Quotes from Ronald Dart Letter on
Unity, Evangelism and Role of the Church
Ronald Dart has been a long-time leader in Church of God groups. He served as a pastor, writer, head of a college and of the ministry for the Worldwide Church of God. In 1979, he went to the Church of God, International, where he served in nearly every imaginable capacity except making broadcasts. Many of the hundreds of tapes, booklets, lessons, and articles he produced while at CGI are still being distributed.
Ron Dart left the CGI in 1995 when it became clear that Garner Ted Armstrong was again involved in sexual misconduct. While some are unhappy that he cited health reasons instead of his real reason for leaving, he nevertheless had the courage to leave and start out anew.
Rather than attempt to establish another hierarchy or typical "church organization", he founded Christian Educational Ministries (CEM). He set about the business of producing materials that local congregations could use for teaching and evangelism. Some have claimed that he was secretly planning to build another hierarchy, but as far as we can see, he has held to his original plan. At one time, he talked about establishing a rather extensive qualification process for congregations to be affiliated with his ministry. We wrote him (as did others) and said this would essentially create another hierarchy since he would be the one in charge of the process and could simply disqualify a congregation any time he disagreed with it. Ron Dart listened, and scrapped the plan.
This is not to say that we agree with everything that Ron Dart does or teaches. But he probably does not agree with everything that we have done and taught. For that matter, we do not agree with everything that we have done and taught in the past. We are all learning.
What is important, is that Ron Dart and those who work with him are willing to work with others who are willing to work with them. They do not place a lot of demands or insist on controlling others. Following are quotes from Ron Dartís letter to brethren dated November 1, 1997 (emphasis was added by SN Editor):
So many people, lamenting the division that has racked our churches over the past few years, have expressed a yearning for the day when we can all be together again... and most people are beginning to feel it is a vain hope.
But what I came to realize at the feast this year is that it is not as vain as it might seem. In truth, we were "all back together again" at the feast in Kissimmee. There were people there from nearly every corner of the church and representing all manner of doctrinal nuances, and yet we met in harmony and peace. Once again this year, I was struck by the fact that so many people with so much diversity could get along just fine if left alone to do so. We shared music and worship together, we learned together in workshops and seminars, we ate pie and ice cream together and played games together.
It seems as clear as crystal to me that it is entirely possible for us to all be together again as long as we donít fall in the old exclusivism. We donít have to be together administratively. We donít have to merge organizationally. We donít even need perfect doctrinal agreement. All we have to do is accept one another. I know now that it can be done. It is only a matter of scale. Maybe if we can all just keep working at it, God will bless us and something truly wonderful can happen.
Increasingly, I am becoming convinced that we make a mistake when we engage in "church building". I donít mean physical buildings, I mean setting out to build a church by bringing in members. Perhaps it is not too technical a point to note that it is God who adds to the church, not us.
But when we argue doctrine and try to "convert" people to our group, we are merely proselyting and building a following at the expense of others.... It is not our objective to build the church, but to make disciples.... It may come as a surprise to you when I say that the church is not the primary instrument of evangelism. That role is left to those individuals who have the desire and the gifts to carry it out. It is not necessarily even a function of the ministry, because many non-ministers have been very effective in carrying the word to friends, relatives, and community.
"So what is the church all about?" you ask. "We canít build it, and it is not even the primary instrument of evangelism." It is simple, really. Jesus will build His church out of the disciples created by the evangelism of His disciples. And the work of the church has at least two major thrusts. One is to be a support group for the disciples and the other is to strengthen those disciples and to prepare them for every good work.
The church should first love and care for it members and those who come to it for help. The church should then work on "perfecting the saints." The job of all the ministry of the church is to edify the body of Christ "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). Why is this so important? Because it is the individual who grows to the stature of Christ who can carry the Word forward to the next generation.
Donít misunderstand. I am not saying that evangelism is the work of a chosen few. I am saying it is the work of the chosen many. The many who are educated in the Word, strong in the faith, who care about people, who reflect the love of Jesus in their lives and work.
This is why we at CEM have chosen the emphasis on education, even at the Feast of Tabernacles. Those of us who have gone down the road before you have an obligation to teach, exhort, explain, warn and help those who are coming along behind us. This is also why we chose as our vision statement, a paraphrase of 2Timothy 3:17, "That the man of God may be proficient and equipped for every good work."
You may contact CEM at PO Box 560, Whitehouse, Texas 75791; 903-509-1139; or email@example.com. &
Servants News November 1997 index