December 7, 2023
December is the 12th and last month of the calendar year. We have operated according to a fiscal year that mirrors the calendar year—January through December—since COGWA began in December of 2010. God has truly blessed us in so many ways over these past 13 years, and those blessings have continued as we get set to begin our 14th fiscal year on Jan. 1, 2024.
Every year, from the Feast of Tabernacles to the end of the year, we are involved in nonstop activities—special conferences, Ministerial Board of Directors (MBOD) meetings, church visits, special anniversaries and the Winter Family Weekend. And this year is no different! My travel schedule is pretty full for December, with a number of trips planned, including a special one to Portland, Oregon, to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Radio Church of God in Oregon. It was in Eugene, Oregon, in October of 1933, that Herbert and Loma Armstrong met with 19 other people to officially begin the Radio Church of God.
It is an understatement to say that a lot has happened in the past 90 years! The world is very different today. In 1933 the United States and the world were in the darkest days of the Great Depression, which began with the stock market crash of 1929. There were food lines in every major city. This was a very difficult time in the history of the United States—and really the entire world. The rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s led to World War II, which resulted in the deaths of 45 million civilians, as compared to 15 million combatants. This was the first war in our history that had more civilians die than combatants (“Research Starters: Worldwide Deaths in World War II,” www.nationalww2museum.org).
I have always had an interest in Church history, and I participated in a project in the 1980s to collect material about the first Christian Sabbath-keepers in America. The oldest Christian Sabbath-keepers’ meeting house still in existence, dating back to 1730, is today a museum in Newport, Rhode Island. Doing the research—and putting together a slide presentation that I show each year to our Foundation Institute students—was one of the highlights of my ministerial career. It is hard to believe that I began researching this subject more than 40 years ago. But I am still as interested in our history today as I was then. Every time I make a trip to New England I get excited just thinking about those early articles and videos on the history of the New England Sabbatarians.
I am definitely looking forward to our visit to Portland to participate in the 90th anniversary of the Radio Church of God. Our heritage means a lot to us, and knowing the history of those who have gone before is like reading an extended version of Hebrews 11 and the book of Acts. It is our history! How easy it is to forget or, for some, to have never known. It was one of my goals as a pastor to make sure my congregations never lost sight of where we came from.
Not all of the past 90 years were glory years. In fact, many were difficult, and some were downright embarrassing. But that is the way of history and, in reality, what we find in Scripture as well. I am sure King David won’t be pleased to know that his sins in life have been available for all to read for the past 2,000 years! But God preserved these stories for a reason—primarily, it seems, to help us and to inspire others, even with the mistakes that were made. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that the preservation of Israel’s history in Scripture is to serve as an example for us of what not to do (1 Corinthians 10:6).
When it comes to the history of the Church, some things never change—the need to keep God’s commandments, the need to love one another, the need to serve one another and the need to assemble together on the Sabbath and holy days. We must never lose sight of these important needs. You may be surprised to know that the term one another is used in 81 verses in the New King James Version of the New Testament. And most of the verses that include the term one another are speaking about Christians and their connections to each other. Here are a few:
What does this have to do with Church history? In my study of the history of the Church, one thing has been abundantly clear—we need each other. When the Church has done well, members have had strong, loving relationships with each other. In studying the history of the early Sabbath-keepers, it becomes obvious that when they lost a sense of community, of doing things together and of belonging together, they became isolated and often departed from the faith.
Ninety years is a long period of time, and actually encompasses almost five generations. My wife is a third-generation Sabbath-keeper and Church member. Our grandchildren are fifth-generation Sabbath-keepers and Church attendees. This is the beauty of history. It lays bare the story and the traditions of those who have gone before us. I find it inspiring, and I hope you do as well. If nothing else, the past 90 years should have taught us that we need to assemble together, fellowship and get to know our stories. I would encourage you to seek out the older members in your congregation and listen to their stories. There is so much that we can learn.
Thank you for your dedication and loyalty! We will see some of you in Oregon. Unfortunately, we will miss the Winter Family Weekend this year because of a conflict with another trip. Enjoy the fellowship and listen to the stories of God’s people! Christ Himself tells us, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,