UCG: Where Should You Fellowship?


The United Church of God (UCG) sent the following in an email yesterday:

3 Bible Tips: Where and When Should We Fellowship?
1. We should fellowship at Church gatherings on God’s Sabbaths.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25; see also Hebrews 4:4-9).

2. We should fellowship at God’s feasts.

“Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8; see also Leviticus 23:2).

3. We should fellowship as often as possible and fellowship over meals together.

“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart” (Acts 2:46).

Those who went to UCG, including those that left it and went with COGWA, were the major factor in fragmentation amongst those that can be considered part of the COGs (those who supported J. Tkach Jr. were another factor, but they are not COG).  In my view, this fragmentation from a carnal perspective was unnecessary (from a spiritual perspective, the separation between those who accepted the Philadelphia era work and governance and those that did not had to happen). Ego and internal focus were big factors.

Why are You Where You Are?

Irrespective of what happens in or between the various groups, when was the last time you asked yourself why you affiliate with who you do (or don’t in many cases)? Since the Bible is to be the source of doctrine (II Tim 3:16), it is from the Bible that information to help deciding where one should fellowship can be found.

Perhaps the most fundamental is what Paul wrote:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? (II Cor 6:14).

Jesus similarly taught that,

Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt 7:22-23).

Thus, one should not be part of a group that practice (or teaches lawlessness)–the current GCI sadly is a group like that.

The Bible clearly indicates that one should not make their religious decisions on the basis of what family members decide (Luke 14:26).

Jesus also taught, And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:27)

Thus one probably should not chose one fellowship over another because one seems ‘easier’ to bear..

The Bible indicates that financial reasons are also unacceptable (Matt 13:22). Family reasons are also unacceptable according to Jesus (Mat 10:34-37). The fact that one likes the preaching style of one minister (or group) more than another also does not seem to be biblically sanctioned (I Cor 1:12-13), nor does the fact that one does not like aspects of the leading minister (II Cor 10:10).

Where Should One Be?

Other than avoiding churches that practice lawlessness, there are other biblical guidelines that give information on where one should be. Does the group “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3)? If so, great, but is this the only criteria?

Jesus taught:

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples…You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit (John 15:7,8,16).

Thus individual members are to bear fruit. And,

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them (Matt 7:15-20).

Thus groups should be judged by their fruits! The next verse says,

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven (Matt 7:21).

What is the will of the Father regarding fruit? That we bear much of it! Thus, whatever group you are affiliated with should be trying to bear fruit.

Jesus clearly indicates that this is not just talking about an individual improving one’s own life as He said,

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it (Mark 8:35)

But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Matt 13:23).

Therefore, it appears clear that one should be affiliated with a group that places a high priority of developing fruit through proclaiming the gospel! Even though this author has heard some say that this is the job of the two witnesses (Rev 11:3,7) or the ‘third angel’ (Rev 14:6), here is what Jesus says this to those who want to wait for someone else,

Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! (John 4:35).

Of course, I clearly feel that the LCG has done the best job of publicly proclaiming the Gospel (and this is documented in the article There are Many COGS: Why the Living Church of God?) and remaining faithful to doctrine of any of the groups, this does not mean that the efforts of others have gone unnoticed. Perhaps, if doctrinal differences can be resolved, we could combine together.

Attendance in Other Fellowships

So let us assume you have examined the teachings of the various groups. You have determined which group best contends for the the faith once delivered (Jude 3), is true to the Bible (II Tim 3:16), bears fruit (Matt 7:15-20), and is proclaiming the gospel (Matt 24:14;28:19-20; Mark 8:35).

So are there times it is proper to attend services of another fellowship?

The biblical answer is yes. The apostles often attended Jewish services when Christian churches were not around (e.g. Act 14:1). They also attended Christian church services when they were available (Acts 14:27;15:4).

I have attended with several other fellowships at various times primarily because he does not wish to, “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some” (Heb 10:25). Yet, however, I do not believe that one should regularly fellowship with a group other than the one’s primary group if the opportunity to fellowship with one’s primary group exists. If one is truly in the group that is most appropriate, Ecclesiastes 9:10 would seem to apply, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might”.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Attending the Church of Choice This article discusses whose choice is important to worship God; should you attend the church of your choice or the church of God’s choice?
Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Roderick C. Meredith on Church Government What form of governance did the early church have? Was it hierarchical? Which form of governance would one expect to have in the Philadelphia remnant? The people decide and/or committee forms, odd dictatorships, or the same type that the Philadelphia era itself had?
Unity: Which COG for You? Why so many groups? Why is there lack of unity in the Churches of God? Has it always been this way? What can/should be done about it?
Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God This article provides quotes information from the two largest groups which had their origins in WCG as well as commentary.
There are Many COGs: Why Support the Living Church of God? This is an article for those who wish to more easily sort out the different COGs. It really should be a MUST READ for current and former WCG/GCI members or any interested in supporting the faithful church. It also explains a lot of what the COGs are all about.
Concerns about Church of God, a Worldwide Association This seems to be the largest group that came out of the United Church of God. Here is some history and concerns about it.
Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert W. Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work? Some say the Church should mainly feed the flock now as that is what Herbert W. Armstrong reportedly said. Is that what he said? Is that what the Bible says? What did Paul and Herbert W. Armstrong expect from evangelists?
The Laodicean Church Era has been predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. These are non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG.

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