Unity Conference

Focus - "A Church United for Progress"

“Unity” is defined as the quality of being one in spirit, sentiment and purpose. The progress of the church is directly linked to unity. With that in mind, we have thoughtfully chosen “A Church United for Progress” as this year’s theme. Under the general theme, we will examine the progress and unity of the church in three distinct eras: the past, the present, and our vision for the future. 

Acts 2:42-47 records an excellent example of a church united for progress: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

In the early history of the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the saints were taught by our late founder, Bishop J. D. Williams, to be dedicated and totally committed to God and to His church.  Bishop Williams believed in and taught the Word of God, without compromise, often telling the saints that “If God will bless anything, He will bless His Word.” The saints united and embraced the vision of their pastor, and as a result the church grew and waxed strong. Our very name, “Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” was established to reflect God’s blessings upon a movement that achieved great progress through unity. As Joshua reminded the children of Israel of their blessed history, in the 24th chapter of the Book of Joshua, you will be reminded of God’s blessings upon this organization in the early years of its existence. 

Building upon the vision of our late founder, the second generation of the Progressive Church continues to grow and progress. Many souls are still being saved, as new churches and missions are established. This generation of leaders maintains the importance of unity, dedication, and commitment in the work of the Lord. Because of those who believed in unity and its importance to the church’s mission, this Apostolic Church has remained strong for nearly 60 years. It continues to teach and preach the Word of God without compromise. The men that God has chosen to lead us during this time can proclaim as Paul in Acts 20:20, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly.”  The Progressive Church is moving forward, as Acts 26:22 states, “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great.”

One must then ask —“Where will we go from here?” I Kings 2:2-4 records David’s charge to Solomon as his reign as king came to an end. He said to Solomon, “I go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man; And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself: That the LORD may continue his word which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said he) a man on the throne of Israel.” 

The torch has been passed from our founder and the first generation, and dutifully upheld by those that followed. The torch will once again be passed, and the next generation will be charged with continuing in the path of righteousness and truth. The Lord instructed the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” If the Progressive Church is to remain strong and be united, the next generation must embrace the vision and remain committed to the uncompromised Word of God. There must be a generation of faithful saints who will continue to carry forth the message of salvation and hope into the future. We pray that you will leave this conference challenged by the message, embracing the vision, and united for progress.

Statement of Purpose "Progress of the Past"

As you will note in your program, our theme for this year’s Unity Conference is, “A Church United for Progress.” Tonight, we will pause to remember the “Progress of the Past.” As Joshua reminded the Children of Israel of their blessed history, in the 24th chapter of the book of Joshua, you will be reminded of God’s blessings upon the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The early history of our church is filled with examples of growth and progress because of the unity exhibited by the saints of old. Our founder, the late Bishop J. D. Williams, taught the church about the importance of unity, and the saints embraced his vision. Because of unity, God blessed the formative years of the Progressive church in ways that still incite awe, even as they are spoken of today. 

From our beginning in 1944 unto the death of our founder in 1966, countless souls were saved, bodies were healed, devils were cast out, and the church experienced many other miraculous demonstrations of the power of God. This evening, we propose to take you back more than 40 years and give you a small sample of a service that might have been held during that era. Many of the participants on tonight’s program were saved during the early history of our church and remain faithful and dedicated to God, even until this day. They have lived through, experienced, and can certainly testify of the power of unity and its importance to the progress of the church. 

Finally, our Presiding Bishop will come forth with the Word of God, reminding us of the rich and blessed heritage of the Progressive church and of the many successes it reached because of unity. This evening, we pray that you will be inspired to appreciate the history of the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the legacy that has been left for us to continue.

Statement of Purpose "Progress of the Present"

Last evening, we began our Unity Conference by pausing to reflect on the unity and progress that were so evident in our early history. Today, we will focus on “Progress of the Present” and examine the second generation of the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. From the death of our founder in 1966, to the present day, this church has moved forward. Despite challenges from within and from without, we have remained strong as an apostolic church that preaches and teaches the Word of God, without compromise.

Upon the death of our founder, the torch was passed to the second generation of the Progressive Church to continue in unity and in progress. Since that time, the church has experienced significant growth under the leadership of our late Presiding Bishop, Joel G. Washington, and our present Presiding Bishop, Edward Smith. Since the 1960’s, we have grown from seven churches in South Carolina to more than 25 churches and missions in seven states. To quote the late Bishop Williams, “To God be all the glory!” 

This generation of leaders maintains the importance of unity, dedication, and commitment in the work of the Lord. The Progressive Church is moving forward, as Acts 26:22 states, “Having therefore obtained help of God, [we] continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great.” Today, we purpose to challenge those of you who are alive today to be proud and thankful to God that you are part of a church that is on the move and heaven bound!

Statement of Purpose "Progress for the Future"

Over the past two services, we have examined the progress and unity of the past and the present church. Finally tonight, we have come to vision ourselves for the future. Our purpose is to challenge those of us who will become the future of the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ to strengthen our commitment to unity and to the principles of the faith. If we are to continue to progress, we must stand ready and willing to accept the torch that will one day be passed to us.

A great poet once said that “faith in the future is based on belief in the present.” Today, we have a wealth of education, knowledge, skills and abilities that can all be used to benefit the work of the Lord and the church at large. Yet, we must renew our commitment to the standard of holiness and the apostolic principles that the Progressive Church has held to for so long. For nearly 60 years, this church has cried aloud and spared not, to lift up a standard for God’s people. Young people and young adults – we cannot let the standard down.

It is evident by our very presence here tonight that we have progressed greatly from the first Progressive Church in the little storefront in the Taylors Community of Columbia. Yet, our faith, our unity, and our commitment to play our individual roles must be as strong as those who were members of that first church.

We cannot bask in the sunlight of the progress of the past and the present. It is up to us now to creature future footprints in the sands of time. We must go back to our homes, ready to accept the torch, and ready to accept the call of God to serve in any capacity that He will choose for our lives. Tonight, we pray that you will leave this conference challenged by the message, inspired by the vision, anointed by the Holy Ghost, and united for progress.   

Carrying on the Legacy of the Progressive Church

The word “Legacy” is defined as something that is handed down from one person to another or from one generation to the next. We have paused during this Unity Conference to reflect upon the legacy of progress and unity in the Progressive Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We have traced our roots back to the generation of our founder and examined the positive attributes of our early history, unto this present day. The question now is, “where do we go from here?”

As we near the end of the church age and the coming of the Lord draws nigh, Satan has intensified his attack against the church. Should the Lord tarry, many new challenges and issues will arise to confront the church that previous generations may not have experienced. Yet, it is imperative that we who will carry on the legacy and heritage of this great Progressive Church, stand tall and hold fast to the apostolic principles set forth through the Word of God and taught to us by our leaders. Jude wrote that we must “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” The faith Jude speaks of here is the doctrine and principles given by Jesus Christ to the Apostles, who in turn passed them on to the saints of old. It is important that we strive to follow the teachings of the apostles. Why? Because Jesus prayed in John 17 for all those who would believe on Him “through their word.”

In a world of such great religious freedom, there is a famine in the land for the true Word of God. The prophet Amos write in Amos 8:11, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of break, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” We can see the fulfillment of those words in the times in which we live. Many churches today are no longer a place where sinners can come to be saved through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, we can clearly see that many churches have become social institutions for the entertainment of people. Jesus never intended for this to be purpose of His church. 

We, who will carry the torch into the future, must strive without wavering, to proclaim the Word of God to a dying world. We must continue to proclaim to the world that water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, reception of the Holy Ghost speaking other tongues, and walking thereafter in the Apostle’s doctrine is God’s only way of salvation for this generation. We are challenged the pass the legacy of faith and commitment to the Word of God to generations to come. Where we will go from here depends largely upon our commitment to “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (Hebrews 3:14). We must be ready, so that when the call comes from God asking, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” we can respond readily – “here am I, send me.” In the words of Paul, I admonish the young adults and our youth to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58).

Passing the Torch

During Biblical times, it was customary for the father to pass the torch of salvation and faith in God to his family.  As recorded in Biblical history, we know Abraham passed the torch to Isaac, Isaac passed the torch to Jacob, and Jacob passed the torch to his twelve sons.  This same torch of faith was passed from Abraham to Jesus through forty-two generations.  There are cases where even women assumed the role of passing along Biblical principles such as Hannah who declared her son belonged to the Lord.  After Jesus Christ, we can spotlight Timothy who received the torch of faith from his mother and his grandmother.  God has commissioned not only fathers to pass the torch, but also mothers.  To those who may not have offspring, you can follow the example of Paul.  Paul searched out Timothy, calling him his own son in the faith, and charged him to maintain sound doctrine.  We can conclude that God expects each of us to pass the torch of salvation and faith in God.

What is the torch that is to be passed?  The next generation and the generations to come must know the gospel message that Jesus saves; that there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism; and that they must be holy as Christ is holy.  Our next generation needs to learn the apostolic foundation on which this Progressive Church is built.  They must know why it is important to come out from the world and be separate.  They need to be taught, as we have, to stand firm on the truth and to never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In addition, we must stress the importance of their generation continuing to witness to others about water baptism and the reception of the Holy Ghost.

In Biblical history, we have read the devastating effects of failing to pass the torch of salvation and faith in God to the next generation.  God allowed the Israelites to be defeated by other armies, sent pestilence and famine among the people, allowed them to be captured and taken away as slaves, and the list goes on and on.  God's chosen people even turned their backs on the true and only God to worship idols.  The horrible effects of one generation failing to pass the torch of salvation and faith in God are highlighted throughout the Old Testament.  

We must learn from the mistakes of the children of Israel.  Certainly, we do not want our next generation to become captive to the power of Satan and sin.  If we fall short in passing the torch, the doctrine and standards we believe today will be destroyed--Satan's ultimate goal.  This torch must be passed so that the generations after us will flee the wrath of God.

How do we pass the torch?  The older generations must first exhibit the principles of Christ in all of our actions.  We need to clearly display our commitment to God so that the next generation will see our commitment and follow in our footsteps.  We must encourage them to attend church, fast, become actively involved in the work of the Lord, and give them the opportunity to be involved.  We can connect with our children through family Bible reading, family prayer time, and by just speaking of the greatness of God.  Just as we enthusiastically witness to our peers, co-workers, etc., we have a greater challenge.  This challenge is to direct that same energy to witness to our next generation.  Many times we forget the next generation needs to be saved as well. It is imperative that we start from infancy transferring the torch of faith. 

My grandparents committed their lives to this apostolic way almost fifty years ago.  They passed the torch to my parents, my parents passed the torch to me, today my husband and I pass the torch to our children.  Relay runners in the Olympics realize that their races will be won or lost in the few seconds of the baton pass.  Despite the years of training by all the runners, the gold will go to the relay team who has the best pass-off.  Likewise, the challenge for the saints of God is to successfully pass on the faith that was once delivered unto us to generations to come.  Right now, our focus should be on the generation of children God has bestowed us.  As I said before, God has commissioned each one of us, with and without offspring, to pass the torch.  We must view the years we have with this next generation as the last few feet of an Olympic pass-off.  These formative years are our prime time for passing on the torch of our salvation and faith in this apostolic race.

Unity Conference