship.
Indeed, I love my church. May this example of love “restore your vision of the church” and help us eradicate the cancer that would seek to destroy the body. Let us keep in mind the words of the apostle Paul, “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple” (I Corinthians 3:17).
Seth is continually amazed by the grace of Jesus Christ. He and his wife Sarah live in Hutto, Texas, just northeast of Austin, with their daughters, Promise and Purity. There he is graciously allowed to lead and serve as pastor of New Life United Pentecostal Church of Hutto. He is also a graduate of the University of Texas and is currently wondering why he is still a student at Urshan Graduate School of Theology after all these years. He should be finished by now.