For decades, most Worldwide Church or God members thought they would be members of the one organization that would preach the "last warning" message to the whole world, and then the end would come. But now, these people find themselves scattered among hundreds of organizations, many wondering if their group will even preach effectively to anyone. Nearly every leader who is honest admits that it would take a miracle from God for their group to ever come close to half of the media power of the WCG in the late 1980s.
And the miracles are not happening.
Anyone who has studied Sabbatarian history realizes that these groups came and wentthey would sometimes learn and grow and teach effectively, then laxness, self righteousness, internal politics and error would destroy them. It seems that the Worldwide Church of God breakup is little different than much of the rest of Sabbatarian history.
Has anyone ever asked the question: Does the Eternal have to use the former WCG members to preach the Gospel to the world before "the end" comes? Or could he raise up a new group of people who have never been a part of the WCG? If the Eternal is able to raise up stones to become children of Abraham, (Matt 3:9), He can certainly raise up people to preach His message.
Most WCG splinter-groups talk about wanting to evangelize, and some have broadcasts and magazines. But how much attention have they given to the kind of environment that they would bring new members into? If a new person or family begins to attend such a group, the messages will likely not apply to them. Headquarters video sermons are often about government, loyalty, "news of the work", tithing, or rather "advanced" doctrines. Local speakers have the choice of preaching to the majority of their membership (who have been Sabbatarians for decades) or preaching to the very few new people while boring their congregation.
The truth of the matter is that "Sabbatarians for decades" should now be teachers themselves (Heb 5:12), but most have had neither training nor permission to teach or counsel others.
Many long-time Sabbatarians dont even know how to talk to a new membermuch less teach. Not long ago, a person just beginning to attend a Sabbatarian group was invited to attend the "Night to be Much Observed". Not understanding the doctrine, she brought a leavened dish for the meal. When she took the lid off to show the people, they scrambled away from her like she had brought a biological weapons bomb. She was hurt so much by the way they treated her innocent mistake that she eventually stopped attending the group.
Also, the subject of many of the spoken and written messages of many WCG splinter-groups is completely baffling to new members. These groups put much effort into trying to keep people coming to their own organization. Yet, the difference between Protestant groups and Church of God groups is so great and the difference between the various Church of God groups is so small that a new person would wonder what all of the fuss is about. When a person is just learning about the Sabbath, Kingdom of God, and other doctrines from the Bible, can you imagine trying to explain to them from the Bible why it is good to (for example) go to the UCG-AIA, but bad to go to the Global Church of God? The new person may want to attend both to learn more. What will he think when he finds out that the members from these groups are highly discouraged from or forbidden to mix with each other? Where is the love for each other that Christ said his followers would have?
Most groups answer this by saying that they are trying to preach the Gospel message in such a powerful way that they will begin to have lots of new members, and everyone will rally around the mighty work that is being done. But that seems to become a more and more remote possibility with the formation of each new groupand the passing of each new year.
Rather than being diligent to "reach out to others no matter what" as Herbert Armstrong did during his early years, these groups often perpetuate the major errors that caused the current collapse of the organization Armstrong founded. What were these errors:
1. Herbert Armstrong too often did not practice what he preached. He asked others to sacrifice financially while at the same time he and his friends lived in luxury. He tried to cover up the sins in his family, while disfellowshipping others who committed the same sins.
2. Herbert Armstrong let his accomplishments go to his headhe did not retain the humility and respect for other teachers of the brethren as the apostles Peter and Paul did. He claimed to be the human head of Gods hierarchical government, even though he showed that system came from Rome in his 1939 article on government. (A free copy of that article is available from Servants News.)
3. Herbert Armstrong built a church and college that, in the end, trained people to be Herbert Armstrong followers. He did not encourage people to accept Christs promise of personal guidance, nor to develop the same zeal and pioneering spirit that he had!
From his knowledge of the Church groups, and his study of the Bible, this writer is utterly convinced that the inability of these groups to keep content members and to preach the gospel to new people will continue until some major changes are made. Either the leaders will have to change, or the people will have to change and abandon the leaders.
Christ asked John to write seven letters to seven real church congregations (Rev 1:11). These letters no doubt applied specifically to each congregation to which they were written. But every church was told to listen to every letter (Rev 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). Is there a letter that applies to the organizations now attempting to imitate the WCG as it was in the 1970s and 80s?
I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot (Rev 3:15).
How many leaders or members in your organization work diligently, even if there is little or no pay? How many are busy serving others, teaching others, counseling others, helping others no matter what group they attend? When the apostle Paul found the Corinthian church aligning themselves with certain teachers, did he serve only those who aligned themselves with him? (1Cor 1:11-21.) No, he served them all and taught them to look to Christ! Most groups of today are doing or want to do some kind of worksthey are not "cold". But they do not "do the work as if their life depended on it"they are not hot either!
So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth (Rev 3:16).
Has all of the arguing among and about church groups made you so depressed that you feel that Christ has vomited you out of his mouth? If so, that may be good. Keep reading!
Because you say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing"and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and nakedI counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see (Rev 14:17-18).
This verse is obviously referring to spiritual wealthChrists gifts and blessings. People who are physically poor, blind, or naked always know itand Christ does not sell physical gold. This obviously relates to Pauls teaching about doing spiritual work with gold, silver and precious stones (1Cor 3:12-15). Herbert Armstrongs work seems like a wooden building adorned with some precious materials. It lasted a while, but when trials came, it caught fire and burnedleaving the gold, silver, and precious stones to drop to the ground. A new, but much smaller building needs to be built from these purified precious materialsit will not work to keep trying to stick them back on a wood, hay or stubble building.
One leader of a major splinter group told this writer that they had 90% to 95% of the truth of the Bible. The other big groups seem to act the same way. They think they have nearly all the truth. They think they know how to "run a Church". They think they know how to preach the gospel. In general, they are not being very successful, but they seem blind to that fact. Organizations have "fasts for their income", but rarely ever have fasts so that Christ will grant them spiritual gifts or so He will show their leaders what to do.
A leader in one organization wrote an extensive paper covering all of the New Testament scriptures about how God rules His Church. Every time he came across one of the many scriptures where Christ miraculously guided His people, his comment was: "God is not working that way today." Yet you can find numerous successful ministries (mostly small) which have helped many people and were started based on what they believe was "a word from God". Did all of these people really hear from God? Probably not. Did some of them? Probably so. There are many miraculous stories that are hard to deny. Leaders who have no direct guidance from God, and who claim that He does not provide it today, may well appear "naked" before many people who know that they have had it.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent (Rev 3:19).
If you have been shaken and distressed by all of these events in the church groups, rejoice! Christ loves you! He is chastening you! But you have to repent. You have to repent of trusting in men, organizations, programs, and policies, and not in Christ. You have to ask him to learn about the spiritual gifts that He uses to do His work (Rom 12, 1Cor 12-14, Eph 4:1-16, 1Pet 4:7-11). This does not mean that you have to immediately leave the group you presently fellowship with. But it means that you have to pray for spiritual gifts and be willing to follow the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit in your life, no matter where it takes you. If Christ grants you a gift, but an organization says that you are not allowed to use it, you have to obey God rather than men.
Behold, I [Christ] stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 3:20-22).
Notice that Christs invitation is to individuals! It is not to the "angel" (messenger) or leader of the church, but to "anyone [who] hears my voice and opens the door". If you are waiting for a group or for somebody else to open the door for you, it may never happen! Every letter to the seven churches ends with "...let he who has ears to hear listen...". Christ is able to do His work. He is able to use you to do His work.
There are numerous Bible-believing Christians who have learned about the Sabbath, Holy Days, unclean meats, baptism, etc., simply from reading their Bibles. Some are dropping the non-Christian holidays also. This writer knows of public schools which have stopped all Halloween activities because a significant number of parents have complained that it is simple demonism. These Bible-reading Christians are beginning to teach these new-found truths in simple publications and videos. As far as we know, none of them are claiming to be the "one true Church of God". They just seem anxious to teach what they have learned. In a later Servants News we will list a number of such ministries.
Indeed, very few have probably learned as much truth as the typical Church of God member understands. But many seem ahead of the typical Church of God member when it comes to faith that Christ is directly guiding their lives and ministries. Many see themselves as just small parts of His great message; larger Church of God groups often see themselves as the one group that has the right to receive tithes and preach the Gospel worldwide.
Please think for a moment. Whom did our Savior choose to be His disciples? Was it the men with the best understanding of the scriptures in his day? The scribes probably had more of the Bible memorized than anyone else. Except for Paul, our Savior chose less-educated, honest, working men who would trust in Him. Whom do you think the Eternal will choose to teach and warn the world in our day? Would you choose a people who knew a lot of truth, but were forever fighting about who is in charge, who gets the money, exactly what truth should be taught, and who should teach it and how? Or would you choose a people who knew less truth, but were full of faith, eager to be taught more, and diligent to work in whatever way He would lead?
The best people to choose would be those who both know a lot of truth and who were full of faith and ready to be led by Christ. We can be those people! But He will not force us. We must accept that the Eternal has broken up the Worldwide Church of God beyond any possibility of human repairand He is not repairing it. Rather than large groups, small groups, or even individuals trying to act like a bunch of little WCGs, we need to ask our Savior to show us what He wants us to do. We need to trust Him to take care of useven if that means departing from old familiar methods. We need to read about how the gospel was preached in the New Testament. Rather than paying someone else to take on most of the spiritual responsibility, we can speak up and ask to be personally involved!
Norman S. Edwards