Some ministers and members have separated from United Church of God, and others may follow before Passover, either quitting or being fired. What alternatives are open to those who leave UCG as far as organization is concerned? Will those who leave organize with ballot-box governance as UCG organized 15 years ago? And if so, how will the long-term results be different than was the case with UCG? And if not, how will they organize?
Every minister who leaves, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, has serious decisions to make.
What are the options?
All this is reminiscent of what happened in Worldwide from about 1989 through 1995. At that time also, many ministers left an organization and had to make decisions on what to do next.
This is not just theory. This is a decision many ministers must make in the near future and many no doubt are weighing right now. Some have already separated, voluntarily or involuntarily. Mr. Leon Walker and many Latin American ministers have been forcibly separated from United Church of God. Mr. Graemme Marshall in Canada has voluntarily separated from UCG. How will they organize? What kind of governance will they have?
Some options ministers have taken in the past, and a minister may take in the future, can include these:
1) Organize with other ministers as a large body with balloting by the ministry to select a board or council, which then selects a chairman and president to govern the organization, along the lines followed by UCG now, but perhaps with some differences in the details. The minister would follow the elected leadership.
2) Join an existing organization, such as Living Church of God, Church of God an International Community, or any of several other groups, large or small. If the leadership of that group is following Christ, then the minister will be following the leadership as the leadership follows Christ.
3) Organize independently, serving the needs of local brethren, and perhaps doing a small-scale work of preaching the gospel locally, not reporting to any man administratively, but to Christ directly.
4) Join with another pastor who organizes independently, following the leadership of that pastor as he follows Christ.
Option 1, ballot-box governance, is proving by the fruits that it is not God's way. The Bible also teaches it is not God's way, but if some are not willing to believe the Bible, then they now might be willing to believe the fruits.
Option 2, joining an established group, might be a good choice if the leader of that group is faithful to God and is showing good fruits, but this may not be an option for every pastor.
Options 3 and 4, organizing in small groups each led by a pastor that is responsible only to Christ, is an option for any minister, either organizing independently as a leader of a single congregation, or joining another pastor who has shown by the fruits that he has been faithful and competent. This would lead to a multitude of small and medium size organizations, but each led through top-down government. Each of these groups will prosper or fail depending on the faithfulness of the leader to obey the leadership of Christ.
Would options 3 and 4 lead to confusion and competition? It depends on each leader of a group individually. Leaders who submit to Christ faithfully as Christ leads them through the Bible and through the Holy Spirit will not compete with other faithful leaders. They will cooperate. Christ will lead them to cooperate, and they will follow Christ's leadership. But the cooperation will be voluntary, not forced by fear of losing a paycheck. Among faithful leaders there will not be confusion and hostile competition. There will be cooperation. Among unfaithful leaders there may well be confusion, and by this and other things each man's fruits can become known.
Cooperation can take the form of faithful leaders of groups helping faithful leaders of other groups, with acts of service, with support, with expertise and shared experience in certain areas, with counsel, with encouragement. There can also be agreed upon divisions of responsibility, probably based mainly on geography, especially at first, when each group serves a certain city or geographical area. The model for such cooperation can be the cooperation between Peter and Paul, where they agreed that one would serve mostly the Gentiles and the other go to the Israelites (Galatians 2:7-9).
Faithful leaders of Church of God organizations will cooperate with each other because they recognize that they are brothers in the family of God and that they all work for the same master, Christ.
Those in UCG who justify their decision 15 years ago to establish ballot-box governance over the Church often say they wanted to "cooperate" with other ministers. The recognition that cooperation is needed was right, but trying to implement it by creating an institution ruled by voting is not cooperation. Balloting in UCG is a matter of authority, control, not cooperation. Ministers are forced to do what other ministers vote them to do whether they want to do or not. Using the authority of the ballot box to try to force pastors to do things they would not do in obedience to Christ is just the opposite of cooperation.
But the principle of voluntary cooperation is right. And it is one means by which the entire ministry can see who is living God's way and being blessed by God and who is not.
Unity vs. division in the Church of God is not primarily a matter of incorporation as one or multiple organizations. You can't create a spirit of unity by forcing everyone under one corporate umbrella. Nor does allowing distinct corporations divide the Church if there is a right spirit. It is not a multitude of organizations that causes division, but the competitive, non-cooperative nature of relationships between organizations that causes division. You can have five leaders of five organizations, all submitting faithfully to the leadership of Jesus Christ, and you will have unity, because in effect you have one organization led by Christ, with each human organization a department within the overall organization led by Christ.
What about common needs that are best filled today by large groups, such as writing and publishing song books, club manuals, booklets, magazines, etc.? What about producing TV programs and broadcasting them on stations all over the country? How can these things be done by a collection of small groups? Those organizations that have within them various talents and resources can serve those who do not. One small organization, perhaps having a number of individuals with music talent and knowledge of publishing, can publish song books for other organizations that need them. If an organization writes several doctrinal booklets, that organization can make the copyrights available to other groups and can even do printing for other groups. The groups that use these services can compensate the groups providing the services on a cost basis. Perhaps a pastor of particular group has talent for speaking and can produce TV programs. Then other groups can purchase TV time locally and air those programs. One group might be blessed with prosperity and another group might have need with many families in poverty. The prosperous group can help support the needy group, following the example of Peter and Paul: "But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do." (Galatians 2:7-10).
What if, after this happens, Christ wants to organize all faithful ministers under one man?
If such is the case, Christ can make known His choice to the ministry and to the Church.
When Christ chooses a human leader, how does He make His choice known?
I find examples of two ways God makes His choice known in the Bible, by announcement and by fruits.
In the case of Joshua, God used both methods. God told Moses, and Moses told the people, that Joshua would be the leader after Moses was gone (Numbers 27:12-23, Deuteronomy 1:37-38, 3:26-28, 31:3, 14-15, 23). But also, God backed up Joshua with miracles to show the people that as He was with Moses, so He was now with Joshua. In effect, God showed by the fruits that Joshua was leader (Joshua 3:7-17). Likewise, God showed that Jesus was the Christ by the miracles Jesus did and by the sign of His resurrection (Matthew 11:2-6, Luke 7:20-23, John 10:37-38, Acts 2:22, Matthew 12:39-40), and also there were announcements by John the Baptist and by angels showing that Jesus was the Christ (John 1:29-36, Luke 1:26-38, 2:8). In the case of king David, he was anointed king in front of witnesses (1 Samuel 16:1, 8-13), but also God showed by the fruits that He was with David (1 Samuel 17:34-58, 18:5, 14-15).
God can show by announced appointment from the top down, by fruits, or by both whom He chooses to be leader.
If pastors leaving UCG form many small groups, and God selects the leader of one of those groups that the other ministers should join, God can show by the fruits whom He has chosen, and it does not have to be by miracles. The fruits will become evident who is faithful, who is following the Bible, who has the competence to lead the Church. The fruits will be shown by the wisdom and success of decisions, as Christ helps that leader make wise decisions and blesses those decisions and makes what that man does prosper as He did with Joseph (Genesis 39:2-6, 23). Good fruits can include service to other leaders and groups, success in preaching the gospel, God bringing new people into the Church to be pastored by that leader, etc. Fruits can also be shown in the speaking and writing of a leader, ability to understand and explain difficult passages in the Bible, and ability to help members with their problems.
And as those fruits become known, other faithful pastors can see and understand the meaning of those fruits and can be moved to support and join with the man God has chosen.
That is the biblical way God shows whom He has chosen as a leader, not by ballot-box governance.
More to come...
Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:
Government in the Church, Chapter 5
Following the Bible -- Pattern of Government, Chapter 6
Church Government, Chapter 7
How Is the Church Organized?, Chapter 7
A Brief History of the Scattering of the Church, Chapter 5
The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5