Letter: November 9, 2001
Thank you so much for sending Servants’ News. I was trying to attend WCG when everyone was coming out. At that time there was confusion and much disorder, I have since joined with another group and am trying to live by God’s Word. I am wondering what your reasoning is on the place of safety and if you have read the article by R C Dick in The Journal on this subject. If not, would you please do so? There are so many that believe blindly and we need someone with common sense to help us evaluate God’s Word so that we can have a better understanding. You have helped me in my quest for the true word and I thank you again.
— Joanne Miller, Texas
Response: The “place of safety” teaching has had a tremendous affect on the Church of God brethren for decades—and I think that most of the affect has been very negative. The affect has been very similar to other Christian groups which may be teaching a “rapture” or some other “go to heaven” teaching. Why? Please understand that I know and love scriptures such as these:
“But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent” (Rev 12:14).
“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Rev 3:10).
“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him” (Mal 3:17).
I believe that the Bible promises deliverance for believers in many places and that God often provides it. There are many stories today of Christians who live in countries where they are persecuted and who believe they have obtained divine deliverance from God. I cannot personally verify all of these stories, but I have talked to some who certainly believe they are true. On the other hand, Hebrews 11, Matt 16:24 and other scriptures show that God does not always save His servants from difficulty and death.
The ultimate way to deal with tribulation is to have the faith in God to know that He will either rescue you from it or help you get through it. This is the faith that Jesus had:
“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).
The “place of safety” doctrine becomes dangerous when it is viewed as a corporate church benefit. Some churches actively teach that only their members will be the ones to escape the “Great Tribulation”. Others teach that there is a place of safety which God will reveal to their group, but that they simply don’t know about other groups. The dangerous effects of this doctrine are these:
1. Using the term “place of safety” creates one more doctrine for which the title cannot be found in the Bible (much like “rapture”). It is very difficult for other Bible students without a “Church of God” background to relate to a teaching with a non-biblical name.
2. It replaces individual trust in Christ for guidance and protection in all situations with trust in the corporate church that promises a “place of safety”.
3. It discourages people from examining themselves when they think they “have it made”.
4. It encourages people to actually want the Tribulation so they can be “saved from it”, rather than people being saddened by the sin in our nations and doing what they can to prevent it (see Ezk 9:1–6). The WCG taught that its mission was to “warn the world”, and then members could sort of sit back and watch it blow up during the Tribulation. Today, many CoG groups believe that “the Gospel has been preached”, so some are sitting back and “waiting for the world to blow up”. Whereas, Christ told us to continue to work till He comes (Matt 10:23; Luke 12:35–48; 19:13, etc.).
People who trust that their group will lead them to a “place of safety” to avoid the Tribulation need to realize that they are trusting their leaders to interpret a prophecy with pinpoint accuracy: “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house” (Matt 24:16–17). Have these leaders ever interpreted a prophecy that accurately before? Have they ever had any clear, provable revelation from God?
Can we have faith that God will keep His promise and, through His Spirit, show us what we need to know— “show us things to come”? (John 16:13). Is not that better than trusting in the doctrine of an organization that has no proven “track record” in specific prophetic interpretation and no direct promise of revelation from God?
Letter: November 27, 2001
I’m having a great time reading back issues of SN! I’ve made it going from the present back to about mid-97. Thank you so much! These are really helping me to heal from my spiritual wounds. I am getting ready to go forward! We need to really preach the gospel! I need to teach about Jesus Christ to people who have no hope (great response to the elder turning atheist, I think it could be expanded into a very good article, appropriate for Shelter in the Word, appropriate for approaching people with the gospel who have the atheist mindset).
And I absolutely loved your satire on non-Rev 2 and 3. In my opinion, that’s the way HWA would have had it written. Anyway, the language was very very familiar to me… I could conceive of someone witty being able to expand it even further, some parts made me split my sides, but not nearly as much as the “Graveyard CoG” (not your article) where it mentioned that “the… heads were all inside” after talking about normal church steeples in most cases.
[Literature request omitted.]
Thanks again for listening. I’m sorry for snowing you with emails, but you’ve become such a part of my life. I regard you as the “watchman” for the brethren. Please keep up the good work as long as the Eternal inspires you to continue!
By the way, you can print anything I send you, just use my email address, not physical address.
— Susan Owen, Switzerland
Response: Thank you very much for this encouragement. It helps to know that the back issues are still being read and helping people. I think many of them are still relevant for today.
Letter: Feb 28, 2002
I wanted to make some comments on the letter from Don Anderson [Servants’ News Sept/Oct 2001, page 9.] about UCG’s financial report and about how the ministers have their second tithe “held back” and given to them at FOT time. Let me see, Don makes $45,000. Half of that for each of Don and his wife is $22,500.
Do any of the ministers realize that that is higher than a lot of people make in this country? A lot of people barely make above minimum wage in this country. Let me see how the tithes would add up for a man and his wife and two children living on this salary. A tithe on $22,500 is $2,250. A second tithe is $2,250. Together that is $4,500 taken off a salary that Uncle Sam lays claim to also. That leaves the “average lay member” $18,000 to share with Uncle Sam and to live on. Don and/or his wife would have $22,500 plus the 9% second tithe withheld which is $2,025 making his/her salary $24,525. Oh, but I forgot the tax breaks Uncle Sam gives ministers. While I have no idea of the amounts that these tax breaks are, I’ll bet they are substantial.
Is it “sour grapes” to point out that if Don or any other minister is giving 10% of his salary as a tithe to the church, since he is getting back 9%, doesn’t that mean that in reality, they are only giving 1% of a salary of $22,500 which is $225. While the poor person making $22,500 is giving $2,025 more than the minister who is supposed to be caring for God’s sheep. Does something start to stink around here?
Let me point out that I am a “member” of UCG. When I got on the Internet after getting a computer and started to find out about the abuses, I was shocked, but what has done the most damage to the most people is the false doctrine of tithing. Also the false premise that the ministers are “relying on God”. Bull pucky, they are relying on God’s people. They are continuing the con artistry of HWA (haven’t they learned well!). The faithful lay members of all of the churches of God who teach tithing have long ago learned how to rely on God and depend on His love and grace to see them through. The “ministers” haven’t so much as laid a finger to lift a burden from the shoulders of the sheep of God’s pasture. In fact, they continue to see just how much they can add to that financial burden. Yes, there are the verses that say that we shouldn’t muzzle the oxen that treads out the corn. I’m afraid that in this case, the oxen as a group are eating most of the corn.
Now, before anyone thinks I have absolutely no esteem for the “ministry”, let me set them straight. I have met some very fine ministers and their families. Even if I hadn’t, the law of averages says that in a group of ministers, there has to be some who are genuinely doing or trying to do God’s will. Don may well be one of these ministers. I’ll take his word for this fact. But the fact also remains that the COGs have caused havoc among God’s people with their demands for money.
I don’t know how anyone can try to make a case for teaching people to tithe especially to you, Norm, because you are a good example of relying on God for your family’s welfare. I’ve heard stories of how you have put out the Servants’ News and had some tough times doing it. Can’t the ministers see that God has taken care of you and your family? I think that you are one of the few who realize that God is not promising to make us all like Abraham, David, or Solomon when it comes to wealth. Even Christ relied on God to provide, but the ministers can’t follow His example.
Norm, if any of these ideas are wrong, please don’t hesitate to set me straight. I’m not the greatest math wizard, and am not the greatest thinker I know, but am willing to be corrected. If you decide to print this in the Servants’ News, go ahead and print my name and town address. If UCG wants to disfellowship me for my opinions, so be it. I was going to print out what you published about UCG’s tax audit and show it around my local congregation. Someone pointed out that the people would likely just gloss over the facts, and they wouldn’t think anything of the money situation. That may well be, but I can’t in good conscience stand by saying absolutely nothing while I watch people who struggle with a near minimum wage to pay their tithes. If you have any questions of me, feel free to ask them.
— Pat Miller, Yeagertown, Pennsylvania
Response: Your math was unfair to the minister. You subtracted two tithes from your “typical member’s” salary saying all they had left was $18,000. You correctly added the $2,025 second-tithe bonus to make $24,525, but to have a valid comparison of salary without tithes for both people, you should then also subtract first tithe from the minister, which would leave them with $22,500 – $2,250 = $20,250 after tithes. This is still more that the “typical member”, but not as much different as your numbers.
I do not think this is a totally unreasonable amount for someone who serves full-time in a congregation to receive, but I do think it would be better if they set an example for the congregation and relied upon what God caused to be sent to them. The way most churches operate today, as corporations, it is quite difficult for them to do this. Rules for corporations require standardization of payment, hiring, firing, workload, etc. The Bible does not mention any of this. There have been a number of times when I was short of money, prayed about it, and then realized that I needed to change what I was doing and then God sent more money. Our whole society is geared around job seniority, insurance, welfare, unemployment benefits, etc. If something goes wrong we tend not to want to ask, “God what am I doing wrong?” Nor do usually want to ask our neighbors for help. But I think those are the things that God wants us to do.
One thing I might say to help you: Do not become bitter about the ministry taking too much money, teaching tithing, and these sorts of things. I supported and defended that system for years, not knowing any better. We should have similar patience with those who have not yet learned. Those who perpetuate the system knowing it is unbiblical will be judged by God. We do not have to judge them now.
There are other church groups that have more exploitation and corruption than the Church of God groups—and they have less truth as well. Yet, they still turn some people to the Bible and Christ, and He works with them. Certainly do what you can to help other ministers and members see the truth on these issue, but try to find other ways to serve God. When we rise from the dead, we don’t want to be able to tell God just what is wrong with the ministry and members of many groups, we want to be able to say, “this is what we did”. And we hope He will reply: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matt 25:21).
Letter: April 25, 2002
Thanks very much for your reply to the request about the Sacred Names issue in the Good News. We had also asked Richard Nickels, and he is sending us a photocopy of his Good News.
But thanks very much for your own personal article on the Sacred Names [ask for our order code SNAMES]. This, and together with some other literature, we will print more copies of and forward them to those brethren who are interested. Thanks again for your help, and for going the extra mile to serve the brethren—it means a lot to us.
— Mike, Cape Town, South Africa
Response: Sometimes my issues are late because I spend too much time handling individual requests—even then, I do not get to all of them. However, I am happy to do something that I know somebody is really going to use.