News Bulletin from the General Superintendent
General Superintendent David K. Bernard
The Future of the United Pentecostal Church International
As general superintendent I have felt led to emphasize three themes: (1) Apostolic identity, (2) Apostolic unity, (3) Apostolic revival. These themes come directly from Acts 2 and from the purpose statement of the UPCI: “to carry the whole gospel to the whole world by the whole church.”
On Sunday morning, February 26, as I was preparing to preach, God spoke to me for about two hours concerning the future of the United Pentecostal Church International. He gave me a word for General Conference, but I want to share some of these thoughts now. Simply put, we have achieved unprecedented strength in doctrine and unity in purpose; now God wants to give us unprecedented revival and growth. (See Acts 2:17; 6:7.) We are currently experiencing incremental growth, but God wants to give us a breakthrough revival that will shake our world. As if to underscore this message to me, in that Sunday morning service God filled 10 people with the Holy Ghost.
On our core doctrine, we are stronger than ever. When I was growing up, the UPCI had several large geographical pockets and some missionaries that didn’t proclaim Acts 2:38 as the new birth. My first full-time ministry assignment was to help restore one of our Bible colleges that had moved away from our faith. At the same time, we lost another Bible college under the same circumstances. Today, all our districts, mission fields, and colleges firmly support our doctrine. When my family went to Korea as pioneer missionaries, a General Board member informed my parents that those who had never heard the gospel were already saved; my parents were just going so they could earn stars in their crown. I don’t know of any minister, much less a leader, who advocates such a view today.
When my mother and I wrote In Search of Holiness in 1980, it was our movement’s first book on the subject, and the Pentecostal Publishing House rejected it as too controversial. Now PPH publishes it, its sequel is on the required reading list for ministers, and 200,000 copies of the book and its derivatives have been published in 23 languages. In the past decade, some ministers were seemingly waiting for us to compromise areas of practical holiness, but when that didn’t happen, they left. While at any time a few churches and ministers may be struggling with our identity or moving in a different direction, there is now an expectation that they will renew their commitment or else leave our fellowship. Indeed, in our General Board training sessions, we have discussed practical ways to address these situations, provide ethical direction, and take action as needed.
Our Fundamental Doctrine includes an admonition to keep the unity of the Spirit until we all come into the unity of the faith. Despite the negative predictions of some who left us, we have grown stronger and we are more united. To meet the needs of the twenty-first century, we have made major decisions concerning structure, policy, and purchase of a new headquarters. In the past, any of these decisions could have caused major opposition and contention. While we have debated resolutions and expressed different opinions, we haven’t been polarized, but we’ve reached consensus. There is a strong sense that we are all on the same side. We may differ on policies and methods, but we agree on the goals.
Some years ago, we faced a financial crisis, with ten ministries over $100,000 in deficit, the three largest deficits being $3 million, $2.3 million, and $1.8 million. By restructuring, cutting costs, and increasing revenues, today every ministry operates in the black, and those with old deficits are steadily retiring them. At one point, we had cash on hand for less than one month of operation; today, we have cash for five months of operation, which is the ideal for nonprofit organizations. We eliminated the 4% surcharge on Partners in Missions and general offerings, which had been in place since 1969, and we avoided an anticipated increase in ministerial dues. After ten years of losses, several years ago our publishing house began generating net income. All our fundraising divisions have received record offerings for several consecutive years. Global Missions has reduced the average deputational travel in half, to nine months, with a goal of six months. We started a loan fund, which has already helped more than one hundred churches. By using this loan fund and by drastically cutting maintenance and utility costs, we purchased a new headquarters without increasing our monthly operating budget. Our world headquarters was built for $17 million, yet in essence, we have moved into it for free.
These amazing results do not come merely from a few management decisions, divisional promotions, or fortunate circumstances. Instead, they represent the united efforts of many people. As in the Book of Acts, we are seeing the financial blessings of unity. Thousands of ministers and churches are supporting the vision and giving sacrificially. The chart below provides an overview of the last ten years (for the UPCI corporation, excluding affiliates, as of June 30, the fiscal year end).
||Cash & Investments
* Rounded down to nearest million, pending audit adjustments
Any one of these achievements would be cause for celebration, but collectively they speak of something far greater than our ability and efforts: they show that God is working miraculously in our midst. God is positioning us for a breakthrough. Although this progress is wonderful, it is not our true goal. It merely prepares us to attain our true goal, which is revival and growth. To see where we have come from and where we are now, below is information for the past ten years (for US and Canada, as of August 1).
||Growth in Churches
*Includes daughter works and preaching points
After some years of decline we are moving forward. Our growth is starting to accelerate. We should be thankful, but we should not be satisfied. God wants to give us an explosion of church planting and church growth. To this end, the General Board is urging every district to develop a strategic growth plan, and Global Missions is producing similar plans for each nation.
North American Youth Congress
God has already given us an example of what He wants to do. In 2011 North American Youth Congress had 10,995 registered participants. This year it had 34,151. Two years ago, my session for young ministers had 2,000 attendees. This year it had 4,500. By their behavior and dress, the youth exemplified our teachings on holiness. They were a good witness in the community, and they prepared 200,000 meals for the homeless. NAYC demonstrated that thousands of United Pentecostal youth have great desire for worship and ministry. They want strong preaching, sound doctrine, heartfelt worship, gender distinction, and modesty. NAYC also showed that the UPCI is multiracial, multicultural, and diverse geographically and generationally. When the largest gathering of Apostolic Pentecostals in North America is our youth, it is evident that the church isn’t compromising or declining. The future is bright.
The General Conference theme is Greater. God is telling the United Pentecostal Church International that our day has arrived. It is time for a breakout revival in your church, your district, and across our fellowship. I urge you to attend General Conference to hear from God and to help us claim what God has promised. I am praying that in this conference God will inspire our faith and impart a special anointing so that the United Pentecostal Church International can inherit the future.
Sincerely in Christ,
David K. Bernard
You may wish to tune in for my upcoming Facebook Live interview, August 16 at 2 pm, Central Time. I will be discussing various items, including the upcoming General Conference. You may access the broadcast at http://www.facebook.com/upci.org.