I really am excited about what God is doing in the Worldwide Church of God. A few weeks ago I had lunch with Pastor May and shared with him that I really hope and pray that the members of the Worldwide Church of God would stay IN the Worldwide Church of God. It is so very important for the testimony that you have for the world to be able to continue to be a part of this body. If everyone left the Worldwide Church of God the testimony of this miracle would be diminished and not as many people, both in the church at large and in the world, would know the tremendous transformation that God has performed here.
Romans chapter 15, verse 4 says that the miracles and the stories that are recorded in Scripture are recorded as an example and an encouragement to others. It would sort of be like being healed by Christ and nobody knowing. Good for you but for the greater body of Christ we’d miss a tremendous testimony. So my strong encouragement is that you stay the course. God’s been doing a mighty work in this church and he’s going to continue to do it. Now when He does such a strong work it doesn’t all happen at once. But it happens in each of our lives together and the testimony that you are to the rest of Christendom and for the world is amazing. And I think that your part of this team is maybe much more important than you know. So I encourage you to continue to keep your membership here, be active, and serve God right where He‘s planted you.
There is a gentleness that begins to rise, and now I’m turning the corner into what I want to talk to you about now. So that I can identify there is a gentleness that it derives from people that go through the kind of pain that you do that, in the long run, not only is a redemptive blessing in your own circles but becomes an instrument like a balm that’s being released in the larger body of Christ to pour back upon the larger church if people will receive it as a healing means. Because you show such a generosity and a graciousness, and an appreciation for the love of God in a way that is so fresh and appealing and needed to be heard, by many of us that have known the good truth of the gospel in all its fullness for all of our lives. But to hear different ones of you give the testimony, it makes it live all over again for us.
When over 300 Los Angeles area pastors gathered here, and I was another pastor on a team of about a dozen brothers who were the ones who precipitate this quarterly gathering. And when we gathered here a few months ago and just heard the brothers share it, it was another instance of an evidence how this broad spectrum of leadership were just moved. There was not one person there who was, for the most part, misty-eyed. Because not just some kind of supercilious or snobbish, .“Well, I’m sure glad they got straightened out and it moves my heart that they’re finally righteous.” But instead, what was happening in everybody was the sense of - “My God they have only recently come to capture what I have known for a lifetime in a sense they but have a more vibrant and warm appreciation for that that I take so much for granted.” It is humbling, really.
I believe that God is not just recovering something and renewing something in your own ranks but He’s raising you up to be a voice and in that process of doing that you are going to be encountering times when you wonder if anything good is finally going to come out of this struggle you ‘re going through. With hope and faith surviving those things, then the next thing is what are we about and what are we going to be and become? Gaining definition on your life as a denomination is a tremendous challenge.
As you move into this, I want to tell you, I believe that out there ahead the Lord has really destined you to become a primary voice as we enter another millennium of the living church if the Lord Jesus doesn’t return first. That is always the proviso we add to any phrase appropriately and scripturally and. with our conviction, we live with an anticipation of His return. So did the Apostle Paul and we have gotten this far so far so we don’t know when that’s coming about.
In the meantime, gaining a sense of our own personal destiny, or corporate destiny, as movements or the larger destiny, where we fit into the body of Christ is a tremendous challenge.
I honor you for all the exercise you’re going through, not to mention the pain you’re experiencing at the same time finding the recovery from, what - how shall we describe - as some of the amputations that you experienced. People that have, not that you cut them off, but they have cut themselves off from you and—gosh, I can hardly imagine all of this.
I’ve been looking forward to this time for a very, very long time and I think there’s some things I need to say to you later on from the Scripture. But that’s not the real reason I’m here. The real reason I’m here is to say what I’m going to say right now and that is that your brothers and sisters around the world are so proud of you guys. You’ve done something, and I’m a church historian, I teach at a reformed theological seminary. Nobody ever in the history of the church has done what you guys have done. I don’t know about you but I just hate change. I’m a Presbyterian and they say Presbyterians have gotta do it right the first time ‘cause we’re gonna be doing it that way for the next 200 years.
So I don’t know if I would have survived what you’ve done. I believe that right now God has anointed you guys in a very special way and I don’t think anybody knows exactly what it is. You shouldn’t be here, but, you are. You should have been so devastated that you lost your faith, but you haven’t. When things get the way they’ve gotten sometimes you turn on each other but you still love each other. That’s supernatural and that’s a gift of God. I don’t think there is any religious group, any denomination, any part of the body of Christ in America today that has less baggage than you do. You are FREE.
Greg was telling me that you had invited somebody from the Four-Square Gospel, maybe Jack Hayford, or somebody. Do you know, I couldn’t do that in my denomination? Cause we are so bound by the STUFF that we are involved in that we build these walls and I can’t even invite my brother. My brother, I know, who loves Jesus more than I do, to come and speak to our organization. We’re an uptight bunch.
I spoke to the general assembly of our denomination a while ago and they had a liturgical dance. Now I was watching some of your faces during the worship time. (laugh) Some of you guys are not into this big time. And I understand that. But they danced. You think you had a problem, you should have been in our denomination. They did a liturgical dance. And the guy whose wife had done it, was sitting next to me, and they’d already introduced me, and he leaned over and he said “Man, I’m in big time trouble.” I got up and said, “Let me tell you guys something. I told him, “I talked to God and he said he liked it.” They sat there like this. And then I said, but we’re Presbyterians and we don’t believe God talks any more so it may have been Rich Little. (laugh) They didn’t hear a thing I said.
Afterward this guy in a 3-piece suit came up to me afterwards and he said , Dr. Brown, my heart is grieved. I said, “Son, there’s nothing here big enough to grieve your heart. We’re one of the smallest denominations in the world, we’re Birmingham, Alabama. I’m a peon. You shouldn’t be grieved about anything. He said, “You don’t want to hear what a fellow elder has to say?” And I said, (pause) “Nnnn-o” (slowly). “But if you want to be honest, I’ll listen.” And he said, “I think you’re arrogant, and you’re rude, and you’re prideful.” I said. “Son, you’re right, but I’m better than I was.”
And then we went out in front of this gigantic auditorium to talk and it may have been the first time in a long time that both us were really honest.
.Because some of the barriers had been broken down. You guys are a gift to the body of Christ around the world. They’re looking at you. They’re saying, “I don’t believe this. I don’t believe what you guys have done.” You guys have been called to be missionaries to the rest of us. You’ve gotta come to the Presbyterians and say, “Chill out.” You’ve gotta come to the Episcopalians and say, “You gotta be kidding,” You’ve gotta come to the Baptists and say, “It is not all there.” When Jesus comes back he might not be a Baptist.
And so I want you to know I’m praying for you and I love you guys so much and I’m SO PROUD of what you’ve done. Now, God is getting you down to the muscle. I know that. Pretty scary isn’t it? You had all this money and power before, now you got it right God takes it away. That doesn’t seem right. But listen to me. God is bringing you to the point where He is going to do something in your midst that is absolutely going to blow you away. We don’t believe it but God says “My power is made perfect in weakness,” and you’re going to see God do a great work with you.
Perhaps some of you are old enough to remember a man by the name of Herbert W. Armstrong who used to be on the radio all the time with The World Tomorrow. And Herbert W. Armstrong was much the same way, in that, he was very convincing in his speaking. And he would say, “Now why don’t the churches tell you this, friends?”
And he would go ahead and make his premises and all and like I’m revealing something that they’re trying to hide from you. And he was very convincing in his speech and actually developed many, many followers in the Worldwide Church of God.
Fortunately, since his death, there has been a radical change in the Worldwide Church of God as the people who took over that ministry upon his death came into an understanding of the grace of God and today have made a radical change and the Plain Truth has become the plain truth. I will say one thing, I don’t know of any cult that has really had such a radical change toward orthodoxy as has the Worldwide Church of God. It is really exciting to see what the Lord has done there.
“Dr. Kennedy, does it surprise you how quickly all of this change has occurred in the Worldwide Church of God?”
Dr. Kennedy: I’m not only surprised, I’m astonished to see a group which was really nothing more than an Irish stew of cultic heresies with a little bit from every conceivable kind of cult thrown together by Herbert W. Armstrong into a mish mash which led people light years away from the truths revealed in the Scripture.
And for them to come from that to a virtual orthodox position is without parallel that I know of in the history of the Christian Church. We certainly ought to pray for them and also for the splinter groups that have broken off that they, too, may in time begin to realize the errors of Armstrongism and may come back to the Worldwide Church. I could not believe that ever in my lifetime I would be saying or praying that someone would come to the Worldwide Church of God.
transcript thanks to Phyllis Rose