How many members defect or leave a Church of God organization is a topic that is often not addressed by the leadership of the corporate Churches of God.
However, it is a factor for the membership to consider when pondering the growth potential and effectiveness of the churches they support.
Recent statements and statistics published by the Living Church of God (LCG), for instance, provide a glimpse into the attrition and defection rate of the LCG.
Bob Thiel, a prolific writer and member of the LCG, recently proclaimed (at cogwriter.com) that the Living Church of God has since its inception baptized 2,600 new members and that the LCG was founded with between 5,000 and 5,300 members (including unbaptized children).
Yet Dr. Doug Winnail in a 2007 Feast update stated that the worldwide Feast of Tabernacles attendance (including shut-ins) was 7,086.
A similar figure of 7,100 for weekly LCG attendance in December 2006 was cited in a Wikipedia.com article about Roderick Meredith.
If the LCG began with 5,000 to 5,300 individuals and baptized 2,600 new members, then active weekly attendance should be from 7,600 to 7,900.
Therefore, based on my rudimentary calculations, anywhere from 500 to 800 LCG members/attendees have gone missing during this period, possibly from death, defecting to another COG or disappearing into the world.
This represents a huge loss and one that is especially dangerous for such a small and rapidly aging "graying" church.
Dr. Richard F. Griffiths
Orchids and grunions
I have two comments to make, both concerning the "Notes and Quotes" section of the November-December 2007 issue.
Firstly, the reason noted for why there will not be a merger between United and the Living COG: "The leaders ... have told me that they do not see any possibility of merging due to major differences in--"
Doctrinal positions? No. Biblical understanding? No. The need to preach the gospel to the world? No.
Rather, there is no possibility of a merger because of differences "in government and approaches to preaching the gospel."
What utter and complete idiocy!
It's been said that there is a reason that a person gives for what he does, and then there is the real reason. May I propose the real reason?
"There is no possibility of merging due to the fact that I/we do not want to give up control of my/our piece of Church of God turf."
My apologies to those who would not want to believe this.
Secondly, my comment to Mark Armstrong (quoted in the same "Notes and Quotes" column), who feels it's time to speak out against so-called ministers who abuse the brethren in the name of his grandfather:
Right on! Please go on the offensive about this. Name names! The apostle Paul sure did when he was warning the brethren about such people in his time.
It's about time the Church of God community exposes these people publicly and declares them anathema to Christ so other brethren might not fall into their snares, thinking they are following "the anointed heir apparent to Herbert W. Armstrong."
(No disrespect whatsoever to the memory of Mr. Armstrong should be construed here.)
Traditional Thai attire
I thought the costumes of those at the Thai Feast on page 4 of the September-October 2008 Journal looked familiar. They look like how the goddess Artemis appeared. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_of_Artemis.
The similarity is striking. Most all pagan religions have the same origin.
Jan Aaron Young
Christ and friends disagreed
Re "Should We Worry About Being Agreed?," by Dixon Cartwright, in the November-December 2007 issue:
Awesome article, for those willing to receive it in the right attitude.
Folks, when Christ Himself broke bread with thieves, prostitutes, tax collectors and the like, do you think they "agreed"? C'mon!
But He always displayed a loving attitude. You can too.
I am proud of my early COG history and the good men who pastored me from 1974 to 2003. I am proud to be friends and be lovingly accepted at Sabbath services within the LCG, CGI, UCG and CEG.
I am not embarrassed to stand tall and tell all people I have been an active member of the COG since 1973. Those with bad attitudes--and I know some--will go down with their ship.
I have every confidence God will not let me down! Thank you for such a timely and eye-opening article, Dixon.
Penticton, B.C., Canada
Just what do you mean civilized?
In the November-December 2007 issue of The Journal, the editor's commentary ["Should We Worry About Being Agreed?," beginning on page 3] concludes by saying the future would go better if we "remember to act as if we are civilized when we disagree."
I may agree with the editor, but that depends on his definition of "civilized." If his definition is "to fight ignorance," I think most would agree that is what we have been doing for the last so many years.
"Civil" suggests a minimum of social requirements. Don't we all think we have been doing that, and others may not have been?
I think we will have to go beyond civil to make things much better: affable, respectful, gracious, polite, courteous, etc. Affection is too much to ask because that would take experience in treating each other in a respectful way, which we have seen precious little of in the Christian past.
It would seem any improvement is probably impossible because the "test-case points of doctrine and belief" the editor speaks of are too often changing, intangible and arbitrary and generally exist only if we can yell louder and longer than everyone else to make our point--our only evidence being our private interpretation of a knowing in part of what we consider to be Scripture.
Do we seek salvation by knowledge--or faith? If the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then we know and have knowledge and can't have faith, because faith is not knowledge, and faith carries the implied definition of not definitively knowing.
Can we know God from the Bible? The Bible says we know God from the things He has made (tangible things), and if we look at the creatures He has made we can easily comprehend the dangers of being threatening to His little ones.
Many species will fight us to the death to keep us from touching their little ones. How much more so with the God who came up with the idea of risking all in defense of the little ones? Fear and trembling? You bet.
It seems to me we should try to make our faith more tangible through affection for each other, which fussing over what we think we know in part can never do.
We might do well to throw our Bibles away, if that is what it takes to have the faith that works by love.
We do seem to be coming into agreement as to what God's form of government is: that being to do what we think is right and good as best we can. Now if we can be comfortable letting everyone else do the same, that would seem to fit both interpretations of Amos 3:3.
I also liked the editor's novel idea that the Scriptures should make sense, quite unlike some test-case points of doctrine and belief.
Correction re a minister's church area regarding your article about the UCG's proposed move to Texas [in the November-December 2007 issue]:
Our minister, Robert Berendt, is the pastor of the Edmonton, Red Deer (Alberta) and North Battleford and Saskatoon (Saskatchewan), Canada, churches. He is no longer living in Westbank (British Columbia).
Edmonton, Alta., Canada
Perfect 7,000 years
Re the articles by Frank Nelte and Steven Collins on adjusting God's 7,000-year plan ["What Is God's Timetable for Mankind and Christ's Return?," by Mr. Nelte, The Journal, Oct. 31, 2006, and "6,000 Years for Mankind as Understood by COGs Still Valid," by Mr. Collins, Aug. 31, 2007]:
It's essential to understand that Ussher calculated the creation date not by biblical chronology but "by collation of Chaldean history and the astronomical canon."
Biblical chronology shows that the Jews returned from Babylon in the year 3434 from creation, but Ussher's reckoning is 3468 (537 B.C.).
The 34-year difference points to the death--not birth--of Christ being 4,000 years after creation. This is confirmed by Scripture.
The Passover lamb was selected four days before it was killed (Exodus 12:3, 6). The Lamb of God was sacrificed from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8) and was killed at Passover four days--i.e., 4,000 years--later (2 Peter 3:8).
Our promised rest (Hebrews 4:1-11) will come 2,000 years after Christ's resurrection. "After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight" (Hosea 6:2). God's 7,000-year plan is perfect and wonderful. It requires no adjustment.
Super Bowl in prophecy
Why the 42nd Super Bowl may be prophetically relevant:
There were 42 kings of Israel and Judah.
Queen Elizabeth II is the 42nd United Kingdom monarch to sit on the throne of David.
George W. Bush is the 42nd man to be U.S. president.
The 42nd Super Bowl was Feb. 3, 2008, and was perhaps the biggest symbol of American idolatry. It occurred 1,335 days, inclusive, before the next possible Feast of Trumpets on which Messiah can come.
Maybe the vast audience saw some relevant symbolism or breaking news when the Patriots and Giants clashed if the 1,335 countdown started on that day.
Geoffrey R. Neilson
Cape Town, South Africa