This letter is in response to Jim and Barbara Damiano's letter published in your August '96 issue of your publication. The article is titled, "Encouragement For the 'Stay-at-Home' Church of God" (SAHCOG).
My wife and I have been SAHCOG members since Passover of '95. Since that time we have had many correspondences with brethren who are also members of SAHCOG. Their stories and experiences in the COG have many similarities and tragedies. We have come to believe that God's people are being persecuted from their own brethren for their beliefs and will continue to be scattered.
Many have been put out or suspended because of their spiritual gifts, revelations, or theories. Some had submitted research papers to their minister explaining some new understandings they had found only to be told not to discuss it with anyone until headquarters (HQ) approved it. So the stories go, HQ was always too busy and any kind of acknowledgment about the paper was absent. It is very disrespectful of an organization to blatantly disregard these brethren's heart-felt research. One person had waited over a year patiently for word from HQ about his 21-page paper. In the end he was told by the local elder to forget everything. Not once did any explanation come from HQ. It was as if this person had never submitted a paper in the first place.
I correspond with many people who have all different understandings on issues like prophecy, church government, and the Holy Days. I do not try to convert them to my understandings, nor do I stop fellowshipping with them because of their different points of view. I have received much insight from someone else's viewpoint just by listening. Even though I still may not agree with them in the end, I did see another dimension to the same subject that gave me more understanding. The only time I will distance myself from brethren is when they have fallen away from God's commandments or when they fall into the category of Gal 5:19-21, but never from a difference on prophecy because no man knows the complete fate for mankind.
There is a reason why God created human beings with a mind that is capable of self-reasoning. If God created us to all think alike, without ever having a different point of view, we would still have the very truth given to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Even though that would be nice to some, it is not God's will. If He did not want us to worship Him with a free will of our own, He would have created clones. Maybe the heads of mainstream COGs desire this from their followers, but not our heavenly Father!
Jim and Barbara seem to be waiting on God to show them what to do next. I think that's great! I agree that joining a group for the sake of assembling on the Sabbath is wrong. To join a particular group is to commit, support, or agree with the established form of government of men. I also wait for clear instructions from our heavenly Father.
These mainstream COGs teach top-down-government. They use many Old Testament scriptures to show that they are in the same office as Moses; that the only mediator between God and man is through Christ and themselves. They teach that only they will escape the tribulation. HWA taught the same thing, one true church (translationone true organization). I believed this same teaching for years. However, God is not limited. How can one limit the Father to just one organization when his people are scattered? Ancient Israel wanted a man to instruct them. They had the chance for God to lead them at Mt. Sinai but instead had chosen Moses. They had the chance to be free men under judges, but instead chose a king like the other nations around them. When they were led by David, a man after god's own heart, they chose Absalom, a handsome flatterer, instead. In the New Testament and today, Christ sent his comforter to lead and teach us in all understanding and once again God's people have chosen a man to lead them to salvation, the very salvation that only comes from Christ. Why do God's people continue to reject their Creator?
The final work to be done in the latter days is the work of the two witnesses, not a work of an organization. These ministers deceive many into believing their form of church government is the same government in heaven. The real truth is Christ is bringing that form of government with him when he returns. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that when Christ returns He will take over an existing church or church organization. Truly, God's church "government" today can only be found in the hearts of his elect.
There are many valuable lessons to learn being a member of a SAHCOG. There is a complete reliance on God to direct your every day life, more time to study the Bible, the chance to read "dissident" materials that are prohibited in the main stream COG (which the elders read anyway), and the freedom to study the controversial subjects that the main stream COG will not touch. Dissident materials can not deceive the elect (Matt. 24:24 & Mark 13:22) but challenge the spirit. Brethren who are working out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) are more likely be serious about their salvation, knowing that there is no one to take the blame but themselves. The concept of safety in numbers has many fooled. For that, many will perish. They still are looking to a human being to lead them instead of God.
In conclusion, I believe every person's calling is an educational process in the word of God. The WCG had a great purpose in the growth of a newborn in Christ. After all, the church is represented in the Bible as a woman. One needs teachers and a spiritual family to help them overcome the ways of the world. What better environment than a large, caring group. But after years in this group, after a year of no longer getting any meat from the sermons, I realized that I was no longer growing spiritually. I thought for a long time that there was something wrong with me. When I went from the WCG to the PCG I experienced a great deal of spiritual education. However, after a year in the PCG my education was once again stunted. There was a deep lesson God was revealing to me. My spiritual education was no longer growing through these main stream "Churches of God." I had come to a stopping point. It had become obvious to me that the ministers were only going to teach me what they wanted me to know or what their headquarters wanted us to know. They would not want their members knowing more then themselves. It is clear, after so many trials, these organizations would no longer provide me with spiritual meat. I would now have to rely on the comforter, Heb. 5:12-14. That is what the New Testament is all about, Christ dwelling in you.
PO Box 860471
Plano, TX 75086-0741
We appreciate this personal story and conviction. Our relationship with our Creator is more important than attending the "right" service. But as soon as we are ready, there is a great benefit in fellowshipping with others of like mindeven if only two or three gathered in a home. NSE