Why So Many Church of Gods?
Hard upon the heels of the demise of the Worldwide Church of God as we knew it, the casual observer may be shocked to discover a regiment of splinter groups that have sprung up in its place. Where once there was "one true church of God", now there are hundreds, all claiming the same charter, all claiming to carry out the same commission. How can this be?
One of the nice things about belonging to Armstrong's "end-time church" was that we didn't have to make very many decisions. Once we had decided to submit to "God's authority", we were off the hook. From that moment forward, we had only to obey. "God's ministers" took it from there, telling us pretty much what to do. In that sense, it really was sort of like being in "God's army" -- the ministers were the officers. They told us where to go, what to do, when to do it, and how much to spend. They told us what to wear, what to eat, how to dress, and how to wear our hair. One really didn't have to think very much, and most decisions were already made for us.
So it must be tough now, for those who still believe that Armstrong was an apostle, to decide which COG is the "true" COG. I feel sorry for them, I really do. After years of not having to make any decisions at all, to be suddenly faced with the most critical choice of all, one that might determine your fate for all eternity -- and having no experience to fall back on to make it.
I mean, which COG is the "true" COG?
Whom to Follow
It wasn't so bad ten years ago, because there were only a handful. One could choose between United, Living, Global, International, or Philly. Today there are literally dozens, everything from Sonoma to Modesto to Circus COG of the United Living Global Truth... (okay, I made that up, but you get the point -- it's getting so bad that these folks are running out of acronyms).
The problem is that all these COGs are headed up by people who were once "united" under the Worldwide COG; that is, they were actually ordained ministers in the one "true church of God". We were required to obey all of them, even when they contradicted each other, yet now they have all discovered that God has called them, individually, to carry on "the work", and every other group is "Laodicean".
So how do you determine, if you suddenly find yourself cast adrift in a sea of apostasy, which one of these "true apostles" to follow -- especially when all life-critical decisions have been made for you for the past few decades? Do you pick the guy who was on television (and if so, which one)? Do you pick the guy who once claimed to be the Number Five man in the universe (after God, Jesus, Herbert, and Garner Ted)? Do you pick the guy who died last year, and follow his unordained son? Do you stick with the local elder in your immediate area who has ascertained that it's best just to hunker down and carry on an independent "work" without a whole lot of controlling authority?
And what do you do when the group you find yourself with splits?
And then splits again?
And then again?
The Painful Truth
It's difficult to break out of a lifetime of programming, but there is a solid truth here if only one is able to see it. Jesus reportedly said that, before he could return, the gospel message had to be preached to "every creature". Paul, just before his death, wrote that he had done the job. Herbert Armstrong, just before his death, said that he had done the job.
But Jesus hasn't returned. Not since Paul said it 2000 years ago (that's twenty 100-year time cycles, in case anyone is interested), and not since Herbert said it 20 years ago. So what gives?
Every splinter COG that I've heard of is making some claim that it and it alone is carrying on with Herbert Armstrong's commission (even though Herbert himself claimed his work was done), and every one of them seems to renounce every other one, even though they were all once of the same faith. Is anything wrong with this picture?
The painful truth is that, whether Jesus ever comes (back) or not, what we have here is a whole lot of aging ministers who need a house to live in and something to eat. None of them is willing to work to fulfill these needs, nor are they content to live modestly. They've long been accustomed to nice homes, new cars, expensive suits, and expense accounts (everything tax-free). They just don't want to give it up, especially when they already have the means to provide it -- scared sheep.
To put it more bluntly: Every discredited former minister needs a dozen or so scared, disillusioned church members to support him.
So he starts his own "church".
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