Vision 2020 - January 2020

By David K. Bernard     This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI). Our theme for 2020 is “Vision.” At our General Conference in St. Louis on September 22–25, 2020, we will celebrate our heritage and cast vision for the future.

The UPCI began on September 25, 1945, in St. Louis with the merger of two Apostolic (Oneness) Pentecostal organizations, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ (PAJC) and the Pentecostal Church Incorporated (PCI). In their 1945 directories, the PAJC listed 346 churches and the PCI listed 175, for a total of 521. The first UPCI directory, in 1947, listed 617 churches.

Since then, the UPCI has grown tremendously. By August 2019, in the United States and Canada, the UPCI had 4,819 churches (including preaching points and daughter works), 10,627 credentialed ministers, attendance of about 600,000, and estimated constituency of 800,000. Worldwide, the UPCI has approximately 42,000 churches, 41,000 credentialed ministers, and 5.2 million constituents in 195 nations and 35 territories. (The Population Reference Bureau lists 210 nations.)

The mission of the UPCI is “to carry the whole gospel to the whole world by the whole church” (General Constitution, Article I). To fulfill this mission, the UPCI has proclaimed a vision for revival and growth. A vision is more than a program. Programs are optional, but vision is not. A vision provides direction.

In the physical realm, the phrase “20/20 vision” describes normal human vision. The goal of glasses is to bring a person’s vision to 20/20. In the spiritual realm, the UPCI has adopted a vision known as the Strategic Growth Initiative (SGI). SGI is the spiritual 20/20 vision to fulfill our mission in 2020.

I have been immersed in revival and growth all my life. I grew up in Korea, where my parents were the pioneer missionaries of the UPCI. In 1992, my wife and I planted New Life UPC in Austin, Texas, starting in our home. The church now occupies twelve acres of land and one hundred thousand square feet of building, located on a major freeway where about one hundred thousand cars pass twice each day. Out of that church, sixteen other churches were started in the area during our pastorate, and today the New Life network has a constituency of about two thousand.

When I became a presbyter (sectional leader) in the Texas District in 1996, our section was larger than Ohio and more populated than Arkansas but had only thirty churches. We began daughter works and encouraged church plants. In seven years, the section grew to fifty-three churches and daughter works. In 2002, I became superintendent of the new South Texas District. It started with 160 churches and daughter works, and in seven years it grew to 242.

When I became general superintendent of the UPCI in 2010, I felt strongly that God wanted to give this kind of growth to every district. Of course, some such as Wisconsin were already on a growth track. Over the years, the UPCI has restructured, become financially strong, and adopted policies to facilitate growth. The General Board has participated in training and discussion, adopted a new job description for presbyters to emphasize their role, and formed a special committee to develop strategies.

In September 2017, this committee recommended that every district adopt a strategic growth plan. There was a powerful, unprecedented move of God in the board meeting, culminating in worship, prayer, and spiritual gifts. We received a prophetic word that we were in “a divine shift.” Then we were challenged to believe for “more than a million” in the United States and Canada. A final prophecy said, “The time is now.” The district superintendents decided that each district would develop a plan and asked for a standing committee to evaluate the plans, make suggestions, and provide resources. Thus, SGI is not a headquarters program but a grassroots initiative. Each district implements its own strategy in four areas:

Ministers: Multiply the number of ministers in our fellowship.

Works: Multiply the number of works in each district (church plants, daughter works, preaching points, metro works, multicultural works, and assimilation of independent Apostolic churches).

Growth: Create a culture of growth in every local church.

Strength: Focus on ministers and churches needing special assistance and support. 

In 2019, each of the fifty-seven districts in the United States and Canada developed a strategic growth plan. Similarly, each national church under Global Missions has developed a plan. For the two nations with over one billion people each, China and India, we have convened biennial summits to coordinate the efforts of various internal and external leaders.

For this vision to become reality, we need the participation of every leader, pastor, minister, and member. I appeal to every saint to pray for revival, support your local assembly, give to missions, share the gospel personally, and help assimilate and disciple new believers. Together we can fulfill the vision. The greatest revival of the church is in front of us, but we must claim it by faith.