Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The World and the Church in the Year Ahead

What's ahead in the world?

The last year and a half have been very eventful in the Church of God. Perhaps the next year will be quiet for the Church. Perhaps the big news in the next 12-14 months will be events in the world. I hope not. That is, I hope there will not be big news in the world. If there is, it is not likely to be positive. But I hope we have quietness and peace in the Church of God for a while. More events must yet happen, but I think we need a break.

There is an election coming in the United States. 2012 will be full of campaigning. That is known. But there are dangers on the horizon.

It really does look like Iran is close to making an atomic bomb. And it really does look like some kind of war with Iran may be close. If such a war comes, oil from the Persian Gulf could be disrupted and diminished, and gasoline prices would jump. That could further hurt a fragile world economy.

How fragile? Will a war crisis break the world economy? We may find out.

The Iran situation has developed slowly for a very long time. A war should be a surprise to no one. It has been much anticipated. What is unknown are the consequences. World history is full of examples of wars that were expected to be short, but turned out to be long. Men do not know ahead of time what war can bring. The whole world is like a trap ready to spring.

I saw some figures recently on the national budget deficit and debt. They were shocking. As much as I knew we have been spending ourselves into ruin, it was still shocking to me. It hit me in the gut. Why haven't we collapsed yet, I asked myself. How can we go on like this, even for another year or two? It truly is "scary" as they say. God's protection and mercy is the only hope of a Christian.

There are a number of interesting posts in Robert Thiel's COGwriter blog. Bob Thiel has posted numerous times about the Iran situation and our national debt. Here is a link to his blog:

The troubles the United States is in as a nation are troubles of our own making. We got ourselves into this mess through our own foolish decisions. Maybe half the country, or less, sees the seriousness of our condition, and the other half is blind to it. But almost no one outside the Church of God understands the true spiritual angle. About half the country sees that we are spending ourselves into oblivion. They see the solution as political. Elect leaders who will be conservative. Cut spending. Reduce the deficit. But they do not see their own sins.

The nation just finished celebrating a winter holiday that is said to represent the birth of Christ, but in actuality represents rebellion against God. Atheists and materialists often observe Christmas in a secular way, while many church-goers keep it for its religious meaning, but neither group seems to know how wrong it is.

About three years ago, the majority of American voters elected a president and Congress that is very "liberal", using the political label. That label represents a collection of views and policies that often come as a package. It includes massive government spending, and that spending is now ruining us. It is setting us up for a fall. The country is in a dilemma. Americans are addicted to a level of government spending far beyond what the government collects in taxes, yet the government cannot raise taxes without hurting the economy that generates those taxes. But members of Congress would be committing political suicide to cut spending as much as it needs to be cut. Every special interest group would say, "not us!" Not enough Americans grasp the need for sacrifice, for personal suffering now to avoid greater suffering later. Or, they see the need for others to sacrifice, but not "me", not "now".

So we drift (or race) into ruin.

Probably, at some point, there will be a severe worldwide economic crisis or collapse, then a recovery. The American economy would suffer the most during the collapse and come back the least during the recovery. When the smoke clears, the United States would be much diminished as a nation. Europe would lead the recovery and become strong.

There is one thing about all this that conservative Americans may see, but the liberals do not. When all our deficit spending catches up with us and we have to pay the price, the price will be have to be paid not just because our nation has elected politicians who massively spend us into debt, but because we have elected politicians who believe in abortion and other obvious immorality. It is the same group of people. In that sense, our own sins will punish us. By voting into office people who stand for allowing women to have abortions for any reason, for allowing men to have civil unions with men and women with women and call it "marriage", for promoting a godless agenda in the educational system, we have also elected into office people who spend government money at such a rate that we bankrupt ourselves. It is the same group of people.

Yet conservatives are not without sin.

While God may allow the liberals to be the instrument of our punishment, the whole nation, liberals and conservatives alike, is guilty.

The whole nation is guilty before God, but the religious segment of our society doesn't see their half of the guilt. I mentioned Christmas. The religious part of our nation thinks it is pleasing God by observing Christmas. I think Christ hates Christmas with a passion because it represents open disobedience towards God and a disrespect and disbelief towards God's word. But few people see that.

We in the Church see it. We know it is wrong because more than seventy years ago Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong started a work to preach the truth he learned from the Bible to the public, and most of us know what we know because he and others sacrificed to "preach the gospel to the world".

We now have the obligation to make the same kind of sacrifice to share that same knowledge with others in the United States who have not heard it before. We have to sacrifice just as Mr. Armstrong and Church of God members sacrificed in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s to get the truth out. If we do not, we become hypocrites if we claim to live by every word of God. The need is more urgent than ever.

That is why I am concerned when a Church of God fellowship so organizes and structures itself that it does not have the money it needs to do more than a very small work of preaching to the public. That can happen because it is overloaded with paid ministers who cannot be laid off because the leadership is committed to protecting their salaries in return for their votes.

Well, perhaps that problem could be solved. Many problems contain seeds of opportunity within them. The opportunity is that such a fellowship, having an abundance of professional ministers on salary, has the manpower to produce much published content in a short amount of time. Articles, booklets, and books can be produced. Then if, IF God chooses to empower that group to do a strong work of warning the United States and other nations, IF the leadership of that fellowship is willing to make hard decisions, then ministerial payroll can be cut, pastors' congregational responsibilities can be consolidated, and money can be freed up to publish and broadcast that content to a wide audience.

I think Church of God a Worldwide Association (COGWA) is on the right track to ask ministers and members to contribute content for preaching the gospel (Link to their announcement: The leadership of that Church is wise to suggest collaboration between pastors who can provide strong content and others who have writing skills to shape and polish that content. They are starting an Internet work because that can be cheap, and right now that is the only way they can start.

If this opportunity is handled wisely, the coming year or two could be a golden era for COGWA in the production of content that can be published or broadcast.

My suggestion is that they use this opportunity to not just write short articles, but to follow that up with longer booklets and books and to write scripts for a TV or radio broadcast, even if the money is not yet available to publish printed literature or to record and broadcast radio or TV programs. Use the window of opportunity for writing while it is open - the money for using it may come later.

Consider also the copyright issue. There has arisen, within all the division within the Church of God, a tradition that is not good. Literature is written by ministers employed by a Church of God organization. That literature is copyrighted by the organization. Then, there is a split, many ministers and members leave that organization to start a new one, but they cannot use their own writings! The organization that has copyrighted them owns the rights and won't give "the other guys" permission to use them.

Yet these books, booklets, and articles really belong to God. They are produced with GOD'S tithe, and that tithe belongs to God. If you pray for God's help and inspiration in the writing and editing of this material, and Christ inspires your writing, He does it for the benefit of those who will read or hear the material, nor your benefit. The material belongs to Christ. It is not just for the benefit of an organization.

So why should its use be restricted?

Why should one Church of God organization use copyright protection to restrain another Church of God organization from using its material to publish the truth of God's word to a world that needs it?

So my suggestion is, consider putting some or all of this new material in the public domain, or consider a policy of allowing other Church of God organizations to use it to preach to the gospel to the world. Or, if you don't do that, consider how you would answer someone who says, "If this material is for the benefit of God's work and is intended to help people, why would you restrain others from getting it out to people so it can do them good?" Or consider how you would answer, "If God is financing and inspiring the writing of this content, doesn't it belong to Christ, and if so, should one Church of God organization prohibit another Church of God organization from publishing it to the world, which is what Christ wants anyway?"

It is a shame to the whole Church of God that we are so divided we cannot share copyrights for the good of new prospective members God is calling who need to know about the truth of God and for the good of the nations that need to be warned about the tribulation to come if they don't repent. And while many leaders in the organized ministry claim to serve Christ, their copyright policy is a witness that they are serving themselves.

The recent split between UCG and COGWA puts a spotlight on this whole issue. If UCG simply gave COGWA permission to use the body of literature copyrighted by UCG, but produced and paid for by many members and ministers now in COGWA, what would be wrong with that? What is the purpose of this material? Is it to help people outside the Church who have not been involved in our Church divisions and infighting? And who does this material belong to? Does it belong to Christ?

Look at Paul's attitude: "Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice" (Philippians 1:15-18). Did you get that? Paul REJOICED when others, even out of a spirit of envy and strife trying to hurt Paul, preached the gospel! Why? Because Paul was serving Christ, not himself. With that kind of love for the gospel, do you think Paul would have denied these people the right to publish his own letters if there were copyright laws in those days? I doubt it.

Come to think of it, COGWA might not really want that permission from UCG. Why? What would COGWA do with it? They do not have the money to publish. Right now, they have an excuse for not spending money on TV, radio, and printed literature and a magazine. "We have to produce content, and that takes time." But what would happen to that excuse if UCG handed them a whole body of literature on a silver platter? They cannot say the content is not sound, because the ministers and members of COGWA helped to produce it when they were in UCG just a short time ago.

I think COGWA would be on the spot. UCG would seem to capture the high ground morally and ethically because they would seem to be showing love towards others by sharing the right to produce the literature. The permission could contain the requirement that the literature would not be edited without the permission of the copyright owner (UCG), except the contact info (Church name and address) would be changed to the publisher who pays the expense of printing and mailing it (COGWA). Authors' names, when included in the literature as published by UCG, could not be removed. But in giving permission, UCG could force COGWA to explain why they are not publishing it.

Actually, LCG could make the same offer to COGWA. The doctrines are mostly the same, except for governance, and Church literature for the public rarely speaks about the governance issue. No major Church of God organization has ever done this. Any Church of God leader with literature compatible with COGWA beliefs could offer COGWA permission, and if he did he might shake things up a bit. What would COGWA say? "We can't publish it because we don't have the money?" Why don't they have the money? "We have too many paid ministers in proportion to our members?" Why do they have too many paid ministers?

I started this post about conditions in the world and prospects for the year ahead, and look where that led. Train of thought. One thought leads to another. Start with the national debt and end with copyright sharing in the Church.

Yet everything ties together. There is a direct connection between events in the Church and events in the world. It is all the same issue. A warning message and the true gospel have to go out as a witness to the American people and people of other nations, especially in Israel. Everyone in the United States should hear a warning so they know that the disaster that is coming is not just because some liberals have been elected but the WHOLE nation, conservatives also, are sinning against God. But the divisions in the Church make it more difficult to get that warning out. Governance is also a part of that same issue, because a governance that makes it hard for a leadership to make tough budget decisions, decisions unpopular with a voting ministry, also makes it harder to find the money to preach a warning message.

The Church of God needs to warn the American people that they are doing wrong and will face the tribulation if they do not repent. They need that warning so they will know God was fair to warn them while they had time to repent, and they need to accept responsibility for ignoring the warning. The more the Church of God follows God's Word, the Bible, in everything including governance, the more effective we can be in getting that warning out.

And if we fail to get the warning out because of our own disbelieve or disobedience, then the blood of the nation is on our own head (Ezekiel 33:1-6).

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Responsibility of a Watchman, Chapter 3

The Ezekiel Warning, Chapter 3

The Effect of the Holocaust, Chapter 4

My Comments and Conclusion, Chapter 4

The Two Witnesses and God's Fairness, Chapter 4

The Church, Chapter 4

Why the Gospel Must Still Be Preached to the World, Chapter 4

Church Government, Chapter 7


Monday, December 19, 2011

A Key to Faith

There is a need for more faith in the Church of God.

Many old-timers remember the atmosphere of faith that existed in the Church under Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's leadership in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s, and even those of us who were not in the Church at that time are aware of the accounts of healings that took place. It seems there were many more healings in the Church at that time than now.

Mr. Armstrong had faith in God. He believed what God says in the Bible. He demonstrated that trust and belief in God's Word by giving up his own Sunday traditions and accepting correction in doctrine from the Bible. That attitude of willingness to believe the Bible more than anything else, more than his opinions, more than his traditions, and more than the teachings of any minister, was the foundation of Mr. Armstrong's faith. That is the way of life and of thinking that Mr. Armstrong practiced and it is the way of life and thinking he taught when he said, "Don't believe me, believe your Bible.

Mr. Armstrong always had a willingness to learn new knowledge from the Bible and to be corrected by the Bible, and it was because of that willingness that God was able to use him to restore lost doctrine.

I believe there is a direct connection between Mr. Armstrong's faith and trust in God's word, his willingness to change doctrine when necessary, and the healings that took place in those years.

Mr. Armstrong was willing to go, doctrinally, wherever Christ through the Bible would lead him (Revelation 14:4). He was more concerned with being faithful to teach the Bible accurately than he was about the reactions of human beings to the doctrines he taught. He was more concerned about what God thought than what man thought. He was not a people-pleaser. He was not trying to teach what the Church wanted to hear in order to build up and retain the largest possible number of members.

Since the death of Mr. Armstrong, some in the Church of God say with great emphasis that Mr. Armstrong was the Elijah to come (Malachi 4:5-6, Matthew 17:11), and they try to use that to say that Mr. Armstrong's doctrines can never be changed or added to, but in saying this they seek to overturn the most important doctrine Mr. Armstrong ever taught, that we must be willing to grow in knowledge and be corrected by the Bible. Some may think that our body of knowledge as a Church is complete and free of error, and that no doctrinal change is ever needed, but they forget that the Bible teaches that we know only in part (1 Corinthians 13:9) and that we are to grow in both grace and in knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).

When we preach the gospel, we ask the public to be willing to learn new things from the Bible. We have to be willing to do the same.

True faith comes from God, it is a gift, and we have our part to do also. We may ask God for the gift of faith, we trust Him to provide it, and we can seek God through prayer and fasting, which the Bible teaches. We also increase our faith as we exercise it, making right choices to believe and obey God when occasions arise.

And when we seek God with fasting, I think we would be wise to consider the teaching and positive example of Mr. Armstrong. He relates in his autobiography how he first began to fast when his wife Loma Armstrong was sick and when God was not answering his prayers for her healing. When he was fasting, he did not ask God for healing. Instead he asked God to show him what was wrong with HIM. He used fasting to humble himself so that he could more readily be corrected by the Bible, and he looked to the Bible, studying it while he was fasting, for the answer to WHY God was not answering his prayers for his wife's healing.

And after God corrected Mr. Armstrong and he received the correction, THEN God answered Mr. Armstrong's prayer for his wife's healing.

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Our Attitude and Approach Towards God's Word, Chapter 1

The Source of Our Beliefs, Chapter 6

Practicing What We Preach, Chapter 6

Changing Doctrine, Chapter 6

A Lesson from the Autobiography, Chapter 6

Faith, Chapter 6

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How the Structure of Governance Affects Preaching the Gospel to the World

In my last post, I did not mention that COGWA has determined which members of the board will be up for re-election in four years and which will be up for re-election in eight years, according to a post in James Malm's Shining Light blog. This was determined according to a random drawing, in accordance with the governing documents. The terms of service of the following board members are eight years:

Arnold Hampton
Richard Pinelli
Larry Salyer
Richard Thompson

The terms of service of the following members are four years:

David Baker
Joel Meeker
Leon Walker

Also, a little under 8.5 million dollars was budgeted based on estimated income.

Here is the link to the post:

As I said in the last post, COGWA does not seem to have the finances at this time to do a large work of preaching the gospel to the world and get a warning message out to the nations of Israel. There is a connection between their shortage of money for the gospel and their structure of governance.

Here is a quote from my book, Preaching the Gospel, chapter 7, section "Church Government", pages 347-348: "There is a direct connection between hierarchical government and the ability of a church organization to make the sacrifices and the hard decisions necessary to preach to the public. I think recent experience has shown and is showing that if the human leader or leaders at the top of an organization, who have the authority to determine the budget and how much money is spent on preaching the gospel to the world and how much is spent on ministers' salaries, are themselves elected by the ministers, it is unlikely they will make the hard decisions necessary to allocate sufficient resources to really finish the work of preparing Israel for the tribulation. It is just common sense that many ministers will not elect someone who would reduce their salaries or lay some of them off if that were necessary." This statement was written several years ago, long before it became apparent to me or to most people that UCG would split.

And now, COGWA is becoming an example to illustrate the truth of that statement.

How important is it that we get a warning message to Israel about the tribulation to come if we as a nation do not repent?

It is vital that the people in our countries hear the warning BEFORE the tribulation begins. This isn't just for making new members. It is for showing the public that God is fair to give them a warning before He punishes them. It is for helping Israel to accept their responsibility for their sins and the resulting suffering that will come upon them.

Most of the people will not heed the warning. That is expected. But then, when they go through the tribulation, they will remember that they heard the warning. Most important of all, they will remember their own responses, that they laughed at it, became angry, or ignored it, but did not check up in the Bible with an open mind to see if the warning was true. And that remembrance will help them realize what fools they have been. That will be their first step towards accepting their own responsibility for their sins, which is a first step towards repentance.

But if they don't hear the warning, how will they react in the tribulation, and even afterwards in the millennium? "God wasn't fair. I thought I was doing the right thing by keeping Sunday, Christmas, Easter, and using holy pictures and images when I pray. No one warned me that I was doing anything wrong, so why should I be punished?"

How will people react in the tribulation if they have not heard a warning? The closest thing to the tribulation in modern history may be the Holocaust when millions of Jews suffered and died in Nazi concentration camps during and before World War II. If you haven't studied the Holocaust, you might think that suffering always draws people closer to God, but that is not true. Many Jews who were religious before the Holocaust lost all faith in God because they couldn't understand why a just God would allow it, according to survivors who actually lived in the concentration camps, as I have documented with quotes from survivors in chapter 4 of my book. That could be a picture of the attitude of distrust and resentment towards God that the tribulation will produce if our people hear no warning. We MUST get a warning out.

But could Mr. Franks make the tough decisions to consolidate congregations, to let some paid ministers go and let those who remain serve several nearby congregations, to free up 30% or 40% of the budget to do a powerful work of preaching the gospel to the world and giving Israel the Ezekiel warning before it is too late? I doubt he could do that to the very ministers who elected him and his supporters to the Ministerial Board of Directors.

That is the connection between the structure of governance in the Church today and the ability of the Church to get a warning message out that is so vital to Israel's repentance during the tribulation and their conversion in the millennium. And since Israel is to serve as a model nation in the millennium for other nations in the world, their conversion is vital for the conversion and saving of the whole world.

How important is that?

By making the board directly dependent on the approval of the ministry, and the president dependent on the board, COGWA has organized itself into a form in which its ability to get the warning out depends on the collective willingness of the entire ministry to sacrifice some of their own income. It may be that from God's point of view, not every paid minister in COGWA should be employed as a minister at this time, but neither Jim Franks nor any other leader of COGWA is in a position to take paid ministers off the payroll to finance the preaching of the gospel.

I fear that COGWA may become another COG fellowship that mostly just "feeds" itself.

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:



Church Government, Chapter 7

Monday, December 12, 2011

COGWA Headquarters Location

In their recent conference last week, COGWA leaders were to choose a permanent location for their headquarters office. Although I have not seen or heard anything official from COGWA, James Malm has reported that the COGWA board has approved the Dallas/Fort Worth area as the location for a future headquarters office.

Here are links to posts in the Shining Light blog and COGwriter blog:

Shining Light blog:

COGwriter blog:

Bob Thiel has also reported that UCG average US attendance in October was 7,621. Link:

COGWA has announced a new publication for its membership called, "One Accord", and Larry Salyer will be the editor. Link:

I have also noticed that the members of COGWA's Moral and Ethics Assessment Committee have been named in COGWA's governance page. They are:
Mike Blackwell
Mike Hanisko
Les McCullough
Larry Neff
Paul Suckling

This seems to complete COGWA's organization. Here is a link to the page that lists all the members of the administration, the board, and the committees:

Where do UCG and COGWA stand right now? The actual split is past history and each group is making its own individual history from now on.

COGWA is fully organized. The leadership is in place and the headquarters location has been chosen. An entire holy day season has passed since COGWA started.

COGWA may not have the finances to do much of a work of preaching the gospel to the public right now. That can change if more members come to COGWA, but it remains to be seen if that will happen. Probably most members of the pre-split UCG have made their decisions and are unlikely to change in the near future barring some major event. The ratio of tithe-paying members to paid ministers in COGWA, particularly in the United States, may be too small to support a powerful work of preaching the gospel to the public. They can still do that work on a small scale of course, and I expect they will do as much as they can. They can easily do an Internet work with online publications and audio/video recordings and with pay-per-click advertising to bring readers and listeners to the webpages. They can do that on a small scale for now without the expense of a widely broadcast TV program and a large-circulation printed magazine. And if God blesses their effort, it may grow, bring in more donors, coworkers, prospective members, and members, and that growth may enable a greater work later, a work of a TV program or radio program broadcast to millions and a large circulation magazine. But that is a big "if".

UCG and COGWA have recently published Feast attendance figures, and those can be a guideline to membership numbers. In terms of membership numbers that can finance the preaching of the gospel, it is primarily United States and Canada figures that are most important.

While COGWA may have about half of the worldwide membership, they do not have half the membership in the United States. UCG has many more members in the United States, while COGWA may have more than half of the paid ministry in the United States. The split between UCG and COGWA is also a split to a degree between the majority of the tithe-paying members and the majority of the salary-drawing ministers, at least in the United States. To sum it up, most members stayed with UCG and most paid ministers went with COGWA.

What this means is that, while COGWA has enough money to pay its ministers, it does not yet have enough money to do more than a small work of preaching the gospel to the world. In contrast, UCG should have an abundance of money for that purpose right now.

Why have not more UCG members gone with COGWA, at least in proportion to the number of ministers who have done so?

A contributing reason may be that the membership has never heard a definite and plausible explanation for why the split occurred. If it appears that it is only due to personality differences and human carnality, they are less likely to leave one organization to go to another, especially if most of the members did not want the split to occur.

I have said before that the responsibility for explaining the root cause of the split, the underlying issues, lies with COGWA. The responsibility for the split itself may be shared between UCG leaders and COGWA leaders, but the explanation has to come from the COGWA leaders. They were the ones who quit. They may have been forced out to a degree, but they still have to explain why. UCG leaders are not going to admit they forced out those ministers.

I have imagined how I would explain the split to someone outside the Church of God who has not been familiar with the ongoing events of the past year and a half.

If someone asked me, "Why did the Church split?", I would have to say, "I don't know."

I know something about HOW the split occurred. This blog has chronicled some of the details of that. But not why. Not the underlying issue or issues that divided the leadership and ministry of UCG into two competing camps in the first place. The biggest surprise about all this to me has been that the ministry has managed to keep that under wraps even till now.

COGWA leadership might have good reasons for not saying right now. I won't speculate here about the reasons for the split or the reasons why the COGWA ministry has not said much about it publicly.

But even if COGWA is wise not to talk about it, they may be paying a price in lost membership. And that may spell trouble down the road when if it becomes evident that COGWA will simply not be able to grow the Church and get a warning message out to the public. Not all the members and ministers in COGWA will go along with that state indefinitely.

Here are links to related chapters in Preaching the Gospel: