Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are grateful to God for all he has done among our family of churches called The International Churches of Christ. He has redeemed us by the blood of Christ, built churches on every continent, disciplined us as his sons and daughters and now is preparing a harvest of righteousness and truth. The opportunities ahead are staggering.
From the firestorm we have experienced together, we have all been refocused on the foundation of our churches which is — Jesus Christ. We have also been given greater insight into which parts of our ministries were being built with "gold, silver and costly stones" and which were being built with "wood, hay or straw." As a fellowship of churches we again have the opportunity to do what many Christian groups would long for – to recommit ourselves to the ideal of searching out the Scriptures for biblical principles and working together to humbly and prayerfully become the unified, caring body of Christ that God wants us to be – and to redefine their identity and connection in a prayerful, humble, collaborative and unifying manner.
During the International Leadership Conference in Seattle, it was evident that the Spirit of God was producing a growing desire for greater cooperation and unity among our fellowship of churches as a greater number of leaders were made more aware of the spiritual and financial toll that some of our churches have paid because of a breakdown of either unity, connection, or organization in different parts of our fellowship of churches. Out of a desire to help meet those and other needs, as described in more detail in the above excerpt from the announcement that first appeared on www.DisciplesToday.net, it was thought best to solicit and gather proposals from as many as possible. We have been asked to facilitate this process. Although we all know that there are many others who are equally (or more) qualified, we humbly accept this opportunity to serve the Body of Christ through our family of churches.
Purpose: The Holy Spirit created a unity among us through our repentance and baptism into the body of Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit and our mission as disciples of Christ. The challenge given to us in Scripture is to "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3) How we make every effort is where the proposals come in. Many of us see a need for greater unity and connections between congregations and leaderships of churches. We are eager to hear from those who have specific proposals.
Submitting Proposals: Our first goal is to make sure that every part of our brotherhood is invited to submit proposals for cooperation.
While we will certainly review proposals submitted by individuals, in order to make this project manageable, we ask that individuals first consider working in groups to allow the Spirit to work through each of you and to present us with your collective wisdom. "Many advisers make victory sure." (Proverbs 11:14) Many of us are already traveling to, calling, speaking with and listening to various segments of our churches to make sure that the next month will be a fruitful writing and discussion period. We want everyone in our family of churches to have the opportunity to contribute to this process. Please forward this notice to others.
Scope of Proposals: The scope of these proposals is to offer a practical, godly way for our churches to cooperate in a unified manner to glorify God and accomplish his will. The most important issue is that we develop a clearly identified way to cooperate in a global manner to proclaim the gospel of Christ while respecting the local church.
Please feel free to address whatever part of our brotherhood cooperation and identity that you are most concerned with. Some of the areas that others have expressed a desire to address: simple statement of beliefs, mission plantings and funding, reconciliation and conflict resolution, continued training and shepherding of evangelists, elders, missionaries, and planted churches, unified beliefs, advice for hurting or weak churches, developing standards for administration, helping churches without ministers and ministers without churches, joint efforts with our youth, campus, singles, helping the poor, leadership development, etc. You may have a proposal that would address one or many of these areas.
We want to be clear to those who have trouble with writing, especially among to those outside of America – even brief emails and bullet points, no matter how coarse, are welcome. If you are limited by technology or language, please send your proposal on paper to any one of us and we will do our best to bring your thoughts as input into the process. Or send your proposal to: Steve Staten 655 W. Grand Avenue Suite 220 Elmhurst, Illinois 60126.
We are not suggesting that the proposal that will be submitted by us to the churches by February 1, 2006 will be intended to solve every major challenge facing our churches. However, it is our prayer that God will help us suggest a proposal that will strengthen us locally and globally and enable us to more effectively accomplish God’s purposes throughout the world. The great diversity among us is a gift from God. When each part of our fellowship of churches works in unison and harmony, God will be glorified as souls are saved, healed and matured. (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)
Process: We request that all proposals be sent by November 1, 2005 to: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will prayerfully review all proposals, synthesize the best ideas from them, and by February 1, 2006, submit a recommended proposal for brotherhood consideration to our family of churches.
We ask all willing and able disciples to pray and fast with us on November 1, 2005 for the Spirit’s guidance and wisdom. We ask that you continue to pray that the Spirit will work together through us so that the resulting proposal by February 1, 2006 is fruitful in answering the main questions as to how we will connect and cooperate maintaining the Spirit’s unity in the future. We are committed to using the Bible as our standard and guide. The New Testament reveals churches sharing their correspondence (Colossians 4:16, Revelation 1-3), working together to solve an inter-congregational problem (Acts 15:1-4), financially supporting missionaries and mission work (Philippians 4:14-18), cooperating in helping the poor saints in Judea (2 Corinthians 8:16-21), etc. Although many of our congregations currently enjoy association with other sister congregations through cooperative mission efforts, historical ties and geographic proximity, there unfortunately remain others that feel isolated and unsupported or unsure as to how to proceed into the future. Let us consider how to help all parts of our family.
The recent Seattle conference revealed the sincere, widespread desire for togetherness and cooperation in our fellowship. There was a desire in the fellowship for new visions and improved plans to help our lost world receive the salvation of Jesus Christ. Truly God has blessed our family of churches to now be composed of mature churches, young adult and very young churches. As we let our Heavenly Father lead this family, the overall mood of our fellowship indicates that the vast majority of our churches desire unity, cooperation, coordination while renouncing selfish ambition and competition
All proposals should be sent to email@example.com by November 1, 2005. Watch www.DisciplesToday.net for updates from this proposal group. We solicit your prayers.
In Christ’s service,
2005 Brotherhood Cooperation Proposal Group Announcement Excerpt
For many months, numerous brothers from our family of churches around the world have expressed a desire for a greater brotherhood cooperation to meet the needs of the disciples, the lost and the poor.
Following discussions with and recommendations from several church leaders around the world and sensing the opportunity for cooperation at the 2005 International Leadership Conference in Seattle, the elders and regional evangelists of the Los Angeles Church introduced a proposal a few weeks ago that included an appeal for brotherhood unity and revival. In the days that followed, it became obvious that additional time would enable more churches to prayerfully consider this initiative and furnish additional input and even other proposals. Therefore, at the beginning of the International Leadership Conference, the Los Angeles brothers recommended that their proposal be a part of a wider plan to solicit other proposals and asked the many churches who had agreed to the original initiative, or had expressed strong interest in it, to extend patience in favor of this broader plan to solicit additional proposals from all parts of our fellowship for consideration.
Since we have no worldwide representative group in place, this idea was presented in Seattle to the planning group for the next International Leadership Conference. The idea seemed good to the 33 brothers who were from most geographical areas of the world. After some discussion and much prayer, 9 brothers were selected to serve on a group to gather input for a brotherhood cooperation proposal. These men were selected by the simple qualifications of: servants who were full of the Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3); who hold the deep truths of the faith (1 Timothy 3:9); have been tested and proven faithful (1 Timothy 3:10); are advocates of a cooperative effort (Ephesians 4:1-3); have no selfish ambition (James 3:13-16); have gifts needed for this task (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12); desire to serve in this group; and have global relationships (2 Timothy 3:10)
The 33 worldwide conference planning members spent a night in prayer and then selected the following brothers by secret ballot, commending them to the fellowship to serve as the Cooperation Proposal Group:
Andy Fleming, Missions Evangelist, Middle East and Eurasia
Mike Fontenot, Evangelist and Elder, Hampton Roads, Virginia
Scott Green, Evangelist, Seattle, Washington
Philip Lam, Evangelist, Hong Kong, China
John Louis, Evangelist, Singapore, Southeast Asia
Sam Powell, Evangelist and Elder, New York, New York
Steve Staten, Evangelist and Teacher, Chicago, Illinois
Mike Taliaferro, Evangelist, San Antonio, Texas and Africa
Bruce Williams, Evangelist and Elder, Los Angeles, California