I grew up hearing the stories of the Bible and believing they were true.
I also felt a kinship with all Christians who came before us because they are our brethren, just as much as the ones we meet with each week in church. We already know so much about them that we can feel they are family.
In 1995 when my former church, the Worldwide Church of God, went through a church split over doctrine, I also went through—a few months prior to that—the dissolution of a marriage that had been fraudulent from the beginning.
When some started a new church group—United Church of God—that still kept the truths I had grown up with, I went with them at first, but I was confused. This was all I had ever known, and what if it was wrong? What if I had just believed it because I had never heard what others taught? Could all these other churches be wrong? Maybe we were being haughty to think we were the keepers of the truth?!
I returned to church with Worldwide, hoping to find answers, and things were being done very differently. They involved the congregation in how the services would be run and what songs would be sung. When I tried to be involved, one after another, people turned their backs on me. I realized this was because of the divorce I had gone through, so I never went back. But I also did not go back with United.
I was angry and unsure, and turned against God and religion.
Once I allowed myself to have this attitude, I picked up the Bible and it was a shock to find it was no longer the living, breathing Word of God for me. The stories were just stories, and I felt I had been presumptuous to think these people God used were my brothers and sisters in Christ. I put the Bible down and did not pick it up again for a long time.
A year or so passed and I began to go to other churches with my friends from work, and I was welcomed with open arms. They made feel wanted in their church, and they hoped I would continue to come.
I allowed myself to become very bitter for every presumed wrong I had endured in the past. I harbored anger at my former church, and resentment toward God. I now saw those years of my life as wasted—being an outsider to society and family all that time for doing things that I now believed were not required in order to be saved. Doesn’t the Bible say just believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved?
I settled on a church and started to attend. It did not take long before I began to find myself at odds with certain parts of their doctrine. I convinced myself that no church is 100 percent correct and that I could overlook things. I continued to go for a few years.
A day came when I started to really hunger and thirst for in-depth study of the Bible and the types of meaty sermons I was used to. I asked questions they were unable or unwilling to answer. This church served up dessert without a main course. They had entertainment and glitz, but I began to see it lacked substance.
The minister gave a sermon explaining why they attended church on Sunday, what they called the "Lord's day." I realized that I knew this was human reasoning, and not the truth of the Bible. Jesus said He was "Lord of the Sabbath," and He did not change it from what had been ordained at creation (Matthew 12:8 Matthew 12:8For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
American King James Version×). I had not even questioned going to church on Sunday until I heard their reasons for doing it.
Now what to do? It had been long enough that I no longer was in contact with any people from my former association, and they had stopped teaching the truth of the Bible anyway. I did not know who was still holding to the truth, what they might call themselves, or if I would be welcome to come. But I knew I needed to keep the Sabbath. I had married again and my new husband only knew my complaints. He had never had contact with The Plain Truth or the Worldwide Church of God. He was confused and angry at my decision to keep the Sabbath and no longer attend the church we had married in.
I was very excited the day I realized the Bible was once again alive to me! I accepted that I had been blaming God for the actions of men. I deeply repented for being angry at my Father in heaven and I have been fearful of ever losing that connection again.
I found the United Church of God in my search and when I heard they had a Council of Elders, I felt a calm reassurance this was where I needed to be. I had just read about the council the New Testament Church held to decide if new converts should be circumcised. I felt a Council of Elders would lead to less division or anyone deciding to change doctrine, plus it had roots in the Bible. I had already decided I did not want to go with a group that set one man up on a pedestal, because of the potential to fail once that one man was gone.
My first week back, I felt I had received a full nourishing meal and knew I was where I needed to be.
I am writing this because I pray that others who once were members of the Worldwide Church of God will realize they are not receiving the religious instruction needed for salvation, and find their way back to the truth of God. They also need to understand that as long as men are the instruments God uses, there will be issues, and people in church are not perfect. Many of the so-called offenses from decades ago were often because the ministry was zealous to never compromise with the truth of God—not out of malicious intent to harm. We have to individually prove the truths of the Bible and work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This does not mean deciding for ourselves what is true, but studying to know we are in "the Way" that the New Testament speaks of.
I almost fell into the same trap again when another church started apart from United 10 years ago. I was angry and frustrated during the Feast of Tabernacles before the split and did not want to hear what any of the ministry had to say. It was a miserable time that did not even feel like the Feast. People quarreled among themselves and others spoke of how their minister would be removed from associating with us after the Feast. I felt like ministers were the problem: always seeking a following after themselves, and none were to be trusted! As ministers, including my own, began to leave United and associate with the new group, I had to come to a decision. I had seen enough behind the scenes to know I would not go with this new group, but I no longer trusted in the stability of United.
My husband, who was now converted and fairly new to understanding the Bible, remained steady and let me work my way through the shock and distrust that came from another split. I soon came to see that the Council of Elders had lived up to their reason for being there, and that it was right to not place trust in men—our trust and faith must be in God and God alone. Anger needed to be directed at the breaking of God’s directives that states among the things God hates most are those who divide the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19). I saw parallels with the rebellion of Korah in the way they chose to leave.
We should only follow men as they follow Christ. I pray for all our ministers that, along with all of us who attend, we remain faithful and hold one another up to the end. We need each other to succeed (Ecclesiastes 4:12 Ecclesiastes 4:12And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
American King James Version×).
I pray for those who are seeking, and for those who do not yet realize they need to seek, while He may be found. Put away past hurts and distrust and trust in the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hear what Jesus Himself said: that He did nothing of Himself, but only did the Father’s will (John 8:28 John 8:28Then said Jesus to them, When you have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things.
American King James Version×). Prove these truths and hold fast to them.
I do not take for granted that I will always remain faithful. I renew my resolve often that I have proven the Bible is the unchanging, living Word of God, and that I will remain steadfast and unwavering.
This is a web-first article that has been associated with the March - April 2020 issue of United News.