This letter was written before the current United Church of God organization, but its message is still relevant for now.
As God’s ministers, we must realize that we do not merely have a profession or a career; we have a calling from God our Father. Our calling entails two fundamental responsibilities:
(1) Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
(2) Feeding Christ’s flock—those whom He has called for us to serve and to nurture.
We have, in the past, concentrated more on the first responsibility, enabling only a few people to do most of the evangelizing. The majority provided direct financial support, but were only vicariously involved with the evangelistic efforts.
Because of recent events, however, the necessity of the second aspect of our calling has reached a point of crisis. Historically, our relationship with God’s people has been one of keeping them encouraged to “pay and pray.” As a result of this attitude and our hierarchical structure of government, we have not seen the overwhelming need of God’s people to be properly nurtured and respected for the gifts they have been empowered with by the Holy Spirit. Many ministers have tended to function as lords or governors over their congregations, which is not biblical. Others have had genuine love and concern and a strong desire to nurture, but their approach has often been like that of a parent to a child. Though this approach may be best when the brethren are babes in Christ, it limits their growth and their use of the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit as they mature spiritually.
Times have changed—for the world and for God’s people. In this age of rapid technological change, corporate and business decentralization—and of empowerment—the church simply must understand the importance of a shared ministry with ownership at the local level.
God’s people do not need a hierarchical structure where a central headquarters receives all resources and then doles those resources out—just as a parent would dole out an “allowance” to a little child. This would be “Pasadena Part II!” It is time for us to trust God’s Holy Spirit to work within the membership at a local level. They have matured and, in many cases, are very capable in various administrative areas. The original apostles understood this concept during the first century of the Church. Because of their example, and in light of recent experiences in the church and in the world, we have no reason not to organize with a similar faith and structure. The Apostle John, in his dying days, wrote letters to seven different churches. Those churches existed contemporaneously and administered their local congregations with local talent led and united through the Spirit of God—not by any man-made central organization!
We are to serve as ministers of Jesus Christ. The idea that the ministry is a lofty position and that we have an exclusive relationship with God over and above what others have simply must be eradicated. Though many of you already understand this, I firmly believe that this is the only way God will bless the reorganization of the Body of Christ. Why do I feel this way?
One reason is because there has been no single leader emerge on the scene. Why? Because God has not sent one! There is no single human voice that God’s people are hearing. Rather, they are hearing the voices of a group of God’s ministers who stand loyal and faithful to the Truth. [Actually, a number of groups of ministers —editor.] Could this be telling us something? Should we wait for thunder and lightning or a supernatural sign of some sort, or are we going to respond to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit to “feed my sheep?”
When and how are we going to respond to this urgent need that we all are able to plainly see? Should we wait until all of the brethren are in place so that we can conveniently move into a new organization? Or do we make the move that we know in our hearts must be made—trusting in faith that those God has already provided can establish an environment where others can come as God draws them?
Circumstances will never be ideal for us to make the move! We must go forward in faith allowing God’s people to worship Him in Spirit and Truth, without opposition. And we must rely on God to draw others to our fellowship, as only He can do.
By reorganizing and nurturing God’s people in a proper and peaceful environment, we will perpetuate and expand the preaching of the gospel through a shared ministry!
The reason I feel so strongly about what I’m saying in this letter is because of my personal experiences with God’s people. After my termination from the ministry of the corporate Worldwide Church of God, I had an opportunity to become established in an entirely new career where I would have had tremendous likelihood to become financially successful. When I mentioned this to one of the young ladies in the area, she said, “Mr. Wooten, you are not going to leave us are you?” I was startled to detect a touch of panic in her voice. “No,” I replied, “I’m not.” At that point, I realized the profound importance of the decision I had just made.
One nearly blind 88 year old widow called me and said, “Mr. Wooten, I don’t like what they are doing to my church! What are we going to do? They keep saying ‘Moses said this and Moses said that...’ But it was God who spoke with His own mouth and wrote with His own fingers His commandments!”
Another lady called me and said she had not been as diligent as she should have been in keeping God’s Sabbath and paying God’s tithe. But now that these eternal truths are being taken away, she realized how much she loved God’s truth and told me that if I would let her come to church, she would never again neglect these things.
These are the voices I hear and am compelled to respond to. God’s people must be nurtured now. This is why I was willing to give up my retirement, job security and ministerial career—to become a servant and a helper to Christ, the true Shepherd of His sheep. A few others have taken the same step. If you feel that Christ has given you the same calling, the United Church of God [through locally autonomous congregations] offers you the vehicle through which you may make that sacrifice. People will love you for your service, not for your position. Such love is infinitely more meaningful and profound because it is true Godly love—not a false love based upon the position or office you hold.
— Ray Wooten
PO Box 361334, Birmingham, AL 35236