We find ourselves in 2014, when the spirit of “we’re marching to the blessed land of Canaan with delight” is a little harder to come by. We no longer have the power of True Father shielding us. As a consequence, are we bound for demoralization and decline? Or will God’s revolutionary movement maintain and grow?
Let me start by saying that the church was just as messy before I joined as it is now, but somehow God worked through it to save my life. God’s given me more than one second start. God also does that for churches as a whole.
When it comes to second starts, the Jesus movement has had many. It is a religion that continually renews and reshapes itself. Pentecost was the first episode. The foundation for that was that the followers, although demoralized, united in prayer and fellowship. The Holy Spirit came, and Peter gave it a voice in the public square. Even if the dramatic sermon recorded in Acts, Chapter 2, didn’t really save 3,000, what the early Jesus community accomplished changed the world.
They were able to articulate the core gospel, which turned lemons — the crucifixion of a discredited Messiah — into lemonade: salvation through the resurrected Christ who shed his blood to redeem you from sin. Peter and the early community affirmed everything that had come to pass, while giving a dose of judgment to those who murdered Christ, and called it all something God would build on. Then they gave a simple prescription for what the people should do: repent, accept Jesus, be baptized, and follow his way.
The next great reshaping was Paul’s ministry, and I won’t go into that or the 2,000-year story of constant new starts, but will mention one that I observed — the Jesus movement emerging out of a stagnating Protestant mainstream in the early 1970s. This movement gave us mega-churches, cell churches, independent Bible churches, the Religious Right, and, oh yes, Christian rock.
The people who created this movement didn’t plan for all this. They just loved Jesus and the Holy Spirit and went out and expressed their faith in their own way. When the existing churches didn’t accept them, they made their own. Of course, there were false starts and dead-ends, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I think we have to do something like that.
We have groups gathered around various members of True Father’s family, and the family is not, at the moment, energetically united. That hampers our global unity, but not really that much. In my experience, the members are as united (or not) as ever. I think we have, on our level, done a good job of maintaining solidarity. We have to be mature and patient, knowing that we have our own family’s shoes to walk in, and don’t need to walk in somebody else’s.
In my view, our global unity comes in the local churches, and this depends upon our local pastors. Our pastors are called to bring people together centered on our gospel that liberates us as couples and families, and liberates us from the history of Satan’s claim on the human race. We have an amazing gospel.
With respect to the Cheon Il Guk Constitution, I’m aware of its flaws. But it articulates the ideals I’ve always held concerning my aspiration to be a child of God, good husband, father and brother, and it calls me to fulfill tribal messiahship. A Supreme Council doesn’t matter that much to me — and I know some of the people on that Council and trust and love them. The Constitution calls me to authentic faith, family life and activity in the local church. And it’s in the local community that success will come, if it comes at all; it’s there that God will work.
Right now, in my church, the Mid-Hudson Family Church (which worships at UTS), our pastor doesn’t focus on the external activities. His messages address personal life, relationships with God, mind and body, with spouse and children — starting with his own. A few weeks ago, he said in a sermon, people are calling for transparency in our national or international church, but what about transparency in myself, with my wife, with my kids? Where am I with that? He said in another, we won’t have a constitutional church until we have constitutional people. And one time he got into rhetoric about realms of heart or Principled life, and then caught himself and smiled and said, you know, that’s very idealistic.
Some members of our church started up a daughter church, a church plant, across the river in Kingston, NY, and it’s charting its unique course, discovering unexpected blessings and ministry potentials that are in the formation stage, too early to talk about. Nonetheless, I honestly think that having two churches within easy driving distance leads to ministry diversification and creativity, and to serving bigger market segments. It was inspiring to me to see that with a solid core group of believers, it’s not that difficult to start up and manage a local church. Now, it’s difficult to make it grow! But not really difficult to make it exist. It takes good leadership. It begins with personal ministry.
Recently, I spent a few weeks in Korea working on the new Cheon Seong Gyeong project. While there, I went to Cheongpyeong on four weekends. I was impressed with how many second generation members were there. There was a 40-day workshop and a large number — perhaps half — were second gen or young first gen. On the ancestor liberation and blessing weekend, there were 400-500 people. I’m not a Cheongpyeong devotee, but I found myself having a deep experience of meditation and repentance during the chanyang sessions (used to be referred to as ansu). I really felt connected to my family as well as nearby ancestors.
A photo of the Tree of Blessing at Cheongpyeong, taken by the author.
Why bring this up? As I remarked in the late 1990s when introducing the Cheongpyeong director, Mrs. Hyo Nam Kim (Hoonmo-nim), in her visit to the Bay Area Family Church, this is a woman who has gone out and created an amazing personal ministry. It has True Parents’ blessing, as all our personal ministries should, but what she has accomplished is astounding. I’m sure her organization struggles under the surface, because I’ve never seen life without struggle, but the point is it is up to each of us to create our personal ministries. Tribal messiahship means personal ministry.
Also, Mrs. Kim has developed a spiritual discipline that some people really like. You can’t please all the people, all the time, but some really like it. If you or I don’t, then we can create our own spiritual discipline, if we really want one. It’s not easy!
The founder of the rather amazing Boston Church of Christ testified about why he started that movement. He was criticizing some Christians witnessing on his campus, when he heard God’s voice say, “Do you think you could do any better?”
Well, I heard that Father said Barrytown could be the Cheongpyeong of the West, and I thought to myself: it’s not the property; it’s the leadership. Who is going to make of Barrytown something of the Cheongpyeong scale of success — much less surpass it? I heard the same words: “Do you think you could do any better?”
I’ve heard that a small group ministry is doing very well in Brazil, and it came out of a local church leader. That’s where all religious vitality comes from. Not the headquarters, but the local church. American revivalism appeared on the frontier. Pentecostalism came from a Los Angeles neighborhood. The Second Advent started in a cardboard shack — and that after many setbacks. Our God is a God of second starts.♦
Dr. Tyler Hendricks (UTS Class of 1978) served as president of the Unification Church of America and of the Unification Theological Seminary. He is presently engaged in Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon’s Holy Scriptures project, the production of a Divine Principle video series, and the weekly Holy Marriage Blessing radio ministry, which can be heard live on the web Sundays at 7 am New York time.
Painting at top: “I Will Pour Out My Spirit On All My People,” by Marianne Gonzales.
Good essay, Tyler, but from the grand-scale point of view, when you look at the providential work of our church, we are now on our third start. First, there was Jesus who tried to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, but that didn’t work out. Then there was True Father, the second start, but if you look around the world today, things are indeed “messy,” as you say, and I’m not just talking about the church. Korea is still divided, and the latest crazy guy in the North has nukes. Despite MEPI, there is no peace in the Holy Land. In fact, things have never been worse there. And America, the light of the world, is in serious decline. Now we have True Mother, the third start, doing things in her style, centering on a new constitution and Vision 2020, True Father’s 100th birthday.
The Bible says, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” After all, God intended the Garden of Eden to be a physical place. This still remains to be seen.
I have to say how strongly I agree with Tyler’s main point that God works through local initiatives. It’s natural to be concerned about what’s happening in the larger scheme of things, but in my experience, God works when one person or a few people, however imperfect, decide(s) to make an offering.
I think we often misunderstand what our current position and responsibilities in the providence are. As a result, it is difficult to see “beyond the tree to see the forest”. I listen to complaints about our movement and think instead about the victory of True Father’s life and where we are now.
Dr. Hendricks makes some very good points and I would support his essay by drawing attention to the fact that we are only two years into what I call the “horizontalization” of the providence of the Second Coming. There are innumerable experiences and events that each of us can point to and accuse or feel bad about, but prior to two years ago, everything we did was only in support of one perfectly offered life. I believe that that offering, by True Father, True Parents, and all of us was successful. If so, where does that leave us now?
Whenever we would have an accomplishment when Father was alive in order to “go to the next level,” True Father would remind us that it would be necessary to go down and re-make our foundations. He did this, in my opinion, because each level of the providence has to have its foundation. For example, even though we went from a successful church level foundation to a world-wide movement, we still could not approach the world as a victor, could we? People would say “You are a church! Why are you trying to deal with governments?”
It was necessary to go to the position of servant of servants on a worldwide level in order to win hearts and minds on the worldwide level (in this example). This was a natural expectation to someone who understood what was happening in the providence, which, unfortunately all too often, was just True Parents in those earlier days — though we often brought a victory by just believing in and obeying his directions.
So fast forward until today. Does it not make sense that True Father would ask certain people to give up an earlier foundation so as to re-make a new foundation on a much higher level? Of course it does. A foundation on a higher level cannot be made without solidifying and clarifying an earlier foundation.
We exist in a situation today where the new foundations have not been made successfully yet. Although God chose certain people to re-make True Parent’s vertical foundation on a horizontal level by creating a worldwide Unificationist culture, they could not do it yet, for many reasons.
When God’s providence is not fully completed on one level, God always moves to the next and encompasses the victory of the smaller level in the victory of the larger. The best way to help fulfill our uncompleted family culture is to create that culture in a larger sphere. This would be the blessed families of today creating a vibrant, powerful and inclusive Unificationist culture.
We have no problem working with people of any religious or political background, but we have not yet understood the power of a principled culture even in our own communities. There are as many views about what “principled” means as families in our communities. God is working to bring us all into unity beyond our differences. True Mother is guiding us to unite and creatively make that vibrant culture. When we can, each of us, live for the sake of others and manifest a principled life, we will see God work in the larger world in a most powerful way. We have not yet seen the third Great Awakening, but it’s coming. As we develop the horizontal foundation from the zero point of Foundation Day, we will set the condition of Unificationist cultural unity. At that point, the world will certainly beat a path to our door.
Each commenter has a valid point. I think what Steve is voicing is the painful reality that we don’t know how much time is left and the pressure of world breakdown and warfare is great. Different from the early Christian church, we have a limited dispensational time period left. In 2010, our founder informed us that the last phase of the providence (three years before Foundation Day 2013) was the final Last Days. Without sufficient result, the risk of world destruction might occur. At East Garden, our founder even gave us a glimpse of that possible risk when he said that half the world population could possibly be lost.
As the second and third commenters offered, individual responsibility is needed in any case scenario. Further, to create a Great Awakening as our founder also called for, is to bring on the need for partnerships with many other groups, since we could not do it alone and no other religion has succeeded to bring world peace or a condition for world peace either. Instead of a trickle of activity individually, we need a major outreach mobilization on the larger levels of media, witnessing to groups and other new paradigms.
I am always encouraged to read such thoughtful and accurate musings. Each time, though, I am left with my own responsibility to “do something.” After all, there is no church without “me.” I do not want to fall in the trap that I so comfortably found myself in for years, that is, of following someone else’s notion of who I am and what my offering should be. No one can expect to know what God has planned for me, thus it is my responsibility to grapple with a skin touch relationship with Heavenly Parent with the traditional, inherently masculine ‘Heavenly Father’ qualities as well as through the largely unexplored, sublime “Heavenly Mother.”
Recently, I have been made more and more aware of just how important it is to delve into “Heavenly Mother.” Who understands bringing life into the world better? Who loves all her children and can see beyond the growth pains? Who can fan the gossamer hope of peace? It is the Mother. Harmony, life, inclusive concern, nurture — these qualities as well as innumerable others come from the Feminine aspect of Heaven. It is high time we relate to that Feminine side in order to find the path for our personal life, for the church as a whole, as well as for the path of peace. This, I believe, is the Great Awakening we are waiting for.
Good points, Tyler. Well said. You made me think of the following: the main point we must always remember is that God works, exclusively, with and through individuals. Not organisations, not churches, not nations. Just individual human beings. Then we, as we are called, inspire others, create organizations, churches, nations, whatever, to help us, the individual, accomplish something. But these things are not of God, nor rarely particularly Godly. As you said, it’s all about leadership. Deeper down than that, though, it’s all about our integrity to our calling. If our church has lost its way, it’s because it’s tried as an organization of many people to substitute itself for Father’s unique individual calling.
After Jesus and the confusion following his death, God worked individually through Paul, and Jesus’ vision largely saw reality through Paul’s calling, which inspired hundreds, then thousands, millions, and billions. At each step along that journey, God worked with and through individual after individual — culminating in Father — to move Jesus’ core message forward.
Here we are after God worked with and through Father. At some point, an individual will feel God’s call and will spin up anew the energy and spirit and love of God to again move mountains and inspire hundreds to millions or billions to move Father’s core message forward. And, as with Jesus, the confusion following Father’s death will subside and a new direction forward started. And in the future, God will find other individuals who can embrace Principle in the way most appropriate for the moment to move the penultimate core message toward ultimate conclusion.
So that’s the lesson I take from your essay. And I thank you for writing it.
Christianity grew through the spiritual influence of the crucified Christ. There was no earthly foundation left immediately after Jesus‘ death. When True Father passed away there remained a foundation of faithful members. Compare that to the ‘rock‘ that the spirit of Jesus had to build on.
My hope is not deflated by the outward signs; neither does my determination flag. In fact, I did not join this movement because things were going well. If I had joined because of that, I would have left a long time ago.
I feel the living spirit of True Father extending to the far reaches of existence. When this square peg can fit into the round hole True Parents have opened for me, I will have my place on that super highway open to us all.
I feel honored by having such a mother as True Mother who is resolutely standing steadfast in the most difficult position of anyone on earth… for us. Anyone who can‘t appreciate that is truly unfortunate.
Our church will grow according to the development of our hearts and wisdom.
Good and wonderful viewpoint.
Yes, nice essay on the power of the local and the resilient.
“Tong ban kyok pah” or bust, I suppose.
I like your article a lot, Tyler. Good points. Christianity has indeed been reborn many times. I always was amazed how I think it must have been during the Second Great Awakening — how innovative (and heretical to traditional denominations) all the movements such as Christian Science, Mormonism, etc., were. It always gave me hope that Christianity could actually be fluid enough to change to welcome the Second Coming. I agree that True Parents have set all the conditions of indemnity basically and what we do will always rest on that foundation until the day every soul on earth and heaven knows God’s heart and will. There are many dismaying attacks by the side of evil, but I believe they will be just unmentioned history soon.