The COG Executive Committee Didn’t Create Our Present Situation

Where are we at this moment concerning Church of God discussion on MissionalCOG?

Let’s make a brief list, face it, get angry if necessary, get over it, and get ready for a Gospel solution that honors the Mission of Jesus in our denomination, the lives of our members, pastors, and every single one of our administrators.

Here are the two 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 God:

  1. The Minutes are not being followed in the way we spend over $13 million per year designated for Evangelism and Home Missions funds.
  2. The Minutes are not being followed in the way we fail to disclose our budgets.

Now, we can get out pitch forks and rage against the machine. Or, we can speak with love and accuracy concerning what has transpired. Without any doubt and in keeping with our previous writing, “A Letter of Absolute Objection to the Executive Committee,” this practice of spending Evangelism and Home Missions funds for ancillary items DID NOT begin with any current member of the Executive Committee. Nor, did it begin with any presently serving Administrative Bishop under the appointment of this Executive Committee.

The key words found in our minutes on page 173, S44. FINANCIAL SYSTEM, II paragraph 2, reads as follows:

Local churches shall raise in [missions] offerings an amount equal to 5 percent of the tithespaid [into the local church]. Fifty percent of this amount, and 50 percent of all missions money raised in the district convention, shall be kept in the state in which it was raised, to be used inevangelizing new fields or, in the case of emergency, it may be used to assist small churches.

This is an inherited problem passed down from one administration to the next. No doubt, the problem began with a well meaning overseer and/or state council somewhere along the way making good-hearted decisions. But, those good-hearted decisions diverted money away from our Gospel mandate and our General Assembly mandated spending of those monies. Those decisions began the creep/slow slide away from our stated mission. This is a “mission drift” that has gripped our church fellowship.

At this General Assembly, we need to reject the call to eliminate this mandate. We cannot afford to have a David/Bathsheeba/Uriah moment at this moment in our history. We cannot set out to strike the line we have transgressed against to cover for our sin. We also must realize that there is absolutely nothing more important as stewards of the Church of Jesus Christ than to have a firm grasp on the missional mandate given to us by Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). We can do this while still realizing a reduced financial burden to fund administration. We can accomplish this if the General Assembly has the will to reassert itself as the highest governing body in the Church of God.

THE CONGRUENCE PRINCIPLE IN ACTION

  • Should we realign to who we are on paper instead of who we are in practice?
  • Will who we are on paper be erased to match the drifting of our church?
  • Or, will the General Assembly regain its footing as our highest governing body and insist on doing what we say we will do?

If we realign to who we are in writing, know that people in every single state/region may very well be challenged to release some luxuries that we have grown accustom to on the administrative level. This did not happen over night. Tom’s statement about the General Assembly has been a reality for quite some time.

Regardless of how we got here, this is a problem that thrashes our credibility and destroys our trust for one another. In turn, it affects our ability to generate income for ministry. Aubrey Malphurs says in “Money Matters in the Church” that:

“A direct correlation exists between a congregation’s trust in leadership and their increased giving. Not only will people follow leaders they trust, but they will give to ministries led by leaders they trust.”

One has to imagine that the issue of non-disclosure and spending EHM monies for items other than church planting and small church assistance in addition to the events transpiring at the General Assembly in 2004 and 2006 breeds massive financial challenges. Only two years ago, I heard Julian Robinson with my own ears in Tampa say that our Tithe of Tithe receipts double every 7 years. But, in the year immediately following the 2006 General Assembly, our TOT receipts dropped from the previous year for the first time in our history!

The prescription for us going forward is mutual submission to one another as brothers and sisters in mission together. The General Assembly must reassert itself with a heart towards the mission of Jesus while also creating an environment where we can tackle these issues with openness, honesty, and grace for one another.

SACRIFICING THE GREAT FOR THE GOOD

These two problems should drive us to ask, “Have we sacrificed the Great Commission of Jesus in favor of the good commission of our present denominational practice?” It would seem to me that the obvious answer would be yes, absolutely.

How did this take place? I believe it happened one decision at a time. It happened because we have slowly begun to value other things, including our own comfort above the mission of Jesus and the value of our word.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have come a long way. And, while I do celebrate the prosperity God has given us and the extra things we are able to do, I cringe at the fact that it appears that over time, we have experienced significant “mission drift.” We have created a comfortable place for us to exist and an inhospitable landscape for the mission of Jesus on our denominational levels and even locally as a result of the burdensome fees that come out of our communities, at the very least.

I would go further to say that our church has been accessorized to the point that the main thing is hard to recognize. It appears to me that over the course of decades, we have marginalized the Gospel mission of Jesus Christ through a series of good decisions. The Mission of Jesus is on the shelf and now it has been proposed to be stricken from our Minutes. Other non-essential items are continuing to edge forward. Its a slow drift in our Gospel mandate. But, make no mistake about it. IT DID NOT originate with Bro. McGuire or any member of the Executive Committee. Nonetheless, it is a present reality and WE MUST SPEAK TO IT WITH THE EXPECTATION THAT IT CHANGE.

The time has come and gone for us to be angry. The time for us to repair is here. I am personally praying for a Resurgence of our Mission. I am praying that we can speak to this issue with one voice. I am praying that the voice that speaks in favor of the Mission of Jesus would be a grace-drenched voice that expresses love for the administrators of our church. I am praying that they will respond by realigning/returning the Church of God to be who we say we are on paper. Know that:

  • There will be no repair if anger wins.
  • There will be no repair if ambivalence rules.
  • There will be no repair if we fail to have guts.
  • There will be no repair if love is not the priority.
  • There will be no repair if we value our perks higher than our Minutes mandated directive to honor the mission of Jesus through the Evangelism and Home Missions Budget.
  • There will be no repair and WILL BE FURTHER DAMAGE if pastors and members walk away this summer feeling the work of the local church has been further devalued.
  • There will be no repair if we fail to return to Gospel simplicity.

The path forward is a path of grace, honesty, love for one another, and strong leadership from the highest governing body of the Church of God. We must reassert this leadership paradigm that is articulated in our Minutes. We must devote our lives to the cause of Jesus and bend the Church of God around that mission. Anything that distracts, anything that is non-essential and in turn causes the Mission of Jesus to be reduced to a lower priority, must be diminished or erased.

Let’s move beyond the blame-game and address this as a loving church family with a Gospel solution in mind. We can do this. We can do this now. We must do this now.

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26 Responses

  1. Travis, great piece!

    As I consider what you’re saying, and try to assess both where we’re at and the best way forward, I find myself coming back to one basic problem. That is, in our current structure the quickest way forward is when administrative leadership takes the lead in doing so. I’m glad that you mention moving beyond “playing the blame-game.” That is one thing that we can do. And perhaps leadership is hesitant to do or say much publicly because the blame-game has been such a big game for a few years now.

    Nonetheless, it seems to me that at the end of the day there is not a lot that we can do, at least not between now and the A.G. That puts me in the boat of holding out hope that some leader arises to the occasion at the A.G. and convinces the O.B.’s that they recognize what time it is, and that they are ready to “put their money where their mouth is” in some way. As frustrated as a lot of ministers are, I still believe that one rousing speech from an influential leader (new P.B. or whoever), can create a significant surge in optimism. The downside is that if nothing like that happens, or even worse, things go further in the wrong direction, then people are going to be more disillusioned than ever, and it might be too much for some.

    So, that puts me in a position of “wait and see.” And I’m waiting to see what the leadership does, which means it will be very difficult to not find myself playing another hand of “blame game.” If I’m wrong, and there’s something I can do…something all of us can do…then I’d like to know what it is, and I’ll commit to doing my part.

    Praying here. Don’t really know what else to do.

  2. Travis,

    Amen to the conciliatory approach to resolving the issues at the GA. May the Spirt of Unity and the Bond of Peace prevail! If I understand your post correctly you are recommending voting no to the Realignment of Resources agenda item. Since our intention is for the church to reclaim the “mission of Jesus” at the state (EHM) level and the agenda item only directly deals with the WM portion of the TOT tax, would not approving the measure be more likely to work to our advantage when we discuss it at the state meetings. Voting to keep the status quo in my mind sends a message that we can continue to do business as usual. I realize that reducing the amount to WM may seem to work against the “mission” but with 80% of the COG membership outside the US not taxed on the TOT, the expressed desire of the WM dept for flexibility and the inherent conflict of interest between the administrative needs and the mission needs, isn’t it time to separate the “mission” funds from the admin budgets?

  3. James,

    Thank you for the warm response. Here’s what I’d like to see:

    #1. I want to see a cut.

    #2 I want to see our Evangelism and Home Missions giving administered with integrity and with great intensity.

    #3 I want to see a continued mandate that 1/3 of our mandatory fees to the COG denominational structure fund World Missions and EHM on a state level.

    Agenda Item #2 is amendable according to Roberts Rules of Order and according to our bylaws. We can change this to reflect the heart of the original proposal as presented in 2004, the overwhelming heartbeat of the members and ministers of the Church of God, and the spirit of our fathers who began setting this course in 1927.

  4. Jon,

    You’ve always got a ton of great feedback. Let me try to respond to this:

    As I consider what you’re saying, and try to assess both where we’re at and the best way forward, I find myself coming back to one basic problem. That is, in our current structure the quickest way forward is when administrative leadership takes the lead in doing so.

    I would agree with what you’re saying with one caveat. I would propose saying, “according to our experience,” the quickest way forward is….

    Additionally, while some denominational leaders may be slower in responding, others are whole heartedly behind what we are doing, will be at the Missional Resurgence meetings, and are openly supporting a return to who we say we are on paper. I don’t want to overstate what is going on. But, I should acknowledge that there seems to be significant movement…and even a distancing/separation that is taking place concerning lack of disclosure and the EHM Budgets. I think it is worth noting.

  5. First of all, the measure to realign resources will fail in the General Assembly vote. It is tied to missions and GOG folks will not touch it. There needs to be a new measure making free and easy financial discloser (with no strings attached) mandatory. Also, the EHM funds must be used as set forth in the minutes. If our State or Executive leaders fail to follow this direction they should be disciplined with removal from office being the stiffest penalty. Without discipline hanging over their heads, the popular vote will continue to elect leaders who propitiate the status quo. When those who financially benefit from controlling the finances of an organization are responsible for the oversight, it is impossible to expect the system change.

  6. Travis,
    I appreciate all of your concern for our Church. I to am concerned about the level of transparency that our officials exhibit. I believe will all of my heart that we (COG) are in a difficult place, I feel the burden because it is just as much my problem as yours or anyone else’s we have allowed a broken system to remain without question for years. I for one am ready for a change, I am going to vote for change I am going to promote and work as hard as I can for change first among our leadership and I believe it will flow down to all the areas of ministry and responsibility.

    Every year we talk about changing things, let’s put up or shut up so to speak. I will be voting for Wallace Sibley on the first ballot out of the gate, whether he receives enough votes to be General Overseer is here nor there, I want to see him somewhere on the executive committee, because I believe that He will push for change and be the catalyst that we need and are looking for. I also Like Mark Williams and Grant Mcclung.

    If you want more of the same vote for those currently in leadership if you want change I think we need to make some crucial decisions.

    Tom and Travis you have my support, I am with you and support you all the way.

  7. Travis,

    This was an excellent article and I agree with you on every point in principle. However, I too want the cut in the tithe of the tithe. As we all know tithe is 10 % not 15 %. When a nation or a denomination taxes its people more than 10 % it is putting itself higher than God, and is therefore in a state of idolatry. Until the Church of God stops requiring more financially than Scripture does, we as a denomination will continue the drift into oblivion.

  8. Travis,
    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.

  9. James,

    We are all entitled to our opinion and will vote accordingly in San Antonio. But please make sure you know your facts first.

    AI realize that reducing the amount to WM may seem to work against the “mission” but with 80% of the COG membership outside the US not taxed on the TOT, the expressed desire of the WM dept for flexibility and the inherent conflict of interest between the administrative needs and the mission needs, isn’t it time to separate the “mission” funds from the admin budgets?

    Actually, each country does pay a ToT to its field area office. At least, that is the standard here in Europe. There may be some “pioneer” countries exempted, but for countries in which the COG is well established it is the norm.

    Second, the realignment of funds (agenda item 2) would actually fuse the mission funds with the admin budgets.

    There are many arguments pro and con for the realignment of funds. But just make sure you have your facts straight before forming an opinion.

  10. Randy,

    It’s great to hear from you…hope things are well.

    Like you, I have an issue with having a 15% tax levied against the local church and then having the Scriptural principle of the tithe assigned to that fee. A 15% “Tithe of Tithe” is brilliant marketing nomenclature with one exception. It breaks a chief marketing commandment. “Thou shalt accurately represent thyself.”

    There are short-term gains to be had when you misrepresent principles, products, or personalities. But, there is long-term fallout. We’ve found ourselves dead in the center of that fallout. It is a bad long-term strategy to develop a denominational funding structure and then blame God for it. There is Scriptural warning against that.

    Anyway, I agree with you. We must come out of this General Assembly with two things:

    1. a cut in the fees levied against the local church.
    2. protection for the fees we send in so that they will be administered with integrity and in a way that advances the Gospel through the vehicles we’ve setup (World Missions and Evangelism and Home Missions).

    There is a path forward. That path will require the General Assembly to reassert itself though. We must be willing to do that.

  11. I was just reading where a pastor took an informal poll of approximately 1000 people attending a revival service at his church (you can read the full story on my blog). Interestingly, only about 16 people out of 1000 had come to faith through a revival, evangelistic crusade, or Christian television. Everyone else had come to the Lord through relationship(s) with friends and/or family. That’s really striking to me!

    But it’s even more interesting in light of our current situation, and I take two things away from it:
    (1) The most powerful evangelism strategy we can adopt is to encourage the church.
    (2) The irony that evangelism currently holds a central place in whether or not we walk away from the G.A. encouraged or further discourage is not lost on me, and the consequences of our decision(s) seems doubly important.

  12. sorry for the broken link, here’s my blog.

  13. Tom R.
    I did not mean to imply that churches outside the US do not participate in the TOT. The tax on the TOT I was referring to is the additional 5% over the TOT required by pg 129, section V. which according to the language I interpreted to apply only to US churches. If I have misread it or otherwise misunderstood it I thank you for correcting me.
    In truth my intention was to state my opinion that the problem is institutional and no matter who is elected or what agenda item is approved the fundamental conflict will remain. Every president since Jimmy Carter has campaigned on a promise to “fix” social security. I’m sure that most actually intended to try, but a funny thing happened when they got to Washington, they found that the institutional strength of big government was irrestible and assimilated accordingly.
    I don’t doubt the good intentions of those seeking to reform our institutional approach to missions, I simply disagree that the answer lies in the reformational approach. The only way I believe to return the church to its missional roots is to starve the administrational beast that has gobbled up all of the resources assigned for it and most of the resources assigned to missional purposes. I believe that to continue to attempt to fund WM/EHM through reforming the current system is a well intentioned waste of time. Transformation not reformation should be our desire, the system itself is inherently flawed and no amount of “tinkering” will fix it.

  14. James,

    Thanks for the clarification and response. I also was unclear, because I also meant to state that countries must also pay the extra 5%.

    I understand the idea of “starving the beast”. But I’m afraid that the beast that will be starved to death will be the world missions department, not the remainder of the apparatus in place.

    Furthermore, I do believe we need to address the issue of internationalization. But there needs to be a consensus on an overall plan before we begin to dismantle various departments or ministries.

  15. Tom Rosson said:

    I understand the idea of “starving the beast”. But I’m afraid that the beast that will be starved to death will be the world missions department, not the remainder of the apparatus in place.

    And I say a resounding “well said!”

  16. JJ-

    As a ministry pioneer, I know that what you lay at the foundation will determine the nature of the ministry in its final form. The great thing about the Church of God is that great men and women of God before us laid a solid foundation- and as I understand it, this forum calls for a return to that foundation and that which is proposed is not some kind of revolution but actually a “Reformation to Origins” which realigns to the pioneering, missional character of the Church of God which God birthed through our forefathers.

    This points to what I’ve alluded to in previous posts: at the inception of change, means can be of equal importance to intent because “ends do NOT justify the means,” but they can determine the nature of the change.

    Now my question to you. What will be the nature of the change if the means utilized is the same name-dropping, back-door politicking, dependency-minded buddy system that got us the crumbling layer on top of our solid foundation?

    Spefically, your statement:

    “I will be voting for Wallace Sibley on the first ballot out of the gate, whether he receives enough votes to be General Overseer is here nor there, I want to see him somewhere on the executive committee, because I believe that He will push for change and be the catalyst that we need and are looking for. I also Like Mark Williams and Grant Mcclung.”

    Personally, I will not vote for ANYONE who I see meeting with the Hispanic delegates to get their “en bloc” vote, or pointedly parading their resume via email or website, or “button-holing” at the General Assembly, or…for that matter…candidated in forums like this. Nothing against the names you menioned, but you in my book you did not help their cause.

    Our human tendency to replicate the leadership structure we grow up under can NOT be sanctified- not in America with church special interest groups, lobbying, cronyism, and nepotism, etc. and not in Eastern Europe (where I served 11 years) with totalitarianism, divide-and-conquer, character assassination, etc. You would not believe the excellent rationalizations I’ve heard for patently sinful behavior.

    I believe you long for a pure Reformation, as I do, but my exhortation is that you cannot really go back to the foundation and rebuild with the same tools we have been using- you will merely reproduce the same fractured walls you decry.

    My passion flows pretty strong on this subject so forgive my strong reaction to what I’m sure was an innocent post.

    Blessings

  17. I am glad to finally see a more respectful tone in the discussion as it relates to the leadership of the COG. We are all a part of this movement and when we speak with contempt of one we speak with contempt of ourselves individually and collectively.

    There is a path provided for making change the by-laws of the general assembly. They do not include the a group holding a caucus prior to the GA in order to influence the proceedings. We have an agenda, the odained bishop’s council and the general assembly. It disturbs me when we use tools of the political arena to make change in the eccesiastical arena.

    Discussing the business of our church in a forum any person can participate leaves us open to undue criticism from without.

    The finacial system of the COG is not a 15% tithe. It is a tithe of the tithe just like the priest paid to the high priest. The 5% is an offering equal to 5% of the tithes.
    It is not a fee it is a responsiblity we agreed to when we became ministers in the COG. Whether there is a misused of the 5% is debatable depending on your perspective. Do we need transparency financially, YES. Do we need it published to the world, NO. Do we need to refine our mission to align more clearly with Matt.28:19-20,YES. Do we need to wreck the present system to accomplish it , I think not. Rather refine the system.

    I pray 1Cor. 13 reigns in all of our hearts and may we live it out practically.
    a

  18. James:

    I appreciate your emphasis on love and respect. Thanks for that!

    As far as the idea that we should NOT discuss the business of our church in an open forum I would have to disagree. I have seen too many church splits that could have been avoided had some key decisions been discussed openly, with transparency. I don’t think we have anything to hide. And I don’t think the big bad world is going to have much to say about our business. Thus, I cannot conceive of any potential outside criticism that would in fact be “undue.”

  19. I agree with Jon on the discussion. A forum such as this isn’t perfect, and you will get interlopers. Eliminating the anonymity, however, compensates for that to a large degree.

    Most non-COG cognoscenti would find the discussions here arcane. The upside to this is greater than the downside.

  20. James….

    I know a James Brewer! Is this the one from Florida? If so, how are you brother? If not…uhhh…then I guess still…how are you? 🙂

    Allow me to respond to your post….look forward to your response….

    If this is the Jim Brewer I have known and served with for years…then I will respond with a view to personal accountability that the relationship would entitle you to seek and that your post seems to imply…in this “public” forum.

    I am glad to finally see a more respectful tone in the discussion as it relates to the leadership of the COG. We are all a part of this movement and when we speak with contempt of one we speak with contempt of ourselves individually and collectively.

    I think often you will find people express disillusionment in unfortunate ways. As you know, there is often a sequence by or through which people respond when provided the occasion to “hope again” or to be “involved” when they have accepted disenfranchisement. Often it evokes anger and venting…and will not always begin with a view to an end. But, as you have noted it appears the discussion is beginning to move through that stage. In terms of personal accountability: Perhaps some on here have done so with “contempt,” but that has never been in my heart.

    There is a path provided for making change the by-laws of the general assembly. They do not include the a group holding a caucus prior to the GA in order to influence the proceedings. We have an agenda, the odained bishop’s council and the general assembly.

    One of the problems is that “the path provided,” namely the Minutes of the General Assembly is not honored in letter and certainly not in spirit. I have offered the substance of this observation in other posts.

    It disturbs me when we use tools of the political arena to make change in the eccesiastical arena.
    Discussing the business of our church in a forum any person can participate leaves us open to undue criticism from without.

    I don’t know that “political” and “public” are necessarily one and the same. And I am assuming that by using the term, “political” you mean, generally speaking, the communicational process of information dissemination that is chalk full of subtle subtext, pretext, and pretense…to mention a few . That matters here have been forthright and to the point.

    Further, the spirit of the Matthew 18 conflict resolution process seems to culminate in a rather public forum expression (“tell it to the church”), when the first two attempts have not yielded a response from those who allegedly stand in violation.

    The finacial system of the COG is not a 15% tithe. It is a tithe of the tithe just like the priest paid to the high priest. The 5% is an offering equal to 5% of the tithes.

    When we open the door to a letter of the law implementation of Old Testament giving it presents a number of problems….since we it would include things such as the tither to the poor, festival tithe/giving, first fruits, etc. I think a better case is built on your following statement….

    It is not a fee it is a responsiblity we agreed to when we became ministers in the COG.

    I am with you on this one…a covenant is a covenant is a covenant…

    Whether there is a misused of the 5% is debatable depending on your perspective.

    The spending/misuse of the 2 1/2% for Evangelism and Home Missions may be beyond debatable if you scrutinize the expenditures through the lens of the specific language of the Minutes of the General Assembly. Which is a wonderful example of your last point, because I am not the only one who signed a covenant agreeing to live by the directives contained in the Minutes. Those who lead us signed the same ordination…and the same agreement.

    Do we need transparency financially, YES. Do we need it published to the world, NO. Do we need to refine our mission to align more clearly with Matt.28:19-20,YES. Do we need to wreck the present system to accomplish it , I think not. Rather refine the system.

    No one is talking about “wrecking the system” … I am talking about honoring the “system” of action we have written down and allege to have embraced.

    I pray 1Cor. 13 reigns in all of our hearts and may we live it out practically.

    I agree……..
    “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
    1 Corinthians 13:13 (NASB95)

    I’ve heard it said that one of the reasons for love being called the “greatest,” is that love is the expression of faith and hope. What I am involved in is an expression of faith in our covenant, and hope that we can be something more than we have been.

    I look forward to your response brother.

  21. I want to weigh in and make a statement, with my name attached. I am a product of the Church of God. I have been a COG missionary, a COG church planter and I am now a COG pastor whose main focus is on lifting up the glorious name of Jesus Christ. I was raised in COG parsonages. I was influenced greatly by COG Youth Camps and Camp Meetings. I love my heritage and I am deeply involved in the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the COG. I am an Ordained Bishop in the COG because I choose to be. The COG is my family.

    I have to agree with those who state that our current leadership is not to blame for the situation. We have good people, with good hearts, doing their best in service to God and the church, although, the increasing distance (the trust issue) between ‘administration / leaders’ and ‘local pastors / ministry’ could not be much greater, and this could be addressed better. Our situation is much bigger than the individuals who currently serve as leaders. To state it bluntly…our system is to blame. It does not have the capability (or design) to function at the level we need right now or that the Kingdom work requires Because it is out of balance (top-heavy), self-sustaining, and inwardly focused, it is not capable of taking us where Jesus told us to go. Above all things, Jesus taught us to not be self-centered and self-serving. Yet, what we have become as an organization is exactly that…self-centered and self-serving. Is it inevitable that we reach a ‘crisis point?’

    Because the problem is systemic in nature, just refining the system will accomplish little. Just changing personalities at headquarters will mean little. (How much really changes from GA to GA?) We have slowly evolved into a “world system” and any refinement of the system will only produce a “refined world system.” I believe our system needs a radical overhaul…an overhaul that places emphasis and resources back at the local church level and that provides a decentralization overall. Our ‘head’ needs to be proportionate in size to the rest of our body. Instead of us sporting a huge, balloon-like, 200 lb head on top of a 90 lb body, we need a strong, muscular body and an ‘average’-sized head (a poor comparison, I suppose). Of course, this would mean a radical ‘downsizing’ of general church positions, programs and finances (Is it conceivable that the COG could thrive without general church programs? Could the local church be trusted to ‘be’ the church?). It would also mean reducing the power that is held by a handful of men. Here is the rub. Too many (in the system) have too much at stake and are too dependent on ‘the system’ for their livelihood. Our current system is one that places greatest emphasis on what occurs at the hub, the nerve center, at headquarters. It naturally glorifies leadership…it can’t be helped (It’s built into the system). In so doing, the system devalues the local pastor, it devalues the local congregation and it devalues local ministries. When this happens, the real strength of the COG (the local church) is left to fend for itself while a ‘ladder-climbing’, ‘good ole boy’ system of leadership is cultivated.

    Some may say that the Church of God must exist in its present form, at all costs. I would remind them that nothing is bigger than God’s Kingdom. Our focus should be to build God’s Kingdom through the vehicle of the Church of God. And, if God wants our vehicle to take on a new appearance or to have new features, in order to make it more relevant for today’s world, that decision should be His, not those trying to drive it. I love my heritage in the COG, but I love God’s Kingdom more!

    I, too, believe that if we do not address these very important issues, we will continue to have ’trust’ problems and continue to have an ‘aging’ clergy, and we stand the risk of becoming just another irrelevant church. We stand to lose our next generation of pastors, evangelists, missionaries and administrators.

    Thank you for the forum. Tom and Travis, thank you for being bold enough to actually get involved. This is just an opinion from someone who loves his church and who loves the Kingdom of God.

  22. Jim,
    I feel the same as you about the CoG, but my love of this church came in a different way. I was not raised in a CoG home, I didn’t even know what the CoG was until I was 16. God and the ministry of a small local church brought me out of the church of my youth and offered me more of God than I had ever immagined. I thank God every day for that small local church, and for our leaders. I believe with all of my heart that we have good, godly men leading us, but I also think that the larger world wide church, and the local church must change. The Word of God never changes, but the world we live in does, and we must stay relevant or we can’t share the unchanging Word of God. I truly don’t feel that our church is broken, as some have stated, but we must change and grow spiritually and administratively just like we grow in numbers.

    With love in Christ.

  23. Jim Chamberlin,

    It’s always good talking to you. Thanks for sharing. Your words are big…but, not quite as big as the 200 lb head on the 90 lb body though! That was a great illustration of a precarious place in which we find ourselves. Thanks again!

    trav

  24. I see a difficulty here sa we approach the GA. The focus is on the money and what to do or not to do with it. I am very much desiring to see a change in this area but with so many issues at hand this Assembly, financial change is only one area. It would behoove the Bishops of this denomination to take a close look at what this agenda is purposing in the structural changes, such as; local church licensing of the exhorter minister making the local church and Pastor totally responsible for the licensee in legal matter, This means that pastor’s and local churches will not have the assistance of the denomination when it comes to erring individuals. Only the Lord knows what that can lead to in the legal world. How about women serving as an Elder -vs- serving as Deaconess of the eventual move to allow women to be Bishops within the Church to finally allowing them to hold the highest office within the Church etc. We have a real problem remembering that this is still the CHURCH the BRIDE OF CHRIST not a Business with managers and CEO’s. While there are some within the movement who are pushing these as part and parcel of the so called innovation of the future, perhaps we should look closer at the scriptural mandates and order that God places on things. I have served as Bishop of my congregation for well over 20 years (the same Church). My concern is my local congregation and the vision God has given us to reach our city and surrounding communities. In the eyes of some, I may not be as successful nor innovative as some would like; but hey, I am not here to impress you, I am here to do the Father’s business. I agree that business as usual needs to end, and we need to be relevant to our culture, however I am not willing to do it at the cost of reducing the Word of God to just a book that is outdated. If innovation means going the way of the Methodist church, Episcopal church and other mainstream denominations or losing our Doctrinal structure as many of the Charismatic or non-denominational churches have gone then count me out! I will stand by the word of God. i am afraid that the financial issue will cloud our judgment when it comes to issues that have much more biblical weight then weather or not we have a financial decrees of 21/2 percent. Please take a look at these matters as well.

  25. The problem has never been about who created the system. The problem has been that the system and all its dysfunction is being nurtured and protected. The heads of that system, often good-intentioned and good-hearted men, are perpetuating what has been developing for years.

    All that my generation (so-called Generation X) and the next generation (Millenials) wants is a father in the faith to step up and be more concerned about the cry of his children than his place in a denomination. That may sound negative, but consider this. In relation to that, we really do want a relationship with those fathers, and we want to hear their stories and gleam from their experience. But they are too busy protecting a “system” when they should have protected their kids all along.

  26. Well said Donovan! If we ever experience Malachi 4:6 the “system” will automatically fix itself!

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