From time to time, we receive letters or email messages from our readers, sharing with us their surprise when they began to realize where they were in their spiritual lives. One such message reads, “It would appear as though I am/was one of the Laodiceans and how I got there is anyone’s guess. I thought I was doing the right thing studying and praying etc., yet somewhere along the line I got off track since I left WCG.”
Sadly, this is only too true for many who were forced to leave the apostasy that was introduced into the church after Mr. Armstrong died. Many who left WCG did not know where to go. They found themselves in the situation described by Jesus in Matthew 9:36, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”
Some did not go anywhere. They decided to stay at home and to have their own private services — without the presence of a faithful ordained minister. There is a danger with this approach, however. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:11-16 that Christ gave to His Church ministers to feed and edify the flock, so that “we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”
Brethren need Christ’s ministers. Romans 10:14-16 tells us that we cannot hear “without a preacher.” We are also told, however, that God must send the “preacher.” We are encouraged to “test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets [or preachers] have gone into the world” (1 John 4:1).
So, we need to go “somewhere.” The question remains,” Where to go?”
Some brethren decided to follow ministers who seemed to uphold the teachings of Mr. Armstrong. Some ministers claimed that they would not change anything since Mr. Armstrong’s death. This claim proved to be incorrect in many cases, when reviewing their doctrines and practices. However, to even make such a claim neglects the fact that we are to “grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18; compare Ephesians 4:13). When the BIBLE proves to us that we may have to alter a certain teaching or understanding, in order to follow God more perfectly, we must do so. Otherwise, we are placing a man ahead of God, which we must never do. At the same time, one of those “leaders” claiming — albeit incorrectly — that he won’t change anything that Mr. Armstrong had taught, applies to himself titles which belong exclusively to God the Father and Jesus Christ, such as “that Prophet” or “the Lawgiver.”
On the other hand, it must be the BIBLE — God’s Word — that convinces us of a need to grow in the knowledge of Christ. Far too often, ministers and brethren change their understanding of God’s truth because of certain pet ideas they have developed in their own minds, based on their own research of historical and other worldly records.
The understanding of prophecy is a key example. Many are proposing alternate prophetic concepts, calling them speculation, but teaching them, nevertheless, as truth and new understanding. In virtually every case, their understanding is based on human reasoning and on a limited view of present circumstances and world conditions, but not on the clear prophetic word of the Bible (compare 2 Peter 1:19-21). God’s Word tells us, however, “Bind up the testimony, Seal the law among my disciples… To the law and to the TESTIMONY! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:16, 20). Revelation 19:10 states that the “TESTIMONY of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” We are also told, in Jeremiah 6:16-17: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, and where the good way is, And walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.'”
Again, we ask, “Where to go?” Some decided to follow ministers who were disfellowshipped by Mr. Armstrong for rebellious attitudes, or for the preaching of heresy, and no evidence has been presented that they have repented of such conduct. In some cases, they have instead justified their conduct, claiming that they were right, and that Mr. Armstrong was wrong. A rebellious attitude is, however, contagious. It affects others. The Bible warns us, “Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).
Others decided to join a rather big organization [in comparison with other groups] which provides many social activities for its members. They did perhaps not realize that ministers were actively preaching in that group that had compromised with the truth of God, had taught wrong things, and had thereby misled the flock, while in WCG. Some ministers had disfellowshipped brethren in WCG who tried to stand up for the truth. Very few of those ministers apologized openly and publicly for their wrong conduct. Very few declared publicly that they had repented of their false biblical understanding and teaching, and that they had returned to, and were now deeply convicted of the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Some followed ministers who claimed that they were Christ’s servants or “God’s anointed,” only to learn later that Mr. Armstrong had stated strongly, for various reasons, including personal ones, that these men should never lead the church. In some cases, it was learned that Mr. Armstrong felt that these ministers were not even converted.
The question remains, “Where to go?” Some have started a campaign, asking the members of their group to reach out to a number of “our former brethren” and encourage them to return to the truth, that is, supposedly, to their particular group. We in CEG and our affiliated corporate organizations will not do that. We are certainly praying to God that He will cause “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, [to] shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). We are reminded, however, in the same passage, that we “do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v.5-6).
The ministry in CEG and its affiliates is not here to commend ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:17-18: “But he who glories, let him glory in the LORD. For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”). We are here to help, and we are happy to answer whatever questions there might be. We will not directly contact our “former brethren,” however, trying to “convince” them to join with us. Our literature and sermon material are freely available to everyone, via our Webpage or upon request. However, we feel we need to leave it to God to move anyone to make personal contact with us. It is God who has allowed the sheep to be scattered by their shepherds, and it is God who will gather them together again (Jeremiah 23:1-4).
We believe that God must call, and that God will lead His people to the place where He wants them to be — whatever and wherever that place might be. Christ said, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber [This would also apply to some self-appointed “leaders,” writing books and disseminating their false teachings, who were never Biblically ordained to the ministry.] But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens; and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers'” (John 10:1-5).
So, “where to go?” To answer this, we need to look at ourselves. Where are we now, personally? We need to examine ourselves whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). If we find ourselves lacking, we need to become zealous again for the truth and repent (Revelation 3:19; compare, too, Revelation 2:4-5; 2:14-16; 2:20-21; 3:1-3). At the same time, one needs to pray to God that HE points out where to go. We truly believe that God will make it clear, also in light of Matthew 7:20, where to go, if one really wants to know.
The question remains — “Where to go?” In answering this, we need to understand first, “Where are we now?”