Friday, March 28, 2014

False Repentance Movement in the Church of God

There is a small but growing movement in the Church of God among various groups and leaders. It is a movement that calls for repentance, but the repentance it teaches is a false, misguided repentance. It teaches a zeal, but not for the real truth of the Bible or God's way of life. Those who lead this movement may be in greater need of repentance than most of the rest of the Church of God.

I am not talking about just one group or leader, because there are more than one. As time goes on, there may be more than there are now, for this movement has the potential to grow. In the groups and teachings of this movement is a mixture of truth and error. And in that mixture is spiritual poison.

The truth is, there is a need in the whole Church of God for repentance, a seeking of God, a greater surrender to the truth of the Bible and God's way of life. We need to turn to God more than we ever have before.

Many brethren recognize this need. Some recognize it in themselves, realizing they need a deeper repentance and need to be closer to God. Others, while they may be blind to their own need, see the wrong behavior or the fruits of wrong behavior in others in the Church of God and are thus able to see the need for repentance in the whole Church of God.

That is why this movement can seem attractive to many in the Church. They see a need for repentance and become attracted to any teacher or group that calls for "repentance" in the Church of God. This attraction may be reinforced by members' frustration with the scattered state of the Church. They hope that a Church-wide repentance will lead to Church unity.

But many of these groups and leaders miss the mark on the repentance issue.

I certainly do not imply that all calls for repentance are wrong. There is a need for a true Church-wide repentance, and it is right to call for such a repentance.

There is certainly a need for repentance. We all need to seek a deeper repentance. We are in the Laodicean era, and Christ commands us to repent (Revelation 3:19). Even Philadelphians and all others should seek a deeper repentance, because repentance is a process that should be part of our lives till the end. None of us are perfect yet, and until we are in the Kingdom of God we should always maintain a repentant attitude.

But Satan is the great counterfeiter. He knows that Christ tells us to repent in Revelation 3:19, and he knows some of the brethren recognize the need for repentance in the Church. And Satan would love to lead some well-meaning brethren away from a true repentance and turning towards God and into a movement or teaching that uses the words "repentance" or "spiritual revival" or "healing" or "reconciliation", but neglects teaching and practicing the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23-24).

False repentance movements can come in different forms and they can have different errors, but there are a couple of errors they tend to have in common.

One blogger emphasizes new moons, the calendar, and eating in restaurants on the Sabbath. He calls for repentance, but his definition of repentance seems to include agreeing with him on these small issues - if you don't agree with him on these small issues, you need to repent. He is hyper-critical and very accusatory towards various organized fellowships, taking small things and blowing them up to seem big and spreading rumors that paint groups and their leaders in a negative light.

He seems to take advantage of the fact that many brethren are frustrated by the behavior of some ministers who have helped to scatter the Church of God or have abused the brethren. So he speaks of loyalty to God and His word and contrasts that with loyalty to "organizations" and corporations. This sounds good to some brethren, and there is certainly an element of truth here - we should be more loyal to God and to the Bible than to organizations. But he doesn't seem to understand that God in the Bible commands respect for the ordained ministry and leaders in the Church of God (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). He ignores the fact that God teaches government and organization in the Bible (1 Corinthians 12:28, Matthew 16:18-19, Hebrews 13:17). And he seems to show open disrespect for Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong in his blog.

He does not understand government in the Church of God. He rails against organization. And he neglects one of the weightier matters of the law: mercy towards the world and the nations that need to hear the gospel and the Ezekiel warning while there is still time to repent before the tribulation and the Day of the Lord come.

And this brings up two things that most false repentance groups have in common: a distain or disrespect for strong government and organization in the Church and neglect of preaching the gospel to the world as a witness and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

These two issues are connected. Since Mr. Armstrong began to preach the gospel over radio in the early 1930s until our time today, preaching the gospel to the public has always been accomplished by strong government. Individuals or groups with weak government may be able to preach the gospel to a small extent, but the most effective programs of preaching the gospel have always been done by highly organized groups with strong government.

But most false repentance movements neglect or are against both.

Yet, zeal for the gospel must be at the heart and core of true repentance towards God.

When we repent, we must repent of the sins we have done and our sinful nature. We must turn from sin in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We must realize we have done wrong and that we are wrong. We must seek God and His righteousness, and we must acknowledge and trust in God's righteousness.

But to understand repentance, we must understand what sin is.

Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). When we repent and turn from sin, we turn towards obedience to God's spiritual law. With the help of God's Holy Spirit, we seek to make God's spiritual law our very nature, to replace our human, carnal nature. We make obedience to the spiritual law of God so much a habit and practice in our lives that it comes to define what we are. It is God's righteousness in us that makes that possible as we choose, on a daily basis, to believe and obey God. We must believe what God says in the Bible and strive to obey Him and do His will in everything.

How can we sum up the spiritual law of God?

You can sum it up in one word, or in two great commandments, or in three weightier matters of the law, or into ten commandments or "points" of God's law. And the whole Bible fills in details on how to obey the law of God.

The one word is "love" (1 John 4:7, 16, Romans 13:10). The two great commandments are to love God with all our being and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:35-40). The three weightier matters of the law are justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23-24). The ten commandments are listed in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. The whole Bible is an instruction book that helps us understand how to apply God's law of love to the decisions we make in our lives, therefore to obey God's law we have to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:1-4). One of the most important passages that teach God's law and way of life is the sermon on the mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7).

Yet, love is more than a word. It is more than a commandment or a pair of commandments. Faith is also more than a word. Tell a Church of God member we should have love and faith, and he will agree with you. But love and faith are attitudes of mind, ways of thinking, orientations of the mind, and the attitude, orientation, and way of thinking of love and faith will result in concrete action. The action itself is not the love or the faith, but it will come from the love and the faith. Righteous action is the evidence that love and faith are present.

Faith is a willingness to believe in God and to believe what God says. It will result in a man or woman following what the Bible really says. Love is an outgoing concern for others and a desire to please God and do His will. Love towards our neighbor results in a desire to do what is for the long-term good for our neighbors. Love towards God leads us to desire to do His work, to accomplish His will, to exalt His name, and to advance His plan for mankind.

These actions will separate those who have love and faith from those who do not, in the Church of God, over time. Those for whom love and faith are only words will choose differently from those who really want to do God's work and God's will and do what is best for their neighbors' long term good.

There is a need for repentance in the Church of God because the actions of the majority of those who call themselves members of the Church of God do not reflect a desire to exalt God's name and reputation, to do His work, to do His will, and to advance and accomplish His plan for mankind. Our actions do not reflect and express a desire to do what is best for the good of our neighbors. They also do not demonstrate a trust and belief in what God teaches in the Bible. Partly yes, but not 100%, not with most of the Church.

This shows we have a need to repent.

But while repentance is of the heart, it also involves actions. It is not just that actions reflect the heart. Actions also influence the heart. In other words, we learn by doing. If you want a deeper repentance, take action. Do what is right.

Do you want to love your neighbors more? Study God's word to learn what you can do to help your neighbor long term, then do it. Do you want to believe and trust God more? Study God's word to learn what He says, believe Him, and do it. Your actions as an expression of your love and faith will reinforce that love and faith. Love and faith will grow as you exercise them, but diminish if you neglect them and take no action.

There is no more loving act towards your next-door neighbor and all your neighbors who are not next door than to support the preaching of the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel with all your might. That is the kindest, most loving thing you can do for their long-term good. And in modern times, preaching the gospel has always required strong government and organization in the Church. Strong government and organization is taught by the Bible, and believing in what the Bible teaches is an act of faith and trust in God.

Church wide repentance is a genuine need. And we can encourage each other in this. But ultimately, repentance is an individual matter. You can give encouragement to others to repent, you can receive encouragement to repent from others, but you can only repent for you, not for someone else.

We can help each other see our faults. We can help each other see the need for repentance. We can help each other see how to take the most effective action to love our neighbors for their long term good, to love God and do His will, and to put into practice our faith and trust in God's word, the Bible. In that sense, there can be a "call to repentance" or a "repentance movement" in the Church. But then, each individual must choose to repent or not.

But some who seek to lead the Church of God to a deeper repentance, or to "healing", or to "reconciliation", or to a "spiritual renewal", like the Pharisees in Jesus's day, miss the mark on the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23-24). They strain out a gnat and swallow a camel. They focus on something minor, like eating in a restaurant on the Sabbath, or on new moons which God does not command, but they neglect justice, they neglect mercy, and they neglect faith. They neglect justice, because justice requires that we share with the world the warning God has given us, not for us to selfishly heed the warning ourselves only, as if we are someone special worth saving more than the rest of the world. Likewise, they neglect mercy towards 500 million Israelites who are about to go through the worst time of suffering and death the world has every seen and need a warning before it is too late. They neglect faith in God's word because they do not believe the Bible's teaching about strong government and respect for the ordained ministry in the Church. Rather than teach that respect, some lead members into sin by teaching them open disrespect for Mr. Armstrong or the ordained ministry. They teach a righteous-sounding substitute for real Church wide repentance. It can attract brethren who see the need for repentance, but seduces them away from real repentance.

That is not the kind of "repentance" God is looking for.

There certainly will be calls for repentance in the Church of God, what may be termed a "repentance movement". But make sure you do not follow a false repentance, a repentance that focuses on minor points, but neglects the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy towards others, and faith in God's word.

Why do I place such emphasis on preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning? Our attitude towards preaching the gospel can be a pretty clear indication of how much we practice love in our lives. So I emphasize this, to encourage Church of God members to support the gospel, not only for their sake, but for the sake of those who will hear the warning. If I can persuade one person to support a group that preaches the gospel, not only will that Church member be helped to practice God's way of love, but those who hear the gospel and the warning through that person's support of the gospel will be helped, and they may number in the hundreds or thousands.

The need for most of the Church of God to repent works together with a need to preach the gospel to the world and to warn the nations about the tribulation to come, because one of the major points of God's law we need to repent of breaking is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, and we obey that law by preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning to our neighbors. We break that law when we fail to do so because we are content for our neighbors to go into the tribulation without first hearing a warning to give them a chance to repent and escape the punishment.

That attitude of being "ok" with our neighbors going into the tribulation without a warning, that contentment with the suffering they will go through if that happens, that lack of compassion for those about to suffer, that lack of love towards God and man, is a major sin the Church of God needs to repent of. And any kind of movement or call for repentance in the Church of God that does not include that misses the mark and is a call for a false repentance.

There are about 500 million people that will be punished for their sins in the Great Tribulation. Once the tribulation starts, about 90% or more will die within about a two and a half year period, and the rest will suffer horribly. Yet tens of millions of these people do not know they are doing anything wrong. They think they are serving God by observing Sunday, by keeping Christmas and Easter, by believing the traditional doctrines of the church they were raised in, by believing in the trinity and the immortality of the soul, and similar doctrines. They need to be warned BEFORE the tribulation, while there is time for them to repent.

Where is mercy towards those people in the teachings and practices of those groups that call for "repentance", "healing", and "reconciliation", but do not call for greater zeal and effort for preaching a warning to the nations? If you can find it, let me know.

God says that the blood of the people will be on our heads if we do not give the warning (Ezekiel 3:16-21).

While 500 million people are on a path to doom, while we in the Church know it but they don't, and while we need to go all out to warn them before it is too late, some talk about eating in restaurants on the Sabbath, calendars, new moons, and other minor doctrinal issues and questions, and I do not think they are even right about those issues.

One person corresponded with me about eating in restaurants on the Sabbath, and asked me something like this: What will you say to a waitress in the millennium or white throne judgment when she finds out you were her customer on the Sabbath and you knew she shouldn't be working on the Sabbath, but you let her wait on you anyway? Good question. There are various ways I could answer. But I want to ask a more important question. What will you say to HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of Americans, Britons, Canadians, Australians, and others who suffered and died in the tribulation, people who suffered through the worst time in human history, when they find out that you knew the truth but didn't do everything you could to share it with them so they would have a chance to escape. What will you say to someone who says, "I suffered because you didn't warn me. I saw my wife and children killed in front of my eyes. You knew the truth, but kept it to yourself. You never sacrificed to share it with me and others like me. So we never had a chance." Multiply that person by about 500 million. A lot more than a few waitresses who may have served you on the Sabbath, and a much bigger issue as well.

Besides, what good does it do the waitress if you avoid restaurants on the Sabbath, but never preach the gospel? If you preach the truth on radio, TV, the Internet, and in print, there is a chance the waitress may read or hear it, and then she can make her choice. She has a chance to obey God and stop working on the Sabbath. But if you don't eat in her restaurant on the Sabbath, she won't even notice you are not there.

If you buy into a kind of repentance that does not appreciate the need for organization and government in the Church, a repentance that shows open disrespect towards the office of the ministry and those who hold that office, a repentance that is inward, self-righteous, focused on details of law-keeping but has forgotten the second great commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to give them the truth that they need, which others before us have sacrificed to give us - if you buy into that package, I think one day you will wake up to find you never repented at all.

That is a false repentance, a repentance that may give a false sense of drawing closer to God, but it will not bear good fruit in the end.

For a post in this blog related to this subject, see "What Is the Church of God's Greatest Sin?", dated February 27, 2014, link:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Human Reasoning

What does the term "human reasoning" mean to you? What do you think of when you hear someone use that term?

It is a loaded term. By that, I mean it is loaded with meaning and implications that go beyond what the words actually state, and it can mean different things to different people. It can also mean different things depending on the context it which it is used.

In the Church of God, the way it is often used, it usually has a negative connotation. It is often used in conjunction with the Bible verse "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12, 16:25).

Human reasoning is often contrasted with God's revelation to show that human reasoning is faulty and therefore wrong. And in comparison to God's revelation, it is faulty and inferior, and when it is used to excuse behavior that is contrary to God's instruction, or to come to conclusions contrary to God's revelation in the Bible, it is wrong.

But human reasoning, in the sense of using our human minds to think, to put facts together, to solve problems, and to reach conclusions, is not always wrong. God gave us minds to think with, minds far superior to animal brains, and He intends us to think and to reason in a right way.

In fact, the way God put the Bible together, you have to use reasoning, and since we are human we can call it human reasoning, to correctly put verses together to understand the Bible. And unless you are able to correctly put verses together to understand doctrine, you will not be able to know God's revelation, for God reveals the truth through His word, the Bible. You also have to use reasoning to know how to apply God's truth to the decisions you have to make every day. You also must use reasoning to know how to do God's work and how to serve others.

Without human reasoning, we would have no more mental ability than animals.

Where human reasoning is wrong is when we substitute it for God's revelation. When our human reasoning tells us one thing, but God's revelation in the Bible tells us something different, we have to choose between two conclusions. If we choose our human reasoning over God's word, we make a wrong choice, but if we choose to believe God's word over our own reasoning, we make a right choice. Yet we have to use a certain amount of reasoning to even understand what God is really saying in the Bible. And once we have understood God's word, we sometimes have to use reasoning to know how to apply it to our lives.

Human reasoning can be correct or incorrect, but God's word is always correct.

The part that God's Holy Spirit plays in helping us to understand God's revelation in the Bible is to help us to reason correctly when we put verses together to understand the Bible. Without the help of God's Holy Spirit, Satan will deceive us by influencing our reasoning, causing us to make errors in our reasoning and causing us to put verses together wrongly and to reach wrong conclusions.

The law of the Sabbath can be an example to illustrate what I am saying.

Someone may read the scriptures that say, "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work..." (Exodus 20:9-10, Deuteronomy 5:13-14). But then, he may reason, "Well, I know the Bible says we should rest on the seventh day, but the way I see it, we should only rest when we need to rest, and if we have a lot of work to do, we should keep working", and he may have many reasons in mind for his conclusion. In other words, the person is not trying to understand and believe what God says in the Bible, but is using human reasoning to decide if he agrees with God's word or not, and in this case, not. That is the wrong use of human reasoning.

Reasoning should never be used to determine whether or not we agree with what God says. It should be used to help determine what God says by putting verses together correctly for the purpose of understanding, believing, and obeying what God says. It should never be used to form a conclusion contrary to God's revelation. And once we know God's revelation, it should be used to understand how to apply it to our lives.

So in the matter of the Sabbath, we should start with a willingness to believe and obey what God says in the Bible. Then, we should get all the scriptures on the subject to understand what God is saying. Some of those scriptures will be about Jesus's sacrifice - His death, burial, and resurrection, because one of the things one may research is the idea that the Sabbath was changed to Sunday to honor the resurrection of Christ. So in doing this research, those scriptures should be included. You can find the scriptures that say that Jesus said He would be in the grave for three days and three nights. You can count from Friday evening to Sunday morning and know that that is not three days and three nights. Then, you can consider the argument some have made that the term "three days and three nights", in the original Greek, was a figure of speech that means parts of three days. But you can also put this together with Jesus's statement that He would be in the grave for three days and three nights like Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, and you can confirm in the Hebrew text of the book of Jonah that Jonah was in in the belly of the fish for three days and nights, and Greek figures of speech would not apply in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, so Jesus must have been in the grave for three days and three nights.

You would also need to ask the question, and find the answer in scripture, about when a day begins and ends (not at midnight as our modern society counts days).

In other words, there is a great deal of research, of study, of thinking, of analysis, of putting facts together, to know what the Bible really says on the subject, and all this can come under the label of human reasoning. It is simply using the human mind to process information in a way that animals cannot do. It the use of the human mind God has given us to put facts together to gain understanding of a matter.

Mr. Armstrong took six months of research, study, thinking, and reasoning to finally understand that the Bible teaches the seventh day Sabbath, according to his autobiography. This was before he was converted. He was using human reasoning, but he was using it the right way, to honestly examine the issue of which day of the week the Bible teaches is the Sabbath.

The right use of our powers of reasoning is to try, as best we are able, to understand what God is revealing to us in the Bible, NOT to decide if we agree with God or not. Once we know what God says, we should never reason around it to decide that God is wrong and we are going to believe something different.

Then, once we know God's revelation, that we should rest on the Sabbath, we have to use reasoning to apply it. For example, we may plan ahead, with reasoning, to get things done ahead of time on Thursday or Friday so we can begin the Sabbath in a restful atmosphere. We might reason, "I don't have enough food in the house for the Sabbath. I better get my groceries purchased and also clean the house Thursday evening because this is winter time and I have to rush to get home just after work on Friday to be home by the Sabbath and I won't have time for shopping or cleaning. And I better put gas in the car so I can drive to Sabbath services. But I won't have money for the food I need till I get paid Friday, and that would be too late, so I have to take money out of the bank. I better do that at lunchtime on Thursday when my bank is open, so I better not make plans for lunch that day." That is planning ahead and it is human reasoning - it is thinking. But it is not wrong reasoning because it is using our minds to plan and reason how to obey God, not how to disobey God.

I can use the example of unclean meats. A man may read the scriptures that command that we not eat the flesh of unclean animals, and he may notice that pork is included as meat to avoid. The wrong use of human reasoning is to say, "Well, men have been eating pork for centuries, and scientists do not find anything unhealthy about it, so I think it is ok to eat pork." The right use of human reasoning is to get all the scriptures in the Bible on that subject to see if this command is still in force. He then will find that Peter, even after the Church had started, did not eat pork, as evidenced in the account in Acts in which Peter had a dream about it. He can then reason correctly that the command against unclean meat was not abolished for the Church.

But because "human reasoning" is a loaded term with a negative connotation in the Church, it can be used to attack any kind of reasoning one does not agree with.

Suppose you do some Bible research and learn something you think the Church of God does not know, but something you think would be valuable. Suppose you write it up in a study paper, trying the best you can to put scriptures together correctly and base your conclusions on the Bible, and send it to the headquarters and leadership of the fellowship you attend. Do you use reasoning in your paper? Yes you do. Is it wrong? Not necessarily, but because we are human we can make mistakes, so the conclusions of your paper may be correct or incorrect. If you have made a mistake, headquarters may see your mistake and write back to you showing you your mistake. And in showing you your mistake, they also use reasoning. But if they agree, they may use your paper.

But if you are sincere and trying to believe and understand the Bible, it does not make sense for someone to accuse you of using "human reasoning", as if the use of reasoning is a sin just because you put together a study paper and submitted it, because those who evaluate your paper also use reasoning, and they are human too. They have to use reasoning to put the scriptures together to find what the Bible is really saying.

Using the human minds God has given us to think, to put facts together, to reach conclusions, to put scriptures together and understand what God is saying on a subject, and to put facts together in our lives to understand how to apply what God says to our daily decisions, is not wrong whether someone labels it "human reasoning" or not. It is only wrong when it is used to disbelieve and disobey what God says. It is wrong when we use it to reach a different conclusion than what God tells us and when it is used to decide that God is wrong and we are right.

Where does God's Holy Spirit come in?

God's Holy Spirit opens our minds to help us understand scripture correctly. In other words, God guides our reasoning, helps it, aids it, and helps us to be correct in our reasoning. But God doesn't do it all for us. We still need to do the work of research, and we still have to use our minds to think, to reason. God's Spirit doesn't speak into our ears or into our minds and say, "You are researching the Sabbath question in the Bible, but I will give you the answer - no need to flip through the pages of the Bible, no need to look up terms in a concordance, to try to get all the scripture on the subject. You don't even have to count how many days it is from Friday to Sunday - I will save you all that work, so here is the answer: rest from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset - that's it." God wants us to do the work. He has given us human minds for that purpose. Can we make mistakes in our research? Yes, but if we are obeying God and are led by His Spirit, God will help us see our mistakes a little at a time.

God's Spirit also helps protect us from Satan's deceptions, otherwise, we will be deceived like the rest of the world. Satan can influence men's thinking, leading them to make mistakes in their reasoning so they cannot understand the Bible correctly.

God also helps us to understand His word, to put scriptures together correctly, in proportion to our belief and obedience. The more we believe what He says and strive to obey it, the more He will help us reason correctly in putting scriptures together and understanding the Bible. The more we obey him, the more God will help us think correctly and reach right conclusions, the more God will protect us from mistakes, and the more God will correct the mistakes we have made. The more we believe and obey God, the more He will help us see our errors. But that process does not work in the world because the world does not believe what God says. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10).

Because the world is not called, and because the world does not believe what God says, God allows Satan to deceive the world, and among religious people in the world who read the Bible, God allows Satan to lead people into making such serious mistakes in the way they put scriptures together that they cannot come to the knowledge of the truth of the gospel.

In Mr. Orchard's sermon last Sabbath, he said that in UCG and COGaic he received many doctrinal papers submitted to the Church. In reference to doctrinal papers, he said that the openness of COGFC is not openness to human reason but the openness of the indwelling presence of God's Spirit. This made me think. What kind of papers does he refer to? He said they were papers on doctrinal matters. Does that not imply that most of them, since this is the Church of God, discussed doctrine in terms of scriptural teaching in the Bible? Were these papers that only reasoned around the Bible, saying, well, I think the Bible is wrong on this doctrine because of these reasons. Were they papers that ignored the Bible and tried to establish doctrine apart from the Bible, not even quoting scriptures? Or were they papers that tried to use the Bible to know God's teaching on a subject?

Probably most of writers of the papers COG organizations receive at least claim, and some make sincere attempts, to base their conclusions on the Bible. Many try, as best they are able, to understand what the Bible says, though they may make mistakes. And as I pointed out, using the minds God has given us to understand the Bible is not in itself wrong, though understanding the Bible may require the work of research, analysis, and thinking, what some would call "reasoning".

So it made me wonder, is it the Bible Mr. Orchard is not open to? And then, if he is open to God's Spirit, how does he think the Holy Spirit communicates to him on doctrinal matters if not through the Bible which was inspired by that same Spirit of God (2 Peter 1:20-21)?

God speaks to us through His Spirit. How does His Holy Spirit speak to us? God, through His Spirit, has inspired the prophets and the apostles to write the Bible, so the primary way God's Spirit speaks to us is through the Bible. God has inspired the Bible to be written in such a way that it takes a certain about of work, of effort, to put scriptures together on a subject to know what God says. God wants us to be willing to do that work, to make that effort, to find the truth. He doesn't make everything easy for us. He wants to know if we are willing to make an effort to know the truth and seek God's will. God has also inspired the Bible to be written in such a way that certain passages can be hard to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16). We can understand them by letting the Bible interpret the Bible, by letting easy scriptures interpret the hard ones. But this is a process that takes work, effort, and time. In fact, it can take a lifetime in the sense that we should never stop learning and being corrected by God's word, the Bible (2 Peter 3:18).

God's Spirit also talks to us by helping us to understand the Bible, by helping us reason correctly, to put scriptures together logically and rightly. The world does not have that help, and God allows Satan to lead men to put scriptures together wrongly, to make mistakes in their reasoning. But God gives us that help in proportion to our willingness to believe and obey Him. When we disbelieve what God reveals to us, it becomes harder for us to understand the Bible correctly. We become more prone to mistakes as we reason to put scriptures together. When we believe God, God gives us more help to see our errors. But we still have to put work and effort into the study of the Bible.

And finally, God's Holy Spirit helps us to apply God's word to our daily lives and the decisions we have to make. God helps us by bringing scriptures to our minds when we are faced with a trial, a temptation, or a decision. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:26). It was by scripture that Jesus countered Satan's temptations (Matthew 4:1-11). How did Christ know the scriptures to use to answer Satan's temptation? He had the Holy Spirit without measure (John 3:34-35, 1:32-34). God's Spirit helps us reason correctly when we have to make a decision on the best way to apply God's word to the decisions we make. So, for example, we know from God's word we are to serve others, and God's Spirit can help us understand the best way we can serve, depending on our abilities, talents, and opportunities.

But though God's Spirit gives us help that the world does not have, and helps us understand spiritual knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:10-16), there is no promise in the Bible that God will totally protect us from making any mistakes in our thinking, our reasoning, and our conclusions. But if we are growing in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18), those mistakes should become fewer and less serious over time. We should be letting the Bible correct our mistakes all our lives.

I do not think COGFC ministers have been emphasizing submission to the Bible and looking to the Bible to know God's will. I get the impression, from their published sermons and Bible studies, that they believe God's Spirit leads them apart from the Bible, even to conclusions that the Bible does not support.

As for me, I prefer to go by the Bible.

Those who have read my book, Preaching the Gospel, and those who have been longtime readers of this blog, know that there are three main things I emphasize: zeal for preaching the gospel, hierarchical government in the Church, and willingness to believe the Bible first and to base our beliefs and doctrines on the Bible more than anything else. In this regard, I have been disappointed in Church of God, a Family Community on all three counts, though I originally had hoped they would be an improvement over COGaic.

Here are links to other posts in this blog related to this subject:

"Brian Orchard's Bible Study on Repentance", dated March 16, 2014, link:

"LCG Announcement of Hiring former-COGFC Ministers - Wrap-up with COGFC", dated March 18, 2014, link:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

LCG Announcement of Hiring former-COGFC Ministers - Wrap-up with COGFC

Living Church of God has announced the hiring of three ministers from COGaic (David Hulme) who were also briefly in COGFC: Mr. Peter Nathan, Mr. Stephen Elliott, and Mr. Bob Rodzaj. This is a confirmation of what has been reported by Mr. Nathan (for himself) and Mr. Brian Orchard several weeks ago, but was not announced by LCG until a few days ago.

Here is a link to the announcement:

I think Dr. Meredith and the top LCG leaders will try to make this movement of ministers from COGaic to LCG as smooth for the membership and as successful over all as is possible. LCG will be judged by other ministers and groups outside of LCG as far as the success of this movement of ministers is concerned. Dr. Meredith has long wanted ministers and members in other major Church of God fellowships to join LCG, and as far as I can remember, this is the first significant movement from one major fellowship to LCG that has occurred since Worldwide split up. The more successful this is for all concerned, the more likely it will be that future movements of ministers and brethren from other groups to LCG will occur. It is kind of a milestone, and a test case.

Things in COGFC seem to have settled down, finally. Most of the drama since nine leading ministers have left COGaic and organized the January 2014 conference may be over. When they left COGaic, there were many unknowns. It was not known if they would stay together. It was not known if they would preach the gospel to the world in any significant way or more than Mr. Hulme has done. It was not known what structure of governance they would have.

Some of these things have now been cleared up, at least to a degree. They did not stay together, but went in three different directions. Of the nine, five stayed together to form COGFC (Church of God, a Family Community), three went to LCG, and one went to UCG. They also seem to have pretty much set their direction not to try to preach the gospel powerfully in any foreseeable future but to concentrate primarily on feeding the flock and "healing" the Church of God at this time.

This does not mean they will do nothing to preach the gospel. Perhaps they will to a small degree, but it has become evident that the hearts of the five remaining leading ministers in COGFC are not in it. I would be astonished if they do anything more than a small work. Probably, they will do little more than Mr. David Hulme has done to preach the gospel to the world in COGaic.

This puts them at odds I think with many, perhaps even most, of the members who left COGaic since those ministers have left. Those members left, partly, because of dissatisfaction with Mr. Hulme's slow pace of preaching the gospel to the world. But these ministers may have left COGaic for different reasons, including serious differences with Mr. Hulme about other matters. As a result, I think COGFC has lost some of its membership it started out with. They have not announced yet if they will have enough members in attendance to hold a Feast of Tabernacles in Tucson. They need a head count so they can know if they can fill 50 rooms for the duration of the Feast, which was their original plan for Tucson. They want COGFC members to commit to attending the Feast with COGFC without knowing in advance where that Feast will take place. That is kind of hard for some members to do, I would think.

The structure or model of governance has somewhat stabilized - through inaction to form something else rather than a positive affirmation of what they are practicing - as a "mutual agreement" structure of government I described in previous posts.

Perhaps the pace of change in COGFC will slow now. Some change may still occur. It is not yet definite that COGFC will remain viable as a Church of God fellowship. They may lose more members, and this could strain their finances to the breaking point. But probably they will continue in some form.

COGFC started out with hope and promise. There was excitement over what they might have done. They could have started immediately, as soon as they formed, to carry out both halves of Christ's commission to the Church of God: to preach the gospel to the world and feed the flock. This is what God commands. They could also have started immediately with hierarchical government along the lines of what Mr. Armstrong practiced and the Bible teaches. They could have done both of these things and reached out to scattered members and groups to try to achieve reconciliation and care for the scattered flock. But they did neither.

I get the impression that the present leaders of COGFC were following their own ideas and reasoning more than the word of God, the Bible, for there is abundant evidence in the Bible and history that hierarchical government is the correct structure of governance for the Church of God and that the gospel and the Ezekiel warning need to be preached to the world as a witness and as a warning to Israel, and it should be done NOW, not postponed so that the Church can be "healed" first.

COGFC gave many reasons for their course of action in the last three months, and some of these reasons sound good, on the surface. But in all their explanations, there was one thing I thought was missing. There was not an in-depth Bible study about the issues COGFC faced and decided in the first three months. There was fasting. There was prayer and talk of prayer. There were meetings and a desire for unity. But the justification for decisions made - decisions to try to break new ground with a new model of governance, decisions to postpone preaching the gospel to the world and first concentrate only on healing the Church and achieving reconciliation - seem to be based on a combination of, "here are our reasons", and, "we prayed and fasted and here is the agreement we believe God has led us to".

But there was no in-depth Bible study of these issues where all relevant scriptures on these subjects were discussed and shared with the brethren. There was no biblical justification for not following hierarchical government with one leader under Christ in charge of an organization or fellowship. There was no biblical justification for postponing preaching the gospel to the world.

I do not mean scriptures were never used. But they were used selectively. Acts 15 was used, but not the letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus commanding them to appoint elders. The "beam in the eye" passage may have been used to support the idea that we cannot correct the world until we correct ourselves, but there was no serious examination of the question, "Does the 'beam in the eye' teaching really mean we should 'heal the Church' before we preach the gospel? Is that Jesus's intent?" There was no examination of how God used men like Jonah and Judas to preach the truth even though they had serious problems - if there had been, it would have been clear that we are NOT to use the excuse that we have spiritual faults to postpone obedience to God's command to preach the gospel to the world.

The leaving of COGaic of these ministers has served a purpose, however. It has freed some members and ministers from being in COGaic and it has opened the minds of many COGaic and former-COGaic members to the feasibility of joining Living Church of God. Many COGaic members have thought about this for years, no doubt, but some are now doing it, and as time goes on, LCG may become a magnet to attract more COGaic ministers and members. The ice has been broken in this regard because three ministers from COGaic have led the way.

And, while I feel COGFC has not lived up to its potential and its promise, it can still serve to give some spiritual nourishment to some scattered brethren through its online Sabbath services and Bible studies who are not able to physically attend anywhere at this time.

I think things have settled down to a degree in COGFC, and that is good, for Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are coming up soon, and the Church of God and all the ministers and members need to focus on appreciation for the sacrifice of Christ, personal repentance, overcoming sin, and drawing closer to God. That should be our focus now, and with less drama in the Churches of God, we will be able to better focus on that priority.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Brian Orchard's Bible Study on Repentance

Last Friday night, Mr. Brian Orchard gave a good Bible study on the subject of repentance.  This subject is appropriate as we near Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.  I do not disagree with any major point he made in that Bible study, but I would like to add something to what he has said.  I encourage you to listen to his Bible study before reading the rest of this post.  Here is a link to the webpage that lists his Bible study - look for the recording titled "Repentance Part 2 by Brian Orchard", dated 3/14/2014 near the bottom of the "Bible Study" list:

It is not my intent to take away from the good points Mr. Orchard made, and the comments I will add here are not intended as a criticism of that message.  It may be that the point I will add is something Mr. Orchard plans in a follow-up message.  In fact, he may have made this point in his Bible study briefly, but I want to add emphasis to it.

Mr. Orchard pointed out that repentance involves two steps.  The first step is the acknowledgement that we have done wrong.  But the next step is to realize deeply that not only have we done wrong, but that we are wrong, that our very nature is wrong as human beings.  We have to reach the point that we abhor what we are.  Mr. Orchard brings this out with examples from Job and David's psalm of repentance.

But godly repentance, with faith, involves something else that is also important.  We need to acknowledge we have done wrong.  We need to acknowledge we ARE wrong.  But also, we need to acknowledge that God is right. 

This was part of Job's problem he had to repent of.  His problem was that he trusted in his own righteousness more than in God's righteousness.  But there are two sides to that equation (or more correctly, an inequality).  He had to repent of his confidence in his own righteousness.  But he also had to learn to believe in and trust God's righteousness.  Because, part of his problem was that he felt God had treated him unjustly.  He implied injustice on God's part.  His lack of trust and belief in God's righteousness was as much a part of his problem as his belief in his own righteousness, and maybe the greater part of his problem.  What Job had to learn was that his righteousness, though real (even God called him blameless and upright - Job 1:1, 8), was limited, while God's righteousness was perfect, complete, and infinite.  It is impossible for God to commit unrighteousness.  Job had to learn and accept that God's decision to allow Job to be afflicted in spite of Job's living righteously was a just decision on God's part.

You probably know the story of Job.  God asked Satan if he had considered Job, a man who was upright and blameless, and Satan accused Job of fearing God for selfish reasons, to obtain God's protection and blessings, so God allowed Satan to afflict Job.  Then Job's three friends came to comfort him (Job chapters 1 and 2).  Then began a dialogue between Job and his three friends in which Job complained about his affliction and his "friends" accused him of wrong doing, though they didn't know of anything specific that Job had done wrong, and this dialogue is described in chapters 3 through 31.

After Job's three friends stopped answering him, another man, Elihu, began to answer Job.  And unlike the things said by Job's three friends, God did not rebuke Elihu afterwards as He rebuked the other three men, which implies that Elihu spoke correctly (Job 42:7-8).  Elihu in a sense prepares the ground, softens Job up a bit, in preparation for God answering Job in a whirlwind.  Notice:

"So these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.  Then the wrath of Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was aroused against Job; his wrath was aroused because he justified himself rather than God.  Also against his three friends his wrath was aroused, because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job" (Job 32:1-3).

Notice that Job's problem, or part of it (or all of it), was that he justified himself rather than God.  This involved belief in his own righteousness, but also a lack of faith in God's righteousness.  Job had said, "As God lives, who has taken away my justice, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter, as long as my breath is in me, and the breath of God in my nostrils, my lips will not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit.  Far be it from me that I should say you are right;  Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me.  My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live" (Job 27:2-6).  By accusing God of taking away Job's justice (verse 2), Job stated or implied that God was unjust and therefore not perfectly righteous.  And by saying that his heart would not reproach him as long as he lived (verse 6), he implied that his human righteousness was perfect, that he did not need to improve, that there was no hidden fault in him that he would have to repent of later.  Of course, his statement that his heart would never reproach him was proved false when he later came to a deeper repentance and said that he abhorred himself (Job 42:6).

Here are some things Elihu said to Job.

"Surely you have spoken in my hearing, and I have heard the sound of your words, saying, 'I am pure, without transgression; I am innocent, and there is no iniquity in me.  Yet He finds occasions against me, he counts me as His enemy; He puts my feet in the stocks, He watches all my paths.'  Look, in this you are not righteous.  I will answer you, for God is greater than man" (Job 33:8-12).

"For Job has said, 'I am righteous, but God has taken away my justice;  Should I lie concerning my right?  My wound is incurable, though I am without transgression'  What man is like Job, who drinks scorn like water, who goes in company with the workers of iniquity, and walks with wicked men?  For he has said, 'It profits a man nothing that he should delight in God.'  Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding:  Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to commit iniquity.  For He repays man according to his work, and makes man to find a reward according to his way.  Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice" (Job 34:7-12).

"Moreover Elihu answered and said: 'Do you think this is right?  Do you say, "My righteousness is more than God's?" ' " (Job 35:1-2).

"Elihu also proceeded and said: 'Bear with me a little, and I will show you that there are yet words to speak on God’s behalf.  I will fetch my knowledge from afar; I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker' " (Job 36:1-3).

Then God answered Job from the whirlwind, and in the end, Job experienced a deeper repentance (Job 42:1-6).  He not only learned that he was not as righteous as he thought, but he no doubt learned to believe in and trust God's perfect righteousness.  He learned the lesson God wanted him (and us today) to learn, and after Job learned the lesson, God blessed him again (Job 42:10-17).

Does the realization that we are wrong automatically mean that we acknowledge that God is right?  I don't think so.  Those are two different things, and that is why I am emphasizing this point. 

There are people in the world, even some religious people, people who are not called and do not understand or believe God's word, the Bible, that at some time in their lives acknowledge that they are wrong, deep down inside wrong.  Some people abhor themselves.  Some hate themselves.  Alcoholics and drug addicts sometimes "hit bottom" and feel a sense of personal worthlessness and powerlessness, and sometimes despair.  Some people commit suicide.

But what is absent in these people is a willingness to believe and trust what God says in the Bible.  Even if they are religious and say that they believe and trust God and believe 100% in His righteousness, they really don't, because they don't believe God means what He says.  They don't believe God - they don't believe what God says in the Bible.  They claim to believe Him, they may think they believe Him, but their lives and their doctrines prove that they do not believe Him, and if they do not believe what God says, how can they believe in His righteousness?  If they cannot trust God to tell them the truth, how can they trust God to be righteous?  And how can they believe in God's righteousness while they believe that God condemns billions to be tortured forever in an ever-burning hellfire because they never had a chance, because of circumstances of birth, to hear the gospel and be saved? 

It is not enough to acknowledge our evil nature.  We have to commit ourselves to believing in God's righteousness and His word and trusting Him to always tell us the truth in the Bible.  That is part of repentance, and it is also the major part of faith.

Faith and repentance go together - you can't have one without the other, like two sides of a coin.  Faith is an aspect of repentance and godly repentance, the kind of repentance that leads to conversion, leads to faith.  Likewise, faith leads to repentance.

True repentance requires faith.  Why?  Repentance includes repentance from dead works, from sin (Hebrews 6:1).  Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4).  Does the law require faith?  Yes it does.  Jesus said that faith is one of the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23).  If faith is a weightier matter of the law, then the law requires faith, and if we do not have faith, if we do not believe God and believe in God, we have violated the law.  So to repent of breaking God's spiritual law includes repenting of our lack of faith, repenting of our disbelief of God's word.  A man or woman who says, "I repent of breaking the ten commandments, but I do not repent of disbelieving what God says - I repent of adultery, stealing, Sabbath breaking, but I refuse to trust God and believe everything the Bible says", has not fully repented.  Repentance includes a commitment not only to obey the ten commandments but to believe and trust what God says.  And since God says He is righteous, we must believe it.

Likewise, faith leads to repentance, because if we have faith in God, we will believe His word, and if we believe what God says in the Bible, we will repent of our sins and begin to obey what God says.  If we don't repent, we don't really believe, we don't really have faith.

And both repentance and faith are requirements for conversion and receiving the Holy Spirit.

Was Job converted, did He have the Holy Spirit before he was afflicted?  I do not know.  Perhaps he was not.  If he was converted, then God brought him to a deeper repentance and a deeper conversion.  But if not, it might not have been because he obeyed only the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law.  To a degree at least, and perhaps to a great degree, he obeyed the spirit of the law.

What passage in the Bible comes to mind when we think of the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law?  Is it not the sermon on the mount? 

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28).

Did Job understand and obey this principle?  Yes, he did.  "I have made a covenant with my eyes;  Why then should I look upon a young woman?" (Job 31:1).  If you read Job's discourse in Job chapters 29 through 31 you will find many examples where Job obeyed the spiritual intent of God's law.

In fact, there are religious people in the world who understand this principle.  I was taught the spiritual intent of the law growing up Catholic, at least to the extent that Catholics are able to understand it.  They know that it is a violation of the spirit of the law of God to lust after a woman.  They know that it is a violation of the spiritual intent of the law against murder to even hate your neighbor in your heart.  I am not saying that Catholics in general obey the spiritual intent of the law, but some do, at least with some (not all) of the commandments.

But where they fall short is in believing what God says, as do all people in this world who are not called into God's Church at this time.

So there are three important steps in repentance.  We have to acknowledge we have done wrong.  We have to acknowledge that we are wrong by our very nature.  And we have to acknowledge that God is right, that He is perfect in righteousness, that He can be trusted, and that His word can be trusted and believed because God cannot lie to us.

One last example in the Bible.  Mr. Orchard used the example of David's repentance in Psalm 51.  The first four verses show that David acknowledged that he had done wrong.  Verse 5 shows that David also acknowledged his sinful nature, that he not only had done wrong but was wrong.  But also, look again at verse four, which showed David's belief in God's righteousness and desire to justify God:  "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight - that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge" (Psalm 51:4).  In fact, this particular psalm is full of David's praise of God for God's righteousness, as many of the psalms are.

Was David unconverted before his repentance?  I don't see how, for in this very Psalm He begs God to forgive him, clean him up, and not take His Holy Spirit from David (Psalm 51:11).  In other words, David was converted and had God's Holy Spirit even while David was repenting and asking God to forgive him.  So he must have been converted, even before this time, or else He would have been asking God to give him the gift of the Holy Spirit if he never had it before.  As far as Job is concerned, I do not know, but if he was converted in the beginning of the account, he reached a deeper level of conversion by the end of the book.  But he may not have been converted before God afflicted him.

What I will say next may seem a little off-topic from the subject of Mr. Orchard's Bible study, but I mentioned believing the Bible, and I want to discuss a point about that here.  Also, it will tie in again with something else in that Bible study, which I will comment on.

We come into God's truth in different ways.  Some of us grow up in the Church and some come into the Church from other religions or no religion.  I remember that in various sermons and Bible studies Mr. Orchard has given, he has talked a bit about how he came into the Church and how he was called.  In one of his messages, not the Bible study last Friday, but a different one, he said that he read the Church's literature and understood it - it made sense to him - and he accepted it as truth because God was working in his mind and calling him, opening his mind to understand and be able to accept the truth.  This sounds very similar to an account I heard from Mr. John Ritenbaugh, pastor of Church of the Great God, when he related how he came to believe the truth.  He also read Mr. Armstrong's literature or heard him on the radio and it made sense to him and he accepted it as truth.

I can't think of a greater contrast between how these men came to believe the truth and how I came to believe the truth.

Not in the part about reading the Church literature and understanding it.  Not about it making sense.  I had exactly the same reaction when I first read the literature.  I was raised Catholic, pretty well versed in all the doctrines of the Catholic Church, but when I read Mr. Armstrong's literature and all the literature of the Worldwide Church of God, it made perfect sense to me.  It had a "ring of truth" to it.  It sounded right.  I sensed and felt, very deeply, that this was the truth.  In this way, I reacted the same way Mr. Orchard and Mr. Ritenbaugh reacted, if I understood their explanations correctly.

But what I did after that couldn't be more different.

I did NOT accept it as truth.  In spite of the fact that it seemed to be true and had a ring of truth to it, I refused to accept it.  This was a deliberate choice on my part.  I did not have an inability to believe it, quite the contrary, I wanted to believe the teaching of Mr. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God.  It seemed so right.  But I forced myself to be skeptical by an effort of will.  I made a deliberate, thought-out choice to refuse to accept it unless I could actually prove it.  And I knew that proving it meant more, much more, than looking up every scripture in their literature.  I had already done that, but that was not real proof, not for me anyway.


I knew from my Catholic upbringing in a strongly Catholic family (my sister became a nun) that people can strongly feel that something is true, yet it is not.  In other words, if I just accepted this new teaching because it seemed to be right and because I wanted to believe it, how was I different from millions of people who believe what they believe for the same reasons, yet believe different things?  If I wanted the truth and wanted to be sure it was the truth, I would really have to prove things.

And for me, proof was more than looking up scriptures referenced or quoted in the Church's literature.  That is only looking at one side.  Anyone can "prove" anything by selecting just certain scriptures to support their position.  I had to force myself into a frame of mind that was open to the possibility that Mr. Armstrong was wrong, and then study all sources and try to "get the facts" on all sides of these issues, to really prove if this was the truth or not.  First I had to prove God exists, then I had to prove the Bible is His inspired word, and then I had to prove doctrine by the Bible.  And that took a long time.  But in the end, I proved from the Bible all the major doctrines of the Church of God, and I knew I had proved them.

Now, that is a different path than Mr. Orchard and Mr. Ritenbaugh seem to have taken, but the destination - God's truth - is the same.  Mr. Orchard mentioned one time that we may take different routes to get to the same point of repentance, but the destination is the same for all of us.  God can work with us in different ways to bring us to where He wants us to be.  And I am not saying what I have said to try to invalidate or minimize the way God worked with these other men and how they responded.  In some ways, they responded better than I did because they began to obey God earlier probably and thus messed up their lives less than I did.  I took longer to prove the truth and made many mistakes during that time I should not have made.

But what I am trying to explain is a possible reason why Mr. Orchard and I have different views about things, namely, whether the gospel should be preached immediately or not.

While we take different paths to get to the same destination, that does not mean that the path we take does not affect our outlook and view of things after conversion.  We all have a lot to learn even after initial conversion, and we should never stop learning and growing for the rest of our lives.  How we learned the truth and the kind of background we had growing up can affect how much and in what areas we still have to learn things all our lives even after our initial conversion when we received God's Holy Spirit after baptism.  In a sense, if our ultimate destination is perfection (Matthew 5:48, Ephesians 4:11-13), we never completely arrive at the same destination in this life, but we should grow closer to God and to God's perfect knowledge and character, and as we do we will grow more and more like each other in knowledge and character. 

I never trusted my own "instincts", my own feelings, my own sense of what is true and what is not true when I was coming into the Church of God, not even when I read the Church's literature and it seemed right and true to me, and I still do not.  Even today, 32 years after my baptism, when thoughts come into my mind about right and wrong, no matter how true they may seem to me, I hesitate to attribute those thoughts to the Holy Spirit and be certain those thoughts are right, even if I prayed for the answer.  Why?  I know how some Catholics think.  I know how some religious people think.  And I know, absolutely, that there are people in this world who think that the Holy Spirit is leading their thoughts, yet they do not believe the Bible.

Even in the Church of God, I notice people sometimes believe God is leading them to this conclusion or that conclusion, and they feel absolutely sure about it, but their conclusions differ between them and they cannot prove their conclusions from the Bible.

Do I think God leads me by His Spirit, especially in understanding the Bible, in remembering scriptures, and in knowing how to apply the scriptures to daily issues and questions?  Yes, I think He does.  But He also allows me to make mistakes.  So if I pray for an answer and a thought comes into my mind, "do this", how do I know if it is God's Holy Spirit inspiring me or if it is my human mistake that God allows?  I can't, not for certain, unless I can prove it by the Bible.  My thoughts do not come pre-labeled, "this is from God" and "this is from your own faulty reasoning".  My only safeguard is the Bible.  If I can prove things in the Bible, I can have confidence those things are true. 

Can I make a mistake understanding the Bible?  Of course, but the more evidence for something I find in the Bible, the less chance there is that I am misunderstanding the Bible.  If I find one verse, I might misunderstand that verse.  If I find a dozen verses, there is less chance I have misunderstood every one of them.

We tend to trust things we have relied on in the past and have successfully helped us, and that includes methods, processes, and ways of thinking.  I proved the truth as thoroughly as I was able to do from the Bible, and that worked well for me and now I tend to trust that process.  Others may have found the truth because they sensed it was true and did not prove it more than looking up the scriptures in the literature, and that seemed to work well for them, and they trust that process.  So when they pray for an answer to a question, and they feel that God has put that answer in their minds, they tend to trust that the answer is from God, because that way of thinking brought them into the truth in the first place.

Mr. Orchard and Mr. Andrews are not preaching the gospel to the world.  I say that not as an accusation, but as a fact.  Maybe they will in the future.  They feel they have had good reasons for not doing it till now.  Besides their reasons why they feel that a certain degree of Church healing and reconciliation must occur before COGFC starts to preach the gospel, the only other justification I have heard from them is that they prayed and then came to an agreement in the January conference that it should be this way, and also later they fasted to know God's will.  They seem to be saying that because they met in an Acts 15 style meeting, prayed for agreement, and then, seemingly miraculously, were able to reach agreement after lunch on the last day when they were not able to agree before, and because they later fasted to know God's will, and because their reasons make sense to them, that God is leading their decision by His Holy Spirit, inspiring them to make the decision to heal the Church first and preach the gospel later.

I come to a different conclusion based on the Bible.  I consider the "beam in the eye" passage to see if that is a reason for not preaching the gospel until the Church is spiritually healed.  But I try to get all the scriptures on the subject.  I consider that God used people to preach warning messages or the gospel who had such beams in their eyes that they make most Church of God members seem righteous by comparison, such as Jonah and Judas.  I consider that there is not a single example in the Bible of anyone being told not to preach the gospel till they get their own lives straightened out - not since the Holy Spirit was given to the Church on Pentecost.  I don't just read the "beam in the eye" account in isolation, then reason in my head why it should stop us from preaching the gospel.  I try to get all the scriptures on the subject and let the Bible interpret the Bible.  I let the scriptures about Judas, about Jonah, and other scriptures interpret the "beam in the eye" passage to know if it applies to preaching the gospel, and when I let the Bible interpret the Bible, I see that it does not apply at all - Jesus never intended His beam in the eye teaching to mean that we should postpone preaching the gospel till we improve our own spiritual condition.

In other words, in trying to decide if it is best for the Church to concentrate on feeding the flock, reconciling with God and the brethren, and being healed spiritually and drawing closer to God BEFORE preaching the gospel to the world, I do not pray, fast, and then believe my own reasoning, believing it is inspired by God's Spirit in response to my prayers and fasting, but I look to the Bible, proving, proving, PROVING what God says on the subject.  I rely on that process to reach a conclusion because that process, proving things from the Bible, is what got me into the Church in the first place.  Do I pray for understanding, and do I sometimes fast?  Yes, because I need the help of God's Spirit to put scriptures together correctly and to remember and find all the scriptures that apply.  But my focus is on the Bible.  I try to find scriptures on both sides of the issue.  And always I try to keep an open mind to be corrected by the Bible in case I missed something.

If that kind of in-depth Bible study has been applied by Mr. Orchard and Mr. Andrews to this issue, why has COGFC never published the results?  Why have they never answered the fact, plainly revealed in the Bible, that Christ, after the account of the sermon on the mount when he talked about the beam in the eye, sent Judas out to preach the gospel?

Mr. Orchard, in his Bible study last Friday, said that if we achieve a common attitude and frame of mind through the process of repentance, an attitude that says, "Not only have I done wrong, but I am wrong", that will give us something in common - a common mind, a common heart - that will help keep us in the Church bound together as a family.  But COGFC has just split.  They split off from COGaic, then almost half of their leading ministers split from COGFC to go to different groups, and no doubt they took some members with them because COGFC isn't sure they can fill 50 rooms to make the deal with the hotel to observe the Feast in Tucson as they planned to do before those ministers left.

So common sense would seem to indicate that one way of finding out if this will really hold the Church together is to find out why it so recently split.

Did the ministers and members who left COGFC leave because they never acknowledged before baptism or sometime in their Christian life that not only have they done wrong but that they, humanly speaking, are wrong?  Would this common mind of acknowledging that we have been and are, humanly speaking, wrong have held Church of God, a Family Community together and prevented Mr. Nathan and three other leading ministers from leaving COGFC?

Why did they leave?

COGFC never gave Mr. Bob Rodzaj an opportunity to have a question and answer session and publish his answers on the COGFC website, and while Mr. Peter Nathan did have the  opportunity to have a question and answer session, COGFC has not published his answers either, though many were able to hear Mr. Nathan live.  So it is hard to know the reasons for certain.  But from what I heard Mr. Nathan say, I think preaching the gospel could have been a major reason for the split.

Which brings this matter of getting our answers from the Bible back full circle.

Different ministers and different leaders of groups can have meetings.  They can pray.  They can fast.  They can ask God to lead them to the right answer by His Holy Spirit.  They can reason.  And they can reach conclusions.  And they can reach widely different conclusions and each feel that God has led them to the right conclusion by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

But if you focus on the Bible, trying to get all relevant scriptures on any issue, having an open mind, believing what God says, and letting the Bible interpret the Bible, you will reach one conclusion on the preaching of the gospel issue, not two different answers.

Mr. Orchard is right in saying that to hold the Church together requires we have a common mind.  It was a lack of that common mind that resulted in COGFC splitting only a couple of months after it formed.  He defined that common mind as two steps in his Bible study:  acknowledge we have done wrong, then acknowledge that we are by nature wrong.  I add one more step:  we have to acknowledge that God is right.  And we do that by looking to what God has said in the Bible and believing God.

That is the common mind that is lacking.  That is the common mind that has the potential to hold us together as a Church, when and if we have that common mind.

It is the Bible that must draw us together.  Not just prayer, not just fasting, not just "Acts 15" meetings, and not just human reasoning.

The issue of preaching the gospel is a divisive issue.  It can only be resolved by the Bible.  And as long as part of the Church does not look primarily to the Bible for its answers to this issue, there will not be unity between that part of the Church and the part that looks to the Bible.  And all the prayers, fastings, and meetings you can have will not change that.

One news item:  In Sabbath services yesterday, Mr. Orchard and Mr. Andrews ordained Mike McKinney and Matthew King as elders.

Here are links to posts in this blog related to this subject:

" 'Beam in the Eye', and Preaching the Gospel to the World", dated January 14, 2014, link:

"Was Job Self-Righteous?", dated June 28, 2012, link:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Does the Ministry Stand between Us and God?

Does the ministry or top leadership of a Church of God fellowship stand between us and God in the flow of authority from God to us, or do we report to and receive direction from God directly, without the ministry standing in-between?

I think many brethren are concerned about this. There is an anti-organization mood among many brethren, a sense that we should all follow God directly without the ministry standing between us and God in the flow of authority and decision making from God to us. And because of that concern, there is a fear or a distaste of "organization" in general. There is a mood that Christ is the head of the Church and every member should serve God as Christ personally directs the member, without a minister or Church leader directing us as Christ directs the ministry. There is a sense that if there is a minister or Church of God leader supervising us, that somehow interferes with Christ's prerogative to supervise us directly without a minister as an intermediary.

This concern is, in my opinion, unnecessary when the limits of ministerial authority are understood.

Christ supervises each one us directly in certain matters. In certain other matters, Christ supervises us through the ministry and the leadership of the Church of God fellowship we attend. And in certain other matters, Christ supervises every Church family through the father of that family.

In other words, in the flow of authority and supervison over our lives from God to us, sometimes it is direct from Christ, sometimes if flows through the ministry, and sometimes it flows to the wife and children of a family through the husband and father. Which is the case is determined by the kind of decisions that must be made.

I explain this in detail in my book, Preaching the Gospel, in the section titled "Organization of the Church and Limitations on the Authority of the Ministry", in chapter 8. Here is a link:

I have produced three organizational charts in that section, and I will refer to them here, but you can look at them by following the above link. I also have scriptures in that section that explain why this is so.

The first organization chart shows our reporting relationship to God directly, through Jesus Christ, in matters of our salvation, our faith and trust in God and His word, and obedience to the spiritual law of God. Each of us is directly responsible to God for our faith and obedience, and God and Christ work with each of us directly. We communicate to God through prayer and God communicates to us through His word, the Bible. In these kinds of matters, Jesus Christ is the head of each one of us, man or woman, ordained or not ordained, directly. God leads us by the Bible, but also by His Holy Spirit to help us understand the Bible and to help us apply spiritual principles taught in the Bible to our daily lives. Our prayers go directly to the Father when we pray in Christ's name. Christ is our high priest, not the ministry, and He is the savior and intercessor for each one of us. God and Christ, through the Holy Spirit, help us to see our faults and to overcome them. When we face a trial, we go to God in prayer, and God intercedes to help us directly.

The ministry can help us, and should help us, in this relationship by teaching us where to find answers in the Bible, by offering wise advice, and other means. And God's word, God speaking to us directly, instructs us to respect and obey the ministry in certain matters defined in God's word. So the ministry can help us in our relationship with God and God teaches us to respect the ministry and also teaches us when and how to obey the ministry in certain matters. The Bible teaches us when to obey a minster and when not to obey a minister.

But the relationship in these matters - faith in God's word, obedience to God's spiritual law, and our personal salvation - is with God direct, not through the ministry.

So, for example, if a minister tells you to commit a sin, such as to tell a lie, that is where this direct relationship with God teaches you to obey God first, not the minister.

The second organization chart shows how God supervises family decisions. This would include things like child discipline, household matters, family budget and spending, family activities, and stuff like that. God the Father and Jesus Christ do not directly supervise and lead the decisions of the wife and children in these matters, but rather, they supervise the family through the husband and father. So if Christ wants the wife to do something, He directs the husband and the husband in turn directs the wife. I do not mean to say that God does not help the wife in her role, such as by answering her prayers and giving her wisdom and various gifts. But when a decision needs to be made, and the husband makes the decision, the wife should submit to that decision and the husband should submit to Christ in the way he makes that decision.

As in the previous example, if a decision is a matter or obedience to God's law, the wife reports to Christ directly, but if it is a matter of what room in the house to use as an office, how much money to spend on groceries, and things like that, the wife reports to the husband and the husband reports to Christ. So if her husband tells her to tell a lie, she must obey God first, because this decision - the decision of whether to break God's law and tell a lie or to obey God and not lie - is a matter of obedience to God's law, and in this kind of decision she reports directly to Christ and to God, NOT through the husband.

The third organizational chart shows how God supervises us in matters of the organized work of the Church. These matters include: what the official doctrinal teaching of the Church will be, preaching the gospel to the world, feeding the flock, caring for the poor in the Church, resolving disputes between brethren, counseling people for problems, and disciplining those who are openly sinning. It includes protecting the flock from wolves, from deception, from heresy, and from false teachers. It includes removing those who cause division.

In these things, Christ supervises us, not directly as individuals, but through the leadership and the ministry of the Church of God fellowship we attend. God leads the ministry to determine what doctrines will be taught, how the flock will be fed, the preaching of the gospel, and similar matters of the organized work of the Church. Christ does NOT supervise each member directly, but leads the ministry to make the right decisions.

So, for example, if there is a dispute between members, and the ministry makes a binding decision to resolve the matter, the members should obey that decision. When the leadership and ministry determine a point of doctrine that will be taught, the members should cooperate and not oppose that decision - they should not contradict it and criticize the decision in conversation with other members of that fellowship.

What happens when the ministry teaches something contrary to the Bible? If we see such a case and are unable to resolve it quietly with the ministry, should we then go to the members and teach them what we see in the Bible that we think the ministry is wrong about? No, because God has given the ministry the job of determining what will be taught in the Church, not us. Decisions about the teaching of doctrine to others is a matter where Christ supervises us through the ministry, meaning we should not take that prerogative ourselves contrary to the ministry. But should we believe the ministry when we see in the Bible that they are wrong? No, because in matters of faith, in matters of believing what God says in the Bible, our responsibility is to God directly, not through the ministry. God and Christ command us directly in the Bible to have faith in God, to trust God, and not to trust man. So we must believe what we see in the Bible, even while we keep silent and do not contradict the ministry with the members.

But what if the matter is of fundamental importance and the ministry and the leadership of the Church of God fellowship we attend are not following Christ in major matters?

Then that is a time to leave, either by taking a stand (and being disfellowshipped) or by quietly leaving. Usually it is better to quietly leave.

But if we take that course, we better have a very good reason, because if we take something small and blow it up to be big (when it really isn't), Christ will judge us. We are accountable to God and Christ for any decision to leave a fellowship. Nevertheless, sometimes it is necessary to leave a Church of God fellowship in order to obey Christ.

Do some ministers or Church of God leaders abuse their authority and try to extend it beyond what God has given them, trying to assume authority over matters that God reserves for Himself? Do some ministers try to make "exceptions" to God's law, trying to get you to tell lies? Do some try to command you what to believe and try to interpret the Bible for you and command that you believe their interpretation? Yes, unfortunately, sometimes ministers abuse their office that way. And when it comes to making a decision to leave them or stay with them, that decision is between you and God, because it affects your salvation and your obedience to God's law, and it affects your relationship with God. You have to make the decision to stay with a minister (because his faults are minor and you can stay without sinning) or to leave (because you must leave in order to obey God).

My main point here is, there is no reason to be "anti-organization" as long as you understand the limits of the authority of the ministry. Organization (and I do not mean incorporation but simply the recognition of offices and roles from the ministry on down) is important within the limits of the matters it is for: the organized work of the Church.

God, in His word, has already placed limits on the authority of the organized ministry, and those limits can help to protect you spiritually from ministerial error when you understand them.

Yet, too often members look at some errors among ministers and then are against ALL authority of the ministry and ALL organization. That is wrong. We should respect and support the organized ministry in the decision making authority over the work of the Church that God has given them while we obey God directly in matters of believing His word and obedience to His spiritual law.

The offices in the ministry and the organization that exists in the Church of God are ordained by God. They are there, not only to help manage the work of the Church, but to teach us the lessons of submission to authority that we need to learn by experience.

And organization will be necessary for finishing God's work of preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel.

Let's not be against organization and the ministry, but let's respect and support them while we understand the limits of their authority.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:


Thursday, March 6, 2014

COGFC's Governance Structure and Model

COGFC (Church of God, a Family Community), made up of ministers and members who have recently left COGaic (COGaic is led by Mr. David Hulme), has published the audio recordings of its open house session on the first day of their March conference. Those recordings are listed in The Father's Call website. Here is a link to that page. Look for the messages dated March 2, 2014, link:

I have previously reported on that open house, and you can hear much more detail in the recordings themselves.

I want to discuss their governance model.

COGFC is a functioning Church. It is organized. It is not incorporated, but it has organization, and by organization I do not mean legal organization, but simply how ministers and members have organized themselves to function since COGFC has formed.

COGFC has been conducting Friday night Bible studies and Sabbath services for a couple of months. They have a website which is expanding. They are planning a Feast of Tabernacles. There have been assignments for pastoring.

For example, there is an explanation of which pastors have what responsibilities in The Father's Call website. This explanation shows which ministers are responsible for pastoring which areas, and explains responsibilities handed by various ministers such as Steve Andrews, Chip Capo, Don Day, Bill Eastburn, Richard Emery, Maurice Frohn, Bill Hendricks, Bill Hutchison, Brian Orchard, Ray Perez, Marshall Stiver, Ken Vail, Herb Van Curen, Cliff Veal, Fred Watson, and Pete Wolf. Here is a link. Scroll to the bottom till you find "Announcements", then towards the end of the announcements:

Two leadership conferences have been conducted in the space of about 2 to 3 months.

All these activities and events are the results of decisions made by COGFC. The subject of governance is decision making. The structure of governance shows how decisions are made and who makes them and how roles and responsibilities for making decisions are assigned in the Church of God.

When you know how decisions are being made, especially decisions about who has what responsibilities, you know the model of governance being used.

Although COGFC has never articulated how their model of governance works, it seems to be apparent, at least to me, how decisions are being made. I cannot know what goes on behind the scenes, but it seems as if decisions are being made by mutual agreement. I could be wrong of course, and I will leave it to COGFC or others who know more than I to correct me if I am wrong.

So I will attempt to articulate this model of governance I think I observe. It may be transitional and may gradually change into a more hierarchical model over time, or even be suddenly replaced with such a structure, but right now, this is how things seem to function in COGFC.

You can call this, "decision making by discussion and mutual agreement", if you want.

It is a loose organization.

There is indeed a hierarchy of roles and assignments. Currently, Mr. Brian Orchard and Mr. Steve Andrews seem to share the top leadership of this fellowship. But there is a larger group also of the five remaining ministers who attended the first conference in January, which includes Mr. Orchard and Mr. Andrews, but also includes Cliff Veal, Marshall Stiver and Bill Hutchison.

Then there is the larger group of ministers and local elders, then deacons, then the general membership. The membership consists of those members who regularly attend with and tithe to COGFC. There is hierarchy, a pyramid structure, because the top layers have more "authority" if you want to call it that, or "decision making influence" if you prefer that term, than the lower levels, and the top levels are smaller. A member who is not ordained does not have the decision making power of Mr. Orchard and Mr. Andrews for example.

Some decisions may be made by the exercise of authority, especially at the local level such as when a pastor makes a decision for the congregation. But many decisions are made by mutual agreement.

How does that work?

At each level in the hierarchy, people get together and discuss issues that need to be decided. They talk about those issues until they agree, or until they agree that they cannot agree. With matters they agree on, they take action. With matters they cannot agree on, they defer action.

So for example, starting at the top, there may be questions and issues to be settled by Mr. Orchard and Mr. Andrews. Either man can raise the issues he wants to discuss with the other. For each issue, they discuss it, each man giving his reasons why he thinks a certain decision is best. They may come to an agreement by one of three ways. One, they may already be in agreement as soon as they discuss it. Two, they may not at first agree, but one man may be persuaded by the other in the course of the discussion so they end up agreeing. Or, three, they may never really agree about which course of action is best, but one or both of them may compromise for the sake of reaching a decision and thus agree to support that compromise decision. There is a fourth outcome, and that is, they never reach agreement. In that case, no action is taken on that particular issue.

So if Mr. Orchard and Mr. Andrews get together with five issues to decide, and through persuasion or compromise reach agreed decisions on four of those issues, but cannot agree on the fifth issue, they announce and take action on the four things they agreed about but take no action on the fifth item they failed to reach agreement on.

This same process works when the five leading ministers meet and reach decisions. Anything they cannot reach unanimous agreement on is simply deferred. Whatever they can unanimously agree on is put into action.

When the top ministers agree to an action, the rest of the fellowship, ministers and members, tend to cooperate and try to do what they are asked to do.

This process may to a degree work between levels. So, for example, Mr. Orchard may ask a particular minister to serve the needs of a particular location or congregation. Usually, the minister will submit and say yes, if he is able, but in some cases the same process I described may occur. He may have reasons for declining which he discusses with Mr. Orchard, and they will try to reach agreement. If they cannot, the minister may say, I'm sorry Mr. Orchard, I cannot do that. But normally, the minister will probably make every effort to comply with what the leadership requests. And deacons and members likewise cooperate with their pastors.

Is this model of governance new? It may be one of the oldest and most commonly used forms of decision making in the history of mankind, both in the Church and in the world. When a group of 5 or 10 office workers stand by the elevators at lunchtime to decide where they will go to lunch together, that is exactly what happens. They reach agreement on which restaurant to go to, who will ride in what cars, etc. When a group of friends in the Church decide where to go to eat, the same thing happens. When two friends decide what activity they will do, this is how they decide. Sometimes they persuade, sometimes they negotiate, and sometimes they compromise, and if they can't, they go separate ways that day and the joint activity never takes place.

Is it biblical for the Church of God? There is no law against it. Most of the examples in the Bible are not of this type, but some may be.

Is it the best structure of governance? What are its strong points and weak points?

Its major weak point is that it is limited, even weak at times, and usually slow. Not all decisions can be made, and those that are made may take longer than necessary. There may be other weak points, for example, someone who has the wisdom to know the right course of action may compromise for the sake of reaching a decision. The decisions made can be a blend of wisdom and foolishness, which can be a good recipe for mediocrity. The decisions are not usually disastrous, but neither are they particularly outstanding. It's strong point is that it can work well at keeping people committed to decisions made, even when there are character flaws in the people who make the decisions and submit to the decisions. That is because people commit in advance to supporting those decisions, so it is harder for them to back out or rebel. They feel it is partly their decision (they take "ownership" of the decision and the responsibility because they agreed to it).

Simple hierarchical government, such as that practiced by Mr. Armstrong, can be stronger, and most examples in the Bible are of that type. Hierarchical government, where there is someone, one person, at the top of each human organization (with Christ over him, and there may be more than one human organization), can be much stronger. It can have all the advantages in terms of discussion, persuasion, and compromise as the COGFC "mutual agreement" model because the leader at the top, or a leader anywhere in the structure, can use the "mutual agreement" process with his subordinates whenever he sees an advantage for doing so. In other words, in simple hierarchical government, those who have authority to give orders and commands do not have to always use that authority. They can use it most of the time, some of the time, or rarely, depending on the circumstances, as they see fit. But the authority exists when it is needed.

Simple hierarchical governance can make any decision, and is never limited by inability of men to reach agreement by compromise or persuasion. And simple hierarchical governance can reach quick decisions whenever necessary. The boss says, "do this" and we do it.

But there is one potential problem with simple hierarchical government. It breaks down and does not function well when the people at the top are unrighteous or unwise. Any governance can fail that way, but the failure of hierarchical governance can be quicker, greater, and vastly more dramatic than the mutual agreement structure of governance. Witness Hitler and Stalin and compare their decisions with the decisions made jointly by Churchill and Roosevelt in World War II. Hitler and Stalin were unrighteous and unwise autocrats. They never felt the need to reach compromise with their subordinates. They gave orders and made some of the stupidest and most disastrous decisions for their peoples you could imagine. But Churchill and Roosevelt and their staffs had to argue things out and try to reach compromise. The British had one set of views and the Americans a different set of views. It was a stormy relationship, and there was much inefficiency in the process, yet they never made a disastrous decision, though they made mistakes.

Yet, though simple hierarchical governance can do badly when led by unrighteous or unwise men, it is the form of governance that we should be practicing most of the time in the Church of God. Why? For the simple reason that it is the form of governance that will be practiced in the Kingdom of God and therefore is the way we should be learning.

Simple hierarchical governance is the very BEST form of governance when led by those who are righteous and wise, and all of God's children will fit that category when we are born full sons of God in His kingdom.

There is another advantage to simple hierarchical governance. You can more easily obey Christ's instruction to judge by fruits (Matthew 7:15-20). When a leader is fully in charge, you can easily see his fruits to see if he is a righteous and wise leader. But if he has to constantly compromise with others who are not righteous and wise in order to reach unanimous decisions, how can you judge by the fruits? You never know what decisions he would make if he had the authority. Nor do you see the bad fruits of the unrighteous or unwise leaders he has to compromise with. Everything is blurred, so how can you see who God is working through?

I don't want to use any actual names of people as examples, but suppose you had Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones (fictitious names) as joint leaders who must compromise to reach unanimous agreement for every important decision. Suppose Mr. Smith is righteous and wise and Mr. Jones is unrighteous and unwise. If they must always compromise, you never see the fruits of the men individually. The decisions are not very bad, neither are they very good, but mediocre, bland, somewhere in-between good and bad. But if Mr. Smith leads one organization with simple hierarchical governance and he has full authority, and Mr. Jones likewise leads another organization the same way, you will soon be able to easily follow Christ's instruction to judge by fruits, because Mr. Smith's fruits will be outstanding, but Mr. Jones's fruits will be a horror. Then you will know who God is working through and you can support Mr. Smith. Then the fruits will be better with Mr. Smith than when both men had to compromise and agree on everything because neither one was in charge.

The form of governance practiced by COGFC may be transitional. A year from now, if COGFC still exists, it may be governed according to a simple hierarchical structure such as we had with Mr. Armstrong. Or it may be a blend of the two models. Or, they may continue indefinitely with the model they have, maybe formalizing it somehow and articulating it.

But the strongest structure of governance, when in the right hands, and the one we should be learning because we will practice it in the Kingdom of God, is simple hierarchical governance of the type we had with Mr. Armstrong. And I believe such a type of governance, in the right hands, will be needed to do the enormous work of finishing the preaching of the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel before the tribulation begins.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel: