Absolute Power Book Cover

 

~Chapter V~

"Stacking the Deck "

 

“But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are

convicted by the law as transgressors.”

 

—James 2:9 

      The scriptures make it clear that there is a great need for laborers in God’s work. His people are even admonished to pray that this need would be satisfied (Mt. 9:38; Lk. 10:2). Additionally, when writing to the evangelist Timothy, Paul said that “those who desire the office of a bishop desire a good work” (I Tm. 3:1). Unfortunately, this is not why an inordinately high number of men in the Church today seek out positions. In truth, scores of them are far less interested in “a good work” and far more interested in gaining the prestige they believe comes with being chosen as a leader of God’s people. One only has to look at the plethora of “splinters” to see this sad truth play out—with each group asserting that they are the rightful heir to preside over the Church Christ raised up through the apostles two thousand years ago. Add to that, the tragic fact that even within the past decade virtually hundreds of members have actively promoted their candidacy as deacons and elders in local congregations as well as leaders in startup fellowships. Consider just five examples.

 

Example I

 

Several years ago a long standing COG member privately expressed his frustration over not being ordained. For years multiple pastors had suggested to him that he was a possible candidate as an elder. However, it never got to the next step despite the fact that he had a long COG history and was a regular fixture on his congregation’s speaking schedule. Eventually, his frustration got the best of him and he resigned from his fellowship. Almost immediately he started his own group.

 

One of his first acts as leader was to conscript certain men in the congregation to investigate ordinations and the appropriateness of lay members conducting a formal selection of their leader. This, of course, would necessitate them laying hands on him. Predictably, the investigation concluded that the reason for him not being ordained by his prior fellowship was the result of Church politics or some other moral defect(s) on their part. After drawing this conclusion he was ordained.

 

Some however felt uncomfortable with the entire process and withdrew themselves from his group. In one of his first messages he chastised those who were suspicious of the legitimacy of his appointment. He accused them of treachery and a lack of discernment. Sadly, this once confident man had now become very insecure, nearly to the point of neurotic. In numerous meetings he would ask members. “Do you respect me?” Furthermore, if anyone voiced their disagreement, even on the smallest of issues, they were met with stern rebukes and accusations.

Example II

 

Several years ago a pastor for one of the major COG splinter groups was instructed by the head of his Church to ordain one of his members. The pastor indicated that he didn’t see a problem with his leader’s request, but would like to meet with the member regarding it. The leader responded, “You council with him all you want, just make sure he is ordained.” Shortly after that the pastor met with the member and informed him he was being considered for ordination. The first words from the member were, “It’s about time.” Although taken aback by this response the pastor complied with the directive of his leader and ordained the member a few weeks later.

Example III

 

Approximately ten years ago a long standing minister became very critical of hierarchical government in the Church. He was of the opinion that in virtually every case leaders who practiced this model were egotistical men with an insatiable appetite for power and control. Because many shared his view he always had a receptive audience for his message. A few years later he started yet another “splinter” in a long line of “splinters.” When creating bylaws for his group he argued that although the membership would be directly involved in decisions, he would have the final say in all doctrinal and administrative matters. In numerous messages he would reinforce this rule saying, “As long as I am the head of this Church this is how things will be done.”  Later, when questioned about his authoritative approach, the minister asserted that he had “Apostolic Authority” (his exact words) over the Church. Then, in a private moment he confided to a friend that he sincerely believed that he was the only COG leader capable of possessing absolute power over God’s people. Suffice it to say, he had come a long way from his days of assailing that kind of thinking.

         

Example IV

                  

Recently, a long standing member of one of the larger COG groups met with his pastor to express his displeasure at not being ordained an elder. During the meeting the member touted numerous contributions he had made to the congregation as a leader. His list was impressive to say the least and he felt he should be recognized for his years of service. When confiding in a friend about the meeting, the member stated that he informed the pastor that all the labor he put forth just “didn’t seem worth it.” He then advised him (the pastor) that although he loved the Church very much he was going to curtail his involvement in several activities. His pastor responded by acknowledging the member’s contribution to the congregation as well as to the greater Church. He referred to them as “admirable” and deserving of the recognition the member sought. One month later the member was ordained an elder.

 

The problem with the member’s approach was that he believed there was a “quid pro quo” (”this for that”) for his service, much the way a contract employee for a major corporation would. Thus, not being satisfied with his compensation structure, he negotiated a better deal and used a work stoppage as leverage in the negotiations. It is ironic that when being congratulated by a friend for his ordination the member (now elder) replied, “I guess the squeaky wheel really does get the grease.”  

Example V

 

Less than ten years ago a relatively new member was ordained as a deacon in a prominent COG fellowship. The member was always very deferential to other members and rarely, if ever, called them by their first name. However, on the very day of his ordination all that changed. When being congratulated by the congregation he began calling each one by their first name, including those thirty years his senior. He then insisted that the congregation refer to him as “mister” out of respect for his office (a deacon mind you). He was later ordained an elder and today is recognized as one of the most status conscience ministers in the Church as well as an expert at condescension.

                        

                                 

An Application of Acts 6

A few years ago one of the larger congregations of a very prominent COG was selecting members to serve on its advisory board. This body consisted of twelve members with six being replaced every year. Members were actually appointed by the congregation.

 

When explaining the process the pastor cited Acts 6 as the model being used. He even read the applicable section. After services he was approached by a member who asked the following question:

 

"If the congregation uses Acts 6 as a model for appointing board members why doesn’t it use the same model when selecting deacons?"

 

The pastor responded very candidly: “We would never surrender that kind of authority to lay members.”

 

The member, who was friends of numerous ministers in other COG groups, presented his question to them as well. Not surprisingly, he received the same answer. Some of them even suggested that the apostles in Acts relied on the judgment of members because of their familiarity with their fellow members. However, wouldn’t the same be the case today as well?

 

The conclusion the member drew from this was that the board was basically symbolic without any real substance while the office of a deacon or deaconess was just the opposite.

                      

         

Ministerial Qualifications

 

     So important is the shepherding of His people that God actually provided a very specific outline of qualification His ministers should possess (I Tm. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). Sadly, although these qualifications are read at virtually every ordination, those who are the recipients of this honor rarely meet the standard God has established for them. Even sadder is the indifference ordaining ministers seem to have for them. In truth, the overwhelming number of positions within the COG are dispensed like favors to friends. Consider what the scriptures express regarding what God expects from His ministry.

1) A bishop must be blameless: This is a state in which no reasonable accusation can be leveled against him. In other words, he must be of such high moral character that there is not even a suspicion of scandal in his life. For it to be any other way could bring shame on his ministry, not to mention God’s Church. Strong’s Concordance renders “blameless” as “[one who] cannot be called into account, unreproveable, unaccused.” Vines Expository Dictionary of the Bible describes it as follows:

  

"[One who] cannot be laid hold of," hence, "not open to censure, irreproachable." It goes on to define it as "without reproach, unrebukeable, and irreprehensible.”

 

An excellent example of this type of virtue was demonstrated by Billy Graham. Dr. Graham was so mindful of preserving the integrity of his ministry that he would NEVER ride alone in an elevator with a woman because to do otherwise could invite the potential suspicion of impropriety.

 

However, today, in the COG there are virtually scores of leaders exploiting their authority in order to indulge their appetite for a host of vices including: prostitution, adultery, drug addiction and even pedophilia to name just a few. One very prominent leader actually argued that God gave him special dispensation for soliciting sex because of “unique circumstances” in his life.

"Also among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing:

the committing of adultery and walking in falsehood; and they

strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one has

turned back from his wickedness . . ."

Jeremiah 23:14 NASB

Another pastor in a prominent fellowship had engaged in sex with a minor in his congregation. The threat of scandal was so great that the head of the Church approached the girl’s father and advised him that it was his duty to keep the matter quiet because of the potential harm in disclosing it. They also provided him with a substantial payment in consideration of his “discretion.”

 

But there is more.

 

Some of the most prominent figures in the Church have been arrested and even imprisoned for unspeakable crimes that stemmed from an abuse of power over people who trusted them. Tragically, the human toll is mind numbing and the scarred wreckage of lives that will never be the same, are simply dismissed in the name of preserving the Church.

               

                    

                         

A Moral Imperative

According to First Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, pastors must live by the highest standards of virtue. When giving this directive, the words, “must be” are presented with the force of a moral imperative. In short, they delineate, without exception, the moral qualifications which God requires of every man whom He deems fit for the office of pastor/elder/bishop.

A classic example in Scripture of a man who lived a blameless life is Daniel. When his opponents sought to discredit him by finding something in his life they could use to scandalize his name, they were unsuccessful (Daniel 6:4). Likewise, in the New Testament the standard “above reproach” is a designation conferred upon a man because he lives as God requires him in both his public and private life.

             

               

2) A bishop must be the husband of one wife: Everything about this pastoral requirement seems to leave little doubt concerning what the Lord requires of His shepherds. Simply put, they must exercise fidelity to their mate and the vows they made before God must never be compromised. In short, they are to be the husband of one wife; not having given a bill of divorce to one, and then taken another, or not having many wives at once.

Today however, some fellowships have significantly modified their view on this issue. As a result, practices that were once regarded as taboo are now accepted as “in keeping with the intent of scripture.” Divorce is far more common and even rules of courtship have been altered to conform to contemporary social norms and not God's word. Consider some examples reflecting these changes.

 

Example I

 

Several years ago a prominent member was involved in a divorce with his wife (also a member). He would later remarry. At some point his first wife also remarried. Both the member and the gentleman his first wife married (also a member) were respected in their congregations as men of caliber. They were even called on to give sermons. A few years later they were both ordained elders. The Church rationalized their decision by arguing that the Bible approves of divorce under certain circumstances. What they failed to explain was how the “circumstances” involving two converted men and their converted mates could be reconciled with the Messiah’s words calling it adultery (Mt. 19:9). Now imagine fellow members hearing Paul’s words to Timothy being read as they witness hands being laid on these gentlemen.

When the apostle identified this pastoral requirement he was endeavoring to protect the Church from accusations that can sully its reputation. The fact of the matter is that these men should have recused themselves from consideration.

 

This is not to suggest that they couldn’t serve in other capacities of a non-ministerial nature. However, Paul’s words seem to make God’s will clear on this.

                     

Example II

 

Just a few years ago a member of a small, but respected fellowship, approached its director and inquired about marrying outside the Church. He informed him that for nearly a year he had been dating a young lady he had met at his job and it had now gotten serious. He informed his pastor that although the lady was not at all interested in getting involved in the Church, she did respect his faith and that neither of them believed it would pose a problem. After counselling with both of them, his pastor agreed and offered his blessing on the marriage. He defended his position on the grounds that it was better to “marry than to burn” (1 Cor. 7:9). He then claimed the issue was an administrative decision involving Church policy not biblical doctrine.

 

What he failed to explain was how his decision could be reconciled with Paul’s admonition to not become unequally yoked together with unbelievers (II Cor. 6:14). Nor did he explain God’s mandate to the children of Israel to NEVER marry those of other faiths and the tragic consequences for doing so (Dt. 7:1-5). Additionally, he apparently never asked the member how someone who claims that God is first in his life would ever join himself together with someone who is indifferent towards Him. Come to think of it, why would this pastor draw the same conclusion?

Example III

 

A few years ago the director of a respected COG splinter was married to a woman with a limited understanding of the Church. He had met her on the internet and they really had a connection. She had never been associated with any COG at the time. However, she was smart, pleasant and possessed a manner that was peaceable. After several months she was baptized and plans were made for a wedding.

 

Initially, they appeared to be well suited for each other and happy. Additionally, his co-director was very supportive of the relationship and encouraged the marriage. He even composed a song used during the ceremony. However, there was an elephant in the room that everyone seemed to ignore. Furthermore, this elephant bears directly on Paul’s instructions to Timothy.

 

The Husband of One Wife

 

This was the fifth marriage for the pastor with the previous three (numbers 2, 3 & 4) ending very acrimoniously. Little is known of his first marriage other than it occurred prior to his entrance into the WCG. The last years of his second marriage were massively contentious and actually led him to resign his pastorate from a very prominent splinter group. So painful was this chapter in his life that he confided with close friends about the absolute horrors he experienced during it. Sadly, his third marriage brought him equal pain. This one lasted less than two years and ended with his then estranged wife dying a tragic death.

 

His fourth wife was met on-line. After a few months he invited her to attend the Feast of Tabernacles. She accepted, as did two other ladies. Throughout the feast he juggled dates with multiple women who all thought they were being courted. To virtually no one’s surprise, he chose the prettiest one, despite warnings from friends to stop the madness. Unfortunately, his co-director offered his unqualified support and even participated in her baptism at the conclusion of services on the Last Great Day. Within two years the marriage was in shambles, so much so that he moved out of their home. He never returned. His wife became so embittered that she began contacting members telling them how evil their pastor was.

 

Weighing the fruit

 

In the wake of this tragic history, the pastor has been the target of numerous accusations by leaders and members of various groups. Even more tragic is the fact that he genuinely loves God and wants to do right. However, he has a HUGE blind spot in this aspect of his life and to date seems content to maintain his pastorate.

 

When Paul identified the qualifications of a bishop, his intent was not to lord it over ministerial candidates. His desire was to preserve the integrity of his Father’s spiritual house. Regrettably, all too many believe they are too valuable to their ministry to follow the clear injunction in scripture.

 

3) A bishop must be vigilant, sober and of good behavior: Here, God’s apostle is identifying qualities of personal character such as self-control which must be exercised over ones actions as well as their speech. It is also reflected in the exercise of moderation (temperance) in the things one consumes (food and drink). Therefore, a bishop must not be a person of excess. The point Paul is making is that in order to truly bring honor to the Church, a bishop must reflect modesty, prudence and sound judgment (maturity and wisdom) drawing deference and respect from those within as well as those outside the faith.

 

This now brings us to the question of the day. How many COG leaders satisfy these requirements? How many guard their tongue, or, are genuinely disciplined. How many truly see their responsibilities as a sacred trust to be taken seriously (sober minded) To be sure, there are some, but their numbers are small. Today all to many see their position as a reflection of God’s favor as opposed to His challenge for them to bring greatness to His service.

 

4) A bishop must be given to hospitality: This is a quality that can prove very useful to a pastor and his ministry. Unfortunately, it is not as common as some may think. The point Paul was making is that it is not good enough to be hospitable to friends but also to strangers. Furthermore, a bishop should actually derive pleasure from sharing his home with others, especially within the household of faith. Sadly, this has become a far more infrequent practice in the COG today. Many pastors have actually drawn a line between their home and the brethren. One leading minister in a very prominent fellowship spoke with pride when explaining why he only hosted ordained members and congregational leaders in his home. According to him, his home “was his sanctuary.”  It is hard to imagine the minister who ordained this pastor ever being impressed by his warmth and hospitality. And for those who think this is just an isolated case ask yourself this: when was the last time you were invited to your pastor’s home?

“When thou make a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends,

nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou salt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou salt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”

 

Jesus Christ

 

5) A bishop must be apt to teach: In the very early years of his ministry, Herbert W Armstrong recognized a great need for a highly skilled ministry capable of expounding scripture, laying bare the truth and refuting error. He was also acutely aware that knowledge wasn’t enough to satisfy this need—skill in oratory would also prove to be invaluable. To this end, Mr. Armstrong founded Ambassador College as an academy of learning that would provide potential ministers with a unique wisdom in God’s word. Within that framework he also established a vehicle to build strong public speakers capable of delivering a message with power and force. This was accomplished via speaking clubs and various speech and homiletics classes. His endeavor bore significant fruit—as a result the Church had cultivated a talented portfolio of ministerial candidates. For years God’s people reaped the benefits of their skill.

However, after the passing of Mr. Armstrong things began to change. Not only had long held beliefs been watered down but so had the high standards he insisted on from those who preached. The result was subtle at first with messages being given by men who were simply not grounded in the truth. In short, novices became the experts. Additionally, godly passion became regarded as extreme and was replaced with intellectual pontificating. Furthermore, rules for sermon preparation actually discouraged thoughtful research and now required that speakers rely more on spontaneity. In the wake of these changes a host of ideas flooded the Church under the guise of “NEW TRUTH.”

“God’s word instructs us to not cast our pearls before swine. Sadly,today many COG ministers are casting

pig slop before God’s pearls.”

 

COG Minister

Name withheld

Today, the caliber of messages in God’s Church is significantly inferior when compared to those offered just a few decades ago. As a result, the spiritual meals presented to God’s children are often laced with rants attacking other groups or, even worse, their own members. Sadly, those with more biblical themes are all too often poorly prepared, poorly constructed, and poorly delivered, leaving congregations bewildered as opposed to inspired.

Refusing Engagement

 

Even worse is that in the vast majority of cases members who dare to question a point are often treated like trouble makers. The sad truth is that in all too many cases God’s servants simply don’t have an appetite for engaging in serious discussions concerning the issues of life. This is especially disappointing when one great responsibility of a teacher is to inspire a sense of curiosity and wonder not stifle it.

    

 

"Who Made the Tongue?"

                    

Several years ago a high ranking leader in a very prominent fellowship gave a message totally dismissing the value of speaking skills to the ministry. This gentleman had a reputation for giving messages that seemed to ramble aimlessly—and although highly educated he never seemed prepared. It is clear that his sermon was intended to deflect widespread discontent in his congregation at the caliber of his teaching. He actually chastised his members for their frustration, accusing them of being immature Christians seeking to be entertained instead of fed.

 

At one point he asserted that God actually informed Moses that being a compelling speaker was irrelevant when leading His people and going before pharaoh.  However, this is not what God said at all. When Moses appealed to the Almighty to appoint another to lead the Israelites on the grounds that he was “slow of speech, and of a slow tongue”, God reminded him that He (God) was the creator of the tongue and as such could make Moses the greatest orator in history (Ex. 4: 10-11).

                

              

6) A bishop must not be self-willed: Self-will is a reflection of arrogance and is a mortal enemy to member and minister alike. Paul saw ego as a genuine threat to the Church and made it clear that leaders should guard against it. One of the manifestations of this behavior can be seen in the emergence of numerous new doctrines being introduced to the body of Christ. The problem is that although such ideas may have some merit, those who disagree should be invited to do so and not treated like godless heretics.

7) A bishop must not be prone to anger, nor a brawler, nor a striker: Here, Paul is instructing COG leaders to not be easily provoked to emotional responses. Furthermore, they should never be contentious, looking for a fight. Some have rendered this attitude as irascible, pugnacious, quarrelsome, truculent and even belligerent. Furthermore, this approach applies to speech as well as behavior. In other words, even when correcting members ones words should never be cruel, but rather filled with hope. The point here is to never try to wound with the tongue—for how shall men teach others to govern their tongues who cannot do the same?

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God.”

—James 1: 19-20

             

8) A bishop must not be given to wine: Paul’s words are not a prohibition against drinking but rather an indictment against excess. The Arabic version renders it, "not insolent through wine." Furthermore, the enduring moral principle concerning this requirement applies to all addicting products. With that said, substance abuse has become one of the defining problems facing the Church today. One particular leader actually confided that it was a regular practice of his wife to frequent bars until the early hours of the morning. It was a source of contention between the two but a well-guarded secret.

               

A second example involved one of the premier leaders in the COG. Furthermore, it required him being arrested after police found him passed out behind the wheel of his automobile and unable to stand without wobbling. He also failed three field sobriety tests. Additionally this leader attempted to buy his way out of a ticket (he literally offered money to the arresting officer if he would just forget the whole thing). The horror of this story painfully illustrates why Paul identified pastoral intoxication as a threat to the faith and grounds for expulsion from the ministry. In truth this bishop attempted to extricate himself from a problem by enticing a law enforcement officer into violating his oath of office. This particular episode in the leader’s life still dogs him with endless accusations from enemies of his group.

      

9) A bishop must not be covetous or greedy of filthy lucre: Several years ago a very prominent leader of an evangelical Church was conducting a revival type meeting at a large convention center. During each service a collection was taken yielding huge sums of money. During an intermission between services the leader was relaxing with some key men in his organization. At one point he brought up the collection that was taken. However, unbeknownst to him his words were overheard by a secretary. According to her the leader said, “How much did these suckers give us today?" Of course he denied ever saying it. Fortunately, others in the room confirmed that this was typical of him. The leader was eventually removed for other improprieties and his ministry never recovered.

“If God’s leaders could learn only one thing it should

be that their calling is not to a life of privilege

but to one of service.”

 

Long standing COG member

Name withheld

                   

It is hard to imagine anyone who claims to be a Christian ever treating his flock with such contempt, unfortunately all too many do. Even more tragic is the fact that within the COG some leaders have demonstrated an insatiable appetite for their own financial wellbeing. Consider just a few examples.

Example I

 

One leader of a very prominent COG group confided that his primary responsibility as the head of his organization is to “generate income and get rid of high maintenance members.” According to him, the job of members is “to support the Church not the other way around.” Additionally, this leader openly chastised members for failing to financially support his ministry in a way that would accommodate his aspirations for expansion. He even suggested that they liquidate high value assets such as 401K’s, pensions and real estate “for the work’s sake.” Mind you, this is an organization in which he possesses absolute control over the management of all its assets.

Example II

 

One leader of a highly respected splinter made numerous capital expenditures of items such a cameras, televisions, and other electronics, with Church funds. He justified it as necessary because it enabled him to produce presentations for the work. Although no one would confront him on it almost every leader in his group whispered about how he would flaunt his new acquisitions to non-Church friends.

                

  Example III

                

One of the most glaring examples of COG pastors compromising themselves over money began shortly after the death of Herbert W Armstrong. When the great truths he proclaimed began to be dismantled, pastors throughout the Church became paralyzed with fear and simply clung to their paycheck, pension or anything else that would sustain them. Some were even honest enough to admit that they remained because they had no other place to go. These were the same ministers that exhorted their flocks to be willing to give up their jobs over the Sabbath. Then when they were pressed into duty they stood down without a whimper.

              

"The heads thereof judge for reward,

and the priests thereof teach for hire,

and the prophets thereof divine for money:

yet will they lean upon the LORD,

 and say, Is not the LORD among us?

none evil can come upon us.”

Micah 3:11

                

Even worse were high ranking WCG executives who completely abandoned God’s truth and embraced a lie. One particular gentleman (an evangelist) actually wrote an article extolling the virtues of Christmas. Although he once condemned this pagan holiday he now argues that God respects it. Today this man commands a six digit salary and is regarded as one of the highest ranked leaders of the Church. Unfortunately, although compelling as a speaker and intellect he doesn’t possess an ounce of courage and there is little doubt that if the WCG changed their position, he would too. This is because he is very mindful of who butters his bread and his loyalty is to a purse, not a principle

                                   

10) A bishop must be patient: In many ways a pastor assumes the role of father to his congregants. In that respect it is incumbent upon him to appreciate their weaknesses and comfort them in their distresses. This is impossible to do this without patience and Christian forbearance. Those who demonstrate this quality are able to endure wrong and accept injustice without giving into anger. They do not seek to retaliate and are even gentle in their reproof. As a parent is not to provoke a child to anger (Eph. 6:4, Col. 3:21) a pastor should never try to push the buttons of God’s children. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

11) A bishop must rule well his own house: In this particular requirement Paul provides one example of how this is done, having his children in subjection with all gravity.” He then explains why this quality is so important, “For if a man doesn't know how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God?”

One would think that the strength of Paul’s moral imperative would make any Church carefully evaluate those considered for ordination. Tragically, this is not the case at all. The sad truth is that there are countless examples of how this apostolic injunction goes completely ignored by COGs everywhere. Consider the following:

Example I

 

Several years ago a senior pastor of one of the leading COG splinters invited a family in his congregation to share a Sabbath dinner with him and his wife. The pastor was a very kind man and genuinely considerate of his flock. By all appearances he was a man of discipline—one that ruled his house. Unfortunately, that impression was about to come crashing down. While the women were in the kitchen preparing the meal the men were in the den talking “guy stuff.” During dinner the pastor spoke about various issues in the Church such as plans for the feast and its growth. It all seemed so normal. However, at some point his wife began interrupting him incessantly. This continued to the point of making their guests feel uncomfortable. The interruptions became so disrespectful that the pastor eventually chastised her for it. From there it just got worse—voice levels became controlled screams and the members were thoroughly embarrassed.

When they went home that evening the member's wife remarked at how disrespectful the pastor's wife was while they were in the kitchen preparing dinner. She characterized her words as filled with contempt for their minister (her husband).

Sometime after that the pastor met privately with the member and confessed that his marriage was a disaster. At one point he indicated that they fought every week while driving to services (a one hour trip).  According to the pastor it was a living hell, with his wife emasculating him with profanity laced rants including vulgarities a truck driver wouldn’t use. When they finally arrived at services they would put on their “church faces” and resume the role of respectability. Although now divorced this pastor serves as a leader of a prominent COG splinter.

 

Example II

 

Several years ago a large COG congregation was conducting an ordination service in which three men were being made deacons. The men were dedicated servants to the congregation. Unfortunately, they were totally absent when it came to their own families. Of their combined ten children only one remained in the Church. The rest left home to shattered lives while still teenagers. Even the marriages of these men were disintegrating. Amazingly, all of this was taking place in plain view of fellow members. Furthermore, the ordaining pastor was thoroughly aware of the home life of the men he decided to lay hands on. The real tragedy in this decision is that he deprived his congregation of leaders committed to setting good examples of scriptural leadership. Today all three men experienced bitter divorces and only one remains in the Church.

Example III

 

Several years ago two leading members of a prominent COG were meeting to discuss issue pertaining to their congregation. They were well established in the faith and highly respected by their pastor. During the meeting, which was held at one of their homes, the teenage son of the member arrived prompting his father to ask where he had been. The son became very defensive at the question and suggested that it was none of his father’s business. At this point the father asked, “What’s wrong?” It seemed like a perfectly normal question but the response was anything but normal. His son launched into a tirade accusing his father of being a loser. He then ordered him to stay out of his room. When he finished he left leaving his father and his guest alone. Furthermore, the father had been thoroughly disgraced in the presence of a friend. After a lengthy silence the father attempted to explain the total absence of correction. He quietly said, “He’s my son.” In truth his son had a reputation for being hostile toward the Church and his parents. In a very real sense his father was actually intimidated by him. However, less than a month later he was ordained a deacon.

12) A bishop must not be a novice: This particular requirement is presented with a specific warning attached to it: “lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” The concern is that because an elder enjoys the dignity of his office he can become lifted up in his own eyes because he sees himself as one worthy of that honor. In the Church today this truth is a painful reality. Here is one example: Several years ago a newly ordained elder became very agitated at a long standing member because the member questioned the wisdom of his ordination. In the confrontation the elder asserted that he deserved to be selected for his position and criticized the member for not being able to see that. The member, several years his senior, offered this bit of wisdom: “The fact that you would fight so hard to convince someone that you deserve this honor suggests that even you have doubts about it.”

                         

A Lesson From the Past

             

A lesson that seems to be so foreign to the leaders of God’s people is the primary criteria He employs when selecting them. Here is how it was described to King Saul.

When you were little in your own sight, were you not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed you king over Israel? (1Sam. 15:16-17)

Unfortunately, Saul forgot the lesson and the result was catastrophic.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king. (1Sam. 15:23)

This is how Christ, as the true head of the Church will deal with pride that goes unchecked. He knows all too well where such an attitude can lead and how destructive it can be to his children.

                   

                     

13) A bishop must be of good report of them which are without: This particular requirement is probably ignored more when considering candidates for leadership positions in the Church than any other. In the corporate world it is one that is taken very seriously. Not only are executives vetted prior to being hired but also prior to being promoted. Included in this process are criminal background checks, credit assessments and comprehensive interviews with both coworkers and those outside the company such as neighbors, philanthropic organizations they are associated with, and even Church affiliates. Those who undertake this process view candidates as a HUGE investment—one in which they expect a return. In God’s Church it should be no different and Paul makes that point very clear. Unfortunately it is one that is almost always ignored. For example:

A Horrible Report

 

Several years ago a relatively new member was ordained an elder in a respected COG splinter. What was surprising was the fact the he was well known for his activities outside the Church by other members. The reports were horrible—so much so that an unauthorized investigation was conducted with the results reflecting a pattern of behavior totally unbecoming a leader in God’s service. Two past employer indicated they would never consider him for future employment on the grounds that he couldn’t work under authority, especially that of women. Additionally, he would repeatedly create unauthorized procedures and defend them on the grounds that the others were “stupid.” Both employers actually expressed mild shock that someone like him would ever be a Church pastor.

 

“What if the Church conducted background checks on all ministerial candidates? How many of them would withdraw their name from consideration?”

 

Long standing COG Member

Name Withheld

 

Coworkers were equally surprised that he would ever be considered for such a position referring to him as “an acquired taste.” They described him as "self-willed," "independent" and "argumentative." Later comments revealed that he was rarely invited to participate in recreational activities outside of work because of his negativity. These are things that would have been easy to discover. Unfortunately, no one bothered to look, although the ordaining minister eloquently read from First Timothy prior to laying hands on the elder.

         

              

Then & Now

                      

“God’s Church has undergone significant changes since its early days under the leadership of Herbert W Armstrong. Not only were its people more passionate about the work but they were more passionate about each other.

Today, in the scattered world of God’s Church most people fend for themselves and deacons are not selected to serve the brethren (Acts 6) but rather serve the needs of the pastor. Even their ordinations are, more often than not, seen as a reward for loyalty to a minister as opposed to being a faithful servant to their brethren.”

Name Withheld

 
 
 

Chapter VI

"Bullies at the Pulpit"

 

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