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For Former WCG Members

This page is dedicated to the thousands of people who are interested in Worldwide Church of God (WCG), and have attempted to make sense of the hundreds of similar groups that have sprung up from it and along side. Indeed, the WCG was once critical of the divisiveness of Catholic Church and the many Protestant denominations that split off from it—the WCG now has many hundreds of its own split-off groups. For some people, this is a major problem that needs to be solved or resolved.

God will take care of it! With the knowledge in these next couple of paragraphs, you will understand that it does not need to be a major problem for you.

The solution is a sound biblical view of the church. To obtain that view, read Acts through Revelation with three colors of pens and mark: 1) verses where believers’ doctrines are corrected, 2) verses where believers’ sins are corrected and 3) verses where people are declared unbelievers or cast out of the church. You will find lots of category 1 and 2 verses, but very few category 3 verses. That is a picture of the way the church should be today. People should be rejected from the church only for divisive false doctrine or very serious sins.

The letters to seven churches in Revelation 2 & 3 are instructive. There were varying doctrinal difficulties and sins in those churches, but each person who had an ear was supposed to “hear what the spirit said to the seven churches” (plural), and repent of their sins. They were not told to join the “right church”, but Christ promised various rewards in all of the churches “to him who overcomes”. Notice what Christ says about those He is setting apart:

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You” (Heb 2:10-12).

Christ is saving individuals, not church groups. Entrance into the kingdom of God is not based on membership in the right group. No group is promised eternal life or entrance into His Kingdom—just individuals. Christ judges individual hearts; He does not judge us by the collective works of our church, its doctrinal statement or the righteousness of our church leader.

Indeed, believers are commanded not to align themselves with specific teachers (1Cor 1:10-15; 3:1-9). But even those who had this error are not called unbelievers by Paul, but are simply told to repent of their carnal nature. And so today, if believers are willing to work on Godly missions with other believers, regardless of their group affiliation, God’s church can have a large measure of unity.. There is nothing wrong with serving within or financially supporting a particular congregation or ministry—Christ’s work gets done that way. But if we regard one teacher, congregation or set of doctrines as somehow above all other teachers, congregations and doctrines, then we are letting that entity stand in place of Christ, who is the real head over all the Church (Eph 5:23).

Yes, God would prefer that his church is united (John 17:11, 22; 1Cor 1:10; 14:33). Unity would certainly help it perform its mission to preach the Gospel (Matt 28:19-20, etc.). But the many New Testament verses, above, and all church history show the church has never been united in leadership and doctrine. Every long-lasting denomination has changed its doctrine over the years. Unifying a portion of God’s Church under a strong human leader will not help to unify the Church as a whole. It simply creates one more definite division.

In spite of many man-made divisions, Christ said His Church would survive through the ages (Matt 16:18). Indeed, organizations such as the Gideons have distributed the Scriptures to the majority of the world and the Wycliffe organization is planning to begin a Bible translation into every language on earth by the year 2025. Furthermore, a great many missionary and evangelistic organizations have shown the love of God to much of the world through physical aid as well as expounding the meaning of the Scriptures as they understand them.

Even so, if these disunited church groups prove insufficient to preach the gospel, God is able to do it through angels (Rev 14:6, Gal 1:8). But for now, He has left these numerous groups because they are an ideal place to make perfect the sons and daughters that He dearly loves (Matt 5:48; Eph 5:27; Heb 12:5-7). Changing, dissolving and newly forming church groups give God the ability to find answers to important questions about us, just like he did with Abraham and others in the Scriptures (Gen 22:12; Psalm 7:9; Prov 17:3; Jer 17:10; 1Thes 2:4). When church problems arise, these are the kinds of questions God for which God can find answers about His believers:

         When difficulties arise, will they seek God in prayer, fasting and Bible study and truthfully deal with the difficulties recognizing that they might be an opportunity for growth? Or will they ignore them, be upset by them, lie about them or blame others?

         When challenged with new understandings will they “search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so”? (Acts 17:11). Or will they think they could not have been wrong in the past, refuse to consider new Bible teaching and shun those who do?

         Will they do what they understand to be right, or do what is best for themselves economically?

         Will they do what they understand to be right, or will they simply try to keep as many friends as possible?

         If they witness unjust accusations against another believer, will they stand on the side of justice or will they go along with what is convenient for themselves?

         Will they leave a church group because of sin or false doctrine when they have similar sin or false doctrine?

         Will they start a new church group largely so they, like Adam and Eve, can decide for themselves what is good and evil?

         Will they seek to serve God more during times of struggle, or give up on His ability to lead His Church?

In the process of church divisions and reformations, it is difficult to know the true motives of the individuals involved. Did they leave, join or start church groups for righteous reasons or selfish reasons? We do not need to judge them. But God will judge them (Rom 14:10-12; 1Cor 4:5; 2Cor 5:10). God has unlimited power to get His work done. But He does not force us to make righteous decisions in difficult circumstances. He tests us (Jer 17:10).

The table below contains this author’s opinion of the major tests that God is bringing upon the varying types of WCG-related groups. It is not a judgment upon them, but an encouragement for them to overcome and do the right things.

Type of Group

Important good things

Difficulties

What is God doing with the leaders?

What is God doing with the members?

Original Worldwide Church of God

Sabbath Services and biblical Feast sites

Colleges for young people

Much sound biblical teaching

Large scale media evangelism

Trained local ministry that shepherded local members and visited prospective members

Claim of being the “only church”—even though many other churches had similar teaching.

Authoritarian government in conflict with God-given spiritual gifts

Ministry paid more than average member.

Mandatory tithing

Lack of ministry to the poor and needy

Prophetic claims that failed, only to be replaced by more prophecy claims

Will they follow God with all their heart at all times, or will they treat their ministry more like an 8-5 corporate job? 

Will the leaders prove their teachings from the Bible or will they go along with corporate policy even though it may clearly be in conflict with the Bible?

Will they act contrary to their Biblical understanding and conscience in order to keep their corporate job?

Can they admit that they preached prophetic messages that turned out to be wrong?

Do they read the Bible to understand truth for themselves, or do they learn only from sermons and literature?

Do they have their own working relationship with God or do they exclusively rely on the church ministry to tell them God’s will?

Would they act against their Biblical beliefs or conscience to remain in their church organization and keep their friends?

Can they admit that their leader’s prophetic claims have been wrong?

Big church organizations claiming to be the WCG’s true successor

Sabbath Services and biblical Feast sites

Trained local ministry that shepherded local members and visited prospective members

Provide an ongoing environment for former-WCG members, many of whose relationship with God is tied to a WCG-like church organization. (Most WCG members are not like the early church members—who frequently went to Synagogues and other meetings where they were not welcome.)

The above points apply.

Each claims to be the one “right” church, but has very similar doctrines to other WCG “successors”. Most of these groups oppose their members visiting other churches. Yet, they will quickly accept members from other WCG splinter groups and will hire ministers from such groups if they bring their congregations with them.

The above points apply.

Will they acknowledge that their group has a much smaller ministry than the WCG, is similar to other groups and is far away from obviously being the “one true church”?

Will they act in the interests of God and their brethren, or will they seek after more power and paychecks for themselves? 

The above points apply.

Can they realize that many church groups have taught the Sabbath, Feast days, clean meats, etc?

Can they learn that God judges people on what they do, not on whether they are in the “right church”?

Do they realize that most of these groups are shrinking and not retaining their young people? 

Non-exclusive church organizations

The points above apply.

Members have more of a sense of personal responsibility as the organization does not claim to do everything for them.

Some groups involve their members in local evangelism.

Some of the organizations have some of the problems listed two items above; some have overcome them.

Some groups have grown lax—the people believe they are in an acceptable church, but their faith has less and less impact on their lives.

A few leaders still struggle with the above problems.

The leaders in these groups have much more freedom to involve the brethren and diligently serve God—or to simply assure the members that they are all right and to do less and less.

Members, like the leaders, should appreciate the greater freedom in these groups and use it to serve their fellow brethren and get involved in evangelism projects. The leaders will not force them to do things, so they need their own relationship with God to guide them.

The above church organizations generally consist of multiple congregations and a central headquarters for evangelism and a human hierarchy of some kind to administer the organization. They usually have a set of doctrines, a prophetic stance, some kind of evangelism and sometimes charismatic leaders—which nearly all of their members accept to a large degree.

The groups below are closer to the biblical model of Christ placing the spiritual gifts in the Body and administering them as He chooses. They consist largely of local congregations and regional ministries. The ministries provide evangelism to new people or service to brethren such as regular messages, newsletters, Feast day sites, other events, Internet sites etc. In some cases, one or more local congregations may sponsor such a ministry, but the ministry serves many other congregations not directly affiliated with it.

Type of Group

Important good things

Difficulties

What is God doing with the leaders?

What is God doing with the members?

Local independent congregations

Provide a place for members to be edified and use their spiritual gifts as described in the Bible (Rom 12:6-9; Eph 4:11-13; 1Pet 4:8-11; 1Cor 12:1-31; 1Cor 14:1-40)

Some provide external ministry and evangelism opportunities

These congregations can easily fragment or get distracted by some of the issues listed in the section below.

Leaders must be dedicated to serving God as very few are paid and the work can be long and difficult. Nevertheless, this is how the New Testament portrays the church. God will not short change eternal rewards.

A member can become a leader in these congregations by asking God to use him, and then putting him/herself to work (1Cor 16:15)

Members need to use these freedoms for good. The leaders will not try to force them to follow God.

Regional ministries: newsletters, Feast & event organizers, web ministries, missions, evangelism, etc.

The successful ones of these are often better in quality and less costly to run than their corporate-church counterparts. For example, many members read their churches magazine and go to its Feast sites because they might get into trouble with their church if they did not. People utilize independent magazines and feast sites because they want to.

Brethren often have great financial difficulty starting these things without a big group behind it—but even that is an advantage as it teaches faith in God.

Ministries can become ineffective due to the troubles listed in the section below.

Leaders of successful ministries must resist the temptation to start a church organization where they will begin prescribing doctrine and controlling congregations of members.

Leaders must continually seek God to know whether to work with other leaders and groups. There is a need to be humble and realize others have gifts that we do not have; there is a need to recognize those who would destroy a ministry.

Members need to learn not to despise ministries that are started and run by their fellow brethren (Mark 6:4). It is easy to give greater respect to expensive corporate ministries that may require many more dollars to bear the same amount of fruit.

Monetary offerings are similar. independent brethren may send offerings to big “respectable” ministries and ignore their own brethren whom they know to be true and sincere, but less fancy.

The above congregations and ministries generally focus on one or more of these five themes, each having their own strengths and weaknesses:

Doctrinal-oriented congregations and ministries

These can provide excellent independent Bible teaching better than most of the items from big churches. (Highly educated people in big church groups must always face the problem of either making their teaching correspond to their groups’ official doctrinal positions, or losing their job with the organization.)

Some over-emphasize knowledge end neglect the other spiritual gifts. Some may even speak as if others who do not know all they know are either not believers or somehow lesser believers. (But how long did it take them to learn what they know?)

Some preachers/writers are able to produce such a large quantity of Bible-related information that their students think they are fed by a man close to God. But are they really just being inundated by a high volume of teaching?

Leaders and teachers need to be truthful and separate what the Bible clearly teaches from their own ideas and speculation.

Leaders should avoid seeking a following and having brethren come to them to ask about everything. They should encourage brethren to study on their own.

They should never mistake quantity of teaching for truth or quality of teaching.

Brethren need to avoid being religious hobbyists—constantly learning about “new truth” on less and less important issues. The New Testament is full of stories of servants of God who took His truth to a great variety of people in spite of persecution. It is not the story of producing the longest and most complex doctrinal paper. “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1Cor 8:1).

We must ask: “Am I growing spiritually or am I just learning a lot of spiritual-soudning stuff?”

Prophetically-oriented congregations and ministries

Some of these teach long, extremely detailed prophetic interpretations with so many striking parallels that it seems like they “can’t be wrong”. Yet how many can display their publication or sermon notes from 10 years ago and show that everything happened as they claimed? (Deut 18:22)

General prophetic teaching is very useful in helping people who are not interested in God to become interested. When individuals or nations sin, God usually sends them warnings and then eventually a disaster in order to encourage them to repent. (Luke 13:1-5; Matt 23:34-39)

Prophetic teachers make fun of other’s failed scenarios but do not apply equal judgment to their own. Leaders must realize that prophecy is a gift from God (Rom 12:6; 1Cor 12:28; 1Cor 14:5, 29; Eph 4:11; 1Tim 4:14). Prophecy is not something that “one feels really good about”, “makes sense”, “seems really right”, “is a better explanation than anyone else’s”, etc.

Brethren need to avoid becoming prophetic hobbyists—always looking into the latest prophecy.

Brethren should never avoid solving problems with their marriage, children, job, finances or spiritual life because they are convinced the end is coming soon anyway. Because of this thinking, millions of people have not been good stewards of what God has given them. Trust God—not every prophecy teacher—to show you what you need to know.

Personality-oriented congregations and ministries

Loving, caring, knowledgeable, gifted individuals can be a great blessing to many people through many decades of service. Without them, many in their congregations or who receive their literature would not have the same quality of spiritual or physical life.

Often, ministers are busy serving, but do not do enough to train those they minister to how to minister themselves. When a congregation dissolves shortly after its leader dies or becomes disabled, it is a sign that more responsibility should have been given to others.

Leaders often think others are not ready to assume major responsibilities in their congregation or ministry, but they need to encourage them. They must not fear that they will lose their respect or economic support of they train other ministers. They must trust God to take care of them.

Brethren should not let a person, no matter how dedicated to God he might be, stand between them and God. They must have their own relationship with God that continues, even if their “minister” leaves or dies. Brethren must constantly seek to grow in knowledge and service.

Social-oriented congregations and ministries

These bring believers together for a variety of social events (group meals, sports activities, dances, entertainment, etc.). God-fearing friends are much better than unbelieving friends. Much informal teaching and encouragement can take place in this environment.

These can degenerate into activities that are very worldly and encourage people to seek worldly entertainment. They can become a major distraction to Christian ministry and the preaching of the Gospel.

Leaders know that they can draw more people to a fun activity, but they must use these to minister and encourage brethren to get involved in spiritual activities. Brethren can have as much fun painting a poor person’s house as going to an amusement park.

Brethren must have a purpose to bear spiritual fruit as well (1Cor 3:10-15). They must each try to be of service to God and their fellow man in all church and ministry functions, whether the leaders are doing so or not.

Action-oriented congregations and ministries

These groups are not bound together by simply common belief, leaders or friends, but are together to minister to others in some specific ways: Feasts, youth camps, publications, outreach to the poor, etc.

A small group operating with God’s blessing can accomplish very much.

People can become completely worn out by continually serving. God will not expect them to do more than they can do—they need to seek God to know. They need to let others help them.

Leaders must never become proud or vain in their accomplishments, but remain humble servants of God. As they age, they must not rest on past accomplishments, but continue to serve and train others to serve as long as they are able.

Brethren should not be afraid to help with these ministries, or start them themselves. Spiritual gifts are given by God, not the leaders. It may take years of prayer, study and training to begin a ministry, but what more important thing could one do with one’s life?

One other mistake made by some brethren is not regularly fellowshipping with any other believers. This is a mistake (Heb 10:24-25). We need to be encouraged. We need to watch out for each other (Lev 19:17-18; Gal 6:1). We need to serve others. A local congregation is the best place to do these things. This writer even knows of situations where Sabbath-keeper began attending local, non-denominational Bible-based church. After a few years, many of them began meeting on the Sabbath.

May our Father in Heaven bless everyone who was, is and shall be serving Him in the way He shows them to do it. We must realize that we are all parts of His body and that we are not to judge others because they do not have the same knowledge or other gift that we have (1Cor 12:13-25). Our Father is coordinating His Church the right way, and we need not judge what He is doing or the people He is doing it with. If we can exhort one another to do better, let us do so.

May our Father bless and strengthen His children, wherever they may be. &


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