Friday, August 23, 2013

On The Current State of the Churches of God

The web blog As Bereans Did has an excellent detailed article up about why the COG's are not growing.  We have long held here that all the COG's are not bring in new members, that young ones are leaving, and that the only exist through splinter poaching.

One thing I have brought up before is that there is not a single COG out there that tried to reinvent it's self when it formed a new group.  It was their golden opportunity to become something new and alive.  Instead every single one of them had to imitate HWA and every thing he did.  They name their colleges after him, they name their magazines after his, they rewrite or plagiarizer his books, they buy his memorabilia and they live in the past.

The article goes over these major points that most people who are critical of the COG realize:

1) Availability of information on the Internet.
2) Lack of novelty.
3) Lack of charisma in leadership.
4) Sheer number of COG groups to choose from.

Some minor supporting points include:
- In-fighting between splinters.
- Aging membership.
- Failure to reach out in today's methods.

To me the one splinter group that had the biggest chance of doing something right was UCG.  They had a golden opportunity to start brand new, reinvent itself, and do a major "work."  However it did not accomplish that.  It now has splint into several different groups since its inception.

The article has this:

Armstrong was an advertising man. He knew the value of product differentiation. He knew what it meant to stand out in a crowd, and he knew what death awaited for any product that was just more of the same. He saw the appeal of British Israelism and the annual holy days. When he failed to really sell these and certain other notions to his branch of the COG7, he set out to sell them to the public. He had a niche and he had the know-how to capitalize on it.

Herbert Armstrong used his advertising experience to take his message to the radio waves. From the 1930's to the 1970's, most of the people who heard of the Radio Church of God, which eventually changed its name to the Worldwide Church of God, did so from radio programs.

What was that niche?

In short, J. H. Allen's British Israelism compounded with a few additional legal requirements created an attractive elitism. Toss on Alexander Hislop's concocted historical narratives to create a secretive conspiracy, and voila! It wasn't just about Protestant versus Catholic, nor was it just about the Sabbath versus Sunday. Now it was about being one of an elite group of people who were chosen by God to be given secret knowledge of a conspiracy stretching back 3,000 years, kept secret until this final hour before the return of Christ. Members of this elect group were called and chosen to fulfill prophecy by spreading the warning that doom and death awaited anyone not vetted into this "one true end-time church". This church superseded all previous churches; none of them would do. This was the final offer and it was only available while supplies last.

What a potent combination! Doomsday and Conspiracy. Fear and Pride.

Eat your heart out, Little Orphan Annie with your secret decoder ring. We have the keys to understand prophecy!

The problem with today's group of post-Armstrong leaders is that they have not learned the lesson of effective advertising.

They were told for so long that they had the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth that now they are in a predicament. No one boards a plane intending to be locked into a holding-pattern. How do you differentiate your product when you are more or less forbidden to change it and make it distinctive, and there are nearly a thousand other people selling the same thing?

The article then talks about the "charisma" of the current crop of COG leaders.  None of them, and I mean NONE of them have the charisma of HWA or GTA. Pack has proven himself to be lying narcissist, Flurry is batshit crazy and Weinland is in prison.

Most of the current COG leadership try to solve the problem of brand differentiation by heaping upon themselves titles and honors. "I am this or that prophetic messenger!" "I am going to train this or that prophetic messenger!" "I have the most pure and unadulterated continuation of the original."

Unfortunately this approach is almost entirely dependent on the charisma of the glorious leader. If you don't have a glorious leader with charisma, as Garner Ted Armstrong had in abundance, then you simply cannot win with this approach.

Herbert Armstrong's personal charisma was high, far higher than any of his remaining followers, but Garner Ted's was higher. It was Garner Ted that was personally responsible for the greatest increases in membership from the 1950's through the 1970's.

There was nothing in the entire organization or any of its competitors who could match him. He was handsome, intelligent, well spoken, had a baritone voice soft as butter, was educated in the areas that mattered, and you couldn't ask for better rhetoric. The women loved him. And through it all, he still seemed down-to-earth and approachable. He was a leader for the people. I tell you the truth if he hadn't been caught up in the church he would have been somebody.

Compare that to the current leader of the Intercontinental Church of God.

"Who?" you ask. Exactly!
Certain ones in the current crop of splinter group leaders have a portion of charisma, but they simply don't have enough. Their charisma is a flash in the pan. It may keep established believers, but gaining new believers is much more difficult. Cult of Personality can only take you so far. As with the Intercontinental Church of God, when the leader is struck, the sheep will scatter.

The universal method to overcome lack of charisma is to spend money. You have to have members to get money, then you have to spend money to get members. It's a catch-22. Not only that but you have to keep spending more and more money, which means you have to keep asking for more and more. There's only so long you can squeeze blood from that turnip. It never, ever lasts. It never truly can replace charisma.

Armstrongist COGs these days are stagnating and declining in attendance because their leadership lacks the charisma of old.

Read the entire article here:   Current State of Armstrongism

1 comment:

Byker Bob said...

It's really a mystery, isn't it? They absolutely did do everything possible to imitate HWA, stopping just short of using their self-discipline to maintain unity. And, yet, if some really inspired visionary came along, with new ideas, even if he were actually an apostle guided by God, they probably wouldn't accept him as such or get on board to get to the next level. I believe that that is why Dave Pack is indulging in his laughable charade; he has realized the obvious, but wants to portray himself as respecting HWA's legacy, and himself as that next apostle. And, yes. You would expect an emerging apostle to have, if anything, greater gifts of charisma than did the Armstrongs. Dave does not.

This is yet another reason why the Armstrong movement is hopelessly stuck in the Gamaliel syndrome.

Tough topic in the first place. In the purest form, you would hope that the gospel message would in and of itself be the charisma. But, personality, financial resources, a staff, and ways of disseminating the message are all some very physical factors which play into any growing evangelistic effort. The single most important factor which is lacking, the factor responsible for the building of the early church, is and was the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

What is really curious is that cases have been made that these gifts disappeared at about the same time as did the Jewish Christians. If that were true, one would especially expect them to be present in Armstrongism, which in so many words claimed to be a restoration of this largely extinct group after 2,000 years of absence. Based on what all of us have collectively observed, the restoration of Jewish Christianity cannot possibly be a factor in channeling accurate prophecy, reliable and consistent healing, or the gift of diverse tongues. Again, if those gifts were present in any segment of Armstrongism, they would literally be the charisma, while also providing validation from God. So, once again, you have Gentile Christianity apparently in the lead over Jewish Christianity after a brief bit of latter day flourish.