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The Plain Truth – June/July 1979
The Plain Truth – June/July 1979
Now It Must Be Revealed –
How The Worldwide Church Of God Began

from Herbert W. Armstrong

Now it must be revealed – the true story of how Jesus Christ prepared His servant far in advance – then called him in poverty and hunger – and the history of the struggle to raise up this era of God’s Church in financial stress and on sheer living FAITH!

As a young man, I had been successful in the advertising profession, earning, while still in my twenties, an income comparable to $150,000 a year today.

I was then unconverted and proud – ambitious and full of self-confidence. I did not then know Jesus Christ as personal Savior, Lord and Master and coming King!

The living Christ well knew that before He could effectively use me, I had to be humbled, subdued, CONQUERED by Him. I know now that God had guided my life from the beginning, preparing His future servant for His purpose – even as He had prepared Moses, Job, Paul and others, in advance. Even in my birth, rearing, and early business life, He was guiding me.

When I was age 16, my employer in my first summer job away from home sparked in me the flame of AMBITION to make something of my life – and with it, the willingness and determination to work hard and pay the price of success.

When I was 18, a book called Choosing a Vocation put me through a self-analysis, leading me to choose the advertising profession.

I had developed an intense driving energy. I studied nights, learned by experience during the day.

By age 25 I was well established, with my own office in Chicago’s downtown Loop, as a successful publisher’s representative in the banking field. My business contacts were with officers of the nation’s great banks on South LaSalle Street and on Wall Street in New York – and with presidents and board chairmen of many Midwest industrial corporations.

I was married at age 25 to the wife I was later to know God had selected for me – a marriage that lasted 50 years – until death did part us. She was the help I needed.

But a flash depression in 1920 – when I was 28 – put my major clients (industrial corporations) into receivership. Ninety percent of my income was lost in that depression.

But I had acquired the business training which was later to be needed in the Work of the living Christ. And I had become proud. God did not make His calling known to me at that stage. First, Christ took me through a humbling experience. By 1926 I was in Portland, Oregon, reduced to poverty, hunger, wearing threadbare clothes. Then a pair of supremely important challenges came. God’s time had come to call me.

I was taken through the humiliating experience of finding that everything I had believed, or perhaps better stated, taken for granted, about God and the Bible was proven wrong. By spring 1927, my mind had been swept clean of the religious beliefs I had carelessly assumed, and Jesus Christ had come into my life. Self-confidence was replaced with a living FAITH. I was in desperate financial straits. I had taken a real beating. I had been CONQUERED by Christ Jesus. I repented, was baptized and a totally new life begotten within me.

When I was baptized in the spring of 1927, I received the supreme gift of God’s Holy Spirit. God’s TRUTH was being opened to me. God had now called me and put me in His Work.

I was used by Jesus Christ, in 1933, in raising up the parent church of the Worldwide Church of God. I had hitchhiked – or walked – to hold services in a one-room country schoolhouse eight miles west of Eugene, Oregon. My one pair of shoes had holes in the soles. I said, in humor, “I have a suit for every day of the week – and this is it!” My wife was wearing her younger sister’s cast-off clothes. Our children had been sent to school hungry. It was then the midst of the Great Depression. Church brethren took up a collection to buy me a new suit of clothes.

But now GOD was using me! I had started broadcasting at a cost of $2.50 per week for radio time. The money came BY FAITH! Everything, from that time, came by living FAITH.

God gave miraculous answers to fervent prayer. The sick – even cancer victims – were being healed.

No operation could have started smaller. But God blessed it, and it grew at the rate of 30 percent per year for 35 years.

In 1947 God used me in founding Ambassador College – on sheer FAITH! The Church of God began to GROW – steadily.

I had to realize God was dealing with me, in principle, as He had dealt with Job. God allowed Satan to take away every material thing Job had to bring him to God – but then, after Job was humbled and brought to repentance, God DOUBLED Job’s former wealth – and he had been the greatest and wealthiest man in the East.

Also my experience resembled that of the apostle Paul, in principle.

And now, 46 years after the founding of the present era of the true Church of God, the ever-living Christ continues to give me severe tests of faith.

As God’s Church, then named the Radio Church of God, began to grow, God led me to incorporate it in such a manner that I would always be UNABLE to profit financially from its growth.

It is doubtful whether any institution in human history started from as humble and small beginnings. When GOD starts something on His power alone, it is BIG from the beginning. For example, the creation of the UNIVERSE – the creation of the earth. But when God starts something through humans, it usually, like the grain of mustard seed, starts the very smallest and most humble, and then grows as the spiritual character of the human develops.

I had rejected a salary of $3 per week prior to the start of the Worldwide Church of God. As for me and my family, we received almost no financial aid at our beginning in God’s service. It was, indeed, a Work of FAITH. I trusted God in faith to supply the need. We paid $5 per month house rent. I had to pay $2.50 per week at the radio station – in advance – before every broadcast. God was supplying the need as He promised (Phil. 4:19).

One Sunday morning dawned without even the $2.50 for the Sunday morning broadcast. My wife and I knelt in prayer, asking God to supply the need. I was aroused from prayer by a knock on the front door. A man at the door said, “Here’s my tithe,” and dashed off, saying he had to hurry for an appointment.

Another Sunday morning when I did not have the $2.50 on hand, no one came to the front door. Yet, in faith, I started walking to the radio studio. On the way a man I did not know handed me the needed money.

I could give you the story of many other similar occurrences.

But after I was actively in God’s Work, although it had to be carried on in living FAITH, we never again had to be hungry, without food – although we often did have to eat beans and the least costly food. It was a financial struggle from the beginning. After moving to Eugene, we rented a house costing $7 per month.

After two years, I was able to add a second radio station in Portland, costing $10 per broadcast. Once, on starting to drive to Portland for the Sunday afternoon broadcast, I lacked the $10 I had to pay in advance. I stopped at Salem, Oregon, for lunch, and somebody – I do not now remember who – handed me the needed broadcast money.

I was still going with only one pair of shoes and one suit of clothes, but was no longer hungry.

When I was 19 years of age, a multimillionaire called me to his office. He was starting me out as an employee of his corporation, and my job would entail some long-distance rail travel. He wanted to give a young man some good advice.

“When you travel, always (when you can afford it) travel in a Pullman car. Always stay at the best hotel, even though you take their minimum-priced room. This throws you among the more successful people, and everyone we contact has an influence on us.”

But when I had to stay overnight in Portland, or a year later in Seattle, I could not afford the best-quality hotel, so I stayed at the second or third best. I always tried to live within my means.

A newspaper writer, in a story about the Worldwide Church of God, said he had learned that when royalty or overseas VIPs visited us in Pasadena, I did not take them to McDonald’s or Jack-in-the-Box for lunch or dinner, but to Perino’s (Los Angeles’s best restaurant). But royalty is accustomed to the best in quality, and it would be virtually an insult to take people of that stature to a low-price restaurant. If I had to fast without food a few days in order to afford to take such guests to the quality place to which they are accustomed, I would do it. I do take such guests to the type place they expect to be taken.

What would I have done, when I had to go to the lowest-price places myself and had only one pair of shoes and one threadbare suit of clothes? Well, I did not have royalty or VIPs visiting me in those days. I probably would have been forced to find some way to avoid having to host them at all.

In train travel back in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, I traveled often in day coaches on trains, and ate at low-price lunch counters. But GOD has promised to supply all our need (Phil. 4:19), and in the Work of God in these days certain things are necessary in order to serve God – and He provides what is needed.

I have never engaged in extravagance. “Extravagant” is defined in the dictionary as “exceeding the limits of reason, or necessity; extremely or exceedingly elaborate, profuse or unreasonably high in price.”

The best quality of things may be expensive, but not extravagant.

At this point let me inject a little current news. Some of the dissidents who brought this civil lawsuit on God’s Church spread the rumor that in fact this was not a suit against me or against the Church, but against Mr. Stanley Rader. Of course, that is not true, for every effort in their power was made to take over and confiscate the Church property – to turn all management of the Church over to the court-appointed receiver. They told the press the suit was brought against us because they claimed that both Mr. Rader and I had been “siphoning off millions of dollars every year from Church funds.” That wild allegation is so utterly false I have not considered it necessary to dignify it with a denial. Our Church members have PROVED by their loyalty, financial support and loving letters that they know well such a thing is impossible.

A couple days ago Mr. Rader went in person to the deputy attorneys general, told them of this persistent rumor, and offered that, if they would dismiss all charges against me and the three corporations, he would hand them complete records of all transactions involving him, on a silver platter. They know well their charges of our stealing millions of dollars are utterly groundless. But they replied that they cannot now afford to “lose face” by admitting that it is THEY, not we, who are guilty of wrongdoing. They said it would leave them “emasculated” – using that very word! Now they are going to try to make me move to a lower-cost residence and insist I travel, when I do, at something like third-class accommodations, etc.

So I am going to see that they learn that: 1) I own absolutely NOTHING, except the property in which my wife and I now live in Tucson, Arizona, until it is safe for me to resume residence in the college-owned home on the campus in Pasadena where I have lived for 13 years; and 2) the Pasadena property and all in it belongs to Ambassador College, and cost only $17,500 of Church or college funds.

The very purchase of that property is an example of how God has been blessing us and His Work. Here are the circumstances behind the college acquiring that property.

Dr. and Mrs. Hal Lisman wanted to move from San Pedro to Pasadena. They wanted this particular property, said it could be bought for $37,500 – a bargain of bargains at that time. They offered to put in the $10,000 down payment. We agreed that $5,000 of their down payment could pay for five years’ rent and the other $5,000 could be taken off their income tax as a contribution to the college.

At the end of five years, they paid another $10,000 for another five years’ rent. When Dr. Lisman died, Mrs. Lisman housed eight girl students. When neighbors complained that the property was not zoned for taking in roomers, we had to move them out. Mrs. Lisman felt it was too large a house for her to maintain alone.

That was when I decided to live there. After the Lismans had paid $20,000 of the $37,500, it remained for the college to pay only the $17,500. There was a certain amount of repairing, which was done with our own labor.

My wife Loma and I lived there around two years before her death. During the remainder of the night after her death, I remarked to my son Garner Ted that I planned to move into a small apartment, and that I didn’t know how to use that large home.

“Dad,” said Ted, “no other minister but you could live here. It seems to me we’ll have to turn it into a student social center.”

I agreed; that was its only possible use. But then came the idea of inviting all senior students each year, in a number of small groups throughout the year, for a formal dinner with me at my home. And, in doing that, I decided it would be better for me to live on there. Many students yet today will say that the formal dinners they attended were the outstanding event of their four-year college careers. That home now has a bronze sign in front of the entrance marked “PRIVATE – Student Social Center.” So, if the deputy attorneys general decide I must live elsewhere, what will become of the Student Social Center?

Among those who have been entertained in that house are King Leopold III and family, Judge Nagendra Singh (India’s representative on the Court of International Justice at The Hague) and his wife, Dr. Franz Josef Strauss (often called the “strong man of Europe”) and his wife, the president of Tokyo University and his wife, officials from the state of Israel, and others. Another guest was Gloria Swanson, the most glamorous star of Hollywood from the silent-movie days (she was lecturing at the college).

Of course, IF these deputy attorneys general and these court judges demand that I move into some third-or fourth-rate shanty, it would not be a new experience for me. I did have to live in poorer circumstances than most of our brethren for many years, and I would feel right at home.

Why is it, I often wonder, that if a Hollywood movie star lives ostentatiously, that is EXPECTED? – and they do nothing more of real value than entertain people. But if the servant of the living GOD ministers to multiple thousands, leading many to ETERNAL LIFE, some people expect him to live like a tramp or pauper.

How did Jesus live? We know little of that, but there is evidence that He owned His own property in Capernaum. He wore a robe that was of extra fine quality, for it was seamless. Even Jesus was accused of “extravagance,” when a woman washed His feet with precious and expensive ointment. Jesus rebuked those who criticized this.

I know what it is to be POOR! I know what it is to go HUNGRY for lack of money for food. I have lived at as low a cost of living as my position in God’s service allowed. And I would be willing to do it again – but I don’t think the living Jesus Christ wants me to do that again, now. In the Kingdom of God there will be no paupers, tramps, nor the VERY poor. Our God has something better in store for us!

For fifty-two years now, since my conversion, I have tried to live simply, without extravagance, and to make every dollar of God’s tithes go as far in His Work as possible! But the living Jesus Christ does guide His apostle and shows me HOW He wants His Work managed. Every dollar is made to go farther and more effectively than in any other organization in the world – because this Work is headed and led by Jesus Christ!

And it will continue to be administered as Jesus Christ leads me – and not as some state official or a court judge would MISmanage!

This is NOT the work of man’s government but the work of the living God! Attorneys general or court judges, who do NOT follow Christ, shall not manage or operate this precious Work of the LIVING GOD!