By Jack LaValley
Is it possible our current Sunday service is lacking some core elements of persuasion and conviction that speak to the heart of our need for rebirth and salvation? Are few new people joining our movement through our Sunday service because we don’t offer them what they really need, when they do show up? If so, what can we do about it? A specific kind of alternative service can help us attract and hold more “first-timers” and bring spiritual renewal and revival to our ranks.
Robin Debacker conducted a survey that gathered information from Unificationists about their Sunday service experiences. Contacting individuals via private Facebook messages, she collected 350 responses over a four-month period — two-thirds from the 50+ age group, and 103 from second gen. Responses came from 195 cities around the world — 38 states in the U.S. and 32 countries. In summer 2014, the survey results were discussed on this Blog and presented on her website dedicated to that project. Key facts gleaned from her survey were:
- Nearly 25% of those surveyed do not attend a Unification service, and have distanced themselves or dropped out entirely.
- 70% of those who indicated they attend a service on a regular basis said they are not inspired, and do so out of a sense of duty, or for social reasons only.
- The majority of second gen respondents said that most of their second gen friends are not interested and do not attend a Unificationist service. Of those who do attend, many said they are searching for more open and honest discussion, more practical application, and more second gen leadership.
The Sunday service program model still remains the primary weekly gathering in the Unificationist faith community. Yet that model has failed to be the gateway program to persuade and convict the “unchurched” and “spiritual” seekers to become intimately involved with our faith community. Some have “joined” through Sunday service, but not that many. In some areas, efforts have been made to use home church, tribal messiahship or small group models to address how to “bring non-Unificationists into the fold,” but such efforts have yet to gain the prestige or influence of Sunday service.
By Tyler Hendricks
Our Unification movement exemplifies two church models, and serves as a case study of their effect on church growth. Church growth has regular causes that can be discerned by examining churches that are growing. Church decline also has regular causes that can be discerned by examining churches that are shrinking. The defining characteristic of most growing churches is that they have one mission, that being evangelism, and congregational polity. Most shrinking churches have multiple missions and hierarchical polity.
For a church to have an evangelical mission means the church is organized to proclaim the good news (the “evangel”) and to bring others to salvation through it. Congregational polity means that the members of the local church own and govern the local church.
To have a hierarchical polity means that pastors are employed and directed by a central authority. Through the pastors, the central authority, which owns all properties, guides the planning, schedule, strategies, style, etc., for each congregation. Such churches tend to have multiple missions and pay little attention to evangelism.
Thesis #1: The Unification Church grew when and where it had an evangelical mission and congregational polity
Founding of the church: The Unification Church grew from one spirit-led man starting a local congregation. The church had an evangelical mission and congregational polity. He taught and preached a God-centered biblical vision for world transformation. He prayed incessantly. His mission began with a vision of Jesus; people who joined testified that it was the spirit world that led them to him. He loved and served others to bring them into his church, sleeping and eating little, giving up his family, worrying not about physical needs. That was how it started.
By John Redmond
One of the great ironies of many successful religious movements is that they almost always start from failure — from a secular and mainstream point of view. Christianity had its charismatic young leader crucified as a rabble rouser for tipping over the tables in the temple. Christians spent years in intellectual gymnastics explaining how the messiah was born an illegitimate child and killed as a criminal.
The Pilgrim Fathers were driven out of England, as were many of the other colonists who settled in the New World. The Latter Day Saints (Mormons) were driven westward to the American desert to die, their founder lynched and religion mocked.
Yet these movements found multi-generational success in preaching, modeling and promoting the values and doctrines that gave them fulfillment and improved the culture around them.
This doesn’t happen by accident. Successfully attracting and maintaining believers over multiple generations and changing the values of a culture requires a combination of good leadership and good management, and they are not the same thing.
Leadership requires communicating and validating a shared vision to a group of people you may or may not control. Reverend Moon could cast that vision, and many people, even those uncomfortable with his management style, could agree with that large and inclusive ideal and, perhaps more importantly, sense the heart behind it.
Management is the control of money, processes and people to achieve a desired product or outcome. I’ve never been impressed with many Unification managers, who mostly mean well, but have little success or training from the real world on which to base their decisions. They mostly default to Theory X management, micro-managing the behavior of their members rather than nurturing their goals, activities and creativity — or they swing to the other side, to religious-based trust and out-of-control management systems. A movement with a great vision but poor management may succeed, but its progress is measured in millennia rather than years.
By Mark P. Barry
In May, Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, speaking in New York, asked America to fulfill its role to help reunite the Korean Peninsula. She said:
…[T]he United States needs to fulfill its responsibility. In order to do so, Korea and the Korean Peninsula needs to become the top issue for the United States. …The homeland of God, Korea, needs to become one nation. And I hope the United States will stand on the forefront of this great task.
Now is the best opportunity yet for the U.S. to take forward-looking steps to make a breakthrough in Korea. August 15 is the 70th anniversary of Korean independence — and of the division of Korea, for which America bears a great share of responsibility. It is clear no other nation can make the difference in bringing about reunification.
Last month, the U.S. reestablished diplomatic relations with Cuba which were frozen in the Cold War since 1961. It also reached a nuclear agreement with another long-standing enemy, Iran, with the hope it will lead to an evolution in Iranian behavior. Now is the time for America to encourage, with seriousness and focus, the two Koreas and the regional powers — Japan, China and Russia — to establish permanent peace in the Peninsula.
On July 27, the three Korean War veterans in Congress, Rep. Charles Rangel, Rep. John Conyers, and Rep. Sam Johnson, introduced legislation calling for a formal end to the Korean War. As I wrote two years ago on this blog, a peace treaty is necessary to end the 1950-53 Korean War, and is the requisite first step toward eventual reunification. Little has changed since I wrote those words. But the opportunity for the American President to take bold actions in his final year and a half in office should not be missed.
By Susan Herrman
These poems are dedicated to our True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humankind, and reflect my pondering the lives of the philosophers I encountered in my studies at Barrytown College of UTS, especially from Dr. Keisuke Noda’s “Meaning of Life” class.
“To Season the Season of Change” was a long time contemplated — then sprung to life because a white blossom fell before me. “To Mr. Camus, with love…” I wrote as I tried to take a positive view of the value of absurdity that Albert Camus posed. “Allegory of the Cubicle” was written as a modern-day twist to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” as it relates to my real-time life at my cubicle. “My Life” was written after contemplating my life, my encounter with the True Parents, and Moritz Schlick’s essay, “On the Meaning of Life.” “Meaning” was written as part of the Senior Seminar class when I wrote poetry for the final class project.
To Season the Season of Change
The white petal falls from above
Like the snowflake a season ago
Like the leaf of autumn they dance and blow.
And yes, as the season of summer descends
With its radiant and intense beams of warmth and light
Shedding light to those below
How we must reverse our days and seasons
To come to our own true love’s season
Of radiant joy
So we must reverse our course to find our own unique season of life
Let me change my season now…