In yesterday's post I made a mistake in saying about ministers leaving COGaic, "As far as I know, they have not yet organized or incorporated as a new Church of God." That may be misleading. The fact is, they are a new Church of God fellowship. They are able to receive tithes and offerings and they are holding services. They are a new Church of God fellowship, whether or not they have made a final decision about the name of their group, incorporation, governing documents, or anything else. That does not mean it will be permanent. They may yet join with an existing group. But for now, even though their organization is not complete, they are a Church of God.
One of the issues that has come up is the issue of what some call "mutual submission", based on the following scripture: "Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God" (Ephesians 5:17-21). So we are to submit to one another.
Does this override authority because the one in authority must submit to those under his authority in whatever decisions they want to make? No it does not, else it would nullify other scriptures that teach authority, such as the very next verse: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:22). Husbands are NOT to submit to their wives in the same way that wives are to submit to their husbands. Why? Because wives are to submit to husbands, "as to the Lord". God and Christ have authority over us. They are not required to submit to us as we are required to submit to them. Also, the next two verses show that there is a difference in authority between the husband and the wife to make decisions. "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything" (Ephesians 5:23-24).
Then, what does it mean to submit to each other?
We are to submit to the needs and wants of each other as an expression of love. It is not a matter of authority. In cases where authority exists, it guides the wise and loving use of authority by those who have authority. One in authority, who loves those under his authority, will sometimes submit to the wishes and needs of those under his authority, because he loves them. Nevertheless, the power and right of those in authority to make binding decisions is unchanged.
It is really an application of the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39-40, Mark 12:31). It is also an application of the principle of doing to others what you would want them to do to you. "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12). So, if you express a wish or desire or a need you have to one of the brethren, wanting him to do something for you, do you want him to submit to your request? Then submit also to him when he asks something of you. "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away" (Matthew 5:42). This last verse is in the context of not resisting an evil person (verse 39), but if we should show kindness to those who are evil, how much more to our brethren in the Church? Of course, we cannot give what we do not have, and we have to take into consideration the needs of people who depend on us and many other factors, so we are not obligated to always say "yes". Jesus Himself did not always say "yes" to requests (Luke 20:1-8, Mark 10:35-40, Luke 12:13-14). He at first did not help the woman of Canaan when she asked Him to help her, but He ignored her, and only helped her after she was persistent (Matthew 15:21-28).
But our attitude should be to try to help others when they ask us.
Two brethren, neither of which has authority over the other, can each submit to the needs of the other.
And what about cases where one has authority over another? Should the one in authority submit to the needs and desires of the one under his authority? Sometimes, yes. It doesn't change the authority. If the one in authority makes a decision, the one under the authority should obey. But the one in authority can be motivated by love to submit to the desires, needs, and requests of the one he rules.
Parents understand this with their children. If you have children, do you not sometimes ask them what they want? Does a parent, wanting to please his child, ever say, "What would you like to do today, go to the Zoo or to a baseball game?", and then submit to the request of the child even if it is not the thing the parent enjoys the most? Do you ever submit to the request of your child?
Abraham set an example of submitting to Lot in giving Lot the choice of which way to go when they separated. "Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land. So Abram said to Lot, 'Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.' And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other" (Genesis 13:5-11).
The angels who rescued Lot from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah submitted to him when he requested to be able to go to a little city nearby rather than the mountains, when he pleaded. "So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, 'Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.' Then Lot said to them, 'Please, no, my lords! Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die. See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.' And he said to him, 'See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.' Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar" (Genesis 19:17-22).
Does God not submit to us, in a sense, when we ask things of Him in prayer and He gives us what we request?
Here are examples in the Bible of God submitting to humans under His authority.
God honored Abraham's servant's request for a sign to know who Isaac's bride would be, in a sense, submitting to his request. "Then he said, 'O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. Behold, here I stand by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Now let it be that the young woman to whom I say, "Please let down your pitcher that I may drink," and she says, "Drink, and I will also give your camels a drink"-let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Isaac. And by this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master.' And it happened, before he had finished speaking, that behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her pitcher on her shoulder. Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold, a virgin; no man had known her. And she went down to the well, filled her pitcher, and came up. And the servant ran to meet her and said, 'Please let me drink a little water from your pitcher.' So she said, 'Drink, my lord.' Then she quickly let her pitcher down to her hand, and gave him a drink. And when she had finished giving him a drink, she said, 'I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking' " (Genesis 24:12-19).
Christ submitted to Jacob in blessing him after wrestling with him. This is interesting, because He could have broken free of Jacob's hold if He wanted to, but he let Jacob win the match in a sense. "Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, 'Let Me go, for the day breaks.' But he said, 'I will not let You go unless You bless me!' So He said to him, 'What is your name?' He said, 'Jacob.' And He said, 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.' Then Jacob asked, saying, 'Tell me Your name, I pray.' And He said, 'Why is it that you ask about My name?' And He blessed him there" (Genesis 32:25-29). This is a good example also because it shows that Christ submitted to Jacob in blessing him, but not in telling him His name. The one in authority decides when to submit to a request and when not to submit to a request.
In the account of the burning bush, God submitted to Moses, partly, when Moses protested that he was slow of speech. God did not submit completely, and told Moses he still had to do the job, but he gave him Aaron as a spokesman. "Then Moses said to the Lord, 'O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.' So the Lord said to him, 'Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.' But he said, 'O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.' So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and He said: 'Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do. So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God. And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs.' " (Exodus 4:10-17).
There are other occasions when God submitted to Moses. In the matter of the golden calf, when God said He would destroy Israel, He submitted to Moses and relented when Moses pleaded for Israel (Exodus 32:7-14). God first said He would not go with Israel (Exodus 33:1-3), but then agreed to go with at Moses's appeal and to show Moses His glory, but He did not allow Him to see His face (Exodus 33:12-23). When Moses was so stressed he felt like he couldn't take it any more, God gave him seventy elders to help him bear his burden (Numbers 11:10-17).
Yet in one matter, God did NOT submit to Moses. "Then I pleaded with the Lord at that time, saying: 'O Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds? I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.' But the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So the Lord said to me: 'Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter' " (Deuteronomy 3:23-26). Yet, even here, God let Moses see the land with his eyes even though he could not go there (verse 27).
God submitted to Gideon's requests for a sign with the fleece, two signs in fact (Judges 6:36-40). He submitted to Hezekiah's tears and desire to live after telling him he would die (2 Kings 20:1-6).
Here is another example, where God told a prophet to do something, but the prophet had a conscience problem with doing what God told him! So God gave him an alternative. " 'And you shall eat it as barley cakes; and bake it using fuel of human waste in their sight.' Then the Lord said, 'So shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, where I will drive them.' So I said, 'Ah, Lord God! Indeed I have never defiled myself from my youth till now; I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has abominable flesh ever come into my mouth.' Then He said to me, 'See, I am giving you cow dung instead of human waste, and you shall prepare your bread over it' " (Ezekiel 4:12-15). God never said that human waste could not be used as fuel, but Ezekiel had conscience problem with it anyway, so God submitted to the needs of Ezekiel's tender conscience and let him use cow dung for fuel for the fire to cook his food. This is an example of God following the same principle He inspired Paul to write about in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13 and Romans 14:14-23.
I mentioned before that Jesus did not at first give the woman of Canaan her request. But after she persisted and answered wisely, He gave her what she requested, in a sense, submitting to her request after He had first refused (Matthew 15:28).
And Jesus submitted, in a sense, to all the Jews who came to Him for healing of diseases and casting out demons, giving them the healing they asked for.
So sometimes it is appropriate for one in authority to submit to the needs, desires, and requests of those under authority. But it is always the decision, to submit thus or not, of the one in authority. This is not something that can be demanded by those under authority.
That is important. Voluntary submission, motivated by love (which is what we are talking about here) is something to be given, not demanded. No one under the authority of a ruler has the right to demand that the ruler submit to his request.
Paul says, we are to be submitting to one another. He does NOT say we should be demanding submission from one another (Ephesians 5:21).
And a pattern of a lack of such submission from a leader towards his subordinates, of and by itself, is not be a good reason for leaving a Church of God organization, in my opinion.
Suppose you work for a Church of God leader who is not in the habit of listening to your views. You have suggestions for doing the work better, but he doesn't want to listen. Or you express a view about how the Church should be run, but he doesn't agree or change his mind. Is that, by itself, a reason to leave? I don't think so. God does not always answer our prayers, even when we plead, and he even told Moses to shut up about asking to enter the promised land.
But, you might say, a leader should get a multitude of counsel and should listen to good advice. That may be true, but if you joined with the leader in years past because you saw that God had chosen that man, based on his fruits, then he has been chosen by God, unless the fruits now show that he is not chosen by God, and I would not call a man's leadership style "fruits". Fruits are the end result of what is being accomplished, things like number of people in the world being warned, the gospel being preached, disciples being made and brought into the Church and baptized, powerful sermons that are helping members overcome their sins and become more like Christ - those are fruits. Not failure to listen to your good advice.
Now, if the good fruits are not there, that might be a reason to leave. If the gospel is not being preached powerfully to the world, if the Ezekiel warning is not being effectively delivered to Israel, if the flock is not being fed with powerful sermons giving meat in due season to help members to grow and become like Christ, then that might be a reason to leave. And if the leader does not listen to good advice, then that might be a contributing factor to the lack of good fruits. But if the fruits are good, even if he does not "submit" to your counsel and the counsel of others, then maybe your counsel isn't that valuable after all.
The concept and principle of "mutual submission" cannot override government and authority God has put into place.
Nor should mutual submission be the primary guiding theme and purpose and mission of the Church.
I hope the new group coming out of COGaic does not miss the mark on this.
Ministers may feel abused. That might be part of the reason they left. And maybe, in certain cases, such abuse may force them to leave. If the leader commands you to do something you cannot do because it would violate God's law, such as bearing false witness by teaching something you do not believe, and then fires you for obeying God more than man, you had no choice. You are out, and you could not have prevented it, not without sinning.
But be aware that talking about your personal trial in this case, or the faults of the person you worked for, is not necessarily going to inspire the brethren to go all out with zeal to support God's work. Members are not going to be stirred up with zeal and enthusiasm for God's work by ministers who emphasize the negative aspect of their prior association, feeling sorry for themselves, and saying, "Woe is me, for I was abused."
I also do not think brethren will be much stirred up by an inward approach, "We will take care of you better than before". What about the world? What about people God is yet calling who haven't yet heard the truth? What about the lost tribes of Israel who need a warning message about the tribulation to come before it is too late?
The Church of God has a great job to do, and brethren need to be stirred up, and many will be, by the responsibility to do that job. It is that common mission, to do God's work in the earth, that has the power to stir up zeal and enthusiasm. It is the understanding that we have to work together to accomplish something important that will stir up the brethren and even help them in their spiritual growth and overcoming. And that accomplishment is not just internal but extends outward, in an outgoing concern for others, outside of the Church. We have a job to do in the world to prepare for Christ's coming. That job is bigger and more important than just ourselves.
COGaic has not done that job very effectively.
This new group of ministers coming out of COGaic led by Peter Nathan, Brian Orchard, and Steve Andrews has a window of opportunity, to get off to the right start in a balanced way. But that window will not be open very long. They are already feeding the flock with weekly Sabbath services and sermons and Bible studies. They need to preach the gospel to the world, and they need to start soon.
When UCG started, they had every excuse for postponing preaching the gospel to the world. "We have to make sure we are ready, and we are not ready yet." But they were feeding the flock. They didn't think they weren't ready yet to give sermons on the Sabbath. Yet, preaching the gospel was something that required a long time to prepare, for some reason. I suppose they thought, we have to give sermons to the membership, or we won't get any tithes, but preaching the gospel can wait.
Should that be the priority, to collect tithes to support the ministry?
Mr. Hulme, after he started COGaic, has also not done a powerful work of preaching the gospel. I don't know about today, but in the past I have heard himself or some ministers in that group indicate that they were doing things behind the scenes to prepare for preaching the gospel, but they were not yet ready to go all out with it, and this was years after COGaic started. Again, excuses.
It doesn't take God very long to size up what your priorities are. You begin showing your fruits from day one. The brethren also see your fruits from day one.
Zimri reigned over Israel only seven days (1 Kings 16:10, 15), but that was long enough for God to judge that he did evil in the sight of the Lord in walking in way of Jeroboam (1 Kings 16:18-19).
How long does it take to start preaching the gospel to the world? How much money does it take? I mean, just to get started.
One or two days. One or two hundred dollars. Less time and probably less money than to hold a three-day conference.
With two hundred dollars or less, in one or two days, you can write a short article warning our people about the tribulation and what they need to do to repent and have a chance to escape. You can buy a domain and hosting with some service (there are many) using your bank debit or credit card, and you can upload your article. Then you can run $50 or $100 worth of pay-per-click ads with Google, Yahoo, or Bing on the word "prophecy" pointing to the article you wrote. That is just a start, but it is a start. It isn't that hard. At about 50 cents to one dollar per click, you can reach from 50 to 200 people who are searching for information about "prophecy" in Google or other search engines, and some of those may never have heard the truth before. Later, you can go to radio and TV, build up and expand your websites, add more articles, add a printed magazine and booklets, and once you have a subscription list invite magazine subscribers to public Bible lectures. You can also run magazine ads such as the ones the Church has run in Reader's Digest. You can later try other kinds of Internet advertising such as banner advertising or Internet radio ads. Internet radio ads may be an interesting opportunity because you can zero in on a particular city and a particular kind of station (classical music for example), and when someone is interested as they listen to that station with their computer, unlike regular radio, they do not have to write down your address, but they can simply click on the small ad that appears on the screen while your radio message is playing. That can take them to your website and article. I don't think the cost is great.
I know starting up in a couple of days with a couple of hundred dollars is an extreme example. I do not fault this new Church for not having started preaching the gospel to the world that quickly. I only use this to illustrate a point. I am simply cautioning against getting caught up in the habit of putting this off because all preparations are not yet perfect. It should not take a year or longer to get started.
Preaching the gospel to the world was the FIRST thing Mr. Armstrong did after he quit his employment with Church of God Seventh Day. Not feeding the flock. Preaching the gospel was his first priority, and because it was his first priority, we have the truth we have today. And he didn't always wait till the money came in. He started preaching the gospel and trusted God to provide the money. He PUSHED.
Roderick Meredith went on radio within a few weeks after he started Sabbath services with what was Global Church of God, after Mr. Tkach "retired" him.
With nine ministers and wives and the membership that supports them, surely there must be someone who can write articles, someone who can edit and proofread them, someone who can help set up websites and pay-per-click advertising, at least to get started.
The last time I looked at this group's website, there was not much from Peter Nathan, only one short article. But he hit the bulls eye. He emphasizes recapturing the zeal and the motivation and the desire to preach the gospel to all the world that we had under Mr. Armstrong. He did not emphasize personal offenses, lack of "mutual submission", harsh leadership style in COGaic, or the trials of the ministers who have been fired or forced to quit.
I think that is the right approach. Emphasize the positive. Look to the job God has given the Church to prepare the world for Christ, and get working at it. Teach the brethren to go all out with zeal and set the example of going all out, not only to feed the flock, but to go out, preach to the public, make disciples of those God is calling and bring them into the Church and baptize them, and warn the English-speaking nations about the tribulation they are about to go through and what they need to do to escape.
The Church is to be built, not just with the members we already have, but by bringing new members from the public. And there is a danger in supporting ourselves and taking care of our own needs while saying, "now is not the time" to reach out to the world or to teach and baptize those in the world that God is calling.
"Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: 'This people says, "The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built" '. Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 'Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?' Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.' Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,' says the Lord" (Haggai 1:2-8). If mountains represent nations, and the Church is the temple, might this mean that God is telling us today who say, "the time has not come", that we should go out to the nations (mountains), bring in wood (prospective members), and build the temple (the Church of God)?
If the ministers who have left COGaic look at what has happened as "their trial" and they have to deal with it by "finding work" by earning a living by preaching to the membership in return for their tithes, I think they are missing the mark. But if they look at it as an opportunity to preach the gospel to the world as COGaic has failed to do and to build the Church of God with new members as God calls them, and if they look at what has happened as something God has arranged for a bigger purpose than just themselves, they may yet accomplish something important.
But if they do no more to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the public than COGaic has done, then what good is all this? And if they are not willing to start now, or start very soon, why should they be willing to start later?
Time will tell, but I have good hopes that these ministers will soon strive to preach the gospel to the world with zeal.
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?