One of the arguments against preaching the gospel that come up from time to time is that Worldwide went "all out" to preach the gospel, but that did not prevent the apostasy and scattering of the Church, and therefore going all out to preach the gospel to the world today will not heal or unify the Church of God. People who make this argument seem to be saying, in reference to making a maximum effort to preach the gospel to the world, "we tried that, and it didn't work."
There are a number of fallacies in that line of reasoning. For one thing, there would never have been a Worldwide Church of God of any significant size to even be scattered if it were not for the zeal and sacrifice of Mr. Armstrong and his supporters who had their hearts in the work of God.
But I want to focus on just one point of this argument, which I regard to be false. It is based on an assumption that is not necessarily true, yet I have not heard it challenged. But I want to challenge it now.
That assumption is the idea that everyone in Worldwide, or even the majority, was going all out to preach the gospel to the world till the time Mr. Armstrong died.
Certainly Mr. Armstrong had his heart in the work and had zeal for preaching the gospel to the world. And I am sure that many Worldwide Church of God members and coworkers likewise supported the preaching of the gospel with zeal and sacrifice. They could be said to be going "all out" to preach the gospel to the world. And they may have been the majority during the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s.
But by the 1980s, even while Mr. Armstrong was still alive, I do not think the majority of the Worldwide Church of God was going all out to preach the gospel. I think that is a myth.
I came into the Church in the early 1980s while Mr. Armstrong was still alive. I do not think the Church became lukewarm and Laodicean after Mr. Armstrong died. It had already become that way while he was still alive. The appointment of Mr. Tkach to succeed Mr. Armstrong was the result of the Church becoming Loadicean, not the cause.
In my opinion, the majority of members and ministers in the Worldwide Church of God had become Laodicean before Mr. Armstrong died, and it was in response to the general lukewarm condition that existed in the Church that God inspired Mr. Armstrong to name Mr. Tkach as his successor. It was that appointment that led to apostasy and the scattering of the Church. This was God's doing in fulfillment of the prophecy of (Revelation 3:16): "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."
My observation of the Church in the early eighties was that there was a certain camaraderie, enthusiasm, and general warmth between brethren, and there was zeal for God among some. But I did not see a lot of sacrifice for the work of preaching the gospel to the world, not among the majority. People had nice things: houses, nice apartments, nice cars, nice furniture. But on holy days offerings were taken up in the morning services, counted during the lunch period, and the average offering was often announced at the beginning of the afternoon services. Those offerings were small in comparison to the ability of the members to give, in my opinion. And there was not much talk about the work in conversation among members that I observed. When they talked about God's way of life at all, they talked about the fine points of God's law, about doctrine, about prophecy, and about their personal trials, but not much about getting the gospel message and the Ezekiel warning to the world.
My own zeal also was not as strong as it should have been at that time. It has increased since then I hope, as I have learned lessons.
I do not think it is true that, "we tried that" (going all out with zeal to preach the gospel to the world) and "it didn't work" (to keep the Church unified and on track). Rather, the majority of the Church had drifted away from strong zeal for the preaching of the gospel and had become lukewarm about God's work, and THAT (lukewarmness) did not work!
I think it was a lack of zeal for the work of God among the majority that was a cause of God's judgment to scatter the Church. And that same lack of zeal for preaching the gospel today among the majority in the whole Church of God (all fellowships added up together) helps to keep us divided.
If there are those among us who want to help to reunite and heal the Church of God today, the first thing they should do is rekindle a burning zeal and passion for finishing God's work of preaching the gospel to the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14), making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), and delivering the Ezekiel warning to Israel while there is still time for Israel to repent (Ezekiel 3:16-19, Proverbs 24:11-12, Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:38-39). Each of us should get "on fire" to get that message out, and our motivation should be love towards God and love towards our neighbors. That is the path towards Church of God repentance, healing, and unity.
And it is that zeal that the Worldwide Church of God lacked at the time Mr. Armstrong died and Mr. Tkach became pastor general. When Mr. Tkach became leader of Worldwide, events were set in motion that caused the Church to be scattered, and we are still in that scattered condition today.
In speaking of the work of preaching the gospel to the world, I have called it "God's work" as many in the Church have done. Some may object to this terminology, saying that it should be called "the work of the Church" and that "God's work" should be a term for what God Himself directly does or for God's work in reproducing Himself in Church members. But preaching the gospel is indeed God's work which He does through the Church. It is part of His work of reproducing Himself in mankind, because preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning just before the end of this age is a vital part of preparing Israel for the great tribulation and the millennium that follows.
It is also proper to call the work that God gives us to do, "God's work", for Jesus also called the work that the Father gave Him to do, "His [the Father's] work".
"Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work' " (John 4:34).
We must FINISH God's work, and Christ will lead us to do that as we yield and submit to His leadership, for Christ no doubt has the same zeal for the Father's work as He leads the Church of God today as He did when He spoke to His disciples after His conversation with the woman by the well as recorded in John 4:31-35.