Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Escape From The Iron-Fisted Worldwide Church of God Cult into The Power and Freedom of Jesus Christ!

The following was sent to me by a reader here concerning a story by a former COG member who escaped the clutches of Armstrongism, legalism and the Hebrew Roots Movement - of which Armstrongism played a major part in, and moved into grace.  Grace is a much hated word in the more legalistic splinter groups of Armstrongism.  It is a concept that is maligned and denigrated as much as they do Jesus.

Their sites claims:

Joyfully Growing In Grace engages in an examination of beliefs found in the Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Judaism, and Netzarim streams of thought and related sects.

The term “Messianic” is generally understood to describe Jews who have come to believe in Yeshua/Jesus as their Messiah. Jews who are believers in Jesus/Yeshua typically call themselves Jewish/Hebrew Christians or simply, Christians. 

Many Christians meet folks who say they are ‘Messianic’ and assume that those folks are Jewish Christians. Most aren’t Jewish at all, but are Gentile Christians who have chosen to pursue Torah observance and have adopted the Messianic term, calling themselves Messianic Christians, adherents to Messianic Judaism, or simply, Messianics. Some will even try to avoid that label and say that they are followers of "The Way".

These Gentiles (and to be fair, some Messianic Jews) preach Torah observance/pursuance for Christians, persuading many believers that the Christianity of the Bible is a false religion and that we must return to the faith of the first century sect of Judaism that they say Yeshua (Jesus Christ) embraced. According to them, once you become aware that you should be 'keeping' the edicts and regulations of Mosaic Covenant Law, if you do not, you are then in willful disobedience to God.

It has been my observation that Christians who adopt the label of Messianic identify more with the tenets of Judaism than they do with the tenets of Christianity. Many reject the label of Christian altogether and some eventually even convert to Judaism. 

Escape From The Iron-Fisted Worldwide Church of God Cult into The Power and Freedom of Jesus Christ! 

by Mark Smith

The following is my testimonial of 18 long years in the Worldwide Church of God (HRM) Cult founded by Herbert W. Armstrong.  For more information on the founder and this cult, simply do some research on Google for more details and the history of the WCG cult.  [Exit and Support Network is a great resource. - jgig]

My father heard the founder’s convincing message in 1964 when I was 3 years old and converted wholeheartedly – my mother went along out of love for my father.  From the age of 3 years old to 21, I was indoctrinated in following and observing all of the old covenant teachings of the Torah/Mosaic law, the holy days and feast days, the Sabbath, plus extra biblical doctrine the founder imposed on us as further bondages and heavy burdens.  As children, we were not allowed to participate in the regular holiday celebrations at school, enjoy birthdays or participate in sports that typically scheduled games on the Sabbath.

While growing up, my father worked hard to support my brothers, sister and I with very little left over after paying income taxes and multiple tithes to the CULT.  For years, my mother would cook simple meals and shop at thrift stores, grow gardens and sew clothes for us to make it - and my father made good money - but gave much of it to support the cult’s “iron-fisted” control to OBEY and PAY!

There was 99 percent law mixed with their exclusive (we have the truth) spin within their doctrine claiming to being the ONLY one with the TRUTH while the rest of the world is lost.  The other 1 percent was teaching on the work of Jesus Christ and His suffering on the cross for our sins which was quickly diminished and perverted by the other 99 percent false doctrine.

Several magazines, books and correspondence courses were the means of being brainwashed and indoctrinated into their (“The”) way of spiritual growth, including fear based manipulation woven into the writings to compel followers into adhering to all the teachings of the founder.  There was the Plain Truth and Good News magazines to pitch to the followers and also to reach out to potential converts on a worldwide scale consisting of modern events, news, prophecy and God’s kingdom to come.

Problem was, there was NO emphasis about salvation in Jesus Christ.

Scripture they used to support the doctrines found in their publications were (TYPICAL OF A CULT) used out of context – and can be clearly discerned and recognized once you DO know the truth that reveals the errant false teachings!  Sin and scandals were common among members including leadership as well as the founder which demonstrated to me that their moral benchmark for godly living was skewed by legalism – NOT having the Holy Spirit moving through TRULY converted people demonstrating the power of the TRUE gospel of Jesus Christ.

Their basis for conversion was the required reading of two NON biblical books written by the founder and then water baptism.  Keeping the Torah’s dietary laws and paying first, second and third tithes filled the cult’s vaults and fueled the propagation of their doctrine worldwide as well as funding a luxurious lifestyle for the founder.  The pastors, deacons and so-called evangelists, did NOT reach people with the “true love of God” but infused control and manipulation that came from the very top – the founder.

The works-based righteousness that I and others tried to walk-in produced the fruit of SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS and a pious, pride-filled life.  Looking back at the fruit of people’s lives, it was clear that the Spirit-filled life of love, joy, peace, patience – etc… was null or void of the fruit that IS evident in a converted person demonstrating the love for God and others.

Falling away or leaving the cult equaled a one-way ticket to the eternal lake of fire.  Powerful, manipulative preaching kept (me) the followers/members in fear and awe that their teaching was OF GOD and somehow anointed.  Once you were a member, you were ensured of salvation within the chosen group of God’s elect, or FACE THE LAKE OF FIRE!!

The real kicker is… their version of the Gospel was what they call the “Good News” – the kingdom of God during the 1000 year millennium to come and that we would all be small gods occupying our own planets - kind of like what the Mormons believe.  Yes, the kingdom of God will be an awesome time, but the cult’s primary focus and doctrine of the kingdom is front and center OVER and above the gospel of Jesus Christ our Savior first… AND His kingdom to come!

Truth is, I don’t remember hearing TRUE solid and sound evangelism about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that would be centered on His redemptive work and the gift of salvation and eternal life through Him!

I left the cult in 1983 after suffering serious emotional and mental anguish about whether I should continue to live under that cults heavy hand or leave since my heart was no longer in remaining as a member.  Fact is I WAS FED UP, and even though I felt that I was condemned at the same time for leaving, I left out of feeling a need to save and salvage my sanity!

Before leaving though, I asked for counseling with my (cult) pastor, who then proceeded to bash me loudly and harshly about being emotional and showed zero compassion and love.  That was all I needed to make my final beeline for the exit door out of that cult once and for all in 1983.

However, my mother went along with it all those years from 1964 until she was fed up and then divorced my father in 1988.  Six years later, in 1994, my father committed suicide due to a complete breakdown from guilt and failure of losing a marriage, and felt like he failed his children, including feeling he was a failure in that cult as a deacon.  His death was extremely heart-breaking to us all… however we felt compassion on our dear dad who was caught in the destructive teachings of a cult.
I don’t remember any of us (my siblings and myself) condemning our father for our childhood… that’s because we know our dad did the best that he thought he could.

My brothers and sister came out of it shortly after I did.  I guess you could say I paved the way to coming out of the cult after many lost years under mind control and manipulation.  My mother drank herself to death in 2009.  My younger sister is not a believer, my younger brother moves all around the country as a vagabond, and my other brother who was a year and half younger is now gone; he died in 2006 from cancer.

I pray for my two remaining siblings that the Lord would reveal to them His Gospel having mercy and grace on them as He did with me.

Several years later, the Lord brought the gospel to me through coworkers and others in the public (thank God for people not afraid to share Christ), yet I vowed never to listen to any man again, but wanted to hear from GOD and GOD only what the truth was.  In August of 1996, I was searching for something to listen to on the radio and heard a man preaching and can’t remember who it was since it was a Christian station with many different teachers and ministers.  I broke my vow to not listen to any man and knew that I just had to keep listening to a new message (the gospel) that spoke to my heart.

Little did I know it was the Holy Spirit drawing me to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, our salvation and the forgiveness of sins that weighed so heavy on me!

After strong conviction from the Holy Spirit regarding my past and present sins, I received Jesus Christ as my Savior and experienced the NEW BIRTH, and started reading the New Testament learning about OUR SAVIOR, about faith, mercy, grace, redemption, sanctification, justification, fruit of the Spirit, love fulfilling the law, Christian living, eternal life to come, Revelation and the Kingdom of God, the message of the Old Testament and the Messianic line along with prophecies of Jesus and so much more!

Now fast forward to the present at 51 years old…

I praise God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ for His glorious love, mercy and grace upon those of us who receive Him and his Word by faith, revealing the wonderful promises to come – from everlasting to everlasting!

Unfortunately, there are several men online that have persevered [known as 'splinter groups' - info available at link provided above] and are pitching the teachings of the cult I grew up in.  THEY ARE MISSING the mark big time leading people into bondage.

As the days are growing more troublesome globally, the Lord has laid it on my heart to reach the lost with the (TRUE) message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I thank God for the TRUE warriors in the faith that are battling against and exposing the lies of false prophets and teachers that are everywhere.

Even though I would love to battle solely against cults and false teaching, I can do MORE damage against the evil one and false teaching by SOLELY focusing on preaching the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ which the evil one hates more than anything!

If you are reading this testimony about my life in a Hebrew Roots/Messianic-type cult and don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior… repent and turn to Him, calling out to Him in His name “LORD and Savior Jesus Christ” and believe that He died for our (your) sins, was buried and rose from the dead three days later.

If you’d like someone to pray with you about receiving Jesus Christ, contact the author of this site, or feel free to comment on this testimony.

After receiving Jesus Christ by faith, you will receive the gift and promise of the Holy Spirit and He will reveal to you the truth in His Holy Scriptures about the Godhead – who our Father in heaven is, who His Son Jesus Christ is, who the Holy Spirit is and MORE.  Read the New Testament books to learn about Jesus Christ… the gospel of John is a great place to start and read the other gospel books about Jesus.  Read the rest of the New Testament to understand the wonderful truths of Him and His Word.

I believe the Old Testament is best understood after you receive Christ as your Savior where you will become a new creation in Christ through the regeneration power of the Holy Spirit that will open up your spiritual eyes of understanding for His Word and the entire biblical message of God’s salvation plan for humanity.

Thank you Lord GOD of heaven and earth for this website and your glorious Truth and promises.

Love in Christ our Lord,

Mark Smith
If you want to contact Mark check out the website for his address.


Anonymous said...

eh, people like Mark Smith are actually leading people away from God and into a belief system that says you can do what ever you want, because Jesus died setting you free.....it's a totally bogus teaching, but it makes life easy so a lot of people will adopt it.

a lot of old WCG ministers went way overboard, for sure....adding a lot of "man rules" to God's rules....so I guess you can say that the pendulum is swinging too far the other way now....

Anonymous said...

Mark Smith is sure to get many who were brainwashed by Herbie mad at him!

Truth is, it's great to escape the mental clutches of Armstrongist "churches" like the UCG, LCG, PCG, etc!

Of course, those still in the mental clutches of the Armstrongist "churches" will tell you all about the "freedom" and "truth" they have.

Maybe you'll even want to join their Armstrongist "church"!


Sharon said...

Than you once again Anon 9:09 for demonstrating that Armstrongites are ignorant about what grace is. You have listened to the lies of your ministurds for so long that you cannot discern truth from untruth.

When you say what you did you admit you cannot live in the grace of Jesus Christ but have to have the security of the law to make you feel safe.

The law keeps you in captivity and held liable for things you have no way of ever doing correctly.

You are correct that grace sets us free. Free from the law and the legalistic bullshit that still destroys lives in the COG's.

I can assure you grace is not scary and that grace does not lead one to do what ever it is you think people lasciviously want to do. Because that is what you are saying. You are saying grace leads to lasciviousness. You are a lair, but I can understand why you do it. We were taught to lie in Armstrongism by everyone from HWA down to the local deacon.

Anonymous said...

Dave said:

I'm officially telling you this...Wives, legally you have the 1/2 the funds. What are you going to do about it?...Husbands...'well, my wife is not in the church'...tell her...'you don't have a voice woman' "

Boy that makes sense in the Wacky World of Dave Pack.

If you are a RCG woman, you have RIGHTS to give day 1/2 of your family funds. If you are NOT RCG, you have NO RIGHTS or a voice woman!

What a condescending piece of shit this man is. To include the word "woman" in a sentence by a man is degrading and condescending to the max. And yes I know Jesus said, "Womand, what do I have to do with you ?" to his own mom, in the story. It was equally as rude for the Gospel Jesus to speak so to his mother.

As the first Ms Pack said to relative...."You know it's not easy being married to Dave Pack."

I can't imagine it being otherwise.


Byker Bob said...

Thank you, Mark, for your powerful testimony, and thank you, Gary, for posting it! I know that this will be a very controversial post because of the collection of experiences and attitudes that we have here, but if nothing else, you have illuminated a path which leads to some deeply needed healing.

I know in my heart that most of us who exited the Armstrong movement made similar promises or vows regarding listening to any future Christian teachers, or really anything that even smacks of religion. Fortunately we serve a loving God who knows exactly what keys
need to be used to open our minds towards Him. Even the possibility that that could be true used to scare the living daylights out of me. That fear was largely manufactured in my mind by Armstrongism, and was totally unnecessary . Whenever members of the deity or their messengers appeared to anyone in the Bible, their first words were always "Fear not!" God's love casts out fear.

May God be with you, my brother!


RSK said...

One issue w/ understanding Western Protestant-based Christianity is that to an adherent of Armstrongism, or at least someone used to thinking along those lines, is that terms and phrases such as "grace", "legalism", "rest in Jesus", "gospel of salvation", "by faith" and so forth simply don't make sense to us! They sound like wordy nothings couched in very nebulous terms.

The problem is not helped by the fact that in countries like Canada and the US, what we now see as "mainstream" Protestantism became a cultural aspect over the past century or so. Many adherents were simply born to it and practice it as they were taught. So when you ask a lay Protestant Christian (or even many pastors) for a clear explanation, they can't do it without using the exact same terminology that confuses us in the first place.

On top of that, the reference material out there is abundant, but much of it falls into the same trap of near-sloganeering instead of explaining. The writers cannot escape their own paradigm of nomenclature, so an Armstrong-influenced individual gets frustrated quickly trying to make sense of it.

Corky said...

One important mistake they all make is in knowing what the gospel or "good news" was/is. Some think it was the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (thus the "gospels") and some think the gospel or "glad tidings" was the soon coming kingdom of God on the earth. Both are wrong.

The good news was that gentiles (even bastards and women) could now enter the congregation of the Lord, instead of only the court of the gentiles, they could now enter the sanctuary. That's what was so good newsy about the "new covenant", it includes the gentiles (and others who were excluded in the old covenant) through the adoption of sons. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man tells the whole story if you know that Lazarus is a metaphor for the gentiles and the rich man is a metaphor for the Jews (namely the temple priests). The gentiles no longer had to beg for crumbs from the rich man's table.

That was the "gospel" that Peter, James and John were perverting in Paul's letter to the Galatians - the exclusion of gentiles from the congregation because of circumcision and keeping old covenant law.

It was not "good news" that Jesus was going to come back some day and destroy billions of people and set up a righteous kingdom.

I could elaborate more but I'm atheist and preaching the gospel or what the good news actually was and why it attracted so many people so fast is not my job.

Anonymous said...

Boy I feel for Mark & his entire family!
I guess you have right there in his testimony about what happened to his dad, mom & siblings once again a demonstration of the FRUIT of Armstrongianity i.e. estranged relationships, depression & suicide! I empathize with his brother who he described as a "vagabond" who travels the country as I've been described as "lost" more than once by a few people including my Catholic sister.
Ultimately I believe God is bigger & far righteous than we can ever imagine with our finite minds & He will reveal His Way & His Truth to each of us in His time be it now or in a future time so we all may "know Him" who is the One True God & His beloved Son Jesus whom He sent as the True Way of Eternal Life so long ago...

Anonymous said...

well Sharon, it's obvious that I have a much better understanding of grace than you seem to....

how can one possibly be under grace without obeying God???

your definition of grace certainly leads people toward lasciviousness....each person setting their own standard...

what is perfecly acceptable to me might be full blown lasciviousness to you.....and since we each use our own standard of right & wrong, who can challenge us? ...do we agree on that point?

your definition of grace is clearly nothing but confusion.

Lurker said...

Ah, yes. Lasciviousness. Because once you accept that nibbling on a lobster tail isn't a sin, the next natural step is to go out and have a torrid affair.

The difficulty many have with turning from Armstrongism to grace is that those in the COGs can't fathom how they would possibly know what to do without the Pentateuch. Or even want to submit to anything or anyone.

Well, that's because obeying the Law of Moses doesn't change hearts. It didn't for Israel, and it still isn't today. A changed heart realizes the magnitude of Christ's sacrifice for us and lives in accordance to His commands.

That's also because the guidance of the Holy Spirit is almost totally ignored in the COGs. Why take the time and faith to listen to that still small voice when you can just read the law and know what to do?

If that's too hocus-pocus for you, just open the book of James and see how trying to live by the principles mentioned there work for you. Spend the time you would normally use to check labels for pork or watching the clock for sunset times serving others and you probably won't end up passed out drunk in an alley with a prostitute.