The November-December issue of the Global Church of God Ministerial Journal contained an interesting article entitled "Protecting the Flock"(pp 5-6). The author was "Staff," but its content was obviously approved by the leadership there. We prefix quotes from the Ministerial Journal With MJ: and our writing with SN:
MJ: These wolves in sheep's clothing may be friendly, hospitable and seemingly harmless souls who aren't hurting anyone. But in private conversations with otherslike the steady dripping of a faucetthey quietly question the need for continuing the Work of warning Israel and the world of the coming Great Tribulation and announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God as a witness to all nations.
They have no use for the Church's organizational structure and ministry. These arguments are used to justify their most important objection of all, tithing!
These persons are skillful in reaching the most susceptible among the brethrenthose who do not yet know how to answer or defend themselves. Some can become confused, and their faith weakened or destroyed, before the problem is ever brought to the attention of the thinly-stretched ministry.
SN: The scriptures indicate it is the job of leaders to teach people so that they are not blown by "every wind of doctrine" (Eph 4:13-15; Col 2:4-8). Indeed, brethren are commanded to "judge" between true and false doctrine (1Cor 14:29). Most of the GCGbrethren have been attending Sabbath services for 10 to 20 yearsthey should be well-grounded in the scriptures.
The above quote is the only section of the article that instructs the readers on how to recognize a wolf. Apparently, anyone who questions tithing is to be considered a wolf. It is obvious that the New Testament teachers were to be supported by the brethren (Matt 10:10, Luke 10:7, 1Cor 9:7-18, 1Tim 5:17-18). Yet, there are many questions about tithing that most organizations have never answered. When discussing ministerial support, why does our Savior and Paul make statements like "the laborer is worthy of his hire" and "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain" (Deut 25:4), but never once refer to any Old Testament tithing scriptures? How could Paul claim to teach the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:7), yet not teach the same people to tithe to the "ministry"? (Acts 20:34-35,18:3; 2Cor 11:9; 1Th 2:9; 2Th 3:8-9) Since there was no massive broadcast or publishing work at the time, why was there not enough tithe from somewhere to pay Paul's salary and expenses? Why are there references to taking up collections for the poor, but nothing about spending third tithe? (1Cor 16:1-4, Rom 15:26, 2Cor 8)
There are Biblical and historical answers to some of these questions and many other scriptures on the subject of tithing. Nevertheless, if you ask these questions, it appears that it might cause you to be classified as a "wolf." If a leader suspects you are a "wolf," how will you be treated? The article continues two paragraphs later:
MJ: Once a wolf is discovered among the flock, we need to handle the matter with the utmost tact and care lest the sheep think we are the bad guys instead of the wolf. And others in and out of Global will hear the false accusation that the ministry here is "harsh and lording it over the people."
SN: We note a great emphasis here on looking good in the eyes of other people, not on searching the scriptures to make a sound judgment. The possibility that a member might be correct in his or her Biblical understanding is not even considered.
Here are some helpful hints in handling a potential problem:
1) We are not "wolf hunters" or police investigators, yet we need to be aware of what is going on in our area's congregations and video groups. Pray for discernment!
2) We must not act on hearsay or rumor. Be sure of the facts.
SN: The above advice is very good, but the conclusion of the article seems to advocate a covert spy mission rather than brotherly discussion.
MJ: 3) Invite the person to dinner, out for coffee or visit privately on a friendly basis. Inquire about his beliefs in a non-threatening way. Let him talk while you listen. Make no final decision at the first meeting. If your suspicions are confirmed, take the matter to the area or regional pastor for advice on what to do next. The pastor may have you handle the matter or take over for you.
4) Keep the matter confidential! Do not tell others about the problem, including other ministers, unless they really need to know.
5) Keep your emotions under control. The ideal resolution of the matter is to gain the person by helping him come to understand his error [apparently, members are always wrong SN]. Failing that, an amicable separation from the congregation is highly desirable.
6) Keep every part of the process on a friendly basis as much as lies within your power. A peaceful departure is important not only for the sake of the membership but also for those not yet with us.
7) Marking an individual should be done only as a last resort and after consultation with the regional pastor.
It is important that the Church of God be protected from those who wish to cause division. How it is done reflects on our ability to make peace.
Most of these cases can be handled without fuss and flying feathers. A public rhubarb creates enemies and destroys innocent ones.
Blessed are the peacemakers!
SN: This article emphasizes looking good in man's eyes in order to maximize existing membership and to attract new members. Only a few years ago, these same methods were used to "put out" WCG members that disagreed with "headquarters doctrine." Some of those "put out" by the WCG are now Global ministers and members. We hope that they will all learn to avoid the unscriptural practice of private disfellowshipment. Biblical examples in volve "the church" (Matt 18:17) "when you are gathered together" (1Cor 5:4). It was Diotrephes who cast out men by his own authority alone (3Jn 9-10). We hope the GCG will realize that members who will be teachers in the Kingdom need to be able to study without fear.
-Norman S. Edwards