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Where Is God’s Church Today?
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Jesus said, “I will build My Church…” There is a single organization that teaches the entire truth of the Bible, and is called to live by “every word of God.” Do you know how to find it? Christ said it would:

  • Teach “all things” He commanded
  • Have called out members set apart by truth
  • Be a “little flock”

Do you know David C. Pack?

The Government of God

Understanding Offices and Duties

by David C. Pack

The Church of ­God—­the biblical Body of ­Christ—­is not divided, and is the only place where the government of God is present, the only organization Christ leads. He has placed offices and assigned special duties within His Church. All of the splinters have rejected God’s government! This has led to mass confusion about these ­God-­ordained offices and duties.

What exactly is a deacon?—a local elder?—a preaching elder?—a pastor?—an evangelist?—a prophet?—an apostle? What about “teachers”? Who are the “messengers” to the seven Churches in Revelation 2 and 3? What do they do? Where will the Two Witnesses come from? How does the “watchman” of Ezekiel 33:7 function in this ­age? How do all these work and serve, and in unity?

Who holds authority to ordain today? Are splinter ordinations valid? Which office(s) can “bind and loose”? Can anyone add truth or traditions to the Church? Who is authorized to make ­Church-­wide administrative ­judgments? Who supervises all congregations?

This vital book answers all of these ­questions—­and many more!

Video Introduction
Preface

Twenty years ago, destroyers rose up within the Church of God (John 10:10). While many have at least understood this much, they seem oblivious to what these men hated most. The majority have focused on the other doctrines thrown away by the apostates. Of course, every doctrine of God is important.

But the very biggest receives almost no attention.

The government of God is central, and essential, to the Church of God. It simply cannot function without it. Think of all that is at stake within this colossal doctrine: how Christ structured His ministry—how to distinguish true ministers from false—the functions and duties of each office—through whom Christ does and does not lead His Church and Work—through whom He announces the kingdom of God to the world and warns the modern nations of Israel—what is the Church—unity in the Church—how Christ protects it, gives it truth and traditions, and feeds it—and so much more!

This fascinating book presents a truly compelling story and offers facts more interesting than could be imagined. You will find it to be among the most crucial you will read for the rest of your life, outside the Bible—and you will not be able to put it down. Mr. Armstrong repeated time and again that “Government is everything,” and this book explains why! At 339 pages, it is the most comprehensive volume on God’s government ever written. Only those who read it cover-to-cover will appreciate this statement.

This large book to the splinters is supremely important to all of God’s people! Every person with God’s Spirit should read it. However, every deacon, deaconess, local elder, preaching elder, pastor and evangelist in every Worldwide Church of God offshoot should read it twice. The first read will tell them why.

If you anoint your eyes, with vision restored, you will be able to seek—and find!—the government of God!

Introduction

Until 1986, and for some years after, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) operated under what was commonly referred to as the “government of God.” This was a term that carried special meaning in the minds of every member of the Church—over 150,000 people—across the world. This government looked and worked a certain way. The ministry and membership were in accord under it, all understanding their role. Dissent was uncommon and dissidents relatively few. Seemingly everyone understood that God’s government was intrinsic to His Church and that its correct and orderly function, in all its working parts, enabled the Church and Work of God to grow immense in size and to be able to remain wonderfully productive.

This volume is about that government, how the New Testament describes it and how the Church once experienced it in effective operation. Other parts of the Splinter Explanation Packet have referenced and discussed God’s government and how Christ leads His Church. This book, however, is different.

The sections of the other books devoted to government generally discussed the overall fact that Jesus Christ has a government that is undivided, and that He is leading one, unified, organized Church and Body from the top down, and always beginning with one man. This takes a different and more in-depth look at how that government functions—and always functioned in the past—including how it was carefully structured by God to work “decently and in order” in every matter. It will necessarily refer to some of the same elements covered elsewhere, but it is intended primarily as a kind of “textbook” explaining the working machinery of that government when all parts are in place and operating correctly. It is much more than a basic primer.

Recognize at the outset then that The Government of God – Understanding Offices and Duties has not been specifically written to prove that God’s government is, and has always been, from the top down, under one man. Other sermons I have given carefully cover and prove the hierarchical nature of God’s government—Old Testament and New—straight from the Bible. Of course, the fact that God’s government is hierarchical cannot be avoided in any description of it.

Must Be Practiced

God’s people were told over and over by Herbert W. Armstrong that they must be practicing the government of God in the Church if they—you!—hope to be part of it in the kingdom of God. Further, we were told time and again the Church was the kingdom of God in embryo, meaning members were God’s government being formed—daily prepared—in the womb of the Church, begotten but not yet born into God’s kingdom. All of this instruction was always personalized to include how the individual Church member had his or her responsibility.

Here is but one statement from Mr. Armstrong saying this in his own words. Because of its thoroughness and strength of language, one quote is enough to pound this point home. Read carefully—remember!—and do not miss how Mr. Armstrong ties vital principles together regarding God’s government, its role in the Church, His Work—and you. It speaks without ambiguity—he leaves no room for confusion (all emphasis his):

“God’s people are in the time of final trying and testing—like taking final exams to determine whether we graduate.”

“Brethren, CAN YOUR MIND COMPREHEND THE TRANSCENDENT MAGNITUDE OF [GOD’S] SUPREME PURPOSE? The entire UNIVERSE to be put under subjection to you? That means you are to RULE over it all—IF you are submissive, obedient to God and His government over you NOW!”

“Do you want to let resentment against God’s government over you NOW disqualify you—snatch you from God’s GRACE and PURPOSE for you, and cast you into a lake of fire? God’s PURPOSE for us is SO GREAT, we need to FEAR lest SATAN divert our minds from that GOAL! Satan is subtle!”

“Just WHAT IS GOD? He is CREATOR! But He maintains—preserves—what He creates. HOW? By His GOVERNMENT—the GOVERNMENT OF GOD!”

God’s overall PURPOSE in creating and putting man on earth, therefore, was DUAL:

1) The RESTORATION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD upon earth.

2) To REPRODUCE HIMSELF, and thus produce an unlimited number of beings, begotten and BORN of God into GOD’S OWN DIVINE FAMILY having developed PERFECT HOLY AND RIGHTEOUS CHARACTER, that WILL NOT, and shall have so SET THEMSELVES that they CANNOT SIN (I John 3:9). That is the only guarantee that the Creator GOD may perfectly PRESERVE that which He designs and creates.”

“Brethren, we in God’s Church are being trained and prepared, NOW, to RULE in the Kingdom of God during the millennium. What KIND (principle) of government are we being trained to administer?

“At that time, beginning with Christ’s coming and the resurrection, Christ will be KING of kings over ALL NATIONS (Rev. 19:16). Directly under Christ, over Israel—that is all the nations springing from the twelve tribes of Israel—will be the resurrected David…(Jeremiah 30:8-9)…(Ezekiel 37:22, 24-25)…(Ezekiel 34:23).

“Of course, also under Christ will be others over the Gentile nations, but God has not revealed who specifically. But, UNDER DAVID, God does tell us who shall rule those of each of the twelve tribes…(Matthew 19:28).”

“Turn to Luke 19, beginning with verse 11. Jesus gave a parable to His disciples [which showed that His servants would receive authority over cities at the]…second coming of Christ to RULE all nations…”

“Later, from heaven Jesus said: ‘He that overcometh, and keepeth my WORKS unto the end, to him will I give POWER over the nations, and he shall RULE THEM with a rod of iron’ (Rev. 2:26-27). And, again, ‘To him that overcometh (grows in SPIRITUAL CHARACTER) will I grant to sit with me in my throne (in Jerusalem), even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in my Father’s throne’ (Rev. 3:21).

“Brethren, we are IN TRAINING, NOW, for…RULE in the KINGDOM OF GOD.

“And what PRINCIPLE of government? From the TOP DOWN. From GOD—it is HIS Government—the GOVERNMENT of God the Father. Under Him is Christ. Under Christ, over ISRAEL will be the resurrected DAVID. Under David, each over one of the twelve tribes, the TWELVE ORIGINAL APOSTLES. Under each of them, rulers over CITIES.

“DEMOCRACY, from the bottom up—every man doing what seems right IN HIS OWN EYES, would never prepare you to REIGN with Christ then. THINK, brethren, what it would mean if you should REBEL against God’s Government as HE has placed it in HIS CHURCH NOW, and follow the dissenters OUT of God’s Church, into what unauthorized humans have ASSOCIATED THEMSELVES into—an ‘ASSOCIATED CHURCH.’ I should demand PROOF that such is of GOD. There is NO EVIDENCE. It is of MEN—disloyal, selfish men—swayed and deceived by Satan!”

“Dear Brethren, I feel like writing to you as the Apostle John did, as ‘my little children,’ (I John 2:1)—for, directly or indirectly, you are my sons and daughters in the Lord—or of the Work which Christ raised up through me. We are right now in the time of FINAL EXAMS—of severe trying and testing—to determine whether we shall make it into God’s Kingdom and eternal life—to be a priest or king, ruling under Christ for a thousand years—and after that, the WHOLE UNIVERSE under our feet! The future before us is so transcendently ENORMOUS we cannot now fully conceive of it.”

“Let’s not fail in these final exams.”

Brethren Letter, May 2, 1974

Could Mr. Armstrong have been stronger—more emphatic? Could he have found more pointed language in his description of democratic government or other forms of government outside God’s pattern—and outside His Church? How long has it been since you have thought about the fact that you are in final training—“final exams”—qualifying—or disqualifying!—for rulership under Jesus Christ with the glorified saints? How long since you concerned yourself with rebellion against God’s government?—or even what is that government?

These are all serious questions, and you must be prepared to give them serious answers!

Government Re-established

The entire Church once knew that the government of God had been revealed again to the Church in the Philadelphian age. Mr. Armstrong made certain that no one was permitted to forget this, at least not while he was alive. Here are just two sermon references from him about God’s government, its supreme importance and its restoration to the Church in the Philadelphian age by God through Mr. Armstrong. The first speaks of MYSTERY OF THE AGES coming. (Of course, all emphasis is mine.):

“But when I was challenged, before I learned about the Holy Days or anything, I was challenged on the point of God’s law and of God’s government! The whole thing was government. The thing that Satan took away [in the Garden] was government. The thing that Christ is coming to restore is government. And what He raised me up for was to restore government in His Church! And the WHOLE TEST of the challenge in the first place after God had softened me by other things that will be recorded in this book was the point of government.”

“Rely on God,” April 6, 1985

“What has been restored? The gospel of the kingdom of God has been restored. The government of God has been restored in this Church! And something has been restored brethren! And Christ is coming to restore everything and world government, not just the Church, but the whole world! And we are to reign and rule with him.”

Feast of Tabernacles, Sep. 21, 1983

These statements are also emphatic. They could scarcely have been more ironclad. But they were also exciting—even thrilling—to hear in the past! They form the premise of this book—that God’s government was revealed again to the Church of God in the twentieth century. Mr. Armstrong made no bones about the fact that he was raised up to restore that government—and to explain it. Later, we will learn in detail what this government looked like—how it appeared when it was in place, in both its initial and final stages of development.

Limited View of Most

One of the tragedies visible after the apostasy is that very, very few brethren appear to have understood the government of the Church. Most held a view little more than this: “Mr. Armstrong is in charge of the Church. My pastor is in charge of our congregation. And I guess there are deacons and elders, and maybe some others. Don’t evangelists fit in there, too?”

Like Mr. Armstrong’s statements, and as with other of the splinter books, this one will not spare. It is probably an understatement to say it will be one of the strongest books you will ever read. It addresses tough topics and sometimes presents the “tough”—really tough!—answers. You have heard it said that “the truth hurts.” This is perhaps nowhere more true than with the subject of government, and specifically some of the elements within this subject.

Religious hobbyists enjoy reading—dabbling really—in lots of different religious material, usually reading very few publications in their entirety. Such people are motivated by curiosity, not the pursuit of truth. As with the other books to the splinters, this one cannot be appreciated or understood without reading it all. If you stop at some point, this will possibly be because you have disagreed with a point without hearing all the facts. You have “answered the matter before you heard it,” and you know how Proverbs 18:13 ends.

If you are not prepared to read all 20 chapters (including all insets), to continue for even one more sentence is to waste your time. You will want to find other ways to satisfy your intellectual curiosity. But those determined to finish will find themselves engrossed in a most compelling story from recent Church history, and one of almost epic proportions within the Church of God. You will find this subject fascinating beyond expectation.

Every reader who chooses to proceed is urged to fasten his seat belt now!

Similar to the supreme importance of The True Church – One Organization, or Many? and “Anoint Your Eyes” – Christ’s Warning to His People, once you have completed The Government of God, you are urged to turn and read it again from the beginning. After one reading, if you have understood the message contained here, you will see the need to read it a second time more slowly and seriously.

One further point. The book contains numerous illustrations and insets. There are pictures, graphs, charts, maps and a number of different vital elements of government covered within them. While helpful and important—they will assist in expanding your mind—having many insets can sometimes break the flow of the text. If you are prepared to read the book twice, perhaps skip over them on the second reading (rereading them before or after you are done). This will help to bring punch—the full impact!—of the book as it is intended to flow.

Two Pivotal Years

Many seem unaware that the hierarchical form and pattern of how God’s government worked in the Church first began to be revealed to Mr. Armstrong in late 1952, after he had already been the leader of the Philadelphian era for about 19 years, from October 1933.

But Mr. Armstrong explained that this doctrinal understanding—and no true member of the Church ever doubted that the matter of God’s government was anything less than established Church doctrine—did not all come to him at once. Fuller understanding came over a period of time, actually years, as Mr. Armstrong learned the critical differences between the various offices and duties in the New Testament ministry, and how these were to function and interrelate smoothly. Coming to a fuller, grander picture of what this restored government meant in practical fact actually took several years—until early 1955—for Mr. Armstrong to see it in its final form, when the government of God had finally become complete in the Church.

Of course, for the remaining nearly 30 years of his life, Mr. Armstrong continued to learn more about government in the Body of Christ, and its correlation to the expanding Church and the two commissions of the Work. However, January 22, 1955 was an extraordinary moment in Church history, and virtually no one knows or remembers this, let alone why this date was such a milestone and turning point. This will be brought to light in Chapter Five.

Let’s return to the point above—that God’s people are being prepared in His Church to rule in His kingdom. Again, this was to be learned by practicing the government of God within the Church. This is a pattern of behavior that automatically disappears—a purpose and application that is completely lost to further development and training today—if God’s government no longer exists in its original form!

Do you see this? Then, do you—can you?—understand what is at stake in being able to correctly identify and locate the very same government today, which would still be found only in a single, unified organization?

Teamwork Lost

Consider further. This was a government that emphasized all-important teamwork in doing—and completing!—the Work of God for the rest of the age. If that government no longer exists, such teamwork—and the true Work of God, which flowed from it—also ceases to exist. Many crucial lessons of Christian development and growth are then forced to fall by the wayside.

You must ask God for guidance to help you comprehend all that you are about to read—and what you must decide after you do. The reader will find himself forced to confront a whole series of questions. In fact, the first chapter is entirely about recognizing and framing the great government questions that so many now seem unwilling or unable to face. These must be carefully culled from the blurred images of today and spelled out in advance of the pursuit to find God’s government somewhere on earth.

If you periodically find yourself angry at what is written, try to discern if you are reacting to what God says or Mr. Armstrong said, rather than my words re-explaining or confirming them.

The Purpose and Value of Repetition

Like other splinter books, there are a few sections of similarity or partial repetition from the other books to the splinters. When this has been done, it is because such material enhances the meaning of more than one subject. (Also, in a very few cases, parts of certain quotes from Mr. Armstrong are repeated in different places within this book because they apply to more than one section. The reader must carefully read them again in their new context to appreciate the fuller picture being painted along the way.)

I have also used repetition because, however much I stress the importance of reading all of the splinter material to get the complete picture of the apostasy and all that one must do to recover from and survive it, some seem only willing to read one or possibly a few of these books. Therefore, each must be “self-contained” as much as possible. This approach also eliminates more questions within a subject—and God’s government is certainly an enormous subject—but it also may spur some readers who might not otherwise do so to pursue other books written to the splinters.

Special Appeal

Before concluding, it is necessary to speak directly—and bluntly—to all deacons, elders and ministers who served in the Worldwide Church of God when it was on track under Mr. Armstrong. One purpose of this book is to try to awaken in you a remembrance of God’s government at work in His Church. If you are in the process of anointing your eyes (Rev. 3:18), you will understand that what you will read is, in part, an appeal designed to get your attention and return you to your true role and calling to service. You once firmly believed that Jesus Christ had installed you into the office you held within His Body. Perhaps you still think this way. If so, this book is truly for you!

Ordained people within the splinters, think hard—very, very hard!—about your original calling to serve in one or more offices under the sure guidance and direction of Christ as Head of His Church. Throughout your reading, ask yourself every one of the difficult, but necessary, questions that circumstances today require you to face. Do not permit yourself to look away from the hard realities now facing every one of God’s people.

In every age of His Church, Christ’s sheep have needed shepherds. Those with special leadership training and experience from the past will be held accountable in a greater way than all others (Jms. 3:1-2). Dereliction of duty by those “to whom much was given” will mean that “much will be required” of them some day (Luke 12:48). Take a deep breath and think. If you do not ask these questions of yourself, Christ may one day do this for you before His “judgment seat” (II Cor. 5:10). You will be forced to give answers to Him then that you were not willing to demand of yourself now.

Is that what you want?

The Wonderful Possibility

Leaders are only part of the story. The Government of God – Understanding Offices and Duties presents an equally direct appeal to everyone who reads it. It offers an opportunity to those who so desire to once again reside under and enjoy the marvelous blessings and peace that the government of God brought to those who in faith submitted themselves to it. These came from the certain knowledge that brethren were actually submitting themselves to Christ’s leadership over His one, undivided Church!

Joy can be recaptured, as can true peace and real faith that the all-powerful, living Jesus Christ still has as firm a grip as ever on the reins of a Church that He built almost 2,000 years ago. This is seen every day at our Headquarters in the people contacting us who are re-awakening to the reality that they can have again what they thought was lost forever in this age.

These have been the brethren who wished no further involvement in all that Chapter Three describes. But first they learned which were the biggest questions

Chapter One – Identifying the Great Questions

In pursuit of the truth, some people never seem able to correctly identify the questions that must be answered to get to it. They cannot create a road map to their destination. To coin a familiar scripture, they seemingly stumble around “ever learning but never able to come to the truth” of a matter. If we are to answer the great questions about the government of God, we must first correctly identify them—carefully spell them out. Then we must understand why they are important, and be unwilling to accept any but proven facts, whether from God’s Word or from history.

All that is written in the chapters ahead is the truth about the government of God. It presents numerous facts, much evidence and real proof in answering the many questions presented here.

Realize that every explanation of a biblical doctrine has a reasonable and natural limit, or it could almost go on without end. This is true of government. But this subject cannot be shortchanged. Its explanation must be conclusive. Therefore, this book has been written in thorough fashion. I have tried as hard as humanly possible with God’s guidance to leave you, the reader, with inescapable conclusions—answers!—to the questions now presented.

The Most Basic Question

In the wake of the apostasy, various fundamental questions have arisen. No one having left the apostasy who is sincerely seeking the full truth about God’s government can possibly avoid them. They must be identified and hit head on!

It all begins here…

Could Satan’s agents destroy the government of God in His Church? Have you considered whether this is possible? In other words, can men do this? Do human beings hold such power?

Let’s look at this from a different perspective. Do you believe that God’s enemies can enter the Church that the living Christ built and actively heads, and alter the way He must lead its continuation from that point forward? In other words again, following an apostasy, do you believe that Christ is, in effect, hostage to however the emerging new leaders (in today’s case, of many competing organizations) wish to re-engineer and reconstruct His government? Now put yet another way, if men believe that another method of Church governance is suitable to them at any given time in Church history, or when they have had to flee false leaders, are they permitted—do they now carry authority—to sort of “start fresh” and “take another look” at finding a “better way”?

Even Clearer!

But let’s make the question even more clear. Suppose the range of many new leaders wish to invent several entirely new forms of government, with numerous internal variations that they have installed—stylized—as they see fit, and substitute this completely new machinery in place of God’s pattern. Does this mean that Christ is somehow “duty bound” to accept and work through what they have instituted? Does He have to just “live with it”?—and then this huge question: Does He settle on only one group, or must He accept and lead all of these organizations?

You will find that this series of questions summarizes the very greatest question you will be required to answer. Do not lose sight of it throughout the remainder of the book.

If you believe—if you recognize—that men could not possibly hold such authority—and the book builds on this basic recognition—the following greatest questions automatically and immediately slam into the reader: Does the exact same government still exist—somewhere? Does the government that was re-established in the Philadelphian era still lead the Church and Body of Christ—somewhere? Is that government still directing God’s one Work—somewhere?

Inseparable from these questions, and of absolute paramount importance to the reader, does this government exist in one of the splinters? If so, which one, and how would you know?

More Specific!

Let’s carry this further. If Mr. Armstrong said that God’s government was re-established, what did he mean—what exactly was he referring to?

This question, in turn, introduces many more, and they are specific. Let’s briefly overview these crucial additional questions before allowing the book to answer them in detail in later chapters. Many are asking these questions, and you may recognize some of them because you have shared them.

Christ established certain offices within the ministry of His Church in the New Testament. What are these offices?

(1) What exactly is an apostle?

(2) What exactly is a prophet?

(3) What exactly is an evangelist?

(4) What exactly is a pastor?

(5) What exactly is a preaching elder?

(6) What exactly is a local elder?

(7) What exactly is a deacon?

(8) What are “teachers”?

Are you certain that you understand what the Bible teaches—and Mr. Armstrong taught—about each of these, and the functions and responsibilities that they carried? Do you understand the parameters and limits of each New Testament office—and how to recognize the true from the false of those claiming to hold any of them?

In a sense, the later chapters will test both your understanding and your memory on all of these questions.

Which Office?

But there are other questions, and they are big ones:

  • How many ranks (of office) may lead the Church and/or Work?
  • Which rank or ranks does Christ use to bring doctrine—truth—into His Church?
  • Which office(s) may establish tradition?
  • What office or offices are authorized to announce the kingdom of God in all nations?
  • Which may warn the nations of Israel of coming punishment?
  • Who, if any, is authorized to warn spiritual Israel—Laodicea—of this same punishment?
  • Who is authorized to make Church-wide administrative judgments?
  • How many ranks may “bind and loose” within the Church?
  • Who may approve ordinations?—in other words, who holds authority to ordain today?
  • This automatically leads to the question: Are splinter ordinations valid?
  • And this, in turn, leads to another: Who is authorized to supervise all congregations worldwide?

In this context, we should ask, why did Mr. Armstrong establish an Advisory Council of Elders, and is there significance to the fact that those splinters that have established a council do not use or connect the word “advisory” to it?

Even More Questions

Yet, there are still other important questions pertaining to special duties—special functions—within the New Testament Church:

  • Who are the seven “messengers” to the seven Churches referred to in Revelation 2 and 3? What do they do? What is their exact purpose?
  • The book of Revelation also describes the Two Witnesses in chapter 11. Where will these two men—both “prophets”—come from? Can we know the organization?
  • Also, how does the “watchman” of Ezekiel 33:7 function in this age?

Finally, how do all of these offices, roles and duties serve and work in unity within the Church and Work of God?

What Are We Looking For?

Now for another important question: What would the government of God look like? The answer lies in what did it look like prior to 1986? If one is to find it, he must know what to look for, and this means more than simply finding a hierarchical government, one that operates from the top down.

When Mr. Armstrong said—and you will further see that he stated this most clearly—that “the government of God was restored to the Church,” he meant much more than merely having one man at the top. After all, if Mr. Armstrong was correct, and God always begins His government with one man, then always means always, and this particular single feature could not have been something that reappeared in the Philadelphian age after a many-centuries-long absence. It must have been something else that was restored. What was it?

The question surrounding the above issue—one man in charge—cannot be left dangling in your mind. It must be perfectly clear to you that what was restored and all other government-related questions and issues do not come into view until this is established!

If you still insist that Mr. Armstrong simply meant the restoration was that one man was now in charge, I repeat, God’s Word demonstrates that this has always been the case—Old Testament and New.

If you have not already established this colossal biblical truth in your mind—the only place to start when studying the subject of God’s government—then you are simply not ready to go on to the subsequent questions presented in this book. However time-consuming, do not see researching this first order of importance as an inconvenience. It is much more than just a preliminary exercise. Do not permit yourself to put the cart before the horse, meaning to put the wrong questions first—those asked and answered in this book—and the greatest question last—that of how God’s government looks at the top of the human part of the structure.

Make yourself begin at the beginning!

Of course, the book will at times ask other questions—some will be big—and they will all be answered, but the central ones must always be kept in view. This chapter has identified them, and you may from time to time want to come back to the lists in it to review the foundation of your pursuit of the truth and the whereabouts of God’s government.

But a distinction needs to be made. If this chapter establishes the great questions about government facing God’s people today, then the last chapter presents the hard questions. The next 18 chapters prepare you for them.

Now Only Confusion

The splinters are in confusion about a great many of God’s doctrines. Government has not been excluded. You will soon learn that they have fallen into incredible confusion about virtually every one of the questions listed here—and beyond what would seem possible. What was once so clear has become a subject of opinion, endless speculation and terrible disagreement. This has brought no end of charge and counter-charge, and accusation and counter-accusation—not to mention division both among the splinters and among God’s people on perhaps the grandest possible scale. Yet, God is not the “author of confusion, but of peace” in the Church (I Cor. 14:33), desiring that everything be done “decently and in order.”

The tragedy today is that so many seem to assume that they are right, and to know that everyone else is wrong. But few seem to know that they should carefully investigate what the government of God looked like, and only then could all opinion—their own and others—be set aside as to what and where it is.

The book does this. But other questions remain.

The “Other” Questions

In this chapter of great questions, those that the reader must consider would not be complete without raising one more series of questions.

First, recognize that government is central to everything in life. Families cannot exist without it. Neither can nations, armies, institutions, companies, churches, schools, teams, organizations or clubs—nor can virtually any entity of more than one person. Also, God preserves His entire creation through government and law—and both the earth and the universe reflect this. Government, in the right form, brings structure, order, organization, stability, peace, protection, and a host of other benefits to groups of every kind!

Yet, more than ever, every corner of civilization is now driven by the spirit of rebellion, accompanied by the pursuit of “personal freedoms” and “individual rights.” Many in society are actively and systematically tearing down institutions one by one, in a visible and growing trend toward anarchy on every level—social, political, civil, moral, economic, religious and domestic.

Why? Because human nature hates submission to government—authority!—in every form! Think about government from the perspective of human nature. The apostle Paul recorded, “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Some translations render the beginning of this verse, “The carnal mind is the enemy of God” (Rom. 8:7). Naturally, this would center on government.

Tragically, but predictably, and this has happened in every age, the attitude among those brethren who survived the apostasy has largely come to mirror society. The result in our time has been that most of God’s people have forgotten or rejected the many elemental truths inseparable from the doctrine of government.

What is happening in the splinters today is not a new thing, because human nature has existed in every age. In fact, at first subtle, but then blatant, rejection of God’s government happened in His Church in the 1970s. This early chapter would be unfinished without the reader having in mind what happened, and what Mr. Armstrong said about this as the prime cause driving what were called the “liberal years” of that time. His quote raises the final series of questions to ponder. But the book will not answer the list that follows. You will, as you read—because all are personal.

God’s people today have no excuse. Not only should they have known better—had they been properly internalizing the truth of God’s government—many in the splinters lived through the 1970s. They would have read Mr. Armstrong’s final warning. He constantly taught the Church about cause and effect in all aspects of life. They also would have seen his other warnings identified most problems in the Church as rooted in government. Here is what he wrote about the cause of the liberal years. It applied then, and applies now (all emphasis his):

“I want you, brethren, to think about and understand what happened to God’s Church in the 1970s lest history repeat itself! I want you to see the ‘fruits’ of rebelling against God’s way and God’s government.”

After all, the basic issue all along was that of God’s government in the Church. One who followed one liberal who, as the apostle Paul predicted, sought to draw away followers after himself (Acts 20:30), said, ‘We are liberated from that church government and now have a loosely knit organization, and that’s the way we like it.’”

“The Church is ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy Temple in the Lord’ (Ephesians 2:20-21). Note, the Church is organized and fitly framed together, not organized with competing and differing branches.”

“Notice Ephesians 4, there is only one organized church ‘fitly joined together and compacted’ (verse 16)—compacted as if welded together into one well-organized body. And how did He organize this body? How was it governed? ‘And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith…’ (Ephesians 4:11-13). It is not DISunity or some other type of organization and government. Paul also said ‘that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment’ (I Corinthians 1:10).”

“To make clear one of the reasons—if not the primary reason—for the conflict caused by the liberal element, I quote from a Western newspaper. In an interview with a former minister, who had sought to draw away a following of members after himself, it was stated concerning this split-off church that they have ‘a completely different administrative structure.’

“Most…dissension of the past in the Church has been over…government. The dissenters believe in a very liberal government—the way of Satan and his world.”

“We who remain in the one and only true Church grieve over the loss of those who are so far failing in their final exams.”

“Recent History of the Philadelphia Era of the WCG, WN, June 24, 1985

History has repeated itself. The liberal mindset has returned—for the same reasons, and with a vengeance. Sadly, the majority today are failing in their final exams. Now for the other questions—those only you can answer:

  • How often do you think about Romans 8:7 at work in your nature?
  • When you read or hear about “government” in the Church, do you tend to recoil—knee-jerk—at the very word?
  • Are you inclined to see government as so much unnecessary “intrusion” and “control”?
  • How do you view and receive personal correction? Have you recognized that all forms of correction require someone having the authority to administer it?
  • Will you read this book striving to receive correction?
  • Will you read it striving to understand God’s government, and then to look for it—or will you explain everything away?

These are also great questions. In fact, in a sense, your answers elevate them to the greatest ones in the book. As you read, will you keep them in mind? We will offer proof, not just “what Mr. Armstrong said.”

Where to Start

Again I ask: What are the God-ordained offices and duties of the New Testament Church—and how do they work? The doctrine of ministerial offices and functions, including special duties, within the New Testament ministry and Church of God must be made clear once again. This book will leave no doubt about them.

Once these questions are answered, we will automatically land at the feet of the next question—where are these at work today? But before moving ahead, we must first look back…

Chapter Two – A Time Without Parallel
 

Ambassador Auditorium: Beloved by the Church as “God’s House,” and home to the headquarters congregation, this state-of-the-art concert hall represented the resplendent quality and scope of the Work at the pinnacle of the Philadelphian era.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 view full size

Hall of Administration: From these offices, God’s government was administered around the world.

 
 

The magnificent Ambassador Hall.

 
 
 

Stately Campus: Award-winning buildings, pools, gardens and grounds reflected the breathtaking, awe-inspiring beauty and order of God’s Way.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“And the gospel must…be published”: The sixth era of God’s Work reached virtually every country in the world on a scale unmatched in history. A special pattern of government made this possible.

 
 
 
 
 

Infrastructure: As God’s Work moved forward and grew, it required massive and constantly expanding infrastructure to meet logistical challenges. No task was too great for teams who understood their role of support. What took place quietly in the background was beyond imagination.

 
 
 

Operations: Cutting-edge technology was used in departments such as Media and Mail Processing.

 
 
 

Non-stop Construction: As God’s Church grew and expanded, so did His headquarters.

 
 
 
 
 

Developing Leaders: Students were taught to strive for excellence and build on the proper foundation. That foundation governed every element of campus life.

 
 
 
 
 

Imperial Schools: Knowledge taught in a wholesome environment provided a well-rounded education for children and teens of staff and local members.

 
 
 
 
 

The Feast of Tabernacles: Excited thousands enjoyed harmony and peace at the world’s largest multi-site convention.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Before going forward to examine the questions of Chapter One, it is instructive to revisit the past. Let’s recall the Worldwide Church of God under Mr. Armstrong’s leadership for over half a century. Let’s examine its governance through means of an overview for the purpose of establishing a picture from history for contrast with all that has replaced it in the splinters.

First an admission so no one thinks Pollyanna wrote this. Obviously, there were abuses, excesses and injustices within the Church’s administration. These could never completely disappear because human beings, not yet Christ and the resurrected saints, were administering God’s government. Since I could describe how I was the recipient of abuse and injustice with the best of them—as well as made mistakes myself—I bring the voice of experience that these things must be set aside in your thinking if you are to find the system of government where Christ is Head. Brethren once could do this, so they can again. Therefore, as you read, make yourself focus away from the various human foibles, failures and imperfections that you saw or experienced. This is the only way that the potent message in these pages will not be missed.

Credit, Not Blame

Finally, remember that we now know the great majority of brethren and ministers in the WCG were never converted. This includes many administrators in Pasadena and elsewhere. Rather than blaming the system of government for this, instead credit it for its remarkable ability to achieve all that it did while dragging with it so much dead weight!

The government of God in action through the twentieth century produced simply amazing results, and in a host of ways. In truth, the world has never seen anything like it. Every working part was well-oiled, and there is value in seeing how it worked in practical fact. Following are just some of the areas where God’s wonderful form of government served His Church so well, and for so long.

As you finish each section, take at least a moment to roll the description through your mind. Try to get the big picture—see the whole canvas!—of what you are reading.

Headquarters and Regional Offices

Everything about God’s government began in Pasadena, California. The employees, the campus, the buildings and the activities they contained were a study in precision and effective performance.

This began with Headquarters directing smaller but similarly functioning regional offices around the world, including two other colleges. Many hundreds of employees, serving in a wide array of departments, handled matters of every kind common to a large and constantly growing worldwide organization. Policy, process, procedure and protocol governed almost every conceivable matter or decision the Church faced. And these were modified as needed and always best for the Church.

Intrinsic to the regional offices was a field supervisory structure that was used in both the United States and every major country or group of countries that was better directed by a regional office. Of course, Church Administration at Headquarters, later called Ministerial Services, carried authority over all the international offices. Transfers of ministers—regional directors, pastors, associate and assistant pastors, and ministerial assistants—occurred generally every seven to nine years for each man, and everyone understood this “rhythm” governed the smooth functioning of these offices. Rocky transitions were rare.

An extraordinary level of communication kept every part of the Church always enjoying “the left hand knowing what the right hand was doing.” There was careful, thoughtful communication about everything—from plans for summer camps to Feast sites to expense reports to trips by ministers to transfers, with an almost endless array of matters that were covered by phone or letter across and around the world, day after day after day. Headquarters and the international offices worked closely together, always in harmony, to be sure that the flock was properly fed—that the “Second Commission” was fulfilled in a way that was pleasing to Christ (John 21:15-17).

It must be stated again that all of this involved an extensive and systematic reporting system. Seemingly, there were forms and cards for everything, so that Headquarters and the field ministry could be kept apprised of all that was happening “at the other end”—with this applying in both directions.

Conferences, Refreshers and Sabbaticals

Through the decades, beginning in the mid-1950s, the Church began to hold annual conferences in Pasadena for the entire ministry. These constantly grew larger until every minister could not always attend every conference.

A vast “Refresher Program” was instituted in the early 1980s, so that every pastor and wife could periodically be brought to Headquarters for a more intensive two- or three-week “coursework” of sorts. At least in the beginning, these special times involved updating, informing and inspiring—refreshing!—the entire WCG ministry. Those of different language were accommodated with a special session, and another was designed for local church elders who could attend.

There were also some pastors who were rotated into Headquarters for a full year of classes under a “sabbatical program” designed to give, particularly to the older men, an important “breather” and helpful re-orientation when necessary.

All of this involved extensive planning, unity of effort, effective communication and an astonishing amount of labor to bring together. And yet, the immense machinery that came to be in place permitted such programs and activities for the ministry to be accomplished almost by routine.

Many Departments

Headquarters consisted of numerous departments, each having a special, well-defined purpose within the overall Church and Work of God. These were generally led by ministers, and of various ranks, usually higher offices, but sometimes by unordained senior administrators. They generally interrelated smoothly with one another. Things ran like clockwork, more like a Swiss watch.

There was also a relentless attention to detail given to everything. Almost every matter was viewed taking a comprehensive approach. Through the years, the Headquarters administration seemed to learn to think of all the details that other organizations in the world would probably overlook. It was as though nothing was left to chance. The person who visited Headquarters for any reason or duration was made to feel special by the thoughtfulness of the lower-level employees, who seemed to try hardest to foster this environment.

There were departments, and sometimes several sections within them, for everything—landscaping, custodial, maintenance, carpentry, transportation and fleet, legal, business and accounting, insurance, festival, youth, editorial, news bureau, Church administration, shipping and receiving, media production, data processing, mail processing (with many sections), security, purchasing, food service (at the colleges), public relations, a travel agency—and even a paint crew. Collectively, these departments could have run an entire small city, and in a sense they did.

The city was called “Headquarters.”

But most important, God’s people were taught to look to and trust that the living Christ was directing His Headquarters, and they practiced what it taught them.

The Vast Reach of Media

This immense administrative superstructure—the part in Pasadena—produced an incredible number of quality media programs. Beginning for over 35 years with The World Tomorrow radio program, Mr. Armstrong later permanently moved into television under the same name, and this program grew in viewership until it was number one in the Arbitron ratings for all religious programs in America. (These programs served double duty as radio broadcasts in some areas of the world.)

Just think! Try to imagine the incredible organization and support structure necessary for just this to occur. I was in awe of the television production department and, looking back, at how far advanced it was for that time.

Then think of the colossal publishing operation that distributed three monthly, four-color magazines (The Plain Truth, The Good News, Youth 81, 82, 83…) and a tabloid, bi-weekly newspaper called The Worldwide News. The ministry also received a regular Pastor General’s Report at one- or two-week intervals. These kept the entire ministry around the world “on the same page” at all times.

But there was much more that the Church published in the form of many books, booklets, brochures, reprint articles, Bible story books, youth Bible lessons in seven levels, an extensive Bible correspondence course and hundreds of form letters, all sent from Headquarters and the regional offices by the millions annually. The Plain Truth alone had a circulation of considerably above eight million at the time of Mr. Armstrong’s death, and The Good News circulation hovered in the range of one-half to one million.

The production of these quality magazines was itself truly something to behold. Most have forgotten, and many in the splinters have never experienced, the sheer magnitude of what took place with just these two publications—published month after month! I will never forget binding and sacking them for mailing in 1969, during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college.

Inseparable from the publishing operation, and directed from Headquarters, was the Plain Truth Newsstand Distribution Program. Under the umbrella of this highly-structured program and regular close communication, local churches around the world achieved what could only be called spectacular success in distributing countless millions of magazines in multiple languages so that God’s truth could be accessed everywhere on earth. The stories of how this program was blessed and what it achieved are legion, and the readers here could tell some of their own.

Of course, there was also the zeal—the amazing dedication and incredible zeal! For instance, in just 13 months, a relative handful of people distributed over three million magazines in Manhattan and the Bronx, New York—and with just six automobiles, since this was the total number that brethren in these areas owned. Most were taxis. What I witnessed in service among God’s people—taking single boxes of magazines onto subway cars to service countless outlets (always paying their own fare)—is also a testimony to the organization under supervision and government that cannot be forgotten.

This kind of effort played out over and over in every endeavor throughout the Church and Work, throughout the world and through the decades when God’s government was in place.

Feast of Tabernacles

Also directed from Headquarters, and to a lesser degree from the international regional offices, the Feast of Tabernacles was perhaps the greatest single event that demonstrated the efficiency and strength of God’s government in action across the globe. A whole department was necessary to plan the Feast, and it spent the entire calendar year doing nothing else. Over time, this commanded eight-day assembly took on the title of “largest multi-site convention of any kind in the world.” Obviously, that is saying a mouthful in itself, but it does not tell the most important story.

The smooth functioning of what came to be over 120 sites, attended by anywhere from less than 100 people up to 15,000, was a thing of legend. Local Chambers of Commerce were invariably left in incredulous wonderment at “those funny people from the Worldwide Church of God.” They saw respectful, well-behaved children (another part of God’s government in action), minimal noise in hotels, cleanliness on site, happy faces in restaurants—and sometimes in massive traffic snarls entering or leaving parking lots—and more.

The statement of one Chamber leader in Canada told it all, and went on to become an oft-mentioned quote in the Church for years: “How come such wonderful people have to believe such crazy doctrines?” The Church could not make local communities appreciate our teachings, but the example that was produced—what they could observe—was extraordinary and truly appreciated, and attributable to the government of God at work in every Feast site.

Of course, all of the things that occurred at the Feasts—singles and seniors activities, family day, choir practices, department meetings, services, sightseeing trips, etc.—reflected the same things internally that local officials and citizens saw looking from the outside in. All of this was a direct by-product of a Church that practiced a very specific form—a revealed pattern!—of government, one that seemingly never ran into obstacles, hurdles or difficulties that could not be overcome, no matter the challenge and no matter how many hundreds or thousands of people were involved.

Three Ambassador Colleges and Imperial Schools

Also inseparable from Headquarters and one international regional office were three liberal arts colleges (Pasadena, California, Bricketwood, outside London, England and Big Sandy, Texas) that gave many thousands of students over the years an education unlike any other available on earth.

While each campus had its own distinct look and feel, its own “personality,” what they all produced was the same—people of strong, godly character and right purpose who had learned to put God’s way of life into action. I know. I attended one campus, my late wife attended another (actually two), and numerous family members attended the third. From deputy chancellors (under Chancellor Mr. Armstrong), to deans, to registrars, to department heads, to professors, to student officers and dorm monitors, and to all related employees, these magnificently landscaped and meticulously manicured, extraordinary colleges were pictures of harmony, peace, unity—and learning!

The college motto was, “We teach students how to live, not just how to earn a living.” They lived up to their motto.

Campus life was very busy. Basic structure and various important routines governed the student’s life. Everyone understood there were rules that had to be observed, and the large majority of students did not try to circumvent them.

Part of the “pressure cooker” environment (as it was called) that had been designed to build strong leaders—for this reason the colleges were also referred to as “the West Point of God’s Work”—meant that nearly every student worked 20 hours per week in addition to classes and regular clubs. There were speaking clubs, leadership clubs and language clubs, chorale and band, as well as a host of different kinds of intramural sporting activities and events. But there was also plenty of time for social activities, and these included annual student outings to the beach, desert and other places, four annual dances, as well as regular dating. Students were taught that “true fun is anything that is still fun the day after.”

One of the entrances to Ambassador Hall carried these words cut in stone above the door: “the word of god is the foundation of knowledge.” While the Ambassador colleges were never “Bible colleges,” but rather offered liberal arts, God’s Word governed campus life and the all-important curriculum of study. Every student understood this meant that God’s government ruled every aspect of the colleges.

There were also the “Imperial Schools”—kindergarten through high school—that were adjacent to the campuses. These served the purpose of specially educating the children of faculty, employees and other local brethren who could attend from nearby. It could be said these were similar to smaller versions of the colleges, except that the students were younger and not yet converted.

Of course, nothing is perfect in this life, and neither were these institutions—the colleges or Imperial Schools—but they were successful in the truest sense. The Ambassador campuses, especially in Pasadena, but also in Texas, were consistently selected as the most beautiful campuses in America (some might say that Bricketwood was the most beautiful of all), winning a special national award so often that the rules had to be changed by the judging committee to no longer permit “Ambassador College to win every year.”

Alongside the way of life that they taught, the Church once understood that these three beautiful college campuses were their own statement of God’s marvelous form of government in action. It is not a stretch to say the whole Church thought of them as miniature reflections of the millennial rule of Christ and the saints. A glance at any college Envoy (the beautiful annual yearbook) trumpets this message.

Pastoral Unity Around the World

Smooth precision was seen in the Church around the world. “Decency and order” in local congregations began with Sabbath services, which were conducted in the exact same fashion everywhere. From song leader and singing to sermons and sermonettes, from announcements to special music, from opening prayer to closing prayer, the two-hour service was entirely a function of government in action. This pattern did not vary until the apostasy.

With the Bible not stating a specific format for any of these things, it was government that gave the Church a wide variety of traditions (II Thes. 2:15; 3:6) that governed all 868 congregations (the number at the Church’s zenith) in complete harmony. One could attend in Des Moines, Iowa, Sydney, Australia, London, England, Manila, Philippines, Johannesburg, South Africa, Santiago, Chile, Paris, France or Bonn, Germany—with language the only difference depending upon the country—and have found the same pattern—and Spirit!—present. (Of course, Bible studies around the world also followed a generally-prescribed, 90-minute format.)

There were 1,855 ministers and elders in the Church when I was terminated in March 1993. Coupled with thousands of deacons and deaconesses, this well-organized administrative hierarchy served local congregations across the world in ways that every member and certainly every ordained person from that period would recall. Generally speaking, each minister, elder and deacon(ess) knew his place and service, including all specific duties for which he had been trained and appointed. For instance, the offering taken up on every Holy Day was mailed on instructions at a specific time the same way the world over.

Such obedience and follow-through applied to everything.

So Much…

This unity of purpose and practice translated into a number of other regular programs and activities within each local congregation and pastorate. Let’s detail the most important.

In the mid- and late-1950s, local Spokesman Clubs began to appear in every congregation of any size. These were highly-structured speaking and leadership development clubs that eventually produced a great many deacons, elders and even some few who were able to go on to become Church Pastors after one year at Ambassador College. Five officers under a director and sometimes an assistant director led each club of up to 30 members. The entire routine, from topicsmaster to toastmaster to speakers and evaluators, and the overall evaluation, was a picture of precision and order in the truest sense. One of the very purposes of the club was stated in the manual—“The third main purpose of the speech clubs is to show the members God’s government in action.” How many men learned this, and how many remember it? (Of course, some areas were able to have Women’s Clubs of varying formats, always directed by the ministry, but these were not as common.)

Every congregation held periodic socials across a broad range of types. Each of these required planning, organization, communication and structure—and details were usually not left to accident. There were picnics, formal dances, snow parties, trips to interesting places, singles and seniors activities. There were also all kinds of sports teams and sporting events—softball, basketball, volleyball, golf, hockey and track meets—and some of the larger pastorates were able to sponsor tournaments that were always wonderful occasions in the calendar year—at least this was the case before conduct throughout the Church degenerated into a picture that came to mirror what would be found in churches of the world. Certain people were always in charge under the ministry, others assisted. Everyone involved in bringing about the activity recognized that all had an assigned responsibility to properly carry out if the social were to be a success in serving God’s people, and in giving them happy, wholesome fellowship.

Beginning in the 1970s and expanding in the early 1980s, teenage (Youth Opportunities United or Y.O.U.) and grade school age (Youth Educational Services or Y.E.S.) classes and activities were established around the world. While these also degenerated in later years into little more than glorified daycare and baby-sitting services, at their inception and for some years after, they were expansive programs, and contained many elements designed to teach God’s youth His way of life. Where parents and pastors took them seriously (and this did wane through the apostasy), the fruit was good.

Then there were the summer camps—the happy, wonderful summer camps (Summer Education Program or “S.E.P.”) in which memories like no others were made. These were also a vital part of the development and training of God’s youth, and they were found throughout the world. I taught swimming in several of these camps, beginning in 1968 (Orr, Minnesota), and continuing into the 1980s, and even into the 1990s within one of the splinters.

I saw their fruit firsthand—and saw that where the government of God began to change, so did conduct.

Still More…

Many pastorates had choirs, sometimes several when there was a Y.O.U. and/or Y.E.S. choir (we actually had 99 children on stage at one time in our Buffalo, New York Y.E.S. choir). All these choirs, but especially the adult choirs, were wonderful blessings that God’s government brought to local congregations in a way that had to have been seen to be appreciated.

All of the local activities and programs described here, plus others (except, of course, S.E.P.), had to be paid for almost exclusively at the local level. This meant extensive and highly-organized fundraising activities that were common to every pastorate. Ideas were discussed, plans were made, people carried out the labor, funds were raised, budgets were established and a host of wonderful, positive activities were the result. These sometimes included generous contributions sent to Headquarters so God’s Work could expand. Also, the most creative and fruitful ideas were often shared throughout the Church, and this helped to promote a feeling of harmony and unity.

The “congregations” sections would not be complete without at least mentioning that within the Church the very family unit itself—as pictured by thousands of miniature representations of God’s government—became the greatest testimonial to how this government was to look. Before “women’s lib” came among God’s people, everyone recognized the unmistakable clarity of Ephesians 5:22-28, particularly verses 22 to 24 about Christ, the Church, husbands and wives—and that this was its own towering statement picturing how God’s government worked from the top down, and began in families. No marriage and no family was perfect. But that was the point. They were all learning to practice God’s government within the home.

Obviously, not every pastor was as effective at organization and planning. Therefore, not every pastorate demonstrated fruit to the exact same degree. Natural differences existed, including size. But in the broad main, there was symmetry, precision and organizational beauty like nowhere else on earth. No church of this world, those built by men and led by their governments, remotely rivaled what was experienced in the Worldwide Church of God before Mr. Armstrong died.

But the Worldwide Church of God was not built by a man or group of men, and it was not led by a government of men. It was the Church Christ built (Matt. 16:18)— is still building (Eph. 2:20-21; 4:16; I Cor. 3:9; 12:13; I Pet. 2:5)—and is still leading ( Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18)!

How It Grew

The systematic growth and internal development of the Worldwide Church of God through the years was another story in itself. The special pictorial you saw presents a powerful visual of a Headquarters that had to be seen to be truly appreciated. But the even greater overall picture of the Church is still not complete until the process of growth and development is at least briefly referenced.

Departments appeared regularly, followed by sections within them. The departments split, with sections appearing again. This then required the creation of divisions over several departments. This pattern of expansion replicated itself time and again as the Church and Work of God took on a size that had never before been witnessed in Church history.

An apostle was in place. There were evangelists, pastors, preaching elders, local elders, deacons, deaconesses, administrators at every level, an Advisory Council of Elders for the last several years, and even a Headquarters visiting program for its five congregations, with eventually 5,500 brethren (including students) just in the Los Angeles basin. There were boards of directors for the Church, the college(s) and the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation (A.I.C.F.).

While there were the usual bumps in the road—I repeat, Pollyanna did not write this description—the constant state of transition in the Church and Work never brought “upset” beyond what could be handled, and almost with ease.

All flowing from the greatest point of doctrine…

Extraordinary Mechanism Seized by God’s Enemies

All that you have read and so much more originated from, and was made possible by, a centralized world Headquarters that operated as wonderfully and efficiently as it did because it did not deviate from the pattern of government revealed by God in His Word. The fact that, through the apostasy and after, God’s enemies were able to capture and use this marvelous mechanism to terrify, brutalize, confuse and deceive the members and ministers of the Church who trusted in it is not a fault or indictment of the system, or of Mr. Armstrong who was used to teach it. It was the fault of those false leaders, and to a great degree the many other senior ministers who largely seemed to disagree with the new leaders, but who offered almost no resistance because they were afraid to confront those who signed their paychecks, until those paychecks were threatened—and it was too late.

No one seems to believe that the Sabbath is at fault because people abuse and break it. No one blames the biblical tithing laws because some misapply them. No one blames God’s Holy Days because some get drunk at the Feast or are negligent in their offerings. In each case, the problem is people, not doctrine. Why then does “government” get blamed instead of the wolves who seized it?

The Greatest Fault

Understand this, however. The very greatest problem in this takeover lay with the tens of thousands of brethren who, little different from Catholics, had come to unconsciously focus almost solely on obeying “government,” in other words, on what they had unconsciously come to assume was still the government of God. Vast numbers forgot to stay focused on all of the other many doctrinal truths that true government was supposed to uphold—actually in large part existed to protect—for the administration in Pasadena to remain the government of God. Instead, they focused on what came to be a human structure—an outward hollow shell of that government, and one that Christ could no longer direct because the agents running it had rebelled! Most people had no comprehension and little interest that He had been ejected as Head.

With the true Jesus Christ out of the picture, having been replaced by “another Jesus” (II Cor. 11:3-4) and this “Jesus’” doctrines, all of the astonishing peace, harmony, unity, agreement, productivity and wonderful fruit of God’s government eventually disappeared—completely destroyed. What came to replace this government—as well as all of its extraordinary fruit—throughout the splinters (in all of their forms) was something entirely different…

CHAPTER THREE – Splinters in Chaos

The introduction warned that no punches would be pulled. That promise begins in earnest now, and means this must be the largest—and most blunt—chapter in the book. If written in “soft tones,” it could never do justice to the awful confusion that is the state of affairs within what many still think—actually assume—is Christ’s true but divided church today.

The picture in the splinters is stark and ugly, so its “reflection” must be graphic. It will also be accurate. Therefore, you are warned again that what follows will not spare. And recognize that there is simply no way to address “government” in the splinters and slivers without discussing and focusing on their leaders. This will happen in this chapter and the next, and also in a later one. And it will occur in an entirely different and unexpected context.

This does not mean that the book must engage in character assassination or smearing of various leaders or other ministers in a personal way, in the manner that politicians try to discredit opponents through name-calling. You will see that this would not be necessary, anyway, because these men have done enough damage to themselves—and in public—that their records will be seen in a new light to speak eloquently for themselves.

What will occasionally seem like mockery is sometimes used for important and proper emphasis in parts of the book. Recall the prophet Elijah, and how he knew the prophets of Baal were worthy of mockery. If you resent an occasional tone in this chapter or elsewhere, recognize it is these organizations that have effectively mocked themselves, again, in public.

Spiritual Fraud

Most people are, and certainly every student of law is, familiar with the crime known as fraud. In short, this is an act in which some form of deception is deliberately perpetrated on an unsuspecting victim for the purpose of embezzling or stealing something. In the world, fraud involves a high stakes game of confidence. Often incredibly audacious, scam artists—“con”(fidence) men—devise a scheme usually involving extreme complexity. This crime takes much forethought and can involve intricate and amazing sophistication. The jury hearing such cases must pay strict attention. There can be no daydreaming, or the value of evidence will be missed.

In the case presented here, the fraud—and you will see the methods in which it is being carried out—is being committed in the name of God, the Church and the truth, and the goal has been to steal God’s tithes and His people (II Pet. 2:1-3). In the world, those convicted of this crime usually go to prison. Of course, this does not occur when it happens among God’s people and within His Church. Therefore, the guilty must be discovered and addressed through other means.

Hold no illusions. What is being offered—what is packaged—today as “God’s government” (and in a host of different wrappings) to thousands of unwitting splinter members constitutes spiritual fraud. And you will see that the fraud is plain!

Acquit or Convict!

The goal of a prosecutor in a criminal court of law is to prove his case against the defendant charged. His assignment is to present the facts—the evidence—in a manner that is airtight. The jurors also have an assignment. They must be able to recognize what they are hearing and bring in the correct verdict.

I have the same responsibility as the prosecutor. My purpose is to present the “case” through the rest of the book, similarly making it airtight—and you have begun to see the “opening argument.”

By reading this book, you have chosen to sit in the jury box. This means that you must listen as an objective juror, accepting only the facts, evidence and proof. If I may be dramatic, your job is to assess the facts all the way through “final deliberation.” At some point, every juror is required to decide for guilt or innocence. If you remain objective—and you can cut through the convoluted gyrations of the splinter “defense attorneys”—you will see that their presentation disregards every rule of evidence, and the case for the defense is in shambles.

Do not misunderstand! This trial carries higher stakes for you than it would for normal jurors. You have a personal stake in the outcome. If you ignore the facts and decide the wrong way, and juries often do, you will be held accountable by God—the court of heaven!—and there will be consequences in the years just ahead that pass to you!

You are admonished to pay strict attention to facts presented throughout.

The Destroyer

Satan is described in God’s Word in a variety of ways through use of different descriptive terms: “deceiver,” “roaring lion,” “prince of this world,” “prince of the power of the air,” “god of this world,” “tempter,” “accuser of the brethren,” “father of murder” and “father of lies,” among others. But the single most descriptive of all of the devil’s names is “destroyer.”

Let’s see why.

Revelation 9:11 refers to Satan using both the Hebrew (Abaddon) and the Greek (Apollyon) for his role as “the destroyer.” In truth, the greatest evidence that Satan is present in any matter—either in the world or the Church—is that something was destroyed. Something was severely damaged or ruined. This could be people’s lives, friendships, families, organizations, programs, important projects in which wrong attitudes brought them to nothing, sports or athletic teams, companies and even countries. It could also be said that the level of destruction in a situation is directly proportional to how many of the devil’s fingerprints can be found in the wreckage.

John 10 describes “wolves,” “strangers,” “hirelings,” “thieves” and “robbers” at work among the people of God. The chapter also speaks about the “porter” (faithful administration) who lets only the “Shepherd” (Jesus Christ) in among the “sheep” to fellowship with them and to lead them to safety when necessary. In verse 11, Jesus is also called the “Good Shepherd” who will protect His sheep at all costs from wolves and strangers—but only as long as they recognize “His voice.” Putting together John 10:4 and 27, and coupling them with 18:37, makes plain that voice is “the truth,” or true doctrine.

Verse 10 presents Jesus’ instruction to His people regarding how to know that a stranger, wolf, thief or robber has entered the sheepfold. The second half of this scripture is more familiar, and the part usually quoted and committed to memory: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

While this portion of the verse is inspiring, there is another very crucial element of the passage to consider: What makes the second part of the verse, our focus here, much more powerful in meaning today is that the reader would have first read the beginning of it, the part that sets up the promise portion: “The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.”

How to Know

Let’s summarize this in context: When things are going smoothly, and good fruits, peace, harmony, production, abundance and real success are evident and abounding within the Church, Christ—the Good Shepherd—and His government are present and leading. But when these things are absent, and have been replaced by division, competition, accusation, splitting and chaos—bad fruits—and on a wide scale, it should be obvious that the destroyer is present! And he comes in the form of a “thief” whose game is fraud.

The Christian is supposed to be on the lookout for and to recognize—and discern—these differences (Heb. 5:13-14). But most today are failing to make this connection. They have become lazy, disinterested jurors.

The many and ever–increasing number of splinters and slivers that appeared after the collapse and destruction of the Worldwide Church of God represent a picture of turmoil and devastation perhaps only a little less awful than occurred in the WCG. Much of what was described in the previous chapter has been replaced by something completely unrecognizable to those who are looking for the fruits of the government of God. Many people still do believe that God’s government is at work somewhere, but more and more are concluding that it cannot be in their organization.

The chapters that follow cannot be appreciated without first examining the almost complete wreckage—the truly terrible destruction—masquerading as government carrying God’s authority all through the splinters. Nowhere in their false teachings, which are constantly increasing in number, are the fingerprints of the destroyer more evident than in the kaleidoscopic picture of awful destruction evidenced in the many humanly–devised forms of altered governance found among them. You must come to grips with the collective mess in these organizations that has supplanted the harmony described in Chapter Two, depicting the mid-1980s and before.

The contrast between what many suppose to be the “church” of the twenty–first century and the Church of God of the twentieth century prior to 1986 is stark!

Only Through Close Examination

Let’s examine these differences in detail. We will take a look at a number of the largest splinters, as well as several of the larger slivers. Each one tells its own story. This is because every group seems to have crafted its own “theology”—often “on the fly” as needed—to justify what it is doing. Together—with the latest trends in thinking and approach among independents included—they tell a bigger story. This chapter then is necessarily direct. As with the paragraphs introducing it, the rest will pull no punches—and there is no attempt made to hide or cover up the organizations or groups described!

The reader must understand that I will periodically reference errors in thinking and teaching, sometimes very serious. But these will not, actually cannot, be demonstrated as such until later chapters present proof of exactly how—in what way—they differ in administration and practice from the Church prior to 1986. Therefore, accept that, in some cases, it will not be fully understood why these things are wrong until they can be addressed in a broader context later. The reader must be patient with the continuing need to develop the book—the case—step–by–step in the most correct way to lay the foundation for all that the Bible teaches and that Mr. Armstrong taught. The whole picture will come together in time.

Some will surely say that what follows in this chapter is an “attack” on other organizations. I have been accused of this by those who in fact attack me. Do not be foolish enough to fall for this as some have. Again, you will see that it is the leaders of these groups who are, in fact, attacking their trusting, but gullible, members who are looking to them for faithful guidance. These leaders have been able to get away with this by concocting various unusually exotic and complicated kinds of layered deceit to cover the truth of how God governs His Church. No one has been willing to “bring charges against them” and to “prosecute” their arguments, passed off as theology and growth in understanding. Thus, it is these men—and you will not be able to miss this—who have literally attacked God’s government through a veritable explosion of deception designed to destroy even all memory of previous understanding in the minds of their followers.

This is not a book they want you to read!

The Very Large, Paralyzed Splinter

Nowhere is the departure from God’s government more evident than in the United Church of God (UCG), begun in 1995. When its government is understood, it is hard to imagine that any person or group of people could have devised a method of governance and administration more different from the Bible pattern. The system this organization has created is literally fraught with political infighting and opportunity to climb, as well as cumbersome mechanisms that almost appear to have been purposely designed to checkmate progress on every front. In the name of “transparency,” UCG’s leaders also foolishly publish virtually everything they do in matters that should be decided upon in private. While they should be red-faced with embarrassment, they trumpet their errors to all without shame. But at least this makes it easy to examine how their government “works.”

So much is wrong with this organization’s leadership structure that the section devoted to it must be the largest in the chapter. Recognize that this group also commands extra attention because over one half of all those who left the WCG and entered a splinter chose to join it. However, bear in mind that what is described here still barely scratches the surface of UCG’s jumbled, tumbling, stumbling, bumbling, fumbling—and, worst of all, widespread internal mumbling and grumbling!—form of governance. Truly, these horribly misguided officials have created the very definition of administrative disaster! If you are in this organization, try to pull back your thinking and read with objectivity.

While it is hard to know where to begin, we will start with their decision in the spring of 1995 to create a representative, parliamentary, democratic, or actually more properly labeled, republican form of government, similar to modern worldly democracies.

Endless Committees

As with any democratic or representative form of government, miles of bureaucratic red tape began to appear—and fast! Exactly like the national governments of men, particularly in the West, committees and study groups began to form for virtually every need that this church could face. There have even been committees and study groups appointed to study other committees and study groups.

Contrary to Mr. Armstrong’s plain teaching—and warning!—a doctrine committee was almost immediately created so that UCG could examine all of the doctrines established in the Church through Mr. Armstrong. And this was done, wittingly or not, in the very same manner that the apostates’ example had taught them! There also have arisen an education/ministerial services committee, a member appeal committee, a strategic planning and finance committee, a youth committee, a media and communications committee, an executive committee, an advisory committee of the council and even a nominating committee of the council.

But there is also an ethics, rules and bylaws committee, which explains why there has appeared an endless array of rules in this organization following in the wake of what was already an immense set of bylaws that had to be established for practically every contingency that disagreeing elected officials might otherwise fight over. And those who know the facts will admit there have been any number of internal “struggles”—some very intense—over a variety of issues and personalities, but usually leading back to pursuit of power. And finally, no wonder then that there is also the need for an amendment committee to keep council members from being frozen at impasse when all of the previously–established bylaws and rules have not been sufficient to spell out exactly how to proceed in yet another (and another, and another) “unforeseen” situation. But even this has failed to break some of the impasses.

One is left to wonder if somewhere in a secret closet sits a specially designated—and highly motivated!“destruction committee,” hard at work destroying this church.

This organization has proved true the axiom, “A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and quietly strangled.”

The Top Committee

Bear in mind that the overall organization is actually run by an elected 12-man committee called the Council of Elders, with these selected by all of the ordained men in the organization—something very different from the Advisory Council of Elders that Mr. Armstrong, as both its President and Chairman (as well as apostle and Pastor General), established by his appointment of its members to advise him. (But we will see the actual scope of the Council’s governance is still in question.)

In UCG, it is the other way around. The Council appoints the President who, in both reality and practice, is actually a President who advises the Council (for a three–year term)—making him, in effect, an Advisory President reporting to the Council. (I am compelled to say with the vernacular for those who know what this means for an organization: “It is so bad, you can’t make this stuff up.”)

This Council also appoints its Chairman. Truly, there the tail wags the “dog” (it will be interesting to note a scriptural reference in Philippians 3:2 and Revelation 22:15 about false ministers), and God is completely excluded from the process, whether or not these leaders will see and believe this.

The entire collective ministry of this splinter—at one point well over 400 men (with so many untrained men now having been wooed into the ministry), and referred to as the General Conference of Elders—votes on all important church matters, including approving budgets, changing doctrines, establishing priorities and, of course, who should sit on the Council (also for three–year terms). National councils in other countries are elected by the local ministers of these countries.

It is widely reported that as many as 25 percent or more of all of the ordained men in this organization refuse to participate in its governance because they either see the process as political or simply do not care. They are certainly correct in the former, but sadly they cannot see then that God could not possibly be in it—and that they should get out! These men seem willing to remain, however, and to send God’s tithes to those whom they know are deeply confused, politically driven, terribly doctrinally-compromised and divided in a host of ways—and who have rejected outright God’s form of government. The net effect is that they stay and underwrite a system they know is politically corrupt and spiritually bankrupt. (In late 2010/early 2011, some did decide to leave UCG due to the widespread division. This large number of ministers then formed their own new group, called Church of God, a Worldwide Association [COGwa]. Its government is no better.)

Of course, UCG’s council has found a way to justify and excuse its upside–down, broken government. Here is how they do this. They declare variously, “We are awaiting a chief shepherd” or “…God’s choice of leader” or “…God’s man” and “Our form of government is just temporary” and “We were forced to improvise with government until this man arrives.” A previous president of United told me personally in 2003 these very words, and added a comment to the effect that “Our government doesn’t really work” and “I serve as long as they will let me.” He would not deny these words.

Sadly, this decent man was summarily removed—in effect, thrown!—from office less than two years later in favor of a younger, “more progressive” man. Yet, because of this new man’s general agreement with the apostates, Pasadena handpicked him in 1993 to replace me in Akron, Ohio, at the time I was fired for unwillingness to accept what he embraced. He had accepted, by his own public and private admission(!), all of the already scores of false teachings in the WCG to that point—including the trinitarian false god! I have his sermon(s)! Of course, at predictable moments, such men often “see the light” and “recover.” And their march toward advancement can continue unabated.

Tragically, thousands of brethren seem to believe the above thinking and are waiting “in faith” for God to show them the “leader” He has chosen to “unite all of God’s people.” (Many in other groups or at home are doing the same.) In the meantime, the Council appoints—and seems to happily tolerate—such near–apostate leaders as the one described above to, they would say only “temporarily,” keep the home fires burning while waiting for “God’s appointed leader.” Not only will the man they envision never come, but they would never follow God’s kind of leader, as they pretend to hope for, unless tremendous miracles accompanied that man—something God has never done in Scripture or at any time in the New Testament era following an apostasy.

Mass Resignation to Lower “Office”

There was a time when every minister and elder in the Worldwide Church of God believed, or at least seemed to believe, that he had received his office within Christ’s Body (I Cor. 12:18, 28) from the living Jesus Christ Himself.

Prior to ordination, extensive recommendations were made (the form for this is shown and examined in a later chapter) and approvals took place through a process that, again, all ministers and elders seemed to understand. There was no mystery. Each time a man was ordained or raised in rank to higher office, that process began again, with the knowledge that Christ, the Head of that Church, had made the final decision. A form was submitted. Faith was involved. So was God’s government.

At its outset, in an unbelievable act of mindless conformity and “lemming effect,” the hundreds of ministers who began the United Church of God all agreed to simultaneously give up their offices, no matter the rank, and simply refer to themselves as “elders.” This designation was now to apply equally to evangelists, pastors, preaching elders, local elders and local church elders. All were now simply elders, with their “rank designation” entirely based on what their exact function or assignment would be at any given time.

Incredibly, evangelists of decades standing gave up their offices in the stroke of a moment. So did Pastor–rank ministers of similar seniority. In other words, these men decided that, if they were not actually “evangelizing” or actually “pastoring,” they should not be considered to any longer hold these ranks. Yet, in the past, there were always pastors and evangelists, a great many of whom served either at Headquarters or in a regional office, or within the colleges, who did neither of these things. These men never popped in and out of their offices—meaning their ranks—because of job changes, like so many jack–in–the–boxes. (In fact, this was the case on numerous occasions in the WCG with many of this splinter’s senior men.)

We must ask: Did these men never believe that it was Jesus Christ who had put them into their offices? Did they believe Mr. Armstrong and others were not led of Him, and made an error in judgment by approving their promotions in rank? Tragically, these men simply forgot what these offices meant—and that they were ranks within God’s government. They lost sight of the fact that they had no right to overrule Christ’s decision so that they could all be “equals.”

It must be recognized that the idea behind their decision—and this was openly stated—was to introduce a form of democratic governance over the “church,” in which decisions were made by “one man, one vote.” The chief goal was to attract as many local church elders and ministers as possible into their fellowship with the promise that—from senior evangelists to junior local church elders—they would all carry equal weight on Church–wide matters. Political motives create political environments—and vice-versa.

In this regard, you need to ask yourself if ministers of Jesus Christ can by their own authority reduce the office given them by the Head of the Church to a lower one. We must ask: Could a man promote himself to a higher office? Of course not! Then how could so many believe themselves authorized to reduce their offices?

An Inset From Mr. Armstrong

What we have just described commands an inset to the chapter. While we will generally be quoting Mr. Armstrong much more extensively later, we need to let him, as the one who signed their ordination certificates, address what all of the senior ministers in UCG did in their mass action.

This was not the first time that the question had arisen about whether there is a difference between rank and function within the offices of the New Testament ministry. This problem arose in the “liberal years” of the mid-1970s, and Mr. Armstrong addressed it. He left no doubt that the various ranks of the ministry were, in fact, ranks— specific offices! A man’s designation did not move with his function, duties, responsibilities or particular job assignment at any given time. When the man was ordained to a certain office, that was his rank in Christ’s ministry, and it did not change!

You will be able to see exactly what Mr. Armstrong wrote to the entire ministry in 1979 about this matter. Bear in mind that virtually all, if not every single one, of the senior ministers who reduced themselves to “elders” in this organization in 1995 would have received the Pastor General’s Report explaining what you are about to read. Notice the very title of the article (at the end) written to the ministry, and take special note of the last sentence, given all caps for emphasis by Mr. Armstrong:

“I hope it is understood that designation of ordination as Evangelist, Pastor, etc., refers—and always has—to rank [emphasis his], rather than assignment of activity.

“As I recall at the moment, none who have held Evangelist rank have devoted themselves to holding evangelistic campaigns—preaching to public audiences regularly in proclaiming the Gospel Message to the world.

“The nearest exception to that, as I now recall, is that Mr. Rod Meredith held two or three campaigns, with public invited, in England more than twenty years ago. My son Garner Ted held occasional two- or three–night abbreviated campaigns a number of times, taking along on some of them singers, M.C., etc. He also held an evangelistic campaign of some weeks at Springfield, Missouri, in the late 50s. A few others of Evangelist rank have held a few occasional one- or two–night campaigns.

“But none has been occupied regularly in holding evangelistic campaigns preaching to the outside public.

“For years Mr. Norman Smith, of Evangelist rank, was occupied in supervision of radio and TV Production. For years Al Portune was occupied in the Business Office, handling finances. For years Mr. Les McCullough, ranked Evangelist, was executive in charge of the Big Sandy campus of Ambassador College. For years Mr. Raymond McNair was occupied as Deputy Chancellor of Ambassador College in England, as he is on the Pasadena campus now. And so with the others—none has been occupied in evangelizing the outside world, though many have spoken more or less often, on the Sabbaths, to our own congregations.

“In I Corinthians 12, the various functions in Church organization are explained. ‘There are differences of administrations, but the same Lord’ (verse 5). Different administrations require administrators—and that is listed first in the designation of duties within the organized Church. Most of our administrators have been ranked Evangelist.

“Next, ‘And there are diversities of operations’ (verse 6). This can include all other specially designated operations within the Church, devoted full time (not laymen necessarily). For these many varied functions in a united, organized, cohesive Work, God has given various ones special spiritual gifts—dividing to each as GOD wills.

“Then, same chapter, God has set in the Church, apostles, prophets, teachers…governments. In Ephesians 4 this is amplified a little further: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers. It is apparent these are intended to be ranks, rather than definite occupations. AND THAT IS THE WAY GOD HAS SET IT IN HIS CHURCH TODAY!”

“Evangelist Rank Is Designation Of Rank—Area Of Operation,”
Pastor General’s Report, October 24, 1979

There are only two possible explanations for why scores of senior ministers did not follow this instruction. They either forgot it—or they rebelled against it. We can naturally wonder if all of them could have forgotten in unison such an understanding—and official ruling. No serious person could believe this, and we could conclude that if just one or a few had “remembered” Mr. Armstrong’s teaching, would they not have reminded the others of what they were doing?

Voluntary Resignation!

Grasp this. For one of these two reasons, these men voluntarily resigned their appointed offices in Christ’s Body. Make no mistake about the current rank of all the senior ministers in UCG. These senior men formally resigned their higher WCG offices many years ago! While deceived, they chose to do what they did. Worse, this decision in itself formally disqualified these men from holding their old offices and, when truly understood, from the ministry altogether. They have straight out rejected where Christ put them in His Body (I Cor. 12:18). Do you think that He could still use—work through—such men?

Consider further. When men do this for any reason, they cannot later decide of their own accord—should this become desirable—that their actions were wrong and then reinstate themselves. Under no circumstances does the Bible ever permit men to reinstate themselves to the ministry either after involuntary removal from office or resignation. Let’s state this plainly again: After having rejected, and for many years now, the calling of Jesus Christ to an office—any office—such men are officially disqualified from that office until, upon sincere repentance, they are formally—meaning officially!—reinstated by the higher true authority in wherever God’s government is. Laugh and sneer as they surely will at this explanation, these senior men have wholesale left the ministry! They are simply no longer true ministers—period! These men are in no sense Christ’s ministers, any more than they are “united.”

On the basis of what you have just read in this section, can you begin to understand more about how God could not possibly be leading a government formed by men whose very first action was to outright reject the very offices into which Jesus Christ had placed them?

As you read the next section, keep asking yourself how an organization over 15 years old could be lost in such a maze of ignorance and confusion.

By Their Own Admission

At least this organization has been somewhat “honest” about the Frankenstein form of government it has created. Its January 2006 church newspaper contained a telling article titled “Role of the President in International Areas.” The article opened with a statement that the Council of Elders had surveyed ministers in the international areas about their view of the president’s role. In practical reality, this means that the “dog” consulted with its “tail” for instruction on how to—and even permission to—wag it!

The article referenced one Council of Elders member as stating, “…the responses to the survey went in a different direction than was anticipated and opened up even more fundamental issues for discussion.” It reported that this Council member wrote the Council Chairman “that confusion ‘…in the international areas regarding the role of the president internationally is to some extent…due to a lack of clarity with respect to how the Council and president should function.’” Incredibly, no one recognized that human nature had been given a voice.

The article continued with this same man asking the rest of the Council “to consider some questions about those foundational concepts. What is the United Church of God? Are we merely an association of independent entities around the world with no overall global central administration? Are we just tied together by certain doctrines or policies, but not by a common administration?…does the United Church of God transcend national boundaries and legal documents? Are National Councils the supreme administrative authority for each area? Or do they recognize an authority over them? If so, is that authority the Council of Elders?”

How many members and ministers understood the seriousness of what is in question here? Even though this organization long ago published a “study paper” on this aspect of its governance, the article continued with the Council then “point[ing] out that we have a common vocabulary, but often don’t have common definitions for our words. For example, what is the meaning of ‘governance,’ ‘administration,’ ‘association,’ ‘micro-management,’ etc.?” Astonishing.

The article also referenced another Council member—this is almost too incredible to believe—who, the article reports, “stated that the fear some international areas have, based on history and experience, is that the ‘strong arm from Headquarters’ will try to take control. He said that it is important to coordinate with international areas, not to control them.”

What?!! “Coordinate”?!! Every form of government must involve control. This is what government IS! Government means governing!

However astonishing this is, what may be the worst from this article is saved for last. The Council Chairman himself declared this: “There are fundamental questions about what leadership is, what authority is and who has it.” Absolutely incredible! I am compelled to repeat, “You cannot make this stuff up.” One could wonder how so many could follow such leaders, and for so many years.

But there is more.

No Wonder…

No wonder the United Church of God refers to its “capitol” as “home office” instead of headquarters. No wonder it customarily sends regular monthly letters to its membership signed by two men—the Chairman of the Council and the President, both of whom also merely consider themselves “elders.”

No wonder UCG calls itself “an International Association”—with this because its leaders and ministry no longer understand who or what is the Church and Body of Christ, and that Christ always intended His Church be much more than a mere “association” of similar congregations. (Mr. Armstrong thundered against this kind of human “affiliation.”) As the next natural byproduct of such a spectacular and catastrophic collective memory loss, no wonder the leadership in this organization cannot any longer recognize the need for God’s pattern of government—or even what that pattern was.

No wonder local congregational boards were permitted at the outset, even though the home office was forced to renege on this promise because they faced too much of the kind of chaotic government at the local level that they wanted to reserve for their “home office.” No wonder local pastors sometimes permit teenagers and unqualified others to speak from the pulpit, little children to take up offerings on Holy Days (thinking it “cute”), and do other things reserved for duly–appointed deacons and leaders. (They have forgotten that it was the apostates who taught them to break with “decency and order”—and established tradition—with these ideas.) No wonder the true gospel—a message about God’s coming, world-ruling government—has been rejected by this group in favor of one half-mirroring the world’s gospel about “Jesus” and His “forgiveness.”

No wonder ministers polled certain local congregations to see if the people preferred an opening prayer before or after the songs that open the service—or if the people did not. No wonder that addressing and referencing ministers and other officers as “Mr.” has disappeared in much of UCG. (It comes as no surprise that this evidence of disappearing respect for offices of God is also visible in virtually all of the other splinters and slivers.)

Again, no wonder its Council publicly declares it is still “unclear”—and this done seemingly without the slightest embarrassment—how the respective local councils of other nations should report to either the President or the Council at the home office. No wonder this organization, over 15 years later, is still studying how that President interacts with the Council.

These “no wonders” could go on and on, because there is much more wrong with UCG’s atrocious governmental structure. In fact, this organization is best described as a breeding ground—a virtual training school—for opportunists, climbers and those for whom political thinking comes naturally. While there is temptation to continue, even a description of this group must have a limit.

In late 2010 and early 2011, the United Church of God lost several thousand members and over 150 ministers to a new organization—Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGwa). Born after a long, internal and disgraceful public fight, COGwa leaders built a near clone of the UCG government they left behind. By any reckoning, the differences are so minor one can only wonder why a separation took place. The facts demonstrate that no other doctrines seemed to be driving UCG’s latest split. By all accounts, ministerial egos were the cause of so much additional damage to the brethren.

A final acknowledgement—and admonition: The travesty occurring in the name of “government” that is being perpetrated by these two organization’s leaders lies equally at the feet of their memberships. The home office could never have gotten to first base if brethren there were not sending tithes and offerings to empower it, now them. Fraud, spiritual or otherwise, often involves co–conspirators, and these organization’s leaders have unwitting thousands.

Armed with right knowledge, however, individuals can choose to be different!

The Big Pentecostal Splinter

The Living Church of God (LCG) claims to be the “living branch” of God’s Church, was formed in early 1993 under a different name (the Global Church of God), and also consists of thousands of people. Having undergone a name change in 1998, it is still led by a self-proclaimed “senior evangelist,” Roderick Meredith, who constantly speaks of having spent “thousands of hours with Mr. Armstrong.” LCG does not practice the same mistakes of government as those described in UCG. Its errors are different and more easily summarized, but they are also several in number and gravely wrong.

It is important to realize before continuing that Satan has always been willing to permit the churches of his world to teach different kinds of error. Unlike God, he does not require uniformity among his followers. He knows error is error—heresy is heresy—false teaching is false teaching—and that it fulfills his purpose in every form. The devil’s goal has been consistent—to overthrow and destroy the government of God, and he is more than happy to offer God’s people a variety of wrong patterns from which to choose to achieve his end. Ultimately, no form of government error is better or worse than any other.

A side note is important here regarding LCG and UCG. These two splinters have periodically quietly held meetings toward the express purpose of an eventual MERGER. While most of the membership of both are probably unaware of this—there are the usual denials—many know of the process. There have been meetings involving both groups, formal and informal, and held at different levels in different places, including at LCG’s headquarters. Details of leadership are reported to be the sticking point. But, because of “flexibility,” the differences in government—as well as other doctrines—will evaporate in time. These facts will almost certainly be denied, as they were in 1998, when I witnessed the same thing firsthand.

One or Three?

First, this organization has changed the biblical pattern of offices once practiced in the Worldwide Church of God, and has introduced new titles, among other errors.

Mr. Armstrong explained that there are three kinds of elders (this will be more clearly understood later) with “elder” in the name, and most readers are familiar with them. These categories functioned in three offices: Preaching Elders, Local Elders (those in the full–time ministry) and Local Church Elders (elders who are not full–time). Roderick Meredith has done away with all three designations—three offices—and merged them into one office, that of simply “elder.” He claims that Mr. Armstrong created the office of Preaching Elder as a kind of maneuver to “satisfy the draft board” in the 1950s. This is patently false, as well as silly, and you will see Mr. Armstrong’s own description of how this biblical office fits into Christ’s ministerial hierarchy.

With this leader’s merging of three offices, not only is all distinction between these then lost, but the office and rank of Pastor—that of the most senior ministers under evangelists—is significantly diminished. The experience, importance—and level of respect to seniority—that this rank once represented in God’s structure largely disappears in this system. In practical application, this organization routinely raises men (sometimes also young men) of minimal training and experience to “Pastor rank.” Of course, and this is a real problem, such promotions play wonderfully in stroking younger, more junior ministers. This alteration also serves to automatically create an environment that is more political. Inexperienced men ordained and raised to this office will naturally feel that they have quickly risen to higher rank. They will feel themselves to have “arrived”—meaning they have “grown spiritually” at “unusual speed”!

Gone and forgotten are the all-important admonitions of I Timothy 3:6 (do not ordain novices or pride will lift them up) and 5:22 (avoid sudden decisions to ordain, where proper thought and discussion were obviously lacking).

More obvious, however, is the basic fact that three offices of God, once held by many hundreds of men when the Church was on track, have been thrown out the window in LCG’s ministerial structure. (Many will be able to remember that local elders—those full-time—were always to be considered of greater office than local church elders.)

New “Presiding” Office

Recognize that this change was unilaterally instituted by a man who has also created a new title for himself—Presiding Evangelist. (We will ask momentarily whether he actually takes a very different and higher level of authority than that of evangelist.)

Mr. Armstrong never referred to himself or anyone else by this title. We knew he was Christ’s apostle, and he never referred to himself as “Presiding.” Also, we understood he was the Pastor General (or “general pastor”) because he supervised all congregations, and he referred to himself as such. And, of course, he was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Worldwide Church of God, as well as the Chairman of its corporate Board of Directors.

Not only did Mr. Armstrong never give this designation or use this term, neither does the Bible. It is mere human invention, and breaks with plain understanding of evangelists as the third office within the Body of Christ, and thus one that would not “preside” over the Church as a whole. Many do not realize that Mr. Armstrong thought himself to have been leading the Church as an evangelist for 19 years—from Autumn 1933 to Autumn 1952—until he recognized this was erroneous thinking, and God revealed to him how it was to be corrected. This story will begin to be understood in Chapter Five, but will be more fully explained in a later chapter.

As with UCG, and directly related to the humanly devised title he has taken, Roderick Meredith established a Council of Elders. He also dropped the word “Advisory” from its description. Obviously, because he no longer either understood or held to other elements of God’s government practiced in the past, he had no difficulty making this change. When I sat on his Council (for about four years prior to Restored’s inception), I asked him in its first meeting, why he did not use the word advisory. I was direct. He explained that “he was part of the Council” and that he should be considered “just one of the men on it.” This was his explanation.

The Council in this organization is also vested with the authority to change official church teachings—doctrines—by two-thirds vote. In this way, they are little different from UCG, except that the latter is more honest in publicly admitting what they are reviewing and what has been decided—because the entire ministry participates.

The reader can easily investigate whether this is true.

Also like those of UCG, the ministry of this so-called “living” organization looked the other way and permitted all of these changes. They should never have accepted alterations in God’s government that they in fact, at least in most cases, received with open arms.

“Restoring Apostolic Christianity”

Before continuing, and again as with the leaders of UCG, recognize that Roderick Meredith does not understand Mr. Armstrong’s role as the final prophesied Moses, foretold to come (Mal. 4:4) ahead of the end-time Elijah who would “restore all things” (Matt. 17:11) to God’s Church before Christ’s Return (Mal. 4:5-6). (This is explained thoroughly in my three-part sermon, “First a MOSES, Now ELIJAH—130 Proofs!”) This ignorance of fulfilled prophecy paves the way to a host of connected problems in leaders who reject the understanding of this fulfillment—what it means to the Church. Let’s see how this has affected the thinking of this leader, and what it has to do with government in LCG.

Many will remember that Mr. Armstrong repeated over and over, and the introduction cited several examples, that God raised him up more to re-establish the government of God in the Church than for perhaps any other reason (except for the co-equal importance of re-establishing the true gospel, which is entirely about God’s government). Of course, Mr. Armstrong did bring a great many other truths to God’s Church, but he believed the ones about government and the true gospel to be the most crucial—and he also said as much more than once.

Here is what has happened in LCG. Roderick Meredith and those he calls his “lieutenants” seized on the idea of constantly repeating and emphasizing the theme of “restoring apostolic Christianity.” In so doing, this man is affirming what many know to be his private desire to be the Elijah.

Have you recognized this? Have you grasped its significance—what it means?

Here is another problem with this: As an evangelist, Roderick Meredith sees himself as chosen and led to “restore apostolic Christianity”—in other words, the way of life first taught through apostles—to the Church. Here is the incredible irony in this. He is saying the man who was an apostle—Mr. Armstrong—apparently never did this, but as an evangelist, he would and is!

Take special note that this man has linked his view of what he sees as the “restoration” to an emphasis on performing “miracles” and demonstrating “great power,” like the original Elijah, so he can “shake the nations.” Of course, similar to Simon Magus in Acts 8, however obsessed this leader has become with such gifts, I tell you on God’s authority that he will not be given this power—at least not from the true God. It is in this area—that of spiritual “gifts” described in I Corinthians 12—that LCG’s leader has become obsessed, coveting the power of miracles, especially to heal. Of course, who would not be in favor of healing? However, all who truly still believe God heals would know this occurs only in the Body of Christ, for those with simple faith.

The understanding of true and false miracles will be covered in greater detail, and in a fascinating context, in Chapter Eighteen. However, those with serious interest will want to carefully listen to my vital three-part sermon series “Understanding Signs, Wonders and Miracles—True and False!” You will be left stunned at what is at stake within this subject. You will also understand that miracles and even special miracles are part of the signs and wonders that are the “signs of an apostle”—not of an evangelist working without an apostle’s authority.

“Another Gospel”—and a Curse!

We must ask: Is it really any wonder this “senior evangelist” would pervert the New Testament offices of Christ’s ministry, and invent for himself a new title—or alter the name of the Advisory Council of Elders? Of course not! He cannot possibly believe Mr. Armstrong restored God’s government to the Church any more than he believes Mr. Armstrong restored the true gospel to the Church. This is because this man has also perverted this central, titanic truth in favor of “another gospel” (II Cor. 11:3-4). Like UCG, he has shifted halfway to acceptance of the world’s focus on the Messenger (actually, when understood, on “another Jesus”) instead of His message. LCG, again like UCG, also lists Christ’s forgiveness of sins as the first element of the gospel. The reader should take a moment to read and be sobered by what Paul said about the double curse related to this in Galatians 1:6–9. In losses of astounding proportion, over 70 percent of LCG’s original ministry has left the organization (for various reasons), retired or died—often suddenly or tragically—since 1995, but most since late 1998, with 2004 and after witnessing a dramatic acceleration.

Time will demonstrate that Galatians 1:6-9 reveals this process and other worse problems to be ongoing—far from complete in LCG. In fact, as this curse takes greater and greater effect in the large splinters (and any others who adopt this false gospel), their problems will continue to grow in a parallel and commensurate intensity.

You must understand the reason God places a double curse on those who pervert the truth of the gospel. (Ask: How many other doctrines are even connected to a curse?) It is because the gospel is only about the coming, world-ruling government of God!

God no more wants this message about government perverted before all nations than He wants His government perverted in the Church! Woe unto those who pervert either!

How ironic that LCG and so many other splinters happily put Christ where He is not and does not want to be—as part of the gospel! Yet, they refuse to acknowledge Him where He should be and declares that He is—the Head of His one, undivided government, leading a single organization!

But how many will see the fuller, bigger picture here? How many will be able to connect all of these different elements in Roderick Meredith’s thinking?—and to LCG’s fruits? How many will be outraged at such an appalling focus on himself and subtle—but clear—denigration of Mr. Armstrong’s true fulfillment and establishing of many vital doctrines? How many will see why this man freely changes any number of other doctrines? How many will connect the dots to why he feels that establishing the right form of government in the Church is his role, instead of Mr. Armstrong’s?

What Office?

There is further evidence of Roderick Meredith’s desire to elevate himself, and this will become more evident when we examine the duties of an apostle in Chapter Twelve. Despite the appearance of “lowering” himself into his organization’s Council, this man has actually elevated himself by taking almost every responsibility—at least seven!—exclusively given to, and designated as functions solely of, the highest office in Christ’s ministry. When we come to them, members and ministers of LCG will want to focus on the duties of this highest office with their leader in mind, as well as on Chapter Nine, which will explain what the Bible teaches, and what Mr. Armstrong taught, about the rank and duties of evangelists. Chapter Thirteen will also address false apostles in more detail.

If honest with the facts that will be presented, these readers will be left with the question of whether their leader is in fact a false apostle! Of course, this leader does not actually claim to hold this highest rank. However, we must ask whether that changes the truth—the net effect—of his actions.

I am aware that this is a most serious question—in fact, how many could be more serious?—but you be the judge in later chapters, when this is covered in greater detail, of whether the facts have been honestly presented. For instance, the leader of the next splinter to be discussed takes at least a dozen titles that belong only to Christ or the Father. While he certainly does not refer to himself as God or Christ, or think himself doing anything wrong, he is no less a false christ. We will also later see how this is true.

This introduces the next section about the splinter this man leads.

The False Prophet Splinter

The leader of the Philadelphia Church of God (PCG), Gerald Flurry, claims to be a prophet. But the Bible teaches, and this will be made clearer in Chapter Ten, that no one can hold the office of prophet unless there is a living apostle to whom he can report. Also, a prophet can never lead the Church, because this rank is not now, and has never been, an administrative office, or even one involving general preaching and teaching. Again, that will be made clear.

Before continuing, it is important to note that there are also several small slivers led by men claiming to be prophets. And more are appearing. Note also, however, that these “prophets” all work in opposition to one another, each offering differing prophetic scenarios, theories and “insights.” Suffice to say regarding such men, they cannot be true prophets. Every one of them is false.

Again, Gerald Flurry takes perhaps a dozen different titles and offices that apply solely to either the Father or Christ (he takes more than 30 titles total). This is outright blasphemy and rank idolatry of the highest order. This man is worse than a false prophet, and even a false apostle. By taking just a single title of Christ, never mind having taken at least a dozen divine titles, such a leader has made himself a false christ in the fullest sense!

When presented with the facts, no serious person would believe such a man has anything whatsoever to do with the government of God—and none should follow him to the kitchen, let alone the kingdom of God!

It is worth noting—and this is important in regard to PCG—that the true government of God is benevolent, loving and a wonderful blessing to the people who serve under it (and yes, again, it is understood that it is not perfect, and that there are mistakes made by every human within it). But the type of government practiced within this bizarre organization—and they take special pride in describing themselves as “having the government of God”—is so dictatorial, brutal and despotic that any honest observer could not differentiate it from the worst forms of tyranny. The WCG apostates proved that much more than outward appearance and pattern must be present for the government of God to be present. (But PCG has also rejected the pattern in numerous ways.)

Truly, and this is difficult to say, people there would be better off under either of the groups already described than to stay for even five more minutes under the so obviously error-driven, demon–inspired leadership of this organization.

The Intellectual Splinter With “Vision”

In 1998, approximately 1,500 to 2,000 people departed from UCG and formed their own new organization under a newer (post-1986) WCG evangelist. Copying the churches of the world, who see themselves as having a place as one of many “communities” within a kind of amorphous whole of the supposed body of Christ, this group chose to call itself “an International Community” of believers, after the evangelical term popular today.

David Hulme led the separation of those who followed him basically under the following scenario: UCG had twice elected him as its President about eight months apart in its first year of operation. However, the Council of Elders three years later decided it was time for a change. This man immediately swung into action, and here is what happened.

This “evangelist” simultaneously came to what amounted to two opposing conclusions. As “winner” of two separate elections, he felt this meant he was God’s winner—meaning God’s electee—and that he had been selected to be “leader of the church.” Yet, and here is the problem, he simultaneously believed he should publicly “repent” of having participated in such a political process. This meant he had to “repent” of having taken part in these elections, but accept that God had, in fact, revealed to him through his initial installation born of rebellion—voting!—that he must step out on his own as the church’s new “leader.” Unbelievable! (It is understood that there were a couple other differences behind the division between the groups. And it should also be understood his organization has forsaken numerous other true doctrines.)

Tragically, this group’s leader has now finally written a book—which, incredibly, he SELLS for $65! Having lost all grasp of how only Christ, at His Return, can solve the problems of the Middle East, he offers a “path to peace” in this impossible region of the world. Having rejected Matthew 10:8—“Freely you have received, freely give”—how could this man possibly remember and understand how the all-powerful Christ alone can solve the world’s great problems.

He could not!

The description of the government in this group can also be relatively short because its errors are similar to the second group above. The “intellectual” evangelist leading this breakaway splinter has also taken many of the duties designated to be carried out solely by apostles. The membership there should also carefully examine the facts presented in Chapters Nine and Twelve.

The Small, Upside-Down Sliver

When the Global Church of God (formed in 1993) eventually split in late 1998, with the majority forming LCG, over time, several smaller groups formed from the approximately 20 percent that had remained behind. While each of these tiny groups carries its own story, one stands out as having invented a new kind of confusion, not previously seen after the apostasy.

One of the slivers that emerged eventually came to believe itself led by its very own “evangelist.” Here is what happened: In early 2005, several elders and one pastor gathered around another thought-to-be pastor in their group and “raised” him to “evangelist.” However sincere, this man was trained almost exclusively in a very different endeavor, and possessed little practical experience or training of almost any kind in the ministry. (He was not even an elder in the Worldwide Church of God, and yet was ordained three times in two organizations thereafter.)

Of course, the idea that this “evangelist ordination” could be valid is ludicrous in the extreme to anyone remotely familiar with the truth of the Bible. However, this did not stop the group from “researching” the Scriptures until they supposedly “discovered” that the apostles Paul and Barnabas appeared to have been ordained apostles by the authority of lower-ranking men who were only “prophets and teachers” (Acts 13:1-3). I have read their explanation, and it is at best misguided, and at worst, pitiful and comical. But so is this organization’s convoluted and embarrassing continual references to how such thinking—and they offer any number of instances of this with various teachings—is evidence of ability to “grow beyond Mr. Armstrong” (with such “growth” portrayed as a command to Christians). Of course, this thinking of “going beyond Mr. Armstrong’s level of understanding” is common to every splinter and sliver. A few may have simply not recognized it.

There is not space here to explain the true circumstances in Acts 13, but Mr. Armstrong himself will make clear later in Chapter Nine what really happened when Paul and Barnabas were ordained—in other words, under what and whose authority this occurred.

To its credit, this little group is at least trying to do a tiny “work” of sorts. I know these men, and they are sincere but, as Mr. Armstrong would say, “They are sincerely wrong!” Hopefully, it will eventually be evident to a few more in this group that this “ordination” was bogus and their “work” has been of men.

In any event, when one who is not even a properly ordained minister, let alone evangelist, takes to himself responsibilities designated to apostles, the problem is only compounded. Such efforts to do the Work are still false, are contrary to the way God’s government operates, and are not led of Jesus Christ.

Another “Evangelist” Sliver

A more recent sliver—Church of God, 21st Century—led by a man ordained evangelist in the early 1950s, appeared in early 2004, and several hundred people quickly associated with it because of his name. This small organization presents a different and unique government problem, related to what all the elders in UCG did.

Some history: In late 1998, the leader (who died in October 2008) of this group parted company with LCG for about a year and a half. He later had second thoughts and decided to return, which he did for approximately three years. It was explained to him upon his return that he must give up his office as Evangelist until those over him felt he had sufficiently “repented” of “rebellion.” He voluntarily and publicly agreed to the terms, and thus was completely removed from the ministry for over three years. When his reinstatement did not come when or as he had hoped—his “jailors” were considering reinstating him to much lower office—this man left this organization for a second time and declared that he was an evangelist once again.

We must ask: Can this be done? Can a man reinstate himself into the ministry after voluntarily leaving his ministerial calling—and in this case for over three years? Is his action legitimate? Does he again carry authority—in the case of his office, more than a little?

Let’s carefully analyze what happened, let’s reason together in the light of how God governs His Church. Recognize that there have been men who were removed from the ministry and later reinstated. For various reasons, this has occurred numerous times through the years. (Of course, I am not speaking of those who were unwillingly removed from the ministry for wrong reasons—cases in which a man refused to go along with false teachings in order to keep his job. I have experienced this twice and, believe me, I know the difference. You should, too.)

When this man voluntarily divested authority over his office to an organization (LCG) that he was in fact re–entering, he understood exactly what he was doing, in his case, having considered the decision beforehand for many months. He knowingly handed away his credentials to an organization he recognized later—now for a second time—was false. When this man checked his ministerial credentials at this splinter’s door like they were little more than a coat, his decision not only dishonored Mr. Armstrong, the faithful human apostle used to install him into office so many years before, but he dishonored the Apostle above Mr. Armstrong—Jesus Christ (Heb. 3:1)!—Whom he presumably believed guided his original appointment and ordination into office.

Here is the point: By allowing this organization to remove him from office without true cause (except in the view of the leaders there)—and doing so with his eyes wide open—this man utterly disqualified himself from that office and from the ministry. Naturally, he later regretted his decision. But, as Esau found with his birthright blessing (read Hebrews 12:16-17), it was too late! Seeing no other option, the man simply reinstated himself. But this man had absolutely no biblical authority to “reinstate” himself, particularly after committing such a monumental offense against Christ’s decision to place him into high office.

The reader might try to find in the Bible where any man was ever permitted to leave the ministry (and for so long) and then reinstate himself on his own authority. There is also no such historical instance—no such confusion—that one can point to, either in the Philadelphian era or in any previous era, where such a thing occurred. Some seem to believe that because we are in the Laodicean age, this sort of rebellious confusion can be acceptable. Various former ministers and brethren who follow him seem to think in such cases that because misguided, foolish flatterers—other brethren or ministers—tell them that they are playing an “important role” or “making a difference” (the case with this man), self–reinstatement is permitted. Who are they kidding? Certainly not thinking people who understand anything about the government directed by Christ as it was given to the Church through Mr. Armstrong!

In a sense, the over 400 “elders” in UCG who transferred authority over their office to their organization have been more honest than this man and certain others. However wrong they were, at least they admitted openly that they were all agreeing together to reduce their ranks to achieve “one man, one vote” in their General Conference of Elders. If, as explained, UCG’s senior men have now disqualified themselves from returning to their previous higher offices—they have!—then one who voluntarily left the ministry completely—and for years!—has gone far beyond what they did in disqualifying himself from further service in Christ’s ministry—until repentance and possible reinstatement by Christ’s duly–appointed authority!

It is no accident that the man who led this “21st-century” splinter “examined” in the late 1990s the Church’s understanding of government and decided that Mr. Armstrong “got it wrong.” And it is also no accident he concluded God’s Church and government are divided today. He knew that if one unified government of God still existed, as Mr. Armstrong taught, he would have to diligently seek it until he found it—and then submit to it!

Sadly, many prefer to believe that circumstances in the “church” today mirror Judges 21:25, where “every man [may do] that which [is] right in his own eyes.”

But there is more to examine before we are finished with the smaller splinters, or slivers.

Another Early Splinter

In late 1991, an associate pastor (John Ritenbaugh) resigned from the WCG and created a new organization, the second to form after the apostasy.

This splinter never grew to more than a few hundred, and this is largely because its leader does not believe Mr. Armstrong “had the right balance” between “doing the Work” and “feeding the flock.” He explained that he felt Mr. Armstrong’s improper overemphasis on preaching the gospel and warning Israel, instead of “taking care of the sheep,” is the principal reason so many fell away so easily when the apostates threw out the truth.

An interesting and effective speaker, this man decided to specialize in giving helpful, in-depth sermons (certainly not a bad thing), but to the complete exclusion of continuing God’s Work. His initial focus was entirely on “readying the bride,” and it remained so for a while. However, having accepted from the beginning a number of the apostates’ doctrines, this man eventually fell into a host of absolutely preposterous prophetic ideas. Consider just one, because it well illustrates how far afield so many have gone: This man has gone so far as to conclude that the “great whore” and her “harlot daughters” of Revelation 17:5 are actually the twelve nations (or tribes) of Israel, not the Catholic and Protestant churches!

Think for a moment of all the basic understanding of prophecy that Mr. Armstrong had to have wrong for this man’s theory to be correct. The whole framework on which hangs the one-third of the Bible that is prophecy implodes into a pile of rubble if this idea is right. Could any even half-experienced Bible student possibly believe that the nations of Israel are going to ride the final, ten-nation European Union—the Beast?

Now try to comprehend how a person’s—a senior minister’s!—understanding of basic prophecy could so completely collapse. In fact, this particular idea is so outrageous that some would naturally want to investigate it out of curiosity—just to “see what he said.” The result: The weak are taken in, a splinter that should not be able to attract five people grows—and a deceiver gets paid.

The “Faithful” Sliver

One other small organization has arisen in recent years, and it is presenting itself as a unique and attractive alternative to those who are tired of the compromise in the big splinters. Led by an elderly pastor, Don Billingsley, this small group has striven to hold fast more than any of the other splinters and slivers.

In some regards, this group is, quite literally, “so close, and yet so far.” While they are probably the most doctrinally accurate group other than The Restored Church of God, their leader has fallen into three titanic errors.

First, he has concluded that the Work of God, as defined by the Bible and Mr. Armstrong, has been essentially finished for over 20 years—except for gathering those who will follow to wait for the Place of Safety under him. Like UCG from which he came, he was conditioned to feel that there is no “Chief Shepherd” to lead God’s Church today. Although he saw this splinter’s terrible doctrinal compromise, and experienced the same in the smaller, breakaway group he joined that left it in early 1998, he tied his belief that there is no “Chief Shepherd” today to the idea that there can also no longer be any meaningful Work of God today. Even the United Church of God did not go this far.

Second, this man has then necessarily concluded that God’s government is no longer in place today—and, of course, this is its own colossal error in understanding. Such men, and there are many like this, are taking tithes that belong to God, which are to be paid only to where His government exists, and thus where His Work is being done. May God help all such men, however sincere they may be, to see they are stealing—and from Whom they are doing this!

I have referenced elsewhere that Mr. Armstrong explained how the government of God primarily exists for the purpose of doing His Work through His Church. In the book The Work of God – Its Final Chapter!, it is carefully explained how Mr. Armstrong said that the Work of God—and I mean the true Work of God!—would continue until the Great Tribulation. This means with both its component parts in place—announcing the gospel and warning Israel. That is why the scope, size and power of the Work being done by The Restored Church of God continues to explode almost beyond imagination year after year. This is why many millions are reading our vast arsenal of literature today in every nation and virtually every territory on earth. (We can sometimes have 2,000 readers in a single week from smaller countries, even Muslim, such as Saudi Arabia!)

While it is not our purpose to repeat that extensive book here, suffice to understand there are a great many tiny groups that will not do God’s Work—and this is partly because they are not capable of carrying it on. They have not been trained to do it, they do not have the resources to do it, they are too doctrinally compromised to do it correctly, they have lost sight of what the Work is, and they do not have the backing of God, who only works through one organization and one chosen leader at a time. This will be amply demonstrated in the rest of this book, and it has been variously discussed in other books to the splinters.

The third major error that this small organization has fallen into—and really this is the first in importance—is that the leader and those there no longer understand who and what is the Church and Body of Christ. At risk of being repetitive, I keep emphasizing this great error because it is widespread and correct understanding of it is so important. It is also connected to recognizing that God’s government is in place and, therefore, that the Work must be done. (Our book The True Church – One Organization, or Many? reveals the importance of this subject.)

These three great errors in thinking—“government,” “no continuance of the Work” and “forgetting what is the Church”—are all a package deal. Each leads to the other two. Lose any one, and the other two are also quickly lost.

“The Joyful G.R.U.M.P.s”

A word should be mentioned about a little-known, but very real, underground “splinter” still inside the Worldwide Church of God. This group refers to themselves as “The Joyful G.R.U.M.P.s,” meaning God’s Remnant Under Much Persecution. Obviously, after years in these circumstances, this group is far from joyful. Miserable is closer to the truth. They count their numbers around 1,000 or a little more, and they list ministers of the same thinking within the WCG who they report “quietly support and work with them.”

While this group believes itself “holding fast” and “rejecting all the error” now taught, in fact, the entire group is actually starving to death. For many, the process has probably long been complete. I know, because I have worked with some of them, and have seen how trapped they are in their desperately confused thinking regarding rebellion and the guilt that would result, and how “they must not leave the WCG because God is going to turn this around.”

This group’s misery is truly self-inflicted. In effect, this underground WCG faction did not—would not!—choose easy self–liberation from “Auschwitz” when they could have, somehow believing that God actually wants them to stay under their captors. Stated more plainly, lacking willingness to free themselves, when the “Allies” came to liberate them—God’s alternative and true government having been made available to some of them—they rejected deliverance because they were looking for a “guard” within the compound to “rise up” and make the “death camp” a Garden of Eden once again.

Such tragic thinking literally makes the head hurt.

You simply cannot tell these terribly deluded people that a champion sent of God is not coming to save them and their corporation. Of course, all or virtually all of them have unwittingly accepted a host of false doctrines they have permitted themselves to listen to for so long that, no matter their protestations otherwise, they now have only a very clouded idea of which doctrines are true and which are false. In other words, these have stayed so long that they have accepted many false teachings by forgetting that the apostates, not Mr. Armstrong, first taught these ideas. They are simply blind to this conditioning process.

For instance, returning to government, this group is so confused about it—where and what it is, and how to identify it—that they have remained in the WCG (now for many years) patiently waiting for, and only willing to accept, an insider to miraculously right the “Church” (which, again, they have confused with the corporation) under God’s direction because they believe that His government is still there, albeit now captured by His enemies. They have been told over and over that the ministers who left the WCG were hirelings, while those who remained were faithful. This group is so desperately deceived that they have actually convinced themselves that God wants them to pay His tithes to His worst enemies! I n other words, they personally assist—directly underwrite and empower!—these enemies, so that they are given more time to finish slaughtering His flock.

Tragically, this flock includes themselves—and is tantamount to your paying a “hitman” to shoot you!

Truly—truly—incredible! One is left to wonder if such people ever understood that God’s government had nothing to do with a corporation unless that corporation was under control of and being directed by His faithful leaders, who were in turn being directed by Christ.

I mention this group because the “GRUMPs” form a kind of splinter within the Worldwide Church of God, and because they represent another, and perhaps the most extreme, way that proper understanding of God’s government can be butchered beyond recognition, and bring real and awful consequences. This group also demonstrates that there are people who, like prisoners offered parole, will not leave the confines of familiarity even when the courts tell them they are free.

Mercifully, the new WCG seems to be officially purging all Sabbath-keepers from its ranks. The “GRUMPs” will be forced to take a stand.

More “Affiliating”

A more recent movement has been taking place among many of the tiny groups, and it seems to be growing. It should be at least briefly addressed here, because it rejects virtually every element of understanding within the knowledge of what is God’s government.

Many of the almost microscopic groups now believe that they should be out “evangelizing” and “spreading Christianity” in some form or other, variously defined. Like evangelicals, these usually believe God’s Work today is to “reach out” and “help others” (including through aiding relief organizations and disaster victims), and to try to lead as many people as possible to “Jesus” and the Sabbath and perhaps a few other key doctrines. But “Jesus” and Sabbath–keeping are their centerpieces.

These small groups, however, have found it to be tough sledding going it alone. The result is some of them have decided it would be better if they “affiliate” with one another on a kind of “co–equal” basis. (This is different from the actual merger talks that occur between UCG and LCG.) The idea is that no one should be in charge, but they can still enjoy the benefits of being part of a larger “association” of groups, people and efforts by “coordinating” activities. Then there is the fact that these groups are experiencing some “success,” however defined, and this becomes a heady experience. These leaders truly believe God is showing them some new and more spiritually advanced way of doing His Work most effectively today. While actually way behind even where the splinters and larger slivers are, the leaders and members of these tiny groups see themselves as having advanced far beyond the big organizations they have “courageously” left behind.

On the surface, all of this certainly seems attractive to human reasoning. This plan seems to offer many benefits, including freedom from all government. The problem is that it could not be farther from the way God works, even if these groups did have the full truth—and these usually tiny little clans are often the most doctrinally compromised!

But the chaos and confusion of the splinters has more elements to be aware of—and all of them are wrong!

More and More Chaos!

The reader must understand that all kinds of innovation and personally–stylized thinking is occurring—and rapidly multiplying—in the number of tiny ex-WCG groups popping up today. Here is a summary list:

  • There are more and more independent and tape “ministries” that have appeared, almost always led by men of lower rank and less experience. Again, because these men have not been trained to do the Work, they have had to devise some other “reason for being.” Their methods could be described as a little different, but in summary are pretty much the same in purpose. These often specialize in prophecy, meaning strange ideas and theories.
  • There is also an ever–increasing number of “prophets” arising, exactly as Jesus warned (three times in Matthew 24) would occur at the end of the age. Also, just as He warned, “many will be [and are being] deceived.” Most are not aware of this, in part because they do not understand that certain ministers are becoming de facto prophets, in the sense that they are radically altering proven prophetic understanding.
  • Local elders and local church elders (and other low–ranking ministers) are ordaining other local church elders by their own authority, and we will see this to be contrary to what Mr. Armstrong explained regarding who is authorized to approve ordinations, and who is not (not speaking of who may physically perform them).
  • The Protestant concept of “local evangelism,” first introduced to God’s people when they were still in the WCG, has reinvented itself over and over in a variety of ways throughout the large and small splinters, and this has become the driving force among those involved in forming the “affiliations” described above.
  • The previous point is the driving force behind a veritable explosion of personal websites that have appeared, with any number of them illegally reproducing Mr. Armstrong’s literature. The idea is that individuals may now take the gospel to the world, thus taking matters into their own hands. Gone is any need to submit to government authority in the Church or to the copyright laws of men because so many find “we can get away with it.”
  • Directly related, some local ministers in UCG and LCG operate their own websites spouting—pontificating—their “reports” to any who will listen. Their headquarters are unable, unwilling or just uninterested in reining them in.
  • Worse, more and more pastors in the big splinters are going “independent,” and are being received as “heroes” who had the “courage” to leave the “big groups.” However, upon close examination, in every case, these men are seen to fall into even worse thinking, worse doctrines and worse problems.
  • A (wide) open-door policy exists in virtually all the splinters, large and small. People of every stripe and flavor—and appearance—may now freely attend. For instance, in LCG (and in others) visitors and attendees are now sometimes heard to actually utter “amen” or “thank you Jesus.”
  • An increasing number of women are writing—more accurately, are preaching—in various publications and websites, and at least a couple have been ordained, so far occurring only in the tiniest groups.
  • Even among those who left to attend one or more splinters, more and more of what could only be called former brethren are coming to “despise government” and “speak evil of dignities” (including Mr. Armstrong and nearly all other ministers) of every capacity and in every organization (II Pet. 2:10)—and in strident tones! These are usually those who are dropping out of all organizations, either to become “Christians at home” or to freelance—bounce around between various organizations. Some of these believe that God’s government has disappeared permanently, others believe only temporarily, and still others believe Mr. Armstrong “never had it right.”

Almost all of this confusion actually originated in the WCG. Let’s understand. Great numbers left for the splinters after it had introduced lay ministers, women and teens behind the pulpit, local evangelism and politically–motivated ordinations, all occurring during and after the rejection of the government of God. Almost none have recognized how the WCG apostates played a huge role in bringing about the chaotic condition within the splinters today.

Think! A completely carnal false apostle arose there, taking—actually seizing—an office that neither Mr. Armstrong nor Jesus Christ had given him. (You will learn later why Mr. Armstrong did not—and actually could not!—install this man into the office of apostle.) Think for a moment of the environment that was created by just this single act of gross rebellion against Christ’s lead at the very top of the Church. Think of all that would not have changed within the climate of the Worldwide Church of God without such evil at the top of the human hierarchy in the organization—again, all of this just as a result of this one act of terrible defiance against Christ’s government.

When Rebellion First Became Fashionable

Before concluding the chapter, we must look at the very earliest beginnings—the first occasions—of rebellion in the Worldwide Church of God. They had a direct effect on events and conditions that would be taking place over 30 years later.

In 1972, Mr. Armstrong had to disfellowship his son for a short period. Upon his reinstatement, a percentage of ministers went underground in disagreement, leading them to begin to examine various of the Church’s doctrines. This caused them to “discover” one “error” after another. Encouraged by the Director of Church Administration, groups of ministers quietly began to form around certain regional directors in the field, 75 percent of whom came to be in general agreement with the headquarters underground. Circumstances allowed that it had slowly become the norm to feel that one could “question Pasadena.” (A quote from Mr. Armstrong in Chapter One referenced this period.)

A major rebellion ensued in February 1974, led by six of the eight regional directors. This became a crucial turning point, occurring just into the liberal years. Several thousand brethren and scores of ministers left the Church in a seven- to ten-day period. While this was a small number, relatively speaking, it had a lasting impact in the Church in a similar way that “Watergate” of the same year had upon America ever after. Nothing would be the same.

This rebellion, coupled with the many false doctrines allowed into the Church during these liberal years (until mid-1978), resulted in many who had remained in the Church being left unable to “uneat the rebellion apple.” Much like a couple who mentions the idea of “divorce,” without filing the papers, the idea of rebellion was now quietly on the table within tens of thousands of minds. “Divorce” from the Church and government of God was no longer unthinkable!

The net effect was that the horse was out of the barn—and the skids were effectively greased for the introduction of the Laodicean age of a dozen years hence.

The nauseating material found today on various websites and in certain “newspapers” is directly attributable to events occurring in the early 1970s. In fact, many in the splinters and slivers have gone full circle in their willingness to associate with and to follow the very ministers who left or were disfellowshipped in the liberal years. “Gatherings,” “conferences,” “forums” and “workshops” with such men—this includes a variety of other kinds of activities across group lines—have become the order of the day in the land of chaos.

Simply Not Possible

Twenty-five years ago, the entire Church would have said with one voice that the things described in this chapter could never happen. They would be seen as impossible. Yet, today they are not only happening but are accepted as necessary by many more than could be believed—and even seen by some to be the way things always should have been.

Such terribly tragic and misguided thinking!

I have explained in detail in THE WORK OF GOD book that the collective splinters—and I am speaking of those who supposedly survived the apostasy—are suffering from a kind of mass amnesia. They have completely forgotten large areas of belief and understanding and cannot seem to even remember the Church when it was very different from the picture in the splinters, or in any single splinter. People who once professed to know a true servant of God when they saw him will now follow virtually anyone who claims to be of God. (With a few adjustments, Rasputin could probably find followers in the splinters.) Almost no one seems to require, even demand, facts, evidence and proof—fruit!—that a minister is not a compromising charlatan (or that many working together are not a group of charlatans). Almost no one seems to care if a man is faithfully upholding the government of God as it was placed into the Church in the twentieth century, as well as not compromising other doctrine.

(To learn more about why the splinters have fallen into the many errors listed throughout this chapter, listen to my sermon “The ‘Synagogue of Satan’ Identified—and Marked!”)

Since so few of God’s people any longer understand—perhaps most never understood—the full nature of all that was restored under Mr. Armstrong on the matter of government, they are rendered unable to hold ministers to account when they make claims about their authority. In Chapter Five, you will learn there is actually no possibility—absolutely none!—of the restoration of God’s government within an organization if all offices of the ministry are not understood, recognized and accepted within it.

What could really have been one extremely long chapter is better broken into two because there is another different but related facet of all that has been described. It must be identified. The sea change in thinking that it examines reveals a transcendent cause behind all of the bad effects you just read, and shows that they are attributable to who is holding power today…

Chapter Four – Accountable to the People

As long as was Chapter Three, its subject is really not complete until another central point is raised and addressed. If that chapter speaks to what is occurring in the splinters and slivers, this one speaks to why and explains the cause.

There is an overarching trend in the splinters that demonstrates how the destroyer has come to be at work on such a grand scale. We need to see how God’s people and ministers have come to believe that they are “doing what the Bible says” as they take authority to themselves.

The topic of discussion in this chapter also reveals, perhaps more than any other single fact, why the Laodicean age was able to come upon God’s people, and how it is directly manifesting itself within the splinters. Some of what appears in this chapter is from a section of another book to the splinters, but it has very helpful application here. We will need to examine this in some depth.

The Democratic Way

Some time ago, a famous Hollywood actor, thinking with nostalgia and interested in returning the country to “better times in the past,” was quoted in an interview in a national newspaper. Speaking of his new movie about politics set in the 1950s in the United States, he said, “The greatest thing about this country is that anyone can question authority. That’s what I’m doing.”

At about the same time, in reference to America’s war in Iraq, an American senator expressed a similar sentiment. He was reacting to what he felt was the president’s defensiveness at being challenged over his policy in Iraq. This senator declared, “The…administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and elsewhere, and should not be demonized or condemned for disagreeing with them. Suggesting that to challenge and criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democratic, nor what this country has stood for for over 200 years.”

These two men are no doubt sincere in their belief about the “strength” or “beauty” or “wonderfulness” of “democracy in action.” Of course, almost everyone living in a democracy believes that it is a good thing that their leaders, in fact, work for all the people, and that the populace can question or remove their political “bosses” anytime they do not give them what they want.

In every democratic government, no matter its particular form, every leader is ultimately accountable to the people. Every office holder has been elected through some form of voting, or appointed by someone who was elected. This means that these leaders can either be installed by people, or removed by them—if they do not “deliver the goods” the electorate desires.

In fact, not only can people question authority in America and most countries of the West, they are strongly encouraged to do this from a very early age in school. This could not be farther from God’s Way. His servants are not to be continually questioned and challenged. But this is only applicable if—and of course this is the big if today—these leaders are completely faithful to the truth, God’s government and His Work.

Let’s add the effect of the Western free press. A popular American television network repeats over and over that it delivers “fair and balanced” news. After giving particulars of unusual, difficult or controversial issues, commentators repeat, “We report, you decide!”

Here is what this says to the viewer: “You have all wisdom, knowledge and understanding. You—the people—are eminently qualified to decide upon and solve the problems we report. We trust the good judgment of the American people.” This reflects unfounded confidence because it is not true. Human beings are not qualified to solve the world’s problems, troubles, evils and ills. Apart from God’s divine guidance, they are not qualified to lead nations, armies, communities, large institutions, schools and colleges. And they are not qualified to lead God’s Church!

It might be surprising to learn how many well-known people, including famous politicians, have offered surprising insight into democracy, voting and politics. Some are humorous (all are fascinating), and reveal the cynical view that so many even in the world hold toward democratic government. For instance, Winston Churchill said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” (The next inset offers only a tiny smattering of this perspective.)

By Whose Authority?

This background leads to a question once considered unthinkable in the Church: Do God’s true leaders and ministers serve either by the will of the people or by the will of other ministers who elected them? As we have seen, most of God’s people are in an organization (there are many others besides UCG and COGwa) that has adopted some form of elective, democratic government in place of government from the top down, which Mr. Armstrong taught. (The organizations that practice voting in some form invariably attempt to justify actions that copy the world by presenting what they do as a “converted consensus.”)

Let’s return one more time to some basic understanding, explained in a number of places in the books written to the splinters, but helpful to be reviewed here.

The word Laodicea, derived from two key root words, literally means “the people rule, judge or decide.” Many either never understood this or have forgotten it. Consider! The Greek word laos means “people.” (Laymember derives from it.) Then, from the Greek word dike comes the English word “decide” or “decision.” This word can also be rendered “rule” or “judge.” Some may argue the nuances of these words, but there is no disputing that this is essentially what Laodicea means.

Democracy, Voting and Politics

  • “Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation” (Henry Kissinger).
  • “Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary” (Robert Louis Stevenson).
  • “The great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid” (Art Spander).
  • “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy” (Ernest Benn).
  • “Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word” (Charles De Gaulle).
  • “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians” (Ibid.).
  • “Nothing can so alienate a voter from the political system as backing a winning candidate” (Mark B. Cohen).
  • “Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job” (Douglas Adams).
  • “In politics you must always keep running with the pack. The moment that you falter and they sense that you are injured, the rest will turn on you like wolves” (R. A. Butler).
  • “Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book” (Ronald Reagan).
  • “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first” (Ibid.).
  • “Get all the fools on your side and you can be elected to anything” (Frank Dane).
  • “The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too much trouble to put makeup on two faces” (Maureen Murphy).
  • “Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river” (Nikita Khrushchev).
  • “An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought” (Simon Cameron).
  • “Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few” (George Bernard Shaw).
  • “Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half the time” (E.B. White).

Therefore, the final era of God’s Church is best described as the time the people rulejudge…decide! The whole concept of the age when people decide everything means that all the people in this era (lay members, deacons, elders, pastors and even evangelists) have taken on this attitude. This view crashes straight into God’s government.

It was mentioned that II Peter 2:10 refers to those who “despise government” and “speak evil of dignities” in the “last days.” An honest look at the broad spectrum of modern society presents a startling picture. Social norms have changed radically in recent years. Most people will no longer tolerate much from their governments. The citizenry of Western nations do routinely despise their governments and speak evil of civil offices and authorities over them.

These governments have fallen under virtual siege from a myriad of factions, special interest groups, and political action committees, which are either blaming them for wrongs, demanding action on issues or calling for investigations to “get at the truth.” Dissent is celebrated in nearly every form. Strangely, however, society has at the same time been conditioned to be “tolerant” of every form of immorality and perversion—every “lifestyle”—that it can manufacture. In fact, about the only thing people will no longer tolerate is intolerance. The motto has become “live and let live” in the fullest sense, except where government is concerned! In a way, the splinters are no different. The people and ministry want to rule their governments, and tolerate very little from them, while they are at the same time perfectly happy to tolerate all kinds of perverse doctrine and wrong conduct.

Continuing, “scandalgates” of every sort have left citizens of nearly every Western country deeply cynical and mistrusting of almost all authority. Again, Romans 8:7 states that human nature has never been subject to God and His Law (or the laws of men). However, what has always been a natural tendency in people has now become much worse in this age. Open rebellion and protests of every kind have become the prevailing attitude around the world!

“Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands”

Now look at God’s people—and yourself! A similar mistrust has developed due to government abuse, scandal and false teaching. As a result, many have felt they should take government into their own hands. But the membership is not supposed to rule within God’s Church—GOD IS! Mr. Armstrong understood this, and we all once believed it. But a funny thing happened on the way through the apostasy. Everything changed! Many came to believe that government could now only be “kept in check” if members and the general ministry actively participated in it themselves!

People began to trust themselves—instead of God—to lead His Church. Yet God, through Solomon, declared that “He that trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26). Also read Proverbs 16:2 and 21:2. Feeling themselves “burned” too many times, very few any longer trust—have faith in!—Christ to lead His Church.

God understood that the apostasy, coupled with end-time conditions throughout the world, would spawn the last era of His people—when the people would take over and rule the “church.” Therefore, this era appeared right on schedule, exactly as God said. While none of God’s people should be confused, most are. Again, this confusion should never have been. My splinter book Surviving “Perilous Times” includes a must-read article that covers the Living Church of God’s new teaching that the “falling away” of II Thessalonians 2:3 was not fulfilled in the WCG, but rather is a future event involving the world and led by the man of sin.

There has always been one true Church. There are, however, two co-existing conditions at the end of the age. One is large and dominant, and the other is small—of “little strength” (Rev. 3:8)—but completely unified!

The serious reader will want to carefully read The True Church – One Organization, or Many? It paints the complete picture.

“Sheriffs” and Shepherds

Another critical element of groundwork was laid in the early stages of the apostasy by the new men who entered Ministerial Services, including the final Pastor General, in Pasadena. It served to inoculate God’s people against almost any use of government.

At a certain point, it was announced to the entire ministry that all the while in the past that the ministers of the Worldwide Church of God “thought they were being shepherds, they were really being sheriffs.” Once this cliché was introduced, popular with human nature, it quickly took root. I have explained in other places how ministers were almost browbeaten into avoiding the use of government—being a “sheriff”—as people were led into the mindless “grace” of Protestant thinking toward obedience to God in any form.

The “sheriff/shepherd” phrase came to be repeated endlessly by ministers and brethren who had no idea what they were talking about. But this served a more sinister purpose—it further set up God’s people to be snared by the culture of arrogance prevalent in the societies around them.

“We Are Lords”

The prophet Jeremiah spoke about conditions in the modern nations of Israel just prior to Christ’s Return. What he describes is not pretty. In chapter 2, God speaks of an attitude that has developed in the nations of modern-day Israel—the United States, Canada, Great Britain and others. What is recorded is fascinating to comprehend—if you will receive it.

Notice: “Wherefore [why] say My people, We are lords; we will come no more unto You” (vs. 31). The next verse explains that the nations of Israel today have “forgotten God days without number.” When people forget the true God, they find a replacement. While few recognize it, this prevailing, worldly, end-of-the-age thinking—“we are lords”—has deeply affected virtually all of God’s people.

Many are simply no longer willing to let the living Jesus Christ rule HIS Church. The report is often, “I am not into ‘control’ anymore”—“No more government over me.” Each person wants to be his own lord—“his own man”—with a “nobody’s telling ME what to do” attitude.

When things go wrong, most brethren today criticize or lash out because they will no longer be ruled. They do not use injustice, setbacks or doctrinal compromise as reason to go in search of the government of God. Instead, they come to their own decisions—their own judgments—on almost everything to do with the Church and Work, and how administration and government should work in their group. As a result, the “hatred, betrayal and offense” (Matt. 24:10) that Jesus foretold would appear in the Church prior to His Return has arrived, and it will only grow worse. This has allowed most to easily justify the “every man for himself” approach to governing the Church. Now, the tail wags the dog almost everywhere. Many brethren now spout opinions that cover a wide range of topics, and do this without any idea of what they are talking about. But try to tell them this.

Woe to leaders who will not cave to the will of the many “lords” who have come to rule the “Church” in place of Christ! The Catholic pope takes the title Vicar of (meaning “in place of”) Christ. The age of many would-be “Vicars of Christ” has appeared, and it is found throughout the splinters. Yet, ironically, when confronted with correction or instruction, it is these very same people who will accuse the minister of this—of getting between them and Christ!

Matthew 18:15, Ministers and Charges of “Misconduct”

Let’s take a brief journey into the past to examine some of the most important history of the Philadelphian era.

In 1979, six misguided former members of the WCG hired an attorney “to bring Mr. Armstrong to justice” for supposed wrongdoing. These six “relators” (a legal term) took it upon themselves to address what they perceived was “wrong in Pasadena.” They sought a judge’s assistance, and an exparte hearing took place (meaning without one of the two parties involved present or even informed of the meeting). The judge appointed a receiver, and the infamous assault on the Church ensued. It lasted almost two years and brought many important lessons to the Church, almost all of which have been forgotten by most of God’s people today! If you will permit it, this book is able to bring them back to mind.

Continuing, outrageous charges of misconduct and misspending were leveled against Mr. Armstrong, and the actual facts and truth did not matter to many. This was made possible by the willingness of just six people to take matters into their own hands! Of course, they failed. But before they did, their reckless, misguided “zeal” caused major disruption in the Work. It also helped “set the table” for the whole new way of thinking to come into the Church.

Can Brethren Remove Ministers?

Parallel circumstances exist today. There are now “brethren” who feel it is their prerogative to use Matthew 18:15 to address perceived misconduct in the ministry. In a terrible misapplication of this verse, some feel that they can gather witnesses and approach a minister with their “charges.” When the accused does not accede to and “repent” of the offenses outlined, these “brethren” feel they may, in effect, declare him to be “a heathen man and a publican” (vs. 17). They do this by taking it “to the Church,” which means the Internet and anywhere else they can publicly slander the man. Writing hideous, untrue letters, they use any and all forums that will help them spread their “charges”—and their “findings.” The goal is to reach as many people as possible in order to assassinate the character of a minister they could not control. The attack can be murderous—I know!

Here is the next stage. Invariably, some people will almost eagerly believe the accusations, and even thank such people for their efforts. In turn, this confirms to the accuser(s) that a high and noble purpose has been served—people have been “enlightened”—“helped.” The Internet and a variety of chat rooms buzz every day with such “grist for the mill.”

Recognize that the Church never understood Matthew 18:15 to mean brethren, on their own authority, could publicly assassinate ministers or other brethren, through “investigation” and “trial,” whether publicly or privately. We have always known that the last step of Matthew 18:15 is carried out from the top down—never the bottom up!

Let’s examine this: Can any two or three brethren remove a minister of God by merely alleging misconduct or heresy on his part? Could any group of brethren from any part of the world target a minister whom they did not like or agree with, and actually remove him from office? Does the Bible permit—even authorize—this? Consider! If your answer is either “yes” or “maybe,” then you are suggesting that any minister of God can be held hostage to dissidents who decide—for any reason—that it is in their interest to remove him. This is exactly what one must conclude in order to start a “proceeding” against a particular minister or ministers. Of course, if they are indeed true ministers, then, in effect, GOD can be taken hostage in the same action! And so can His government.

Now think of how many people do not like or agree with their minister. There are countless numbers, and a thousand books could be filled with their reasons! All true ministers would have to spend their entire ministry “hoping against hope” that they never offended any two or more people in their pastorates, or they could find themselves the object of Matthew 18:15.

Do you see the preposterous illogic of such a dissident action?

What About Mr. Armstrong?

In the above light, any two or three people anywhere in the Church could then have removed Mr. Armstrong at any point in his ministry! Of course, in the 1979 receivership, six tried through the world’s courts—but failed! Would anyone doubt that there were hundreds, or even thousands, of members—and no small number of ministers—who wished to remove Mr. Armstrong over the course of his lifetime? Of course there were! (In reality, the false leaders who succeeded Mr. Armstrong, and sought to silence the truth he taught, prove this.)

Did the requirements of Matthew 18:15 mean an apostle of Christ had to sit throughout his entire ministry—for 52 years!—hoping not to offend what would be any several people in Denver, Dallas, Dubuque, or Detroit, because this tiny group might have started proceedings and removed him if he had? When thought of this way, it makes even considering the idea ludicrous. It would have made Mr. Armstrong hostage to any lynch mob with a notion.

The scripture instructs, “Go to your brother,” not “Go to your minister.” This is not because ministers are above the law, or that you could not (this would certainly be very rare) respectfully talk to your minister if you did not understand one of his actions or decisions. It is because a true minister cannot be removed by any except God Himself, usually through His faithful senior ministers. Even then, of course, if they are His duly-appointed servants, they will always have right reasons for doing this! But all of this turns on understanding where the true government led by Christ—the only real government of God—exists. Without establishing this, everything becomes murky and subject to human opinion, interpretation and application, and confusion triumphs over every action.

There were numerous men around Mr. Armstrong who wanted to get rid of him. If they had succeeded, God would have literally lost His chosen apostle as human leader of His Church. In other words, God would have called and trained His servant for years, in preparation for His great purpose, only to watch a handful of rebellious dissidents thwart His entire plan. If you see that people—“brethren”—could never be allowed to do this to Mr. Armstrong, then it should be clear that it cannot be done to any true minister!

Marking

Romans 16:17 does say, however, that “brethren” are to “mark them [ministers or members] which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them.” We have long understood that “mark” means to “take note of.” Of course, if any member anywhere is authorized to mark any minister for any reason (real or imagined) at any time, the Church would have immediately descended into absolute chaos 2,000 years ago! (For instance, how many enemies did just the apostle Paul have?)

Do you see this? And can you see how various forms of this very thinking is what is fueling the division, confusion and chaos throughout the splinters?

Brethren certainly should note false or compromising, lukewarm ministers—or members—and avoid them. While they ought to be careful in this, it is in fact a clear biblical command. All of us did this when we left the WCG. While most no longer will, every Christian must obey Romans 16:17-18. But this passage does not license people or organizations to slander, defame, libel, attack or publicly assassinate ministers whenever they see fit. This is the simple truth of how the Church has always handled these matters in the past!

Recognize that if people in the splinters who still have God’s Spirit were still willing to individually and collectively obey this instruction today, they would be led to the door of the only place that does not compromise, and to the only place where God’s government exists and Christ is leading. It would be the natural—in fact, automatic—result.

One additional point to consider, and this is amplifying a point stated earlier: If a minister is removed by his superiors because he will not stop teaching the truth, but these leaders charge him with “dividing the Church” or “sowing discord,” with charges of “misconduct” as throw-ins attempting to legitimize it, it is a bogus removal. (Of course, Christ can be expected to guide His faithful stewards not to do this.) Would Mr. Armstrong have ever permitted ministers to remove him in this fashion, particularly when he knew their real motivation was disagreement with his (God’s) teachings? Yet, fraudulent expulsions are also a result of false leaders in power after apostasies.

I have been either put on trial, fired or demoted a total of 12 times solely on issues of doctrine and principles of truth. Believe me, I know a “kangaroo court” when I see one. So did Mr. Armstrong. Nevertheless, if I were the devil, I would use my agents to set up such a “court” in order to expel an uncompromising, faithful minister anytime I could. I would use every opportunity possible. Satan does this because he knows some are foolish enough to believe his “order of the court.”

Do you comprehend this? Will you understand how this relates to the government of God?

No passage or account anywhere in God’s Word records “brethren” ever collaborating on their own—apart from Headquarters (which must be on track)—to remove even a false minister. You now understand why. Similarly, no passage or account anywhere in the Bible records ministers ever collaborating to remove a minister above them. Again, hopefully, you now understand why!

No Way to Discipline

There is another side of this issue that becomes an irony today, as well as a proof that there must be one, unified government of God somewhere that carries Christ’s authority. It serves as a kind of inset and presents vital insight into more of what happened as ministers and brethren have taken over in the Laodicean age. Before continuing, recognize that ministers and organizations in the Laodicean age would be no different from brethren taking random authority to themselves.

Of course, the Bible does speak of disfellowshipping those who fall into serious wrong conduct, as well as marking those who try to divide the Church with false doctrine, rebellion or slander. Romans 16:17 certainly is in the Bible. So is II Thessalonians 3:6, which states—in fact, commands, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” And then there is this: “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth…from such withdraw yourself” (I Tim. 6:5). And finally there is the instruction to “Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yes, strife and reproach shall cease” (Prov. 22:10).

These are all real biblical principles—and seen to be commands, requiring authority to administer—that periodically had to be enforced in the Church in the past. But consider that if the Church is composed of many groups and organizations, with each administering its own distinct and separate authority, carrying out these actions with finality—authority!—is impossible. So is correcting, admonishing or rebuking, when necessary—either members or ministers.

Here is why. The recipient of the disciplinary action can simply go elsewhere, to any other group or organization—“true church”—and likely be welcomed. And, as is often the case today, he will probably be seen as a virtual “hero” for having seen the light, the “wrong” of the “offending” organization that corrected, suspended or disfellowshipped him. In other words, if there are hundreds of “true churches,” it becomes absolutely impossible for the ministry to carry out God’s instruction to discipline those who need it. Those disciplined can always go to another, and then another, and then another “true church.”

But there is a related yet different problem having to do with which are the doctrines that must be defended and which are to be rejected. The ministry, and the brethren, must have a standard of true doctrine to discern who it is they can fellowship with—or must avoid. This requires a single central authority led of Christ to instruct in all true doctrine.

The Church as Mother

Let’s go further with the above principle, remembering that one of the greatest responsibilities of the true Church of God is the protection of its members. Mr. Armstrong taught, and other literature that we offer confirms the Bible plainly teaches, the Church is the “Mother” of the begotten children of God within it (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22-23; Rev. 12; and II John 1 and 5). She alone is given the charge—the solemn, God-ordained duty—to keep those children secure, safe from harm. How would any human mother accomplish this if her children could freely roam the neighborhood, picking, choosing and living with any other mother of choice?

Today, God’s people—His begotten children—are roaming and wandering the streets of a town with 300 “homes” (the number of supposed “true churches” today, with more “moving into town” by the day). It could be said that some are with foster mothers, others with adoptive parents, still others with nannies and babysitters, some at daycare centers, and yet others with kidnappers. In fact, there are now an almost endless array of substitutes, counterfeits and surrogates “welcoming” and “rearing” God’s children.

Every mother knows her own children best, and how they differ from each other. Only the true mother will have a mother’s love for those children. Other “mothers” in the neighborhood are at best pretenders, none of whom will protect or care for her children in the same way she would. And only the real mother of a child knows best when that child needs correction or discipline. She also knows her other children can be harmed if one child is left out of control. Sometimes that child must be spanked or sent to his room.

So it is with protecting the sheep in God’s Church through disciplinary action. The sheep are not permitted to pick and choose among groups and shepherds that would protect them in whatever way they—the sheep!—think should be done. Nor can they pick another “nicer” mother when their own disciplines them. Yet, this would be the natural byproduct of trying to administer any kind of correction, admonition, suspension, disfellowshipment or even marking when necessary today. In the present circumstances, the member “child” can merely declare, “I don’t like my mommy, I’m going to get another one because she spanked me.” This is translated, “I don’t like the way I was corrected (treated) by my organization, I’m going to find another ‘true church’ that will be willing to accept my conduct and my doctrinal ideas—one that will let me tell my mother how to ‘rear me.’” Worse, the first thing the “new mother” usually says today is that the child was a victim of abuse, and “did the right thing” by coming to the new, more tolerant and understanding “authority.”

But there is a very critical related aspect of the mother/child analogy to be considered. The Church, like any human mother, is responsible for the diet of her children, in this case the spiritual diet. She must work out a daily menu that ensures the health of her growing children. (We will read later about who has ultimate authority to decide how the flock is to be fed.) If children do not like the courses their mother serves, they do not have the option of picking a family that serves food to their liking. If a child does not want fruits, vegetables and grains—the typical child—he cannot go where he will receive only candy and ice cream.

Jesus Christ would never permit His Church to be broken into 300 homes, all serving as different “mothers,” in which God’s children can roam, picking and choosing at will. This understanding becomes its own powerful proof that there has to be one central authority, the government of God, within the Church of God administering to the needs—protection, doctrine, discipline and diet—of the Church Christ built!

“Christ is not divided”

Most simply no longer understand what Paul meant when he cautioned the Corinthians, “Christ is not divided” (I Cor. 1:13). First, the context flows from verse 10, which states in five ways that the Church has to have doctrinal unity. So many seem to have come to believe that “Christ is not divided” means His Church can be divided, but that somehow Christ Himself does not have a divided mind. Now, no one actually thinks in these terms, but this is the only conclusion one can draw to believe Christ heads hundreds of differing organizations.

We might ask: Would the perfect, supreme, all-knowing Jesus Christ really need to tell the Church He is not divided if it only meant that He was personally single of mind? Consider. If even “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8), could any think Christ’s point is to explain that His mind is not divided so the Church will not think Him “unstable”? Of course not! Christ has to be talking about how He is not divided in His leadership of His one, unified, organized Church—that He would not simultaneously direct multiple organizations that compete and oppose each other, and teach different doctrines. This would divide Christ’s government, and hence Christ Himself. When men choose to lead a host of different groups, Christ is not bound or required to lead them all. (Again, our splinter book on the true Church covers this in detail.)

The living Jesus Christ is NOT divided, meaning He leads just one organization! Men ARE divided, and naturally split into many groups. But Christ is uninvolved because this is simply not the way He works.

But what is the ultimate cause of this constant splitting and division?

“Not holding the Head”

The Corinthians were not the only congregation that had problems with how Christ leads the Church. The Colossians did too. This congregation had gone off track and back into other old beliefs and ideas, including “vain deceit,” “philosophy,” the “tradition of men” and the “rudiments of the world” (2:8, 20).

Why? What caused most of a congregation to go so far off?

Paul identified what was the problem then, and what is the problem today. He told the Colossians that they were “not holding the Head” (2:19), which is Jesus Christ and His leadership over the Church—“the Body of Christ” (vs. 17). They were looking outside His government, meaning His Body, where He was “Head,” in this case to angels for instruction and leadership. If just this much of Colossians was understood—or remembered in the case of God’s people—the “difficult scripture” of Colossians 2:16 becomes very easy to understand. Take a moment to read the whole context of what Colossae forgot, and what the entire Worldwide Church of God also once knew.

The reason so many brethren and ministers today have seized for themselves rule of the “Church”—by first creating, and then picking, choosing and moving among many organizations—is because, having forgotten what the government of God looks like, they are no longer “holding the Head” (Jesus Christ and that government), and because they no longer understand that He “is not divided,” meaning again that His leadership over His government is unified, and in only one location. Of course, all must eventually remember, understand and repent of rebellion against Christ’s government over His Church.

“Where is the Lord?”

Let’s return to Jeremiah 2. Many today, especially the ministry, have become like those described in verse 8. That passage actually forms part of the background and setting for verse 31, which describes modernists in Israel who declare, “We are lords.”

Let’s read verse 8: “The priests [leaders] said not, Where is the Lord? And they that handle the law knew Me not: the pastors also transgressed against me…and walked after things that do not profit.”

While this passage is primarily describing the ministers of this world, it has come to picture the thinking of so many brethren and former WCG ministers today—but particularly the ministry, because it is chiefly they who “handle the law.” Yet, it also has a very real application to God’s people.

Several obvious questions enter: Why are so few in the splinters willing to ask, “Where is the Lord [Christ]” at work? Why are so many unable to see that raising this question is the only way they can begin the task of locating His government? Why are thousands not out “moving heaven and earth” to find it? And, most important, why do so few seem to care? The answer lies in the fact that most people now consider THEMSELVES to be “lords.” Why would anyone want to go looking for Christ—to “hold the Head”—when he sees the “lord” in the mirror every day?

Stop and face these questions.

Aversion Therapy

The last two chapters have been necessarily long to paint a complete picture. Throughout the splinters and slivers, God’s pattern of government has been lampooned, impugned, botched, butchered, trampled, scoffed and sneered at, undermined, misrepresented and terribly misunderstood. And yet the entire Church—virtually all of God’s people—once understood that it was practicing, in the form of a forerunner, what would be the wonderful, marvelous and glorious government of God, the very same government that would soon become God’s greatest gift to an unhappy, deceived, sick and dying world, now cut off from Him.

I have tried to make all that you have read in these two chapters a kind of aversion therapy, partly for the purpose of almost nauseating the reader. If this has been accomplished, then you are ready for the remainder of the book.

All those who do not want to be their own “lord” must grasp the following! To find God’s government is to find “where the Lord is”—where Jesus Christ is the Head—and where the government of God is in place. It is that simple, and it has always been that simple!

But this means understanding what the re-establishment of God’s government looked like…

Chapter Five – The Restoration

A tremendous amount is at stake in God’s people understanding the manner in which He governs His Church. Of course, God knows this better than any. Therefore, He would never permit the subject of New Testament ministerial offices and duties, and how they function and interrelate, to be objects of guesswork, personal opinion or mere human interpretation. While these things play a large role in every doctrinal teaching within the churches of this world, this has never been the case with the Church that Jesus Christ built.

The true God reveals the plain truth from His Word on all matters to those He calls. He is a God of answers, not merely questions, which is what defines the theology of this world. The ministers, religionists, seminary professors and Bible students of professing Christianity almost seem to pride themselves in being able to ask deep, esoteric questions about every theological issue. But I, and probably you, responded to God’s calling because He not only offered answers, they were the right answers—the only right answers!

Always Made Clear

In the Church of God, so much is at stake in first identifying and then holding to the truth of each Bible teaching that God could simply never leave His people floundering without specific direction, and on every vital biblical doctrine. What doctrine could be more vital to salvation than government? I remember hearing often in the 1960s, during the early days of my calling, that God never allows His people to decide what is right, but only whether they will do what is right. This made perfect sense in 1966, and it still does.

Christ knew that the Laodicean age would arrive. After all, He foretold it. He understood the many reasons most of His people would not “hold fast” what the Church had been taught in the previous era. Therefore, He certainly would have known that certain leaders would come along in the final age and re–engineer the Church’s teaching about government. He knew that a whole variety of new “approaches” to this subject would develop because the agenda of these different leaders would require that they alter old understanding into whatever they thought circumstances dictated if they were to advance themselves. He certainly would have also known that the truth about government would be one of the first casualties in the splinters. How else would the people and ministry be able to seize the reins of authority from Christ and His appointed leaders? (Yet those with God’s Spirit will have to yield back those reins.)

But, of course, God knew that the whole body of His truth would come under attack during the apostasy, and that this would also help to introduce this last era. Therefore, He would have recognized that steps would have needed to be taken to ensure that those who chose not to hold fast would do so without excuse. With the Tribulation—and much more, eternal life!—at stake, it would have been gross injustice for God to do less.

He did not!

The Foundation

Think, if you will, of Mr. Armstrong’s entire body of work as laying the foundation of God’s truth (Zech. 4:9) in the Philadelphian era. (Of course, other writers did at least play certain much smaller roles in this process.)

In selecting Mr. Armstrong to lead His Church in the twentieth century, God chose a man who was a very prolific writer. He was also an effective speaker. Probably all would at least agree on this much. This man carefully spelled out the doctrines of God—one by one—in specific, and usually even exquisite, detail. These explanations always included many smaller points and subpoints. His goal was to make the truth plain, impossible to misunderstand to the mind being opened by God. In addition, his manner—and he followed this practice throughout his ministry—was to repeat the truth in different ways, over and over, so that people would “get it.” This was certainly the case with the doctrine of government.

While some may believe otherwise, Mr. Armstrong left nothing to speculation or human interpretation in regard to understanding the all-encompassing subject of government. You are about to witness this. It was as though God wanted to be absolutely certain that a complete and unabridged record had been left on the subject of government in a way that no one sincerely seeking the truth (we could add, either before or later after the apostasy) could possibly misunderstand. Of course, there would always remain the question of whether individuals would follow what was taught—but never the question of what it was that they were supposed to believe and practice.

In this chapter, and in others later, we will carefully examine exactly what Mr. Armstrong taught about the subject of God’s government, specifically at work in the Church. This doctrine is multi–faceted, and so what Mr. Armstrong taught is comprehensive. Of course, we will also look at certain scriptures, as well as meanings in the Greek or Hebrew. Obviously, Mr. Armstrong’s quotes themselves contain many scriptures, and the reader will be left to judge whether he faithfully taught from God’s Word on this subject. (If you are reading the book already having come to believe that he did not do this on various other doctrines, what is quoted here will probably not convince you.)

Before Understanding Came

A little history is necessary before proceeding. Many who choose to reject what Mr. Armstrong taught about government, but who want to look like they are upholding him in other areas, love to quote his February 1939 Good News article “Did Christ Re–organize the Church?” This now famous article describes Mr. Armstrong’s thinking before he understood that the government of God was hierarchical, and that it always begins with one man. These “analysts” make the assertion from this article that Mr. Armstrong “changed” his understanding of government because he was “lifted up” and because increased authority as the Work grew “went to his head.” The thinking continues with “when he was humble” he taught the truth of the subject because he was “more objective.” The people who reason this way have lost their own objectivity—and in perhaps the worst possible way!

Consider the following: Mr. Armstrong did not even know he was an apostle for almost 14 years after he wrote the 1939 article. All who embrace this article today never previously did this. They do not seem able to grasp that they would almost certainly have never been called if Mr. Armstrong had not grown out of his previous understanding.

Here is why, and it is not difficult to understand: When Mr. Armstrong came to see how God’s government functioned—how it was unified and structured with its different offices and responsibilities, including the magnitude of his own office—the entire Work was able to change and expand in almost unimaginable ways. It was able to leap forward and grow to massive proportions, while still working harmoniously in all of the ways Chapter Two described.

Those who now hold to Mr. Armstrong’s previous understanding should be thrilled and thankful beyond bounds that he grew out of it because they would have never been called if he had not. Without this growth and understanding in his thinking, there would not have been a great Work. The net result would have been that these critics would not have been privileged to learn the truth. I can add facetiously that they then would not have to be in a position to “worry” about criticizing his “humility” and “objectivity” today.

Get this! If Mr. Armstrong had not grown from his previous thinking, thousands now criticizing him would be lost deep in the world, and probably as deep in one of Satan’s churches!

Most acknowledge that Mr. Armstrong slowly grew in understanding all through his 52-year ministry. This growth involved many doctrines, with his knowledge developing over time with each. This process was true of nearly every doctrine. However big and far-reaching, government was just one of many hundreds of Bible truths. Since people generally understand and are usually appreciative of this growth in other areas, why will some not see this regarding the all-important doctrine of government? And why do almost none connect the need for this growth for themselves to have learned the truth in the first place?

Here is what Mr. Armstrong wrote in his Autobiography looking back from the early 1960s. He is explaining that he came to recognize the government in Sardis did not work. It offers insight into his thinking process, then and earlier:

“The state conference was agreed to and formed. The concept of church government seemed to be that lay members should be in the offices of authority. Ministers were to be employed, and under orders from the lay members. This is essentially the concept of what we call democracy: government from the bottom up. Those being governed dictate who shall be their rulers and how their rulers shall rule them.

“The most perplexing subject in all the Bible to me was this matter of church government. I never did come to clear understanding of the Bible teaching on the subject until after Ambassador College was formed and well on its way.”

Vol. 1, Chapter 23, pp. 411-412

No Committee

Most of the rest of this chapter will continue to be statements from Mr. Armstrong. Several are among the longest in the book. I will only offer minimal comments as you read, because Mr. Armstrong’s statements are explicit. You will see they are conclusive and nearly impossible to misunderstand.

The first, shorter quote forms the bedrock of what Mr. Armstrong believed and taught about how God teaches His Church. In regard to what will be revealed about God’s government, this brief statement becomes the litmus test for whether you will return to proper understanding of this subject. It “sets the bar” for the rest of the book, and separates those who will accept the foundation from an apostle (and one who was also the end-time Moses) from those who will not. It must be clear to the reader exactly how Mr. Armstrong believed was the only way the Church received its teachings.

Let’s read carefully:

“One thing there will not be in the millennial Headquarters Church is a doctrinal committee of intellectual ‘scholars’ to decide whether Christ’s teachings are true doctrines.

“There was no such doctrinal committee in the first century Headquarters Church at Jerusalem. All teaching came from Christ through the apostles—and a few times Christ communicated to apostles via the prophets (of which there are none in God’s Church today since the Bible for our time is complete). God’s Church today, as in the first century, receives its teachings from the living Christ, through an apostle, just as in a.d. 31.”

MYSTERY OF THE AGES, p. 350

Do you still accept what Mr. Armstrong taught? The next quote, also brief, comes from a sermon given just two years before his death. It prepares the reader for the quote to follow and begins to introduce the different offices of the ministry, and the two Bible chapters that reveal them:

“But to go on with the things that have been restored…The government of God has been restored to the Church, and the government of God has been placed in the Church. You read that in Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12. Christ is the head of the Church and under Christ in the administration of the government are an apostle or apostles, then evangelists, then pastors, then all are called elders, all ministers all the way up clear down to the lowest. So then there are teachers and elders both speaking elders and preaching elders, deacons and deaconesses. And the Church is restored in that form of government. The Sardis Church even didn’t have the right form of government.”

Sermon, Dec. 17, 1983

Establishing True Authority

With this first introduction of the various offices in the ministry and in the Church’s governance comes the question of how to know when authority has been conferred in regard to these offices. In a sense, Mr. Armstrong establishes the important questions that must be answered. He states that these answers are “vital,” and what he writes is explicit. Notice that the next quote is from an article written over 50 years ago. You will momentarily learn that this was within the brief span of time between when Mr. Armstrong was learning the truth about God’s government, including when he first understood his own office, and when the full restoration of that government in the Church had occurred.

Let’s read:

It’s vital that you know how God confers the authority of office in His Church.

“Jesus conferred upon His called ministers of His Church the keys of the Kingdom of God. He vested them with authority to guide His Church, and carry on His work, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

“But how can you know who carries this authority? How are those upon whom it is conferred ordained to office? How can you recognize the one and only true Church of God—the very Church Jesus said He would build—his body, thru whom the Spirit of God today carries on the work of God?”

“What is God’s order of authority in His Church?

“You find it in Ephesians 4:11–12: ‘And He (Christ, the head of the Church) gave some, apostles, and some, prophets, and some, evangelists, and some, pastors (leading or presiding elders of local churches), and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come to the unity of the faith…’ [Author’s note: Do not miss the warning that follows in Mr. Armstrong’s statement as the thought continues.] In other words, to prevent separate, independent, and competing work which would introduce confusion, and division, driving many out of the Body of Christ, god has organized government in His Church. That government is the government of god.

“It operates from god, at the top, on down. It is government of and by and from god the Father, thru christ, thru God–called and ordained apostles, thru evangelists, thru pastors, thru teachers, in that order. This government means teamwork. It works for unity, not division.”

“Must God’s Ministers Be Ordained by the Hand of Man?”,
GN, May, 1954

This is clear–cut—and emphatic! Mr. Armstrong cites the ranks of the ministry in order, and straight from the Bible. Notice that division and splitting can drive “many out of the Body of Christ.” This statement sets up the next very extensive quote of over 30 years later from MYSTERY OF THE AGES. Read carefully to get the big picture revealed in it. Mr. Armstrong presents an expansive view. Notice that he begins to offer more detail about administration, exactly what is the Church and Body of Christ, the role and purpose of different offices and the importance of maintaining unity at all costs, and why.

As you read, try to let your mind receive the whole message with all of its elements. Try to see the “connective tissue” between these different elements. Also try to appreciate how all that Mr. Armstrong describes was once seen as directly connected to the picture painted in Chapter Two. And if you find yourself challenging or even questioning what is written, ask and try to identify why your thinking has shifted from what you once believed you had proven. What moved you? Try to pin down where—from whom—you obtained ideas different from the truths in this quote. If you once agreed with them, why do you not now? Read every word—after reviewing the upcoming organizational charts (all emphasis and subheads his):

 view full size

Here is an exact visual representation of God’s government in place and at work in His Church, as seen in the March 6, 1981 Worldwide News.

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This is a more detailed view of the cohesive structure within the government of God, from the same Worldwide News.

“God explains in I Corinthians 12 functions, offices, administrations and their officers as God set them in his Church.

“‘Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant…Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all…But all these worketh that one and self same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we [in the Church] be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free…’ (I Cor. 12:1, 4-6, 11-13).

One Church with One Government

“Notice especially, there is only the one Church. Not many churches. The Church is not divided. There is only one Church. Not a parent church and many little daughter churches that have split off in disagreement. Divisions splintering off are not still in the Church. It is the Church that is to marry Christ in the resurrection at his coming—not disagreeing churches—not groups who have broken off! Not a parent church and apostate daughters. That will become more obvious as we continue.

“So notice, too, the Church conducts various operations. For these in the one Church there are also various administrations or executive departments, with an executive manager over each department or operation (verses 4-6). Remember, an executive administrator does not set policy or procedures or doctrines. He administers—he carries out and directs—what has been already set from above.

“Even in this world, in the United States the President does not make the laws. He administers the policies as functions authorized by Congress—enforces the laws made by Congress. Administrators are set in the Church merely to supervise, direct, execute the policies, procedures, doctrines assigned to them from above.

“The one Church, undivided, is emphasized again in verse 20: ‘But now are they many members, yet but one body’—one undivided Church! Even God is composed of more than one Personage, yet but the one God! God, remember, is the divine God family. Those in the Church are already begotten sons—begotten members of that God family. But not yet born as God Beings!

“Notice verse 25: ‘That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.’

“To administer these many operations, God—not a vote of the members—‘hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers.’ Or, as stated in more detail in Ephesians 4:11 (RSV): ‘And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers.’

“An apostle is ‘one sent forth’ with Christ’s gospel message, including the supervision of proclaiming that message to the world by means and persons other than himself. Also an apostle was given supervision over all the local congregations or churches (I Cor. 16:1). The apostle Paul had oversight over the churches of the Gentile world (II Cor. 11:28).

“The prophets set in the foundation of the Church are those of the Old Testament, whose writings were used to form a considerable part of New Testament and gospel teaching and functioning.”

“Evangelists were leading ministers, proclaiming the gospel to the public, even raising up local churches and having supervision over some churches under the apostle. Therefore an evangelist may hold executive functions under the apostle in the Church headquarters or work today. An evangelist is not necessarily stationary. Pastors are stationary pastors over a local church or contingent group of local churches. Then there were placed in the Church teachers—not necessarily preachers. Yet all ministers and teachers are called elders in other New Testament texts. Therefore, in God’s Church today there are both preaching and nonpreaching elders. Preaching elders pastor local churches. Then some elders, not preaching, are called local elders in the Church today.

Temple to Which Christ Shall Come

“Now further about Church organization.

“The Church is the spiritual Body of Christ—not a secular or worldly organization, club or institution. Yet it is highly organized.

“Notice how thoroughly organized: ‘Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.’ Notice the Church is a family, even as God is a divine family—‘the household of God.’

“Continue: ‘And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building’—the Church is a building ‘fitly framed together’ (well organized—all parts joined and functioning together in harmony and teamwork)—‘groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit’ (Eph. 2:19-22). This scripture plainly reveals the temple to which the glorified world–ruling Christ shall come at his soon Second Coming. There is no scripture foretelling the construction of a material temple in Jerusalem before Christ’s appearing. The 40th chapter of Ezekiel, however, describes the building of a temple after the return of Christ.

“The Church, then, is to grow into a holy temple—the spiritual temple to which Christ shall come—even as he came to a material temple of stone and metals and wood the first time.

“Notice further: ‘…the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together’—organized—‘and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body…’ (Eph. 4:15-16). Compacted means knit together, compressed together, as closely together as if welded together. This shows organized unity, harmony! It is commanded that those in the Church be so united that they ‘all speak the same thing’ (I Cor. 1:10).”

“Yet none is truly the Church of God, unless it is God’s Church, continuing in doctrine, practice, organization, in all ways on the original biblical pattern, headed by Jesus Christ, yet belonging to God the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, having God’s truth, fulfilling Christ’s commission of proclaiming his good news of the kingdom of God to the world as a whole.

“And there is only one such Church!

“And it cannot be divided. It remains one.

“In I Corinthians 1, the apostle Paul was inspired to command that all in the Church ‘speak the same thing.’ There must be no division in what is believed, taught or preached.”

MYSTERY OF THE AGES, pp. 243-246, 249

How many of the elements that you read do you still believe? How many have you, perhaps unknowingly, permitted to slip or blur in your thinking? For instance, do you still believe “It is commanded that those in the Church be so united that they ‘all speak the same thing’”? Do you still believe this is true regarding government, and as Mr. Armstrong described it here? Or do you believe that circumstances today permit any number of altered versions of government to be accepted, as long as some man or men say they are acceptable? Do you still believe all of the things in the larger paragraph near the end beginning “Yet none…”?

The Restoration!

We are now ready to examine the moment in Philadelphia’s history when Mr. Armstrong explained that the full restoration of God’s government in His Church had occurred. Almost none remember, or knew, that there was a specific moment in Church history that this government was restored, never mind exactly what had happened—what was now in place that had not been for many centuries.

Savor what almost no one today either knows or comprehends. And recognize that if Mr. Armstrong was wrong concerning what you are about to read, meaning that the previous long statement from MYSTERY OF THE AGES was simply not true, in some or all of its elements, then virtually the entire foundation was faulty on which the greatest Work of God of all time occurred. This means Mr. Armstrong sort of “lucked out” by picking a humanly-devised form of governance that allowed the Church to achieve unprecedented productivity beyond any other time in Church history. Will you believe that? Will you believe that the chaos, confusion and division that followed his time was a return to the way it should have been?

The first sentence, in italics, formed what is often called the “deck” or “promo” of the article, and the subheads are Mr. Armstrong’s:

“Now, for the first time in 750 years, God’s complete government is restored in His Church.”

January 22nd was a Sabbath that will go down in the eternal history of God’s Church and His Kingdom!

“On that day, for the first time in 750 years, the government of God was fully restored in His Church. Every administrative office which Christ set in His Church is functioning once again.”

“We find prophets mentioned in the historic portions of the New Testament, but they…carried no authority. The New Testament Scriptures were not yet written. God used these prophets to convey messages direct from Him to the apostles. We find no prophets in the church today. The written Scriptures are now complete. There seems no need for prophets today. Furthermore, it is god who sets them in His Church, and if there are none, it is because god has not seen fit to set them in His Church. That is god’s responsibility, not ours.

“So, then, that leaves us with the executive and administrative spiritual offices in the Church. These offices of authority, then, are first, apostle; second, evangelist; third, pastor; fourth, teacher.”

Christ the Living Head

“Christ is the living head of the Church!

He sets the apostle in office. But we do find historic example in the New Testament of the apostle setting in office the evangelists, pastors and teachers, and even delegating to the evangelists the responsibility of ordaining pastors and other elders, and deacons.”

“So there are the complete offices in God’s Church—Christ the head, then apostles, evangelists, pastors, minister–elders, non–preaching elders, deacons, deaconesses. [Author’s note: Take note of Mr. Armstrong’s reference to “minister-elders” and “non-preaching elders.”]

These Offices 750 Years Ago

“The last historic record of this complete government of God in the true Church is found around 1200 A.D. Because Peter Waldo was the man God raised up as His instrument for His work at that time, the world called the Church by the nick–name ‘Waldenses.’ But they themselves recognized only the name ‘The Church of God.’

“Peter Waldo occupied the office of apostle. Apparently he, himself, did not claim the title. There is no record of the Church of that time directly using the title. But the historic facts do show that Peter Waldo occupied that office, and through him God exercised that authority. The actual title of Apostle was used by the Catholics against Peter Waldo. That he carried out the apostolic office in God’s Church at the time is clear from the following: ‘…he (Waldo)…dared to usurp the office of the apostles, preaching the Gospel and the things he had committed to memory…He sent men…to preach.’ (From page 55 of A History of the Vaudois Church, by Antoine Monastier.)”

“…God used no one of apostolic rank during the Sardis period of the Church of God.”

“Six More Ministers Now Ordained,”
GN, Feb.–Mar. 1955

This quote is equally clear–cut and emphatic—and profound in meaning! When was the last time you were reminded of the awesome importance of January 22, 1955? Ever? The Church experienced something at this time that had been missing for three–quarters of a millennium—that had not been seen since that previous date. Peter Waldo was once a name well–known to God’s people. While the apostates tried to undermine his role by suggesting he was a Sunday–keeper, he was, in fact, the leader of the Thyatiran (or fourth) era of the Church of God. And our book Where Is the True Church? – and Its Incredible History! proves Waldo knew this.

I have added the following quote because it further demonstrates why prophets were not included in the restoration Mr. Armstrong described:

“In these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. These prophets ranked second to the apostles in the framework of God’s Church. (Eph. 4:11.) Their mission seems to have been to receive messages or prophecies direct from God, and to convey these messages from God to the apostles or evangelists or elders. God’s Word had not yet been completely committed to writing. The New Testament was still in process of being written. There is no evidence of the existence of any prophets in the Church since the New Testament was written.

“Every example in the New Testament, however, shows that Christ carried on affairs in His Church according to his government, and in definite order. There is no doubt, therefore, that these prophets were sent from Jerusalem by authority of the apostles.”

“Must God’s Ministers Be Ordained by the Hand of Man?”,
GN, May, 1954

 
 

Reread the first sentence of the last paragraph again before continuing. Roll it in your mind, asking if you believe it is still applicable today. Two years and eight months after the January 1955 time of restoration, an article (the next quote) appeared listing all of those who held office within the ranks that Mr. Armstrong described above. If nothing else, it illustrates how the Church once recognized these offices, and the office–holders within them. These lists were used to pray for men and women serving around the world, and they came out regularly in varying forms, but it also became its own constant reminder that God’s government had structure and order and specific offices within it. Now continue:

“Many of you brethren are in scattered areas—and do not really know who all the ministers are! Usually, we have always printed in the Good News Magazine an article about any ordinations that have occurred—but many new members have been brought in to the flock of true believers in recent months and years, and they are unsure as to who is a minister, and who is not!

“For that reason, we give you the following list, which comprises all the God–called and ordained ministers, deacons and deaconesses in the True Church of God for today!

“The one whom God has placed in the office of apostle and general pastor: Herbert W. Armstrong;

Evangelists: Garner Ted Armstrong, Richard D. Armstrong, Raymond C. Cole, Herman L. Hoeh, Raymond F. McNair, Dr. C. Paul Meredith, Roderick C. Meredith, Norman A. Smith;

Pastors: Dean C. Blackwell, C. Wayne Cole;

Preaching elders: James L. Friddle, Jr., David Jon Hill, H. Burk McNair, George A. Meeker, Jr., R. Carlton Smith, Kenneth R. Swisher, Gerald D. Waterhouse;

Local elders: Richard Prince, Jr., Basil Wolverton;

Deacons: Alton B. Billingsley, Widd Boyce, Gene Carter, Otis Cole, Eddie Eckert, Buck Hammer, Roy Hammer, Dave Henion, F. William Homberger, A. R. Jantzen, James F. Kunz, Malcom Martin, H. A. Olsen, A. N. Roesler, Otis Rowell, I. E. Starkey, Dwight Webster;

“Deaconesses: Mrs. Roy Hammer, Mrs. Annie Mann.”

“How God Calls HIS Ministers,” GN, Sep. 1957

Notice that each office Mr. Armstrong listed in various earlier quotes is seen here to be filled by one or more people. Regularly reminding a small, growing Church of this in the early days was deemed important. In fact, here is how and why it was important.

Prayer Lists and Manpower Brochures

The previous inset introduced something that was once intrinsic to the whole Church and to the prayers of the whole Church, but that has been discarded and forgotten as little more than a relic of history.

On a regular basis in the Church’s early years, Headquarters would design entire issues of The Good News magazine into what were referred to as “manpower brochures.” These special editions consisted of the names and some pictures of ministers serving the brethren around the globe. These were accompanied by maps of each region of the world, and areas or districts within the United States. The lists of names were delineated into which men held which offices, as the last quote above illustrates.

These tools were absolutely invaluable to the daily prayers of thousands. I remember them well, and students at Ambassador College were taught to use them to “pray around the world.” So was the Church. This made brethren feel connected to all parts of the Work, the Church, the regional offices, the three colleges and the ministry who once served them so tirelessly. God’s people were also made to know that ongoing prayers for these things was their—the brethren’s—part in them!

But these extensive editions quietly served two more purposes. They made the layout, order and structure of God’s marvelous form of government something that was very real to all of His people—and something they would see and think about on a daily basis. They also served as a kind of regular eyewitness account of the Church’s growth and development through those exciting years when God’s government was so productive in every corner of the world.

For a growing number today, this excitement has returned. We have continued this tradition by producing a yearly Manpower Brochure for members to see the growth in the ministry and Headquarters staff.

The Purpose of Church and Government

Here is a final quote again from MYSTERY OF THE AGES. It reveals the inspiring overall picture of how the various ministerial offices in the Church, as well as the role of the laymember, permit it to carry out its commissions. Although not as long as some other quotes, this one becomes the standard—the fully-painted canvas—of God’s government at work. Mr. Armstrong’s points and instruction are specific, and many know they come from what he called his most important work and the most important book written since the Bible.

This statement, one that also becomes a perfect summary for the whole chapter, appears under the subhead “Real Purpose of the Church.” As you read, see if the divided, scattered, competing, compromised and disagreeing confusion that is the splinters and slivers today—every one of which has rejected the government of God in multiple ways—is remotely comparable to what you see described here:

“Now most important of all—what is the real purpose for the Church? Why did God have Christ raise it up?

“The Church is the spiritual mother of human converts. They are the spiritual embryos and fetuses as yet unborn, although begotten by God’s Holy Spirit—already children of God.

“The Church is God’s spiritual organism, well organized, for feeding on spiritual food, training and developing in spiritual righteous character the future God Beings—sons of God the Father!

“For that training—that spiritual development of God’s character, God has given his Church a dual responsibility:

“1) ‘Go ye into all the world’ and proclaim the good news—announcement—of the coming kingdom of God.

“2) ‘Feed my sheep.’

“But in feeding the ‘sheep,’ developing in them God’s spiritual character, God has given them their part in supporting, backing up, the great commission: ‘Go ye into all the world.’

“This first and great commission was given to the apostles. To a lesser extent evangelists were used in carrying forth the message. Other leaders—ordained ministers—were stationary, yet even the local pastor of a church may hold evangelistic services in his area—not the ‘soul–saving crusade’ type, but lectures announcing and proclaiming as a witness the coming kingdom of God (the true gospel)!

“This entire great commission—proclaiming the good news of the coming kingdom, and ‘feeding the sheep’—is a combined administration and function of the Church.

“The individual lay member has his vital part in proclaiming the good news (gospel) to the world. How? Not by going out and himself proclaiming Christ’s message to the neighborhood or to the world. That is done primarily by the apostles, to some extent by evangelists, and to even a lesser extent in local areas by local pastors. (The chief responsibility of local pastors is supervision of and preaching to the local church.)

“But the entire church operation is one whole, organized into various operations and administrations (I Cor. 12:5-6).”

pp. 265–266

What Happened?

What happened to the thinking of so many thousands? Why would they wish, or passively permit others, to change a governmental structure that produced such wonderful unity in the Church and the largest Work in scope and size—countless millions reached—that the world has ever seen? Why would not thousands be out searching diligently today for the extraordinary government that God’s people and Work enjoyed for so many decades? Why are so many content with a variety of replacements that are no more than cheap substitutes and counterfeits? Why would so many so willingly exchange what was a magnificent treasure chest full of jewels for no more than a sack of gravel?—the Hope Diamond for a trinket? If this portrayal seems unfair, then it is because the gap between items is so great that the value of the gravel and the trinket are overstated in the comparison.

It becomes apparent that more would choose to return both to right knowledge about and to the location of God’s government today if they understood more detail of its inner workings. Of course, the purpose throughout is to take the mystery from this pursuit. This chapter should have gone a long way in doing this.

Planting a Seed

Before leaving the restoration, a seed must be planted in your thinking. Consider. Christ leads His Church through apostles—and few would disagree with this premise, at least on its face. In other words, this is the way He does things in the Church that He built. The entire Church once saw that one of the greatest distinctions between the way the all–wise, all–powerful, living Jesus Christ does things differently than churches built by men is that He teaches and directs the government of His Church starting with apostles!

Before studying what Mr. Armstrong taught about the offices of the New Testament, it is critical that you ask yourself some questions: Do you still believe this—that this office is “first” in the Body? Returning to a line of thinking similar to earlier in the chapter, if you have changed—moved—why have you changed? Are you really sure you understand why your thinking has shifted?

Everyone’s thinking evolves over time. In some ways, this is simply a natural byproduct of maturing, and of growing older. Sometimes these changes are good, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes people recognize that they have changed their thinking, and sometimes they do not. It is critical that you try to identify what it was that altered your thinking about how Christ leads His Church, and when this change began. Tracing the footsteps of your thought process will help you walk back down the path to where you were when you took the wrong fork in the road.

Christ has certainly not shifted His thinking about apostles. He knows best what they do—after all, He is one (Heb. 3:1). In the truest sense, Jesus Christ and human apostles hold the same office. Except for level of authority—and the gap is certainly great—it could be said that, with apostles, Christ is directing “one of His own.” Would the all-powerful Christ somehow be incapable of teaching His human servant holding the same office about the exact duties and functions of that office? Would He “mess up” communicating such an integral part of how God’s government works? After all, the Father sent Christ as an apostle and delegated very specific authority to Him. In identical fashion, Christ sends human apostles and delegates very specific authority to them. Christ is not confused about His role, and He would not leave His human apostle confused either.

All of this has a direct bearing on what the Church learned—about everything!—throughout Mr. Armstrong’s 52-year ministry. If we cannot be sure that Mr. Armstrong correctly understood and taught the offices of the ministry, including his own as apostle, why would we be certain about other teachings? Would God permit His people to later pick and choose doctrine based on feelings—where they feel he taught correctly, they should hold fast, and where they feel he did not, they should shift to the latest popular human innovation? As you read Mr. Armstrong’s explanations of particular offices in the chapters that follow, see if they square with what you see in the Bible.

Much of the rest of the book will take you deeper inside the specific offices and duties—the special responsibilities—of the New Testament. As you read, try to see why Mr. Armstrong taught as he did, and whether or not you want to again live under Christ’s structure of authority. The Church is called our “Mother” in Scripture. Also think about what it will mean to your spiritual growth and your eternal life if you can find the only Church that will feed you with the love of a mother feeding her own child.

Now here is how God’s government worked…

Chapter Six – Deacons

Mr. Armstrong has sketched an outline of each of the different offices within God’s Church. Of course, he did not say all that could be written, or even all that the Bible teaches, about each. But he did establish a framework—a skeleton—sufficient to see more than the basic shape. We will begin to learn about these offices in more detail now. This chapter will take a basic approach, and here begins the “textbook” portion of this volume.

Also, Mr. Armstrong generally explained the government of God by listing the highest office first and then coming down the chain of ranks. For practical reasons, it became best here to begin with the lowest ordained position and work up. It is recognized that this means certain sequencing of information given will have to change. However, it is more natural to discuss last the additional special New Testament duties (as opposed to offices or ranks, and we will see this distinction later) within God’s Work, immediately after discussing the highest offices in the New Testament.

This means starting with the office of deacon.

Men and Women Servants

Recall that Mr. Armstrong, and at least one other author, referred to deacons and deaconesses. In the past, virtually every congregation of any size that had been established for very long had one or more deacons. A smaller number had deaconesses. These offices were eventually common to every congregation and pastorate around the world. No pastorate was complete, and no congregation of any size could function very effectively, without several.

Deacons and deaconesses are people who have been ordained to physical service in the Church. Obviously, a deaconess is a woman holding an office serving among women similar to a deacon among men (and women). We will see more of what this means momentarily.

First, here is a single, brief quote from the early days that defines this office. It was also written during the period after Mr. Armstrong came to understand his own office, but before the Church had come to see the complete restoration of God’s government. While it was not written by Mr. Armstrong, it certainly presented understanding that was well-known in the Church:

“Paul wrote to the Corinthians that beside the spiritual administration, there was also a physical administration made up of helps or helpers, usually referred to in Scripture as deacons. They were physical or material helpers, who waited on tables, did janitor work and many other physical duties.”

Herman L. Hoeh, “Government in Our Church,” GN, August 1953

What was outlined here is simply physical labor. Often, a deacon or deaconess was a person who could be described as “in charge of sweat and hard work.” Many who served in this office were some of the truest servants anywhere in the Church. These were to be “roll up your sleeves and dig in” kind of people, and that is what most were—although this waned later.

In fact, some of the greatest servants I have ever known were deacons or deaconesses. Some that I can think of were almost hero- or heroine-like in the way they stood up, came forward and “saved the day” through long hours of faithful service, and with many it was time and again. And there were occasions when this was almost forced upon them without notice because of an unexpected need, and sometimes genuine emergency. These were people the pastor could count on “rain or shine,” and who usually served without complaint. I often think of the extraordinary reward that certain deacons and deaconesses that I have known have established for themselves (Matt. 10:42)—if they survive(d) the apostasy and let “no man take [their] crown” (Rev. 3:11). Of course, and obviously, more than a few did not take their office seriously.

I have been privileged to train, ordain and teach many, many deacons, and any number of deaconesses. This involved conducting scores of what most pastors referred to as Deacon and Elder Meetings. I have learned that these servants come with all kinds of backgrounds, experiences and personalities. No two were alike, except in one all-important way—they were servants of their fellow brethren!

How the Office Began

The biggest key to understanding the duties of a deacon or deaconess is found in the first chapter in the Bible where this office is mentioned—Acts 6. This short chapter could easily be called “the deacon chapter” because the first eight verses introduce the office, and the last seven verses describe the powerful message for which the newly-ordained deacon Stephen lost his life.

Verse 1 describes a rapidly-multiplying, young New Testament Church, stating, “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied…” The account continues with the twelve apostles having difficulty staying abreast of the “daily ministration” of the “widows” who were part of two different bands of local converts. With too much of their time taken, the apostles were not able to keep up with their greater spiritual responsibilities. So dissension arose. Here was their difficulty: “Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables” (vs. 2).

Support Functions—“Helps,” “Governments,” “Diversities,” “Administrations” and “Operations”

It is possible to go further than the offices listed in Ephesians 4:11, through a careful look at I Corinthians 12:27-28. This passage includes other often-overlooked functions within God’s government. Notice verse 28: “And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”

What are “helps”?—“governments”?—“diversities”? What do these terms reference? How do these function within the Church, and under the direction and leadership of God’s ministry? To better understand their purpose, we must examine the definitions of the Greek words from which they derive:

“Helps” is translated from antilepsis. Its primary meaning is simply “relief or help.”

The Thayer Greek-English Lexicon notes that the plural usage of “helps” in I Corinthians 12:28 relates to “the ministrations of the deacons, who have care of the poor and the sick.” Of course, the Church has long understood that “helps” indicates the service of deacons and deaconesses, and this was referenced in a quote within this chapter.

Further, antilepsis derives from a root word meaning “to participate: help, partaker, support,” and “to take hold of in turn, i.e. succor,” as in to grip the opposite side—literally, “opposite grippers.” This is analogous to someone moving a heavy table, and requiring that someone else grip the other end. A “help” is literally just that—someone who aids others in areas that need assistance. And we have seen that the service of a “help”—a deacon—can range from serving tables to assisting in the First Commission.

“Governments” is translated from kubernesis, and means “pilotage, i.e. (figurative) directorship (in the church).” Thayer notes that its use in I Corinthians 12 points to a figurative rendering such as “wise counsels.” It is easy to see a host of different administrative positions in a Church and Work as large as that under Mr. Armstrong would require a variety of different levels of administrators—directorships.

“Diversities” is also used in verse 28, and comes from genos, which derives from a root word that means “kin.” Genos primarily means “born, countryman, diversity, generation, kindred, nation, offspring, stock.” Thayer defines this word as “the aggregate [collection] of many individuals of the same nature, kind, sort, species.”

Now that we have examined the definitions of “helps,” “governments” and “diversities,” let’s reread I Corinthians 12:28, but this time replacing them with their expanded meanings:

“And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, the caring for the brethren in need, the giving of wise counsel and direction, all in a variety of different languages—along with the miraculous gifts to communicate this freely.”

When tied to verse 28, verses 4-6 convey even deeper meaning. In fact, the reader comes to this before addressing the offices and roles of verse 28: “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all.”

“Diversities” is in this case different from the Greek word rendered the same in verse 28. This time it is translated from diairesis, defined as “a distinction or variety; difference, diversity.” Thayer adds “in particular a distinction arising from a different distribution to different persons.”

Also, diairesis comes from the diaireo, which means “to separate or divide.” It could be said that a person’s diary divides important events that take place on the separate days of that person’s life.

“Administrations” is diakonia in the Greek. In defining it, Strong’s references diakonos, which we saw means “the service of an attendant or waiter”—one who carries out menial labor, as performed by deacons or deaconesses.

But diakonia is a little different in that it is defined as “an aid, (official) service of the Christian teacher.” This is very interesting because it pertains to minister, ministering, ministry, office, relief, the carrying out of service—apparently defining service in a more official capacity.

“Administrations” also provides a biblical basis for those in training for the ministry, which the Church has generally called “ministerial assistants” (or trainees). Those qualifying for this training usually begin by assisting as an attendant, with initial focus on menial services while being tutored for future responsibilities. As the candidate grows, the nature of the tasks escalates with time, and he becomes better prepared to fulfill assignments that are more sensitive.

Of course, at some point, a ministerial assistant would go on to ministerial ordination, with his final rank or office determined by how Christ ultimately plans to use him. In other words, his ministerial training would continue after ordination toward his final role within the government of the Church under Christ. (The next chapter contains an inset that covers ministerial assistants in more detail.) However, again, the word could also be referencing senior administrators in the Work.

“Operations” is translated from energema, and it means “an effect, operation or working.” The familiar English word “energy” obviously derives from it. Certainly, wherever God’s Spirit is at work within His government, there is very real supernatural energy—Christ’s lead, accompanied by miracles—that is powering the Church.

Now let’s reread verses 4-6, replacing “diversities,” “administrations” and “operations” with their expanded definitions: “Now there are distinctly differing gifts given to those who labor in the service of the Church, but all of the same Spirit. And there are different kinds of services within the ministry for the edifying of the brethren, but all this originates from the same Lord. And there are distinct aspects to accomplishing God’s Work, but it is the same God which works all in all.”

The God of order and design has left a marvelous blueprint of His government within His Word for those who are willing to see it. This extensive inset has put more “meat on the bones,” while at the same time revealing more of the inspiring hand of God in the design of the wonderful government He has put in place over His Church.

Building a Qualified Headquarters Staff

Hiring staff was vital to an ever-expanding Work and Church. At one time, hundreds of people held positions in dozens of departments just at headquarters. A large Personnel Department was necessary in order to manage new hires, promotions and transfers.

As needs arose, announcements of specialized positions appeared in The Worldwide News and Pastor General’s Reports. (The latter were read in all congregations.) Applications were taken, recommendations were given, interviews occurred and hires took place. Many congregations “lost people to Pasadena.” Excitement was real for those privileged to personally serve in the Work.

Here are ten vital “staff” qualities that stood above all others:

(1) Teachable. God’s people are disciples—students or pupils—and those who “knew it all” had no place at headquarters.

(2) Loyalty. Prospective hires had to have a complete grasp of God’s government if they were to be employed within it.

(3) Doctrinal soundness. The worst place for false doctrine was at headquarters, where any discord would reduce production.

(4) Selfless zeal. Those hired had to be tireless in their dedication to the all-important Work of God.

(5) Diligence. Doing things correctly and on time was vital to the integration of many departments working toward the same goals.

(6) Skills. Training and “skill set” were of immense importance. Employees were encouraged to continually add to their base.

(7) Experience. Few things compare to experience. Novices can easily step into pitfalls and snares others would see in advance.

(8) Thick skin. The sometimes “pressure cooker” work environment simply did not suit sensitive people. They could not survive.

(9) Self-management. This includes money, mouths, marriages, minds, moods, emotions, health and children, among others.

(10) Balance. Most in this age have come to lack even natural balance. Those at headquarters were taught not to drift into quirky, misguided, wrong-headed values and thinking.

Sadly, many—in fact, most—lost sight of these attributes in the past. But others have been able to retain or return to them. These may be languishing in a splinter. In today’s fast-growing Work of God, these are still vital qualities.

We constantly scan the horizon for those who reflect them!

This introduces the problem—and the purpose for which the office was created. Somebody needed to serve tables. That is about as physical as it gets, and it defined the most basic parameters for which the first seven deacons were selected.

In verse 3, the apostles instructed, “Wherefore, brethren, look you out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint [Greek: ordain] over this business.” This kind of physical service—the types of things that would be compared to waiting on tables—was then differentiated in verse 4 from the service of the ministry, what those holding spiritual offices (in this case the apostles) were to do: “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”

Modern Church government revisionists have tried to say that the people’s involvement in the selection of deacons is evidence that the brethren or ministry should participate in the selection of leaders in the Church. This thinking is at best woefully ignorant and at its worst deliberately dishonest. Closer reading reveals no such thing. Verse 6 reveals that the apostles prayed, and the apostles laid hands on the seven ordained after the apostles had defined the parameters of the search for candidates. Every still-honest minister in the splinters today remembers how the Church always understood this account, and that it meant local pastors could ask for opinions from various brethren—and certainly other deacons—about particular people being considered for deacon or deaconess. I almost always did this, but made sure to do it very discreetly, and to only consult with the most spiritually strong and stable brethren—those who would best know—as well as who might be serving under a particular “candidate.”

To say, as do UCG and COGwa, that the Acts 6 account authorizes voting in the Church, and for top ministers, is patently dishonest, and the discerning person will see this. It is about as honest as saying that the biblical casting of lots in Acts 1:22-26 (UCG also cites this passage for support of voting), which yielded Matthias as the one to replace Judas among the twelve, is voting—it is bal-loting.

Before leaving Acts 6, it is worth noting that Stephen, “only” a deacon, “full of faith and power [Grk. dunamis], did great wonders [Grk. teras] and miracles [Grk. seimion] among the people.” Later we will learn that Stephen’s ability to do these things derived directly from apostolic authority present in the Church. However, I mention this because every deacon should recognize that when properly fulfilling his office he is doing more than “just that of a deacon” or that he is more than “only a deacon.” Recall that Acts 8 describes what the deacon Philip did in Gentile Samaria (vs. 5-6, 13) and also describes the “miracles and signs” he did there.

The three Greek words above were included to prepare you for their re-introduction near the end of the book in regard to apostolic power and the signs of it. The reader is put on notice.

Other Qualifications

In one other series of verses, the apostle Paul formally lists what are often referred to as the “qualifications of a deacon.” Not as long as those of an elder, they still reflect a deeply converted person of exemplary conduct in the congregation. These are found in I Timothy 3:8-13:

“Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

Both references to “using the office of a deacon” derive from the Greek word diakoneo, which means “to be an attendant, that is, wait upon (menially or as a host…) administer (unto), serve, use the office of a deacon…” When the meaning of diakonos, derived from diakoneo, is included, meaning “a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); (technically a deacon or deaconess)…servant,” the picture is clear. Deacons were servants in menial, physical matters.

There is a great deal more to consider in this list of qualifications than meets the eye. Every pastor must carefully evaluate any who are being considered for this office in the full light of these verses and of Acts 6. The office of deacon, as with any other office of God, must never be given because one is a “favorite,” or is good at flattery, or has been a “friend,” or has been “particularly loyal”—or as happened many times in the past, was one of the “beautiful people,” usually synonymous with materially successful. Nor can it be a “golfing buddy,” or worse, as also happened more than once, a “drinking buddy.”

Do not lose sight of the fact that God is the one who “sets the bar”—the spiritual standard!—for this and every other New Testament office. There can be no room for politics, nepotism, favoritism or cronyism—or for just rewarding “senior” people—when it comes to this or any other office of God!

God’s standards must always prevail from the highest to the lowest office.

Most Also Leaders

Without exception, deacons (and deaconesses) had to exhibit at least a minimal level of leadership. Of course, some served more naturally as assistants, often to local church elders, but as often directly to the pastor. Some were very effective leaders, however, and their office often amounted to a training period for higher service in a spiritual office. For instance, this was the case with Philip, referenced earlier, who was serving as a deacon in Acts 8, but also performing baptisms. This deacon went on to become an evangelist (Acts 21:8).

To be a leader—one with authority over and responsibility for others—one must first demonstrate that he can be led—that he can be a good follower, one who is faithful under authority. He must be able to bring the voice of experience in teaching others to follow. Since there are some who are leaders in a local congregation but not ordained, a deacon could, in a sense, sometimes be thought of as a “second-level leader.” In other words, while not all deacons in the past led “crews,” or teams, that had their own leaders, many or perhaps most did. This is often what became necessary in larger congregations where responsibilities usually took on greater size—more brethren to organize. For instance, a small congregation might have one or two ushers, but a much larger congregation, 500-600 people, might have 10, 12 or more.

At the Feast of Tabernacles, a deacon might find himself supervising considerably more than this. In the early years of the Church, some men were even formally appointed to be “head deacons.” While this idea was eventually dropped for problems it presented, supervising larger numbers of people requires real leadership. This can mean the need for effective communication, the assessment of men’s strengths, effective planning, budgeting and the juggling of schedules. It can also mean teaching others to deal with various kinds of attitudes and different situations that can arise. And all of this can be connected just to leading a crew of ushers. It also meant keeping the pastor or an elder regularly informed as needed.

Of course, there are those leaders who “drop the ball” and, in so doing—if this becomes a pattern—demonstrate that they are not leaders. I have seen deacons who were entrusted with important responsibility let down other brethren because they did not: get to the hall early enough to open up, send in the Holy Day offering on time, properly research the location for a social, be sure that rides have been provided for certain people, set up the sound system or the stage, bring important items to sabbath services, and a host of other things. Sometimes the entire congregation has been injured because of negligence. Men (and women) servants “full of the Holy Spirit” evidence trustworthiness, dedication, zeal, attention to detail and selflessness, among other qualities.

Proved First

All of this describes the greatest reason men must be carefully evaluated before ordination—“let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.”

Although rare, deacons—and, of course, those in higher offices—can disqualify themselves from further service. Deacons and deaconesses should be careful to ensure that they do not slip outside the qualifications to hold office. As examples to the congregation, they must “be found blameless,” and before God and man (the brethren).

Despite the fact that many deacons were leaders, and some grew so that they were able to go on to higher spiritual office, it must be stressed once more that this office did not carry spiritual authority. There are several ways we know this:

(1) Ephesians 4:11-16 lists the offices of the ministry and their overall purpose, meaning those offices that Christ appoints “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ” (vs. 12). While the other offices in the Church are included here, the office of deacon is left out. This is because it is not directly involved in the three phrases within verse 12.

(2) The office of deacon and deaconess were, in a sense, paralleling counterparts. In fact, some husbands and wives appear in Scripture to have been ordained to these offices as a couple (Aquila and Priscilla, and possibly Philologus and Julia). Since it is well understood that women are neither to preach nor teach in the Church (I Cor. 14:34), and their office could never be spiritual in nature, this becomes its own indication that neither would be that of a deacon.

(3) Church Pastors were permitted by Headquarters, meaning Mr. Armstrong had instructed this, to ordain deacons (and deaconesses) on their own authority of their own judgment. Of course, they were to be careful with this in every sense, and to notify Pasadena afterward. Here is why this is significant. All other ordinations—those placing men into spiritual office—were approved at a different level and by a very different process, including filling out a detailed “Recommendation Form.” This will be addressed in a later chapter.

All of this said, do not forget Stephen and Philip, and recognize that all pastors were given the authority to work with certain men in ways that had overtones of spiritual leadership. This was understood and permitted because those men were in training for possible higher office. An example would be that some deacons were selected to give sermonettes and split-sermons, and on more rare occasion, sermons (always with the pastor present). They also could be used—and occasionally were—to lead visits in which certain very minimal spiritual counsel and encouragement might be given. (We will see that Paul was a “teacher” even before any ordination.)

A point should be brought out before closing. Deacons and deaconesses do not retire from service—ever. They can slow down or become disabled, but retirement never enters the picture. Chapter Eight will look at retirement in greater depth.

What About You?

Many deacons will no doubt read this book. It is hoped that every deacon who did not fall away in the apostasy would eventually have this opportunity.

Some questions: Are you weary with disorganization and poor communication? Are you fed up with confusion, division and a flawed “chain of command”? Are you tired of “climbers” and flatterers receiving office? Are you tired of politics and compromise in governments that do not work? Could you be one who desires to return to his first calling and service within the structure of God’s government? Are you determined to “hold the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience”? Do you not care about serving for either physical reward and recognition, or pursuing money—“greedy of filthy lucre”? Are you one who wishes to get fully back to “using the office of a deacon well” and “purchasing to yourself a good degree, and great boldness in the faith…”? If this paragraph describes you, the greatest, most important and fastest growing Work on the face of the earth is where you belong—if you anoint your eyes!

Finally, to those faithful leaders who have never been ordained: The vast majority of deacons in this age have fallen deep into compromise or left the faith altogether. The living Jesus Christ may yet use you in a position of real leadership, if you qualify.

And those who are deacons today could, with others, go on to the greater service of spiritual office, if they qualify…

Chapter Seven – Elders

The office of Deacon was actually the first of seven New Testament offices or ranks. There is this one physical office and the additional six spiritual offices—Local Elder, Preaching Elder, Pastor, Evangelist, Prophet and Apostle—that collectively represent Christ’s ministry. We are almost ready to discuss the meaning of elder. But first we should explore and understand a point related to the number seven.

Seven, Not Six

Among other purposes, this chapter will explain the difference between preaching elder and local elder (also called local church elder if a man was not employed by the Church). If preaching elder and local elder are merged into one in the way several splinters have done, the number of God’s offices in the New Testament is reduced to six.

While many would think this change in number mere coincidence or unimportant, God views it differently. Here is what is interesting—and important.

The Church has always understood that six is the “number of man.” There are six days in the week that men can labor, 6,000 years devoted to man’s rule under Satan and the number 666, called “the number of a man,” among others.

The number seven is well-known in the Bible (and in the Church) as the number for completion or perfection. For instance, there were seven days of Creation, and thus seven days in a week. God has a 7,000-year Plan, there are seven annual Holy Days, there were seven deacons initially ordained, there are seven Church eras, seven trumpet plagues, seven last plagues, and seven times punishment to occur with Israel (actually three times seven), among others. In this light, God’s number of seven New Testament offices is seen to be both perfect and complete.

Is it coincidence that most of the splinters—led by men (self-appointed or elected), not God!—have reduced the number of New Testament offices to man’s number of six (or less), and replaced the biblical number of seven revealed by Christ through His apostle when His government was fully restored to the Church? If Christ used Mr. Armstrong to restore the government of God to the Church, would He permit His chosen servant to foul up the order and number of those offices by adding too many? Of course not, because the very idea is inconsistent with what a restoration is. You cannot have one without the other—too many or not enough of the offices present—and even achieve a full, complete restoration. At best, any number of offices too few would be only a partial “restoration”—or too many an excessive “restoration.” Carefully mull these things.

Distinction Made

Before reviewing what Mr. Armstrong taught about elders in general, here are just two short statements in which he offers a difference between the offices of Preaching Elder and Local Elder. As you read, consider that if the Sardis era “didn’t have the right form of government,” as Mr. Armstrong states at the end, it should be obvious that an era named “the people rule, judge and decide” would almost certainly be further from the truth of government than even the confusion Mr. Armstrong described in Sardis:

“You read that in Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12. Christ is the head of the Church and under Christ in the administration of the government are an apostle or apostles, then evangelists, then pastors, then all are called elders, all ministers all the way up clear down to the lowest. So then there are teachers and elders, both speaking elders and preaching elders, deacons and deaconesses. And the Church is restored in that form of government. The Sardis Church even didn’t have the right form of government.”

Sermon, Dec. 17, 1983

“Yet all ministers and teachers are called elders in other New Testament texts. Therefore, in God’s Church today there are both preaching and nonpreaching elders. Preaching elders pastor local churches. Then some elders, not preaching, are called local elders in the Church today.”

MYSTERY OF THE AGES, p. 245

Coupled with the longer quote below, these statements from near the end of his life plainly demonstrate that Mr. Armstrong never moved for over 30 years from his position that the offices of Preaching Elder and Local Elder were distinctly different, with one being able to pastor and the other not—one more a preacher and pastor, the other non-preaching, but able to speak, meaning that he might generally give sermonettes, among other duties. (He could go longer on occasion or in an emergency, but a few elders never spoke.) Remember, MYSTERY OF THE AGES was written in 1985, just before his death. It was mentioned in Chapter Three that Roderick Meredith claims Mr. Armstrong invented preaching elder to “satisfy the draft board” in the 1950s. Were this true, Mr. Armstrong “forgot” why he did it, or deceived the Church for decades until his death so that he did not have to publicly reverse a decision that was only to satisfy draft boards. Never mind that the United States was not involved in a war in the mid-1950s when this office first appeared in the Church.

Then there are the two overarching questions: Who—what office—would Christ use to reveal to His Church the number of New Testament ordained offices?—and when would He do this?

Two options present themselves: (1) an apostle would reveal it in the Philadelphian era—or (2) an evangelist in the terribly compromising Laodicean era. In other words, when and through whom is the most natural time of full restoration of understanding regarding God’s government? The answer requires no thought—it is a “no-brainer.”

What Are Elders?

Mr. Armstrong was very specific and thorough in explaining to the Church the overall meaning and background of the term “elder,” so there is no need for me to cover the basics. The following came from the earlier-quoted 1954 article “Ordained by Hand of Man?” and is found under the subhead “Titles of Office.” It reveals that the history of the term extends back to ancient Israel:

“It is well, here, to explain the titles god uses for those in office in His government. We have just considered such offices as those of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher. But what about such titles as ‘Elder,’ ‘Bishop,’ ‘Overseer,’ or ‘Presbyter.’ All these are used in the New Testament. Actually, all these latter four mean exactly the same thing. A Bishop, or an Overseer, is an Elder—and the Presbyters are, simply, elders.

“But some Elders hold higher office of authority than others. Actually, Apostles are also elders, and the assistant pastors, or even nonpreaching teachers and leaders in local churches are elders. The Apostle John called himself an Elder (II John 1, and III John 1). The Apostle Peter called himself an Elder (I Pet. 5:1). In other words, all ministers of Christ, no matter how high or low the office of authority, are Elders. All Apostles are Elders, but all Elders are not Apostles!

“To understand the derivation of the term ‘Elder,’ let me briefly sketch for you the history of the title.

“The original government of the Hebrews, from Abraham, was patriarchal. The head of the family exercised the supreme rule (under God), over all his descendants. His married sons bore rule over their respective families, children and grandchildren, etc., but still remained subordinate to their father as supreme head. It was government from the top, down. At the father’s death, his firstborn son succeeded him in supreme headship over the family. Naturally, these positions, hence the designation, ‘Elder,’ which simply meant the oldest one. Thus Jacob (Israel) was the supreme head over all who went to Egypt with him, although his sons had families of their own. Thus ‘Elder’ became the official title of those in authority.

“The earliest mention of ‘Elders’ in government office (aside from family rule), is at the time of the Exodus. The seventy elders mentioned in Exodus and Numbers were a governing body, a sort of parliament. This was the origin of the Sanhedrin, or Council. This carried to the time of Christ. In the New Testament Church, the Elders, or Presbyters, were the same as Bishops—the general title for all spiritual offices of authority over the Church.”

“Must God’s Ministers Be Ordained by the Hand of Man?”, GN, May, 1954

It is worth noting again that Pete