We’re thinking of you

I have mentally debated posting anything on this for a long time, but today one side has finally won out over the other.  (Though the other side might stage a coup and remove this post–messy battles, these things can be!)

It is an unwritten part of my self-enforced policy here on my blog not to write anything concerning other “Church of God” groups.  I’ve been planning a “Q & A” page for this blog for some time, and that might be a good place for elaborating on those reasons, though I will pass on that at this time.

But at the same time (and please forgive my vagueness), I know enough people who are hurting, questioning, and confused at this particular time in a particular organization and trying to decide what to do that I feel stirred to say something, if only out of concern for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ I care for, and I know that some of you going through that trial read this blog on occasion. I won’t go into detail about why I think the difficulty has arisen, or even state my opinions here at all. It’s not that I don’t have strong beliefs about it–of course, I do. It’s just that I think those of you out there have enough self-appointed “teachers” volunteering their unrequested opinions and “analysis,” that I don’t see how adding my little voice to the cacophonous chorus currently yelling at you would be helpful to you at all, let alone welcome. Sometimes a conversation over a cup of coffee really is better than a “conversation” with a bullhorn, and the internet–in even the most cozy of forums–is about as “bullhorn” as you can get. (Admittedly, I would order a Dr Pepper instead of a coffee, but you probably get my point.)

Rather, to those of you in the middle of all of this stuff I simply want to say that I know what you are going through is hard and many people I know are praying for you.  So, in those moments when you are on your knees in prayer, trying to make sense of everything and looking to Him to guide you, I just want you to know that there are many who are praying alongside you in spirit.

It might seem odd that I would post just to say that–in fact, it might even sound self-serving, and, if so, I apologize, since I sure don’t mean it that way.  I just know how much it always means to me to hear someone tell me that they are praying for the telecast–more than I can communicate in words, I imagine–and as I reflect on that it tells me that this might be an opportunity I have to similarly encourage many of you who are going through this circumstance.

Thanks, and have a wonderful Sabbath.

23 thoughts on “We’re thinking of you

  1. author

    Perhaps the day will come when leaders of the United States will accuse presenters of the Tomorrow’s World telecast who are obeying the spirit of Isaiah 58:1, Ezekiel 3:16-21, 33:1-11, and Proverbs 24:11-12 of being self-appointed “teachers” volunteering their unrequested opinions and “analysis” of what is wrong in this country and where we are headed.

  2. Robert A Holman

    Mr. Smith,

    Thank you for showing what a true christian concern should be.
    Of all the “digi-babble” observed over this issue, yours is the 1st
    of a nurturing spirit I have witnessed.
    The 1st, but hopefully not the only.

  3. Zono Riggs

    Thank you for making such a positive statment concerning the circumstances of our brethren. There are many of us who feel their pain and are beseeching God to lead them through this confusion. Satan is attacking God’s people from all sides.

  4. Summer

    I always appreciate your comments. It seems like people would rather point fingers and put down than to pray for guidance, unity and comfort. Which is sad.

  5. Thanks for your perspective Mr. Smith,

    You have much of the Christ-like loving-kindness Mr. Ogwyn had (Prov 19:22).

    Keep up the good Work!


  6. barbiesan256

    Thank you Mr Smith for your caring and concerned attitude. Some have appointed themselves reporter of the problems of other church groups which in my personal view does not promote good will to the brethen in those groups.I appreciate the diplomatic way you stated your concern

  7. john bunnell

    man you are a long winded say nothing kind of a guy…. i won’t say this ,,, i can’t say that,,, [comment deleted] and say something!!!! you all do that… you just seem lukewarm when you slide around the issues the way you do… act like a man and say what needs to be said!!! like i said…. [comment deleted]!!!!!

  8. Alex

    Dittos to Mr. Holman…

    I too was somewhat struck by the concern for those affected in place of ‘I told you so’… I can’t say that your expression was jumped to my mind – the arguements and differences ought to be clearly defined by now … support and encouragement are indeed called for.

  9. Greetings, Mr. Bunnell. I will endeavor to be more charitable to you than you have been to me… First, when someone already knows where I stand on an issue, I don’t feel the need to constantly bring it up to them. Secondly, what you call “lukewarm” I call applying Proverbs 29:11 and Ecclesiastes 3. (While you’re looking those up, read Colossians 3:8 before you post another comment, my friend.) Secondly, I never said, “I can’t say that.” Thirdly, I’m sorry you think “I’m praying for you” is equivalent to “say[ing] nothing.” And finally, you’re right, I am long winded, as this comment demonstrates. Tell you what: while you’re looking up the verses I gave you, I’ll read and meditate on Ecc. 5:7, and we’ll call it even. Deal?

  10. barbiesan256

    You have shown a lot of wisdom and grace. True you are a little long winded but you wouldn’t be you if you weren’t.

  11. As I read this, I can’t help recalling a soul-searching trial of a different sort which LCG faced several years ago — the one which made national news.

    I remember ministers of that “other group” reached out with compassion then. May this inspire others to return the favor now.

  12. Steve

    I don’t think that you were being wishy-washy, Mr Smith. Your concern for the brethren came through, loud and clear. And as far as being long winded is concerned, well, don’t worry about that. That’s part of being diplomatic. You want to make sure the guy doesn’t mistake your view.

    Actually, I should learn from you. I tend to get to the point, and I’ll repeat something if the other guy ignores what I said. A little too combative, sometimes.

    Personally, I’m more concerned about brethren who totally give up on the COG in general.

  13. Evelyn Medero-Medina

    Dear Mr. Smith,

    Recently, a [once] member of WCG passed away. He was no longer in the truth, neither was he in WCG. I know your comment is about COG members, but my heart is broken for those who once were and now are not. I was one of them for a while and I was truly deceived. I was truly blind! I thank God He did not give up on me and that He directed me to where His work is being done. But my heart is broken for those who have left the truth and don’t even realize it. My prayer is that they will find their way back just as I did and that no one else is deceived by the lies of our greatest enemy. I thank you for your comment and pray that we all keep our eyes focused on our Creator and follow the ministry as they follow Christ. I never again want to experience what happened in WCG. No, we must not point fingers, and maybe keep our opinions to ourselves, but yes, we must seek God with all our hearts and pray that somehow, some way these people will again come to treasure the truth that they once had and that we in God’s truth never forsake it. Keep up the good work and please don’t ever turn your eyes from the one who has placed you where you are and has appointed you such an incredible job. Thanks and know that your hard work is greatly appreciated. Thank you with all my heart!

  14. Norbert

    It is good to read the expression of your genuine concern. Thankyou

    Perhaps there is a lesson that is being internalized through the present circumstances, rather than having any person teach and explain such things “again” for numerous people. That is not to say it never needs to be explained again.

    I believe Romans 14 makes for a relevant read. There is a difference between experiencing it face to face (or from one blog comment to another) and applying it, rather than just hearing it.

  15. author

    I commented that the day may come when the world accuses the Church of being self-appointed teachers volunteering their unwanted opinions. You replied, “I am sure they will. The more important question is whether or not they will be right.”

    They will be half-right. They will be right in saying that the Church’s warning message is “unwanted”. I am sure the Church’s message will be unwanted by those who criticize it. But the Church is to deliver the warning whether it is wanted by those who hear it or not.

    But they will be wrong that Living Church of God writers and speakers are “self-appointed”. You are appointed by God to give a warning. This appointment comes through many Bible instructions and principles showing that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, that we are to treat others as we would want to be treated, and that those who see that others are headed for a disaster should warn them before it is too late.

    Here are a few examples:

    “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11).

    “…You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him” (Leviticus 19:17).

    “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

    “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

  16. Thanks for commenting again, author. And you are right — in my comment I was focused on the “self-appointed” aspect, but what you say of the “unwanted” is certainly true.

    Yet, I feel compelled to add that it should not be our goal simply to sound a warning — it should be our goal to have our warning heard if at all possible. There is a difference. Isaac Newton is famous for (among many other things, of course!) lecturing to empty rooms when no students came to his class at Cambridge. We should not feel satisfied if we are, effectively doing the same — even less so if, due to our personal clumsiness, we are shutting ears as opposed to opening them.

    As any parent knows, there is a time to remind your children of what you’ve said, and there are other times to hold your lips and allow the circumstances experienced their opportunity to speak for you, in the hopes that they say better what you could with your words. In fact, trying to turn those moments into an “I told you so” moment can actually have the opposite effect. It takes a maturity to know the difference, and anyone who has the responsibility of proclaiming truth needs to act and speak with such matrurity.

    (While I referred above to parenting, the same is true for good friendships, as well — at least any friendship worth having.)

    For the rest, I will simply refer to my response to Mr. Bunnell, above.

    Thankfully, God doesn’t just say “warn” — He also gives us volumes of instruction as to how best to do so.

    Thanks, again, for writing!

  17. author

    Thank you Mr. Smith. I agree with everything you just said.

    And I do not mean to give the impression that by quoting the scriptures about giving a warning that I am implying any criticism of the way you in particular and the Living Church of God leadership have been handling the situation we are talking about. I think you have been handling the situation with a great deal of wisdom and maturity, and the way you have approached it is the right way to handle it. There is a time and place to let people know they are loved and will be welcomed with understanding, not criticism.

    Rather, I said what I said more in defense of those who do warn in a more direct way, because I think both approaches have their purpose, and sometimes different approaches work best with different people. Living Church of God can be a place for those seeking to escape turmoil and division in other COGs to find refuge, and as such it is important that LCG put out the welcome mat. Many people considering attending LCG want to know they will not be beat over the head when they come to services or talk to a minister, and the need to serve those people has priority. But some independent bloggers do not represent a Church of God fellowship, and they can try to dialogue more directly on certain issues with those who will not be offended by such an approach and really want to dig into the nuts and bolts of Bible doctrine. Not everyone will respond to that, but also not everyone will respond to the welcome mat either. Some readers will respond more to one than the other, depending on the temperment of the reader.

    Some readers may be like me. If I am wrong, or have been wrong, the welcome mat by itself won’t attract me. I need someone to show me very directly, with an abundance of proof from the Bible, that I am wrong in my view, and be willing to take the time to work through the details with me. Only after that would I respond to a welcome mat. There are a multitude of scriptures that deal with governance, and different viewpoints about those scriptures, and there are issues with those scriptures that need to be addressed, in detail. There is a need here, I defend anyone (well, myself actually) who tries to fill that need for those who can respond to such an approach.

  18. Thanks, author. I figured that’s what you thought and I appreciate your coments.

    Also, I hope that I haven’t made a wrong impression. My comments were not meant as an effort to draw anyone in — I don’t even know if those from other COGs who occasionally check out my blog know where I pastor. It was meant exactly as it was stated: An intention to let others know they were being prayed for, just as you do someone else in your congregation who is suffering and in the middle of a trial. (Long ago I never mentioned to others that I was praying for them, since I didn’t want to toot my own horn, so to speak, until I heard a minister encourage us to do so, as it is truly comforting for people to know.)

    And as for where one should go, it should be the Scriptures and the fruit that convince in all cases. I agree with you there.

    But also, even that can be done poorly. If someone is constantly harping on a subject and making sweeping offensive generalizations, they risk becoming a whiny irritant to be ignored rather than a voice to be listened to whether or not one likes what the voice is saying. For instance, labeling everyone in an entire COG “Laodicean” and everyone in yours “Philadelphian” (or coming across as doing so) gives a wrong impression and profits no one, since it isn’t true. Do I believe that the leadership and work of the Living Church of God is most aligned with the traits of Philadelphia compared to the leadership and work of all the other COGs out there? Yes I do. If I didn’t I would be elsewhere. But do I believe that there are no “Philadelphians” in other groups, if you will? No, I know that there are some. In fact, there are some who support our work although they are in a different group for various reasons, and it is irritating for them to be preached to constantly by someone who is making (or who comes across as making) generalizations about them and their motives.

    I strive not to do that, and I would hope all who have a public voice would do the same.

    It’s not that the distinction doesn’t matter and it is not that where you attend doesn’t matter. Those things do matter, greatly! You will be affected by your leadership — the lessons of ancient Israel and Judah in this regard cannot be ignored. Yet having no leadership (wish some desire) is not a biblical option, nor an option corresponding to common sense.

    And it’s not that I don’t wish we were all together and that everyone who cares about the things of God and His Work were in the Living Church of God — the organization I truly do believe to be the healthiest place to be spiritually. I do! Again, if I didn’t believe that, I would go to wherever it was I felt Christ was so working (that is, working with the leadership and not despite the (well-meaning but mistaken) leadership).

    All of this would be totally different if LCG did not teach the truth about the form of government God uses among men. But we do teach that — consistently and strongly. Those who have read this blog from another COG know I am a minister with the LCG and know what we teach (or at least some version of what we teach, as they often add their own assumptions to what we teach).

    Finally, I do, again, believe in preaching the “whole truth of God” and that includes preaching the truth about the biblical principles of government that are sadly being alternately neglected or abused in most of the COGiverse. But anyone who presumes to teach another must have a gift for being able to prod sensitive and uncomfortable areas without provoking a callus to build up, preventing any further sensation getting through. While a callus cannot always be prevented, if it arises due to the repeated and consistent clumsiness of the teacher rather than the fault of the hearer, then James 3:1-2 begins to rear its fearful head.

    Thanks, again, for writing, author. It does sound like we generally agree, and I appreciate the opportunity your comments have provided to explain my thoughts more fully.

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