Worldwide Church of God,
A World View
The first ever worldwide look at the "Old" and "New" Worldwide Church of God.
A look at the history of the Worldwide Church of God and its splinter groups.
A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES FROM 1984 TO 2001.
2.. My background
3.. Herbert Armstrong
4.. Spiritual life, fellowshipping, Doctrines of "Old" and "New" Worldwide Church of God
5.. False beliefs, unfulfilled statements, misunderstood beliefs, misinterpretations
Page 2 6.. Influence on life's decisions / styles, Control over life (style)
7.. Personal experiences, various
8.. Ministers and Evangelists
9.. Strange comments of ministers
10.. Spiritual materialism (Health Wealth Gospel)
11.. Economical matters of Worldwide Church of God
12.. Statistics (membership figures, income, publishing activities, media etc.), Charts
13.. Worldwide Church of God and her splinter groups
14.. Youth in Church
15.. Future, General thoughts
12. YOUTH in Church and Ambassador College
"Youth in the Church"
"90 % of young people who grew up in the Church, left as stated in an article in section "youth ministries" on the church's website.
They grew up with materialism as well as strict "spirituality" (legalism). Once the spiritual part changed, they were left with the materialism, that in a sense was allowed, yes even TAUGHT by the Church, the pastors and probably most parents. Spiritually, they got "free to do anything" (not bound by the law anymore.), materialistically they kept what they have learned from the Church and parents (Success, accomplishments, buy things, quality things, good food, vacations, restaurants, cars, houses, computers, skiing, music and go on the endless list of material pursuits.). See various Herbert Armstrong and Joseph Tkach Sr. articles in Youth magazines and Plain truth's as well as booklets.
Now, some of you will say "these things are not bad in itself", thereby trying to deny responsibility. But: Human nature / human mind has shown, that its tendency goes to the materialistic things.
Besides that young persons today (between 13 and 19 years of age) are too smart, self confident, but they also have a much bigger variety of distractions to put up with and most of them are economically better off than what young people were only 20 years ago. Thereby they choose the "materialistic" part of the Worldwide Church of God, as it was taught until approx. 1995, and spiritually they may go nowhere or to other Churches "around the corner". Also stated in that article was "the Church learned too late, that keeping young people busy with activities was not enough", but "have relationships with other young Christians" would have kept them. Maybe it would have, I am not sure.
Around 1995-96 it was written and shown on a Feast-Video, that the "involvement of young people" in Church Services, like through song leading or allowing more modern forms of music in worship services would be attractive to them and keep them in the Church. By now we see that in most cases (90 %) it did not keep them.
So, as strange as it sounds, the Church itself (its leaders, its pastors, the parents as example-setters for the young) is in big part responsible for the young people's leaving.
The religion / spiritual excitedness could not be kept up with glamour/ materialistic jet set style of life, that many members pursued in the 1980's and 1990's in the Church.
Our former belief in the absoluteness created pressure on youth especially. Are there any sociological findings about the whereabouts of the children of ministers and evangelists of the 1980's and 90's in the Worldwide Church of God ??
Young people have enough pressure in this ever changing and confusing world of today, it seems, they don't have the interest and energy, to consider the Worldwide Church of God, its changes, splinter groups etc.
Youth in German-speaking areas:
Most young people, who grew up in Worldwide Church of God in German speaking areas, have left. What's wrong, one might ask. "The people are a problem, not the Worldwide Church of God" I have often heard from members of the Worldwide Church of God. But with this line of thinking, in many other denominations, where the young people stay, it's because the people are O.K. and the Church ? So in our case it's: "The Church is O.K., but the people are the problem".
I cannot follow that, I think a big reason lies with the Church (Worldwide Church of God) and its culture. In past as well as presently.
13. Ambassador College" (later "Ambassador University"). 1985:
A bit of standardized kind of happiness was radiating from most students. It seemed to me, that a perfectly framed human was created there, with standardized behavior patterns, communication style of many students being quite the same.
"You are rebellious, complaining, you have a bad attitude, don't want to take correction etc. those were the "frames" of a lot of minister's counseling, as I was told by a British student, who attended 4 years of Ambassador University.
50 % of Ambassador College marriages end in divorce. This figure was quoted by an A.C.-graduate, who later worked full time in the British work. The Church never quoted that figure "officially".
As a comparison: Western Europe 35 % in average, in big cities almost 45 50 %.
Most of the male students at Ambassador College between 1985 1990 wanted to become Managers, earn lots of money, but I have never heard of modest desires like: "I want to become a carpenter, a plumber, fisherman. The materialistic-Anglo-Saxon "Health-Wealth"-kind of life philosophy, thereby "gospel" totally penetrated the Church's culture.
14. Personal experiences, various:
1984, just shortly after having started attending services:
I was sitting in the train in Israel, going from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, as I was reading through "The US and GB in Prophecy" and a felt a spiritual superiority towards the orthodox Jews, who were traveling on my train, as well as towards a Catholic University professor, who was and still is teaching New Testament Theology in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was a friend of my parents.
1990 "Festivals and Jews":
I was on my way from Europe to the U.S. to attend one of my 15 Festivals of Tabernacles. Somehow it happened, that my friend a Church member as well and myself sat next to a young orthodox Jew, clothed all in black, wearing the kipa.
As a conversation developed, it happened that we started talking about the biblical festivals. He was very surprised, that we as Christians would keep the Feast, even saying: "But why ? They are Jewish Feasts".
When we told him that we believe in the Old Testament, he simply responded quickly: "The Old Testament is ours, the New Testament is for you Christians".
Then we passed the subject of tithing, and he was even more surprised to hear, that we save 2nd tithe and give 3rd tithe to the Church (to be distributed among the needy within the Church). He explained us, that according to Jewish rules 3rd tithe applied only in the land of Israel in certain regions, and only during specific seasons of the year, because it had to do with the harvest seasons in the promised land. Not even today orthodox Jews are obliged to give 3rd tithe neither do they "save" 2nd tithe for the Festivals.
We felt quite a "spiritual superiority" over him, having understood as God's Church the "spiritual principles" of the tithes.
During my time of working in Israel I was quite surprised to have received negative feedback from liberal Jews, conservative Jews as well as religious Jews. Somehow they gave me the feeling, that it was not our business as non-Jews, to keep "their days". We should stay with "our Festivals" (Christmas, Easter, Sunday etc.).
In fact it was almost as if they were scoffing at me and the Church.
So, not because of all those events, people, experiences I have distanced myself from the Church, rather I have to say, despite those silly, immature, authoritarian, time-consuming, energy-consuming events I stayed in the Church for all those years.
Again: Because I was uncritical, not giving room, not paying attention to my feelings, because "the heart is wicked" and once an absolute structure is accepted, the principle of "obeying to authority", then you swallow the rest, even if it is silly, inhuman, exaggerated, effort taking, misinterpreted, tiring physically etc.
Members would say, we learn to obey authority, even if we think the decision made by a minister was wrong. We would obey in any case, because it was a "test from God, whether we would obey authority".
I would not leave the Church because "I disagree" with the changes, with some of the new doctrines. Paradoxically as it sounds, I would leave because I AGREE with the new understanding, that the "Worldwide Church of God is not the only true Church". Furthermore it might be that "God seems to work in many different Churches, through many different people."
So, based upon my analyzing, openly looking at the reasons for my decisions, regarding religious matters, I have found that many of my former conclusions where wrong, because they were based on wrong foundations.
My sister said to me a year ago:
During your first years in the Church (1985 1990): "You never had time to even once take my son out and play with him. You did nothing else than study the magazines, the Bible, go to the Church's Services, attend Holy Days and festivals. I was really surprised, that you as an uncle did not show any interest to your nephew." A shocking, but true statement. I had my "priorities right".
Presently I am listening to Gregorian Chants, without having a bad conscience, that they are "inspired by evil spirits of the big false Church". Try it out guys, if you want to wind down in this rat-race kind of world !
During Christmas 2000 I found myself going to 6 different Churches within 2 hours, accepting the variety and different points of view of other humans as well. I applied for a "Guinness book of Records" entry for attending the highest number of Churches within 2 hours, not having received an answer yet.
"Disfellowshipment in the Worldwide Church of God":
Today's policy has slightly changed. Many members don't attend Church anymore, don't give financial support, yet still want to be listed as members of the Worldwide Church of God. What a change.
Probably it has to do with the fact, that people want to have some place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Giving the fact that they are on a "membership list" of a Church, will probably guarantee them that place ? It just gives them some "feeling of safety".
Trip to Jordan in 1995:
"You got exactly 5 minutes to get ready for Services", which started 7.15 p.m. right before sundown. These were the words of (supposedly) God's representative in Jordan. As I recount these experiences I rather say he was quite an inconsiderate man, who was non-considerate of our 9 hour-long trip in heat, in the tight bus in which I did not even have a seat, as well as the and the fact that we had a baby barely 6 months old.
All the students on this Ambassador Foundation project were 2 to 4 years younger than the director, but had to address him "Mr. D.", not calling him by his first name. Probably part of the "authority legacy of the Worldwide Church of God" which had lasted until the mid 1990's.
15. SPLINTER GROUPS:
Where do the splinter groups see themselves coming from ? What are their historical roots ?
All of them, whether United Church of God, Philadelphia Church of God, Living Church of God (Roderick Meredith), The Church of God (David Hulme split) and Global Church of God (L. Salyer, R. McNair ?) see themselves as the historical heirs of the "early New Testament Church, which Jesus Christ has founded, continuing his laws and traditions". This is stated in their websites on the Internet and in their magazines.
They forget one important matter though: The process of growing, learning and development, which also would include terminating certain doctrines, concepts etc. that were found wrong.
Look at their websites and literature, their style of writing, selection of words, choice of subjects, yes, even the design of their magazines and the use of bold letters, cursive letters (fonts) continues on to be the same as in the 1970's and 1980's of the Worldwide Church of God-literature. They seem to view that as a "spiritual matter" of their inheritance. The continuation of graphic styles, as Mr. Armstrong used them in the Worldwide Church of God and as they have been used until a few years after his death is part of their mission.
The Worldwide Church of God has for years said the same as all of them say today, just a few years back it started stating in "About us" on the Church's website: "The Worldwide Church of God was founded by Herbert Armstrong in 1933...", thereby showing the more correct way, that the Church is not a direct successor of the early Church of the 30's of the first century, historically speaking. You will not find any documents, which prove historical connection farther back than the 1600 or 1700, when the first Sabbatarian Churches have started in the "New World" (USA), after having immigrants have arrived on the east coast of the United States because of religious persecution they suffered in Europe.
Interestingly, all splinter groups see themselves as direct heirs of the early New Testament Church, claiming that Mr. Armstrong who joined the "Church of God Seventh Day, Oregon Conference" was one and they are presently the ones who "preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God".
They do not admit, that the "C.o.G. Seventh Day" itself was a "splinter group" of another Church yet (see charts in book "Transformed by Truth" by Mr. Joe Tkach).
"What is the real goal of the splinter groups, what do they have in common?" :
It's the possession of absolute truth or near absolute truth which they claim, they also have absolute power, authority over the administrative decisions, thereby over the tithes and gifts of the members for the purpose of "preaching the gospel".
A member of the "United Church of God" in Germany told me in 1997, that she did not understand, why another split was about to happen (David Hulme leaving the Church) just for some "bookkeeping matters" as she put it. Many people do not realize, that one reason for the continual splits of the splinter groups is the struggle of power and influence, on how to spend Church income, where to preach, how much salaries to pay, what benefits to give etc. Yet they will explain and justify another split with "theological" mistakes of the former group.
The money is quite an important factor in all the splinter groups, thereby a big reason for arguing within the respective organizations.
Another goal is the total possession of your time, your vacation days, organization of spare time, reading material, your money etc.
They will say: "This is not mind-control, the members themselves choose to attend, because they know that they receive spiritual food necessary for their spiritual development as God's children." This is a subtle form of forcing.
The splinter groups will catch you with seemingly intellectual and logical concepts, with catchy phrases, exciting concepts.
Whereas the freedom for Worldwide Church of God-members has resulted in less regular Church attendance, less "taking everything serious" etc.
What the Worldwide Church of God has learned through its changes was, that the ministers and leaders of the Church are not to act like policemen and controlling members' daily life etc. Something the splinter groups have not learned yet.
Yet in the end you believe that you are one of the "called out ones". The cycle continues, as in the former Worldwide Church of God. You believe that you "need" the spiritual food, that can only be provided by the Church, therefore you have to attend weekly services, the Festivals etc. Besides this you read the Church literature, watch their telecast or listen to their Radio-program.
Splinter groups and economic matters:
Don't believe them, if they will tell you "that's gossip, just throwing garbage on the leadership, instead of focusing on the essential". I would respond: "Please, why don't you focus on the essential and stop using the Church as a Worldwide Church of God (worldwide calf of Gold) ?"
Many of the evangelists and ministers in the former Worldwide Church of God knew that church income would start to decline drastically after the changes in tithing policy in the end of 1994, beginning of 1995. They did not want to loose their salaries, which were after all very good.
The split was a welcome opportunity to leave the sinking Worldwide Church of God (worldwide calf of Gold). Who would otherwise continue to pay their gasoline bills, who would change their car every 3 years ? How would they be able to finance all the international flights to the conferences and Festivals, if not through a continuation of tithing policy in the new split group ?
The continuation of the split group enabled them to stay with most privileges, since thousands of people would follow them, keeping on to tithe and give additional offerings, like they had been doing in the Worldwide Church of God for years. In that way a perfect safety net was provided way into the future. A leading evangelist told a minister in Western Europe to leave the Worldwide Church of God. He encouraged him in saying that Church income would decline and there would be no money anymore to keep all ministers on the Wag’s payroll.
Style of presentation, clothing: cultural or religious matter ?
Some of the splinter groups present themselves in their Television programs like Mr. Armstrong, as if the "way of presentation" has to do with God's message. They still don't understand, that it was a matter of culture, how Mr. Armstrong dressed, a matter of culture, what kind of music the Wag’s hymnal consisted of, a matter of culture, that we had 1 hour sermons, 15 minutes sermonettes and 3 hymns at the beginning of each worship-service. Members of the splinter groups were disturbed by the fact, that Mr. Tkach paid people from outside the Church to study the Bible, in order to clarify points of misunderstanding in doctrines that have arisen in the late 1980's and 1990's.
If you are sick don't you go to a doctor ? What's the problem with paying specialists for professional services ? The problem of the Church members was, "how could the Church do that, if we already hold the truth, why do we need to pay someone else in the "world's" institutions/universities to find out, what's wrong ?"
Why have people left the Worldwide Church of God to join the splinter groups ? Because they couldn't take the thought, that they were not the only ones called on the face of the earth. (The Worldwide Church of God had changed its views about being "the only true Church").
The level of excitement in the Worldwide Church of God was not high enough for them anymore. They needed organized Festivals, TV-programs with ever-growing viewing audiences, a big circulation magazine (maybe growing from 8 million to eventually 35 million circulation in the year 2005, being thus the largest in the whole world), a charismatic leader and a close end-time expectation, which would give them a "Christian kick", ecstatic feelings. They wanted tangible results.
"Jesus Christ is your savior and we preach that gospel" was not enough for them anymore. Mr. Tkach Jr. was not a "false Christians bashing type of man with a very deep masculine voice and a telegenic face like Mr. Armstrong". He did not continue with the silly speculative stuff of the "Old Worldwide Church of God". Yet he was honest, to the Church and to himself.
They could not bear the thought, that for years or even decades they have made all that effort and then being told, that there are Christians in any other denominations as well and it didn't really matter, whether they kept the Sabbath or not, whether they kept the Holy Days or not.
"Church of God, an International Association" (David Hulme split):
He is utilizing the contacts that he made during his time in the Worldwide Church of God, as World Tomorrow-Presenter, writer for the Plain Truth and Director of Public Affairs Department.
He gave a Sermon about "Liberalism" in June 1985 in Pasadena. Mr. Armstrong liked it so much, that he ordered it to be played nationwide in all Worldwide Church of God-congregations, as far as I remember. I was in the Auditorium, when he gave that sermon.
Once I heard a story of how "God opened the door to the airing of the telecast in Europe". It was Mr. Hulme, who met the billionaire Robert Maxwell back then owner of the "Sky Channel" Television in Europe by accident in the elevator of a hotel. So they started talking and the contact was made regarding the TV-program to be aired via Sky Channel.
As far as I have heard, some of the ministers that eventually formed the "United Church of God", went to Gerald Flurry and Roderick Meredith. They wanted to form some alliance with one of the two. The deal did not materialize, because both Mr. Flurry as well as Mr. Meredith said in essence: "Yes, you are welcome, but I am the boss". They would not have accepted a different form of Church government than "from the top down to the bottom".
Just shortly after the split which formed the "United Church of God" in spring of 1995, we were on the Dead Sea in Israel, visiting with some Church-member friend, whom we knew from Switzerland. At that time United has taken some steps to try to gain control over Ambassador College in Pasadena and Big Sandy. I asked our friend, who at that time already had joined United, whether that was true. She replied: "Well, yes, if more than a third of the Worldwide Church of God-membership continues with the right doctrine and for that reason "leaves" the Worldwide Church of God, then the question is, whose right is it to stay with the Church's property ?" That's why they saw it justified to try to gain control over the Ambassador University campus in Big Sandy, Texas. At that time the President of Ambassador College was Donald Ward, one of the approximately 150 ministers who joined the "United Church of God".
Leadership of splinter groups:
Look at the website of "United", section "biographies of Council of Elders". You'll find many men, who formerly were in top positions in the Worldwide Church of God. The emphasis is mostly on their accomplishments, the power they had, the departments they headed, the positions they served in the past.
Why don't you find in the Council of Elders for example: A young man, who was a drug addict, finished taking drugs, having found God and / or Jesus Christ, turned around his life.
Or: a young woman, who made a mistake in her teen years and got pregnant, since then has brought up 2 children and repented of her mistake. A real hero, who brought up her children without a husband, had to do household tasks besides finishing her education, was looked upon without respect (even by her Church). Why are there no "true heroes" ?
Living Church of God:
Roderick Meredith, the leader of the "Living Church of God" was sent to Hawaii approximately 1979 or 1980 for about one year. He did not pastor Churches there, in fact he did not even come to Services, only his second wife attended with their baby son.
In 1993 Mr. Tkach wrote in the Worldwide News, that Mr. Armstrong had told him, Roderick Meredith had been a thorn in his flesh for years. I have met Mr. Meredith in Pasadena 1985, as well as during a weekend trip during which I spoke with him for more than one hour. He has tried to explain me, that as a "quarter Jew" with one Jewish grandfather I was privileged in the understanding of biblical matters, compared to "non-Jews". He also told us the whole group of young men who traveled to Lake Big Bear that he was privileged to be with Mr. Armstrong on a daily basis during approximately 1974, while Mr. Armstrong was recovering in the hospital from a heart attack.
Philadelphia Church of God:
December 2000 issue of "The Trumpet" tells the story of "Rule of lawyers". Just shortly after they lost a court case against the Worldwide Church of God regarding the unauthorized publishing of "Mystery of the Ages" by the Philadelphia Church of God.
Do you think they would have written that article, if their lawyers would have won the case against the Worldwide Church of God ? I doubt it. It was like reaction of disappointment by them, because they no longer were allowed to publish "Mystery of the Ages".
Sale of Headquarters facility in Pasadena:
In 1995 (see Worldwide News of 1995 on the Worldwide Church of God website) the Church announced the sale of the Pasadena Campus. Today, in December 2002 the campus is still not yet sold, but as announced in the Worldwide News, most probably the deal will might be done by mid to end of 2002.
The Philadelphia Church of God seems to be quite irritated by the fact, that the Worldwide Church of God is in possession "of the assets that Mr. Armstrong built over the years, with the money of the faithful members who strongly believed in the correct doctrines, as they were restored by God directly through Mr. Armstrong". Then the very organization, the Worldwide Church of God, turns away from Herbie's teachings and still possesses everything.
In 2000 the income is expected to be a total of 31 Mio $ in the USA (25 Mio. income plus 6 Mio. from "reserves"). It was not published anywhere, how much the total amount of reserves is constitutes.
The Church is quite dependent on the sale of the Pasadena Headquarters facility, in order to establish a pension fund and not having to make further cuts in personnel. One "cut" that already came into effect was the introduction of the "semi-vocational pastors", who receive only half of their previous salary, in order not to be laid off definitely.
The whole economic structure is very much "income-dependent", income being watched on a daily, if not even hourly basis.
16. The biggest splinter group, the ones attending nowhere:
Why does the biggest splinter group, which is comprised of the former members who do not attend services at the Worldwide Church of God and do not join any of the splinter groups, not carry a name ?
Figuring, that tens of thousands joined neither of the splinter groups, one must ask himself why:
For many it was just too overwhelming to accept the fact, that they had proven to themselves the "only true Church", in order to hear years later, that true Christians can be found in any denomination. Too much time, energy, effort have gone into proving, becoming members and living in "the true Church", that the drastic change in beliefs lead them to frustration, apathy and total inactivity. They were tired, suffered "spiritual burn out" (like 75 % of ministers, who quit their calling, according to Mr. Archibald of the Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, right across the Worldwide Church of God-headquarters). They "threw out everything", yet, maybe some of them have found peace ?
17. My own reasonings:
My justifications, explanations used to be: Use your mind/brain in proving true doctrine. But where was the heart? It was not allowed to be used, because "it is wicked". In that sense I negated it. So now I also allow the heart to decide, therefore the explanation might not always sound logical, still be right for me.
My reasoning could not develop in a normal way due to basing everything on Church teaching, especially prophetically, therefore I viewed world politics through that glass as well.
During my stay in the Holy Land and I met an old minister, who had known Andrew Dugger personally from the 1940's. He also had known his son, who is still living in Jerusalem and has a small following as of today.
The older Dugger (deceased) was identical with the one of the Church of God 7th Day, Oregon Conference, who in the 1930's "helped Mr. Armstrong to get into the group of the 70 elders" (see Mr. Armstrong's autobiography).
I also emptied the "Ambassador College" postbox during my stay in Israel. We received letters from all over the world, in some months between 50 and 90 letters arrived. People apparently thought that "God's Church" must have some big office in Jerusalem. In reality there were between 3 and 6 members living there during the first half of the 1990's.
In the 15 years of involvement I have not yet found the peace of mind, not negating that there were moments of joy, fulfillment, happiness, but the inner peace has not been found by me.
STD-project (Systematic Theological Project):
Started in mid 1970's, according to people who were part of that, it was not an attempt to "water down" the truth. A member of that committee, whom I met in 1997 in Southeastern Europe, where he worked as a Baptist missionary, told me that he was in that group and thrown out of the Church as soon as it was discovered, that some ministers including Garner Ted Armstrong wanted to change some doctrines, and started that project with that goal.
18. Some Statistics, (Membership, Publishing, Media, Income):
In 1998 Circulation 150,000 Plain Truth (worldwide).
Rest: 100,000 x 1 $ (generous estimate, including probably postage) = US$ 100,000 x 6 (bi-monthly publication) = US$ 600,000 per year. To reach the correct amount, it would be necessary to know, how much is coming in though through PAID subscriptions (PTM Ministries), therefore as a "profit".
Various international editions with a few thousands subscriptions each. Worldwide News: 50,000 (30,000 US plus 20,000 international "sister-magazines"-circulation), USD 50,000 x 10 or 12 (months) = 600,000 USD (incl. Postage and printing, considering the "2-coloured-style" which makes it probably cheaper than 4-colour-printing.
One can easily see, that publishing does not even make a 5 % of the approx. $20 million US-Dollar income as per the year 2002. In November 2002 it was even announced, that not even members anymore would get the Plain Truth for free in the future !!!
This chapter to be more specifically elaborated on in the coming months, I still have to put together some information.
19. PRESENT and FUTURE:
Where do we stand today ?
Christianity, Theology has been here since 2000 years, with "modern time" Christian split off groups (included in this list are some cults) such as Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, various Baptist and evangelical groups, New Apostolic Church, Worldwide Church of God and her split off groups, all since around 150 years. Here we are, finding ourselves between 1985 and 2000 believing, thinking to have found the truth. Even if the Worldwide Church of God recognizes, that there might be other "true Christians" in other groups, the Church still thinks of itself as "God's Church", part of the elected.
If someone studies Theology, Philosophy, Psychology or History I think he does it in order to understand the world, his own background, himself and maybe meaning of life itself and God. A few think they understand, others may find some partial knowledge, which helps them as a "guide" through life. But everyone is looking "from his angle", seeing different points.
The Worldwide Church of God nevertheless has come to the point, that it tries to stay with what it believes are the essentials of the Bible's message
The culture of preaching (the giving of Sermons) has changed in many congregations to much shorter messages (from 1 ½ hour to maybe 15 minutes), at the same time expanding the "worship" part of prayer and singing hymns.
In the Worldwide Church of God some have wholeheartedly embraced the new teachings of centering on Jesus Christ as the Savior.
The Worldwide Church of God dared to end "mind control" over the members. From now on personal responsibility was encouraged. The minister as policeman has ended his duties, as already having been announced by Mr. Tkach Sr. in the early 1990's prior to his death.
Many like in Central Europe have not been able to adapt to the new emphasis. Jesus Christ having been either the helpless baby in the crib / manger or the helpless long-haired hippie-style of pacifist hanging on the cross, based on catholic view. The new emphasis of "life in Christ" has been hard to digest. Not saying though that members don't believe in him. Yet the previous belief, emphasis of Godfather having given the 10 commandments and Holy Days, was more simple to digest.
The paradox on the side: The Worldwide Church of God over the years has always explained, that Jesus Christ was the God of the Old Testament, actually the one who created the world, the Word of John 1.
You will find members that are still using "The Incredible Human Potential" as a book, which is "truth" to them. You will find men giving sermons, speaking about "the Wonderful World Tomorrow", going into speculative details for example during the Feast of Tabernacles in 1999.
Worldwide Church of God future: (Article in November 2000 in WW-News):
"We have a Church-structure, that even big Churches envy us for" was written by Mr. Tkach. He was referring to the congregations and pastors or lay pastors etc.
The Worldwide Church of God-structure in reality:
Hotel rentals, meeting in homes, lay pastors, semi-vocational pastors, printing booklets from the Internet (which is smart and cost-effective, but not proof of structure).
Yet, the present Church leadership, ministers and convinced members try to convince non-convinced ones, that "growth is not necessarily meant in numbers, but spiritually", which is more important, as they say. It almost reminds me of my Catholic grandmother and Catholic father, who throughout their life despised materialistic thinking, seeing being poor as a virtue, being looked upon by God as "being better".
Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying, that the only proof is economical growth and figures, but neither do I think, that the Worldwide Church of God leadership should play it down, distracting from the facts, which are for the Worldwide Church of God economically speaking quite negative compared to 5,6, 10 or 15 years ago, except for the upcoming sales-profit of the "Jolly Joker", the Headquarters facility.
Where are the excited Church members, who love the changes and give at least 10 % of income ?
Thoughts on the future:
The trends of information overload, Internet.., same time more liberalism in society. One billion (1,000 million) homepages on Internet, as per the year 2000, 300 million E-mail users, seems to be a big potential. Young people being distracted as never before.
Even if the Church (Worldwide Church of God) again would have a Plain Truth circulation of 7 million, TV on 400 stations, 200,000 members, great feasts, I think it has outlived itself, the former way, due to the new knowledge and corrections made.
Present leadership of the Worldwide Church of God: I have heard members in the U.S. say: "He got a beard, which makes him look like a rebel". That was during Festival 1990, when Mr. Tkach Jr. gave opening prayers. People still go by looks, but not by heart, as it was in King David's case, the men sent did not believe he was the chosen king, therefore did not even give him a look, when they came to take the chosen one, who was David. Nevertheless, even though some have a beard, I trust them, I think that they were very honest with the changes during the last years as well as trying to show the Church a new direction. Yet, economically speaking I believe, that the Worldwide Church of God even though it had lost a lot of income during the last 10 years, still is quite "materialistically minded", worrying too much on a daily basis, being very income dependent for its "administrative survival". What happened with the Church-growth experts, with the Church-plantation experts, that advised the Church some years ago ? Does Billy Graham still help the Church in its transformation ?
20. Future of Worldwide Church of God:
1) Income decline 15 % for the next 10 years (based on approximate trend of last 5 years).
2) Another leader will take over, swing the rudder around and ask members for more financial commitments, if not tithing. Church income will go up.
3) As years go by, the Worldwide Church of God will form closer ties with other evangelicals, which finally will culminate in "merger", total unification with some other evangelical group. Maybe even the name of the "Worldwide Church of God" will be given up. Presently the Worldwide Church of God still emphasizes its unique historic experience and says, that because of the big changes it has undergone, it even has the obligation to continue as a "separate" group, telling "the story", "our story", as they say.
4) The information overload will get so big around the world, that the internet will in fact not be a very useful means of proclamation and information. Thereby growth of membership cannot be expected from that source.
People will not feel well, at home, in rented buildings, no continuity, no specific culture is developed, no framework, no rituals, which people seem to need.
In the past members of the Worldwide Church of God were conditioned so to say, to always hear "exciting" news, like the news that are being preached in all the splinter groups nowadays.
21. Possible future scenarios of splinter groups:
We will see at least another 20 new splinter groups chipping off from their splits Churches, that already were splits of the Worldwide Church of God by themselves within the next 10 15 years.
Members of the splinter groups, don't be surprised to see more pieces chipping off the edges of your Churches !
Unification of splinter group-efforts ? Would be wise and feasible theoretically. But I think it is the least probable, due to ego, strict attitudes, intolerance and fanaticism of the respective leaders, due to personality clashes, due to differences in opinion regarding doctrine and Church government.
The future will show, whether the trend of mergers in the general Economy will enter into the world of the "Churches of God".
I wonder, whether the future of the rest of the Churches will go into this direction as well. Mergers for the sake of survival, therefore Churches becoming ever more adapted with less consciousness for their own identity. Christianity has become an industry. The industry of God ? Millions of books, cassettes, Videos, Radio programs, Television programs, CD's being sold, huge evangelical events being organized.
An industry for what should actually be the most simple religion of all time, yet it has "developed" into many facets.
TO BE CONTINUED
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