Sunday, March 31, 2013

Does It Matter Which Fellowship We Attend and Support?

Does it matter where you attend and which Church of God fellowship you support?

Suppose every group taught the same doctrine to the brethren, exactly the same, and each group taught that doctrine equally well. That is probably not true, but for a moment, pretend that it is.

If all teach the same doctrines equally well, does it matter which fellowship we are a member of?


Not so much for the major doctrines, but for the world that needs a warning message.

If all taught the major doctrines equally well, it might seem that it would not matter, for our personal salvation, which group we attend with and primarily support with our tithes, offerings, prayers, and service.

But does it matter for others outside the Church of God? Does it matter for God's work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning about the tribulation upon the English-speaking nations if they do not repent? Yes, it matters FOR THEM which fellowship we support.

Not all fellowships put equal effort, or are equally effective, in getting that message out. Some do better than others. In my opinion, LCG does the best job of any major Church of God fellowship of getting that message out to the public. They have a TV program on many stations and typically bring in about 5,000 responses or more a week, people asking for booklets after seeing the TV program. They have public Bible lectures and a magazine. Their message is strong, but balanced, and people respond to it.

God's tithe money, dollar for dollar, will be more effective in getting the Ezekiel warning out to the public when sent to a group that has the zeal, the talent, the experience, and the blessings of God to preach the gospel and warning effectively than if it is sent to a group that does not have these qualities. So if you want to get the warning message out to your friends and neighbors and fellow workers in this country, not members of the Church of God, but ordinary people who never heard the truth before and don't know that a severe punishment is coming, then you should want to support a fellowship that is getting that message out effectively, even if all fellowships teach the same doctrines.

Is that important?

"Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, 'Surely we did not know this,' Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?" (Proverbs 24:11-12). "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 19:19). "When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand" (Ezekiel 3:18).

Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Do you want your neighbors to hear a warning before it is too late? Do you love the people in the neighborhood you live in, the people you see at work, your extended family and relatives not in the Church, as you love yourself? Or do you love yourself more (Matthew 19:19, Luke 10:25-37)?

Do you want them to hear a warning before it is too late for them to escape the tribulation? I am not suggesting you push your beliefs on them directly. But you can help them have access to the truth by supporting a fellowship that is preaching that truth on TV, in magazines, on the Internet, in public Bible lectures, on radio, or any other effective means.

All those who know the truth, that is, all of us in the whole Church of God, have the job of giving the Ezekiel warning. We are the watchman God talks about in (Ezekiel 3:16-21, 33:1-11). If we do not give the warning, their blood will be on our heads. In other words, their guilt for breaking the Sabbath will be transferred to us, because we didn't warn them, and WE will be punished for it. God has made us the watchman.

How do I know this? The verses I quotes MAKE us a watchman because they command us to give the warning.

Here is a command, in effect, to give the warning: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 19:19). Love requires that we give the warning message, because the people need the warning message.

Here is another command to give the warning: "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12). If you were headed for trouble and didn't know it, wouldn't you want somebody to warn you? If there was an obstacle on a dark and wet road up ahead that could cause you to have an accident, would you not want someone to light a flare to warn you to slow down? If you were asleep in a burning apartment building, would you not want someone to pound on your door to wake you up to save your life? If you would want a warning, then likewise you should give a warning to those about to die. Then these verses are equal to a command to give the warning, and they give you and me and anyone who knows what is coming the job of watchman.

Here is another command to give the warning: "Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter" (Proverbs 24:11). The only way you can hold back those who are sinning and bringing punishment on themselves is to warn them before it is too late. So this is another command for us to warn, and this scripture also gives us the job of watchman to give the Ezekiel warning, and if we are not diligent to do it with all our might, we become guilty for our failure to give the warning.

Here is another command to teach God's truth to the public: "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' " (Matthew 28:18-20). This is a commission for the Church.

So it matters for other people, our friends and neighbors and fellow employees at our places of work, people who live next us, among our extended family if they are not in the Church of God, and the whole nation whether we know the people or not, that we do everything we can to get a warning message out by supporting whatever Church of God fellowship is doing that most effectively. That is true even if every fellowship teaches us, the members of the Church, the same basic doctrines.

So when you make a decision where you attend and where to send your tithes, you should think beyond yourself, not just, how will this affect me, but, how will this affect other people? How many people will I get the warning to if I contribute to this Church of God fellowship more than if I contribute to this other Church of God fellowship?

But in fact, even for our salvation, it matters where we attend, because we need to be supporting a group that is getting the warning message out. Also, a group that is not doing the Ezekiel warning work, because they do not have the zeal for God's work or true agape love for the Israelite nations, is likely not going to do a good job of feeding the flock and teaching us and helping us in our relationship with God.

Why is it important that the Ezekiel warning go out to the people before the tribulation begins? Basically, they need to know that they heard a warning so that if they do not repent and heed the warning (and most will not), they will remember that they ignored the warning, and they will accept the blame for not heeding the warning and not try to blame God because they never heard the warning. Many people in this country and others do not know they are doing wrong. Catholics and Protestants don't know it is wrong to keep Christmas and Easter and to work on Saturdays. They need to be told. That way, if they ignore the warning and continue, they can remember that we warned them but they ignored it. Otherwise, in the tribulation they will say, "it wasn't my fault, no one told me, so God is unfair to punish me."

I go into this in more detail in chapters 3, 4, and 5 of my book.

God will judge us for our love, or lack of it, for the nations that will go through the tribulation. God will judge us if we do not go all out to support a warning message, just as we would want to be warned if we did not know the truth. If you and I have a strong love for other people, enough to go all out to get the gospel and warning message out, Christ can say to us, "well done, good and faithful servant". But if we do not have that love and do not go all out, He may say something else to us. But one way or another, we will be judged for our decisions, for good or bad. Let's make sure we are judged favorably, because we please God, not unfavorably for what we do, in all our decisions, including the decision of which Church of God organization to attend or support.

It matters.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:





cora said...

Mr PTG author,

My question is concerning the lowest level of church fellowship, the local one.

What if the church one fellowships in preaches The Truth but the local ministry practices tyrant leadership and fosters in the local church an environment of worldly cronyism and a big-brother like attitude toward one another; encourages and expects members to be his eyes and ears to what other members say and do?

What if bringing up an issue (not necessarily doctrinal, but in most cases, personal) with the minister in the manner which you have discussed in some of your previous posts is perceived as challenging the minister's expectation, authority and knowledge, and renders one a kind of social pariah in the fellowship?

What if the local ministry, by "sharing" this offense with others in the next level of church authority and the others in his clique causes their collective ridicule and overt rudeness to be heaped upon the witless offender?

What if this is not an isolated case in the local fellowship?

How does one handle this for the sake of peace and unity?

I realise that my enquiry does not have much bearing on your post and I am not sure if this should be published but I surely wish to know your opinion.

Much thanks and best regards. said...

Tough question, but a good one.

Sounds like a Galatians 5:15 moment. Or maybe more like 1 Corinthians 1:12, or 1 Corinthians 3:2-3.

This is a situation that obviously should not exist, but I have enough experience in the Church of God to know that it sometimes does exist, and I would assume it can sometimes exist even in the best of organizations.

If the ministry as a whole always set the right example of godly behavior, the whole Church of God would not be scattered and divided as it is.

I don't claim to have all the answers, and I have made my share of mistakes when I have been in similar situations, but I will share my thoughts.

So first things first.

No matter how bad the situation is or how uncomfortable we may be in this kind of situation, we must not let ourselves become bitter. That can be a challenge. At least it is for me. When I am in something like this, there is a temptation for me to become bitter, hateful, revengeful, not to mention feeling sorry for myself. We need to stay close to God and do a lot of prayer and Bible study. Someone in this situation is going through a trial, maybe a severe one, and it may last a long time, and we need to get closer to God and stay closer to God than ever before. And we need to recognize that, whatever else this is, it is a test for us. God is testing us.

God tested David when Saul tried to kill him.

So attitude is important. Reviewing important scriptures might help, such as the story of David and Saul, the sermon on the mount, scriptures about love, etc. Praying for wisdom is important.

(continued) said...

Now, for what to do.

I can only share what I would probably try to do in this case, not even sure if it is the best thing. You can evaluate this for what it is worth. But I am open to suggestions from others.

There is a principle in the Bible that it is not wise to correct someone who is not willing to receive the correction. Once we discern, from experience, that a person does not have an attitude or the character to properly receive and responsibly handle what we share with that person, then we should exercise wisdom and not share things further with that person if it is likely to lead to a bad result.

"He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself. Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning" (Proverbs 9:7-9). "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces" (Matthew 7:6). These scriptures have to do with correcting someone, but I think the principle can be expanded: if we have reason to believe that a person will handle knowledge irresponsibly, it is better not to give that person knowledge. Of course, when it comes to the Church doing the work of warning the world, we will have to do it, even warning those who will hate us for it, and we will have to endure the persecution that it triggers. But that is a different situation. Locally, when dealing with individuals, it is best to avoid trouble as much as possible.

(continued) said...

Of course, hindsight is 20/20 - what do we do if it has already happened?

What to do for the sake of peace and unity?

If it was between members with a just and fair pastor to judge between brethren and members who had the right, converted attitude and mindset, Matthew 18:15-17 would be a good option, but if the pastor cannot be trusted, it might not be a viable option.

I have heard the saying, "pay and pray". I have heard this expanded to "pray, pay, stay, and obey". But in the case you described, I would say a good motto might be "pray and stay out of the way".

Some people just can't be reasoned with. Some people do not behave rationally. Some people in the Church of God do not behave like Christians and perhaps never will behave like Christians short of the tribulation.

Saul could not be reasoned with when he tried to kill David. There was no reason for Saul to hate David - David was loyal to him - but logic had nothing to do with it. David had three choices: fight back and kill Saul, stand still and let Saul kill him, or flee from Saul. He chose to flee.

Now I am not suggesting we always leave the congregation in this kind of situation. But I would try, as much as possible, to stay out of the way of the pastor and those members who want to hurt me. And I would try to be "nice" to everyone, that is, friendly, pleasant, etc., but be as little involved with people who cause trouble as possible. Then I would just pray, stick it out, and wait for God to solve the problem or wait for people to lose interest in being rude and ridiculing. But we need to trust God. He will avenge when His time comes, after He has tested us. It is those who practice rudeness and ridicule who have the bigger problem. God will also protect us as we trust and obey Him.

There is also the scripture, "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17). The application of this in a spiritually healthy congregation is that the pastor makes the decision to disfellowship a person who is causing division. But the larger spiritual principle of this is, stay out of the way of troublemakers.

Things we should avoid would be attacking our attackers. Sometimes even defending ourselves can be perceived as attacking others. We should not speak against the minister with other members. It is probably best if we do not speak against other members, even. Meekness, in other words. Turn the other cheek. That is what Christ taught, didn't He?

(continued) said...


If the pastor commits some serious infraction of God's law, and the member has the proof, and if he or she is able to determine that the pastor's boss (regional pastor or director, or director of Church administration, or the top guy, etc.) would want to know about it, and if we are willing to take the risk, I do not think it would be wrong to let "higher-ups" know what the pastor has done. It might backfire. We might get kicked out. That is where we need wisdom from God to know His will.

In some situations, if it is serious enough, a member may have no choice but to leave or be kicked out.

But my concern will always be with the 500 million Israelites who need to hear the Ezekiel warning and the true gospel before the tribulation begins. So even if I leave a group, in this situation, if that group is doing the best job of preaching the gospel to the world, I would support that group with my prayers and finances as I am able, even after leaving. Not because I love the ministry that caused the problem but because I love the tribes of Israel who will go through the tribulation and have no idea what is coming and in many cases don't even know what they are doing wrong. For their sakes, I would support whatever group is warning them most effectively, even if I could not attend that group myself.

Because in the end, it's not about me. It's about Israel and about God's plan for the salvation of mankind.

So through all this, we need to keep the big picture in mind.

That is the best I can come up with right now. But if you have more detailed questions or scenarious about this situation, such as how to handle such-and-such a situation within the overall problem, feel free to post them as comments, and we can continue this dialogue right here in this post. This post is as good a place as any to discuss it. And any other readers who have wisdom about this can contribute.

Sometimes discussing this with others can sharpen our own thinking, even when the other person doesn't have the exact answer. Sometimes describing a problem helps us see the solution.

Iron sharpens iron - Proverbs 27:17.

cora said...

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I am still in the process of perusing your answer thoroughly. But even now I am finding comfort in it.

Lest you are concerned, I am not bitter nor angry, just deeply saddened by the trials some brethren are going through in the hands of those who have the duty to help and protect them.

With your permission, I would like to pass this post on to one particular brethren who is at this time receiving the brunt of hurtful treatment.

Again, my sincerest thanks. said...

Certainly you may pass on this post to anyone you think may benefit from it. And I am glad I could help in a small way.

MTCOGSM said...

Hello Author. You state;
"We are the watchman God talks about in (Ezekiel 3:16-21, 33:1-11). If we do not give the warning, their blood will be on our heads. In other words, their guilt for breaking the Sabbath will be transferred to us, because we didn't warn them, and WE will be punished for it. God has made us the watchman."
I believe we all have our part to be doing, and can agree on that. This statement however, seems pretty clear to be applying to "a man" not several men and the context reveals it many times, which would probably better fit HWA and his work. If you note that God is speaking directly to Ezekiel, but then that is clearly transferred to ONE individual to come and then pass from the scene, not several men or an organizations of men. Note it in Ch.33:33 "And when this comes to pass-- surely it will come-(Very possibly applying to the COG today) then they will know that a prophet has been among them." (NKJ)
There are other passages that use the term "watchmen" that would fit your article better.
But concerning the obvious intent behind your article, I find it a little disturbing in some ways (Along with the other comment already made) because it does not reflect the attitude of arrogance and mean-spirited-ness that a few in the ministry of living COG & other organizations have for other brethren-which is why many other brethren are not in LCG in particular. In fact RCM's approach to others has been what prompted them to start another organization or go with other organizations already in existence.(The same has happened with other groups--not just singling out LCG)
Is it being "judgmental" (Just a question) to tell the truth and expose underhanded and deceitful practices, in your mind? Those doing these things do not like to be exposed--it makes them mad--not repentant.(Eph.5:9-11 --for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."
If everyone had your mindset-it seems those who may be scattering the COG-would actually be able to cut them off completely. I know that several years ago RCM wrote about that very thing-he was critical of these other organizations for allowing those to come into their group whom RCM thought should not be in the Church at all and had put out.
I am thankful there are other organizations that are not so dictatorial in practice-but I do think Christ, as the Head of the COG Body, would desire a better balance than we see happening today. All true Christians need a good environment to grow and have fellowship in.