Struggles of a 3rd/4th Generation Christian… and Why They Keep Leaving

ATTENTION: Please make sure you check out PART TWO on my home page. Very important to get the full picture!
One of the biggest concerns for our Church today is an aging ministry. The older generations are asking themselves, “Who’s going to take over the work of the church when we’re gone?” Not only does there seem to be a lack of interest in this type of “career” by our young people, but there is a constant stream of them leaving the church all together. 1st and 2nd generation Christians are befuddled by this, wondering what it is that the younger generations aren’t getting.

Drawing from my feelings and experiences as a 4th generation kid/teenager/young adult that grew up in the church, I hope to better explain some of the struggles our young people are facing. I realize that these are not the feelings of every 3rd/4th generation Christian. This is merely a broad generalization. Also, I am in no way trying to put the church down, as I know they are in many ways understaffed and over worked, and doing the very best that they can. I am simply trying to shed some light on what’s going on in the minds of some of the young people in our church.

  1. When you’re given something, it’s not as easy to appreciate it.

When Mr. Armstrong started the Radio Church of God in 1934, people from all over were overwhelmed with excitement by the truth. It was unlike anything they had ever heard before, and it stirred up a passion of learning. Many faced difficult obstacles in order to start following their new found faith – including losing relationships with family and friends. But their faith was the most precious thing to them, and it was worth whatever else they had to give up in order to follow God. Many of these first generations brought their children with them, and the lives of these 2nd generations took on a drastic change. They said goodbye to Christmas and parties on Friday nights, and began keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days… and they saw firsthand the difference it made in their lives.

Most of us 3rd and 4th generation Christians were born into the church, never knowing anything different. Attending church every Saturday was just what we did. It was a part of our being as much as eating dinner was. But we’re told we are supposed to have a fire and a passion for God’s truth… a thirst for knowledge. But it’s not so easy to be thirsty when you’ve never been without water. Just as you appreciate a bike you worked all summer to buy more than one that’s given to you, we struggle with appreciating the faith that was given to us.

The fact that many of us struggle with our passion for God and His way of life can make us feel guilty. We question why we don’t have the intense love for the truth that those before us did… and it makes us wonder if there’s something wrong with us. We look at these ministers and elders that stand before us and seem so “perfect” and we think “I’ll never measure up…”

When we worry that there’s something wrong with us because our lack of zeal, we get discouraged, convince ourselves that God isn’t all that interested in us… and it becomes easier to leave.

  1. We speak a different language… one of vulnerability, openness, and creativity

With all the different ways to attain knowledge out there now, it’s hard for us to only learn in one way. Many of the older generations were brought up in a time where you kept your personal struggles private. We however, are very much the opposite. We feel bonded to one another because of the struggles we face together. We love reading about other people going through the same things that we’re going through. It gives us hope and encouragement. We are a creative and people oriented generation that deeply needs more than just head knowledge. We thirst for personal experiences and lessons to be shared with us in order to connect to what’s being taught.

Because many of the 1st and 2nd generations don’t openly talk about things they have been through, we are afraid to talk to them about our own battles. I personally feel there is an unintended persona of perfection that is put out by some of the ministry… and it can be very alienating to us young people. We ache so much to be understood but fear putting ourselves out there for for risk of judgment.

Many of those in charge right now are so focused on “‘maintaining the tradition” that they can be resistant to adapting to teaching us in the way we learn best, and to speaking to us in ways that we need to hear – through passionate music/hymns, vibrant videos and articles that include personal experiences and people we can relate to. This organization (going back to World Wide times) was in many ways created by the 1st generations for the 1st generations… and in a lot of ways, over the past 83 years it hasn’t really changed.

Sometimes it’s frustrating knowing that we missed out on the “glory years” of the church. The insanely huge Feasts, camps that lasted all summer long, Ambassador College, and the excitement at the newness of everything. Sometimes it feels like we are surrounded by older people so focused on maintaining their beliefs, traditions, and love of the truth that they forget we didn’t get to experience it… and that we need that fire to be ignited in us just as it was for them.

When we don’t feel accepted, when we don’t feel understood, when we aren’t being fed in the way we need, it becomes easier to leave.

  1. We ache for more meaningful ways to serve

We have a deep need to be a part of a team. Of something greater than ourselves. To be appreciated for our own unique talents and gifts. But many of us feel limited in our ability to share those gifts within the church because we feel there are such strict guidelines on what is and isn’t “appropriate”. In order for us to flourish, we need more creative freedom to be who we are. To be able to share our stories and struggles without worrying that we will be looked down on because of them. To sing music that speaks to our hearts as well as our ears, even if it has a drum line. Bringing snacks to church or taking down the stage decorations, while needed, don’t exactly feed the soul. We ache for a more meaningful way to contribute, and struggle to find a place to do so.

Other churches have mission trips, praise bands, and artisan communities that help give those with more creative gifts a place to serve. I know older generations are always wary of us becoming “protestant-y”, but what’s the problem with being like the Protestants in the ways that they do great work? Sometimes I think we start to confuse tradition with core beliefs. Our traditions are things that we, as human beings, put in to place (the order of our service, hymns that we sing, what we do or don’t talk about, etc). Our core beliefs are things that God put in to place (the Sabbath, Holy Days, etc.). Core beliefs should never change, but there does come a time when tradition needs to be re-evaluated and new ways of thinking and doing are necessary.

When we can’t find our place, when we feel our talents aren’t wanted, when we feel squashed creatively… it becomes easier to leave.

  1. We don’t care about the politics, we just want to be together

God has us assemble together in a church for two main reasons – so that we’re not alone, and to more easily preach the Gospel. He didn’t bring us together to have a power struggle over ways to govern the church. He wants us to get along and be there for each other as we try to navigate this sinful world. If there’s one thing we as Christians all understand, it’s how lonely it can be without friends of like mind.

Growing up in the church it was hard enough only having a small group of friends that believed the same “wacky” things that I did. Depending on the church area you grew up in, you might not have had any other kids your age in your congregation. Camps, the Feast, and the WFW were the best times of the year, because we finally got to see our much missed friends! Now that we have splintered off into a million pieces, it makes keeping those relationships so much harder. Without those activities being combined, our social circles got a whole lot smaller. As if finding a spouse in the church wasn’t already hard enough! It’s frustrating to us that there are so many different Church of God groups that believe the same core things, and yet we can’t seem to get along and come together.

When we lose the friends that kept us anchored, we are left feeling alone and overwhelmed, and it becomes easier to leave.

  1. We are inundated with more distractions than the generations before us

Distractions. Distractions. Distractions. At the touch of a button we can pull up porn, dirty comedy, and a host of all kinds of other sinful things. Even if we aren’t out looking for it, it’s constantly being pushed in our faces. While TV and the internet are considered amazing modern advances, they make being a Christian a lot more difficult. Not only do they surround us with temptation, but they distract us from what we should really be doing.

We are trained to think that studying is work. It’s not something we look forward to since we do it all day long at school and even into our jobs. Studying the Bible in your free time just doesn’t sound relaxing. Now TV, that’s relaxing. We know what we should do, but it’s just so easy to give in to other options when they are sitting right there at our fingertips. However, take all those distractions away, sit in an empty room with just your Bible, and reading it becomes a lot more appealing.

Our relationships with God suffer because of this… and we know it. We ache for the simpler times when people weren’t so overwhelmed by this world and the distractions in it.

When we get distracted, when our relationship with God falls by the wayside, it becomes easier to leave.

~~

I hope and pray that this article doesn’t cause offense to anyone…. because that’s the last thing I want. I felt strongly that these things needed to be said because the fact that we have so many young people leaving the Faith is a big problem, and the only way I know to help fix it, is to start opening the lines of communication.

So, to those in the 1st and 2nd generations (especially those that hold positions of authority): Please remember that many of us struggle with a passion for our calling, and that we need you to help us cultivate it. That we need you to be approachable and vulnerable in order for us to feel comfortable sharing our feelings without fear of judgment. That we deeply desire to serve, but need you to be open to us bringing new ideas/ways of doing things to the table. That we hate division and want to be together as one big family. That we get distracted and discouraged and need you to lovingly encourage us. That we trust you to take care of us.

And to all my fellow 3rd and 4th generations: If you’re struggling, tell someone. You’ll be surprised to see how many have been in your shoes and are eager to help. If you’re feeling frustrated by a lack of ways in which you feel you can serve, be proactive! Talk with your peers, family, and minister and see what you can do to change things. Keep up the relationships you made before the split, and don’t let political differences get between you and your close friends. And when you’re feeling distracted, find a quiet room with just your Bible, and take yourself back to the simpler times. Don’t let Satan trick you into believing that you’re not good enough… that your presence in this Church doesn’t matter, because it does. You matter, you are loved, and you have so much to offer. Don’t ever forget that.

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99 thoughts on “Struggles of a 3rd/4th Generation Christian… and Why They Keep Leaving

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    1. Wow Great Topic I left as a teenage rebell Thankfully jus like a 7 yr Curse I returned, knowing Mr. Armstrong would die an wondered how church would change. Mr. tkack was real freemason the sadest people are ones who stayed an now aare some grace things completely like a funeral parlour !! Hardest job 2 keep 1st LOVE alive reading scriptures daily is surest way to keep Drive going looking @ others best way to fall away .

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    2. I just wanted to add that once I learned what man had done to the church that Jeshua started with the Apostles, and honestly believe the Messiah would not recognize His church today I did the only logical thing a Christian should do. I opened my Bible and started at “IN THE BEGINNING “. For if you went to a movie or started reading a novel you wouldn’t start halfway through. You must learn what YAHWEH expects from us in order to please Him.
      And something miraculous happened “when I followed Torah (Elohim’s guidelines and instructions for life) ” I felt a closeness to YAHWEH and Yeshua that I never felt before, and if I even thought about lying I felt this hurt in the bottom of my heart that I let the Father down. Then I started repenting every sin I remembered (once I found out what true repenting is 1)sincerely ask the Father for forgiveness of the sin 2) tell Him that if you could go back and undo the sin you would in a heartbeat and 3) earnestly and sincerely ask the Father to help you so you never, ever do it again. That’s Repenting.
      And little by little all you pray for is one day to have Yeshua place His Blessed arm over your shoulder and say these words “WELL DONE MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT ” and really count your blessings, when I do I realize I am truly blessed.
      Shalom, Pete

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  1. I stumbled upon this through a friend on Facebook. Thank you so much for sharing. I am a 2nd generation COGer and have raised 3 children to adulthood as 3rd a 3rd generation in the church. I have seen them struggle with all of the things you mentioned, especially #4. My heart aches when I think about the culture we have created in the COG for the younger generation with regards to separateness. I am praying with you for ways to unite the Body in one Spirit. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. I am a second generation COG raising a 3rd generation in the church. Believe it or not, I totally agree with all your points. I am 51 and there is not a lot of people left in the church in that age group–mostly way younger or older. I can’t relate much either to those tightly held traditions and fears of seeming less than perfect. I fear the leadership will hold on so tight that it will strangle the church out of existence. We need more love, expression, passion, laughter, joy and safety to be less perfect. Thanks for your insightful words.

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    1. Thank you Terri! I completely agree. My biggest hope is that as the younger generations begin to take over the positions in authority through the years we will be able to make some changes. However, my fear is that if we continue this way there won’t be many young people willing to take on those responsibilities. But I have faith that God is looking out for us and will work things out according to His plan!

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  3. Another fantastic blog! Thank you for putting into words what a lot of us are thinking. I’m technically second generation since my parents didn’t come into the faith until the early 1980s (and I left for four years because I didn’t have a passion for the Way.) Your example of thirst is spot on (a thirst I developed after leaving and discovering making my own way wasn’t as fulfilling as I imagined.) I also really liked your mentioning the first generation church was created by and for that generation. As the church grew in the 1960s onward HWA used cutting edge technology to preach the gospel. I think that is something that has been forgotten. Thanks again for being willing to share your thoughts even when you risk offending someone (which seems to happen quite easily these days to anyone who says anything that doesn’t match a reader’s current opinion.)

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    1. Thank you Laurel! That is so true about the HWA using cutting edge technology. They were trying to reach as many people as they could by preaching in a way they needed to hear. I think we are stuck still trying to preach in old ways when they just aren’t as relevant today.

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  4. Awesome article..I myself am a second generation Christian and attend church where my two teenage sons and my almost 21 year old son are the only kids in the church we attend..so I must say that point number 4 is so very true on so many levels. We just do the best we can with what we have. Thanks for taking the time to say what alot of us feel.

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    1. Thank you Tambra! I can only imagine how much more frustrating the splits have been for kids like your boys that are in small congregations. So many of us get frustrated with the older generations telling us we “have” to choose a church. But we don’t want to, we choose Gods Church and that includes all of His people

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    2. Yes you are absolutely right..choosing God’s church should be one and the same…we should not be divided…there’s a reason it doesn’t feel right.

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  5. Many thanks for writing this. I think you have tremendous courage and have hit a nail right on the head with this post. Clearly expressed and well written, please write more !
    Although I don’t get frustrated at missing the glory years. Is this a terrible admission. I think they were very strict, no birthdays ect … hypocrisy…third tithe…

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  6. I am a second generation in the church, raising a third generation outside the church. Church is really another way of saying a part of the body of Christ. #5 really is important because this has been shaping the last few generations profoundly, and progressively. Striving to be a member of the Body we need to remember whose body it is. We need to be willing to conform at every personal level. There is more and more of a struggle when our society is driven in the direction of me first, now, PC feelings and entitlements…
    Ownership, involvement, being welcome, being a part, feeling needed, etc. for the most part go well beyond church service format and musical choice. It always comes back to a personal foundation being laid on hard choices, understanding and commitment. Church leadership should be truthful and open, brothers. The model in the bible was that of services meetings in homes and generations helping each other much like an extended family. It will only get harder and harder as the gulf widens between the world and God’s church. The church youth camps are tremendously important in this regard. We should not expect to change our music, church format, make things more appealing and expect to coddle people into staying and being/feeling a part. There needs to be more going on at services besides the formal sermons and song service part. Helping to set up and take down, etc. is important too, but communicating and sharing and sharpening is the real heart of the assembling ourselves together as we are commanded on the Sabbath, but also throughout the week.

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  7. Thanks. While I am a second generation member 6 months from being 70, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Maybe I am still young at heart. I too find the distractions of today’s world a stumbling block, that is not so much generational as it is cultural America these days but I do feel and understand it. When the first splits of WWCOG came, it was (to me) for doctrinal issues (core beliefs) and we all see where that led in the end. That work is no more. Later, splits came from egocentric attitudes in the leadership that for most of us we could not understand; it was all so hush-hush. Many took sides and much harm has been caused by this situation. It may not be over. But I for one have many friends in several groups and hug them all when I see them. I attend services and feasts with more than one or two groups and in every case, the people want to be together but there are some with a bad attitude (IMHO) who can’t see that in the end, God will bring us ALL together with no regard or special respect for ANY leader, even those who claim to be “the only one” properly teaching the brethren. So be sure to keep your friendships with those who have been called. It will strengthen you and them alike. BTW, a new hymn with a Jamaican flair would be a treat.. Just sayin…..

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I agree wholeheartedly. It’s so encouraging to know there are those all over the world in the church that feel this way. Almost every single one of my best friends stayed with United when my family went with Cogwa and it has caused many tears for me over the years because I get to see them so much less often. We still make the effort to visit each other as often as we can though. I agree, some Jamaican flair would be fantastic! Haha

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  8. “Other churches have mission trips, praise bands, and artisan communities that help give those with more creative gifts a place to serve. I know older generations are always wary of us becoming “protestant-y”, but what’s the problem with being like the Protestants in the ways that they do great work?”

    Wow. This statement takes me immediately back to a room full of people in my local congregation, staring at me in disbelief when I dared to asked this same question out loud to them at the ripe old age of 20. (Well, except those artisan communities– those hadn’t come on the scene back then but I would have been ALL OVER that.)

    At 20 I had just been baptized, and my fire was burning bright with the same ideas and the creativity that you talk about here. At 38, I can look back now and see that the question I was asking was a foolish one– Now I can understand that the WCG and it’s splinters were built on a foundation that people are “called” or “converted” into the church, and that Protestant mission trips are designed to help impoverished communities while carrying out their main purpose of saving lost souls. To that roomful of 1st Gen WCGers, the idea of going out into the world to help people (even local people) on a mission trip was equated with trying to “save” them, and therefore immediately dismissed as somehow laughable. In their eyes, that was not our job to save souls.

    Unfortunately my passion was solidly squelched by this and other points of contention and eventually I knew I was not in the right place anymore. I left for good when I was 24-25ish and have not returned since. There were MANY other reasons for my leaving, of course, but that moment stands out in my memory as a turning point. Another one is when a family member tried to play “Amazing Grace” and a lady openly scoffed and said “We don’t have grace in this church!”.

    I am not sure if this attitude of salvation through works and being converted is the same now as it was back then, but that was my experience in the late 1990’s. Those ideas remain rooted in the attitude of many 1st Gen members, I’m sure.

    I’m sorry. I don’t mean to turn your comment section into a therapy session–and I’m certainly not here to pick any internet arguments– I come in peace. 🙂 I’m sure there are plenty of ex-WCG/CGI/UGC/pickyouracronym kids who can relate and have their own reasons for leaving. There are so many layers to the things that I was taught as a child. Now that I have Google at my fingertips I have to search to decipher what was actually biblical and what was fabricated by an Armstrong to fit their agenda.

    I still have not found a church where I feel that I fit in completely, even though I’ve made a concerted effort over the years to find a church home with my husband. There are parts of the church that I don’t miss AT ALL (mainly the ones you list here), but there are other traditions that still tugs my heart year after year, like taking Passover and going to the Feast. It took many years but I’m finally over the guilt of doing all the PAGAN!!! things that I was never supposed to do like eating bacon and celebrating Christmas. I do miss the annual traditions of the Holy Days, even if I don’t miss having to defend their reasons to all my non-church friends. 🙂

    Thanks for writing a great post and letting me share my feelings. I would also add that this is not just a problem for “the church” but also The Church as a whole–people are leaving mainstream Christianity in droves because of the exact reasons you’ve listed here. But, we cannot stop trying. We have a responsibility to raise our children to know and love God, accept Jesus as their savior and give them a foundation of biblical Christianity that they can pass down to the next generations. Never in the history of the world have our children been more aggressively attacked by Satan. He is right at their fingertips with social media. It’s more important now than ever, regardless of the denominational wrapping paper.

    Good luck to you!

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    1. Beth, thank you for your insightful comment! It’s very interesting to me to hear the feelings of someone who actually did leave the church because of some of these reasons. It hurts my heart to think how many others have had their passion squelched because others had wrong attitudes. In the end, we are all human, and we will never have a perfect church. Not until Christ returns anyways.
      I will say that the church is a very different place nowadays than it was in the 1990s. That was such a rocky time with the change in doctrine at World wide. Most of the splinters that knew the new teachings of WW were wrong are very loving and welcoming. There are just some things, like the points I mentioned, that are not exactly their strong suit. However, I have faith that we will see changes in the future, and until that time we just have to lean on each other and do everything we can to be worthy of the Kingdom of God.

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    2. Beautifully said, Beth Ryan. My name is Brian Spurgeon and I grew up all my life in WCG. I am a second generation Christian. I am grateful for the things I learned that were right. But as you say there were plenty of things that were wrong and we struggled with legalism. It seems to me that all the churches are struggling in this area of young people leaving church and never returning. I want to learn from what I hear in this blog and it is helping me. I loved the part where you said we need to teach our children to love Jesus and pass on the truth to our children. I am married, but have no children of my own. I do feel it very important to teach the next generation. I am glad this conversation started and hope the young people will continue sharing. God bless all of you!!!

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  9. At the beginning, you said, “but there is a constant stream of them leaving the church all together. ” Are you speaking of baptized individuals, unbaptized, or both? Just seeking clarification, thanks.

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    1. I have seen both. But I would say there are more non baptized teenagers/young adults that leave once they hit the time in their life that they have to choose whether the church is theirs or their parents.

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  10. “Because many of the 1st and 2nd generations don’t openly talk about things they have been through, we are afraid to talk to them about our own battles.”

    There is no need to be afraid. 1st generations especially will be very happy to talk about their struggles with you, and you might find that we can relate to you better in struggles that some of the 2nd generation. Take time to get to know us. Sometimes we struggle with the fact that you have had the privilege of growing up in the church when we did not and because the 2nd generation has often made us feel inadequate when it became the main body of the church, often having what we perceive as a “better than you” attitude, we also struggle with successive generations, feeling we are being judged even more harshly. If this is the way much of the 3rd and 4th generations and beyond feel (what you have written here), then we 1st generation and you generations NEED to find some way to get together. It seems we both feel under the judgment microscope of the 2nd generations. I am not saying that it is all up to you to approach the 1st generation, but it could be helpful. The best way to have a 1st generation open up to you is to invite them into your home on NTBMO and then do a round table of asking how they came into the church. Invite only 1st generation folks the first time out so that those in successive generations don’t feel “left out” because they have not had the same experience as 1st generation. This will open up dialogue and relationships with the 1st generation that you never believed possible. It is not that we do not want to tell you our story; it is not that we de not want to open up to you; it is because we simply feel that you could not possibly be interested. Obviously, you are; and we are more than willing to share, knowing that you are genuinely interested and do not come from a position of judgment.

    We in the 1st generation WANT to be connected with you. Help us to do that too. We find the 3rd and successive generations tend to really keep to themselves in their own groups, so we feel they are not approachable just as much as you feel we are not approachable. Let’s close that gap. We always have NTBMO in our house so it is a much more intimate setting. This year I think we will resolve to seek out more of the 3rd and successive generations to have them with us, and only them. We have TRIED VERY hard to do this in the past, but they just do not seem to be interested. No matter how far in advance we have asked them, they have all declined. So, this is a struggle every year. Open yourselves up to allowing us to invite. I know that many of you want to spend time with your families, but take a step away so we can get to know you. NTBMO in the home is a very intimate setting that allows for wonderful relationships to be built; I believe the church has lost this crucial key by having all of the restaurant setups in the name of “ease” while at the same time sacrificing the intimate setting of people getting together in a very special setting to get to know one another much more deeply. Some of the most wonderful and close relationships I have forged with people in the church have been a result of the NTBMO evenings in the home of others or in my own home. I challenge you as I have said above: Have NTBMO in your home with only 1st generation for one year, and watch your relationships blossom. Later on, have it in your home and invite only 2nd generation, and watch your relationships blossom. Some of the troubles with the 2nd generation and yourselves is likely because you only see them and interact with them in “official” capacities in camps and otherwise, so it is all about “teaching and learning”. My challenge to the 2nd generation is to take off your “official” hat and your “teaching an learning” hat, and take time to just be relaxed and fun and personable with the 3rd and successive generations. Hopefully then we can all come together in a bond that is strong and close. I hope that helps.

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    1. Thank you for that insight! I will be honest, I think there are definitely some of the younger generations who aren’t that interested in spending time with the older generations (they are just all about their friends), and this is sad. However, there are many others, myself included, who feel differently. I’m sorry you have had such a difficult time getting the younger ones in your area to spend NTBMO together. Hopefully this will start to change! I agree, we have to start making efforts from both sides.

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    2. Ken Miller! I agree! I am a younger generation who gets frustrated at my own generation for not talking as much to the older generation. However I have found many older ones open up if you just talk to them maybe one-on-one EASILY. It’s not that hard to be honest… I am not sure if I have had difficulty at all with older generations as they have been more than kind and more than willing to share information. Some of my favorite people. However… I do get ashamed of my own generation sometimes with how dismissive they have been of some of the older ones in our church congregation… I don’t think it is necessarily the older ones that are fault for this. Thanks for expressing what I was hoping someone would say. In fact I have to be straight honest and say that I have had more difficulty with my own age being closed off and guarded than the older generation. So yay for older gens.

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  11. It breaks my heart to read posts like this. I could relate to most of what you said here so, so much. I am one who left. While some of these trends exist in other Christian denominations, the unique doctrinal beliefs of the Churches of God greatly contribute to the problems you describe.

    It’s difficult when the next generation doesn’t want to pick up the ministerial baton. Is this because of a lack of personal responsibility, or because we 3rd and 4th generation folks have seen the way those in leadership treat each other – leaking internal personnel information, publicly calling each other “spiritual wolves” – and want no part of it? I know of many cases where it was the latter.

    Strong leaders like Mr. Armstrong are often key to building momentum. However, many COGs today are distancing themselves from him because they don’t want to associate themselves with a man who generally displayed very unchristian, possibly grossly immoral behavior. As a result we 3rd and 4th generation members are not attached to the founder. But we can’t have it both ways. Either he was a powerful man of God and we should generally rally around his core beliefs, or God was not working with him and we should distance ourselves. We can’t have it both ways.

    Our doctrinal teachings on salvation necessarily create perfectionistic relationships and further church splintering. Because we are responsible for cleaning out or own spiritual crumbs – somehow wielding the Holy Spirit as a power tool – we cannot tolerate differences. We must get it ALL right. As you astutely explain, many of these splinters teach largely the same thing things but differ on one point. It’s easy to gloss over that in theory for unity’s sake, but if you’re responsible for getting it right and removing all your crumbs, then it all matters. Not having the correct form of government. Eating out on the Sabbath. New Moons. All of it can be made into matters of salvation, matters of sin and righteousness, of compromising your beliefs. I sincerely wish I was wrong, but without compromise, no one can get back together.

    Upon examining what I was taught, I found that the doctrinal support for what I was raised to believe was sorely lacking. This is why I left. Not because it was too hard, or because I was tired of not fitting in. I didn’t “fit in” for decades. I was used to it. I will never fully fit in at any church going forward (although I am finding that what the COGs taught me about Protestant Christianity was often a misrepresentation, a total straw man). I left because I found the problems I witnessed were often directly caused by these misguided doctrinal beliefs. Only a true understanding of grace will solve the problem, but true grace will never be embraced, because it is too “Protestant.”

    I continue to pray for you. For all of you younger people in the COGs. You would be surprised to know how many of us do.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Martha! I hope you know I didn’t write this blog to put down the churches, but to help encourage those in them and to open communication for change. In so many other areas our churches are wonderful places with wonderful people. But no church will ever be perfect when it is composed of and overseen by humans. We can only do the best that we can do until our Heavenly Father brings his Kingdom to this earth and we finally can be apart of His perfect church.

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  12. Hit the nail right on the head with this. I’m a 3rd gen here, I dont see myself ever leaving (I did stop going for a couple years but always knew the truth) but I still struggle with a lot of the the things you wrote about. This was encouraging to read. That we aren’t alone. Thank you for this.

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  13. I have a few questions.

    1. Have you ever asked those who have left why? Have you ever look at their responses as authentic, personal, or conlcuded that their choice to end the COG style of life was the best for them?

    2. Are you really certain that the old days were really the golden glory ones with all the pomp and circumstance or that there is much more to the story that your pastor, or church history has not told? I can assure you, as one who lived during the “heyday”, things are not what you’ve been told.

    3. Are aware of the beliefs of other religions, their practices, traditions and histories? Have you ever taken time to really delve into your own using sources outside of what is promoted in your church?

    If you truly want to see why your religious movement has been hemoraging members for over 30 years, I can assure you, its worth investigating.

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    1. 1. Yes I have many friends and family members who have left the COGs and I have talked with them about why. Their reasons are all vastly different, many of which I did not cover on this blog. I myself left the church for a time so I am aware of some of the struggles from a first hand experience. There are some people who really just don’t feel this is for them or have other priorities. I am sure there have been times that people leaving have been for good reasons, as there have been mistakes made within the church. I don’t think that attending with the COGs is the only “way”. It’s not so much the church you attend with but that you are following Gods commandments and living your life according to the Bible.
      2. I should have explained better what I meant by “glory days”. I was more referring to the fact that we were together as one big church, doing many activities all together. I am well aware of the extreme strictness and in some cases absurd rules that they had. I am also aware of Mr Armstrong’s sins and that there were many other things that went on during that time that were not right. I am very grateful that much of that was realized to be wrong and has changed.
      3. Yes I have done my own studies. I have even attended Sunday keeping churches to see what they are like. No, our churches are not perfect. But please, show me one that is. They do not exist. they cannot exist when they are run by sinful and mortal men. I believe what the Bible says, and nothing else. The COGs follow the closest to the Bible of any other church I have ever found, and while they have their flaws, I know without a doubt that this way of life is right.

      It’s very disheartening to me to see how many people who left WW are so incredibly bitter. I have no idea what went on back then, and I am truly sorry for whatever happened to hurt so many people. But the church nowadays is very different, and I believe that with Gods help we will continue to grow and change for the better.

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      1. what about us who have taken the agnostic route, after studying religion, religious history, and culture, and concluded that we don’t understand this whole God thing as well as so many insist?

        That’s what did after leaving, finding that I fit in better with agnosticism or pantheism than heavily dogmatic theism What do you think about us, who lived the existence and bear the scars of heavily controlled theism, and clawed our way out asking why questions all the way?

        Do you understand our bitterness or why? It is because of the abuse we suffered and how we were made to feel guilty for our dates. Kinds of abuses? The list includes, medical, financial, theological, physical, sexual. Emotional, Those of us who are bitter experienced at least one of those abuses. Those things just don’t get set aside and forgotten. They shaped us, after chewing on our bodies and souls for awhile.

        So we are bitter, angry, unforgiving and unapologetic. That is the true legacy of the church, a tragic one for many who have shaken off the dogmatic shackles and thrown our bibles onto a shelf.

        Of course, those still in would rather not acknowledge our existing or give scripted reasons for who and what we are. But if you truly seek to understand us, and maybe send your church on a truly better path, then acknowledging the damage done to second third and fourth generations is vital as well as learning the true lesson of loving others as self is better than any bible, preacher, feast day, religion, dietary restriction, etc. If not, I don’t see the COG surviving to a fifth generation.

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      2. Did you leave the church during World wide times or later on from one of its splinters? Because I cant and wont try to pretend that I understand what all went on during world wide time, as I was 5 when we stopped attending (due to the change in doctrinal beliefs) and began attending with United. I can only speak from the experiences I have had from the church I grew up in (United, and now cogwa), which has been a kind and loving environment. If you are speaking of abuse that happened during world wide, I am very sorry to hear of the hurt that was caused and can understand why someone who went through traumatic experiences would find it easier to be agnostic. In the end we all have to make our own decisions about what we believe, and I do not condemn anyone who doesn’t believe what I do.

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      3. I left about 1994 after the big split between father and son and about the time the “changes” towards mainstream Christianity was attempted. I reality, I’d seen several splits, or mass exits after every failed prediction of hwa or loosening or tightening on what women could wear. My parents moved to garner teds split until they realized that the rumors of the man was true, that he made many personal decisions that involved what lay beyond his slacks zipper. They spent the rest of my step moms life bouncing from splinter to splinter. Dad attends at holiday events and rereads or listens to his exhaustive tape collection.

        After I left I started seeking answers to all the questions the church either ignored or told me were sinful to consider. I found beauty in the tenets of the Hindu, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the taoist, the wiccan, the Jew, the Christian. I discovered similarities in what we all believe, and differences, of course, but it was the similarities that struck me. All have this one thing in common, a single belief, universal, that if there was a divinity, could have done something so we all can have this in common.

        Confucius found it about the same time the ancient Egyptians did. Later, the faith that we now call Hinduism was formed, and they found it. It exists in every cultural belief, and its simplicity is profoundly practical ,useful and helpful, and extraordinarily difficult to practice with consistency. Yet to try is to be at our best as humans

        What is it? We have Jesus credited with teaching it along with many others throughout history, as well as the low caste craftsman’s tales of putting this concept into practice. To love others, as we love ourselves is, to me, a divine principal, and the only one that matters. I had to leave WCG to discover it, as well as to begin the healing process that will not be completed when I am no more, but it will be as oblivion will give me eternal and peaceful solace. Until then… I’ve much yet to learn and do in my quest to live the divine principal.

        There are fragments of WCG that aren’t so bad and others that are just as bad and dangerous as the original.. I’m glad you landed in a better one.

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      4. I certainly hope I didn’t give the impression that I personally was bitter. While I have a certain sadness at no longer sharing traditions with my family, or indignation at some of the criticism I receive, I rejoice in the grace I have found in fully understanding and embracing the New Covenant, not sulk in bitterness. At As Bereans Did, when we focus on the negative, it is to educate and free our readers, not to stoke a root of bitterness. We know there are many good people in the COGs; that is why we do what we do.

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      5. Thanks so much for your blog and your thoughts.

        I myself happily left the WWCG some time ago, and often reflect back on that period, not with bitterness — but with wonder. It seems incredible that all that actually happened. You write that you’re not sure what went on back then. Here is a brief radio story I did about living under Armstrong as a child: https://soundcloud.com/interfaithvoices/glynn-washington-the-full-interview

        I hope it helps explain the perspective of those who decided that the path of the COG (however that is defined) is not for us.

        Wishing everyone joy and peace in their path.

        –Glynn

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      6. Thank you Glynn! I will definitely check that out. Since I was only five when world wide split I really don’t have any memories of that time so it’s interesting to get other people’s perspectives on what went on at that time.

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      7. I think what SDPARRIS was doing with his/her questions are as much of an encouragement to you as simply questions. You know the old saying, “questions are often statements.” It was a nice way to prompt your thinking about what some of the real problems are underlying the ones you enumerate in your list.
        It is so hard to be brief on a topic such as this, and it isn’t good manners to monopolize the comment section of a blog, so I’ll try to say something that adds even though it will surely fall short, but forgive me if I go too long. As a 2nd generation woman, former member, it took me several decades before I learned why so many of the issues you identify became manifest in the church. And it was when I began to study outside of the COG universe. I returned to university for a graduate degree in theology and scripture, and as it turns out, there is NO church who can be said to follow “closest to the Bible,” as you might think of it. I do not mean to insult you at all. I completely believed this line of thought for decades, because it is what we were taught to believe. And the practice of proof-texting made it seem legitimately so.
        The church position on the truth of the Bible is not grounded in a solid awareness of the fuller history, textual dimensions, or cultural contexts, which brought the collection of writings known as the Bible into their role as a single canon. In addition to neglecting or distorting scholarship, H. Armstrong and his men borrowed and constructed from a variety of traditions and sources in order to claim exclusive understanding and a particular, elect, status within Christendom. HWA was an advertising man by trade, so was quite skilled at packaging and emotional appeal, and succeeded in creating a distinct sectarian product in the form of the WWCG. Whether he was sincere in using those skills, I cannot judge. None of his successors has ever matched his ability, and this is part of why the church has languished in the post-modern era. But that isn’t the most serious reason.
        Many people are unaware of the fact that the COGs are, in fact, descendants of Protestantism and in turn, Protestants are descendants of Catholicism. There is no line of authority for the COGs back to the “apostolic church” that does not wind its way through catholicity and orthodoxy, so no unique authority as apostolic. Being ‘closest to the Bible’ is an impossible standard to claim for any church (you rightly notice that there is no perfect church) since the earliest Jesus movement was not a single, homogenous, unified movement whose followers all practiced in exactly the same way. Even the Jews of the time were not practicing ‘Judaism’ in exactly the same ways. It was a very dynamic, diverse, fluid, messy reality. And the interpretation and application of the biblical texts has always been, is, and will continue to be equally dynamic – it is not an objectively-rendered canon, and there is not a “one,” static, way to live according to it. Once a person has read the manuscripts in their original languages, notions of “God says x” or “God says Y” become far less definitively “so.” But this does not dismiss the Bible as a sacred text – only makes it possible to appreciate it even more. In fact, once it is released from a (misguided) literalist set of dogma, it provides ample encouragement to do the connecting and creative work that you speak of as missing. In the COGs, the Word has become dead and stale, captive to a literalist, legal application, and has lost the vibrant, living, embodied inspiration that it should be. Young people cannot help but notice the effect that this has in how the church “lives” out its view of the scripture.
        As I said, there’s not enough room. What I am trying to say, I think, is that the reason the church has failed to provide the kinds of connection and creative engagement so necessary for life (and young people are full of life) is that it is wrong about being “right” and places far too much emphasis on the legal frame of the ancient Israelite/Jewish liturgical features. The legalistic emphasis obfuscates the kind of inclusive, people-loving, serving kinds of work that Jesus modeled, and chooses to see the world as a threat instead of a place where faith in action (see Matt 25) can be more about loving and less about saving. It also makes it impossible to handle the scripture in a non-literalist, inerrantist way, which few (if any) of the leadership are equipped to do because the COGs have shunned “outside scholarship” and cannot fathom that growing in understanding of the scriptures is actually much more respectful of the Word than insisting on erroneous interpretations to protect the idea of being the “closest” to the truth. It’s very sad. And unnecessary. Remember that Jesus said the kingdom is at hand. This was not about waiting on the future to embody the glory of it.
        Good for you, that you have spoken about the issues. And you are very gracious with your commenters. Keep thinking. And researching. And speaking. 😉

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      8. I agree with you that we have become a church that is more concerned with following the letter of the law than the things of the heart Much of that is because most of the men in positions of authority are a particular personality type, one that is a very traditional, get it done type of person. (Which is great in it’s own way!) But there need to be more men that understand the need for creativity and feelings. That is what we are working to change. Many of the ministers are seeing that there are elements that they are missing and we are actually working to set up meetings to talk about how to start changing some things to be more “well rounded”. We are all human and can’t expect perfection out of any one person or church, but I do have faith in the kind and loving people I know in our churches and that they will see the need for change.

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  14. I am a 3rd generation; my parents and grandparents on both sides were hardcore WCG until the early 90s after I was born and they left. My parents did an excellent job raising me to honor the Sabbath and the Holy Days and we attended a non-denominational church on Saturdays for most of my childhood. I LOVE the Lord’s Feasts and commandments and I was taught about His Law purely by my family, not by any church.

    My now-husband (then-boyfriend, who was raised in a non-denominational Sunday church and kept Christmas) and I tried a COG church from around 2009-2013 and at first we were okay, even tried going to summer camp, but we terribly lacked any heart-felt messages about the Lord and felt very judged for enjoying Christian music and going to a “Protestant school” and saying “Prostetant-y words.” I felt nervous every Sabbath to hear the sermons and was constantly worried about what my then-boyfriend would think and possibly be offended. It is a miracle that my husband has fully committed to honoring the Sabbath and Holy Days with me and my family and has dropped Christmas, Easter, etc. because he felt very offended at United for the above reasons.

    We now attend a Sabbath-keeping, non-COG church which is probably very shocking and offensive to our friends who still attend COG churches. However, we LOVE our church and they completely accept us for our beliefs on Holy Days and they understand why we do not attend church for all of December.

    So my experience is summed up in this: it IS possible to raise children who LOVE the Lord and LOVE His Law and not attend WCG or any off-shoot. It IS possible to find a God-fearing husband who was not raised like I was and still keeps the Sabbath with me and to not have met him at church. To those who are struggling and thinking you cannot stay feeling trapped, please do not be afraid to try other Sabbath-keeping churches or denominations. You need a church community. Before you leave Christianity altogether, please seek friendships with those who love the Lord, even if that means attending a different church.

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    1. I can definitely understand where you are coming from and agree that you do not have to attend a COG church in order to keep the faith. Everyone has to find the church that they can grow the most spiritually in.

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  15. I think you have hit the nail on the head in several of your remarks. I would like to comment specifically on your first point and say that I feel this is true because the way we are taught now has changed to a method that is unhealthy and doesn’t facilitate real growth. Instead of teaching us in a way that forces and encourages us to search our bibles and prove things, we are instead taught to believe what we are told in sermons and read booklets instead of THE Book. I also grew up in the church, and have only now felt in fire for the Truth and it is because I have finally started digging into things myself, challenging traditions that are taught as doctrine and proving things for myself. So that is something I encourage others to do if they are feeling like you have a lack of passion- get away from the booklets, articles and videos. Let sermons on the sabbath be the supplement, not your mail meal. Start with the basics like the Sabbath and go from their, using your bibles and prayer as your guides. God ignites that fire when we diligently seek Him and His ways!
    Thank you again for sharing- it is nice when we realize that others are thinking many of the same things we are. Happy Sabbath!

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  16. I am a so called 2nd generation christian who started attending WWCG with my family at age 5. My family felt United almost 6 years ago right before the COGWA and United split. It’s been on my heart for a long to time to contribute some thoughts to those who are still struggling with divisions and natural discouraments that can come from being part of splitter groups from the WWCG. I don’t have time to explain all the reasons why I left but will just let you all know that it was a decision that I did not take lightly. I dug deeply into church history, the scriptures, prayed and even went through professional counseling before I decided to leave. I can tell by some of the points that you are making that you are struggling with some of the things I struggled with before leaving. These past 5 years, almost 6 have been very eye opening me and I feel I’ve learned why the splinters from the WWCG have so many issues with deciding how to move forward and keep their members inspired. I have also seen 1st hand the differences in the fruits that the church so desperately seeks and can’t seem to figure out how to nourish and develop. You are a group of genuine, committed, hard working people who really deeply love each other, God and God’s word. What more could you need? You should have natural fruits from all these attributes that would foster unity and allow you to grow not only in numbers but deeper spiritually. You have so much understanding of God’s word but you are stuck at one point. It’s all about the proper understanding of Justification. Until your focus is truly on Christ and not how you are attempting to qualify ( or keeping the Law out of respect for scripture) for salvation, you will always be stuck with divisions, misunderstanding, questions about the proper way of worship and lack of excitement in your congregations. As long as you keep attempting to qualify for what God did for us on the cross, you will always be focused on yourselves, you rules, your traditions, your past, your future, your misunderstandings etc. You will never get beyond these things, because it’s like a wall. I lived with this “wall” most of my life. It’s like the difference between wearing a “fitbit” on one wrist and a “GPS” on the other wrist. The fitbit is like my past life in the WWCG and United and the GPS is like my life in an evangelical church today. There’s a huge difference and I wish you all could experience it as it’s so amazing and the growth and deeper understanding of God’s plan never ends. At this point you’re probably saying that it’s easier to give up and stop “keeping the Law” as you may accuse me of having done because you know I don’t come to church, don’t keep the Sabbath the way HWA taught that we should? But I would say back to you, which is harder? climbing down a ladder yourself, thinking you are in control? Or jumping into the arms of someone else below, trusting 100% that they will catch you? This is the difference between sort of keeping the New Testament understanding of a more balanced Law and the understanding of 100% Faith in Christ. The “fitbit” focus was like knowing that you are trying to keep the laws, whether out of respect or to qualify. You live each day, trying your best, focusing on what you do or don’t do, watching and preaching about what others are doing, either in your church or in other churches. At the end of the day, year or life, you aren’t sure whether you’ve done enough but you are determined to better next time. The fruit is lacking, discouragement, despair, divisions. You just keep telling yourself and preaching, don’t give up! Someday you will really have to be strong. Persecution is going to be worse. It’s scary and hard to keep up with. Deep down it’s all about you and you know that even if your part is small compared to what Christ did, it’s still hard for a week human like yourself. The other way to live is what I’ve been experiencing these past 5 years and wish you all could understand and experience. It’s like a GPS. It’s waking up each day and not checking our steps from yesterday but waking up and remembering that Christ did it ALL, not all and now it’s your turn but ALL. If you surrender completely, tell him that you give up and ask him to guide you and live in you. Not to help you do better but to totally take over your spirit, the peace and understanding is completely different. It’s like if we all tried to throw a rock to the moon, one of us would throw it higher but none of us would come close. Our efforts to save ourselves, qualify or just keep the law out of respect is like throwing a rock to the moon. As long as you keep trying, you’ll never really focus on the moon itself. Christ is God and He didn’t ask us to TRY HARD, he asked us to GIVE Up, surrender our all because He took our sins on Himself. If we have faith in Him, He sees us as completely righteous. We are covered. He lives in us and sin starts to fall away. It’s wonderful when you stop focusing on your flesh, the things of this world that are neither here nor there and start focusing on Him and His rest. When you surrender, you know you are saved because only He can save us. There’s no question anymore, it’s not about us anymore, it’s about Him and that’s where the real Joy that your young people feel they are missing begins. His rest is the rest that you are all seeking. I’m only telling you still because I’ve lived the life of the “fitbit” and was continually discouraged for 40 years. (the same length the Israelites wondered in the wilderness) and not I’ve live the life like a “GPS” He lives in my, guides me, takes away my sin and I feel the peace and unity that I’ve yearned for my entire life. I wish you all could understand this as I still love you all and care about what you are going through. Your young people should not be laden with guilt when they miss their friends and notice how most of the Sermons are about how to better keep the Laws. This church culture left me discouraged and self focused, knowing I might never “make it.” If your young people are lacking inspiration, they should be free to attend any church who teaches this gospel from scripture. They should be able to pick a church that has a singles group they’d like to be part of, or a worship band that they enjoy and feel spiritually inspired by. It’s not about these things, it’s about the Gospel message from the Bible and this message is being preached wholeheartedly in lots of churches. After you read my long post, read Galatians again with this perspective. I got it all from there, I share this not to judge but to give you another perspective from someone who struggled with the exact same questions when trying to raise my children as 3rd generationers. It’s all about your focus and the Joy is ready for the taking!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective 🙂 As I have said to other commenters, I don’t personally believe you have to attend a COG church in order to keep the Faith. It’s a personal decision day to day, and is based on your relationship with God and the things you do, not the congregation you attend with. We all have to go where we will grow the most spiritually.

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  17. Thank you so much for your informayive blog, it really helped illuminate the problems that the 3rd and 4th generation face and has opened up discussion between my father (1st generation) and my daughter (3rd generation). I have been blessed to hear from both perspectives.
    As a pastor of a COG I see the need in my own congregation for support in the youth and how many ministers grapple with this situation but may not fully understand. This has shone a new light on the subject and for that I am thankful.
    I believe in some congregations, ministers and mentors are trying to help the situation, hence camp outs, choirs etc, but its difficult for the latter generations when they re enter society and have to deal with the issues of school, work and peers.

    My father is a 1st generation christian and I was able to speak to him about his view on the matter. He believes that the 3rd and 4th generation have an easier calling than that of the 1st and 2nd.
    However I don’t believe that the two groups should be compared as they each have unique challenges they face.
    He also pointed out that it is an individual race and each individual running the race is united by the holy spirit, not as separate church groups but as the whole body of christ.

    My daughter, 3rd generation, says that what you have written is very accurate and relates to the issues. She also sees some of here church friends struggling with the problems mentioned and would like to see them solved.

    Understanding what you have written has helped me realise, more so than before, that there is a spiritual war that the 3rd and 4th generation face, whether it be from technology as you stated, from peer pressure and any other influences that Satan may inflict on the youth. Satan is clearly trying to pull them away from Gods way of life.
    I also feel that there is a lack of mentors, teaching these young adults and children how to fight these battles, how to fight with God, not against Him.

    One aspect I would like to offer for everyone is to rethink their church group as an individual congregation but to understand that together we are a learning forum. For example, each congregation is an individual school or college and we are all under the umbrella of Jesus Christ and his teachings.

    The second aspect is to get the youth more involved and use their knowledge of technology to spread good and Godly ways of life, just like what you are doing. Perhaps if the youth wrote or spoke or used any of their talents to portray the information that they want to learn about, or the information that they are seeking.

    I belive that the main focus should be on supporting our 3rd and 4th generation christians, but be careful not to discard the 1st and 2nd, I believe that they should be fully involved in the forum.

    Over time I hope that all the church groups can break down the walls of separtion and the politics between each congregation will dissolve.

    To help with this I would love to receive more information on the struggles that the 3rd and 4th generation face so that we are better equiped at tackling this problem.

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    1. I think it is good you want to do something about these issues, but it all depends on how you view your role in this. The COGs have placed too much emphasis on the ministry, it is peculiar how many sermons we get about the role of the ministry, authority, etc. At a certain point, leadership should be expanded to/by others. Mature members in the congregation should be resources and have developed spiritual wisdom and leadership. But spiritual wisdom and leadership are not encouraged beyond the limited outlets defined by the minister. Those outlets are generally defined as your own home (but, secondary to the minister) and being a good example in your community, but not a spiritual leader there. Some who are devoted to the specific organization might be given the title of deacon or elder, but that is not the standard.

      We wonder why some young people leave the COGs, but one obvious reason is that the experience is generally not spiritual. Mature adults and young people sit down to the same ol’ same ol’, but it is worse than that. It is a long dry lecture that most adults could give with a bit of preparation. There is no interaction. People talk about their week as there has been basically no spiritual stirring.

      So, the hope of maintaining membership comes down to friendships that are helped with camps and a few activities. But, then, all that is required is for another venue to provide better entertainment. If there is limited spiritual interaction this is quite likely.

      A spiritual church cannot have lame services. It cannot have parents that are lectured to. Mark Sanders above mentioned churches in homes as a model from the New Testament. He is right. The point being that there was ownership of the congregation. Men contributed to the teaching not just setting up chairs and a sound system. They talked about their Savior and about the beauty of God’s commands and guidance. They shared their understanding on a scripture even if it might not be the same as someone else’s or, as extended today, different from the minister.

      The ministry can work to create programs and plans (the camps are generally helpful), but they are better in the role of facilitators when needed, but it is up to the saints (as we are called repeatedly) to create an environment that inspires and grows their children. To have the necessary interaction multiple saints/parents must engage. A youth Bible Study now and again really won’t cut it and while activities help grow friendships and bonds, an organization that counts on basketball and volleyball to maintain interest is not engaging many of the youth and isn’t exactly using the strongest tools and gifts.

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  18. I notice it’s not about leaving God the Father, Jesue our Lord, faith in God’s word the Bible, it’s about leaving a church a group of people or an organization that has been handed down.An other man made authority structure, not much different than the Bapists, Luthernans and other religous groups. Who willl do the work she asks? Jesus Said I have been working and my Father has been working, He still does. She writes “In order for us to flourish, we need more creative freedom to be who we are.” but the church structure domination of men does not aloow this, harldy ever has. “the church ” does not even follow the basic teaching of Jesus about us being brothers and sister and not lord it over others. Let alone DON”T APOINT NOVICES! or don’t abuse the children! walk in truth. How many of these old ministers abused people, or looked the other way, to keep their jobs. As young person I did not see the power struggles now that I do “The church” really is not much different than other non profits run by carnal men keeping the power, praise, profits and pleasures flowing to themselves. What proof? I could right an article fore you. http://www.thejournal.org/issues/issue153/corporate-and-spiritual-authorities-collide.html

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    1. You are right, my blog is geared towards people leaving the COG churches, not their faith all together… and that’s because I am trying to draw attention to the fact that there is a problem within our churches, and it needs to be changed. We have many loving and understanding ministers who are very willing to make those changes, but others are having a hard time with it. I love my church and the people in it, and did not write this blog to bash them in any way, but to help those I love.

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      1. Interesting point then, can you list what needs to be changed? like follow 1cor 14 more closely? as Paul wrote to Titus , let the old women teach the younger women? let everyone contribute? Or as Jesus said, you are all brothers and sister and some are mothers? honesty? traditions of men? it’s not a job, it’s the bride of Christ? who treats a bride this way?

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      2. Basically to make a long story short, we have become a little too stuck in old traditions and are resistant to changing with the times. Our core beliefs should never change, but how we present our messages, music, and other things could be done in a more creative way that appeal to the younger generation and creative types a bit more. Most of our ministers are very detail oriented and great at speaking in a way that appeals to some members, but not to all. I am hoping to raise awareness that there are some personality types that are not being taught in the ways that they need and that we are all so different and need to accept those differences and work together to find a happy medium.

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      3. I agree. Yet is the old core belief of ministry speaking what Jesus taught. Jesus said those who are taught by the Father come to Him. Jesus said He was the only Rabbi & Shepherd. Paul wrote he was a servant and Jesus is Lord. Let wives learn from their own husband’s. Remember mother Eve she listened to a minister ing spirit who had no business teaching & was a liar. Hear Jesus’s voice.

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      4. Dale, while I appreciate your opinion I did not post this blog to get into a religious debate. You obviously feel strongly about your beliefs, as I feel about mine, and debating our sides is not going to change that. I hope you can respect me and my beliefs as I respect you and yours. All the best!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. not trying to debate beliefs but answer your question and add to the comments about why people leave the organized church. Which usually leads to what do you really believe is acceptable behavior, acceptable structure? The teachings of Jesus or of men? People leave because as it is written; two cannot walk together unless they be agreed. You lament being judged by the “sins of the fathers” Yet one persons said COGWA was some of the “darkest” times. Which leads to the point that the young ministers in WW-COG carry on with those “sins of the fathers” but now as leaders. Maybe you are not on the receiving end now, like many of us who were in WWCG did not get in the way of the ministerial domination, where blissfully happy in our walk with God. But later on when it was time to mature in Christ; in United COG, or Living COG, etc the power struggle came. Which is why people leave, no love, no truth it’s just another non profit organization following the traditions of men rather than the example and teaching of Jesus.

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  19. Ashley

    Your experiences, frustrations and setiments are shared by tens or hundreds of thousands over just the last century and probably millions more over the last two thousand years. At 55 I have sreuggled and cried and fought and screamed out and consistently tried to keep the conversation alive about core challenges, issues and inconsistency in our ‘churches’ which I know you agree are didferment from our ownership of our faith. The love of God and Cheist must drive our every need, want and desire and the patience for God to act provide and make necessary “course corrections” is critical. We must continue to look for a better understanding of what God wants and be patient for him to shOw that to us in his time. That doesn’t mean just sitting back but being and active participant (in the respectful way you are) and continuing to agressivley keep the conversation going without running away from “confrontation”. I can personally share dozens of personal experiences there. Keep up the fight.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I enjoyed reading your post. To be quite honest, even though I am a first generation Church member, I have experienced many of the same type of feelings, disconnects and perceptions over my years in the Church that you presented in your timely article. I would like to share an encouraging story that may be quite helpful to some of your readers. I hope you will allow me to share it. Bob

    PRIVILEGED KNOWLEDGE — The Bottom Line

    Jody told me that before she came into the knowledge of God’s Truth, that for many years she had a particular Bible verse pinned to a corkboard in her office which she would often read and wonder about. That verse is Jeremiah 33:3 — “Call to Me, and I will answer you. And I will show you great and wonderful things which you do not know.”

    Jody would look at it, and occasionally contemplate it and think about it.

    Perhaps God was trying to tell her something!

    How about you? Are you new in the Church? Or are you someone who has been around for a while — perhaps you grew up in the Church — or you’re even baptized. In either case, do you really GET IT? In other words, you probably understand what we call “The Truth” in an intellectual sense — BUT DO YOU GET IT? Are you sitting on the fence of true commitment — not having that “Fire in Your Belly” for that Truth, to the very heart of your being? What does it take to really GET IT?

    No matter what your circumstance, wouldn’t it be awesome to have that scripture fulfilled for you personally? To be shown “…great and wonderful things you do not know?” Obviously God has already started that process for you! He always takes the first step in the process — Jesus said in John 6:44: “No one is able to come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him (her)…”. The second step in the process is up to you.

    Even if you’ve been around for years, even if you are baptized, perhaps you need to reevaluate.

    God calls us, wants us to wholeheartedly seek Him and call back to Him. He wants to answer us and tell us about things beyond our human comprehension. He longs to draw us close so that we can know Him and the vital Truth revealed only to THOSE HE PERSONALLY CHOOSES. God will reveal to us things that would be impossible for us to know without His favor and calling. But we must respond and do our part as revealed in Jeremiah 33:3. Once you do that, God promises to do His part! How this happens is revealed in Luke 24:45: “Then Jesus OPENED THEIR MINDS so they could understand the Scriptures.”

    If you want this process to continue, just what should you do? Remember, God said in Jeremiah 33:3 — “CALL TO ME AND I WILL ANSWER YOU.”

    So do THAT — God is probably calling or has called YOU (John 6:44) or you wouldn’t have proceeded this far in the process. So call on God — claim that promise He has given you in Jeremiah 33:3. Answer in your own words as you go to your private place daily. Always address your prayer to the Father and remind Him of Jesus’ instruction that He said the Father will hear and answer you because you are praying in His name. Say “Father, I’m coming to you to claim your promise.” You don’t want to do a canned repetitious prayer, but you want to let God know in your own varying way the following:

    ▸I do want to know you and to be known by you. ▸I want you to show me those great and wonderful things of Jeremiah 33:3 and give me full understanding. ▸Yes, there are things in my heart and my life that I wish were not there — but I know your grace, I ask for your favor, and I am confident that you know my heart and its desire to reflect your glory, to do my part, and display your character.

    Of course, also ask God about your needs being fulfilled — ask Him to send His Kingdom to Earth — tell Him that you truly want to be part of that Kingdom when Christ returns to take charge. Ask for His protection from evil — to restrain the evil one, Satan from you — and to give you the resolve and ability to resist the pulls of the world, Satan and your own human weaknesses (that’s called overcoming). Always thank God for the gift of being His child and having your future secured!

    Just as God did for Jody, He “will show you great and wonderful things which you do not know.”

    Bob Schenfield
    Please feel free to friend me.

    Bob and Jody, our stories of hope and faith > https://www.facebook.com/Bob-and-Jody-True-to-Life-Stories-1663187187298059/

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  21. This is such a well-written, and very much needed, article. Thank you for sharing it!

    I’m a 2nd/3rd generation Christian (my grandma on my mom’s side was in the church; my dad was a 1st gen believer) who was born into the church. I don’t really have memories of Worldwide, and mostly grew up in United while also visiting various independent groups. I think a lot of my problem with not feeling “on fire” for God came from the fact that so many adults didn’t seem excited about their faith. When the speaker tells you “God’s plan is so exciting” in a flat voice and then never really talks about why he finds it so exciting, it’s hard to catch the zeal that’s supposed to be in the church.

    I was about 13 or 14 when I first felt fired up for God and His way of life, and that was when I started listening to more messages from independent churches where the speakers were clearly in awe of what they were studying and eager to share as the Holy Spirit led them. Thirst for God’s word is contagious enough that 3rd/4th generation Christians can catch it, but it has to be there.

    Your comment about the politics is one I’ve heard from most of my friends who have stayed. Caring about divisions between groups seems more of a 1st/2nd generation thing. My friends move fluidly between different groups and don’t see a problem with that – there aren’t enough young people who believe the same things we do to worry about which man-made banner they’re usually worshiping under.

    I’ve never really wanted to stop following God, but I’ve come very close to giving up on church. I didn’t see the COGs pursing love as the greatest commandment. I didn’t have opportunities to serve. I wasn’t feeling fed with spiritual meat. I felt like every time I suggested even a discussion about how the church might benefit from change/reevaluation of tradition I was treated like a heretic.

    These still frustrate me, but I feel like my relationship with God is in a better place now and I’m (usually) better able to accept where the churches are at this point and love the people I fellowship with while still hoping for improvement in COG culture. My blog has given me a place to share my Bible studies, which is helping fill my desire to serve (I wonder if you see your blog as a sort of “ministry” as well?). I’m also attending with a Messianic church Sabbath mornings, where I dance with their Davidic dance team. There’s an attitude of worship there that I feel is missing in the UCG group I meet with in the afternoons.

    I wish I felt like there was just one local group that I could think of as my “church home,” but right now being involved in two groups seems to be the only way I can worship, serve and be on fire for God while holding fast to His truths and enjoying good fellowship. The Messianic group is a bit more lax with the law than I’m comfortable with, but UCG is too tied to COG tradition and the idea of a church as a business rather than a family.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I was directed to your essay by a friend and read it with interest. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

    In your piece you rightly identify a number of problems in the Church which are bothersome to us all (I doubt anyone desires more “politics”). However, I am concerned by the premise of your article. You seem to think that the 3rd and 4th generation church members are experiencing unique problems which are hampering their zeal. A combination of too much distraction, a failure by the Church to appreciate their inherent talents and a lack of fulfilling opportunity at services is driving them to the door.

    I wonder what Abraham would think of the predicament of the current 3rd and 4th generation members? Having no church and none outside his family to support him, he wandered out into the desert in order that he may serve God. Would Isaac bemoan the fact that he only has one winter family weekend a year in which to meet his future bride? Was Daniel waiting for someone to recognize his talents before he determined to serve God?

    Trials are common to every generation. For the true Christian, the common-denominator is the fundamental willingness to put self aside and serve God. That service comes in the Church and it cannot be coaxed by energetic music or emotionalism; it comes from a repentant state of mind stirred up by God’s Spirit. Connected with this is the essential realization that Christ leads the Church, and as such we are in no position to insist that the service we offer be self fulfilling. I doubt that hanging from the stake was self satisfying, yet it is in the vein of that example that we are to offer our good service.

    Thus back to the original question, why are the 3rd and 4th generations of our Church leaving? There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Church is. We are not merely a group that has a bit more understanding than others or simply “Protestant plus”; we are in fact the called out ones of the line of Abraham, who have been blessed with the opportunity to have that most expensive pearl. If the shine has come off of that prize, the route back to zealousness is not paved with protestant-like programs or stumbling over ourselves to coddle the so-called Millennials. It is wholesale repentance.

    I do not doubt for one moment your sincerity and I understand the frustration you and others have with the current scattered and dismal state of things. It is not ideal. However, Christ is knocking at the door of the Church in this present age. In this respect there is no 3rd or 4th generation in His eyes, there are only those who will respond to his call in the example of Abraham, Sara, Isaac and those who are distracted by this world (as you rightly point out, there is much distraction). If any member of the younger generation is having difficulty hearing Him, the answer is to pray with all sincerity that He will wake you up. From experience, I expect He will.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there Dave! I appreciate your thoughtful comment. After much reflecting on different responses I have received, I have realized that in some ways I failed to explain myself well. I spent too much time focused on the ways we as younger generations are not being “served” and should have spent more time giving positive examples of how we can better help ourselves and others. I was trying to give a perspective that maybe a lot of people were afraid to voice, but I fear I didn’t do it in the very best way. To your comment about Abraham and Isaac and Daniel complaining about different things… I can’t answer that because I am not them. However, I do know that they were as human as you and I, and were prone to sins and had different needs. We are very blessed to have a church and members to lean on, and with that blessing I believe we should make the most of it. If there is a way to better serve the people and give them things they need, shouldn’t we? We should be understanding of all personality types and make sure we are doing nothing to put up a stumbling block for them, just as they should make sure they are on top of their own relationship with God and their zeal. It’s a two way street, and in a perfect church we should all be working together in harmony, loving each other before ourselves. Looking for a middle ground to better serve everyone. I hope that helps clear some things up!

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    2. Dave I’m not sure how you extracted the theme of selfishness from her blog piece? The central points to me were, holding on to tradition for traditions sake is chasing this generation away, and lack of service opportunities. How is bemoaning the lack of service opportunities selfish?

      Furthermore this “pearl” doesn’t have the same buzz anymore for painfully obvious reasons. There are MANY breakout churches that hold this same pearl, but there are MANY ways to construct a church life and service opportunities.

      People like you that seem to be saying “just deal with it” leave generations of youth exasperated with a seemingly hopeless task at renewing life into a dying church. Have you ever even questioned what you are actually saying? You’re basically saying that the configuration of services as Mr Armstrong adopted is part of the “pearl?

      There is next to zero hints in the NT about how a church’s format should be. There is probably a great reason for this. Maybe you don’t care what the format of a church is, but others really do.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. With all due respect, Ashley is not being unreasonable here. A sense of community is important. Obviously the generations before us believed this, considering all the structure they set up in Worldwide. Now, it could be spiritual or service oriented activity rather than the sports model WCG adopted, but it needs to get people together. Yes, Abraham and Daniel are examples of great faith, and John was isolated on Patmos. But isolation is not the New Testament model. In fact, it is warned against. When the hungry lion – the devil – hunts, he picks off those who are isolated, hurting, on the edges. A healthy herd recognizes this and helps to protect rather than blame those who are on the edges.

      The New Testament model for the church is a body, with differing members that hold one another up and provide support. This is not weakness or selfishness. This is what God intended.
      Ephesians and 1 Corinthians make this clear. The weakness of the COG system is that it continually tries to shoehorn the New Testament Church into a Sinai mentality.

      As one who was not too long ago young, but now nearing the middle of the pack, I can see how important mentoring is. Teaching the younger women. Men providing strong, godly leadership. While the younger ones have a duty to listen and approach, the larger responsibility must be upon the older ones doing the teaching. In Titus 2, the older women are instructed to teach the younger women to conduct themselves appropriately. Unspoken between the lines is the fact that these younger women need instruction because they are, on some level, immature. Don’t blame them for being inexperienced and immature. Give them grace and help them! (Not that I am calling Ashley immature. I am simply pointing out what I was and others were when we embarked on marriage and family). And younger women, find someone in your church whose character and life choices you admire, someone who you’d like to be in 20, 30 years, and approach that person.

      SIDE NOTE: Young woman – if you can’t find someone like that in your church, you may want to ask yourself why. I did.

      The bottom line is, mentoring, relationships and support all must be established within a healthy “family” setting. This is not going to happen without a proper view on grace. Because, too often, the people who are answering Ashley will give responses like Dave. That is dynamic the COG beliefs about salvation set in motion. There is no perfect church. But you at least need to be building on the right foundation.

      http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2015/07/why-pleas-for-cog-unity-will-always-fail.html

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Martha, I agree with what you said and thank you for seeing some of the positives in what I was trying to say. If you were to look at the comments on Facebook, rather than those on WordPress, you would see thousands of positive and supportive comments from those in our church. It has been so encouraging to see how much we are coming together on this subject! There are many women that I feel great respect for and look up to within my congregation, and as you said I should absolutely be spending more time with them and drawing from their wisdom. I am not sure if you left the church back in world wide time or not, but if you did, I would like to stress to you that COGWA, among other splinters, are so very different from world wide! They are filled with some of the most kind, loving, and Godly people I know. I hate that there are so many x-WW goers who judge these new churches for the sins of the fathers. We have learned much because of them, and are striving to do better, while keeping our core beliefs in tact. 🙂

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  23. Wow! I cannot believe how many discontented people you have inspired to respond to your article. It seems most of them have left, and even some to other religions.

    I’m sure you had well intentions writing your article, but what you have accomplished is bringing a bunch of people together to commiserate. People with this attitude continue to split and split, and eventually end up alone, which is what you yourself said you are against. So, are you really against it?

    “Keep your heart with all diligence”, Ashley. Look for ways to serve in your local church. Volunteer to serve instead of waiting for someone to ask you (like cleaning up dishes, chairs, etc…). Encourage young people to develop a relationship with God. Volunteer to teach children’s Bible study. Organise a community volunteer project. Organise a church garage sale. Pray for a willing spirit to learn from the messages–sometimes we have grown ‘dull of hearing’. We could be the problem instead of the church being the problem.

    All the best to you, Ashley!

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    1. Hope, I am very sorry you feel this way. My intention was not at all to encourage people to commiserate together, but to better understand each other and the struggles that different people face. There have been amazing and positive discussions happening because of this blog. I absolutely agree that we should be making efforts to serve and not just sit around and wait for other people to do everything for us. That is why at the end I told the younger generations we need to start being proactive. If you will check out my response to Dave Thomas above, you will see where I admit that I didn’t phrase certain things in the best way. Please do not judge me and what I do or how I serve, as you do not know me, my actions, or my heart. My intentions in writing this were to bring about better unity and understanding, and nothing else. I’m sorry if it came across differently.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Also, if you are only seeing comments directly on my WordPress, I would encourage you to look at the comments on Facebook. There are 100s of them from COG members that give very insightful comments.

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    3. I see it very differently, Hope. I think Ashley deserves a Nobel peace prize for assembling together the most well-mannered and thoughtful bunch of “discontented” people I’ve ever seen on the internet. Unless she is deleting some comments behind the scenes, I’ve been amazed by how nice every response has been so far. That is not normal for today’s internet world. I have been a blogger for over 10 years and never have I discussed my time spent in the COG out of fear of the comments I would receive.

      I applaud Ashley for having the courage to pour her heart into this post and be a spokesperson for her generation.

      On a different topic, my blog is in the DIY/ Crafting/ Homemaking niche, and I have always noticed and admired the way the LDS bloggers openly share their faith with their readers. They advertise it in their sidebars and encourage people to ask questions about their faith. There are literally thousands and thousands of Mormon bloggers in my niche, and there is no doubt that these highly creative women are supported and even actively encouraged by their church’s higher-ups to minister in this way. Talk about free advertising! I’ve always wondered why the COGs haven’t done something similar. If you want to draw the younger crowds, get you some trending Holy Day hashtags and make some 30 second DIY videos with unleavened bread recipes. Traditional foods, Prepping and Survivalism are super hot right now. 😉

      Take the church to social media and package it as a whole lifestyle, because that’s where the younger people are and they are hungry for a place to belong. HWA knew exactly what he was doing by taking his words to the radio during a time when people were struggling and seeking hope during the Great Depression…

      Just my .02. 🙂

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Thank you Beth!! It means a lot to know that other people can see the positive impact I was trying to have by writing this blog. Your ideas for getting our church out there more are fabulous! I will definitely start to look into them and mention them to others. Thank you so much 🙂

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  24. This. Every single word of it hits the nail right on the head for me, a 4th generation. Other generations sometimes want to tell us how we are allowed to feel about “traditions”, but that’s just it, they are OUR feelings, the way WE see them. As you mentioned, this is 80+ years later. Things evolve! Traditions can evolve as well to keep people inspired and fed spiritually! I have left and come back and I truly would love to see some things be a touch more modern! I don’t have to ever open a hymnal (SERIOUSLY) because I know every single word to every single song in our hymnal…. (My mom played piano and my dad led songs.) A non-traditional service would be amazing! Do you mind if I print this and take it to my Sabbath services this week?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bethany, thank you! I totally agree with you! As much as you and I would both love to see some big cultural changes, they will take time and we have to be understanding of the fact that not everyone sees the need for them. However, if we keep talking honesty and kindly about our feelings, as most people have done in regard to this blog, we will become stronger for it. Yes, please share the blog with your congregation! Also, know that I am currently working on a second part which will better round out the feelings of everyone (I hope)

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  25. I’m sorry, Ashley, but I left COGWA. I’m very glad you are having a positive experience, and I pray that it continues to be so. But it was COGWA that woke me up to what was wrong. At this point in my journey, I am very thankful for my experience, because God used it for good in my life, but my COGWA years were some of the darkest of my life.

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    1. I am very sorry to hear that, Martha. I know that all congregations are different and filled with different types of people, and that they all have sins and faults they struggle with. As you said, it is impossible to find a perfect church, though I do wish your experience with mine had been much better. I’m very sorry to hear that it caused hurt for you, and hope that we can grow positively in the future.

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  26. One thing that I have learned, and am always continuing to work toward, is being personally responsible for my own spiritual growth. And also being willing to look for and initiate opportunities to serve in and out of my church. I have seen many people come and go in the church of God even in my short life so far. I can’t make any statements regarding the beliefs and feelings of others. I do my best not to be a stumbling block or to be offensive to anyone because I don’t want the reason for someone leaving or being hurt to be my words and actions. But I can say that I have to be responsible for my own spiritual growth if I want to grow spiritually. Philippians 2:12 says that we have to work out our own salvation. And we do this with fear and trembling — honor and respect toward God and those around us who are also working out their own salvation. I can’t make judgments upon the state of the calling of anyone else in this world truly, because I don’t know what is between them and God. I know that God has called me to follow in the footsteps of His son, to be part of His body of believers, and to live as He wants me to live. It didn’t take me long to realize that fact, but it took me a long time to take personal ownership of my calling. I had to come to the point where it wasn’t just my parents’ church or my grandparents’ church or just the place that I go every Sabbath to worship God. I had to come to the point where I began to have my own relationship with my creator, no longer to just be spoon fed literature and sermons, but to study on my own the things that I needed to learn (and still do need to learn). I had to come to the point where I was willing to take steps in serving others and not just to be served. I try hard not to be lax in this, but to keep going, to continue to serve, and to find ways to add to the body of Christ to help to encourage the growth and stability of others around me. I realize that if I want the church of God to be a different place, then I must be a different person. If I want people around me to change and to be more like Jesus Christ, then I must change and be more like Jesus Christ. And I am always working on it, but have plenty more work to do. I appreciate the fact that you are taking initiative and writing down your thoughts and observations. You are doing something rather than just walking away or just sitting back and wishing things to be different. I hope you continue to grow and continue to serve in ways that you have the talents to do so because that is how we begin to help encourage change and growth of the entire body of Christ. You’ve given me some things to think about even if I don’t see things exactly as you do. I know we all have different backgrounds and different experiences. I just hope we can all stay together long enough to work out our different difficulties and learn how to love each other.

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    1. I’m glad you found a personal relationship with your Creator. We have left or just sit back and hope that things change because that’s all one can do to get away from the deception! We can still be example to our friends and family that still attend these deceived groups! One has to remember you can’t go against the establishment especially when you’re a woman! I’ve tried to do this on a small level and it definitely backfired this is an old boys group women are not respected for having a a brain just to be wives and Babymakers! So isn’t good to get out while May His grace be upon you

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  27. Simply because the hypocrisy and not keeping to the WHOLE truth, is why the “establishment” is falling apart! Replacement theology is rampant since the Catholic church started so many millennia ago! All “Christianity” including “CGG’S” are under her sway! The term Christianity or being a Christian is from the Greek word Christos, is what the Catholic church started and it spread. Is is not a correct term to use if your following the true G-d! Just like the name Jesus is a totally made up name stated by the same Mother church! Why would you want to be called a Christian or call Jesus by a name He does not even recognize?!

    When they left the original faith (Judaism), and do not keep the Sabbath, or honor the holy days or keep them at the right times, or even on the right days, this is what results! Inter racial marriage encouraged, breaking Sabbath and holy days etc! While they emphasize the NT (wrong terminology), by the way, and not keeping to the original covenant you will have a major breakdown in these “organizations”! When one does not recognize Israel or encourage mitzvahs, (good deeds) one will not be blessed! This is the state that the church is in now! Look at the history of Israel in the Tanach and the same thing happened! When you complained about giving up the worlds holidays and Friday evenings and did not have something to replace that with. Like Hannukah and Purim and the other rich meaningful festivals that we are commanded to observe and keep!

    So no its not your fault, but the responsibility will fall and is on the leaders head and shoulders! You didnt leave the truth, it left you or was never there in some cases! People need to get their noses back to the Torah and start again! Get out of the COG model and rebuild just like to rebuild the temple!

    We have been duped, mislead, and straight out lied to by the leaders! All in keeping tradition or holding up HWA as a demigod! The Mormons do this with Joseph Smith, the Catholics with pope, etc! How often have I heard it said “Well HWA said!” what about what the bible says! Or hold up Mystery of the Ages like a second bible! We all know it was riddled with errors and rushed to print! Kinda like the Mormons again, with the book of Mormon!

    I know most of them are well meaning but that doesn’t mean to be deceived! Read and reread your bibles! G-d is always there! I hope and pray that all will come to the truth in the end! But will they? This is a matter of personal relationship with G-d and not man! He knows the heart!

    I feel distressed when this is happening to people on such a deep level! But COGS are not the only one suffering from this reality! All religious groups have and are at this time! But that is the society we are in! But we know there is an adversary who is dancing for glee over this! That is where the true blame lies!

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  28. Thanks for this thought-provoking article. I believe that the older generation has a big role to play when it comes to helping the younger generation. The older generation must remain faithful and be a good example. They must leave a trail of faithfulness, courage, and love to inspire the younger generation to follow their lead.

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  29. One thing I would like to point out here is that 1st generation does not equate to the elderly. I am, for instance, a 1st generation who is 47 years old. Many of the comments here seem to make that equation. Take time find out who the 1st generation congregants are, because it might surprise you that they are not all elderly!

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  30. It seems that persons associated in the COG groups want to put the blame on first generation or elders this is not the point we’re missing is that the truth is not being taught or spoken of in this arena! All too interested in putting labels or pigeonholing! Let’s get back to the basics and the whole truth beginning with His word!

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  31. Hi Ashley, In the vein of your blog, I will be honest but I hope compassionate.

    I understand your feeling that something is lacking in the church (I’m speaking globally about all COG). A sense of wanting us to be more vibrant, more engaged, more together, more powerful. I think a real tenor of your post is a search for our community to be all those things. But think back to WW days. And think about all those fervent church attenders who had a large church community to support their faith and their families. What happened when their faith was challenged when there was a split? They left. Why? Because they relied on the community rather than their own efforts to maintain faith. Who are the ones that are left? Those that had the grit to stick with it. Through all the splinter groups. Through all the not so fun feasts where everyone missed their friends. Through the sabbaths when the sermon seemed uninspiring and the best speakers weren’t around anymore. Because it wasn’t ultimately about the church or the people. It was their own race.

    Grit is sadly something that is lacking in our culture now, we are terribly restless. If it doesn’t suit us, we want it changed and to change it fast. I hope it is not too bold to suggest that I see this restlessness in your thinking. We can’t make excuses for people that leave. They gave up because they refused to discipline themselves. We are told to discipline our minds and bodies. We are each responsible for our own salvation. We are to pursue it with fear and trembling. If someone gives up, it has nothing to do with songs or opportunities for service. It is a lack of mettle. That mettle is there for the asking from Christ who strengths us in all things.

    The people that are successful in life are those that focus on the goal not the obstacles. That is true of our pursuit of the kingdom. We must be singleminded. Part of our fight is to dismiss the irrelevant things and those people that want to convince us that there is an answer in them. Think about the history of the church. The Waldensians in the mountains of Europe fleeing persecution with their whole families. Think about those in Stephen’s address in Acts. They fought mighty fights. Distractions, our need for self-determination or independence (despising authority), self-expression and recognition and a life of ease are possibly the mighty fights of our time. This is what feeds the lukewarmness we fight against in our age. We need to recognize these temptations of our time for what they are and overcome them. If you can’t find the fellowship you need to strengthen you, there are other tools in the toolbox. I have lived in many places in the world and some congregations have been better than others. During low points fasting and study were really important faith-boosting tools.

    During WW days when the church was huge and families lived their entire lives in the church kids were cloistered – wrongly in my view – and never knew how the world is. I think this is what makes 3rd and 4th generationers sound naive when they talk about leaving the church. Where are people talking about going when they talk about leaving the church? Going to a protestant church or just to atheism or something else? Leaving the church is saying, “I don’t want you Christ.” We aren’t just a version of Christianity. We are Christianity. You need to realize the magnitude of what you are saying and justifying for your audience. The world isn’t just like church but with a few restrictions lifted. As a former atheist, I know that the world is sometimes good but also harsh, unfair, cruel, opportunistic and pointless. Do you want to remove the only community from your family where people will tell your family that adultery, abortion and pornography are unacceptable and that homosexuality will lead to disease, mental instability and isolation from God? You won’t hear that in the world and you won’t hear that in a protestant church. Will you raise happier or more intelligent kids in the world? No, without the Bible we don’t even have logic or reason.

    So if you feel you are sown on thorny ground (i.e. without the community you need to help you), find some fertile ground. But not by seeking out other discontented people (which seem to be the majority of people that have responded to your blog). Seek out those that are successful (if you want to be successful seek out those that are successful). But that is a personal conversation not a public one because it does involve revealing vulnerabilities and weaknesses and as a mentor you also reveal yourself so it takes trust and commitment on both parts – not something achieved in a public forum.

    Thank you for your thought provoking post. I think it is revealing of a strain of thinking that reflects our Laodicean time and I do think the church needs to address it but just not in the ways you suggest.

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    1. I’m sure it doesn’t matter, because I’m one of those “quitters,” Tam, but your characterization of those who left is highly insulting. I didn’t leave because it was easy. I assure you I am not lacking in ‘grit”. It takes “mettle” to leave everything you’ve known for more than three decades, knowing you’re leaving behind your community, that your friends will turn their backs on you, that your family will talk about you behind your back using the same insulting jabs you’ve used here.

      It takes discipline to leave the prooftext booklets behind and actually study the Bible, looking back to scriptural context and original language, for years. I did, and I found what I’d been taught all my life was very shoddy and shallow. Some “points of fact” were entirely fabricated. So refusing to stick my head in the sand any longer to avoid seeing what God showed me is not exactly the same thing as saying, “Christ, I don’t want you.”

      http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2014/09/word-games.html

      http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2015/02/gennao.html

      A Protestant church won’t tell you that abortion, pornography and homosexuality are wrong? Have you ever even been inside a CONSERVATIVE protestant church? My pastor speaks out strongly on all three, and he’s hardly alone. Quit believing in the Protestant straw man that’s been set up for you. Quit believing what everyone tells you. Dig up some grit, use some discipline and look for yourself. You can read my pastor’s quotes here:

      http://asbereansdid.blogspot.com/2015/09/a-wake-up-call-to-rod-meredith.html

      I was successful in the COGs. I had been there all my life and could have been a leader. But that still, small voice told me not to do it. I didn’t leave because it was easy. Staying would have been much easier. But I guess you’re right, I just wasn’t that kind of person.

      P.S. – The Waldensians weren’t the forerunners of the COGs. They were Catholic Reformers who largely disagreed with the Catholic church over its stance on baptism and its implications for salvation. Whether they kept a seventh-day Sabbath is disputed. Peter Waldo was known to ask the Pope for permission to preach. They are considered to be forerunners of Calvin and Luther, not SDA, COG-7th Day, Ellen G. White or Herbert Armstrong. Today, the Waldensians are part of the Presbyterian church.

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  32. At first I was confused when I began reading the article. The title would seem to be talking about people leaving Christianity in general, but as I got into it a bit more, I realized that it was talking about the World Wide Church of God and its off shoots.

    Has anyone taken any actual statistics on people leaving offshoots? There are so many offshoots that in some cases, someone may be thought to be leaving “the Church” when in fact they may have just left for another offshoot.
    Also, many may leave a COG group for other Christian groups. In such cases, they should not be said to have left “the Church.” Gods people are scattered throughout many denominations, whether Sabbath keeping or not.
    I think those who stopped keeping Sabbaths are missing out on some Truths, but none of us has everything right. In other cases, people may have left for other Sabbath keeping groups, such as Seventh Day Adventists or Messianic / Hebrew Roots groups.

    I still really appreciated the article (and part 2), despite its seeming implication (perhaps unintentional) that those who leave COG groups are necessarily no longer God’s people. It explained many problems a lot of people see among COG groups and reasons why people may leave. However, it would be nice to know the actual statistics on those who simply left individual COG groups for other church groups and those who left Christianity altogether.

    Also, it is important to note that not all COG groups have the same problems. Some groups may appeal more to one type of person and others to other types. That is also fine, but they should still be able to get along with each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Sadly, I am at home sick today and unable to be at the current YALW. So I am listening to last year’s seminars instead and thought the one entitled “Hold Fast” would be a great resource for anyone struggling with the issues brought up in this blog. Mr. Horchack covers almost all of the points directly or indirectly.
    http://members.cogwa.org/yalw/2015/

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  34. “Some answers to the thoughts of the next generations.

    Thank you so much for sharing your concerns. You are loved by God and by us!

    As I read this post it occurred to me (a 65 year old first generation wary traditionalist) that many of the concerns that you shared with us are very similar to concerns that we have had over the years and still have. We may have what seem to be different challenges generation to generation but the solution to every generation’s problems is the same. We must engage, embrace, and manifest “the way, the truth, and the life”…Jesus Christ.

    Please allow me to add a thought or two to your observations.

    …..[1. When you’re given something, it’s not as easy to appreciate it.]

    That is precisely why God doesn’t give you “everything”.

    You are “thirsty”…You do “ache”…You have a deep “desire”…You are lacking much but, the previous generations can not fill the void, we can only point you in the right direction. The “wacky” things we do i.e. not celebrating worldly holidays, walking away from friends and relatives, attending church every Saturday, keeping the commandments, prayer and study, repentance and baptism, etc.etc.etc., do not bring us to the end of the journey, they reveal the way and open a door to what God has in store for us. “Ye shall be MY sons and daughter says the Lord Almighty.” There is nothing wrong with you that is not wrong with all of us in varying degree…including ministers and elders. We all have bouts with lack of zeal, discouragement, and a feeling of being forsaken. These are some of Satan’s strongest weapons, they also can be some of God’s greatest prods. When we feel these things what should we do? Seek God out!! The reality is that if we didn’t have these prods driving us to God, we would end up with just a superficial “relationship” with ourselves.

    Job had knowledge and did everything right, but God had to prod him on for he still lacked something that was imperative for Job to finish his journey. He went through severe trial and had bouts with all of the things mentioned above. Through it all Job learned this valuable lesson.

    In Job’s own words…

    Job 42:5 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.

    6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

    Job came to a personal understanding of who God is, and entered into a personal relationship with the creator of the universe.

    This is why we all still thirst and ache and have deep desire…God is embracing us individually and we need our eyes open to see Him and to respond by embracing Him personally.

    …..[When we worry that there’s something wrong with us because of our lack of zeal, we get discouraged, convince ourselves that God isn’t all that interested in us…and it becomes easier to leave.]

    Seek out God. See Him as he is. Embrace Him as he reaches out to you personally, and it will become impossible for you to leave.”

    Continued…”[2. We speak a different language…one of vulnerability, openness and creativity.]

    You are right about the communication problem. Many (but not all) of the older generations don’t freely discuss our experiences with our struggles. “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all” is our motto. There is a reason for that but it is not a good one. We need your encouragement. It is much easier for a young person to learn a new language than and “older” person, so I would suggest that you learn our language and come to us as you do to each other vulnerable, open, and creative. It is sad but true that the older generations are frustrated because it is a rarity that someone young would actually come to us for our story, creativity, and advice. If you show yourself friendly, not looking for perfection but for understanding you might be surprised at the openness you would find. We old stick in the muds could use a good dose of youthful creativity. Yes, look ahead but don’t discard the past. We love you and only want the best for you.

    …..[“When we don’t feel accepted, when we don’t feel understood, when we aren’t being fed in the way we need, it becomes easier to leave”.]

    To feel accepted…to feel understood…to feel fed…this is something that every generation desires. God provides all of these if we seek Him. We all may speak a different language generation to generation but if we all try to learn God’s language then we can be of one mind and it will become impossible for us to leave.

    …..[3. “We ache for more meaningful ways to serve.”]

    You are not alone in this feeling no matter what generation you may be from. We all feel a need to serve. We all have a need to be part of a team. We all struggle at times trying to find our nitch. To find a meaningful answer to the problem we must go to the One who has the answers…Jesus Christ. What did He say? How did He serve? Who did he focus on?

    “Feed my sheep.” This certainly has a spiritual meaning, but when people came to hear Jesus he also provided food (i.e. snacks at church) before he sent them away. To share a snack encourages fellowship and if we do it right encourages spiritual growth and fulfillment. It becomes meaningful and fulfilling when we focus, as Christ did, on other people’s needs and not our own. The behind the scenes work that is done, the setting up of chairs, the gathering up of hymnals, the sound system, etc. are very important services that enable an enjoyable and fruitful family gathering. Christ fills his time doing all of the behind the scene things that we don’t acknowledge…you know sustaining the universe and the like. He is fulfilled serving us. We can be filled serving others in these same ways.

    We are not here in the Church to feel good but to become good, good as in Christ-like. There is nothing stopping us from visiting “the Fatherless and the widow in their affliction,” “feeding and clothing the poor,” “giving a disciple a cup of water.” The excuse, “The church isn’t doing anything” will not hold any water when we come before Christ and give an account of our lives.

    Here are a few examples of how you can make a difference…
    Alexis found a good neighborhood food bank and brought the idea of collecting food for their annual Thanksgiving dinner offering. She did this on her own initiative and gave the rest of us the wonderful opportunity to share what we have with others in need.

    Diane saw the need of the less fortunate little children who were forced to go outside for lunch and recess without proper winter attire and started a collection that would provide hats, mittens, and scarves so that these little ones would not suffer. We all pitched in again, with joy, that we might help others’

    If you are a “missionary” visit the convalescent home.

    If you are a musician entertain the needy.

    If you are artistic…dress up the pot lucks with flowers and decorations.

    Ask others to join you and the family will be edified.

    We need people like you in all generations to help us to learn to give. Thank you for the passion you have shown…Go for it!!

    …..[When we can’t find our place, when we feel our talents aren’t wanted, when we feel squashed creatively…it becomes easier to leave.]

    I have found over the years that self esteem is not esteem at all. To find fulfillment we must realize that we are esteemed by our Great Father and Brother, and then embrace their eternal value system filling our hearts with esteem for others. This then empowers our service for others. We then can experience the fulfillment that Christ feels serving us. This is not of the world but of Christ. When you find your place, when you exercise you gifts in service to others, when you let Christ be creative in you, then you will be full…then it will become impossible for you to leave.

    May God bless you in your quest.

    P.S. Yes I have a “protestant-y” problem. The “protestant-y” approach caused many beloved brethren to turn from the truth. That hurt bad! The Protestants do great work and that is commendable. We must do great work serving the true God. The Church preaches the gospel. We must collectively and individually find ways to serve the brethren, man-kind, and our Great God, in truth and in love. That is our charge.” smile emoticon

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  35. Wow. So true. And sometimes I wonder if I’m a 1.5 generation or a 2.5 generation, because one parent came in as a result of an older cousin, as well as a casual acquaintance with a high school friend (who left the church – I remember his parents were quite elderly when they died in the faith only mere years or maybe months before the 1995 split, but their son had bailed out as soon as he could go as far away to college as he could…), and my other parent “came in” to WCG because of the spouse’s demanding request. We never seemed to experience the “wonderful family life blessings” that many of the 1st/2nd generation older people I know of. ( I suspect there are some 5th generation folks who are babies now but who knows?). The one parent has died, the other parent is still wandering around falling back into Protestantism, with the leftover dregs of what was once WCG and now virtually indistinguishable from the childhood Baptist they apparently were before they came into WCG (I was just barely starting kindergarten back then – the Jekyll Island Big Tent was my first feast site. So yea, 50+ years ago…). Our Third generation kid really doesn’t seem to be interested in studying but neither do we want to just do the ugly harsh “forcing” them to study, the same harsh behaviors that drove the rest of our siblings out of the church, myself and my husband.

    Well…I could yammer on. I’ll have to check back here. Thanks for writing this!!

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