The WCG was Herbert W. Armstrong's personal ministry

The writer is a church pastor and director of United Christian Ministries. Write Mr. Wooten at P.O. Box 361725, Hoover, Ala. 35236, U.S.A., or Or telephone him at (888) 985-9066.

By Ray Wooten

HOOVER, Ala.--Is the Worldwide Church of God still God's church?

Many former members will say no. Others will tell you that "it has finally become God's church." Still others will say, "Yes, but it has lost its way, and God will have to restore it."

I have heard all of these confusing answers and more about the WCG. I believe all are wrong, because the question is a trick question. It's like asking, "Is General Motors still the Chrysler Corp.?" It can't still be something that it never was.

The same is true of the WCG and any other man-designed or man-made organization, whether non-Christian religions or Christian churches. This includes the Catholic Church, all Protestant denominations, independent churches and all Churches of God.

God's church has never been defined by, nor confined to, any visible human organization. The Church of God is a spiritual organism comprised of people who have been forgiven and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, and who are in the process of being cleansed in mind and heart by the Word of God and in whom the Holy Spirit lives.

I believe many who have been part of the WCG are part of the true Church of God, the spiritual organism, and many are not.

A personal ministry

I also believe that the WCG was the outgrowth of the personal ministry of one person who had accepted the cleansing blood of Jesus, yielded the self to God and learned much truth through much in-depth study of the Bible.

I believe this person received the Holy Spirit that empowered her to grow personally to the point where she, Loma Armstrong, became a light to others, including her husband, Herbert Armstrong, who also became converted.

Mr. Armstrong's personal ministry was one of presenting (preaching) the truth in such a clear, concise manner that many people were converted to Jesus through his preaching.

Gospel of grace and truth

Early in his ministry Mr. Armstrong preached the gospel of the grace and truth of Jesus, which is the only true gospel of Jesus. It must never be limited to the gospel of a millennial kingdom, nor a gospel of either grace or truth. The gospel is Jesus, full of grace and truth (John 1:14, 17).

When the gospel is presented and received properly, it includes the begettal of the Holy Spirit, which is the ingredient that places one in the family of God.

It also imparts to every recipient a ministry.

I know ministry is a word that sounds embarrassingly religious to many, but, if you will simply lay aside your prejudices for a moment, you will see what I mean.

What we call personal ministries the apostle Paul referred to as spiritual gifts. Everyone who receives the Holy Spirit has a specific spiritual gift imparted to him by God and Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. This is the person's unique gift, and he is responsible to use it in a work of service to the family of God.

This gift is nontransferable. If you are in the family of God, having been "begotten from above" through the Holy Spirit, you have a spiritual gift, a ministry that is unique to you.

Please read the following verses closely, with scrutiny and with a willingness to accept it as it is written, without a Catholic, Protestant or Church of God spin:

  • "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Notice Paul here refers to many things that are common to all in God's family. You should also note that, though we have one hope, each has a personal calling (that is, ministry).

Everyone has a gift

  • Paul continues: "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift" (verse 7).

Gift is dorea in the Greek, a free gift, a gratuity, specifically a sacrifice one makes for the benefit of others.

Jesus imparts each gift by grace "according to the measure." This means that each one is given a gift, or gifts, which are parts of what Jesus Himself has. He has all gifts and immeasurable grace.

  • "Therefore it says, 'when He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives.' He captured that which had captured us, annulled its power and made us His servants, and He gave gifts to men"--to mankind, both male and female (verse 8).
  • "Now this expression, 'He ascended,' what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?" (verse 9).

Jesus, who had been the Word, Logos, John 1:1, descended from heaven to earth. This same Jesus also ascended into the heavens. This ascension occurred a few days before the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:1-11). Pentecost was when He sent the Holy Spirit and gave gifts (Acts 2).

  • "He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fulfill all things" (that is, pertaining to the complete, entire, fully functional family of God that He began creating in Genesis 1:26) (Ephesians 4:10).

This is why every member must be fulfilling his personal ministry, or gift, within the family. Otherwise it is dysfunctional, and God is not creating a dysfunctional family.

Now notice, beginning in verse 11, that God enables members of His family to learn their particular functions, gifts or ministries within the family so they can grow the family to its full potential.

Teaching and preaching

  • "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers" (verse 11).

What is the purpose of these gifts? First, it is not for "the ministry" as opposed to "the laity." It is for teaching, encouraging and supporting the entire Body in its individual functions (ministries) within the Body.

Unless the ministry of teaching or preaching is given to a person, he should not try to fulfill it because it would be like walking on one's hands or working with one's feet.

  • ·Some gifts are "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service [the entire body of saints is to be engaged in the work of service, or ministering], to the building up [edifying] of the body of Christ" (verse 12).
  • ". . . We [will] all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (verse 13).

Remember, each person receives a gift or gifts, which are parts of what Jesus Himself has. He has all gifts and immeasurable grace.

  • "As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love" (verses 14-16).

Service centers

If only the leaders of the Worldwide Church of God had understood the God-given biblical model of personal ministries, the disaster and tragedy that occurred in that organization might never have happened.

The subsequent disasters among its offshoots could have been avoided. There would not have been a hierarchical or military type of government; it would have been what any religious organization should be: a service center.

The purpose of the service center should be to help and promote the personal ministries in the church (the spiritual organism) of God.

Servants, not great rulers

Jesus talked about the rulers of the gentiles as bad examples:

"But Jesus called them to Himself and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28).

It is amazing how this scripture was read within the WCG. It was invariably applied to others and rarely, if ever, to WCG leaders themselves.

Apostasy in WCG and offshoots

If the biblical model of personal ministries had been utilized within the WCG--and the leaders had realized that they were not "the only ministry of Jesus Christ" serving under "God's apostle" with governmental authority over the faith of the brethren, but that each person has a gift, or ministry--the apostasy might not have occurred.

I don't believe the apostasy began when the pastor general who succeeded Mr. Armstrong almost removed God's biblical truth from the organization. I believe that was the culmination of the apostasy that began when the WCG accepted the "primacy of Peter" and through human reasoning, perhaps along with some spiritual influence, named Mr. Armstrong the successor of Peter through the "the passing of the baton."

Some of the offshoots of the WCG believe and claim that the baton has been passed to them. It is sad to see people thinking they are holding onto a nonexistent baton. It is even sadder that many of their followers believe their leader is the successor of Peter and Herbert Armstrong.

Eternal judgment not our ministry

I believe Mr. Armstrong was a believer in Jesus who had a personal ministry and that the Worldwide Church of God as an organization could have done a tremendous service if the leaders had understood.

I wish we would realize that Mr. Armstrong's ministry was finished when he died. I wish all would realize that God has given each of us a personal ministry and there is no way on earth we can carry on Mr. Armstrong's ministry.

I also think we need to quit trying to judge Mr. Armstrong, because judgment of Jesus' servants is not part of our God-given personal ministry.

I have seen many mistakes Mr. Armstrong made. I have also seen many wonderful things he did in the way of preaching the truth of God.

However, those are not part of my personal ministry, nor did I see into his heart well enough to make a judgment about his eternal salvation.

Christ imparts spiritual gifts (personal ministries) and judges all things at all times. Let's allow Him, as part of His personal ministry, to judge Mr. Armstrong.

Jesus has a special interest in mankind because He died, as a part of His personal ministry, to atone for the sins of all, including Mr. Armstrong.

Since Jesus is so deeply concerned for our salvation, only He is qualified to do this, because only He knows whether a person has truly, and sincerely, accepted that atonement.

Anyone who is determined to judge Mr. Armstrong, or anyone else, should always remember that whatever judgment you use to judge will be the same judgment by which you will be judged.

Stream rising

Another problem that results from having a human as your spiritual head is that your source is not high enough.

Let me give you an example. It has been observed that a stream rises no higher than its source. The mighty Mississippi River is an example of this principle. This huge river begins from a little spring up in northern Minnesota. The spring feeds a small lake from which the river flows and travels 2,000 miles through the heart of the United States down into the Mississippi and Louisiana deltas.

Interestingly, the highest source of the river is its beginning. It gets wider, and deeper, because other streams and rivers flow into it, but it never gets higher at any point.

This same principle is applicable spiritually.

"A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40).

Notice how the Living Bible phrases it: "How can a student know more than his teacher? But if he works hard, he may learn as much."

Let's remove the human strata that clog up the connection between Jesus and His students and that keep us from rising to the spiritual level He wants to take us.

Connected to every part

The analogy of the body, used by Paul, also explains the principle of our connection with Christ. Think about it. Every individual part of the human body has a direct connection to the head.

The brain does not tell one part of the body what to tell another part; it sends messages directly to each part.

Therefore, following this analogy, the head of the church is Christ. It has only one head, not a spiritual head and a human head. Corporations have human heads, but the Church of God does not.

The Worldwide Church of God is a corporation that has had various human heads, or leaders. However, the leaders are not now, nor have they ever been, heads of God's church, the spiritual organism of which Christ is head.

The same is true of the leaders of the offshoots. If the leaders would realize they have personal ministries, just as does everyone else in the Church of God, it would eliminate a lot of headaches that are experienced both by the leaders and their followers.

Leaders should take the same approach as the apostle Paul's and refuse to have dominion over the faith of others (2 Corinthians 1:24): "Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm."

Your spiritual head

If you accept Jesus as your spiritual head, you will find that your spiritual knowledge, wisdom, insight, understanding and, yes, your personal ministry, your spiritual gift, will transcend anything you have ever experienced or dreamed could happen to you.

Why? Because you will have put your faith and trust where it should be, in the Living Savior, Lord and Master, Jesus the Messiah.

Was Herbert W. Armstrong the apostle of God and the physical head of the Church of God?

As you may conclude, based on the information in this article, I believe the answer is emphatically no.

Is the Worldwide Church of God still God's Church?

Again, that's a trick question. Something cannot "still" be true that was never true. The WCG was not God's church and is not God's church. A man-made organization cannot be a member of the Body of Christ.

Why don't we let God take care of the mistakes, mistreatments and wrongdoing of men? We should just diligently fulfill the personal ministries, the spiritual gifts, that God has given us to serve and edify the Body of Christ.

Two things pertinent to what we have discussed in this article would give me great pleasure to see:

  • I would love to see the "ministers" truly converted and fulfilling their personal ministries in love and humility.
  • At the first resurrection, when Jesus appears, I would love to see all of them, including Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong, with us as we "rise to meet Christ in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Wouldn't you?

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