What Should We Do? Where Should We Go?
We frequently receive letters asking us questions such as: "Where do you hold Sabbath services?" or "Where do you go for the Feast?" or "With whom do you fellowship?" or even "Why are you doing what you are doing because you are not a minister?" We have been challenged many times for what we are doing. Here are answers to these questions.
After being a member of the . . . [organization] since 1968 I must say I don’t understand your independent stand. Maybe you could help me with that. Where do you hold Sabbath services? Are there any near me? . . . I don’t know where else to go . . . . Would it be possible to have a Giving & Sharing mail order bookstore in my area?
Another person asked, What do you plan for the feast this year? While I seriously considered dropping out of the . . . [organization] earlier in the year or figured that I might be put out for opposing the D&R teaching, I am too thoroughly steeped in the ideas of ‘where do you go’, ‘where do you pay your tithes’, ‘with whom do you fellowship’, ‘where will you keep the feasts?’ etc. . . . Until things begin to clarify a little we will ‘hang in there’.
Answers to These Questions
We generally keep the Sabbath at home with our family, having a family Bible Study and Bible reading time. As the opportunity presents itself, we fellowship with others around the country who have similar beliefs. In recent years, once in a while we have attended Sabbath services with various organized Sabbath-keeping Churches of God, such as the Church of God, Seventh Day. Each year we keep the Feast of Tabernacles, and other Holy Days if possible, with a few other believers. We enjoy listening to cassette tapes sent out by various ministers. This may sound like a meager diet of spiritual fellowship. It is.
Giving & Sharing is NOT a tax dodge, some kind of guilt release mechanism, or a liberal, do-gooder organization trying to make the world a better place. Giving & Sharing’s purpose is: (1) to distribute Bibles and religious books and articles to Sabbath- keepers at the lowest possible cost, and, (2) to promote the observance of Biblical doctrines: Bible Sabbath, Bible Holy Days, Biblical Law, Tithing, reliance upon the Almighty for Healing, observance of Bible Laws of Health, including abstaining from Unclean Meats, non-observance of man-made holidays of pagan origins, promotion of the sanctity of marriage, and opposition to divorce and other sexual perversion.
Giving & Sharing is a tax-exempt religious organization, but not a Church. Besides myself, others direct Giving & Sharing activities such as writing and reviewing articles. Contributions (above the suggested donation for books) are welcome, though not solicited. Not a cent of contributions pays for salaries or personal expenses.
If I knew of an organized church body that was faithfully teaching essential Biblical doctrines, I would join forces with them and Giving & Sharing would be unnecessary or auxiliary. We appreciate some of the work of other organizations, and read a variety of church literature that is often very helpful. We often recommend material from other groups, and seek to co-operate with others as much as possible.
Facing Tough Questions
I was put out of the Worldwide Church of God in 1975 because I opposed Divorce and Remarriage for any reason, as the Church continuously taught until it changed its doctrine in 1974. I do not agree with other doctrinal changes instituted at about this time, such as Sunday Pentecost and a watering down of the Sabbath, Healing, Tithing, etc. For a couple of years, I was part of another organization, Church of God, The Eternal, composed of ex-Worldwide Church of God people. The purpose of this new group was to continue to hold fast to the essential doctrines. When I discovered the new organization’s leadership was following in the footsteps of the former organization, a separation became necessary.
People want a "life raft" when they are contemplating the abandonment of an organizational "ship." We do not encourage anyone to leave an organization. They must make that decision for themselves. A hasty decision made for the wrong reasons could be damaging to their eternal life. Many people become lost apart from an organized church. They could not continue keeping the Sabbath, and promoting Biblical truths in their family and others. It is not easy.
We wish that we had thousands of brethren to fellowship with, "like the good old days." In every case, God made it perfectly clear to us what we should do.
I recall vividly the last Feast of Tabernacles we observed in the Worldwide Church of God, at Squaw Valley, California, 1974. As I looked at the thousands of people, I wondered how it could have happened. A year earlier, many would have died rather than been unfaithful to their true mate for life. Now, most of these people had totally changed their thinking, responding lock step with the leadership’s doctrinal changes. As I put my check in the Holy Day offering plate, I was cut to the quick. I didn’t know what to do. I had personally witnessed gross financial corruption of the Almighty’s Holy Tithes by this Church organization. Most of those who were leaving the Church at that time were throwing out all Bible truth, so there was no place to go. There was much good being done by this organization, much truth still being proclaimed, in spite of its imperfections. I prayed that God would use my little offering for His Holy purpose. Thankfully, the Eternal in His mercy brought the situation to a head a few months later. It was not my choice to leave the Worldwide Church of God. It was His.
My conscience would not allow me to actively support a church organization that teaches against major Biblical truths. I could overlook minor issues, but I had to decide which ones were major.
In my History of the Seventh Day Church of God, I wrote a statement that I did not know would apply to myself. In analyzing reasons for the decline in the power and numbers of the Church of God, Seventh Day in the United States, I pointed to corrupt leadership. Then I said, "Individual hypocrisy has not been absent from the Church either. Many continue to believe in Feast Days, Anglo-Israelism and other doctrines yet continue to be a part of a Church which publishes articles against these beliefs."
I was a hypocrite. As long as I stayed there, I would have to passively keep my differences to myself. I couldn’t be a zealous supporter of the organization. I either had to convince them that they were wrong, or they would have to convince me that I was wrong. Often I asked myself, "Why do I feel that I am right and everyone else wrong?" I was driven to my knees beseeching God to correct and lead me. Many others agreed with me, but were passive and silent.
I understand the feelings of those who disagree vehemently against their own organization, yet mute their feelings and "hang in there." Each person should be fully persuaded in his own mind, Romans 14:5.
The Big Questions
These questions about "where can we go?" are only secondary questions. The Biblical question is "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life," John 6:66-69. The true, dedicated believer recognizes that organizations are humanly devised institutions, of themselves neither good nor bad. If the church leadership teaches gross error on major issues, and will not repent, and/or operates in a sinful manner, then don’t wait to be put out. Leave at once. Words of eternal life do not come from a corrupt minister.
Why do you tithe? Is it to get an income tax deduction, or to do the work of spreading the Gospel? Would you continue to keep the Sabbath, and other Bible truths, even if you were the only one left on the face of the earth who was so doing? Do you attend Sabbath services or annual Feasts just for fellowship, or because of the spiritual nourishment? Isn’t it wrong for you be part of a church organization with which you disagree on major teachings?
The man who wanted to start a Giving & Sharing bookstore probably didn’t know what he was asking. Does he want to volunteer 15-25 hours a week, year around, plus thousands of dollars of tithes to fund the work? If so, there is certainly a wide-open field ready to harvest. It requires work.
The big question is: "What are we going to do?" Are we going to give God’s tithes to someone with whom we disagree? OR, are we going to have a direct part in preserving and perpetuating the sacred truths which we have received through others?
"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," Matthew 6:21. Be either hot or cold. Don’t be lukewarm.
"Life Raft" Available
We as individuals have a deep moral responsibility to help others, to pull them out of the fire, when they can be helped, Jude 22-23. We ourselves need help from the One that is "able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy," Jude 24. Here is the only true life raft.
If you want someone to lean on, we are glad to help or refer you to someone who can help. Today’s prevalent spiritual sickness is lukewarmness. People do not care for others. They are rich and increased with goods, both spiritual and physical, and say they don’t need help from anyone. We need each other. We must, as Benjamin Franklin said, all hang together, or we will all hang separately.
Don’t Participate in Error
An Australian reader stated, Some years ago I left the Worldwide Church not because of personal grudges . . . but because of changes in doctrine. I did over the years while attending the Church prove their doctrines, not once, but three times. Because of changes in doctrine I felt that I would neither support nor attend the church anymore, based upon the following scriptures (Deut. 4:2; Deut. 12:32; Prov. 30:5-6; Rev. 22:18-19). I firmly believe that if one participates in error, knowingly, one is just as responsible as the person who introduces that error.
Merely not participating in error is not good enough. One must actively promote the Truth, or he will lose what Truth he has.
Responding to Attacks
Some questions are personal attacks, such as these:
The G&S mailing list is an evangelistic activity, going to unconverted people.
This is not true, as we serve Sabbath-keepers, and none of our materials are geared to evangelism, converting the unconverted. The purpose of G&S material is to strengthen the converted in basic fundamental doctrines such as Sabbath, Holy Days, Marriage, Tithing, Health and Healing. However, if some of our material does go to the unconverted, and they accept God’s Truth, what is wrong with that?
When God wants an activity performed, He ordains a servant to do it. If that servant fails, God is responsible to replace him. We can’t just take an office that we think should be filled.
God has performed much work through non-ordained servants, even women. An example is Aquilla and Priscilla. There are many periods of history where there have been few, if any, ordained servants of God. Nevertheless, the Church has continued as Jesus said it would.
There are many offices in the Church, Ephesians 4:11, I Corinthians 12, such as helps, governments [Amplified Bible: "administrators"] and diversities of tongues. There is no indication that all these offices in the Church are ordained, nor are they all held by men! Romans 16:1-2 tells of the minister Phebe, a woman, of the Church at Cenchrea. The word translated "servant" is Strong’s #1249, diakonos, usually translated minister. It means servant or minister, which is the same thing. Not all servants, diakonos, or the diakonia (ministry), are ordained, and not all are men! This fact in no way contradicts Biblical instructions that women are not to be in ordained teaching roles usurping ordained male elders.
Here are the usages of these related words:
Women serving the church: Martha, Luke 10:40; Phebe, Romans 16:1-2. Table servers, i.e., "deacons": Acts 6:1-2; I Timothy 3:8-13; Philippians 1:1. Evangelists: Timothy, Acts 19:22; I Thessalonians 3:2; I Timothy 4:6; II Timothy 4:1-5. Apostles such as Paul, Acts 12:25, 20:24, 21:19; Romans 11:13; I Corinthians 3:5; II Corinthians 3:6, 6:4; Colossians 1:23, 25; Ephesians 3:7; I Timothy 1:12. Matthias, Acts 1:17, 25-26. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers do the work of the ministry: Ephesians 4:11-15. Christ: Romans 15:8; Galatians 2:17. Prophets: I Peter 1:10-12. False Ministers: II Corinthians 11:15, 23. Other individuals in the church: Tychicus, Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; Epaphras, Colossians 1:7; Archippus, Colossians 4:17; House of Onesiphorus, II Timothy 1:16-18; Philemon, Philemon 13. Angels: Hebrews 1:14. House servants, servants of the king: John 2:5, 9; Matthew 22:13. Civil rulers: Romans 13:4. What Christ wants us all to be: Matthew 20:26, 23:11; Mark 9:35, 10:43; John 12:26. The work of the church in general: Acts 6:4; I Corinthians 16:15; II Corinthians 4:1, 5:18, 6:3, 8:4, 9:1; II Timothy 4:11; Hebrews 6:10; I Peter 4:10-11; Revelation 2:19. Charitable aid to the church: Acts 11:29; Romans 15:3, 25; II Corinthians 9:12-13, 11:8.
Each "ministry" is a unique gift of the Holy Spirit, Romans 12:6-9. There are differences of "administrations," i.e., diakonia, ministries, and they are not all the same, I Corinthians 12:5-13.
The scriptures indicate this last time is not to be a growth period.
This is an attempt to justify doing nothing, until God raises up a faithful minister. Put your tithes in the bank, don’t share your beliefs with others, and "wait on the LORD."
The true Church will be a little flock, Luke 12:32. When the Messiah returns, will He find the faith on the earth? See Luke 18:8. Yet, "the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many," Daniel 11:32-33. "Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when He cometh shall find so doing," Matthew 24:46. Doing nothing is going to result in losing all you have, Matthew 25:14-30.
Writing articles is in the same category as preaching, on a tape or in person. You do them very well, but they need to be issued under the authority of an elder, as people did in WCG.
Is it wrong for a non-rdained person to independently publish religious articles? The Bible is not specific. However, if there were a faithful ordained minister, I would join forces with him.
I have not found Biblical justification for the Giving & Sharing program, and your role of coordinator of its ministerial functioning . . . . On 2 occasions you have admitted to me the program is a ministry. You also could not have non-profit status unless it was a ministry by IRS statutes.
We have consistently stated that G&S IS a ministry, and I am not an ordained minister. There is no contradiction in these statements! Psychologist Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family leads a large ministry, yet openly admits he is not an ordained minister, and that his work is not a church. G&S operates like he does. Dobson distributes books and material for suggested donations.
The Thyatira Church during the Middle Ages was commended for works of charity and ministry (service, diakonia). "Men, women and children made it their business to learn a little more each day, according to each person’s ability. They ‘declared themselves to be resolved, with the Lord’s help, to embrace, so far as their minds were capable of bearing it, the truth of Christ and of His bride . . . . If to any man more knowledge of the truth was given, then, they more humbly desired to be taught by him, and to be corrected of their mistakes’ (Neander’s Church History, vol. 8, quoted from Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 51, page 10)."
Every member of the Church has a definite part of the work of the ministry.W
This article was originally published as Bible Study No. 107.