Sunday, June 21, 2015
Paradigm Shift from Herbert W. Armstrong to the Father's Call - a Case Study in Progress
The Father's Call Church of God
The Church of God fellowship of ministers and members who left David Hulme and COGaic (Church of God, an International Community) around January 2014 was originally called Church of God, a Family Community (COGFC). But they have not been using that name for the last several months. As far as I know, contributions they receive are made out to just "Church of God". But their website is called, "the Father's Call", and they seem to use that as a name for their group. So until and unless they organize with a more distinctive name than "Church of God", to indicate which Church of God I am talking about, I will refer to them as "the Father's Call Church of God" (FCCOG).
A few weeks ago on Pentecost, one of their ministers gave a sermon on paradigm shifts. As the speaker explained, a paradigm (pronounced pair-uh-dime with the stress or accent on the first syllable) is a point of view, a way of looking at things and thinking about things, and it affects how we think and act. It is the lens through which we view things, a way we interpret the reality around us. A paradigm shift then is a shift in one's point of view and way of thinking about something. It is a change in perspective. In a larger sense, as it is acted out, a paradigm shift can sometimes be said to be a change in a way of life.
Basically, the speaker discussed a paradigm shift he experienced and one he sees occurring in the Father's Call Church of God (FCCOG). It is a shift in a point of view about the Church and the way we relate to God and to each other. As I understood it, his main focus was on a paradigm shift from the way many organizations in the scattered Church of God since the death of Herbert W. Armstrong view governance and the Church to the way FCCOG views governance, the Church, and how we should relate to God the Father and Jesus Christ.
The paradigm shift may be illustrated by a document published by FCCOG called "Spiritual Awakening and Governance", which the speaker quoted from.
I will discuss some points brought out in that sermon, and I will also discuss some points in "Spiritual Awakening and Governance" later in this post. But the paradigm shift I will talk about in this post may be a bit bigger than the shift the speaker specifically talked about or anything spelled out in the Spiritual Awakening document. And the paradigm shift I am talking about is a difference in point of view and perspective and way of thinking between the paradigm held and practiced by Mr. Armstrong and that held and practiced by the speaker and apparently by FCCOG today.
There is no doubt that FCCOG has stabilized since it left David Hulme. When they first started as Church of God, a Family Community (COGFC), there were a lot of unanswered questions about their future direction. They left COGaic before they were organized, and they organized afterwards. In a sense, they were not ready to leave when they did, as some groups organize to a degree before they leave a group. They were not prepared to hit the ground running in a set direction when they left COGaic. They left first and sorted things out later. So their history since December 2013 / January 2014 has shown some fluctuation. The leading ministers came to a certain agreement in January 2014, and they had a website and weekly Sabbath services right away. But as I pointed out in my posts around that time, their agreement to agree was not necessarily based on a common viewpoint among all those ministers, and thus time was needed for things to really be sorted out and a long-lasting direction set.
In fact, a few months after that, some leading ministers left for other groups, and Peter Nathan and a couple of other ministers went to Living Church of God (LCG).
For the rest of the year, it seemed that FCCOG was governed jointly by Mr. Brian Orchard and Mr. Steven Andrews, by mutual agreement between those two. But in January this year, there was a reorganization. Mr. Orchard became the human leader, and governance was from the top down after that. Since then, Mr. Andrews has not been scheduled to speak, though he used to speak about a couple of times a month before that. Whether he still attends with FCCOG or not, I do not know. I think the official name of the Church for writing checks changed from "Church of God, a Family Community" to "Church of God". Mr. Orchard was recognized as being the leading minister.
The governance of FCCOG from January 2014 to January 2015 seemed to be governance by mutual agreement. That is not a hierarchical, top-down governance structure as taught by the Bible, but the Bible doesn't teach against it either. Governance by mutual agreement is not unbiblical or evil, but it is weak and it is limited. But from January 2015, the governance structure of FCCOG has been hierarchical, from the top down, as the Bible teaches. It is a stronger form of governance, and it is the form of governance practiced by Mr. Armstrong, though details of implementation differ. Presumably, the ministers in FCCOG recognized and learned from experience that such top-down structure is needed, and they felt they recognized from the fruits that Mr. Orchard should be the one to lead FCCOG under Jesus Christ.
Some ministers and members of FCCOG may disagree with my assertion that their structure of governance is hierarchical with Brian Orchard as leader, and they may assert that there are fundamental differences between governance in FCCOG and governance in COGaic and even governance in the Church when Mr. Armstrong was alive. But the structure is still the same. The way that structure is used probably differs. Top-down governance can be used in a right way or a wrong way. It may be that FCCOG is trying to use top-down governance in a better, more gentle, more loving, and more humble way towards the FCCOG membership than many organizations that have top-down governance have used it, but the structure is the same.
And because Mr. Orchard has been recognized as leader since the beginning of this year, we have had about five months to see the fruits of his leadership. I do not foresee anyone else becoming the leader of FCCOG, and I do not foresee it as likely that Mr. Orchard will change his views on things very much very quickly.
So the path that FCCOG has been following for the last five months is a path FCCOG is likely to follow for some time. That is why I say, things have finally stabilized in FCCOG. The questions that existed when they left COGaic about a year and a half ago have been answered. We know where FCCOG stands.
And this is a good time to review where FCCOG stands and the paradigm they seem to follow, and how that paradigm compares with the one held and followed by Herbert W. Armstrong.
Herbert W. Armstrong and the Holy Spirit, and Mr. Armstrong's Paradigm
My title of this section does not refer to Herbert W. Armstrong's teaching about the Holy Spirit. It refers to how Mr. Armstrong viewed the Holy Spirit as leading him personally. In a sense, it is about how Mr. Armstrong viewed his relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and God's Holy Spirit, and it is about the real foundation of Mr. Armstrong's relationship with God and the foundation for all the doctrinal truth God revealed to him that we have today. This section is about the foundation for all the work God accomplished through Mr. Armstrong and how Mr. Armstrong viewed that foundation.
What does the Bible say about our foundation? "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11). Mr. Armstrong acknowledged Jesus Christ as the foundation of the work he did and the doctrines he taught. But Mr. Armstrong also equated the teaching of Jesus Christ with the teaching of the Bible. He said that Jesus Christ is the Word of God in person (John 1:1-14, Revelation 19:13) and that the Bible is the Word of God in print, the same word! Mr. Armstrong made the Bible the foundation for everything he taught and did in God's work.
Mr. Armstrong always sought to look to the Bible for his doctrines and for guidance in doing the work of God. He always acknowledged the role of the Holy Spirit in opening his mind to understand the Bible, and I am sure he understood that God gave him wisdom by the Holy Spirit for doing the Work and guided His mind in how to apply the lessons of the Bible to the circumstances of his life. But he never spoke of the Holy Spirit guiding him independently of the Bible, at least not that I heard in his speaking or read in his writings. He acknowledged the work of Jesus Christ in guiding him personally by circumstances, opening one door, closing another door, guiding events to bring things to Mr. Armstrong's attention, etc. He always acknowledged that God and Christ guided him that way, intervening to answer prayers and work things out to good effect. But I never heard him speak of God communicating to him directly, apart from the Bible or circumstances, through the Holy Spirit. I never heard him say, "the Holy Spirit told me about this" or "the Holy Spirit told me to do this thing".
Mr. Armstrong never viewed the Holy Spirit as an agency through which God communicated with him specifically and directly apart from the Bible. He did not seem to assume that things he thought were inspired by God through the Holy Spirit unless he first tested those things in the Bible to see if his ideas and thoughts were true and reflected the truth of God's word.
Mr. Armstrong also was zealous to preach the gospel to the world. He believed what the Bible said about preaching the gospel, and that belief in God's word and willingness to submit to the God of the Bible motivated him to preach to the world even when that required him to sacrifice.
It was zeal for belief in the Bible, following the Bible to know God's will, testing every thought and doctrine by the Bible, and zeal for preaching the gospel that was Mr. Armstrong's paradigm. That paradigm was the way he viewed his relationship with God and how God communicated with him. He said in his autobiography, when he prayed to God he was talking to God and when he read the Bible God was talking to him. It was the way of life he followed in his relationship with God. And it was a successful paradigm, because it was through the man who held that paradigm, that perspective and point of view, that God did a great work.
Last Pentecost I heard an FCCOG sermon on the Internet. That sermon was about the Holy Spirit. I felt that this sermon contained a serious and dangerous error, and I decided to address the error itself in this post, but it is not my intent to attack the speaker. I am sure that a number of speakers in more than one group have slipped into this error, so what I say about this sermon can perhaps apply to many sermons and many groups. It is the error itself that I think is most dangerous, not necessarily any person or group.
While Paul did not attack individuals by name in his letters to Church of God congregations, he attacked wrong positions and doctrines very strongly. You can read some of the things he wrote about those in the Church who advocated physical circumcision as a requirement for salvation (Galatians 5:12). He didn't pull his punches.
The error I want to talk about is one I have talked about in this blog before. I spend time with it because it can be extremely dangerous for members in the Church of God. This very error is part of the foundation of the false religion of traditional, mainstream churches. Perhaps in a sense it is the whole foundation of false Christianity. It is thus dangerous for Church of God members to buy into this teaching. The teaching can, in the long run, lead to heresy and deception in the minds of those who accept this error. I do not fault the speaker personally for teaching this error, for he may be sincere and deceived himself. I hope he reads this post.
I have described Mr. Armstrong's paradigm as faith in and obedience towards the Bible and zeal for the gospel. I have pointed out that Mr. Armstrong did not look to the Holy Spirit as a guide apart from the Bible, but checked his thoughts and ideas against the Bible to test them to see if they were of God before he accepted them. He did not assume the ideas and influences in His mind were from the Holy Spirit without testing them against the Bible. That was his paradigm. Ironically, the speaker who gave the sermon on a paradigm shift acknowledged that God used Mr. Armstrong in a powerful way because Mr. Armstrong submitted to God and we owe what we know to what God did through that man, yet he seems to advocate a major paradigm shift away from how Mr. Armstrong viewed the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit led him. That should raise red flags.
Mainstream, traditional Christianity does not understand the nature of the Holy Spirit and how God's Spirit works in the Church. They have the trinity doctrine, but the trinity doctrine may not necessarily be the most serious error that mainstream, traditional churches practice about the Holy Spirit. They think the Holy Spirit is a person who is God, the third person of a trinity. They do not understand that the Holy Spirit is the power of God and the mind of God. But a more serious error many of them they have, one that may be the foundation for all other doctrinal errors that traditional churches have, is that they sometimes uncritically accept spiritual influences in their minds without testing those spiritual influences by the Bible. They attribute thoughts in their minds to the Holy Spirit, yet those thoughts are not from God's Spirit. That error may be the door into their minds that Satan and his demons have used for centuries to lead mainstream churches into every doctrinal heresy that they have.
Growing Up in the Church of God and Being Tested
The speaker I heard last Pentecost grew up in the Church. My background is different. I grew up Catholic and came into the Church when I was about 30 years old. Those who came into the Church of God from other religious backgrounds and from the religious traditions of this world may understand what the world is like better than those who have grown up in the Church of God. Those who have grown up in the Church often do not recognize those false traditions and false ways of thinking when they creep into the Church. They may tend to take for granted their position as members of the Church, not realizing the power of choice and how their choices shape their thinking just as choice shapes the thinking of those in the world. They may tend to adopt the choices of the world, not recognizing them as the choices of the world. They may tend to adopt the errors of the world, not recognizing them as such. They haven't seen those errors much before in the world because they have not grown up in the world. When they see them in the Church, they do not know they are errors of the world, for they have not seen them before. They think they have seen them, but they have only seen the surface, from a distance. Those who came into the Church of God after growing up in those errors have seen them close up, and they may have seen the foundation of those errors, what is under the surface.
I was raised in those errors, and I came out of them when I learned the truth, and I know what they look like. Now I see them in the Church of God. In the Church of God, those errors wear a cloak of truth, but underneath they are the same errors of the world.
And I do not know how any Church of God fellowship can do its duty to teach the world to come out of those errors if that very fellowship is promoting one of those errors to its own members and to the rest of the Church of God.
There is something else members who grew up in the Church should think about. They may not have been really tested yet, and God may test them to see if they are willing to seek and believe God or if they are just drifting with the flow of their families as billions of other people on this planet do.
Why do different religions endure? Why do Catholics belief what they believe, Jehovah's Witnesses believe what they believe, and Jews believe what they believe? In most cases, they go along with their families. They accept what they were taught growing up because that is easy.
Are those who grew up in the Church of God any different?
Generally, those who were raised in the traditions of this world and have come out of them into the Church of God have been tested. God knows they were willing to give up their comfortable traditions to believe what God says in the Bible, provided they proved what they believe in the Bible and followed Church of God teaching for that reason. But many who have grown up in the Church have not been tested that way.
If you have grown up in the Church of God, do you believe what you believe because it is easy, just like the rest of the world? God wants to know, and He will likely test you.
Don't make the mistake of thinking you are being tested because you are part of a minority in the world. You have to be different than most people in the world, and that is how you are being tested, right? Wrong. That is no test. Jehovah's Witnesses are different than most in the world. Many members of small religions, or even big ones if they live in communities where they are a minority, must live with the fact that they are "different" from almost everyone around them, yet they keep their traditions and their membership from generation to generation. But they do not believe God. They do not believe the Bible. The force of their family traditions is a strong enough influence by itself to cause those members to remain faithful to their traditions in the face of being different from those around them, even in the face of persecution, yet their loyalty is to their traditions, not to God. Jehovah's Witnesses are known in history for sticking to their traditions in the face of persecution and "being different".
If you have grown up in the Church, God will likely test you in other ways. He wants to know, are you willing to believe Him as Abraham believed Him, even as Mr. Armstrong believed Him, as thousands who came into the Church of God from other religions believe Him. Are you willing to believe the Bible?
If you have grown up in the Church and have not yet read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, I recommend you do so, particularly volume one. That autobiography will help you see the roots of your doctrinal knowledge and that of your parents. You can understand Mr. Armstrong's paradigm, the paradigm that has produced good fruit. And you can evaluate how your current paradigm and the paradigm of the group you are in may differ from his.
God may also test you on the point, do you have enough love for your neighbors and for God to obey God's command to preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world. He may test you: will you give up your comfortable network of family connections and friends to support a Church of God fellowship that is preaching the gospel to the world?
There is nothing permanent about God's truth in our minds if we do not use it properly. "You will say then, 'Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.' Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off" (Romans 11:19-22). Not everyone who accepts the truth of God remains in that truth, and this applies to ministers and lay members alike, as recent history since the death of Mr. Armstrong has shown. We should fear God, lest we risk losing our salvation by losing the truth God has opened our minds to understand. "But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!" (Luke 12:5). We can lose that truth if we are not careful, as others have lost that truth before us. Don't say, "that can't happen to me."
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
As Pentecost should teach us, without God's calling we cannot understand and know God's truth. We cannot, by our own human intellect and power, escape Satan's deceptive influences. Satan is stronger than us, and without God's help and gift, we are helpless against Satan's deceptions.
And God can remove that gift if He sees we do not value it and are not willing to believe and obey what He says in the Bible. "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned" (Hebrews 6:4-8).
"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. And again, 'The Lord will judge His people.' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:26-31). "...lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears" (Hebrews 12:16-17).
The condition for God's Holy Spirit is obedience to God's word, the Bible (Acts 5:32, Matthew 4:4).
God also expects us to use the truth He has given us to share it with others, not to selfishly hold it to ourselves. "...Freely you have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8). This means preaching the gospel to the world and giving the Ezekiel warning to those who do not know the disaster they are heading for. We have the truth, and we need to share it with others. God has given us that truth for that very purpose, so we can share it, so that God, through us, can give that truth to others, using us as a tool to do so.
Mr. Armstrong and his early supporters set an example. He did not keep the truth to himself, but as God opened his mind to understand the Bible he shared what he learned with the world, and we would not have that truth today if he had not done so - or else if Mr. Armstrong refused to preach the gospel to the world, God would likely have rejected Mr. Armstrong and found someone else to do the job.
There is a way of life, and that way of life is outgoing concern for others. Those who benefit from that way of life should be willing to live that way of life that has benefited them. And if they are not willing to live that way of life from which they have received benefits, God may remove those benefits.
We today have benefited from Mr. Armstrong's outgoing concern for others and his willingness to obey the Bible by preaching the gospel, for it is through his preaching to us and our parents that we have the truth. But if we do not practice that same way of life of having outgoing concern for our neighbors and being willing to obey the Bible, then God can remove the benefits we have received from that way of life: the truth. That is God's justice. God is merciful, but He is also just. He brings our own ways upon us. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7). "Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you..." (Jeremiah 2:19). "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings" (Jeremiah 17:10).
It is therefore a dangerous thing for someone who has grown up in the Church of God to fail to support those who are preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel with power and effectiveness. If you do this, you may be giving Satan an open door to deceive you. You can lose the truth you have, and if that happens, there will be consequences.
A Recipe for Falling Away
FCCOG has not zealously and powerfully preached the gospel to the world. The members of that group, unless they are splitting their tithes with another group that is preaching the gospel, may be endangering themselves spiritually. They can be in danger of losing the truth God has given them. They are not using that truth as God has commanded, and they can lose it.
And perhaps it is becoming more clear how they can lose it. For as the speaker I heard has made clear, this group may be encouraging its members to open their minds to spiritual influences without testing those spiritual influences by the Bible to see if they are from God. That seems to me to be a sure recipe to falling away from the knowledge of the truth.
You want a recipe for falling away? You want a recipe for letting Satan deceive you? Try this recipe:
1) Do not preach the gospel or the Ezekiel warning to the world. Keep it selfishly for yourself and for your group. By doing this, you can show God by your actions that you do not really believe in the way of life practiced by Mr. Armstrong and others who, by that way of life, brought that truth to you and your parents. You do not believe in the give way of life, of outgoing concern for others and obeying the Bible, that you have benefited from. Then the principle of, "what you sow, you shall reap" can take effect (Galatians 6:7).
2) Open your mind to any spiritual influence that comes into it, but don't test that influence by the Bible. How do you do that? If you are baptized, you can assume you have the Holy Spirit. Then you can further assume that only the Holy Spirit will put spiritual-seeming thoughts into your mind. Then, when thoughts about doctrine or Christian practice come into your mind, believe those thoughts. Those thoughts MUST be from God's Holy Spirit, right? Don't doubt God's Holy Spirit by checking up in the Bible to see if those thoughts are according to God's word.
3) As this becomes a way of life, you can give precedence to the thoughts in your mind, which you attribute to the Holy Spirit, over what the Bible says. You cannot openly deny the Bible. So if the spiritual influence in your mind goes contrary to the Bible, how can you reconcile that and still believe those spiritual influences and thoughts? Simple. You let those thoughts interpret the Bible for you. Don't look to the Bible to interpret the Bible. Let the spiritual influences in your mind interpret the Bible. That way, you can make the Bible say just about anything you want. You can remove the contradiction in your mind between your thoughts, which you attribute to the Holy Spirit, and the Bible by forcing the Bible to agree with those spiritual influences in your mind. What you think you are doing is letting the Holy Spirit guide you to interpret and understand the Bible. But what you are doing in reality is believing your own opinions and possibly the spirits of demons that put thoughts into your mind, and letting those thoughts twist and interpret the Bible to say what it does not really say.
By following this recipe, you will no doubt "discover" many things you never knew before. This recipe will lead you into "new truth" that will surprise you.
But don't expect it to happen overnight. It took decades or centuries for a similar process to turn the majority of those claiming to be Christian in the first three centuries away from the doctrines of the apostles and the Bible. It may take several years in your case.
So be patient. This falling away from the truth into deception can happen quickly or slowly, but if you follow this recipe, you are very likely to get results.
But, you say, the spiritual influence in my mind is teaching me good things. It is teaching me to love other members of the Church of God, to love my family and my children, to see the evil of the world. That can't be of Satan, can it?
Yes it can.
Satan's teachings and deceptions are a mixture of good and evil, of truth and lies. Do you think for a second that Catholics and Protestants do not have many good points of truth that they teach and try to practice? Do you think the Catholic Church does not teach its members to love their families, to love their children, to do good deeds for their neighbors, to forgive others, to love God, to honor their fathers and mothers, to refrain from sexual immorality, to refrain from hate and bitterness towards others, to be honest in business dealings and not steal, etc.? Do you think mainstream, traditional churches do not teach many good points of truth?
This is where some who have grown up in the Church of God may not understand, not having grown up in the religions of this world, that these religions can have a mixture of truth and error, good and bad, with many good things they teach and practice.
Satan can teach many good things to establish his credibility and the credibility of those he has deceived and those he uses to deceive others, and that credibility then makes his lies more believable. Con artists and deceivers have practiced this technique for probably the whole history of the human race.
God has given us His word, the Bible. We can trust God to protect us from deception to the extent we believe and obey His word, the Bible. " 'For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,' says the Lord. 'But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word' " (Isaiah 66:2). But the man who says, "I will trust God to protect me from deception, but not by believing the Bible", is building on a foundation of sand. That man does not really trust in the God of the Bible, though he may deceive himself into thinking he is trusting God. Many Catholics and Protestants think they trust and believe God.
It is not those who think they trust God who will be protected from deception, but those who really trust the God of the Bible and believe and strive to do what He says in the Bible who will be protected.
One thing those in this world's religions may teach is the principle of unity. In fact, the principle of unity in a group, and the principle of avoiding division within the group, is a goal of most leaders of groups whether they are religious or not. Most military armies of the nations of this world teach their soldiers that they are part of a team and should work for the good of the team. Sports teams are taught teamwork and unity. Business leaders teach their staffs and employees to have unity, teamwork, cooperation with each other and to avoid division and strife among themselves.
And the religious organizations of this world teach unity to their own members and use Bible quotes to support their teaching. And thus many Church of God groups also teach and enforce unity. The Catholic Church has excommunication to remove those who create division in their midst. The Church of God has disfellowshipping and marking. And indeed unity is a good quality, and those who create division within an organization may have to be removed for the health of the organization. But what if the whole organization, or its leadership, is wrong? Should members submit to wrong teaching for the sake of unity with a group?
No, because the unity that God seeks is not unconditional. The unity God wants is unity with Him more than unity with other human beings, and we achieve unity with God to the extent we believe and obey what God says in the Bible. When we achieve unity with God that way, we will automatically become more unified in a right way with each other. That can take time. But unity within an organization is not necessarily pleasing to God if the whole organization is on the wrong track.
Jesus Christ said, "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.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matthew 10:34-37).
Jude wrote, "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
Our roots are in the Bible. Mr. Armstrong let the Bible guide his teaching and practice, and it is because of his loyalty to God's word that we have the truth we have now, and the unity we strive for must be based on belief and obedience towards God's word, the Bible, if it is to be the unity that God values.
I want to discuss some specific points in the sermon I heard last Pentecost.
The speaker stressed a new approach, a paradigm shift, in the Church of God. It related to governance and the ministry's role, but it is bigger than that. The emphasis throughout the sermon was on the Holy Spirit.
One thing the speaker talked about is the idea of finding a "new approach". I am not sure if he is thinking primarily of a new approach from the approach Mr. Armstrong followed or a new approach from the way Mr. Hulme did things. But he did say that asking if there was a new approach since Mr. Armstrong died is an important question.
But there is nothing unique about that question, or the answers various groups come up with, since the death of Mr. Armstrong and the scattering of the Church of God. That question has been asked many times, and many individuals, leaders, and groups have answered that question since the death of Mr. Armstrong. In fact, many were asking and answering that question even while he was alive, which is why we have had groups and individuals split off from Worldwide even during Mr. Armstrong's lifetime.
I heard or read someplace that there are about 300 Church of God fellowships that trace their history to Herbert W. Armstrong. I have not counted them, but I have no reason to doubt that figure. There have been splits, then splits of splits, then splits of splits of splits, with each group having its own idea, its own "new approach". These people do not split from one group to join one of the existing 300 groups. They split to form new groups because in their minds none of the existing groups "have it right".
With all the scattered groups you can imagine, I am sure the question, "Is there a new approach?", has been asked (and answered in various ways) many times by many people in (or out of) many groups. It is not wrong to ask that question, but be aware that the asking of that question is common, and Satan is always standing by to give you his answer, and he has MANY answers to suit the various personalities of the people who ask. If you ask that question, Satan has an answer perfectly tailored for you personally.
Many groups have come into existence because they "recognized the need" to change "past practices". Many groups have come into existence because they asked themselves, "Is there a better approach?", and they answered, "Yes, and we know what it is", or "Yes, and we will find it", or "Yes, and God has revealed it to us (or will reveal it to us)".
The problem is, they do not usually look to the Bible for the answer. So they come up with the wrong answer, perhaps thinking God is giving them that answer.
This is nothing new. Many COG groups and leaders have changed past practices in various ways. The biggest change was UCG (United Church of God) when they adopted voting of the ministry to select their leaders. Lots of people want to change things. Those who were in charge of Worldwide after Mr. Armstrong died changed past practices - into what nearly all Church of God members would agree is heresy, which was a direct cause of the scattering of the Church. Now they do not even call themselves, "Church of God". But most changes these groups make are not according to the Bible.
Incidentally, in speaking of Worldwide after the death of Mr. Armstrong, as that organization was led into Protestant doctrine, those who led them seemed to think they were being led by the Holy Spirit to overturn nearly all the truth Mr. Armstrong taught. I heard one minister who left Worldwide during those changes tell me that one of the leaders of the changes said in a meeting with other ministers, in effect, that there is a truth about the gospel apart from the Bible and you ministers need to know what it is. I had the impression, when Worldwide was making changes, that Worldwide was careful to maintain the appearance of following the Bible for the membership, but in fact they were following what they thought was the leadership of the Holy Spirit apart from the Bible.
That should raise red flags about any group not letting the Bible govern their actions, policies, doctrines, and "paradigm".
Since Mr. Armstrong died, did many groups try to recreate the glory that they thought was the old "empire" built by Mr. Armstrong in Worldwide? Yes, Church of God history over the last twenty-five years proves this. Did they build on the same foundation as Mr. Armstrong? With most of them, no way. The problem is, they may not have realized it because they may not have understood that foundation, or been willing to build on it if they had. Using the analogy of a building and its foundation, keep in mind that, as important as the foundation is, it is invisible. You do not see the foundation, but you see its effects. If the foundation is good, the building stands, but if the foundation is bad, the building falls or has serious problems. It takes time to see, looking at the building itself, if the foundation is good or bad, even if the building seems strong at first.
So when some Church of God leaders and groups tried to rebuild a glorious organization as Worldwide had under Mr. Armstrong, some of them did NOT head down the same road as Mr. Armstrong because they did not build on the same foundation. Everyone who builds a building must build the foundation first, and many Churches of God have built a different foundation, then tried to build the same building on top of it that Mr. Armstrong built (or Christ built through him). It doesn't work. The buildings have cracks in them because the foundation is unsound.
What was Mr. Armstrong's foundation? The Bible. But doesn't the Bible say that Jesus Christ is to be our foundation? Yes, in 1 Corinthians 3:11. But to Mr. Armstrong, it was the same thing, and I think he was right. Our foundation must be the word of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God in person (John 1:1-14, Revelation 19:13), and the Bible is the word of God in print, the same word, as I heard Mr. Armstrong say many times.
Mr. Armstrong's focus was on Jesus Christ as the head of the Church. But he looked primarily to the Bible to see what Christ was leading Him to do. He also saw Christ leading him sometimes through circumstances, opening one door, closing another, etc. But never did He look to Christ to lead him in major doctrinal matters and policies by the Holy Spirit apart from the Bible, as far as I could tell from everything he wrote and said.
For those who did not know Mr. Armstrong personally and were not alive when he was speaking and writing to the public and the Church of God, you have to read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography volume one to understand this. This is especially important for those who have grown up in the Church of God.
Many of those in various authoritarian groups who tried to recreate the kind of empire Mr. Armstrong had built tried to build the building but without the foundation or with a different foundation. They missed the foundation Mr. Armstrong built upon. All they saw was the structure. So they built the structure on a different foundation, on a foundation of the authority of men. But that was not Mr. Armstrong's foundation. His foundation was the Bible. But some could not see that or didn't care.
The right foundation, the Bible, would have helped to keep the Church of God unified even after the death of Mr. Armstrong. And FCCOG is rejecting that same foundation, the Bible. Their policy on preaching the gospel, as well as their lack of emphasis on proving everything by the Bible, proves it.
A paradigm shift in FCCOG that the speaker talks about is a shift to the view that the ministers do not have the answers but God does and the FCCOG ministers have committed themselves to the path of letting God teach them.
This sounds good, because it has an air of humility, and all ministers should be willing to learn new things from God. But without a commitment to learn as God teaches in the Bible, it is worse than useless - it is dangerous. There is also a sense of sweeping aside everything we have learned from God through the work He did through Mr. Armstrong, at least on the subjects of government and preaching the gospel, and that is not good. Moreover, if the ministers are so confused and do not have the answers on these important subjects, why are they teaching on the Sabbath?
It sounds like, in regards to certain approaches to government and drawing close to God, they want to start with a kind of "clean slate", start from scratch so to speak, and open their minds to let God's Holy Spirit teach them. But without using the Bible as their primary guide to truth, they may be opening their minds to demonic influences that will lead them astray, or to the mistakes of their own human opinions and carnal nature.
In rejecting government that they think is too authoritarian, they may be going from one ditch to another. They are not rejecting the teaching of men in order to choose the teaching of the Bible. They are rejecting the teaching of men in order to open their minds to what they think is the influence of the Holy Spirit, but may be some other influence.
Have they not proved what they have believed in the Bible, including what they have believed about government in the Church of God? Apparently not, or they would not be so quick to throw it out and start fresh. Either they have proved the old paradigm that Mr. Armstrong followed in the Bible or they have not. If they have not, then what have they proved? What have they learned after decades of Bible study? Why has not the Bible taught them, or why have they not allowed the Bible to teach them, up till now?
But if they have proved the old paradigm in the Bible, how can they now throw it out and start with a clean slate without also throwing out their faith in the Bible?
Now, if they have not proved the paradigm they have lived by in the Bible, they need to repent of not believing the Bible, and if they do that, they will be emphasizing belief in the Bible. But they barely mention the Bible, though they talk about the Holy Spirit. And if they refuse to repent, how can God teach them the true paradigm? But if they proved the paradigm they have lived by in the Bible, then they are now throwing out the Bible. They are going backwards. And again, how can God bless them if they reject His word? How can God fill their minds with the right paradigm now with His Holy Spirit if they do not believe His word?
But if they open their minds to what they think is the Holy Spirit, but without testing what they receive by the Bible, they may be opening their minds to the deceptions of Satan. For Satan will be glad to "fill the gap" in their knowledge. "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation" (Matthew 12:43-45).
And if the ministers and members of FCCOG do not emphasize going by the Bible FIRST, and proving every idea from the Bible as Mr. Armstrong did, whether that idea be about government in the Church, preaching the gospel, or any other important subject, why would God protect them by His Holy Spirit from Satan's deceptions? And if they do not love their neighbors as themselves, if they do not love the people of the world to sacrifice to preach the gospel to them, why would God protect their minds from Satan's deceptions by His Holy Spirit? For God commands we live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4), and He further commands that we love our neighbors and preach the gospel (Matthew 22:37-40, Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 24:14), but He only gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32). If a minister, member, or entire fellowship refuses to obey God by living by the Bible and refuses to preach the gospel as God commands, they are NOT obeying God - so why should God give them His Holy Spirit?
It is dangerous to try to throw out the old, start with a clean slate, empty the mind, and invite "God's Spirit" to fill their minds, but without testing their ideas with the Bible to see if they are from God.
And I can tell you that if they use the Bible to test the idea that they should not be preaching the gospel to the world at this time, that idea will fail the test, as I have shown several times in this blog.
We have a responsibility to search the scriptures for answers, and to ACT and to DO what God commands. God has given us the power of choice and the power of action, and we need to use those powers in His service by doing what He tells us to do in His word, the Bible, with diligence and energy. For it is our choices that define who we are, and our thoughts, words, and actions that define what we are.
You cannot separate what you do from what you are, for what you do, what you speak, and what you think reflect your choices, and your choices show God, and others, who and what you are. "Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous" (1 John 3:7). "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:15-20). You cannot say, what I am is more important than what I do, for you cannot separate the two. Your choices define what you are, and your actions reflect your choices.
The speaker praises the FCCOG document on "Spiritual Awakening and Governance" for the part in which that document says that FCCOG ministers admit their powerlessness to achieve unity. The speaker said that too often we have focused on what we can do instead of what God must do. But I think that too often some ministers and members of the Church of God try to focus only on what God must do as a way of evading responsibility for what they, the members and ministers, can and should do.
God knows His job. He will do His part. We cannot do His part for Him, just as He will not do our part for us. Our part is to make right choices, to believe God's word, the Bible, and to strive to obey God and do His will in everything. When we make right choices, those choices will be reflected in right action. We are not to be passive, waiting for God to do everything, with a kind of lazy, "let George do it" attitude.
God will do His job. Our job is to do our job, and we better focus on it.
Obviously we need God's help, and we should acknowledge that in our prayers. But we have our part to play and we must not let our focus be shifted so much to what we think God should do that we neglect to do what He commands us to do.
I heard someone in the Church of God in years past say, "Pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on you." Whoever said that had a good point, though I might phrase it differently.
Human nature has a tendency to shift responsibility to others. Before the time to act comes, our carnal nature says, "Let someone else do it." After the time of action has passed, our carnal nature says, "It's not my fault, someone else should have done something." If we are not careful, we can let this attitude infect our relationship with God where God becomes the "someone else". "We cannot achieve unity, God must do it." But obviously we don't have unity, so there may be a subtle fault-finding towards God, maybe an unconscious hint that we have disunity because God has not done His job.
If God has withheld unity from the Church, you can be sure He has a good reason for it, and that good reason is likely our disbelief and disobedience. Can we do something about that? Yes. What can we do? Believe His word, the Bible, and obey God.
And for FCCOG, the simple test seems to be preaching the gospel.
Has the new paradigm FCCOG has adopted since they started a year and a half ago, which includes not preaching the gospel and saying "we are powerless to create unity", helped to create unity? In their short history they already had at least one split, not with ministers leaving to start new groups but ministers leaving to join other groups. When they started, the three leading ministers who seemed to set the direction of the group were Brian Orchard, Steve Andrews, and Peter Nathan, and they had about six other ministers who supported them. Within a few months, Peter Nathan and three other ministers left, with Peter Nathan and two of the other ministers going to LCG and the other minister going to UCG. So four out of nine leading ministers left.
And since January this year, I have heard nothing about Mr. Steve Andrews. He used to be scheduled to give a sermon or Bible study about twice a month. Since Mr. Orchard was recognized as leader, I have not heard anything about Mr. Andrews and he has not been on the speaking schedule.
The leaving of Peter Nathan and others is significant in the context of what I am saying here. This did not have to be interpreted as a splitting of the Church, but Mr. Orchard, instead of congratulating Mr. Nathan and wishing him well, put a negative spin on it, regretting that Mr. Nathan joined LCG, making it look, indeed, like a split and like division in the body of Christ. Moreover, FCCOG never published the recording of Mr. Nathan's question and answer session that he gave after regular services on the Sabbath, though that session was broadcast. That session had good spiritual instruction and meat in it, but FCCOG refused to publish it on their website. But I heard Mr. Nathan's message, and he explained that one of the reasons he felt he needed to go to LCG was the danger that FCCOG, by not preaching the gospel to the public, would become inwardly focused, as they indeed have become.
So here are ministers in FCCOG who claim to want God to lead them into unity, but they don't believe and obey the Bible in the matter of preaching the gospel to the world, they don't stress the importance of believing the Bible in their sermons when they talk about being led by God's Holy Spirit, and their policy of refusing to preach the gospel as God commands has already led to division in FCCOG even since they split off from Mr. Hulme.
And now they want to lead the Church of God into unity. They teach members to let the Holy Spirit into their minds, but without testing the influence that comes into their mind against the Bible to see if it is from God.
Were the FCCOG ministers powerless to help build unity in the Church of God after they left Mr. Hulme and COGaic? No, they were not powerless. They had the power of choice. They could have led FCCOG to preach the gospel to the world from day one. That itself would have helped to bring unity two ways: God would be able to see that they were willing to obey Him and God could have blessed FCCOG more and helped to bring that unity, and they could have attracted and helped to retain those members and ministers who understood the need for preaching the gospel. So they had power to contribute to unity. But denying that power, they abused it. They used the power of choice to make bad choices which led to further division and helped to divide FCCOG even now from groups and brethren who choose to obey God. Then, after creating further disunity, they claimed they were powerless. But they were not powerless to make bad choices that hurt unity and further divided the Church of God.
And why did they leave COGaic in the first place? Apparently, the only reason many of the current ministers in FCCOG left was some kind of personality conflict or power struggle with David Hulme. Then the members left to follow their local pastors and because many of those members wanted to support the preaching of the gospel to the world. They followed Brian Orchard, Steve Andrews, and Peter Nathan in the hopes that they would form a group that would preach the gospel. But those hopes proved to be in vain.
And now, how is FCCOG different from COGaic? Not in structure of governance. Both are from the top down, with David Hulme leading COGaic and Brian Orchard leading FCCOG. Not in preaching the gospel, for neither group preaches the gospel to the world with any degree of power and effectiveness. Maybe COGaic does in some small way, but FCCOG does it not at all, as far as I can see from their website.
FCCOG ministers and members are not powerless about creating unity, exercising proper governance in the Church, preaching the gospel, or anything else. They have the power of choice and they have the power of action. They always have had that power and they still do today. They are free moral agents, and they use that power of choice for good or bad. They use their power of action to give sermons to the Church of God on the Sabbath. They are equally able to use their power of action to preach the gospel to the world. If they do not use power the right way, it is not because they are powerless.
The speaker said that men cannot "lead" the Church, but only Jesus Christ can lead the Church of God, and men in the Church can only "submit" to one another. This seems to be a play on words of some kind, or a direct contradiction of the Bible, or both. Obviously, men exercise leadership positions in the Church under Christ. Should men "lead" the Church? I will use a stronger word than "lead" - I will use the word "rule". Should men in the Church of God "rule" other men in the Church of God? Or to make it even stronger, should men in the Church "rule over" other men? I would find it hard to imagine how someone can say, "No man should try to lead the Church of God", and yet say, "But it is ok for a man to RULE OVER the Church of God." "Rule over" is a stronger term than "lead", isn't it?
Yet the Bible says, "rule over". "Greet all those who rule over you, and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you" (Hebrews 13:24). "Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct" (Hebrews 13:7). "Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).
God gives ruling and binding authority to men, and we are to obey that authority unless we must disobey that authority in order to obey the greater authority of Christ and God (Matthew 18:15-18).
There is no question that Mr. Brian Orchard leads the Father's Call Church of God (FCCOG). He has a responsibility to lead FCCOG under Christ, following Christ's direction. In the administration of the organized work of that portion of the Church of God known as the Father's Call Church of God, the Father leads Christ, Christ leads Brian Orchard, and Brian Orchard leads the rest of FCCOG, and he should obey Christ as he leads FCCOG. And as I have said many times, Christ communicates to those he leads primarily through the Bible. But Christ only leads anyone to the degree that person or group chooses to submit to Him.
Again, saying that men cannot "rule" or "lead" the Church but only Christ can do that may sound humble, but it is simply not what the Bible teaches, and any speaker who says this may be playing word games. Christ is the head of the Church, and He delegates some, not all, authority to rule or lead different parts of the Church of God to different men at different times.
The ministers of FCCOG certainly exercised leadership, or "rule", over the FCCOG members when they decided not to preach the gospel to the world at this time. Why? Because this is NOT what some members of FCCOG wanted when they followed FCCOG ministers out of COGaic. They wanted the ministry to take the lead in preaching the gospel to the world - that was one of the reasons why they left David Hulme. And the FCCOG ministers "RULED OVER" them, and said, in effect, NO, we are NOT going to preach the gospel at this time.
This was not a matter of "mutual submission". It may be one-way submission, the submission of FCCOG members to the rule of Mr. Orchard and other FCCOG ministers, but Mr. Orchard, Mr. Andrews, and others did NOT submit to those members by preaching the gospel to the world.
These leaders may have felt that Mr. Hulme's leadership style was too harsh or too demanding or too unyielding, and felt that it "wasn't working" to build unity in the Church of God. But while rejecting Mr. Hulme as leader, they embraced one of his mistakes: failure to preach the gospel to the world with zeal. That is more a cause for disunity in the Church of God than a harsh style of leadership, for the refusal to preach the gospel to the world can alienate every Church member willing to believe and obey what God says in the Bible on this matter. They never successfully analyzed WHY what Mr. Hulme was doing was not building unity in the Church. They needed to search the Bible to understand. But if they never believed God regarding the gospel, why would they understand and believe the Bible about anything else?
There was always leadership of certain ministers in FCCOG over the members, though that leadership exercised its rule with different structures. Within FCCOG, the ministry experimented with governance by mutual agreement among the leading ministers, primarily Brian Orchard, Steve Andrews, and Peter Nathan, then just Mr. Orchard and Mr. Andrews. When that didn't work (it was really an experiment after all), the ministry recognized the need for a top-down structure with one leader of FCCOG, and they recognized Mr. Orchard as that leader, just as COGaic ministers and members recognize David Hulme as leader and Worldwide ministers and members while Mr. Armstrong was alive recognized Mr. Armstrong as leader.
And that leadership has decided for the membership, against the wishes of some of the membership, that FCCOG would not use the tithes and offerings of the membership to preach the gospel to the world, in effect using the power of their human authority to force their will upon the membership. Leading the membership away from obedience to the Bible is an abuse of authority, even if the tone of the abuse seems soft and silky, "smooth as butter" as one might say.
The speaker said that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church, and He has the power to reach out to every member of the body through the Holy Spirit and personally handle every member of the body. Yes, He has the power to do that, but He doesn't always do it that way. In some cases, He leads the Church through the ministry. The Bible is clear about that.
First of all, it is clear from the weakened, scattered state of the Church that Christ has NOT controlled every member individually, or else the Church would not be scattered. Our human bodies obey our human brains better than the members of the Church obey Christ. Christ being the head of the body is an analogy with the human body, but as with most of all analogies, it has limitations. Our body parts do not have free moral agency to obey or disobey our brains, but members of the Church of God do have free moral agency, free will, and do not always obey Christ. Moreover, Christ does not lead the Church by the Holy Spirit alone but through the Bible and through the ministry.
How Christ leads depends on the area of activity. In some cases, Christ leads each member directly. In some cases, Christ leads through the ministry. And in family decisions, Christ leads the wife and children through father, for the husband is the head of the wife and children are to obey their parents.
In my book, in section "Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry", in chapter 8 - "GOVERNMENT IN THE CHURCH OF GOD", I give organization charts to show the three ways Christ leads the Church of God. Here is a link:
In matters of personal obedience to the law of God, our personal relationship with the Father, and our personal salvation, Christ leads every man and woman in the Church directly. How does He communicate with us? He communicates with us through the Bible and by using the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Bible. He also teaches us by the Holy Spirit to understand spiritual truths taught by the Bible in their full depth and to understand how to apply lessons of the Bible to our personal circumstances. And this personal, direct leadership of Christ has priority.
But in matters of the family decisions, Christ does not lead the wife and children that way, but he leads them through the husband and father, who is the head of the family. When it comes to where to live, whether the wife should get an outside job, family budgets and spending decisions, child discipline, and the like, Christ leads the husband and the husband leads the family. And Christ communicates to the husband by the Bible, by opening the husband's mind to understand the Bible by the Holy Spirit, and by leading the husband by the Holy Spirit to understand how to apply the lessons of the Bible to jobs, budgets, and child discipline.
In the administrative matters of the Church of God, such as providing money for the poor in the Church, preaching the gospel, giving sermons and Sabbath services, making binding and loosening decisions, resolving disputes between brethren, and deciding what doctrines will be taught so there is no confusion and division, Christ does NOT lead each member individually, but has delegated authority to the ministry. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16). "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues" (1 Corinthians 12:28). "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19).
And in leading the ministry, how does Christ communicate? The same way He communicates with each member regarding that member's salvation and relationship to God and the same way He communicates with husbands regarding the leading of the family: by the Bible, by the Holy Spirit helping ministers to understand the Bible, and by the Holy Spirit helping ministers to apply the lessons of the Bible to the decisions they have to make regarding the organized work of the Church of God.
But if Christ leads the ministry, husbands, and individual members, why are we scattered? Why do some husbands abuse their wives? Why do individual members sin against God, against each other, and against their neighbors in the world? To put it simply, Christ does not force us to obey Him. He lets Satan tempt us, and He allows us to yield to temptation and choose to sin. He also allows us to make mistakes which are not sins but simply shows our human limitations in order to create the circumstances that will test us. But He is still the head of the Church even if we do not always obey Him or obey Him imperfectly.
The speaker said that in the old paradigm, ministers would step into the teaching role and tell the members, in effect, we will teach you what God says, but in the new paradigm, we will let God and Christ teach us. Then later he says, in the new paradigm the ministers will let God teach them and they will remain in the student role and then pass on to the membership what they have learned. And by the same token the ministers will learn from what Christ teaches the members.
A few points need to be made here. The only real difference expressed here, if this is not double-talk, is that members may learn new things from God and the ministry will learn from the members, and the ministry will learn new things from God and not just teach the old things.
But as I have already pointed out, the ministry has already failed to "mutually submit" or "learn" from their own members who have been taught by God, through the Bible, that the gospel needs to be preached to the world, NOW.
Also, the idea that only Christ is a teacher and that the ministers do not have a teaching role is wrong. Christ does say, "And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ" (Matthew 23:10). But you have to get all the scriptures on the subject and understand the context. Christ is talking about religious titles, such as "father", "rabbi", and "teacher". He is not saying that ministers are not to be teachers, for there are other scriptures that plainly indicate that there are to be teachers in the Church of God, human beings who teach. "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food" (Hebrews 5:12). "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment" (James 3:1). I have already quoted Ephesians 4:11-16 and 1 Corinthians 12:28 which show that God has ordained teachers in the Church of God.
And as far as learning new things and passing them on to the membership (teaching the membership), there is nothing really new about this paradigm. Mr. Armstrong practiced it. He was always learning new things from the Bible and passing them on to the membership. I don't know how Mr. Hulme was about learning new knowledge, but even since Mr. Armstrong died there have been ministers willing to learn new things from the Bible and teach their members. And also, Mr. Armstrong, according to his teaching in an article, was willing to learn new things from members.
Perhaps what is new in this speaker's mind is the idea of learning new knowledge direct from the Holy Spirit apart from the Bible. If that is what he has in mind, that is not new either. Ancient teachers of mainstream, traditional churches have tried to practice that, and more recently it seems that Mr. Tkach and others in his administration have tried to practice that in teaching the Worldwide Church of God membership after the death of Mr. Armstrong. But that directly led to the scattering of the Church. I think their problem was that they had no way of knowing if the influence in their mind was of God's Holy Spirit since they seem to have rejected the only authority that could test that influence - the Bible.
If the speaker is describing a truly new paradigm, it is this: the idea that God and Christ will teach new spiritual knowledge directly to the membership, not through the ministry, and NOT by the Bible.
If that is the paradigm shift he is talking about, and if that is the paradigm shift FCCOG will really follow, watch out. This should be interesting. Members of various fellowships have often come up with different ideas, most of them wrong, even when we all agreed that we should go by the Bible. If you throw out the Bible as a guide, you have no common denominator. How can you even discuss new spiritual knowledge and doctrinal change? A member will tell his minister, "the Holy Spirit revealed such and such to me". How can the minister argue with that, except to say, "No it didn't". There are three ways God can teach the membership doctrine and spiritual knowledge: by the Bible, by the ministry, and by the Holy Spirit. But the Bible has to come first because it is God speaking directly, both to the ministry and to the membership, and because the Bible, unlike the ministry, is free from error. The leadership and ministry of the Church study the Bible and learn from it, and the Holy Spirit helps them understand the Bible as they use their power of choice to believe and strive to obey what the Bible says. Then, the ministry teaches the membership, but proving what they teach by the Bible. In effect, the ministry shares with the membership the scriptures they have found that prove a certain doctrine or spiritual truth. Then the members can look up those scriptures in their own Bibles and prove for themselves if what the ministers teach is true or not. And just as with the ministers, the Holy Spirit will help members understand what they read in the Bible to the degree they believe and strive to do what God in the Bible tells them.
That is the old paradigm Mr. Armstrong taught and followed.
What about God teaching members things in the Bible first, using the Holy Spirit to open members' minds to understand new knowledge, and then the members passing on that new knowledge with the scriptures that prove it to the ministry, so the ministry learns from the members? Is that something new, or was it included in the paradigm Mr. Armstrong taught?
It was included in what Mr. Armstrong taught. In an old Worldwide article, "Should You Listen to Others?" (that is an approximate title, I may not remember it word for word), Mr. Armstrong taught the members that if they saw something in the Bible that indicated that Mr. Armstrong and Worldwide were in error on some point of doctrine, they should not hide their eyes from it, because, as Mr. Armstrong put it, if we the ministers are in error we want to know about it. So he taught that a member should write to headquarters with a correction or talk to his pastor, and then the ministry and Mr. Armstrong could examine it with the Bible, and if the member is right, Mr. Armstrong could make the change for the whole Church of God.
Mr. Armstrong expected members to prove what they learn in the Bible, and he expected members to study their Bibles to learn spiritual knowledge. That is why there has always been an emphasis on Bible study in the Church of God and why we have a tradition of ministers in sermons teaching heavily from the Bible. That tradition came from Mr. Armstrong, and Mr. Armstrong taught that approach because that is the approach that he himself followed.
Yet when it comes to doctrinal questions and controversies, the ministry has the authority to set those doctrines that will be officially taught in the Church, not the members.
So if the speaker is talking about a real paradigm shift to something brand new, not seen in the Church of God before, then he may be speaking of a paradigm shift from the authority of the ministry for teaching to the authority of the Holy Spirit for teaching, even at the member level, apart from the Bible. And, yes, that I think would be new, at least new in the Church of God in modern times.
But it would be going from one ditch to the other.
One ditch is to believe the ministry, apart from the Bible. Some COG leaders have taught that approach to the members. The other ditch is to believe the influences that come into our minds, assuming them to be from the Holy Spirit (because we are baptized), but apart from the Bible. That is another ditch. Both are wrong and both are dangerous.
All ministers and members should believe the Bible first, and they should check their own thoughts and impulses with the Bible to see if they are from God, and they should check the teachings of their leaders and ministers with the Bible to see if those teachings are accurate. That is the way to stay out of both ditches.
The new paradigm the speaker seems to be advocating is: let each member submit to spiritual influences in his mind to determine his beliefs without checking with the Bible or the ordained ministry.
The speaker said that Christ can handle any person in the Church through the Holy Spirit. But Christ does not force any person in the Church to submit to Him and to the Holy Spirit. And in fact, according to the Bible, Christ does give authority to ministers in the Church to deal with members who create problems (Matthew 18:15-18, Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 5:1-5).
Is Christ able to deal with persons directly without the action of ministers and those in authority? Of course, for all things are possible for God, and Christ has all authority and power. But God has not chosen to always do it this way, but has ordained that men be given authority in the Church and some problems be handled by men. That is the way God and Christ have set it up. Certain things are done by the ministry, not by God directly.
This arrangement, of giving authority to the ministry in the Church, is not an invention of Herbert W. Armstrong or David Hulme, but was determined by God since the foundation of the Church, and is well described and taught in the Bible.
God teaches us by the Bible and by the Holy Spirit opening our minds to understand the Bible. But that understanding comes only as we believe and strive to obey what God says in the Bible (Psalm 111:10, Acts 5:32, Matthew 4:4). The man or women who reads the Bible, then disbelieves the parts he or she does not agree with, will not be given additional understanding of the Bible and God's truth, but rather, God may take away from that person the truth he or she already has. "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king" (1 Samuel 15:23). "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Hosea 4:6).
The speaker noted that the Bible often says, in Acts, that the Holy Spirit spoke to someone, or said to do this or that. He raises the issue of whether God works that way anymore, implying or stating that we won't let Him because we put God in a box.
But the fact is, yes, God does work differently today, and it is God's choice, not ours. We are not putting God in a box. In the first century, God communicated by direct inspiration of the apostles and prophets and used public miracles to back them up. That is not how God communicated to Mr. Armstrong and it is not how God communicates to the Church today, and that is not because we put God in a box.
Today, God has made His word, the complete Bible, widely available to the Church and to the world. He backs up His word, the Bible, not with public miracles as He backed up Peter and Paul, but with fulfilled prophecy to prove the inspiration of the Bible. This is the proof God offered the public and the Church through the writing and preaching of Herbert W. Armstrong. The process is simple in concept, but requires sacrifice in practice: First, do the work of proving, by fulfilled prophecy, that the Bible is God's word, God speaking. Second, make a commitment to believe and trust and obey the word of our Creator. Third, research the doctrines of the Church in the Bible to prove what is true, then believe and strive to obey the truth. Then study the Bible on a regular basis to live by every word of God. God does His part by giving us the spiritual help we need to escape from Satan's deceptions, and He does that through the Holy Spirit. He also helps us understand the Bible, also by His Holy Spirit, as we let the Bible interpret the Bible, believe what God says, and strive to obey God.
That is how God communicates to us today, and it is different from the way God primarily communicated with the first century Church. The message is the same, but God uses the Bible now, which was never done to the same degree in the first century. In the first century, the printing press had not yet been invented. The Bible was not complete yet when Paul was raising up churches, and most people could not afford even what was written. Books of the Bible were on scrolls and were copied by hand, and the average person did not even have one book of the Bible for personal study. And even if someone had all the books of the Bible that were already written, prophecy had not yet been fulfilled that would prove that God inspired the Bible.
Why does God communicate primarily through the Bible today? God does not say, but there can be several reasons. I may talk about the reasons in a future post. But the fact is, He does. That is how He communicated to Mr. Armstrong, and we are the fruits of that process.
God has given us the Bible, and He has commanded us to live by every word of it (Matthew 4:4).
The speaker anticipated the objection of some who might say, we have to be careful or we might be led astray, and answers, that is not our problem.
But I say it can become our problem if we yield to the thoughts that enter our minds without checking them in the Bible, and in fact, many older members are witnesses of the falling away that occurred in Worldwide. And to a degree, FCCOG is already going astray from God's truth on the point of preaching the gospel to the world. To assume that somehow, deception and falling away, "can't happen to us", is foolish. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). See also Romans 11:19-22, which I already quoted earlier.
I was raised in the world, not the Church, and I know that there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Catholics and Protestants who try to focus on being connected to Christ and the Father directly and try to humble themselves in the right manner, yet are deceived. But they do not believe the God of the Bible. And if we also believe things contrary to the Bible, such as "this is not the time to preach the gospel to the world", we too can be deceived.
The speaker said that we need open our hearts and minds to the Spirit of God, and if that is right, God will support us as He supported and backed up Jesus Christ and the original apostles.
It is true that God backed up and supported Jesus Christ and the first century apostles with miracles and with success. But apart from God's word the Bible, miracles, or "signs and wonders", are no guarantee that we are on the right track and being led by the Holy Spirit. For Satan and his demons can also work signs and wonders, and those who follow Satan can achieve certain "success" in this age, in terms of money and power and influence and organizational growth, because this is Satan's age, the time God has given him to rule and deceive mankind. Satan can give certain individuals or groups power, prestige, influence, money, expansion, and growth, as he pleases, unless God restrains him. "Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, 'All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours' " (Luke 4:5-7).
"If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'—which you have not known—'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (Deuteronomy 13:1-3).
"Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men" (Revelation 13:11-13). "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9). "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24).
Satan can even appear to be helping others. "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Satan's way is a mixture of good and evil, and he can use the appearance of good to deceive. There are many churches that are not really God's churches that appear to do good works such as helping the poor. But that does not mean they are being led by the Holy Spirit.
If you open your mind to spiritual influences, apart from the Bible, will it seem as if God is backing you up? False prophets have performed signs and wonders and will do so in the future. That is not reliable sign. And many men and organizations in this world have achieved outward success and even seem to help people, but that is not a reliable sign either. The only reliable test is faithfulness to God's word, the Bible. If that is missing, nothing else matters.
God can allow Satan to back up and support your wrong works if you are not following the Bible. You will not succeed in the long run, but temporarily you may achieve some success to test both you and others who see your "success" to see who will put God's word before everything.
At one point, the speaker says we need to allow the Holy Spirit to come into us. Three times he says, surrender to God's Holy Spirit. He says we should be fully committed to the Spirit of God. But He doesn't explain how to do this. So what does he intend members to do? Sit back, close their eyes, and submit to whatever thoughts and impulses seek to enter their minds, thinking, I am baptized, so any spirit that enters me must be from God?
Moreover, you won't find that kind of language in the Bible. Search for any statement in the Bible that says we should commit ourselves to the Holy Spirit. Search for any statement in the Bible that says we should surrender to the Holy Spirit. Search for any statement in the Bible that says that we should allow the Holy Spirit to come into us.
I do not find in the Bible the kind of language about the Holy Spirit and the emphasis on the Holy Spirit I find in this sermon.
My conclusion after all this is that there is a real paradigm shift in the Father's Call Church of God, and it is not just a shift away from the paradigm of David Hulme, nor is it only a shift from the perceived harshness of his rule, but a shift away from the paradigm of Herbert W. Armstrong. My conclusion is not just based on this sermon about paradigm shifts, but on many messages from FCCOG since they started.
This shift is apparent in a change of emphasis and expression in this sermon and in other messages.
It is a shift away from the pattern that Mr. Armstrong followed, of letting the Bible be his guide to belief, doctrine, and practices, to letting the thoughts that enter the minds of the FCCOG ministry be their guide to belief, doctrine, and practices, apart from the Bible. This shift may be made in the assumption that, because those whose minds are influenced by these thoughts have been baptized, those thoughts must be from the Holy Spirit. But without the Bible to test those thoughts, there is no guarantee that they are not merely the opinions of men, or worse, the inspiration of Satan and his demons.
This new paradigm is not only different from the paradigm of Herbert W. Armstrong, but it seems to be similar to the paradigm followed by Mr. Tkach and those who helped him lead Worldwide Church of God into the doctrines of mainstream, traditional religion.
And when those who led Worldwide away from the doctrines of the Bible made doctrinal changes, they did not openly renounce the Bible. They used scriptures to try to justify every doctrinal change they made. They had to do this because the culture Mr. Armstrong built into Worldwide of proving everything by the Bible was so strong, they could not make changes without seeming to prove them from the Bible. Some no doubt were sincere and thought they were following the Bible, but in fact they were not accurately following the Bible as the Bible interprets the Bible.
I am not predicting massive doctrinal change in FCCOG any time soon. They have made one policy change from Herbert W. Armstrong, and that is enough. They have turned away from preaching the gospel to the world, and whether they realize it or not, by thus doing they have turned away from the foundation of all of God's law and way of life: love, or as Mr. Armstrong explained it, outgoing concern for others. They are not the only group to make this change - there are many such groups that call themselves "Church of God".
Spiritual Awakening and Governance
The document "Spiritual Awakening and Governance" probably best represents FCCOG's direction and the thinking of FCCOG's leader, Mr. Brian Orchard, at this time. And it probably represents the direction FCCOG will take for a long time. It has been a year and a half since FCCOG started and about five months since the leader of FCCOG, Mr. Orchard, has had full leadership of FCCOG. This is a good time to examine many of the major points in this document. I have covered a number of points addressed by this document already, but I will go through and talk about a few things I have not talked about yet.
Spiritual Awakening starts by stating that with the Church facing further fragmentation, there is a need for God to bring the Church of God together, and FCCOG's ministers state that they are powerless to bring about unity in the Church.
I talked about powerlessness before. We always have the power to make right choices, and there is a danger in saying we are powerless, in that a sense of powerlessness can be an excuse for failure to act and failure to obey.
The division in the Church exists because God has been bringing on us the fruits of our own ways. What we sow, we reap. We have reaped division and fragmentation because that is what we have sown. We need to stop sowing division. How? By returning to the God of the Bible and believing what God says in the Bible. That is what Mr. Armstrong did and God blessed him. That is what we must do if we want God's blessing. And a test of our obedience to the Bible is our willingness to sacrifice to preach the gospel to a world that needs it. We are not powerless because we have the power of choice.
The FCCOG ministers, in Spiritual Awakening, admit that they have participated in scattering the flock and they express repentance. This is good, if it is genuine, and each minister knows his own heart and to what extent this represents his true intentions. But the real test is, what exactly do they think they did wrong and what do they want to do differently. Again, each minister knows what he has in mind.
The problem here, or potential problem, is the possibility that the things they want to repent of and turn from may be good things that should continue and the things they want to continue may be the things they need to repent of. Without some specifics, a reader cannot tell. They acknowledge the need to change past practices and to learn from God. But what past practices? And how will they try to learn from God?
This is particularly significant in light of the context of the group they came out of and FCCOG's history for the last year and a half. One of the past practices in COGaic is the lack of a zealous and powerful effort to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. Is that a past practice that FCCOG ministers felt they needed to change? Is that a reason they came out of COGaic? Peter Nathan and others went to LCG, which preaches the gospel, but with the ministers who remained in FCCOG, lack of preaching the gospel was apparently not something they wanted to change. And while they acknowledge the need to learn from God, their history seems to show they are not trying to learn from God by the Bible, as Mr. Armstrong did. Instead, they are trying to learn from God by the Holy Spirit, but without checking what they think they are learning in the Bible to see if it is really from God and letting the Bible interpret the Bible.
They accept blame (they use that word, "blame") for their existing problems, and state their responsibility for fixing the problems they have created.
It is a good principle that those who have created a problem should be willing to pay the price for fixing the problem. But also, those who have created a problem may not know how to fix it. They may not be qualified to fix it if they are the ones who created the problem in the first place.
What I have in mind when I think of the "problems" that exist in both COGaic and FCCOG, and many other Church of God groups at this time, is failure to preach the gospel to the world. But as is evident in this document, what the FCCOG ministers had in mind was the problem of division and disunity in the Church of God as a whole, or as they expressed it, fragmentation in the body of Christ. They may have felt the need to say something about this since they have left COGaic and could be accused of creating division.
And yet, even in the matter of disunity in the Church of God, FCCOG ministers, who admit they have contributed to creating the problem, do not know how to fix it even while they say they must be the ones to fix it. For their actions since leaving COGaic show that they CONTINUE to contribute to the division of the Church of God.
I'll bet if you took a survey of all Church of God members in all groups and fellowships large and small, you would find that a majority are in favor of preaching the gospel to the world and a significant portion are very "on fire" for that. Why? Two reasons. One, just like teaching from the Bible, preaching the gospel is an important tradition in the Church of God since Mr. Armstrong started Radio Church of God late 1933 / early 1934. It is part of our culture. Two, God in the Bible commands that we preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.
Many members of the Church have a serious conscience problem with not preaching the gospel. And well they should. They do not want to have fellowship with or support Church of God groups that do not preach the gospel, and if they are in such a group, they are unhappy about it. The failure of many COG groups to preach the gospel divides them from members who desire to obey God by supporting the gospel.
So right here, FCCOG continues to divide the Church of God by their unwillingness to preach the gospel. Yet they express their view that they must be the ones to fix the problem of disunity because they have helped to create it. So while they say, "we created the problem so we must fix it", they continue to create and magnify the problem, NOT fix it.
Why? Because, being the ones who helped create the problem, they don't know HOW to fix it. Why should they? If they knew how to fix the problem, they never would have created the problem in the first place.
There must be a learning process. They must learn what the cause of the problem is and how to fix it before they are qualified to fix it.
And in Spiritual Awakening, FCCOG ministers seem to acknowledge their need to learn from God. The problem is, they are not learning according to the pattern God has ordained and according to the paradigm followed by Herbert W. Armstrong from which we trace our roots. Mr. Armstrong learned by letting the Bible interpret the Bible, not by trying to open his mind to the Holy Spirit apart from the Bible. He set the example. The fruits of what God accomplished through him show it was a good example (Luke 6:43-33). "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit" (Matthew 12:33). The body of doctrine we have today is the direct fruit of Mr. Armstrong learning by letting the Bible interpret the Bible and believing what the Bible says.
For if they learned from God by letting the Bible interpret the Bible, they would have learned that, to contribute to fixing the problem of fragmentation and disunity, they needed to preach the gospel to the world from day one, just as they provided Sabbath services from day one.
But the majority of FCCOG leading ministers did not do that. Peter Nathan and others had to leave and join LCG to support the preaching of the gospel. Those who remained in FCCOG never understood the need to preach the gospel because they were not learning from God by the process God has set in place: letting the Bible interpret the Bible and believing what the Bible says.
And what excuse do they have? For they have the example of Mr. Armstrong. He practiced that process for learning from God, and it bore the good fruit of the body of true doctrine we have today, including the holy days and the plan of God revealed through the holy days, doctrines which FCCOG and its members enjoy benefit from to this time.
I have no doubt that the "problems" FCCOG ministers had in mind when they created the Spiritual Awakening document were problems of harshness of authoritarian governance. And they want to fix that problem by governing the Church of God in a more gentle, humble way. They must have felt that Mr. Hulme was harsh and unfair and oppressive towards them, and they want to get away from that harsh rule and lead the brethren, and each other, in a kinder, more understanding way.
But to assume that this is the major cause of division in the Church of God, I think is short sighted. The main cause of division, the root cause, is failure to let the Bible interpret the Bible, to believe the Bible, and to strive to obey the word of God. We all need to do that in everything, and that includes right governance, but also includes preaching the gospel.
In Spiritual Awakening, FCCOG ministers invite readers to join with them in repentance in faith that God will restore unity. If FCCOG ministers have governed oppressively before when they were in COGaic, they may have indeed repented of that and are now more gentle towards each other and towards the brethren. That is good. But they also need to repent of an inward, group-think focus and begin to have love and outgoing concern for the people of this world who need a warning and the true gospel. Until then, their repentance is incomplete. And their repentance must be guided by God's word, the Bible, as the Bible interprets the Bible, not just some apparent spiritual influence in their minds that they assume is from the Holy Spirit because they are baptized.
The whole focus of this document is on governance. That is natural, since governance is a reason for FCCOG's separation from COGaic. But there are issues just as big, maybe bigger, and outgoing concern for our neighbors, love, which is the basis for all of God's law and way of life (Matthew 22:36-40) is one of those issues. It is unwillingness to love, manifest by unwillingness to preach the gospel to a world that needs it, that is just as big an issue as governance, and it seems that FCCOG has to this time not yet repented of their fault in that area.
For this may be the defining characteristic of the Father's Call Church of God: They do not love their neighbors as themselves.
Spiritual Awakening states that FCCOG ministers want to begin to understand true governance. But it doesn't state how they want to begin to understand. Understanding must come by the word of God, the Bible, and it may be a problem that there is no commitment by FCCOG ministers to base their understanding on the Bible. This is true regarding governance or anything else FCCOG ministers want to understand. Moreover, understanding comes by obeying God's word. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever" (Psalm 111:10). Preaching the gospel and warning the world are commands from God. Without obedience to those commands, how can FCCOG ministers gain understanding of governance or anything else?
They want to seek reconciliation with the scattered flock. But how can they do that when their unwillingness to preach the gospel alienates them from any member who believes and seeks to obey God's word which commands them to support the preaching of the gospel?
How can those who disobey God be reconciled with those who obey God, unless those who disobey first repent of their disobedience?
And repentance does not have to take a long time. On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 repented at the preaching of Peter and were baptized that very day (Acts 2:38-41). It took Jonah three days or less (inside the fish) to repent of his unwillingness to warn Nineveh. It doesn't half to take more than a day for anyone in FCCOG to believe the Bible regarding the gospel and repent and determine to support the preaching of the gospel from this day on.
The commission of the Church of God is two-fold: to preach the gospel to the world and to feed the flock. Mr. Armstrong understood the two-fold nature of that commission, and he never sacrificed the preaching of the gospel for the sake of feeding the flock. The whole focus of Spiritual Awakening is on feeding the flock, not preaching the gospel. That won't work. The emphasis in the Bible is on both. If it were not for the emphasis Mr. Armstrong placed on preaching the gospel, Mr. Orchard would not know the truth that he knows. He wouldn't be able to feed the flock if Mr. Armstrong didn't preach the gospel, because he would not be able to know the truth his parents learned from Mr. Armstrong and he likely would not even be a minister.
You can't properly feed and nurture the flock without preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning, because you bring blood guilt upon them if you do not give them the opportunity to support the Ezekiel warning to Israel. "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand" (Ezekiel 3:17-18). "Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, 'Surely we did not know this,' does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?" (Proverbs 24:11-12).
Mr. Orchard and other FCCOG ministers should perhaps ask themselves if they are bringing blood guilt upon the members of the Father's Call Church of God.
One of the responsibilities of a shepherd outlined in Spiritual Awakening is to meet the needs of the sheep. One of the needs of the members of the Church of God is an opportunity to obey God by supporting the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. Does FCCOG meet that need of the sheep? If they do not, then they are not following their own Spiritual Awakening document. Not only do they not meet that need of their own members, but they advertise to the whole scattered Church of God that they will not meet that need of any other members who might otherwise want to join with FCCOG.
FCCOG ministers want to build a family tradition of togetherness, to seek out and gather those who are scattered and to avoid driving their own members away. But by refusing to preach the gospel, they repel those who are scattered who want to obey God and they may be driving some of their own members away. They have already driven away Peter Nathan, who gave as one of his reasons for leaving FCCOG that their lack of preaching the gospel causes an inward focus, and he went to LCG which preaches the gospel. How many other members of FCCOG have they driven away since Spiritual Awakening was published?
Spiritual Awakening stresses reconciliation. But that document seems to view reconciliation as the world views it. It is the worldly concept of reconciliation and peace within a family that is taught here, not the biblical view of reconciliation. Mending personal relationships, being peacemakers, reaching out to people, gathering, family togetherness, knowing who is ill and suffering, practicing humility, etc. - Catholics and Protestants would agree with all these things, and many do a good job of practicing these things. And they are good things, but in the Church of God, it is not enough. We must live by every word of God, even when we at first do not agree with God's word. We must obey first and understand later, if necessary. That is what the world is unwilling to do but we in the Church of God must do. It is what makes us different from the world.
In one part of Spiritual Awakening, they say they must devote themselves to reconciliation so they can feed the flock and preach the gospel. But reconciliation is not a prerequisite for feeding the flock and preaching the gospel, as if it is something separate and must be done first. "First eat your meal of reconciliation, then you can have your desert of feeding the flock and preaching the gospel." No. Feeding the flock and preaching the gospel ARE PART OF reconciliation. You cannot reconcile first, then feed the flock and preach the gospel later. Feeding the flock and preaching the gospel are the way you reconcile.
What is feeding the flock? A major part of it is providing Sabbath services, giving sermons, and giving Bible studies. Has FCCOG been doing that? Yes, not only for their own members but for the whole scattered Church of God, whoever wants to listen on the Internet or by phone. But what about the second part, preaching the gospel? Nada. Zilch. Nothing. They feed the flock some kind of diet but they do not preach the gospel, unless they are doing it secretly or unless I have missed it somehow. As far as I know, FCCOG does not preach the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to the world.
Now, if they do not preach the gospel, why do they feed the flock? Think about it.
I made this point before in past posts. If they feel that they must reconcile with God to a greater degree before they are qualified and ready to preach the gospel to the world, why do they think they are qualified and ready to give sermons to the membership? If lack of reconciliation with God disqualifies the FCCOG ministry from preaching to the world, why do they think they can preach to the flock? They have been feeding the flock from day one but not preaching the gospel. If they think reconciliation must happen first, and it hasn't happened yet, why are they feeding the flock? Why are they giving sermons? But if sermons can be given before reconciliation with God is complete, why can't the gospel be preached to the world at the same time that sermons are given to the Church?
When you think about it, preaching to the world is easier than preaching to the Church. Why? The world needs to be taught the very basics: does God exist, the ten commandments, the coming return of Christ to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth, the coming punishment of mankind for its sins in the great tribulation and Day of the Lord, etc. Everyone in the Church of God already knows these things. They are easy to teach and easy to prove in the Bible. But the Church must be taught more advanced knowledge. That is harder. Anyone who is trying to obey God becomes qualified to preach to the world before they become qualified to teach the Church. It is like the difference between teaching high school or grammar school classes and teaching college and post-graduate classes. Teaching the world is like teaching grade school. Teaching the Church is like teaching college. If you cannot teach grade school, how can you teach college?
A Case Study
God uses case examples to teach us lessons. He teaches us lessons from our own examples of right and wrong choices. When we make a right choice, God shows us the fruits of that choice, but when we make a wrong choice, He shows us the fruits of that also. That is why there are blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. That is one way God teaches us.
God teaches us these lessons not only from the examples of our own good and bad choices but from the examples of others. He lets us see how others suffer as a result of their own bad choices and how others are blessed because of their good choices. And sometimes these lessons can be like "case studies" to teach us lessons, even from the examples of whole groups.
One of the biggest examples I can think of is the example of the whole human race for six thousand years. God's seven thousand year plan of salvation for mankind is designed to make a case study of comparison between Satan's way of life and God's way of life. For six thousand years man has been living Satan's way of life, and the result has been destruction, suffering, and death. Then, Christ will rule the earth for one thousand years and teach mankind God's way of life, and that way of life will produce abundant peace, justice, and happiness. Then the whole human race, those living in the millennium and those who come up in the white throne judgment, can compare the results of each way of life and see that God's way is better.
But even now, in this life, even in the Church of God, God allows us to see the good or bad results of choices made by whole Church of God groups. We can see bad fruits from bad choices and good fruits from good choices, in Church of God organizations and fellowships. And God lets us see those results to learn lessons. Thus, the individual histories of various Church of God organizations become "case studies" of the fruits of our choices.
United Church of God (UCG) has been a case study. When they formed they chose a system of voting to elect their leaders. They must have thought they could preserve unity that way, for they named their group "UNITED Church of God". But democracy does not lead to unity. They split down the middle as about half their Church left the corporation to form Church of God a Worldwide Association (COGWA). The cause? Apparently, one of the main causes was politics and a power struggle, for there was no big doctrinal issue that caused the split at that time. UCG has become a case study to show how democracy, a structure of governance from the bottom up, does not help maintain unity but can contribute to division. It wasn't just the fact that UCG split that illustrates the lesson. Any group can split including those with governance from the top down. It was the way UCG split. Voting and politics seemed to play a direct role in the division, for it was discussion between ministers of the best way to vote, and the consequent discipline of one or more of those ministers by those in power for their discussion about voting, that started the whole mess.
So UCG has become a case study for those who have eyes to look. It shows the fruits of democracy in the Church of God, in detail.
Likewise, the Father's Call Church of God (formerly Church of God a Family Community - COGFC) may become a case study of a group that turns from preaching the gospel to the world as God commands in the Bible, and turns instead to a self-centered focus on themselves, and then opens their minds to influences without diligently testing those influences with the Word of God. Time will tell if those two choices lead them into deception.
It may take time. It took years for UCG voting to show the results of division. And it may take years for the choices made by FCCOG (the Father's Call Church of God) to show results.
But however long it takes, those ministers and members may become a case study that shows the fruits of turning from the paradigm Mr. Armstrong followed, of following the Bible first and preaching the gospel to the world, to a new paradigm, one that focuses inwardly and trusts the thoughts that come into their minds without testing against the Bible, and assuming those thoughts are from the Holy Spirit.
FCCOG seems to be practicing and teaching a way of learning from God of opening their minds to the influence, they think, of the Holy Spirit, but without proving what they learn in the Bible. I do not see as much an emphasis on Bible study and proof of doctrines in the Bible as I see an emphasis on the Holy Spirit, especially in the sermon I heard on Pentecost on paradigm shifts.
But God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him, that is, obey His word, the Bible. "And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32).
But if FCCOG is not obeying God in the matter or preaching the gospel, why would He give them more of His Holy Spirit? In fact, what evidence is there that FCCOG ministers and members even have the Holy Spirit at all? "Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:20). The Day of Pentecost, which we just observed, shows the direction the Holy Spirit leads. God's Spirit led Peter and the others to preach the gospel to the world (Acts 2:1-41). Preaching the gospel to the Jews of all nations was the very first thing the apostles did after receiving the Holy Spirit.
I cannot judge the conversion of the members and ministers in FCCOG. Only God can do that. I am not saying they do not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. I would hope that most of the ministers and members in FCCOG are converted. But to the degree that the Bible shows that the Holy Spirit leads us to bear good fruits, including the good fruit of preaching the gospel to the world as God commands and as the Holy Spirit led the apostles to do immediately on the day of Pentecost, does not the absence of a strong effort to preach the gospel suggest that the influence of God's Holy Spirit has been very weak in FCCOG so far?
If FCCOG refuses to do what God commands and what the Holy Spirit led the Church of God to do on Pentecost, what does that say about the influence of the Holy Spirit in FCCOG?
That is something I think ministers and members in FCCOG should think about very seriously.
When FCCOG ministers and members came out of COGaic, many members expected them to preach the gospel to the world. That is a reason some members came out of COGaic. They saw that COGaic was not powerfully preaching the gospel, and they hoped for a change. They wanted to preach the gospel powerfully. But FCCOG has not done so. As time has progressed, FCCOG has become more and more like COGaic. They have governance from the top down, just like COGaic, and they do not preach the gospel powerfully to the world, just like COGaic.
It looks like FCCOG has become more and more like COGaic from which they came. They are following in Mr. Hulmes' footsteps. They have top-down governance now, like COGaic, with one man at the top of the organization. In COGaic, that man is David Hulme. In FCCOG, it is Brian Orchard. But it is the same structure. And just as COGaic does not preach the gospel with power and zeal, FCCOG does not preach the gospel with power and zeal. Like mother, like daughter.
Was it just a personality conflict with David Hulme that motivated the split after all?
A Perfect Storm
There was a movie a while back called, "The Perfect Storm". The title referred to the weather conditions preceding the storm. Weather forecasters saw the signs in the data for wind, humidity, temperature, etc. that indicated that a storm was coming. The combination of conditions was "perfect" for making the strongest possible storm, hence the phrase, "the perfect storm".
There may be a perfect storm brewing for the Father's Call Church of God.
This world needs the Ezekiel warning and the true gospel. God commands through the Bible that we preach both, with power and zeal and effectiveness. Mr. Armstrong obeyed God, and he preached the gospel and the Ezekiel warning, and he did it with zeal and power, not just in a token way. And FCCOG ministers and members have benefited from it. They have an obligation to God and to their neighbors to preach to others so they also can benefit, on the principle of, freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8). They need to give to others as others have given to them. And they need to go all out to do it with power, with zeal, and with effectiveness.
But they do not. Rather, they focus inwardly on their own little group, leaving most the people in the world, some of whom may be called by God, to fend for themselves. In doing this, they have rejected, by their actions and choices, the foundation for all the law and the prophets: love.
Then, they developed a focus on being led by the Holy Spirit, but without testing in the Bible if the spiritual influences on their minds are really according to God's word. They do not prove their choices by letting the Bible interpret the Bible and believing what the Bible says. They do not do this in the matter of the preaching the gospel to the world, for if they did, they would see that the Bible teaches against their choice to postpone preaching the gospel until they achieve some kind of reconciliation with God and each other.
What a dangerous combination! First, show God you are not worthy of the truth by denying the way of life that gave you that truth, then open your mind to any spiritual influence that seeks to enter your mind, but without checking that influence with God's word to see if it is from God. Show God, by departing from the way of life that brought the truth to you and your parents, that you cannot be trusted with the truth, to share it with others as He intended, and then assume whatever thoughts come into your mind are from the Holy Spirit without testing those thoughts with the Bible. Assume, because you are baptized, that God is leading your thoughts by the Holy Spirit, then believe and obey those thoughts that enter your mind, even though they may contradict the Bible.
Is that not a recipe for a perfect storm of deception? Is that not opening the door for Satan to deceive you?
Others who have been baptized have been deceived and have fallen away. What makes FCCOG ministers and members think they are immune?
Here is a link to the Father's Call website:
Here are links to posts in this blog that are related to the subject of this post. Note: In a number of posts I have links to FCCOG webpages, but they may no longer work without a revision. When I try to access www.thefatherscall.org, I can't get it. But when I remove the "www" and just enter "thefatherscall.org" I can get through. So if that is a problem for your browser, remove the "www" from the web address and type it in your browser.
"Peter Nathan and Other Ministers Leaving Church of God, an International Community?", dated December 28, 2013, link:
"New Website of Ministers Leaving COGaic ", dated January 4, 2014, link:
" 'Beam in the Eye', and Preaching the Gospel to the World", dated January 14, 2014, link:
"Decision Time for Ex-COGaic Ministers and Brethren - Where Will they Stand?", dated January 17, 2014, link:
"Will the Nine "Mutually Submit" to Some among the Fifty?", dated January 22, 2014, link:
"Peter Nathan Is Going with Living Church of God", dated February 15, 2014, link:
"What Good Does It Do to Preach the Gospel If We Do Not Live It?", dated February 22, 2014, link:
"Heart-to-heart to Mr. Brian Orchard and Ministers of COGFC", dated February 24, 2014, link:
"What Is the Church of God's Greatest Sin?", dated February 27, 2014, link:
"Update on Church of God, a Family Community Open House", dated March 3, 2014, link:
"COGFC's Governance Structure and Model", dated March 6, 2014, link:
"LCG Announcement of Hiring former-COGFC Ministers - Wrap-up with COGFC", dated March 18, 2014, link:
"Pentecost Is a Memorial of Preaching the Gospel", dated June 12, 2014, link:
"How Do You Know God Leads Your Understanding of the Bible?", dated January 4, 2015, link:
"COGFC Direction", dated January 13, 2015, link:
"New Development in COGFC Governance Structure", dated February 5, 2015, link:
"Two Approaches to Understanding the Bible", dated March 10, 2015, link:
"What Is Wrong with Preaching the Gospel Only by Example?", dated May 3, 2015, link:
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
CHAPTER 3 - THE EZEKIEL WARNING
CHAPTER 4 - WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL? - A LESSON FROM THE HOLOCAUST
CHAPTER 5 - SHOULD THE CHURCH FEED THE FLOCK ONLY?
Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry, Chapter 8 (CONTAINS ORGANIZATION CHARTS)