But now members of the Churches of God, many of whom are no longer part of authoritarian religious organizations, have the freedom to decide--based on
the leading of the Holy Spirit--matters that are even more important than the identity of the two witnesses.
"We've gone through our period of disillusionment, some of us have," he said. And "we've changed our minds about certain things.
"On the other hand, there are some things that we believed then, and now we believe them 1,000 times more."
Beliefs Mr. O'Brien still holds dear concern Jesus, the Kingdom, the love of God, God's plan and God's laws.
A history buff and former Methodist minister and lay pastor, Mr. O'Brien talked about the "democratization of the Holy Spirit," which he defined as
freedom of Christians to allow the guiding of the Holy Spirit in their thoughts and actions.
"What do you need to be a part of the Kingdom of God?" he asked. "What do you need to live forever?"
In answering his own questions, Mr. O'Brien referred to "an essence of life" that "we call the Holy Spirit. What you and I want more than anything
else is the Spirit of God living in us, and the question is how do you get that. How does that grow in you?"
To best be able to grow in members of the Churches of God, the Holy Spirit needs a seedbed sowed in some way in "democracy," said Mr. O'Brien.
His notion of a democracy in this context seemed to be more of a description of people free to make their own decisions, even make their own mistakes,
rather than a set of individuals who make collective decisions by scheduling formal votes.
"What is there in common between the automobile, the camera, the banking system, beauty treatments and Boeing 747s?" he asked. "The short answer is
that Henry Ford, George Eastman and Amadeo Giannini and others profited from mass markets they created and they served."
These innovators made a lot of money creating markets and providing for them, but "they did not do that just to make money," he said.
Similarly and analogously, Christians in situations Mr. O'Brien might refer to as ecclesiastical democracies are free to innovate and serve in ways
that they could not in more-restrictive systems in which only one or a few are allowed to take the initiative in doing the proper Holy Spirit-directed works of Christians.
"The Holy Spirit is the most powerful force in all of the universe," Mr. O'Brien said, "not electricity, not uranium, not Arnold Schwarzenegger, not
the power of Congress, but the Holy Spirit.
"You have it, and when it flows in a congregation, well, the truth is, there is no limit at all to what we can do."
In an interactive session in Big Sandy after the two sermons, Mr. O'Brien led a discussion about "authentic Christianity."
Who is an authentic Christian?
Mr. O'Brien chaired a conversation that even included breaking in and out of smaller groups to compile contrasting lists of people mentioned in the
Bible who were authentic Christians and who were not.
The conclusion of the matter in the discussion as led by Mr. O'Brien was that an authentic Christian is a Christian who loves God and loves his
neighbor as himself.
Two weeks before Mr. O'Brien's visit, another traveling Church of God elder, Jeff Osborn of Terre Haute, Ind., also visited East Texas, speaking
before the same two congregations.
See the report of Mr. Osborn's visit beginning.