Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Should COGWA Members Proselytize UCG Members?

"Proselytize." In preparing this post, I had to look that word up in a dictionary to know how to spell it. Here is a definition I found: "to recruit someone to join one's party, institution, or cause." I like the word "recruit" better - it is easier to spell, pronounce, and understand.

Apparently that is becoming an issue with Church members who attend COGWA visiting UCG services and trying to recruit UCG members into coming to COGWA services.

Should this be done?

The true Church of God is a spiritual body, not an organization. It is the collective body of all those people who have the gift of God's Holy Spirit dwelling in them. "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13). "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:9). This is what Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong taught and it is what the Bible teaches.

So you can have converted members of the true Church of God attending services sponsored by different organizations.

I assume there are many converted Church members in both UCG and COGWA. I have no reason to think otherwise.

It is unfortunate that organizations in the true Church view each other competitively, but that is often the case. Probably, this is a characteristic of the era we are in. If we are in the Laodicean era, and I think we are, Christ does not praise the whole Church of God for the spiritual state we are in.

Two Church of God organizations that are hostile to each other may both be wrong, or one may be right and the other wrong, but they can't both be right. There is some fault somewhere.

Does it matter between UCG and COGWA which fellowship a member attends with? Is it important?

It might very well matter and be important.

As I point out in my book, Preaching the Gospel, members have a right, and a duty, to judge matters they need to judge in order to make a decision they have the responsibility for making. In order to attend services and pay tithes and offerings, they have to make a decision about fellowships, where to attend and which to support, and to do that they have to judge.

And in judging a matter to know God's will before making a decision, we should get the facts and try to prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21, Proverbs 18:17).

It is not wrong for Church of God members to discuss these things (Proverbs 27:17, Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, 24:6). Depending on the situation, talking with other members may be part of doing research to get necessary information needed to make a decision.

But should COGWA members go to UCG services and in conversation with UCG members criticize UCG leadership, policies, and teachings?

I think not.

There must be a certain respect shown to the office of the ministry (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Such ministers do have a certain authority over the services they conduct and the meeting places for those services (Hebrews 13:17). As much as possible, we are to speak the same thing (1 Corinthians 1:10-13), and God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). Brethren want to be able to meet in peace, not contention. We are commanded to avoid those who cause division, and UCG pastors have the authority to enforce this principle (Romans 16:17).

I do not think it is wrong for a member who attends COGWA to visit a UCG meeting (if the pastor allows), and to respectfully answer questions from members about COGWA, but without criticizing UCG. But there must be a balance. COGWA members should behave as guests and seek to be peaceable. Perhaps a UCG member may want to know in more detail from a COGWA member why he left UCG, but in that case such a conversation is better conducted outside of UCG services, such as over the telephone, but not in a UCG meeting place where other members who simply want to meet in peace can overhear. Members should show respect to other members by avoiding words that can offend unnecessarily, and should not openly contradict and criticize the ministers of the services they are attending (Luke 17:1-2, Matthew 18:6-7).

More to come...

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

When and How to Judge, Chapter 5

Should Each Member Promote His Own Opinion?, Chapter 6


Anonymous said...

I would very much like to hear specific instances of such proselytizing. I have heard many rumors, but everyone I know in COGWA who has tried to socialize with their UCG brethren has only been interested in visiting friends we miss, not proselytizing. Some may have let UCG people know they are welcome to visit a COGWA congregation at any time. I haven't done so specifically to avoid such an accusation, although any peaceful UCG member is always welcome to visit with no commitment ro COGWA assumed.

author@ptgbook.org said...

Probably, it only occurs occasionally. I would expect that most members understand from experience what is appropriate behavior and stay within bounds.