Tom Sterbens’ Response to His Meeting with the Executive Committee on Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I have delayed this communication since meeting with the General Executive Committee due to the fact that I felt there were two or three people I needed to speak with before responding. They are people who help me check my heart. One of them is a spiritual father to me, John Nichols. I had not been able to reach him until three hours ago and we talked at length.

As a note, I asked him if he would consider attending the Missional Resurgence Meeting on Monday night in San Antonio. I specified that my request was one of inviting him in the role of a spiritual father and as an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God…nothing more. He said he planned on being there. He will come representing no position (past or present) other than that of an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God.

My mentioning his name here is not subtle or accidental or crafty. It is on purpose. I have found his wisdom to be of inestimable value to me through the years.

On Wednesday, July 9th, I had the honor of meeting with the Church of God General Executive Committee. I really don’t like the way that last sentence reads.

I didn’t meet with a piece of an institutional mechanism. I met with five men. I met with five men who have served God in a life given to ministry. All five men were very gracious. All five men love God and are deeply committed to their place of Kingdom assignment in the Church of God.

It seemed presumptuous of me to take the amount of time they gave, given the weight of the matters before them and the looming realities of a General Assembly only little more than three weeks away. Yet, they did not seem rushed. They listened to the concerns I had with seeming genuine attentiveness. Like I said, they were very gracious. Over the course of the two hours there was a great deal of dialog and exchange on several different issues.

With one voice, they seemed sincerely and genuinely concerned with responding to the cry from pastors for financial relief for the local church. Thus, we have the agenda item entitled, “Realignment of Resources.” There is no doubt in my mind they feel and bear the weight of the responsibility to preserve the financial solvency of the denomination for the benefit and potential of everyone. And, there is no doubt that the prevailing economy holds very few bright spots where those issues are concerned.

They seem genuinely concerned about the future of the Church of God. They seem genuinely concerned about the need for unity in a broad sense and for unity at the General Assembly, specifically. It is also my belief that they feel the Church of God is at a crossroads moment.

I have used the word “seems” a lot only to convey that these are my observations and opinions of their feelings. I make no claim to speak FOR them in any sense.

I shared my heart with them on many levels and at great length. As I said, they listened.

I told them I did not believe the “realigning the resources” of the Church of God is a remedy for the primary problems that are before us. While I share their convictions that the Church of God has a systemic problem, I do not hold the same opinion concerning what the systemic problem is, nor do I share their opinion concerning what the primary course of action and the priority response needs to be.

For me, the number one problem/issue is that leaders must win the hearts of those who would follow. I shared with them that in my opinion the single biggest issue before us was not one of a financial nature but of a credibility/trust nature.

If there has been a significant drop in the Tithe of Tithe fund, I do not believe that it is singularly the result of the American economy. If there is a connection, I believe the connection is that when times are tough economically people tend to eliminate the things that are non essential. Conclusion: “Why should I sacrifice any more for something that seems so disconnected from where I am and non essential to my day to day reality?”

I believe that Jesus offers us a snapshot of the strain to consistency between the “heart” and the “treasure,” and how the two travel together inseparably. I told them I believe that the forums and the last two General Assemblies have sent the message that, the thoughts, the opinions and the perspectives of the ordained ministers don’t matter. As a result, the hearts of many of these ministers are no longer there. “Where the heart ISN’T, there the treasure ISN’T also.” Many of them simply went home after the 2006 General Assembly and “Realigned their own Resources.”

I believe until we honor the words we say and the words we write, that credibility and trust will be nowhere in sight.

I told them that the Minutes of the General Assembly make provision for members of the General Assembly, not to mention Ordained Bishops, to obtain financial records from the General Headquarters finance office. Yet, these requests have not been honored in terms of the instruction of the General Assembly (our highest ruling authority). Instead, we as ministers have been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement which exceeds the mandates of the General Assembly. And, even if we acquiesce to signing this document, we don’t receive the information the minutes mandate to be made available to us.

I told them I had been in dialog with Dennis Watkins, Director of Church of God Legal Services about this violation and he responded with the following:

“The ‘Policy Statement and Agreement’ as presented by the Business and Records Department is also an internal policy passed by the International Executive Council in April, 2002, and is a reasonable requirement for release of such information by a nonprofit/church organization.”

In that single act, we have by implication “restructured” the Church of God. The General Assembly is NO LONGER the highest ruling authority. Simply put, the General Assembly can say whatever it wants, but there is no guarantee that what the General Assembly determines will in fact take place.

I understand loyalty. Believe me I do. I’ve been one to remain silent and take the hit as a result of a misperception because there was a bigger principle at stake. But where is the voice that will, at whatever risk, rise to defend the General Assembly?

We say (or have written) one thing and then do another.

Applied Logic Sequence: If what we decide together in prayer and dialog as the General Assembly can be disregarded with impunity (“words” that we write… “words” that become our creed), then why should I have faith in any words spoken by any leader? I should no longer be surprised that MY words don’t matter. I am trying to find any words that matter.

We have a heart problem- not a money problem.

We have a credibility, trust, and integrity problem- not a money problem.

When we note that our institution has subtly and casually drifted from its declared directives such as the pointed allocation of designated funds for Evangelism and Home Missions, what then? When this becomes a generally accepted expression redefined by “mission drift” and the response is to eliminate our commitment rather than alter our behavior, then on what basis or what principle can we declare that any behavior is unacceptable?

Where is the accountability?

When and if after this General Assembly a minister is disciplined because of a violation of marital fidelity, conduct unbecoming of a minister, or for that matter, an uncertainty regarding our Declaration of Faith, I will rise to ask the question: “Have these issues been appropriately relabeled in our Minutes as, “These Are The Words We REALLY Mean?” Because, it appears everything else is up for grabs.


36 Responses

  1. Very well said Tom! Thanks so much for your passion, integrity, and leadership in this matter. That alone gives me more hope than I have had for us in quite some time!

  2. Tom,
    I could not agree with you more!!! Keep up the good work!
    Where will your meeting be held in San Antonio?

    Phil Akin

  3. Well done. I fully support what you are doing. Tom, how did it end? What was their response to what you had to say??

  4. I have tried to offer only my opinions about the meeting in general (I will probably say that a bunch of times). They had concerns about having been misquoted and the fact that so many seem to rush to post tidbits of confidential conversations on the internet. I understand their concerns and I will not quote any of their statements.

    That being said, it is “my opinion” that they were very receptive and non defensive. At the end of the day I think we see very different paths and perhaps hold different leadership ideologies.

    They are not my enemy and I did not perceive they saw me that way. I have not encountered any COG Ninjas yet in the last 48 hours. 🙂

  5. rest assured the ninja’s have been dispatched! 🙂

    Thanks for your work in these areas. Hopefully it is a step toward change.

  6. I am pleased that we are taking time to look at more serious matters ,such as credibilty/trust issues, perceived or real they MUST be cleared by facts in certified reports released to all Ordained Bishops . The GA Minutes policy followed at every level of leadership will bring unity of purpose and mission…selective compliance ,even legal, will dissolve the glue that bonds us together

  7. Thanks Tom. I certainly understand your desire to stay appropriate with your words and only state what you have.

  8. I am so glad someone finally spoke for most of the pastors who are not in the loop! I have always said there has always been one-sided accountability. What you are attempting to do is honorable and timely. Keep up the good work!

  9. Thanks Tom for sharing your heart with the Committee and for continuing to share your heart with all of us.

    Also, thanks for being real…perhaps one of the greatest commodities today.

  10. I appreciate the honesty in your report with general execs …. but keep in mind it is an INTEGRITY issue first and foremost. I did not go home frome the last Assembly and realign local church finances to withold anything from HQ … I continually counsel prospective members on the doctrine, government and financial structure of the COG before I take them in … WHY? because I want them to know what is expected of them before they become members .. I want them to know how the tithe of tithe works and I tell them to put the Lord’s tithe in the tithe fund. The problem we have financially as an institution is the lack of iontegrity at the local level, particularly at some of our larger congregations. We need to get the 2×4 out of our eyes before we start trying to remove the tooth-pics out of the Execs’ eyes.

    Also, keep in mind that since the Assembly in ’86, more power has been given to the local church in the selection of pastor… which means we now feel a moral obligation to create a job for overseeers coming off the circuit due to limitations and no churches to place them in. Having to take care of them has necessitated the creation of a larger bureaucracy that has to be paid for somehow. We are the ones who put ourselves in this situation by taking the power of appointment out of the hands of the leadership and putting it into the hands of the local laity.

    Perhaps our real trouble is due to a lack of Biblical Integrity. Nowhere in the New Testament do you see local churches voting in a pastor with an interview committee. Until we return to the New Testament way of doing things, ( instead of a pragmatic course of action), we will continue to struggle in every area of the church.

    Are there real issues facing us?… without doubt. But it is carnal arrogance on our part to think that we can solve our problem with calculators and computers. We must get back to being Biblically Accurate and Christo-Centric.

    Sure sounds like things are going to be interesting in San Antone. I can’t wait!


  11. Bruce,

    First: I couldn’t agree with you more concerning a commitment to covenant that towers above circumstantial justification. Simply put – you honor the tithe of tithe. My remarks had to do with the reality of human tendencies…and I have heard many ministers say that they simply “inform” the people of where the money goes if the write “tithe” on their check, etc, etc,

    Second: Could you unpack the following paragraph for me a little more. Not sure I understand the logic path.

    “Also, keep in mind that since the Assembly in ‘86, more power has been given to the local church in the selection of pastor… which means we now feel a moral obligation to create a job for overseeers coming off the circuit due to limitations and no churches to place them in. Having to take care of them has necessitated the creation of a larger bureaucracy that has to be paid for somehow. We are the ones who put ourselves in this situation by taking the power of appointment out of the hands of the leadership and putting it into the hands of the local laity.”

  12. Thank you Tom. I appreciate your desire to change our movement from within. I have for the last few years move away from the idea, that real change can be accomplished within the Church of God. In reading the history of our nation, our independence from England came about by the revoking of the states charters and personal rights. The same has come to us in our church. Our responsibilites as members has been slowly restricted to a point that we don’t matter to those who are supposed to “be servants of all”. I have hid behind pen names and have allowed myself to be removed from the arena of participation to bring about change. Let’s get back to our roots of being the Church that the Lord birthed us to be, by the Spirit.

  13. Thanks Tom
    Thanks so much for speaking to us like human beings who have paid some hefty prices to be in these sacred positions. The Yes Men mentality, (VIRUS) has demeaned and embarassed our denomination for so long. Cowardice has made our so called, “Spirit Filled Expressions,” questionable to those we are trying to reach. If anyone should be seen as courageous and righteously defiant, it should be the Spirit Filled clergy. We’re clearing out collective throats and hopefully we will finally find our voice.
    Always praying for you Brother

    dan walker

  14. Tom,

    I join others in thanking you for your strength and integrity in approaching an issue in a NT manner (face to face). I too respect the men to whom you met with and believe them to be honorable men.

    I too shared your concern regarding the measure passed in 2002 regarding the transparency of the finances from General Headquarters… in short what was passed and what was done are two different things.

    I also share Bruce’s dilemma regarding pastor’s realigning their resources. I believe it is one thing to inform the people of how our system works and how their tithe dollars are spent and allow them to decide how they allocate them and quite another to make it clear how I desire them to be allocated. Some (I have heard) have gone as far to develop their giving envelopes to express International tithe and local church tithe. I clearly see an integrity problem on both sides of the issue for those who would take such steps. I must say that this last step is one I have only heard of and know no one personally who has done so, hopefully I am in complete error.

    BTW, I have great regard for you, your wife and your in-laws. As you know your dad was of great service to me when I pastored in Chincoteague. Thank you again for representing not just your own voice and position but those who share concerns like myself.

    Be blessed,


  15. Pastor Tom,

    Tom, I miss you, my brother. . . .

    There is a great deal to be said about submitting to authority when it comes to something like the tithe of tithes. There is blessing when there is unity, but what if there is a lack of unity or conflict? What then? I think the next question that follows is this. Is God initiating the conflict?

    We are to submit to those in authority over us, but at the same time, when God raises up a son or daughter to prophesy, isn’t it the responsibility and even test of leadership to hear the Word that God puts in his or her mouth? This may seem like it over-exaggerates the situation, but sometimes items like this represent a deeper issue, maybe even something God wants to address or a hidden conscience that needs to be addressed.

    Tom, the thing that bugs me is the feeling on their part that things have to be kept from public domain. I understand that a candid conversation is easily misconstrued, but at what point is there any deference to the Word from a prophet. Do you think that is unfair to be aggrivated by that? I’m having a hard time understanding how this is the example for state overseers and local pastors to follow.

  16. […] hopefully Tom Sterbens, who recently met with the Executive Committee, will not have to think too hard about this. Bookmark to: […]

  17. Tom, I couldn’t agree more with you on the lack of credabilty concerns. I believe you are very much on the track.

    However there are two area’s that are also very true and one is that our economy is horrible and unemployment is rising all around me. ( No work, no tithe) While there is a definite problem with the ” we can do what we will” we can not negate that fact that our economy is bad. I don’t ever want to be one that blames everything on the powers that be.

    I guess the second and probally the most important to me is the Job creation for the good old boy era. Why are we so TOP HEAVY? The answer I think is very clear. Loyalty to those who have worked ahead us. Let me be careful here in saying I appreciate all the work and sacrafice for those who have given their life for the word but……..

    Where is the loyalty of keeping things real for the right now people who are giving their lives for the word? I guess in growing up COG I always understood that Clevland and our respective States were there for us. The shift that has me concerned is it seems as if we are only around @ times to keep the Top Heavier than it should be.

    Ford & GM are offering early buy outs, I think we should think about the same Idea’s

  18. Tom,

    Our prayers and thoughts are with you and I want you to know that the Lord will surely be with those that seek His face. I want the Lord to help lead this church and help all of us to make the right decsion with the right attitude.

  19. Thank you Brother Sterbens and also Brother Johnson for all the work you doing for the church and for the respect and honesty your are showing. As you so rightly stated, trust and confidence are the negative issues in the church. I attend one of the larger churches and as a council member at my local church, we also are not allowed to see all details of the budget; a dangerous trend that started at the top.

    I’m going to say the following for a reason. In our State, when a minister and congregation have problems with each other, we have learned that the State Overseer’s job is to protect and defend the minister, not to solve problems or give wise council. Consequently, as laity of the Church of God, I have no enthusiasm in supporting Headquarters or our State Office. However, I am thankful for a denomination that has a solid Deceleration of Faith and a standard of theology that is upheld, however, this practice of protecting and often shuffling around problem pastors is disgraceful and is further evidence of the lack of quality leadership.

    By the way, what ever happened to the Vote of Confidence where we, the laity, can show support or non-support for their pastor? I suspect the overall membership of the COG feels bullied.

    I do pay my tithes because it is the right thing to do but I do know people who only give offerings (not tithes) for the purpose of keeping IO from getting any of their funds. I also send as much as offering as I can directly to World Missions designating it for certain ministries because I know that 100% of the money I designate goes to that ministry.

    World Missions does such a good job of being accountable; perhaps the Executive Committee would benefit from working under the authority of World Missions for a while.

    Just a note from a humble member of the great Church of God. I will be seeing you in San Antonio. – Doug

  20. I have served Trinity Fellowship in Indianapolis as Pastor for 33 years. I have been elected to the State Council under 8 Overseers, all of them sharp but leading us in what I feel has been using all the oil to run the factory. We have something refreshing going on under our current Administrative Bishop. He does not allow Camp Meeting offerings taken for himself, the annual budget has been cut by $30,000. he is pursuing funding outside of our contributions to expand ministry. We are preparing for a cut in income and/or redirection of expenses to a degree. It is not enough, my hope is it will accelerate due to outcome of the Assembly

    For 30 plus years I see us required to raise an “offering” equal to 5% of our tithes, intended to assist needy churches and promoting new field evangelism. In fact all the tithe fund is used to operate whatever size beauracracy the presiding administrator wants. Tithe funds are always deficient so they take the 2 1/2% to pay for state parsonages, official insurance & Soc Sec, travel, etc.. Almost none of the receipts are ever used for the intended purpose They have justified it by saying “everyone is doing it, by virtue of the office of Overseer I am the Evangelism Director too”. We all voted for the 5% so we should all support it? We cannot let this continue.

    Our church had a budget of $3,000 per day 365 days a year for 20 years. Our income went down to $2,000 so we had to cut our expenses proportionately. The cuts began with me. The proposed amendment is reduction at a snails pace. We had months, at times weeks to adjust to our income reduction in this economy. Headquarters national and state has no heart or willingness to do this. States this size are spending over $125,000 annually on State Youth and CE Director package and about $160,000 on Overseer. We have no clue what we are spending on General Officials, appointees, department heads. There is such a warped priority in budgeting on the national and state level. We provide hospitalization insurance for the General Offices, Appointees, State offices, but not the ones providing the funds to operate them, Pastors. This is a great monster to deal with but how can we ignore 30% of our Pastors with no insurance?

    We addressed this last Assembly but were robbed of it by dirty pool. The GO took authority he did not have and defied the minutes. My elderly could not vote even though the Assembly was right down the street, they had to pay $40 they were not willing to give up to do what the assembly minutes affords them, vote. My wife was recovering from radiation from Breast Cancer. I got us a room at the Hyatt next to the convention center. She did not bring her credentials. She was more than refused a vote, she was refused entrance to get out of the 90 plus heat, had to climb the front long steps, and almost passed out. The floor was flooded with headquarters employees, appointees, and their families. Some voted against the reduction who serve where they do not even contribute.

    I appreciate your leadership. Count on my support.

    Ron Ragan

  21. Tom,
    My prays are with you. I am pleased to see that someone has been able to get the attention of the leadership of the COG. Local curches and pastors in our state have felt as if there is no connection with the state or international leadership unless a “special offering” is needed. I planted Harvest Church in 2002. I submitted a budget for the first year and was assured that I would receive 12% of that budget for one year. The budget did not include a salary for me. I received the 12% for five months and was sent an email to tell me that I would no longer receive funds. Harvest Church has survived and prospered because God called me to plant it here, but it has been very difficult not to be bitter at the empty promises.
    I think it is time for an accountability restruucturing from the top down on the COG.

    I am not a political person and do respect the leadership of the men that have been placed over me in the Lord. I have no ambition to become any more than God requires me to be in the COG. My concern is for the COG to fullfil the calling and mission that we were established and ordained of God to do. I am not an intellectual by any means, but I can see that if we do not return to our first love, we will no longer be the force that God has intended us to be in the kingdom. This is my greatest fear, that we will not complete the mandate from God that we were created to fullfil.

    Your brother in Christ,

  22. To Doug – If the situation is as stated…I certainly hope that there is some group within the church that not only has access but has regular exposure to the financial records of the church. It is dangerous to have no accountability.

    For reference – we have a monthly meeting with what we refer to as Administrative Elders (Pastor’s Council). They each receive the following…a complete profit and loss statement, a balance sheet, and a complete print out of the check register for the last month. I want the 12 of them to be able to answer any questions that are asked.

    Ron Ragan – Your post represents a great deal of courage and character. There are answers…we are at a great moment in the Church of God.

    Joe – I’m glad to hear your church is doing so well. I have been a church planter as well…there’s nothing like it.

    I’ve said many times, “I’m Pentecostal.” And of the many points of heritage we hold…we are those who believe in the “suddenly” visitation of the Holy Spirit who can suddenly and radically alter perspectives and purpose. I am praying daily for the 2008 General Assembly to be one of those moments for us.

  23. Tom,
    Let me join with others in thanking you for the courage and dignity that you have shown in this matter. I as many of you left the 2006 General Assembly with a great deal of disappointment. I can honestly say that I and the church that God has given me have been completely faithful to the Church of God and will continue to do so. I believe that anything else would be rebellious. I also agree wholeheartedly with you that our major problem is not money but trust between the leadership and the Ordained Bishops. As we go to this General Assembly many will wonder why the number of Ordained Bishops is not what it use to be and the answer is because many feel that their vote means nothing. They feel that going is a waste of resources because the things that they vote for are never carried out. In speaking to a retired minister this week, that has served the church for over 50 years, he told me that the issue of receiving financial reports has been voted on and past several times in past Assemblies and he has yet to see a report. This is a trust issue and must be dealt with before we can move forward.

  24. Tom,
    Thank you for such strong leadership in this matter. I only wish I could be there for the Assembly this year but planting a new church in Charlotte has me covered up and unable to attend. I have and will be praying for you as you continue to raise the right questions with the right heart.
    Steve Wright

  25. Tom

    I didn’t mean to suggest there is no oversight of spending at my local church; the books are audited as they should be however, when the Pastor’s Council/Administrative Elders are presented with the budget for approval, items are grouped together to keep details of spending from being known. For example, there are many ministers, office and physical plant workers on our staff and in this category which includes everyone’s salary, payroll, taxes, insurance, housing, travel, clothing and other allowances. All of these are grouped together showing a one line item expenditure on the budget.

    We do get profit and loss statements and balance sheets (bottom line firgures only) but I’ve never seen a check register or anything even close to that kind of detail. I sincerely do not think anything dishonest is happening, however, in my opinion, the hide-the-details practice just isn’t prudent.

    I see this as a parallel problem of the general church (International Offices). Am I wrong? – Doug

  26. Dear Bro. Travis and Bro. Tom,

    I am a 31 year old Senior Pastor. I have been at this church for 9 years. When I first came we had 5 people in an old post office building. We have since bought two pieces of property and built a new facility and have over 125 people now. That is just a brief history of my life for perspective understanding. I am deeply concerned over the future of our church. I have attended many forums and heard many opinions on various subjects, the most controversial being the tithe fund. Below I would like to express my feelings on the tithe issue.

    At first I was in support of dropping the amount of money sent in to state and general headquarters. As I looked at the scenario in a selfish yet pastoral way, I figured the local church could benefit greatly from such a reduction by allowing more funds to stay at the local church. However, over the lasts year I have changed my position from a selfish leader to that of one that embraces the Kingdom and not just my little corner in it. The kingdom of God in the Church will suffer greatly with such a reduction. We will cut into missions both at home and abroad. I believe that the denomination needs to stream line and fix some cash cow issues. We have positions that have been created for the sake of keeping people in the General offices. We must change, yes, but this is not the way. We must change our mindset at a General level, if we cripple the church with this type of cut, I believe that God will judge the denomination. The bigger question in all of this is, what is the heart of God for this Church of God, not what is the heart of the people, if we will remember it was the heart of the people that got Israel into trouble, that caused Judas to fail, and so on and so forth. We must have God’s heart and not our own even if that means laying down selfish motives and mindsets to say yes to the harvest that is calling, and that calling takes finances. I appreciate your time and perhaps one day will meet you both. I also agree that integrity and trust must both be present in order for us to move ahead, and precious time is passing by. Be blessed!

  27. William,

    You bring up some good points. Concerning our current system you mentioned the question, “what is the heart of God for the denomination?”

    How we spend the money that comes into the church is a moral issue. If we discover, how our leaders are spending the TOT money is immoral, then what would God have us do in response to that discovery?

    The truth is the church is also crippled; God is also in the process of judging our denomination. We see that in the exodus of ministers under 40, the deep distrust between the elders and the younger ministers(it goes both ways) and the closing of more churches in the US than we have opened in the US.

    You see where we put our money clearly displays where our heart, our treasure, is. For years we have created positions, as you say, to keep administrators in Cleveland giving them $200K+ salaries, after the last assembly the HQ leased several Lexus for the leaders amounting to several hundreds of thousands of dollar.

    Why are these decisions immoral? What do you think? This is why Jesus mentions money more than Love in the New Testament. I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Why is God already judging, correcting us? Because we, the ordained bishops, have done nothing in response to these and other decisions. We have voted in the men who are making these decisions and we keep voting them in.

    Your perspective that, “The kingdom of God in the Church will suffer greatly with such a reduction. We will cut into missions both at home and abroad” is similar to the OT eternal security of the nation of Israel. God will not touch us because this is God’s temple. God can accomplish his purposes without our denomination and if we refuse to submit to His correction, and protect our own little corner of the Kingdom of God, He will.

    We must apply our doctrine of holiness to how we structure and administrate our church Government. That is God’s Heart for our denomination. Sitting idly by will bring swift correction! But prayer and obedience will suddenly bring a move of God’s Spirit that will correct us, heal the gap between the generations and bring us in line with Christ’s mission and will on this Earth.

  28. Appreciate your efforts to expect, instead of just preach, accountability. Our leaders are honorable men, as is our pastoral constituency. Every man’s voice deserves to be heard. Overriding the Minutes “just because we can” is a shameful answer to give to anyone who has given blood sweat and tears to the building of our Church of God. Maintaining spiritual acountability as the force behind these endeavors will prove fruitful as “importunity’ is applied.Thanks again, David

  29. […] significant situations that led Tom Sterbens to state that the Church of God General Assembly is NO LONGER the highest governing authority of the Church of […]

  30. I agree we need change and healing. What has happened over time is similar to what happens to a person when they have experienced a broken bone. When the break is identified, the bone is set and then isolated so that it can heal. The X-ray reveals where the break is, then the doctors must act. Unfortunately if a break is simply identified without proper setting and casting (a plan), it will mend the wrong way and cause future debilitating pain.

    My father many years ago broke his wrist, the x-rays showed the break, but he chose to ignore it hoping that I would just slip away. He found out that his turning a blind eye would not only bring worse pain, but also a longer time of healing and would cost forward progress in his business as well. My dad had to have his wrist re-broken some seven years later then set and isolated in the cast. He had healed incorrectly.

    Isn’t this true of our church? We are spending time identifying what is causing us pain, yet if all we do as a church is talk about it and then hope it goes away, we will find a worse debilitating condition will follow. We need the heart of the church restored and with that there will come a renewed integrity and trust. Many people in this church have lost the song, oh they are singing, but it is to a different tune. We were all once together, now songs have change, our broken and hurt state has fostered more brokenness and hurt. Younger Ordained Bishops that are starving for a spotlight are taking these relevant issues and handling them in incorrect ways and that is just as bad as ignoring what is broken and hoping it goes away, and in some ways its worse.

    Yes, I am a younger Ordained Bishop; I will be 32 this year. I was Ordained as a Bishop in 2004. So I speak out of love and not in harsh tones, we need to be healed as a church. 2 Chronicles 7:14 still applies to the church today “If My people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land”, We are that land that needs healed, I do not speak of geography, but of our church. We are also a church that needs some turning.

    Now is not the time to hang up the harps, or threaten to go play our harp in another house, we need unity. Unity in holiness, purpose, integrity and in getting back to the place where God will move, not in spite of us, but as a result of our hearts being truly turned to Him in every aspect, fiscally, spiritually and relationally. If we as a church stay broken (in an unfixed way) the way I have mentioned above, our local churches will be instruments of hurt in an already dying land, masking the truth of our pain and trying to convince others that we are not hurting anymore but whole.

    We need change, but that change begins in all of us. I have heard many point fingers at leaders and the like for the situations with the finances that we have all been following, when we should have been looking at ourselves, have we turned blinded eyes, and allowed issues to slip through in hopes that something will eventually change. Accountability is what we need on all levels, from the local churches that create their own tithe envelopes to subvert the tithe, which is rebellion, to the general level with full disclosure and a ceasing of gluttonous spending.
    We are not a secret society. Casting blame will get us no where, only further confused and debilitated. We must hear the Lord say to our church, as He did with Samuel, “How long shall you mourn for Saul,” meaning to us, how long will we keep crying over and being messed up by the things we know God has not been pleased with. He tells Samuel to arise and get his horn; he had laid it down, and go to Jesse’s house, for there was a plan on the backside of a shepherd’s field that would bring health and healing to a nation in turmoil. In essence the Lord was saying, “Samuel get up and do something about this situation, but only do it as I grant you wisdom to know what path to choose, listen for My Voice, do not reason with man’s rational, wait on Me”.

    I love this church; I thank God for my roots. I want to see us united in power, standing strong together, not weakened by division and strife. The Lord will give us wisdom, if we will cast aside our pride, the need to be validated, and pursue His will, great things will come in the wake of such things. I am thankful for godly men that are willing to listen and that are also concerned with the life and well being of this church. Let us come together in San Antonio, be unified and get healed, for the work ahead is great. I also understand that judgment begins first at the house of God, the word judgment simply means; God makes a decision concerning us. I want that decision to be life and I stand in prayer over these days ahead.

  31. Tom,
    I was told several years ago in a church council meeting by my Pastor,” I DO NOT CARE WHAT THE BIBLE SAID I WILL NOT GET INVOLVED”. We were all given instruction to never speak of the situation again. One member was suing the other. The member being sued had ask the Pastor to arbitrate. The Pastor declined and the member had sent letters to the coucil asking for help as the bible instructs us to do.
    Why would a Pastor make a statement such as that you ask? He said his superiors told him to not to get involved.
    I watched a man turn away from biblical instruction to obey a another man. My Pastor feared a man enough to turn from the Word of God.
    When leadership discards Gods Word and allows themselves to be guided by the wisdom of this world the results are the very problems I have been reading about in this blog.
    I read a statment some time ago that has paned out to very true. “NO ONE MAKES A CHANGE UNTIL IT HURTS MORE TO STAY THE SAME THAN IT DOES TO MAKE THE CHANGE.

  32. […] on July 22, 2008 by tomsterbens In an earlier article, I had written regarding perspectives on a meeting I had with the Church of God General Executive Committee.  I want to share with you another of the concerns I communicated in that meeting. In several […]

  33. As a member, not minister, I hesitate contributing my thoughts. However, I want to respectfully ask questions that may seem critical. Here goes:

    Why do you Bishops continue to vote the same predictable way over and over, decade after decade? The COG top is too heavy and the present system needs to be shaken up a bit; a shake-up is better than a break-up. Let’s try to not break. As I see it, reform does need to be worked out at the top and fine-tuned with the Bishops but when the “top” is not trusted, then what? Is there anything that can really be done with this administration today or at this Assembly if they refuse to release financial details?

    I suggest using what you do have and on the first day and vote. Men, your immediate power is your vote and when it comes to the vote, I’d like to see the Bishops lead through prayer and fasting instead of considering who’s turn it is here and there. Can God not be trusted to place our leaders and can He not be trusted to have a place of ministry for out going leaders as well? When I cast my vote as a citizen, I don’t vote on any issue or people that I don’t have knowledge about; name recognition is not enough. Would you our Bishops, have the integrity to not cast a vote unless they had heard from God first?

    As a business man, I haven’t liked it when I come up against a dead end but those are the times I draw close to the Lord and I find He opens doors that I could have never thought of. You are the men that preach that His ways are better than ours; now prove it and change what you can and certainly, you have the power to pray, spirituality enough to hear from God and the right to vote.

    It would be refreshing to have an entirely new Executive Committee, that is, every Committee member new to Cleveland positions. Also shake up the Council of 18 a bit. Not because we do not have good men in these positions ( many are the best of the best) but perhaps that would end these old outdated patterns of leadership and entitlement that keep being passed along.

    Pray about your votes – let God be responsible for accommodating present leaders; that’s not your job. Your job is to be informed and prayfully cast your votes.

  34. Donovan Law wrote, “We are to submit to those in authority over us, but at the same time,…” I agree, Hebrews 13;17 NIV says Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. You may think I’m on the Church of God General Executive Committee’s side “NOT”! I’m on the church’s side. Yes as members we submit to our pastors, as pastors we submit to the council, council to the committee and finally the committee should SUMBIT to the General Assembly Minutes. Submit to them or change them. As part of this great church for almost 48 years I have been burdened by my part of the General Assembly because year after year I have exercised my duty and voted only for those under submission violated there duty to submit. Until those who would lead are led both by the spirit and the general assembly minutes this church will have “money” and credibility/trust problems. One of the big ten, thou shalt not steal. To take money from missions and pay bills or big salaries or attorneys for law suits is stealing. Like wise, not paying tithes is stealing from God. For this church to be blessed, we (everybody from the bottom up) need to be obedient to God’s word first.
    The church of God is not a secret organization, copies of tax returns for 501(c)3 corporations can be obtained from the IRS. Why can’t the church disclose theirs to the membership? What they got to hide?
    Don’t just be informed and cast a vote, hold them accountable to do what is right. It’s your duty as a part of the General Assembly the highest authority in the Church of God, for now.

  35. As a college lecturer in ethics, I was invited to speak to a regional meeting of Rotarians on “Business Ethics”, I sadly had to advise them that there is no such thing, You are either ethical or you are not. To expect people to listen to us because we are “christians” seems like the Haitian prostitute that told our COG missionary she would also make him a good deal, because she also was a “christian”. We cry for credibility in our leaders.

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