I have named this new group coming out of COGaic. Since Steve Andrews, Peter Nathan, and Brian Orchard have not yet decided on a name for their new Church of God fellowship, I have decided to name that Church myself, temporarily, till they decide on a name. I need to do this for this post, because I do not want to keep calling them, "the ministers and brethren leaving COGaic". That is too long. I have enough pain in my wrists from typing without using that term all the time. So I have named this new group, "ex-COGaic". Nice and short and easy to type. As soon as ex-COGaic decides on a permanent name, I will use whatever name they choose, but until then, "ex-COGaic" will have to serve.
I have had time to examine the messages of the new group forming and I have formed some distinct impressions. There are issues that will have to be dealt with by the ministers and members leaving COGaic over the next weeks and months.
Ministers and members in the Church of God, those still in COGaic, those who are in ex-COGaic, and some outside of both groups, may have questions about this new fellowship. What kind of governance will they have? What will be their doctrines? Will they preach the gospel to the world? On a more personal level, ministers and members will need to decide whether to join or support this new group or not, and for them the main question should be, should I go with these ministers leaving COGaic? Should I attend with them? Should I support them with my tithes and offerings?
I want to share what I have learned, and impressions I have formed, that may be helpful in answering these questions. You can meditate about these things in light of what you have learned in your Bible study.
My impressions and what I have learned are based mostly on the Bible, on commonly known Church of God history, and on information about this new group that has been placed on the Internet, primarily their own website. I have not had any direct communication with any of the members or ministers in this new group since they came out of COGaic.
Unity Among the Leading Ministers in Ex-COGaic
There has been a strong attempt to reach and show unity and like-mindedness among the leading ministers, those who attended the conference. It has been emphasized in their messages that they are very much in agreement.
These men certainly seem to be on the same page as far as what they have agreed to do and why, at this time. They seem to be united and like-minded in that sense.
But regardless of what some of these men may say, do not assume that all of these leaders and ministers are entirely on the same page internally and spiritually, in their hearts and minds. Levels of conversion, levels of faithfulness and closeness to God, levels of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, vary widely among ministers in the Church of God, as they do among members, and only God knows the heart.
As these men work together outside of COGaic, they will be getting to know each other in some ways better than before. No matter how closely they worked with each other within COGaic, this is a different ball game. For some of them, their differences between each other when they were in COGaic could have been overshadowed by what they had in common: dealing with their problems in COGaic. But as time goes on and their COGaic/David Hulme experience becomes more and more "past history", their focus will be on what they should be doing now, and that is where their differences will become more noticeable to themselves. And as each person individually is a free moral agent, not everyone will necessarily make the same right choices. So it remains to be seen if these ministers will all go in the same direction over the long term. They may stay together. Some may join existing COGs over time, in the next six months, year, two years, etc. Some may form their own groups. Only time and circumstances will tell.
In some cases, offenses may have occurred between these men before the conference, for example while some of them were still in COGaic and others had already left, and those offenses have probably been forgiven and those men reconciled, maybe even forgiven 100% with no residue of hard feelings.
But if offenses in the past occurred because of actions based on differences of thinking and understanding about government in the Church or about any other aspect of God's way of life, those differences in understanding probably remain.
So if one minister offended another during the extended period of time all of these ministers were coming out of COGaic one by one, those men may have completely forgiven each other from the heart as Christ instructed prior to or during the conference. They may be completely reconciled, emotionally. They may be in complete agreement about what to say and do in the immediate future to strengthen the Church and build unity as they go forward. They may agree to act as one for the good of the brethren.
But if those offenses originally occurred because of a difference in understanding of government, if these men "bumped heads" against each other while one was in COGaic and the other was not, because one man understood and practiced godly government while the other did not, those differences in levels of knowledge and understanding likely remain. Why? Because knowledge and practice of God's way of life does not come instantly or in a few days.
You can be of one mind and on the "same page" with someone in terms of reaching agreement about what to say and do over the next several days and weeks so that you act in unity - "as one" - but that doesn't mean you agree about everything.
All of these men have been in God's Church, even as ministers, for years or decades. If a man does not understand government, or preaching the gospel, or any other important doctrine after that time, how much will he learn in a few weeks or in a 3-day conference?
Can you see what I am saying?
No doubt learning can be a continuous process and a man can learn quite a bit in a few weeks, especially during a trial, if his heart is right. But such learning will be shown by the fruits over time, and it will take time to see where each man stands. And these men have been through trials before, even trials of separation from organizations based on major doctrines and issues. They came out of Worldwide, then they came out of UCG. They have studied their Bibles, observed other fellowships in the whole Church of God, and taught the brethren for decades. They should understand God's way of life as it pertains to the major issues they are now facing. But after all this training and experience, if some of them did not understand Bible teaching on these major issues coming into this conference, did they then learn these things in three days?
It can be a fine line to know when to seek unity and when to separate. There is a time and place for both (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). These men are building unity with each other now, but they just separated from COGaic. Christ, during His three-and-a-half year ministry, worked with and used Judas, even sending him out with the others to preach the gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons. But when Peter tried to persuade Christ against dying for our sins, Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan." Christ worked with those with faults, even with His enemy Judas, but He never compromised with God's way of life for the sake of unity.
Also, remember Christ's parable of the tares. Not everyone who seems to be converted or righteous is. When I was in Worldwide, there were many I thought were deeply converted, but later events proved me wrong. Even Samuel could not see the heart as God sees, and God later referred to Samuel as a righteous example (1 Samuel 16:6-7, Jeremiah 15:1)
Do not assume Christ always wants unity. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household" (Matthew 10:34-36). We are being tested, sifted, and separated, according to God's judgment.
It may be the best thing for these men to stay together right now. I don't know. I am certainly not trying to promote disunity and create division by what I am saying. And as long as they are together, they should seek ways to work together harmoniously and in love, without compromising with God's law and commands.
But brethren and ministers have to be realistic about this. If there are fundamental differences of view about preaching the gospel, government, or other important matters, eventual separation not only may be inevitable, it may be necessary.
And if that happens, please don't be upset about it. If some of these ministers go separate ways a month from now, six months from now, or years from now, don't throw up your hands (or throw up) and say, "Oh no, another split in the body of Christ! These guys are no better than all the other groups."
Instead, stay calm, look at what is happening, and why, and try to learn and discern the reasons for the separation, what the issues are, and seek God's wisdom and will through prayer, Bible study, meditation, and maybe fasting, to know who you should support. That is all part of God's testing and teaching of the ministry and members to prepare us for His kingdom.
And separation of those who understand and are submitted to God's way from those who aren't may be necessary before those who submit to His way can do the work God wants them to do.
Read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography. He could never have done a powerful work while he was in Church of God Seventh Day. He did a work in that group, yes. He gave sermons, he wrote articles for their publication, he did evangelistic campaigns, he baptized, and he taught. But as long as he was with that group, he could never do the powerful work God empowered him to do later because those in COG7D held him back as long as he was with them. Even when he did evangelistic campaigns in COG7D, he was more effective when he worked alone than when he was part of a two-man team with a COG7D man.
Even Christ experienced this. The lack of faith of those around Him limited even what He could do on occasion. "Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief" (Mark 6:5-6).
If one leading minister in ex-COGaic understands and accepts godly hierarchical government and is on fire to preach the gospel and another leading minister is against both, the first man will not be able to accomplish much as long as he is in the same fellowship with the second man and is compromising for the sake of unity. "Agreeing to disagree" is not enough to do a powerful work.
Every member and minister in ex-COGaic has to make choices, and those choices continue. We are all being tested by God, over and over and over. The ministers are being tested in the choices they make, and members are being tested in the choices they make of where to attend and who to support. That test is in progress.
This Christian life is trial, learn lesson, test, trial, learn lesson, test, all the way to the Kingdom of God. That process doesn't stop in this physical life.
If ministers with different, deeply held views about government and preaching the gospel force unity among themselves even when it doesn't fit, they are sowing the seeds for a future split.
Government, and the Structure of Church Governance
Ex-COGaic leaders are not very clear about government and decision making. They have said that they believe in hierarchical government. But I am not sure what they mean by that, and I suspect they are not sure either. They seem against balloting as exists in UCG and COGWA to choose leaders. But they also do not seem to accept hierarchical government as practiced by Herbert W. Armstrong, or David Hulme, or anyone else in the last one hundred years in the Church of God.
It is as if they are trying to invent something new in government and decision making, but haven't figured it out yet. Or maybe they think they are trying to discover new things from the Bible about how government in the Church worked in the first century Church of God. One of them has said that the structure of government taught by the example of Moses delegating authority from the top down to rulers of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens is obsolete from the time of Christ. How does that fit with ex-COGaic's statement that they agree with hierarchical government? I do not know, but it does not reassure me. And I do not think the pattern of government under Moses is obsolete for the Church. Another man seems to be teaching a principle of establishing God's will by two or three witnesses to make decisions, using the example of Acts 15, saying that one witness to the decision is scripture, one is Paul's witness of how God had performed miracles with the Gentiles, and the third Peter's witness of miracles with Cornelius. But I have a hard time understanding how ex-COGaic will make decisions about the budget, the work, doctrine, and assignments and responsibilities, by waiting for God to bear witness to every decision by a couple of miracles.
So while they claim to believe in "hierarchical" government, when they sometimes use that term, don't expect it to necessarily be the same kind of hierarchical government that Mr. Armstrong taught and practiced in doing a powerful work of restoring lost truth, raising up the Philadelphia era of the Church, and preaching the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning to millions. It may be quite different. What it will look like, I can't guess. They are not stating anything very clearly, and they may not know themselves yet how it will work. But they certainly do not seem in any hurry to recognize any one minister among them as leader, as the Church of God recognized Mr. Armstrong as leader, as COGaic recognized Mr. Hulme as leader, or as Living Church of God recognizes Dr. Meredith as leader.
But they have made some decisions about which men will fill certain leadership roles. In making decisions, they will take a consultive approach where the input from different men will be used, but one man will lead in each of three areas. Mr. Brian Orchard will lead as senior pastor leading decisions in pastoring the congregations. I would think of this as similar to the role of what is called "director of church administration" in other fellowships. Mr. Peter Nathan will help lead in education, training, and doctrine. Mr. Andrews will lead in administrative matters.
Conspicuously absent is anyone to lead in preaching the gospel, what might be called "director of media" in other fellowships. This says something about their real view of the importance and urgency of preaching the gospel, in my view, but I will have more to say about that later.
But for overall organization, they have not yet made a decision on whether they will incorporate or not or a name of their fellowship.
If I understand them correctly, they have said that they do not know how government will work and do not have a model to look at for organization, so it will take some time for them to work that out.
That seems surprising to me. I do not want to belittle these men for their attitude of being willing to learn new things from the Bible - we should have an open mind and be willing to learn new things - but they had a model of government under Mr. Armstrong that proved its effectiveness by the fruits of doing a powerful work and restoring lost doctrine. It was that model that Mr. Armstrong demonstrated that was the model of government for the Philadelphia era of God's Church, an era Christ praises (Revelation 3:7-13). We also have a model of government in Living Church of God, which is basically the same structure of governance that Mr. Armstrong demonstrated. And these ministers had chosen that model of government when they left UCG to stay with Mr. Hulme in 1998.
Mutual Submission as a Structure of Church Governance
There has been much discussion of a concept ex-COGaic calls "mutual submission". But the idea of "mutual submission" as a model of the structure of government in the Church is not valid. Mutual submission is a valid concept, based on Ephesians 5:17-21, but not as a structure of government. Government has to do with authority to make binding decisions, "command" authority if you want to call it that, and mutual submission changes nothing about that authority or that structure. If those leaving COGaic accuse David Hulme of not "mutually submitting" to them and thus violating Ephesians 5:17-21, they are wrong and are misusing the intent of that passage. Why? Because submission of someone in authority (such as David Hulme) to someone under his authority (such as Steve Andrews when Mr. Andrews was an employee of COGaic) is always voluntary. Mr. Hulme has never been required by Ephesians 5:17-21 to submit to the requests, ideas, or opinions of Mr. Andrews as a structure of government. Mr. Andrews never had the right to accuse Mr. Hulme of wrong doing because Mr. Hulme did not submit to Mr. Andrews. To accuse Mr. Hulme on this basis is a misuse of scripture.
Paul said "submit to one another". He did NOT say, "demand submission from one another". To make it specific, Paul did not say, "Mr. Andrews, demand that David Hulme submit to you". To use this verse to accuse others for not submitting to you is not Paul's intent. He is not giving you ammunition for making accusations, "So-and-so didn't submit to me, so he is sinning, so let's leave."
As I pointed out in my post "New Church Coming out of COGaic and 'Mutual Submission' ", dated January 5, 2014, link:
God and Christ are our examples, and they did not always submit to the requests and desires of those under their authority.
Should David Hulme sometimes submit to the requests, needs, and desires of those who work for him, to employees of COGaic? Sometimes yes, but not always. It is his call, and he should make his decisions based on love for all aspects of God's work and all of God's people, not just the person who makes the request, and to make those decisions properly requires not only love, but wisdom. Mr. Hulme should pray to God for wisdom in making these decisions, and sometimes the right decision is to say no, to not submit to a subordinate. And ultimately, only Christ has the right to judge Mr. Hulme for that decision, not Mr. Andrews.
Suppose Mr. Andrews makes a request of Mr. Hulme. Mr. Andrews wants Mr. Hulme to submit to him on that particular point, with his request. Mr. Hulme now has to make a decision. He cannot base his decision only on Mr. Andrews' desires, but he has to take the needs of others and the needs of God's work in consideration because this affects other people, not just Mr. Andrews. As leader of COGaic under Christ, that is Mr. Hulme's job - to make the right decision, based on love, for all of God's people and for God's work, not just for the desires of Mr. Andrews. So Mr. Hulme prays for wisdom to make the right decision according to God's will. Mr. Andrews has also prayed for wisdom.
Who is Christ more likely to give wisdom to for making the right decision in this case, Mr. Hulme or Mr. Andrews? The answer is, Mr. Hulme.
Why? Why will God give wisdom for making the right decision to Mr. Hulme but not necessarily Mr. Andrews?
Because it is Mr. Hulme that needs the wisdom to make the decision. Making the decision is Mr. Hulme's job. It is not Mr. Andrew's job. One man makes the decision. He may listen to advice, but he makes the call because he has the authority. That is how hierarchical government works.
Who has the authority to make the decision? Mr. Hulme. Who needs the wisdom to make the right decision? Mr. Hulme. So who does Christ give the wisdom to for making the right decision? Mr. Hulme. Doesn't Christ give Mr. Andrews the same wisdom to know what the right decision should be? No, not necessarily. Why? He doesn't need it. Mr. Hulme will make the decision, not Mr. Andrews. Mr. Andrews has the job to learn and practice submission to government. He does that by submitting to decisions he does not understand or agree with. So he doesn't need to necessarily understand every decision Mr. Hulme makes, just as we do not understand every decision God makes in our lives.
Am I saying Mr. Andrews should obey Mr. Hulme unconditionally? Of course not. We must always obey God rather than man, and if Mr. Hulme tells Mr. Andrews to lie, steal, cheat, etc., Mr. Andrews must obey God rather than man.
Am I saying Mr. Hulme will always make the right decision, that he will never sin or make mistakes? No, Christ sometimes allows his leaders to make mistakes, as scripture and history show, and sometimes they sin. But hierarchical government means that Christ judges Mr. Hulme's decisions, not Mr. Andrews. Mr. Andrews has no right to demand that Mr. Hulme always submit to him, and then if he does not, accuse him in front of others of violating Ephesians 5:17-21. Mr. Andrews has the right to judge what God's will is for him personally, based on the Bible and on circumstances. And he may judge that he should leave Mr. Hulme quietly and without criticizing him in front of others while he is still in COGaic.
What if Steve Andrews and other ministers, each individually, observe a pattern of mistakes or sins in the decisions of Mr. Hulme, and if they believe Christ is leading them to see that Mr. Hulme is not following Christ and to leave COGaic because they can do God's work of feeding the flock more effectively than Mr. Hulme? Then let them leave COGaic quietly, not accusing Mr. Hulme in front of COGaic members, not conspiring with each other about Mr. Hulme while in his employment, not circulating letters within COGaic. Once you are out of COGaic, you are no longer under Mr. Hulme's authority. Then you report directly to Christ, if that's what you want. But to criticize Mr. Hulme in front of other members or ministers in COGaic, weakening his authority, while you yourself are still IN COGaic and under Mr. Hulme's authority, is rebellion. If one doesn't understand that, he doesn't understand hierarchical government, and any statements he later makes that he supports hierarchical government are suspect and lack credibility.
If you think the "mutual submission" taught in Ephesians 5:17-21 means that those in authority must always submit to those under them, equally, please read my list of examples in my last post. There are many examples of mutual submission in the Bible, and I think we need to learn from the Bible what that means.
Ephesians 5:17-21 does not advocate mutually submissive decision making authority, and if you think mutual submission is a right model or structure of Church governance, then you do not understand and support hierarchical government in the Church of God, no matter how much you speak in favor of the term "hierarchical government".
How Will Decisions Be Made? - Ex-COGaic Has Not Yet Given a Clear Answer
Ex-COGaic ministers may say that they still believe in hierarchical government in the Church. But it not apparent that they believe in the model of hierarchical government practiced and taught to the Church by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. What kind of "hierarchical" government do they believe in? They do not make that clear. But they seem to be trying to learn, develop, or invent something new. Perhaps it is not clear to them yet how this new kind of structure of government will work. But they will not or cannot make it clear how decisions will be made. They seem to think that the form or structure of hierarchical government we had under Mr. Armstrong was not the kind of hierarchical government practiced in the first century Church of God. They seem to be on a mission to, how should I say it, "invent" a new model of government? I guess they would not like that word. Maybe, "learn" a new model of government? Maybe from their point of view, they want to learn or discover more accurately how government worked in the first century Church of God, then make that their model.
But they are not articulating much about it, except in generalities that do not tell us much. They want it to be like "family" government, but that still doesn't answer questions about how decisions will be made. They talk about principles everyone agrees on, such as the principle that we should submit to Christ and the Father and the principle that authority should be loving authority. But they do not say where decision making authority will actually reside in the Church, which is the issue. And in a kind of "question and answer" session, actual questions about this were not read as asked, but the speakers simply expounded on answering questions without really reading the questions.
Will there be one leader? If so, who will that be? Will Peter Nathan be the leader? Will it be Steven Andrews? How will they decide, how will they know? Will they all agree that one man among them has shown the fruits that God has chosen him, then agree to follow that man's lead as he follows Christ?
Or will there not be one man, and if there is not one man, how will decisions be made?
How will they decide budget matters? How will they decide to incorporate or not incorporate? How will they choose a name? How will they decide headquarters location? How will they decide when, how, and how much to preach the gospel to the world? How will roles and duties be assigned?
They cannot or will not explain these things, yet.
But I think they have something in mind. These men are not starting from scratch. Everything I have learned about how they left COGaic suggests that some of them have made plans in advance. They have been in the Church of God and most of them have been in the ministry for decades. You don't acquire that kind of experience without developing views on government and decision making in the Church of God.
My main point is, they are not talking about these things yet, probably because they are not planning to do things the same way they were done by Mr. Armstrong or Mr. Hulme. They are planning to break new ground. That is why they do not quickly say, "Well, we all recognize that (fill in the blank) is the leader God has chosen", and then quickly choose a name, set up a corporation, and fully organize their fellowship along hierarchical lines with one man at the top with authority to make final decisions.
This is important for anyone considering supporting ex-COGaic. Just because they speak in favor of "hierarchical government", don't assume they are thinking of the same thing you or I may be thinking about when we use that term. If you agree with the form and structure of government you had under Mr. Armstrong or Mr. Hulme, don't assume it will be that way in ex-COGaic. It might not be. Every indication is, they plan to change the structure of government, but how much and what it will look like, I don't know.
Actually, as I think about this, there may be another model of hierarchical government, in a sense. In one sense, it is different from what we had under Mr. Armstrong, and in another sense it is the same. But it is according to the Bible. I will talk about it more towards the end of this post.
Preaching the Gospel to the World and the Ezekiel Warning to Israel
One of the biggest issues is preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.
One of the prerequisites for doing this effectively is retaining the doctrine of the identity of the English-speaking nations as the sons of Joseph and part of the lost tribes of Israel. And on this point, they are clear: they continue to believe and will retain this doctrine.
But on the matter of actually doing the work of preaching the gospel, matters are not so clear. On the one hand, some are talking about the importance of it, but on the other hand they are saying they are not planning to do it in the near future. And in terms of actions, they have done nothing.
And they have started making what I regard as their list of excuses for failure to obey Christ's command to preach the gospel.
This is of primary importance for members supporting or considering supporting ex-COGaic. That is because many members have been dissatisfied with Mr. Hulme's snail's pace of preaching the gospel, and may have left, or are considering leaving, COGaic to go to ex-COGaic for that reason.
So many members want to know, will these ministers leaving COGaic be more zealous, more diligent, more vigorous, and more effective than Mr. David Hulme in preaching the gospel?
The leading ministers seem to have set their direction on this issue. Based on their words and actions (or lack of action), I think it is not too soon to reach some tentative conclusions.
My interpretation of what they have said and what they are planning, based on the messages they have in their website, is that they are unlikely to do much more about preaching the gospel than Mr. Hulme has done. I would be delighted if they prove me wrong.
I encourage anyone interested to listen to their messages for themselves to form their own judgments.
This is important for members to understand. If any of these men have been your pastor and you simply want to continue under his teaching, and that is your reason for leaving COGaic, you may not care about the decisions that are being made about policy and priorities in this new Church of God fellowship.
But I am sure that many members of COGaic, both those pastored by one of the men leaving COGaic and those pastored by men staying in COGaic, have been concerned for years with the lack of an effective program and effort in COGaic for preaching the gospel to the world. They take seriously the Church's responsibility to do this. And they are hoping that this new group will keep what is good that they had in COGaic and add preaching the gospel to it, which they did not have in COGaic.
If as a member of the Church of God you have zeal for the gospel, don't burn your bridges going with this new group. They may not be a good alternative to COGaic in this regard.
Actions count more than words, but words count too, and neither the words nor the actions of these ministers suggest that this new group of ministers collectively has the zeal to preach the gospel to the world effectively. It may vary from man to man, and God knows, or will soon learn as each man makes his choices, who is serious about obeying His command to preach the gospel and who is not. It may be that, if there are some ministers in this group that are really zealous for the gospel, they will have to leave this group because the other ministers are not. A certain consensus was reached during their three-day conference, and the flavor of that consensus is becoming apparent in the messages they are giving the Church. And their actions, or lack thereof, confirm what they are saying.
These men may have left COGaic for reasons different than members have left. These men may have been forced to leave if Mr. Hulme put them into an impossible situation. Few members have had to deal with Mr. Hulme directly the way these ministers have. The ministers may have been forced to leave COGaic, but the members may be leaving just to continue with the pastor they like. But some members may be leaving COGaic to go with this new group because they have hopes this group will do more than COGaic to preach the gospel. For those members, I advise caution.
The problem is, these men are giving as reasons for not starting to preach the gospel reasons very much like another group that I have heard make endless excuses.
Ex-COGaic's basic excuse is, we are not ready to preach the gospel to the world because we must first get right with God and each other. Until we reconcile with God and with each other, we cannot preach to the world.
Our preaching to the world will never be believable until we have harmony in the Church. First we must build unity. We must not "get ahead" of God.
I have heard this kind of thinking before. Not from David Hulme. From Mr. John Ritenbaugh of Church of the Great God. As I understand him, he also has taught that the Church of God is not ready to preach the gospel to the world until our spiritual sickness is healed, and until then we should just concentrate on getting better ourselves, drawing closer to God, getting our act together, loving the brethren, etc. He was one of the first ones to leave Worldwide and raise up a Church of God fellowship. And for years he has taught that the Church needs to concentrate on feeding the flock to improve the spiritual condition of the Church before giving high priority to preaching the gospel to the world.
You should listen to the sermon and Bible study recordings from CGG's website for the first 15 years of that organization's existence. Listen to Mr. Ritenbaugh say that the Church is spiritually sick and that we must be healed ourselves before we preach the gospel to the world. Listen to the various ways that message is expressed. Then listen to the messages of ex-COGaic they have in their website so far, and see if it doesn't sound familiar.
And then, if you want to see where ex-COGaic is headed as far as preaching the gospel is concerned, take a good look at CGG now.
They have large and beautiful websites. But almost everything is oriented towards preaching to the Church of God, not the world, not the public. Unless they are doing something secretly I am not aware of, or have recently started something new, they have no TV program, no radio program, no advertising program for the general public in print media, no public Bible lectures, and no Internet program primarily oriented towards the general public. Try doing an experiment. Enter the kind of search terms someone outside the Church of God might search for in Google, like "prophecy", "Bible", "Sabbath", "Pentecost", "United States in prophecy", etc. and see what search listings or pay-per-click ads show up pointing to Church of God publications that explain the truth. Typically, you may find some published by Living Church of God, United Church of God, and some other groups, but rarely, if ever, will you find anything published by Church of the Great God. And that is after about 23 years or more of their existence.
They don't say much publicly about their attendance or finances, but I do not think they have many, if any, baptisms of new prospective members from the world, not children of Church members growing up, except a few perhaps who come in because they personally know members of the Church of God. But not from preaching the gospel to the world.
They are just not reaching the world in any significant way.
Is that the future of ex-COGaic?
Now, ex-COGaic is talking about the fact that the gospel should be preached in the world. They are doing that at the same time as they are saying why they cannot start now.
But in the very beginning of CGG's existence, in the first couple of years or first few months, Mr. Ritenaugh was talking about producing a body of literature for preaching the gospel to the world, literature oriented towards the public. But after a short time, his view seemed to have changed. He started talking about why we must wait till the Church is healed.
There is this one difference, though, between the beginnings of CGG and the beginnings of ex-COGaic. CGG has always had true hierarchical government. And in that kind of structure, the direction of the organization is the direction of the leader, one man, John Ritenbaugh. If there were ministers in CGG who wanted to do more to preach the gospel to the world, they could not do it while they were in CGG.
But ex-COGaic has not yet chosen a leader who can impose his will on the others. If they move in the same direction, it is because they do so voluntarily. So some ministers in ex-COGaic who may have zeal for preaching the gospel may yet insist on doing it, even breaking away from others in ex-COGaic who do not want to, if necessary. It remains to be seen if they are willing to do so.
Look at the roles that have been assigned to leading ministers in ex-COGaic: Brian Orchard to lead the pastors and congregations, Peter Nathan to help with education, training, and doctrine, and Steve Andrews with administration. But no one for preaching the gospel, "media", "public proclamation", or whatever you call it. There is a big hole there. Why? Is it because, at this time, preaching the gospel is not important to these men? What do their actions say?
There were nine ministers at their three-day conference. That means, besides the three that have been given special leadership roles, there are six more that have not. There is not a shortage of leaders. But no one is available for preaching the gospel.
What is wrong with saying, "We have to get right with God before we preach the gospel"?
Preaching the gospel is not an option. It is a command from God. You don't "get right" or "reconcile" with God by not doing what He commands. You get right with God BY doing what He commands. Preaching the gospel to the world is one of the ways to get back into a right relationship with God.
"I am not ready to obey God until I first get right with God"
Suppose I say, "I have decided not to keep the weekly Sabbath and the holy days. I am going to work on the Sabbath, put in overtime at work on the Sabbath, do my grocery shopping on the Sabbath, mow my lawn on the Sabbath, watch sporting events, play computer games, etc. on the Sabbath. I will eat ham sandwiches and shrimp. I will not honor my mother and my father. I will lust after my neighbor's wife, commit adultery as I have opportunity, steal things I want if I have the opportunity. I will set up a "holy picture" of Jesus with long hair in my bedroom so I can look at it when I pray because it will help me to visualize God. I will accept the trinity doctrine and the immortal soul doctrine. I will commit murder in the spirit by hating my neighbor's guts. Why? This isn't the time to try to believe and obey God. Instead of obeying God, what I need to do is repent. I need to draw close to God in prayer and fasting and Bible study. I need to get along better with my neighbors and the brethren in the Church. Until I repent and draw close to God, it makes no sense for me to try to obey Him. I won't try to obey God so I can focus all my time and energy on repentance. If I try to obey him, that will only distract me from repentance. So first I will get into a right relationship with God and with other human beings. First, I will repent and seek unity with God. That may take a long time. I will listen to sermons, read the Bible, serve the brethren, etc. Then, AFTER I have repented and drawn close to God this way, I will start to keep His commandments. It is useless to try to obey Him until I repent and have a right relationship with Him, right?"
Pretty crazy logic, isn't it.
You don't "repent" and get a right relationship with God by disobeying Him. You repent and get a right relationship with God by doing what He says. That is obvious.
You don't repent and draw close to God by postponing obedience to His commandments like keeping the Sabbath. Likewise, you do not repent and draw close to God by postponing obedience to His command to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world. Lukewarmness about preaching the gospel is something to be repented of. You simply are not going to get right with God by postponing obedience. You get right with God by DOING WHAT HE SAYS, preach the gospel to the world. Until you actually start DOING that, you haven't made step one towards getting right with God. Why? Because your attitude is wrong. You are picking and choosing what you will obey and what you will not obey. And you excuse your disobedience by saying, "Someday, in the indefinite future, I will do it." Why should God believe you?
Why am I so quick to judge? Because I have seen this before, as I mentioned, with Church of the Great God. If you are a minister in this new ex-COGaic group, looking for material to explain to your members why you have not started preaching the gospel to the world and don't know when you will, I suggest you listen to Mr. Ritenbaugh's sermons in CGG's audio library, especially those prior to 2006. You may find a gold-mine of excuses for yourself from their recordings.
But they won't hold up to scripture.
As Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun.
If you are a member of COGaic thinking of going with the new ex-COGaic group, or a member of this ex-COGaic group wondering if you should stay, and you want to know if ex-COGaic will really preach the gospel to the world, take a close look at Church of the Great God. They formed around 1990. They also said, we have to get our own act together first before we preach to the world. The Church is spiritually sick, so we have to concentrate on repentance and healing, and until then, we are not ready to preach the gospel. Look at them after TWENTY YEARS! Are they doing any more to preach the gospel to the public than Mr. Hulme? Not by any objective measure that I can see. They have no radio or TV program, as far as I know. They have only their websites. Websites can be a good way of preaching the gospel, IF they are oriented towards the public and not just the Church, and IF they are supported by Internet paid advertising. But I have tested their sites by entering search terms like "prophecy" and other terms into a search engine to see if their websites show up, either in search results or ads. No, their sites very seldom show up. Other Church of God sites do, but not CGG sites. Try it yourself. They are NOT very effective in preaching the gospel. They have the "Berean", a daily email service that quotes and expounds on scripture for anyone who subscribes. But the major orientation of this is towards those who are already in the Church of God, not the world. They do not correct the lost tribes of Israel for their errors, "Cry aloud, spare not...Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1).
CGG sets an example for the whole Church of God. A bad example, in my opinion. And we can learn from their bad example of how NOT to prepare God's people to do the work God has given us in this age.
Some say may say, "We have to get the beam out of our eye before we see clearly to take the speck out of the world's eye by preaching the gospel to them", referring to Matthew 7:1-5. But other scriptures show that Christ never intended His "beam in the eye" teaching to be used as a reason for not preaching the gospel to the world. I go through those scriptures in my last post, titled " 'Beam in the Eye', and Preaching the Gospel to the World", dated January 14, 2014, link:
That is a false argument.
And as I point out in that post, if Peter Nathan, Brian Orchard, and Steve Andrews have beams in their eyes that prevent them from seeing clearly to remove the speck from the world's eye, then they also cannot see clearly to remove the speck from their congregations. So if they cannot preach the gospel to the world, neither should they be giving sermons to the brethren, till they get the beam out of their own eye. But once they get the beam out of their eye, then they can see clearly, not only to correct and teach the Church, but to correct and teach the world.
Ex-COGaic says that it wants to preach the gospel to the world, sometime in the future. I know it sound harsh to be skeptical, but in these times when the Church is scattered, it is necessary. Sometimes you have to look at actions more than words. Let's look at some plain and obvious facts.
Is ex-COGaic preaching the gospel to the world? Simple answer is, no, they are not.
Are they feeding the flock, giving Sabbath sermons? Yes, they are.
Is David Hulme preaching the gospel to the world? Yes, but on a very small scale, not very effectively.
Is Mr. Hulme feeding the flock, giving Sabbath sermons? Yes, he is.
So if you go from COGaic to ex-COGaic because you are concerned that COGaic has only a weak work of preaching the gospel to the world, you are going from a group that preaches the gospel on a very small scale to a group that has not started to preach the gospel at all. And what reason is there to think they will ever do it powerfully if they are reluctant even to start?
Both groups feed the flock.
Moreover, you are leaving a group that practices hierarchical government, as Mr. Armstrong did, to go to a group that hasn't figured out yet what kind of government or "governance" they will have, or what it will look like. Is that what you want?
To know if ex-COGaic is serious about preaching the gospel, look at their actions. If they are really serious, why have they not started? Saying they have to get close to God first before they obey Him makes no sense. If they are not close enough to God to teach the world, how can they be close enough to God to teach the Church by giving sermons on the Sabbath?
And harsh as it might seem, you have to consider, if they were so zealous for preaching the gospel, why did they stay with Mr. Hulme for 15 years? If they were wrong, have they acknowledged that? If they left Mr. Hulme because he was not preaching the gospel effectively, have they said that is a reason? Don't assume that the ministers left COGaic for the same reason you left COGaic.
Ex-COGaic ministers say that they want to wait till they reconcile with each other and with God before they try to preach the gospel to the world. They have said, you CAN'T preach the gospel to the world if you are not first right with God.
But consider this argument in light of the whole Church of God, not just ex-COGaic or COGaic. Is anyone in the Church of God preaching the gospel effectively to the world? Yes. If you look at the facts, you cannot help but see that Living Church of God (LCG), led by Dr. Roderick C. Meredith, is doing it. I don't say they are the only ones, but they are a leading example. They have a growing TV broadcast, four TV presenters, a growing magazine, an inventory of books and booklets for the public, an extensive website for the public that shows up in search engines, and public Bible lectures. They have congregations and ministers all over the United States and in other parts of the world. They bring in new members from the public who never heard the truth before, teach them, and baptize them, and much of their growth comes from the public, not just children of Church members growing up or people coming into LCG from other COG fellowships. They are transparent to other members and the public - once a year they show audited financial reports so you can see where money is going. They spend about 40% or more of their income on preaching the gospel to the public. Their overhead is low.
Now, if anyone in ex-COGaic says, "You CANNOT preach the gospel to the world unless you are first right with God", what does that say about LCG? That they are preaching the gospel effectively cannot be denied. What this says is that LCG is right with God, right? If ex-COGaic is correct in saying you cannot preach the gospel without first reconciling with God and man, then obviously LCG must have long ago achieved the reconciliation ex-COGaic is seeking. And if that is the case, if LCG is right with God, but ex-COGaic is not yet right with God, why not go to LCG? Why not join with LCG? Why not let them show you the way?
Why be separate from them? If they have what you are seeking, why not go to them and let them teach you?
But if you say that LCG does not have a right relationship with God, then you have contradicted yourself. You have just shown that having a right relationship with God is NOT a prerequisite for preaching the gospel, because they are preaching the gospel.
I said before, CGG is an example for the whole Church of God, but not a good one. Now I say, LCG is a good example for the whole Church of God, at least in the matter of preaching the gospel. They are the model, the test case, that shows that preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, IS possible, even in the scattered state of the Church today. God can use the example of Living Church of God to take away anyone's excuse who says, I didn't support the gospel and the Ezekiel warning because I didn't think it was possible to preach the gospel anymore - I thought this was not the time.
LCG is the example, the model, the test-case, the proof, that the gospel can be preached to the world as a witness and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, even when the whole Church of God is divided. If they can do it, why can't you? And if you cannot do it on your own, why not support their efforts or join with them and let them teach you how to do it, even how to get closer to God, if that is what is needed. To stay separate from them, to say it is important to preach the gospel but we can't do it now, makes no sense. Either do it yourself or join with those who are doing it. Don't make excuses for standing on the sidelines and drawing inward. If you can do it, do it. If you can't do it, join with them and they will teach you. If they are close to God but you aren't, join with them and they will teach you to get closer to God.
Be logical about these things. If they have God's Holy Spirit and you have God's Holy Spirit, you are both part of the same spiritual body. Don't think, speak, and act as if they don't exist, as if no one exists but your own group. That is Mr. Hulme's mistake. Don't carry that mistake with you when you leave COGaic.
If you are a member trying to make a decision, visit a Living Church of God congregation, seek out someone who recently learned God's truth from their TV program and booklets and came into the Church and was recently baptized, someone who is all excited and happy about the new truth they are learning, someone on fire with that "first love" for the truth, and ask them, is this not the time to preach the gospel? See what kind of response you get. Such a person KNOWS he or she would not know the truth if LCG had not been preaching the gospel.
If you are going to seek a closer unity and relationship with God, you cannot ignore what God is doing in other parts of the Church. The early Church accepted what God was doing in opening salvation to the Gentiles. They understood what God was doing in other parts of the whole Church of God (Acts 11:1-18, 15:12). Likewise, if you want to understand what God is doing in the Church, you have to look at what He is doing outside of just your fellowship.
By saying that getting right with God is a prerequisite for preaching the gospel, ex-COGaic is really praising LCG and admitting that LCG has the right relationship with God ex-COGaic says it seeks but does not yet have.
Some say, we must not "get ahead" of God. Don't worry about it. You are safe on that score. There isn't a snowball's chance in a furnace you will get ahead of God about preaching the gospel. Why? Unless you have a time machine and can journey into the past, you cannot preach the gospel before others have started preaching the gospel and before Christ commissioned the Church to do it. He commissioned the Church to preach the gospel almost 2,000 years ago. Even in Old Testament times, God sent prophets and righteous men to preach the gospel. So God is more than 2,000 years ahead of all of us in preaching the gospel - you couldn't get ahead of Him if you tried. Even in our time, Mr. Armstrong preached the gospel and Dr. Meredith is preaching the gospel. Even if you start now, they are "ahead of" you, if you want to use that term. They were never ahead of God and neither can you be.
God commands preaching the gospel. You cannot be ahead of Him by doing what He commanded you to do and doing it now. You don't need a special invitation, a miracle or sign of some sort, to do what you already know God commands in the Bible.
You might say, I want to put God's people first. But you are not putting them first if you do not teach them and enable them to obey God's command to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. You teach by setting the example. And you enable them by using part of their tithe to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning. If you don't, if you take all their tithe and offering money, but don't use any of it to warn the nations, you are putting the membership in a difficult situation. Either they have to leave you and support a different group, one that is giving the warning message, or the blood of the people will be on their heads. If they stay with you, they become guilty. Is that the love you say you have for the people, to bring blood guilt on their heads?
If you really can't preach the gospel and Ezekiel warning yet, for whatever reason (I don't know why), then at least instruct your members to send half their tithe to LCG or some other group that is preaching the gospel and half to you for giving them sermons. Don't take all their tithes while you only do half the commission. If you take all their tithes and offerings, you are not giving them the chance to escape blood guilt for not supporting the Ezekiel warning to Israel. That is everyone's responsibility, as the Bible clearly shows.
Christ prayed to the Father for our unity. But He commanded us to preach the gospel.
Reasons and Options for Ministers and Members
Members and ministers leaving COGaic are not necessarily leaving for the same reason.
Some or all of these ministers may have been forced out. They had problems with Mr. Hulme, whether of Mr. Hulme's making or their own making I do not know - it may have varied from minister to minister. In any case, many of them were fired or forced to quit. Members, on the other hand, generally did not have the same face-to-face difficulties with Mr. Hulme. Most members of COGaic are not employees of COGaic as the ex-COGaic ministers were. But members left for other reasons. One reason might be simply be to stay with their pastor whom they know, like, and trust. So when the pastor leaves, he takes most of his members with him. But some members may have left COGaic because they wanted to find a group that was more zealous for preaching the gospel to the world, and they hoped that this new group forming might have the zeal that they felt Mr. Hulme lacked. They were not necessarily looking for a new structure of government, or new doctrines, but a stronger and bigger work of preaching the gospel to the world.
If this is true, if ex-COGaic does not start preaching the gospel to the world soon, they may find some of their members going back to COGaic or going to some other group such as LCG. Once a member has broken ties, it is not hard for him to do it a second time. Or some may continue to attend with ex-COGaic, but not pay their full tithes to ex-COGaic.
What are the options?
If you care about preaching the gospel and are ready to leave COGaic, you have other options rather than to go entirely with ex-COGaic
If you are able to attend with Living Church of God, I suggest you do that. They first formed as Global Church of God and started preaching the gospel on radio within weeks of first holding Sabbath services. They have a track record of success and probably are more effective than any other major group. They are one of the largest COG groups and are growing, and much of this growth comes from new members being baptized who are coming into the Church because of LCG's gospel-preaching effort on television and by other means.
If you cannot do that and prefer to attend either with COGaic or ex-COGaic, then I suggest you split your tithes. Give half your tithes to the Church you are attending, which feeds the flock but does not preach the gospel to the world (or does a weak job of it), and that will cover the ministers' salaries and their expenses in teaching you and providing Sabbath services for you. The other half of your tithe give to a group, such as LCG (best choice I think), that is preaching the gospel effectively, and that will help pay for the gospel and Ezekiel warning message to go on TV. That way, you can be doing your full share - you can be supporting the WHOLE commission from Christ: feeding the flock and preaching the gospel. The blood of the people will not be on your head for not supporting the warning (Ezekiel 3:16-27, Ezekiel 33:1-11). If you don't feel comfortable making that decision on your own, discuss tithe-splitting with your pastor and see what he says.
Members in ex-COGaic can split their tithes with LCG until ex-COGaic is ready to fulfill ALL of Christ's commission - to feed the flock AND preach the gospel. Once they do that, you can send them all your tithes, but while they only fulfill half the commission, you can sent them half of your tithes.
Now if you don't care about preaching the gospel to the world, then go ahead and stay with COGaic or ex-COGaic, whatever is your preference. Go with the minister you like best. Go with the best speaker or whoever has charisma. You might even consider Church of the Great God - after all, if you don't care about the gospel, what does COGaic or ex-COGaic offer that CGG does not have?
And if the ex-COGaic ministers don't care about preaching the gospel but only want to feed the flock, maybe they can merge with CGG. The two groups combined can be larger and more effective in feeding their flocks than either group separately.
And if ex-COGaic, or any of its ministers, is serious about preaching the gospel, but just can't do it now for one reason or another, they might consider joining LCG. Ex-COGaic can talk to LCG about joining or merging as a group. Or, individual ministers in ex-COGaic can go with LCG.
Now, if some ministers in ex-COGaic want to preach the gospel, but others do not, they may have to consider a separation. As long as they have to compromise with men who have little or no zeal for preaching to the world, they will be held back. In that case, it would be better for ministers coming out of COGaic to form two groups, one that does not want to preach the gospel right now and one that will preach the gospel immediately. Then brethren can choose where to go, but their choice should be based on the Bible.
These options exist because God is testing us. He is testing the ministers and He is testing the brethren. He forces all of us to choose so He can see how well each of us is learning our lessons and so He can see where we stand.
If the ministers in ex-COGaic are divided in their view of preaching to the public, the ministers who understand and submit to God's priority for the gospel may have to separate from those who do not. Love towards God and His plan and purpose must come before love towards man between the ministers. To put it strongly, if I might paraphrase, if a minister does not hate his mother, his father, his sister, his brother, HIS FELLOW MINISTERS, and his own life too, he cannot be Christ's disciple (Luke 14:25-27). There are about 500 million Israelites that need to be warned, and you shouldn't put them in second place for the sake of harmony with a few ministers you call friends and have worked with for a few years. You can't slow down or hold back for their sake.
Those in favor of preaching the gospel now may have to make a choice, put God first and separate from those who will hold them back, or put their friends and fellow ministers first by compromising for the sake of unity. And that may be a key test that God has arranged to see who will be given an open door to preaching the gospel. And if they separate, the same test will apply to the brethren who will decide who to support financially and whether to base their decision on God's will that the gospel be preached or on their personal affection towards and comfort with their pastor they have known for so long.
A Model for Hierarchical Governance
I said earlier than there is a model for hierarchical government in the Church that may be different from what Mr. Armstrong practiced, in a way. Depending on how you look at it, it may be viewed as the same or different. But it is biblical. Let me explain.
I had not thought of this as a different model or structure than we had with Mr. Armstrong because it is in nearly all respects the same as far as following hierarchical principles is concerned, but with a different arrangement.
I actually suggested this in my book, Preaching the Gospel, in talking about what UCG ministers should have done when they came out of Worldwide. But I never viewed it as a different model before.
What I suggested is that when UCG ministers came out of Worldwide, if for whatever reason they were unable or unwilling to go with an existing leader such as Roderick Meredith, and if they could not agree on one leader, instead of forming one organized fellowship based on balloting for its authority, they should have organized as individual congregations with pastors leading each congregation. Each pastor could supervise his particular congregation, or congregations if he has more than one. He could incorporate or not, whatever works best for him. But his members would pay their tithes to him, and he would not be under the authority of a centralized headquarters. He would be "independent" in that sense, not independent from Christ, but independent of other ministers. He would report directly to Christ as Mr. Armstrong reported directly to Christ.
His small Church of God group would have hierarchical government just as Mr. Armstrong practiced hierarchical government, only his group would be a small group, not like Worldwide in the 1980s. Actually, it would be much like the Church of God when Mr. Armstrong had just a few congregations, before he had ministers to help him, before he raised up Ambassador College. It would be much like the Radio Church of God in the 1930s and 1940s.
That pattern could be replicated among the many pastors coming out of Worldwide at that time. So Mr. Roy Holladay would be pastor of a small Church of God fellowship. Mr. Victor Kubik would be a pastor of a small Church of God. Mr. Webber would be a pastor of a small Church of God, and so on. So instead of one, large Church of God organization governed by balloting, you would have maybe 50 small groups, each led by a pastor, and Christ would lead that pastor directly. But within each of those small groups, the government would be hierarchical just as it was with Mr. Armstrong and the small Radio Church of God. The local elders and deacons and maybe an assistant pastor would report to the pastor, and the pastor would report to Christ.
Now, if you have some ministers coming out of Worldwide who do not want the responsibility of leading a small Church without a man he can report to, if he knows of one of the other pastors that he has seen by fruits is faithful and is following Christ, he can voluntarily join himself to that man and be employed by him. So some of these small groups can be bigger than just one or two congregations, if several men agree to be led by a certain man they regard as faithful. So if ten pastors feel that Mr. Roy Holladay is showing by fruits that he is faithfully following Christ, they can join with him, so that the small group that Mr. Holladay leads becomes a medium-size group. But it would still be hierarchical, more like Worldwide was when Mr. Armstrong had only about ten full-time employed pastors.
But even though these small and medium sized groups would be independent of each other, they would not be independent of Christ. Christ would lead each group through the pastor or evangelist leading that group. And Christ will judge each man for how faithfully He follows where Christ leads. Christ primarily leads through the Bible. And because these pastors, each the leader of one fellowship, would follow Christ, those fellowships will cooperate with each other.
On the human level, each group would appear as a distinct organization, but from God's point of view, they would all be one Church under Christ's leadership.
What about organized activities that are best accomplished as a large group? What about song books, publications, booklets, etc.? What about preaching the gospel?
Each group will do what it can for the others. Suppose there is musical talent and funds in one group to produce a hymnal. That group may voluntarily provide hymnals for all the groups. If one groups writes and publishes a booklet on marriage, it can share the copyright with all the groups. If one group has a radio program or website to preach the gospel, when new prospective members respond, that group can send them to the nearest other group for attendance and baptism.
If one group preaches the gospel and another does not, the one that does not can contribute funds to the one that does to help carry the financial burden, and it can do this voluntarily, not by compulsion, according to the cheerfulness and giving attitude of the pastor and his membership. Those who have more love will give more and those who have less love will give less.
So you can have a collection of small and medium sized organized Church of God fellowships, all using whatever talents and opportunities they have to help all the groups. Each group follows Christ directly.
Will those groups ever combine into one large organization as we had in Worldwide in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s? Maybe. If Christ shows by fruits whom He has chosen, if God shows that a leader of one of these groups is bearing much more good fruit than the other leaders, if the other leaders of groups see that the one leader has the faithfulness and wisdom to lead all the groups, they may voluntarily join with him. Then we can be all together in one organization as we were with Mr. Armstrong.
And it will be easy to see who has that wisdom because these pastors of independent groups will be consulting with each other, getting advice on hard questions, etc.
In a sense, something like this actually existed in the first century. Peter and Paul each led a medium size group (Peter for the Jews, Paul for the Gentiles), but they both reported to Christ and they cooperated with each other.
Perhaps ex-COGaic ministers have something like this in mind. But right now they don't have it.
Where do tithes go? In the arrangement I described above, each small Church of God fellowship is independent of the others. The tithes of each group go to the pastor of that group, or the corporation he controls if he chooses to incorporate. I am not sure because I have not asked them, but I assume that if you pay tithes to ex-COGaic ministers, your tithe goes to one place and is divided up between the ministers. That makes it one organization, one fellowship. Also, they feel compelled to operate in unison, which can be good or bad, but it makes them one organized fellowship, and not exactly hierarchical.
So for example, right now, if Peter Nathan wanted to put up a website to preach the gospel, he would probably not do it without the ok and agreement of Brian Orchard and Steve Andrews and the other ministers. If Steve Andrews said, no let's wait until we can do something together, Mr. Nathan would probably hold back for the sake of unity. But in the model I described, Peter Nathan would be independent of Steve Andrews. He might ask Mr. Orchard and Mr. Andrews for advice, but they would not hold him back. He would put up the website now, then Mr. Orchard, Mr. Andrews, and all the other ministers would watch and see if God blessed the effort with good fruit. They could learn from Mr. Nathan's example.
What if ex-COGaic wants to follow the model I described? What would they do?
Mr. Peter Nathan could set up a small Church of God fellowship. He may incorporate, or not incorporate. He would pastor one or a small number of congregations. Mr. Brian Orchard would do the same. Mr. Steve Andrews would do the same. Each man would have final authority, under Christ, for the part of the Church he supervises. Other pastors could do the same, or they can join themselves to one of these other men. So if Bob Rodzaj feels he can report directly to Christ, he may organize a small group, just like the other men. But if he does not want that level of responsibility, he may ask one of the other men, may I join with you? So he might join with Mr. Andrews for example. Then Mr. Rodzaj would report to Mr. Andrews and Mr. Andrews would report to Christ, and the group Mr. Andrews leads would be a little larger than before.
There would not be a central depository for tithes and offerings, since each small group is independently organized, but Mr. Nathan receives tithes from his congregation(s), Mr. Orchard receives tithes from his congregation(s), and so on.
They will help each other as much as possible, but they would not feel it mandatory to make all decisions in common. So if Mr. Nathan wants to start preaching the gospel now, he would not feel he needs to hold back for the sake of Mr. Andrews. He can make different decisions for the fellowship he leads than Mr. Andrews makes for the fellowship he leads. Why? For one thing, different men have different talents. Mr. Nathan may feel he has the ability and experience to preach the gospel and Mr. Andrews may feel that he does not.
But everyone cooperates in a spirit of love. And when it comes to doctrine, they can try, as much as possible, to seek unity, but no one needs to feel pressured to compromise with what he believes.
That is the kind of model I am describing. It is hierarchical. It is like the model Mr. Armstrong practiced when you look at it from the view of each organization, that is, each organization, each fellowship, looks like Radio Church of God or Worldwide when Mr. Armstrong was alive. It only looks different in the sense that you have more than one.
But over time, if Christ wills and if these groups follow Christ, they can come together as Christ shows by fruits whom Christ has chosen that all these groups should follow. And it will be easy to see who has love and wisdom and who does not because each leader of a group will be free to make decisions as he deems best. If his decisions are wise, that will become known to everyone, and if his decisions are unwise that also will become known.
That is better than balloting.
It will take time to see how things will develop in this new group. If I am wrong about them not preaching the gospel, it will become clear before Passover. If they have not started preaching the gospel by then, their desire and zeal may be too weak to expect that they ever will do it in a powerful way. That assumes that ex-COGaic ministers stay together, which is not a sure thing.
It may be that there are serious differences of opinion about preaching the gospel and about government or "governance" between ex-COGaic ministers, perhaps more than they realize yet. They may need time to work those things out. Anyone who leaves the others over this issue may be making a fresh start.
I hope that any pastor within ex-COGaic who understands the importance of preaching the gospel to the world, but sees that ex-COGaic is dragging its feet collectively, will do one of three things:
1) Start preaching the gospel without waiting for the other ex-COGaic ministers to approve it. God has already commanded you. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage..." (Joshua 1:9). Take a few hundred dollars out of your own pay. Set up a website and advertise it. Ask around your congregation for someone who knows how - it is not that hard. If there is no one, write to some groups and individuals on the Internet in the Church of God and some will be happy to help you. If you want, email me and I can help you set up your website. You can also hire to have it done cheap.
And if the other ex-COGaic ministers tell you, no, if you do that, we cut off your pay, have the courage to put God first and go separate from ex-COGaic and receive the support of your congregation directly. Step out in faith as Mr. Armstrong did, as he described in his autobiography, when he separated from Church of God Seventh Day because they held him back from fully obeying God.
2) Ask your members that you give sermons to to split their tithes and pay half to LCG or another group that preaches the gospel until ex-COGaic is ready to start.
3) If necessary, talk to LCG or another group that is preaching the gospel about joining with them (but I know of no other group that is feeding the flock and preaching the gospel in a balanced way).
If you are in COGaic or ex-COGaic, pray and study and maybe fast about your decisions. Keep your options open for a while. If you take seriously God's warning that the blood of the people will be on your head if you do not warn them about the coming tribulation, I suggest you don't send all your tithes to one group that is not delivering the warning to the nations. Contribute something to the preaching of the gospel to the world as a witness and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.
If you have left COGaic or are thinking about leaving COGaic, consider Living Church of God as an option. If you have ruled them out in the past because of something negative you heard about them while attending COGaic, reconsider. Check things out for yourself. Get the facts. Use this opportunity to visit one of their congregations or to talk to one of their ministers. They have hierarchical government as was practiced by Mr. Armstrong, they are feeding the flock and preaching the gospel in a balanced way, and they are making new disciples from the public, prospective members that are coming into the Church from the TV program and websites and being baptized. And while the door for preaching the gospel is not as open for them as it was for Mr. Armstrong, it is more open for them than for any other Church of God organization right now, in my opinion. That is a blessing from God. Get the facts for yourself and make your own judgment.
Some ministers may not like the idea of brethren judging them. But believe it or not, it is required. Brethren do not judge ministers for their salvation, or their reward in God's kingdom, or their praise or guilt before God - that is Christ's job. But brethren must judge where they will attend and whom they will support with their tithes and offerings. As long as God commands such support, you cannot escape the responsibility for making that judgment. God commands you tithe, but He doesn't tell you the name to write on the check. So you have to judge. You have to judge who is doing God's work faithfully and where God wants you to send your tithe, or you can't obey the law of tithing.
Forcing you to make those judgment calls is one of the ways God tests you. This is for your good, because if you make the right judgments, God can reward you just as He rewards the ministers you support who are doing their job faithfully. "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward" (Matthew 10:41). Not all ministers in all fellowships are warning the United States and other nations about the tribulation to come, and if they do not warn, the blood of the people will be on their head. By supporting those who do warn, even if it is with only a part of your tithes and offerings, you can show God that you want to warn the nations, and He can pass judgment in your favor, that the blood of the people will not be on your head.
God is testing us, testing us, testing us. That is what this is all about. Each of us better make sure we pass the test, not only for our sakes, but for God's glory and for the sake of the lost tribes of Israel, including the English-speaking nations, who will go through the tribulation soon and need a warning. For their sake, let's make sure we pass the test.
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
CHAPTER 4 - WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL? - A LESSON FROM THE HOLOCAUST
CHAPTER 5 - SHOULD THE CHURCH FEED THE FLOCK ONLY?
CHAPTER 8 - GOVERNMENT IN THE CHURCH OF GOD
Church Government, Chapter 7