Upcoming March Conference
COGFC is planning another conference in early March, starting on March 2 with a one-day open house conference which members may attend. Details are in the Father's Call website, link:
Those who wish to attend should email Mr. Peter Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Nathan's Question and Answer Session Last Sabbath
In my last post about COGFC, I reported that Mr. Nathan is planning to go with Living Church of God. He spoke about this in a question and answer session last Sabbath following Mr. Rodzaj's sermon. I expected this question and answer session to be posted as an mp3 audio file in the COGFC website, but I have not found it yet. I expected it to be published because other COGFC audio messages, such as sermons, Bible studies, a question and answer session on January 4, and an online deacon and elders meeting were published on the site. Recently, other recordings have been published very promptly, for example, last Friday's Bible study was published on Saturday, and Saturday's Sabbath sermon was published Sunday. But it has been several days, and Mr. Nathan's explanation as to why he is going with LCG has not been published. I no longer expect that it will be published.
Who controls the website? Who controls the audio recording? I do not know. Is it Mr. Steve Andrews because he controls the bank account? I do not know. If you want to know, you can email him - there is an "Ask a Minister" page for asking ministers questions on the COGFC website. Follow the "Contact" link, then "Ask a Minister". Of course, there is no list of ministers' email addresses. Presumably, all questions are filtered through Mr. Steve Andrews or whoever controls the website.
The webpage for asking questions is not very good. There are fields to be filled out, which are required, but no labels to state what the fields are for. I tried using it to send an email to COGFC some time ago, but I received no reply or acknowledgement. Perhaps it is my browser. I tried a different browser and I found labels inside of the boxes.
It would be nice if each of the nine ministers who attended the conference had an email address you could use to contact any one of them individually without being filtered through one person who manages the website. I would think there should be email addresses for contacting at least the leading ministers, such as Brian Orchard, Steve Andrews, etc.
From a worldly point of view, it should be no surprise that Mr. Nathan's explanations for going with LCG are not published by ministers who are currently controlling COGFC and the website. It should be no surprise if Mr. Rodzaj elected not to have the session recorded (he gave the sermon, so I assume this took place in his congregation and in meeting space Mr. Rodzaj controls). After all, in terms of the ways of this world, COGFC and LCG are competing organizations. Why should COGFC publish something favorable to its competitor?
But ministers in COGFC have been claiming to favor reconciliation. They have given the impression they are in favor of reconciliation with the whole Church of God. They have said they want to seek out the lost sheep that are scattered. Some might get the impression that, unlike Mr. Hulme, they view God's Church as bigger than themselves, bigger than the one organization (if you can call COGFC an "organization") they are part of. Of course, it would be hard for them to claim COGFC is the "only true Church of God" since it is so small and so recent.
If Mr. Andrews and Mr. Rodzaj are serious about reconciling with God and with the Church of God brethren regardless of what organization they attend, if they want to work towards unity in the Church of God, they should not be viewing LCG as a competing organization but rather as a part of the same body of Christ they are part of, serving the same Master. They should be willing to publish the recording of Mr. Nathan's answers as to why he thinks he should go with LCG at this time. They should not be afraid that some members might be persuaded by Mr. Nathan's statements to think that maybe LCG would be a good choice for them also. They should be glad to give the brethren every opportunity to get and study all the facts before making their long-term decisions.
Of course, if COGFC is really "just another split" because ministers cannot get along with other ministers, just another division in the body of Christ because ministers want to go their own way, then none of that will matter to them. If all the talk about reconciling with God and the brethren, building unity, serving the membership, is just that - talk and nothing more, talk to please the brethren and say what they think the brethren want to hear - they may not care about letting the brethren be able to review and study Mr. Nathan's teachings he gave in his question and answer session. Make no mistake about it - there is teaching in that session. It is as much a sermon about doctrine, about teaching, about God's way of life and truth as the sermon given by Mr. Bob Rodzaj shortly before.
Bob Rodzaj's Sermon
Mr. Rodzaj gave the sermon. It is available in the COGFC website. Here is a direct link to the page that lists it:
Look for the 2/15/2014 message by Bob Rodzaj entitled "The Way Forward". You can download it as an audio mp3 file. I also see a link for a transcript for that sermon.
I listened to that sermon, and I will summarize what I understand to be some of Mr. Rodzaj's main points, and then I will comment. You can get more detail by listening to the sermon itself, or by reading the transcript.
Here is my summary of some of his main points, some of it in my own words: We fasted to seek God's guidance in finding the right way forward. What God is doing is a straight line, but we often react negatively, in a seismic way, because we have difficulty understanding and accepting what God is doing when it differs from what we want or expect. We may be resisting what God is doing and making things more difficult because we do not see what God is doing. If we are divided we need to be drawn into a unity that God's Spirit produces when we yield to God's Spirit. We should not try to control or force the outcome or grab the steering wheel out of God's hands. We should not get in God's way or get ahead of God, but rather, we should get in step with what God is doing.
We should not try to do God's job for Him, but rather, participate in what God is doing, but not try to be the director. God did not put us in charge to decide what we should be doing. Sometimes we can't know what God is doing until we see it unfold. There are examples in the Bible of people being surprised by what God is doing, such as Ananias and Saul, Peter and Cornelius and the brethren who accused him for eating with gentiles, etc.
Our mission is to declare the message and prepare a people, but a question is, what is the best way to do that? This is Christ's Church and we have to let Christ lead us. We should let go of the steering wheel completely and ask God's help for us to align ourselves with what He is doing. Eventually, everything God does or allows will make sense.
That ends my summary. You can listen to the sermon itself and judge if I have summarized it accurately and fairly. I encourage you to do so, if you have not already heard the sermon.
I have comments about some points raised in this sermon.
It is evident that this sermon is intended to address some kind of problem in the Church, but these points are not clarified with concrete examples of what some in the Church are doing, so it may be hard to say exactly what problem this message is addressing. I get the impression that this is intended to address disagreements some members and ministers in COGFC may have about the direction COGFC controlling ministers are taking. In this context, "what God is doing" may refer to the decisions and direction of COGFC so far set by the leading ministers. "Resisting God", "getting in God's way", "trying to force the outcome", "grabbing the steering wheel", "getting ahead of God", etc. may be referring to brethren and ministers in COGFC who disagree with COGFC's current direction.
What might those disagreements be about? That is never stated clearly in this sermon.
I don't think it is about minor issues, such as what time services are held, whether there are snacks on the snack table, the quality of the video broadcasting, the name of the organization, the appearance and design of the website, or some small detail about prophecy.
There are only two major issues that COGFC leaders have decided, that I know of. They have decided to postpone the preaching of the gospel and Ezekiel warning and concentrate solely on healing the Church and achieving reconciliation with God and with each other in the Church, for an indefinite time. And they have decided to postpone decisions about a permanent structure of governance so they can break new ground and develop a new model of hierarchical government, presumably different from what existed with Mr. David Hulme or with Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. How long this will take is unknown.
So they rejected adopting the hierarchical structure and model practiced by Mr. Armstrong and they have rejected immediately preaching the gospel to the world.
Every other decision they made, the decision to set up a website, the decision to look at the possibility of a Feast site in Tucson, the decision to broadcast Sabbath services live, is small in comparison to these two big issues: the gospel and government.
I think it is reasonable to assume that the problem this sermon addresses is the problem of members and ministers disagreeing with the direction COGFC is taking with one or both of these major issues. I don't have any idea what else this could be about. And I sense enough of a desire on the part of the members to preach the gospel that I think, of these two issues, that is the big one that members disagree about.
How should the main points of the sermon relate to the issue of members desiring to see COGFC preach the gospel, but the controlling ministers postponing it? That is what I will comment on.
Behind all these points seems to be an assumption that what men decide in a conference they may call an "Acts 15" conference is guided by God and therefore represents "what God is doing". But I must ask a question. It may seem harsh, but I am not trying to be disrespectful towards the office of ordained minister. God's instructions that we are to show respect to the office of minister are clear. But I have to ask, how are members to know if their ministers are following Christ, or not? That is a fair question, isn't it? Because if members are not to ask themselves if their ministers are obeying Christ, if they are only to blindly follow where their ministers lead because the ministers are always right, then that raises the question of how ministers and leaders of many different Church of God fellowships are leading their members in very different directions and not even getting along with each other. How can they all be right when they do not all agree and can't even get along? And if members of other COG fellowships should ask themselves, "Are the ministers in the fellowship I attend really obeying Christ?", should not members of COGFC ask themselves the same question?
The Bible is clear that ministers can make mistakes, and we see evidence of that all over the place in the history of the Church of God since Mr. Armstrong died. What a minister or a group of ministers does is not always "what God is doing".
Will we someday see that everything God "allows" makes sense? Yes and no, depending on whether you are referring to God's decision to allow something or the decision of a man to do something wrong, which God allows. So for example, we know that Hitler murdered millions of Jews in Nazi concentration camps. Is that something God allowed that makes sense? Well, it makes sense for God to allow it, but it never made sense for Hitler to do it. God was right to allow it for good reasons, whatever those reasons are, but Hitler was never right to do it.
God may indeed allow ministers to make mistakes, even serious mistakes, even sins, and God is always right in His decisions to allow that, but the ministers are not right to make bad decisions. God sometimes allows men to do bad or foolish things, to test us and them, to teach us lessons, but it is never right for those men to do bad or foolish things.
God sets up circumstances to allow us to choose between right and wrong, and sometimes we choose right and sometimes we choose wrong. God is right to test us that way, but that does not mean He approves of our wrong choices. And we should not think that every bad or foolish thing men do is "what God is doing".
Has God put us in charge to decide what we should be doing? He has put each of us in charge of our lives to choose between right and wrong, and He has shown us right and wrong in the Bible. He commands us, in the Bible, to preach the gospel and the warning to the world. That is what is right. That is what God tells us, in the Bible, we should be doing. Then God creates the circumstances in our lives that requires us to choose. He gives us free moral agency. In that sense, he puts us in charge of the decisions we will make, to choose between right and wrong. But God does not let us choose what is right or wrong. He only lets us choose to do the right or to do the wrong. As far as what is right and wrong, God, not the ministry, makes that decision, and God makes His decision known to members and ministers alike through the Bible.
We DO have to decide what we will be doing. We have to decide if we will obey God or not. God has already decided what He has commanded us, and we only have to decide if we will obey Him or not. He has commanded us to preach the gospel.
As the Church of God, should we let go of the steering wheel completely? Is that what the ministers in the 3-day conference did? Did they let go of the steering wheel completely, or did they begin to steer COGFC in certain directions?
For a minister in COGFC who was a participant in the 3-day conference late December or early January to say that God has not put us in charge to decide what we should be doing seems a bit unusual to me, because those nine ministers certainly decided what they should be doing at this time. They decided they should be working towards reconciliation and healing, but not preaching the gospel. They decided not to immediately adopt hierarchical structure of government as taught by the Bible and Mr. Armstrong, but to break new ground to develop a new model and structure of governance.
To assume, without proof from the Bible, that what is happening in COGFC is God's doing and has God's approval is wrong. It is just as wrong to assume that the decisions being made in COGFC have God's approval as to assume that the decisions made in COGaic by Mr. David Hulme have God's approval or that the decisions made by any leader of any Church of God fellowship or organization have God's approval. The problem is, we should not assume these kinds of things. I don't say we should assume that these decisions are wrong either. But rather than assume one way or another we should use God's word, the Bible, to evaluate and judge which decisions are according to God's word and which decisions are not. We should prove things by the Bible.
Christ is the head of the Church, but He does not force obedience, even if the ministers gather in a conference they call an "Acts 15" conference. Each minister must choose whether he will follow where Christ leads, or not. How does he know where Christ leads? The same way the membership knows, by the Bible.
How can we know if ministers are following Christ? We must judge by fruits. A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. But how do we evaluate the fruit? How can we tell what fruit is bad and what fruit is good? Two men might see the same fruit, and one says, "It is bad fruit," and the other says, "It is good fruit." Who is right? We must evaluate the fruit by the word of God, the Bible. The Bible will teach us to recognize bad fruit as bad and good fruit as good. That is the only way. But that requires diligent Bible study and putting Bible teaching above the teaching of the ministry. There is no shortcut to that.
Is the decision to postpone preaching the gospel and focus only on trying to heal the Church a good fruit or a bad fruit? You must study the Bible to know the answer.
And if you say, it takes time to see the results, take a close look at Church of the Great God. You will see the results, because many years ago they chose to focus primarily on healing the Church, not preaching the gospel to the world. They did not say they were against preaching the gospel. They just said that healing the Church must come first, and preaching the gospel to the world should wait until the Church is healed. Sound familiar?
I have shown in previous posts and in my book, Preaching the Gospel, that the Bible is abundantly clear that the Church is to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, and there is no valid reason, from the Bible or from logic, for postponing obedience to God's command in this matter in order to focus only on healing the Church.
Give me one scripture that shows, in the context of the entire Bible and all scriptures on the subject, that Jesus Christ authorizes His Church to choose to postpone obedience to God's command to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. I haven't found any such scripture and I don't think it exists. The "beam in the eye" passage is not such a scripture, as I have proved in previous posts. The idea that reconciling and strengthening the Church spiritually cannot be done at the same time as preaching the gospel is ludicrous, in fact, the opposite is true: you cannot reconcile and heal the Church and the brethren without at the same time obeying God's command to preach the gospel to the world. If you try to heal the Church only, without simultaneously preaching the gospel, thus focusing inwardly, you will not heal the Church, unless you are able to heal the Church on your own, with your own human power, but not God's help. If you think you can do that, you are wrong. But if you want God's help, you better do what God says: feed and flock AND preach the gospel to the world.
To heal and reconcile the Church requires God's help, His inspiration, and His miraculous intervention. Don't expect that kind of help if you are not obeying God. And if, as a Church, you are not preaching the gospel, then you are not obeying God, because God commands it.
One point in the sermon regards being drawn into the unity that God's Holy Spirit produces when we yield to God's Spirit. But unity should not be our primary goal. Christ said He did not come to bring peace, but a sword. "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). Moreover, the parable of the tares strongly implies, and Church history seems to show, that not all those who attend with us in the Church, whether members or ministers, are truly converted, and not even those who are converted are equally submitted to God (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). Our goal should be obedience to God's will, and our guide to knowing God's will is the Bible. Unity will result among those who submit to God's will as defined by the Bible. But unity will not result between those who obey the Bible and those who do not, even if they sit next to each other in Sabbath services.
If person A and person B are divided, person A may be following God but person B is not following God. So in a sense, person B does need to yield more to God's Spirit. But not person A who is already yielding to God. It is not person A's fault he has no unity with person B, and for person A to try to "yield" to a spiritual or supernatural influence on his mind that draws him to agree with person B is a wrong choice. He should remain faithful to the Bible even while person B resists the Bible. And he is not going to change person B. Eventually, there will be a separation. And this can happen among "brethren" in the same congregation or Church of God fellowship. That is part of what Christ referred to when He said that a man's enemies will be those of his own household.
How do we yield to God, not get in God's way, not resist God, and not get ahead of God? You go by the Bible. You do what God tells you to do in the Bible. When God says, "Preach the gospel", or "warn Israel", you are not resisting God by doing what He commands, rather you resisting God if you are supporting and following those who lead you NOT to do what God commands. And as I pointed out before, you are never getting "ahead" of God by doing what He inspired the prophets and apostles to write in the Bible thousands of years ago. If you start preaching the gospel now, you are not ahead of God, God is ahead of you by more than 1,900 years! We can do no more than follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us.
Should we accept God's direction, in the Bible, even when it is different from what we want or think should be done? Yes. Should we accept the ministers' direction even when it is different from what God says in the Bible He wants? No.
God does not want us to blindly follow the ministry wherever the ministry leads. He wants us to study and know the Bible and obey the Bible first and the ministry second. We are to respect the ministry, because God in the Bible tells us to, but we are to believe and obey what God says in the Bible first.
Nor are we to be passive and just drift with the flow, never making waves. Christ never set an example of being passive, and neither did the prophets and apostles. Rather, we are to energetically and passionately do God's work, with zeal. We are to overcome obstacles (Genesis 32:24-30). We are to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). What we do, we are to do with all our might (Ecclesiastes 9:10, Judges 16:28-30). We are to resist what is wrong and strive for what is right. And we must let the Bible define what is wrong and what is right. If that kind of zeal and effort is what is referred to as "forcing the outcome", then we would be sinning if we did not "force the outcome". In the parable of the talents, the man who hid his talent in the sand didn't try to force any outcome, and he lost out (Matthew 25:14-30).
Did Mr. Armstrong ever try to "force an outcome"? Did he ever try to control events? He was not passive. He didn't just "go with the flow". He didn't wait for events to unfold, wait to see what others did, then assume that was what God was doing and just "go along". Rather, he looked to the Bible to know God's will, then he PUSHED to do it, he DROVE himself to accomplish what God commanded, even in the face of opposition, disagreement, persecution, and severe problems of every kind. If Mr. Armstrong thought, "I should not try to force any outcome", or "I should never try to control events", he would never have pushed to overcome and solve problems and we would not have the truth we have today. Ambassador College never would have started, or survived once it started, the Plain Truth would not have survived, the Church would never have grown to what it became when most of us were called. Of course, he could see God's hand opening some doors, closing others, and he always acknowledged that it was God working through him that accomplished the work, but Mr. Armstrong always looked to the Bible to know God's will, then pushed to accomplish it.
I am not advocating that members openly disrespect COGFC ministers, contradicting them or belittling them in conversation with others. But they certainly should think independently and if necessary talk to their ministers directly and in private. And I think they should ask tough questions when ministers open up meetings for questions.
COGFC ministers have never made a biblical case, to the brethren, for what they have decided, for what they have done. They have chosen to focus on Church healing at the expense of the gospel, but they either never got that focus from the Bible or they never showed the brethren where in the Bible they received that focus. If they are right, if God is guiding them and they are submitting to God, they need to make the case to the brethren, and they need to make it by the Bible. And when they make the case, they cannot, if they are honest, pick and choose the scriptures that support their position and ignore other scriptures that show the importance of preaching the gospel and the warning to the world. If they are not honest, and if they try to make their case by selecting only the scriptures on one side, the brethren will see through it, at least those who know and believe their Bibles.
COGFC ministers need to make their case by the Bible because the faith of the members must be in God and in God's word, not in the ministers. Brethren cannot support the decisions of COGFC ministers by putting their faith in God and the Bible if they are not given the reasons for those decisions from the Bible. COGFC ministers should prove their case by the Bible so members' faith will be in God, not man.
What went on behind closed doors at the three day conference at the beginning of the year? What reasons were given for postponing the gospel? What scriptures were studied? What voices were in favor of the gospel, what did those voices say, and why were they overruled? The brethren have not been told. But they see the results. They see that David Hulme is doing more to preach the gospel than any minister in COGFC. They see that Mr. Hulme practices hierarchical structure of government, the same structure that Mr. Armstrong practiced, the same structure that the Bible teaches, but the ministers in COGFC don't even know what kind of structure of government they want to have. After almost two months, they don't know. No one knows who is in charge. No one knows how decisions are made (except the nine ministers in that conference). You can't even email ministers individually from email addresses in their website with your questions or comments, you can only fill in a form on a webpage, which goes to somebody (who knows who) who can screen, edit, delete, or forward email, if that computer page even works correctly. And I suspect it doesn't, for I never received a reply to an email I tried to send through that form.
Some ministers might say, the members should not judge the ministers. But as I have pointed out, that is wrong. The members have an obligation to study and know where God wants them to attend and who God wants them to support. To do this, they have to evaluate the ministers, and the ministers should cooperate with that process by openly giving the members the information they need to make decisions, not hiding important facts from the members.
As I point out in my book, Preaching the Gospel, some things we should judge and some things we have no business judging. We must judge those matters required of us to make decisions God has given us the responsibility for making. One of the examples I use in my book is choosing a mate. Normally, we should not go around evaluating the spiritual conversion, or lack thereof, of brethren we come into contact with in our congregation. That is not our business. But if we are considering a person as a future wife or husband, we have to judge that person's conversion because God commands us to marry "in the Lord" and we can't obey that requirement without judging if someone is really converted.
Likewise, members have to judge ministers and fellowships because God commands us to attend services when possible and to tithe, but He doesn't tell us the name to write on the tithe check or where to attend. So we have to make those decisions, and that requires judging.
If you are a member of COGaic, or COGFC, or are simply scattered, God requires you to make choices and decisions about tithing, attendance, etc. What should you write on your tithe check? "Church of God, an International Community"? "Church of God, a Family Community"? "Living Church of God"? Do you send your check to David Hulme, Steven Andrews, Roderick Meredith, or someone else? You won't find those names in the Bible. God doesn't give you names like that, and the only Church name God gives you in the Bible is "Church of God" - you have to choose which one, and God holds you responsible for making the best choice you can according to your knowledge and ability. You can't do that without judging the performance and faithfulness of the ministry.
God commands that we love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40), that we warn those headed towards disaster (Proverbs 24:11), and that we preach the gospel to the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:18). This love for the people in this world requires that we exercise due diligence to support whoever is faithful to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, and if we members, not just ministers, do not take that responsibility seriously, the blood of the people will be on our heads.
So ministers should not feel it is wrong for us members to judge their performance and faithfulness to God's word. We have to judge them - that is part of our job as Christians during this time when the Church is scattered into many different fellowships. God holds us members responsible for judging with righteous judgment, according to the word of God, the Bible. Rather than feel that members are wrong to judge, ministers should cooperate with members by giving them as much information as possible about what they are doing and encouraging them to get the facts and look at more than one side before making a decision. Thus, COGFC leaders should encourage members to listen to Mr. Nathan's reasons in his question and answer session as to why he has decided to go with LCG. They should not hold back publishing the recording if they have it available.
Moreover, if the ministers take a course of action, they should give the members their reasons, from the Bible, so the members can evaluate those decisions based on the Bible. The members must put their faith in the Bible, not in the ministry. If the members support the decisions of the ministry, they must do it based on faith in God's word, not on faith in the ministry, but for the members to base their support on the Bible, they must be given the Bible reasons for the decisions. That never happened. So for COGFC members to support the decisions of the controlling COGFC ministers, decisions to postpone the gospel and reject the hierarchical structure of government that Mr. Armstrong taught and the Bible teaches, those members would have to put their faith in the ministry, because the Bible does not support those decisions.
Did the COGFC ministers ever prove to the members, from the Bible, that the hierarchical structure of government taught by Mr. Armstrong should be rejected? No, they did not.
Did the COGFC ministers ever prove to the members, from the Bible, that preaching the gospel to the world and warning Israel should be postponed until the Church is healed? No, they did not.
There is no precedence in the New Testament, once the Church started on the Day of Pentecost, for postponing preaching the gospel until the Church is spiritually healed.
The question comes up, what is the best way to fulfill our mission of declaring the message and preparing a people, as was stated in the sermon.
If you are not sure you know the best way to do the job God has given us, you ask God to help you decide wisely, then you make a decision and go forward. You do it the best way you know how at the present time. Then, as time goes on, as God gives you wisdom to know a better way, as you learn from your mistakes, as you learn by doing, you improve the way you are doing it. But you don't sit on your hands indefinitely because you aren't sure the best way. Doing nothing is the worst way to do something.
Imagine you have just learned about the seventh-day Sabbath. You say, "I do not know the best way to keep the Sabbath. Should I spend most of my time in Bible study? How much should I pray? Where should I go for services? Since I do not know the best way to keep God's commandment, I will not keep it at all until I figure it out. I will work on my job on Saturday, go grocery shopping, clean the garage, etc. until I figure out the best way to keep the Sabbath, whether it takes me three months, six months, or a year to figure it out." Does that make sense to you? And if it does not make sense, neither does it make sense to postpone God's command to preach the gospel until we figure out the best way to do it. You learn by doing, you learn by making mistakes and learning from mistakes. If you wait till you know the best way of preaching the gospel before you start, you will never start. You will never learn the best of doing something until you start doing it.
Yes, it is true that God sometimes works in ways that surprise us and are different from what we want. But it is a mistake to simply look at what the ministers are doing and assume that they are acting correctly and God approves of their decisions and therefore, it is God's doing, and then blindly support it. Instead, we are to put our faith and trust primarily in God's word, and when we see the ministers acting contrary to God's word in important matters, then we should respect the office, not harshly criticize the ministers with brethren while we are still in that organization, but quietly look for a fellowship with ministers who are more faithful, or find a way to obey God within the organization even if the ministers do not.
And by the way, I have listened to the messages of COGFC, nearly all of them, on their website, and I have not heard one word forbidding members, deacons, or elders in COGFC from starting up a website and preaching the gospel on their own. If Mr. Andrews or Mr. Rodzaj or any other minister has told the COGFC members, "Don't try to preach the gospel on your own by setting up a website and running pay-per-click ads for it," I have not heard it. So it would not be disobedience to the ministry for members to do so. Nor have I heard COGFC ministers say, "Make sure you send ALL your tithes and offerings to COGFC, while you are attending with us, don't send half your tithes and offerings to LCG or some other Church of God that preaches the gospel," so that would not be disobedience either. But if COGFC leaders say that, that would be the time for any member or minister who understands the importance of obeying God now, not postponing the preaching of the gospel, to leave COGFC and trust God to lead them to a better fellowship.
What Will Happen Now?
I sense a strong enough zeal on the part of some members and ministers in COGFC to obey God's commands to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, that I do not think the current situation will last much longer. Those members and ministers will not be held back.
They do not want the blood of the people to be on their heads. They want to please God by obeying Him. They want to follow God more than man. And many of them have genuine love and compassion for the people in our countries who will go through the tribulation. They want to warn them so they can repent before it is too late.
What are their options? COGFC will have another conference beginning in less than two weeks. During that conference, the controlling ministers in COGFC will either decide to begin immediately to preach the gospel, or they will not. What members and ministers will do will depend on that choice.
Suppose they decide to continue the course they have set, to continue postponing the preaching of the gospel to the world.
As I have said in previous posts, those members and ministers who want to preach the gospel have several options.
The simplest option is to leave COGFC and begin to attend and send tithes to whichever Church of God fellowship seems to be most faithfully preaching the gospel to the world and feeding the flock in a balanced way, according to the Bible. That might be Living Church of God. Mr. Nathan's choice may influence others to consider that option more than they have in the past.
There are other options. A group of members and elders within COGFC may simply use their own money and time to set up a website for preaching the gospel and warning our nations about the tribulation to come. They can do that while they remain in COGFC. They can advertise it with Google pay-per-click advertising. To my knowledge, COGFC ministers have not forbidden this. Maybe they will, though, or maybe they have already forbidden it. How they could justify telling members they can't do that I do not know and won't try to guess.
The days when you need a big organization to preach the gospel or a person like Mr. Armstrong with exceptional talent and speaking ability and business skills to do business with radio stations and the like, is over. This is a different time. For better or worse, the Internet makes it possible for individuals or small groups with limited business experience to preach the gospel and deliver a warning, and to do so as effectively and extensively as their budget allows.
Or, members can stay in COGFC and split their tithes, one-half tithe to COGFC for their work of feeding the flock and healing the Church and one-half tithe to a group that is preaching the gospel - again, this might be Living Church of God. If tithe money, but not members in attendance, go to LCG, LCG will not have increased expenses feeding the flock and will not have to hire ministers to take care of those members, so any increase in tithe income can go entirely into preaching the gospel.
Some members may go back to COGaic, based on the reasoning that Mr. Hulme preaching the gospel a little bit is better than COGFC preaching the gospel not at all.
Finally, if there is an ordained minister in COGFC who is willing to separate from COGFC controlling ministers and organize a new group that will preach the gospel and heal the Church both at the same time, that minister, with the support of a few other ministers, elders, deacons, and members, may form a new fellowship.
One way or another, those who have zeal for the gospel will go forward. They will not be stopped by those who say, "Now is not the time." They will put their trust in God, not the ministry of COGFC, and they will separate from them if necessary.
There is a lot here about trust. COGFC leaders want members to trust them that they are following God, but they cannot show the scriptures to back up their decisions. Members who trust God will put the Bible first and will see in the Bible that preaching the gospel is a command from God that should not be postponed.
COGFC controlling ministers seem to want members to trust that what they are doing is what God is doing. But then, why did they not trust that what Mr. Hulme was doing is what God is doing? If they say, Mr. Hulme's behavior was not consistent with the Bible, do not COGFC members have the same right to say, what COGFC controlling ministers are doing is not consistent with the Bible? Do COGFC controlling ministers have much credibility if they say, do what we say, not what we have recently done? Have they not set the example of leaving a fellowship to obey the Bible that their own members may follow in leaving them to obey the Bible? Did not COGFC ministers "control and force an outcome" when they left COGaic? Maybe they were forced out, but before they were forced out, didn't they confront Mr. Hulme with their disagreements, and in that sense were they not forcing an issue or trying to control an outcome? Were they not trying to persuade Mr. Hulme to change his decisions?
Isn't it inconsistent for COGFC ministers to teach members to assume that decisions made by them is "what God is doing" when they did not make that assumption about David Hulme? Because everything COGFC leaders might say about not "forcing the outcome" and the need to align with what God is doing within the organization can be equally said about their relationship with Mr. Hulme and COGaic.
To put it bluntly, should COGFC members trust Mr. Steven Andrews, Mr. Bob Rodzaj, and other COGFC leaders more than those leaders trusted Mr. David Hulme? And if those leaders lost trust in Mr. Hulme and left him because they observed unbiblical decisions in Mr. Hulme, should not COGFC members lose trust in and leave COGFC leaders when they see those leaders making unbiblical decisions to postpone preaching the gospel to the world contrary to God's commands?
Now, what if COGFC decides to start preaching the gospel?
Then the question becomes, will they do it effectively, with zeal, or only do a token amount to satisfy the brethren? If all the leading COGFC ministers get behind an all-out effort to really preach the gospel effectively, giving it equal priority to feeding the flock and healing the Church, their budget will show it. And they should be transparent in how they are handling the finances as far as how much income they are receiving, how much is going for feeding the flock (minister salaries, expenses, hall rentals, the Church website for members, etc.), and how much is going for preaching the gospel (website expenses for a site that is for the public, advertising expenses, booklets and magazines mailed out to the public, radio, etc.). If that is the case, if their finances show they are spending 35%, 40%, 45%, or more on preaching the gospel, then there is a chance COGFC will hold together. But if they are only spending 10%, that is better than nothing, but may simply be a token response to satisfy the brethren, and it will not be very effective.
Can God open a way to preach the gospel with power without spending money? Of course. But has He done that yet? No. And until He does, the Church has to make do with the methods it presently has, and that means spending money. So use those methods for reaching a mass audience that we already have available and require spending money: Internet, advertising, radio, television, and/or print publishing. Then, if God opens a new door for preaching the gospel without spending money, we can go through that door. But that hasn't happened yet. The door for preaching the gospel using financial resources is open right now - to those who are willing to go through it. It requires sacrifice, but what else is new?
The door to preaching the gospel is actually only open for those who want to go through it. It is physically open to everyone in the sense that the same physical opportunities exist for all COG fellowships: Internet, print publishing, radio, TV, public meetings, freedom to publish with minimum government interference, financial prosperity to pay for it, etc. But whether it is spiritually open depends on the state of mind of the ministers and brethren. Some see the need and some do not. For those who see no urgency in preaching the gospel and the warning, they do not have the open door. Why? What makes the door open for some, such as Dr. Meredith and Mr. Armstrong, but not for others such as perhaps Mr. Andrews and Mr. Rodzaj? God opens the door by opening our minds to see the need. If some ministers and members cannot see the need, the door is closed for them because they will not go through it. For those who see the need, the door is open for them because they are willing to go through it.
Try talking to a typical non-COG member, perhaps a Catholic or Protestant, about what the Bible teaches about Christmas and Easter. Will he understand what you are saying? No. Why? He is blinded. God has not opened his mind to understand. It is crystal clear in the Bible, but he can't see what you see.
Now, if you see the urgency for preaching the gospel and a warning, try showing this, from the Bible, to a Church of God member who is NOT in favor of preaching the gospel at this time. Will he see it? Often, he can't see it, even though it is crystal clear in the Bible. God has not opened his mind to see that point. Why? God, for His own reasons, has not given him the open door for preaching the gospel, so God has not opened his mind to see the need for preaching the gospel. In this case, an open mind that sees the need to go through the door equals the open door for that person. Open mind = open door.
How else, in this day of equal access to technology and money, can God open the door for some but not for others? He opens the door by opening the mind to see the need to go through the door.
Yet, just as people of the world have a part in their decision to reject what the Bible says about Christmas and Easter, and some are called and have the opportunity to understand if they are willing, yet may reject that opportunity, likewise, members of the Church of God may have the opportunity to accept what God says in the Bible about preaching the gospel, even if they have not understood it before.
God can see if a Church of God member has zeal for God and love for people, and some of that love and zeal may be expressed by his desire to preach the gospel, and if a person has has that love and zeal, God can open his mind to what the Bible says about the gospel to encourage him and stir up his desire to preach the gospel till he is willing to do whatever it takes to go through the door. That is one way God opens the door. And if a member does not have that love and zeal, he will not see the urgency about the gospel until he repents. But he may repent, and putting him in a situation that forces him to make choices about the gospel can be a step in his repentance.
Part of God's purpose in the COGaic split may be to test and separate ministers and members, to test them and separate them according to his will. Why separate? Some will go to a place of safety and some will not. Some will have an open door for preaching the gospel and some will not. Those who do not have an open door for preaching the gospel and those who will not go to a place of safety are still part of God's Church and are still loved by God. But they need different leaders and a different ministry than those who will finish preaching the gospel and go to a place of safety. Thus separation may be needed.
Part of that separation has occurred when ministers and members came out of COGaic. But some has yet to occur within COGFC itself. Why? Everyone who left COGaic did not leave for the same reason. Some ministers may have left because they saw the need for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, a need that Mr. Hulme was not effectively taking care of. That is certainly not the only reason. Some ministers may have left for other reasons plus preaching the gospel and some may have left for other reasons only, not caring about the preaching of the gospel. Some no doubt were forced out by circumstances.
I said before, it is unlikely that all nine ministers in the first conference have been on the same page. Now, of the leading three, one has declared his intention to go with another group. I think he is making the right decision. Perhaps the others do not have the same opportunity, but some probably would not go with LCG even if they had the opportunity. Some would probably not like LCG's hierarchical government and emphasis on preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.
At this point, if the COGFC controlling ministers do not have their heart in preaching the gospel, I think it is better if they keep going as they are rather than make a small token effort to preach the gospel just to satisfy the brethren and collect their tithes. At least, if they do nothing to preach the gospel, they are clearly showing where they stand. If they make a token effort to please man, they may deceive their own members for years, making them think they are doing, or about to do, an important work, but never really doing much effectively. Does that sound familiar to brethren and former brethren in COGaic? It should.
I spoke about the reasons why ministers left COGaic. What about members?
Some members may have had personal difficulties with Mr. Hulme, but most were not in contact with him as much as the ministers were. I think the majority of members who left COGaic for COGFC did so for two reasons: some have a zeal for preaching the gospel to the world and some simply want to stay with their pastors who have left COGaic. Some may be motivated by both reasons.
But God needs to test and separate, test and separate, and He does it based on where we are at spiritually, what character we have developed, what lessons we have learned, and what lessons we still need to learn. He is testing and separating both ministers and members. Mr. Nathan leaving COGFC to go with LCG is one example. God presents ministers and brethren with choices. The choices of where to go, where to attend, who to support, are both the test and the separation.
Now, the ministers in COGFC hold an office, all of them, that of ordained minister of Jesus Christ, and that office needs to be respected. I do not mean to imply otherwise. And ministers who are not in favor of preaching the gospel to the world or of hierarchical government may be the best ministers right now for brethren who feel the same way.
There are brethren in the whole, scattered Church of God who do not have zeal for preaching the gospel or top-down government, and those brethren need to be pastored by someone. Ministers who also do not have zeal for the gospel and top-down government can still teach many subjects effectively. They can teach other basic doctrines.
But they are not good teachers for brethren who have zeal for the gospel and for top-down government.
Christ promises an open door to Philadelphian Christians in Revelation 3:7-8. I won't rehearse the evidence here, but there is Bible evidence that this open door refers to preaching the gospel to the world. He also promises protection during the tribulation (Revelation 3:10). I think one of the ways Christ opens the door is by inspiring zeal to go through that door. It is not just money or opportunity, for that is basically the same for all fellowships. Philadelphian Christians have an understanding of the need for preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning. That is not the only thing that is required, but I think it is one requirement. But Philadelphians cannot preach the gospel to the world when they are led by Laodicean ministers.
For 15 years many members in COGaic have waited and yearned patiently for Mr. David Hulme to do a powerful work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. That never happened. Now, many have left COGaic hoping that COGFC will do better.
But every indication since COGFC formed is that they will NOT do better in that department. There has not been the slightest movement to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world.
But this can work for good. It may work for good that the leading ministers in COGFC, or those who are really in control, whoever they are, are not preaching the gospel to the world and have no stomach for it. Why is that a good thing?
I said before, God is testing and separating. He is going to separate those who have zeal for the gospel from those who don't, because those who have zeal cannot do a powerful work with those who don't. And I said that the majority of members in COGFC probably left COGaic for one of two primary reasons: they have zeal to preach the gospel or they want to stay with their local pastor who has left. And for some, it can be both reasons in combination.
But God wants to know and separate members, and ministers, according to their understanding of what is important and their zeal for the things of God.
So God will separate those who left COGaic primarily to stay with the minister they know and like from those who left COGaic because of their zeal for the gospel.
And what better way for God to do this than to have the COGFC controlling leaders postpone indefinitely any work to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.
That will force COGFC members and elders to choose, stay with the minister they feel comfortable with, or do something different to preach the gospel.
Mr. Peter Nathan has made his choice. He is going to support and strengthen a group that is preaching the gospel.
Those in COGFC who have zeal to preach the gospel may have to make a similar choice.
And for those members who choose to stay with the existing leaders of COGFC, those who have controlling power to say "no" to the gospel, and send their full tithe to them, those leaders and ministers may still do a good job of teaching them other things, such as the ten commandments, human relations, etc., and those members need to respect their ministers and learn what they give from the Bible to teach them. But they cannot expect an open door to preaching the gospel or protection during the tribulation.
Those members and ministers in COGFC who have zeal for the gospel will soon realize, if they do not already realize, that those few who control COGFC do not really have their hearts in the gospel, and that is not likely to change.