Thursday, August 22, 2019

Rock Valley & Oak Stone Christian churches: Trendier, Gentler COGs

It's become popular in recent years for churches and ministries to incorporate numbers into their name or logo. Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis organization stamps a 1:1 shorthand trademark on its materials. A group of Michigan churches called 2|42 embraces the practices listed in Acts 2:42-47 as a means of making disciples. Hebrew Roots ministry 119 alludes to the Psalm 119 reference to David being a man after God's own heart.

Turns out that even Armstrongism isn't immune from this trend.

We at As Bereans Did recently learned about the existence of 14:12 churches. What are 14:12 churches? As of now, there appear to be two – Rock Valley Christian Church in Murrieta, California, and Oak Stone Christian Church in Dallas, Texas. While Rock Valley has been around for many years, Oak Stone is less than a year old, and was planted by Rock Valley's pastor, David Liesenfelt.  These churches rally around Revelation 14:12 because its members “keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus,” according to Liesenfelt.

Stereotypical Pinterest church sanctuary photo
But Rock Valley and Oak Stone don't just have a trendy tagline. They have the telltale matching pallet wood backdrops and string light accents to back it up. Drums and electric guitars accompany their contemporary Christian worship services. Their web sites are peppered with Christian-ese terms like “non-denominational” and “church plant.” To the unsuspecting passer-by, they look like any other community church.

Rock Valley sanctuary, courtesy of YouTube

And therein lies our problem.


We have mixed feelings about criticizing these 14:12 churches. They appear more relaxed than any Church of God we've ever seen. We see jeans in the audience, and even hands lifted in worship. They've ditched British Israelism and a few other points of Armstrongist nonsense. To be honest, if our extended families continue to attend the COGs, this seems like the kind of place we hope they end up.

But here's the thing.  Rock Valley and Oak Stone are more into evangelism than their COG predecessors. They, unlike many COGs, appear to get visitors who have no connection to Armstrongism.  And also unlike other COGs, which scare people away with their hotel meeting spaces and three-piece suits, their atmosphere seems culturally congruent. Visitors have no reason to suspect they are witnessing anything other than a small, yet vibrant, Christian church plant.

As xHWA so aptly explained, we don't blame those who were drawn into the COGs early on. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. It's hard to criticize those who wanted to please God and showed the courage to turn away from long-held mainstream traditions, regardless of the personal cost. And we sympathize with those raised in the tradition who feel pressure to stay, despite their questions. But in 2019, with decades of documentation, resources and good old Google available, it's hard to understand making the decision to join.

Unless you don't know what you're joining. Unless you're not getting the full story.

The Rest of the Story

This is our impression, as well as the impression of one Google reviewer, who really enjoyed the church, but eventually left because he was uncomfortable with the ambiguity of Rock Valley's Statement of Beliefs, as well as its anti-Trinitarian stance.

“Transparency from the church leadership, a clearly defined statement of beliefs and a truly Biblical theological position from a church group is a high importance to me.”

(We won't make a big deal about the Trinity today, although you're more than welcome to check out our musings on the topic.)

  The vagueness of Rock Valley's statement of beliefs is a red flag.  But it was an even bigger red flag when Liesenfelt wasn't transparent with ABD about his theological background. After reading about his churches, I emailed Liesenfelt with several questions, including asking from which seminary he received his certification.

“I never attended seminary,” he responded. “My authority comes from Jesus Christ.”

We believe Liesenfelt is telling the truth when he says he didn't attend seminary. However, Liesenfelt also runs, a web site featuring his sermons, radio shows and  other material he produces. On, Liesenfelt states that he graduated from college in 1990 with a degree in Theology. We later asked Liesenfelt why he did not disclose this fact when responding to our seminary question, since we were clearly seeking details about his theological training. As of the time this piece was posted, he has not responded to the question. It has been almost a month since we posed this question to him.

We are reasonably certain we know the source of some of Liesenfelt's theological training. According to The Worldwide News' June 5, 1989 edition, Liesenfelt received his Associate of Arts Degree from Ambassador College at Big Sandy, Texas - an unaccredited institution founded by Herbert W Armstrong. Armstrong founded and ran the Worldwide Church of God, which is discussed in Walter Martin's book, The Kingdom of the Cults, until his death in 1986. Since then, WCG has splintered into hundreds of smaller organizations that retain different permutations of Armstrong's teachings.

Does attending Ambassador College disqualify Liesenfelt from the role of pastor? Of course not. Does membership in a questionable religious institution disqualify him pastoring, teaching or other theological commentary? Again, I obviously don't think so, since everyone at ABD is in the same boat. But if you call yourself a pastor, and you're asked about your religious training, and have religious training from a specific institution, hiding it is concerning. Admit it. Affirm what you were taught, if you still believe it. If not, state where you have turned or departed. Especially if you are a Bible teacher, when the Bible exhorts us to tell the truth and avoid deceptive words and behavior. Liesenfelt's answer feels like more than an oversight to us. Further, it seems congruent with the reviewer's assessment of Rock Valley leadership.

Filling in the gaps

We're left to Liesenfelt's own answers and posted sermons to try to determine how much Ambassador College material is left in his teachings. He doesn't promote British Israelism - the theory that the United States and Western European peoples are direct physical descendants of the lost 10 tribes of Israel - which we applaud.

The Old Covenant law, including a seventh-day Sabbath and the Holy Days (as interpreted by those who founded Ambassador College), is still emphasized. The sites include many topics that are borderline Evangelical, we still see some key Ambassador College/COG buzzwords, like "Law of Liberty," "Faith Without Works," "Lean Not On Your Own Understanding," "He Who Endures To The End Shall Be Saved," and more.

You might ask, those are just Bible verses, what's the harm? Anyone who has spent any time in a COG knows these old, familiar verses. You've heard them over and over and over again. These ones aren't chosen at random - they know it and we know it.

In one sermon, titled "The Whole Gospel in one Bible Chapter," Liesenfelt asks his audience which one chapter of the Bible they would use to preach the gospel to an unbeliever. Audience members had many suggestions, including Romans 8, Hebrews 10 and John 3. Instead, Leisenfelt explained that Leviticus 23 was the best source for explaining God's "plan of salvation."

We agree, in a roundabout way, that Leviticus 23 does point to God's plan. And that plan was the coming of Jesus Christ, the One whom the holy days foreshadowed, and our salvation by grace through faith in Him. The holy days do not lay out a jigsaw puzzle we must piece together in order to attain salvation. They demonstrated the insufficiency of Israel, the law and anything else besides the Messiah to save, and pointed Israel to Him as their only hope. And as Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 3:12, Israel didn't see it.

And Liesenfelt doesn't seem to see it, either. His message on the Leviticus 23 "gospel" dwells on the fact that those in "the world" see the Holy Days through a veil, which is lifted when they turn to God. Those who read scripture in context will note that 2 Corinthians 3:13 specifically tells us this passage refers to Israel - specifically when Israel focuses on the Sinai Covenant. Sadly, the COGs unknowingly fall into the same trap.

Rock Valley's typical Christmas sermon sounds like a slightly better-marketed version of the moldly leftovers the COGs serve up each December. We note Pastor Liesenfelt quoted The Golden Bough, a tome that rejects the story of Jesus Christ as nothing more than a re-iteration of other ancient Mesopotamian religious myths. In short, if you put stock in The Golden Bough, you have no business professing faith in Christ. Incidentally, most of the other sources Liesenfelt cited were ones ABD has researched and addressed. In his message, Liesenfelt encouraged his audience to think critically about what they had been taught and why they do what they do. He also claimed that he had “never seen a source that disagreed” with his assessments. Well, now you have.

It's annoying to see a hip, trendy church try to spin WCG's 1967 anti-Christmas material, or really, Alexander Hislop's 1800's anti-Catholic propaganda, as cutting-edge truth. But it's just Christmas, not a matter of life and death. We bring this up simply as anecdotal evidence of how far Rock Valley Christian Church and Oak Stone have or haven't fallen from the Ambassador College/WCG Tree. We'll drop it and get back to actual matters of life and death.

Seek and ye shall find?

We find some of Rock Valley's doctrinal statements – and by extension Oak Stone's – to be vague.

To be fair, Rock Valley's statement of beliefs includes a handful of long statements that sound relatively convincing. But they preface it with the statement that “any listing of specific beliefs will fall utterly short in that we accept the teaching of the Bible as our primary source of belief.”

We honestly do appreciate churches that have the courage to say “we don't know,” because we recognize there are places where scripture is murky. But that's not seems to be going on here. Rock Valley's statement of beliefs seems intentionally vague to us in some key areas – specifically, the area of salvation. We initially asked Liesenfelt for clarification on his teachings in this area – specifically whether keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days are required for salvation. We got this answer:

“Jesus is the only true judge, so the question you are asking should only be answered by the One Who alone has the authority to give life (salvation) to whom He wills.”

True. But a pastor's role is to help shepherd and guide the flock on eternal, spiritual matters. There is no greater spiritual matter than your salvation. We are all to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. But a pastor's key job is to lead and feed the sheep.  If your pastor – regardless of the denomination – can't or won't tell you what he believes you need to do to avoid damnation, we suggest that you walk away.

We also initially asked Liesenfelt whether he taught that salvation is a one-time event or an ongoing process that can be. He replied that is both, and gave the following explanation:

“The Bible declares that a person is saved when they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the person who continues to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, and the person who endures to the end, and does not reject the salvation offered, shall be saved.”

This sounds like the common Armstrongist teaching of ongoing justification, and so we asked for more clarification whether this was what he taught. We also asked what he believed we must to do maintain our state of justification before God – since Liesenfelt stated that we are saved upon professing faith – and what exactly we must persist in until the end. To date – nearly a month after our inquiry - he has not responded.

We understand that asking what one needs to do to lose his salvation is not a great question. It's not an indicator of an obedient, Christian heart that's eager to please God, as Liesenfelt stated on one of his radio programs about Law and Grace. Christians should be focused on obeying God and following the prompting of the Holy Spirit, not trying to tow the line. Searching for the line is not exactly in keeping with the focus and intent of Christianity.

But here's the problem. If you teach any form of ongoing justification, you need to know where that line is. If you are saved by grace (as taught at Rock Valley) but have the power to stray or reject the offer of salvation (as Liesenfelt seemed to indicate), you better know where that line is. In short, if salvation is a pass-fail proposition, then you better make sure you pass. And you can't pass if you don't have a clearly defined set of rules.

In his Law and Grace radio programs, Liesenfelt explains that Christians are saved by grace, but that the Bible indicates Christians have an obligation to obey "the law" after they are saved.  While he focuses significantly on the Ten Commandments, Liesenfelt repeatedly brings up obedience to the Law.

But which part of the law? Just the 10 Commandments? Presumably not, because Rock Valley appears to observe the Leviticus 23 Holy Days. Do members of Oak Stone Christian church believe they are obligated to keep the whole law? The parts about mixed fabrics? Seclusion and purification days after childbirth? Unless my eyes deceive me, the pictures on Rock Valley's web site indicate neither pastor is following the whole law - specifically, the portions pertaining to beards for men.

Conundrums like this are why we believe Jesus warned us not to mix wineskins. Christians are not party to the to the Sinai Covenant. That covenant ended with the death of its Jesus Christ, its testator (Hebrews 9:16). The covenant is obsolete and vanished (Hebrews 8:13). Had it not, God would not have been free to enter the New Covenant.

Under the New Covenant, Christians have responsibilities for moral living and Christian growth into the image and stature of Christ under the New Covenant. Many Christians will debate, until they're blue in the face, whether Christians are once-saved-always-saved, or whether it's possible to throw away one's salvation. You can find passages in the Bible that support both. What you can't find, though, are passages that reinforce what many COGs teach: that you waver back and forth between saved and unsaved, for lack of a better phrase, whenever you break the select tenets of Law your splinter group chooses.

Is that was Oak Stone and Rock Valley teach? We don't know, because Liesenfelt won't answer. We suspect, however, that he, like others with an Armstrongist background, are
confusing the covenants. Was he trying to be evasive, or is the problem with the doctrine? Ongoing justification sounds good on the surface, but doesn't make sense when you actually tease it out. We're guessing the problem is a matter of cognitive dissonance based in faulty doctrine, but Liesenfelt's not-so-straightforward answers to other questions don't exactly give us confidence.

The bottom line

So why are we taking the time to post this? Is it because we want to smear Rock Valley Christian Church, Oak Stone Christian Church, and their pastor?

Definitely not. We admire these “14:12” churches for stepping away from teachings like British Israelism, knowing the potential cost. We liked a lot of we heard in Liesenfelt's messages on the critical doctrine of imputed righteousness . As we stated earlier, if our loved ones remain in the COGs, we hope they'll end up somewhere like this. Dare we recommend that established COG members dissatisfied with their current fellowship check them out?

At the same time, if you Google these churches, you won't find a lot of information. We think that potential members with no COG background need to have the facts before joining them. We're not confident that's happening. We think potential members should know they are visiting a non-Trinitarian sect, that embraces soul sleep, an alternative interpretation on salvation, and has its roots in Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God. If no one else is going to let them know, we will.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


Anonymous said...

I appreciate all that you went thru in checking out these sure saves the
reader a lot of checking. Keep up the effort and good work.

Martha said...

Thank you. We googled these churches when we first learned they existed, and found very little. Which means others who search for info on them would find very little, too. If we, who knew exactly what to search for, had a hard time finding information, we know those with no exposure to Armstrongism stood little chance of learning the roots of the group they are joining. We hope this post helps to fill in the information gaps, whether intentional or unintentional.

Ekklesia said...

For what it is worth, the Liesenfelts seem to be admirably living by faith and looking to the Holy Spirit to lead them. They have been generous in using their own dime to teach the gospel to those in South America and in helping plant the Stone Rock church.

I have similar concerns about their view of the law and as you say mixing of wineskins. But, they do seem sincere and maybe are evasive because they know that a definitive answer has arguments against it. As does most definitive answers regarding salvation and losing your salvation. I think they fall too close to the law, but they are not afraid of the Holy Spirit leading them. I predict they move a bit further from the law as time goes by.

Anonymous said...

Great article, "Martha". Many of the sabbatarian cults in recent years have been trying to appear evangelical on the surface. Their websites, their technology, their music, even use of small groups are evidence of this. It's bizarre that these groups claim to be so "distinct" and "exclusive", then they try to look like "just another...." until you get in there. They also accomplish this with their vague presentations of what they actually believe. Just check out the website for the Church of God Seventh Day, for example. Their view of God is presented in a way that makes them look trinitarian, which we know is a doctrine they flat out reject. But when you examine their statements on the Godhead closely, you realize they make full use of double-talk, and you just scratch your head wondering whether or not they actually believe Jesus is God. Anyway, good investigative reporting. I hope you expose more groups like this in the days ahead.

Yours and EX-HWA's good friend,
Child Survivor.

Martha said...


I don't doubt it. I have no doubt these are sincere folks who believe they are stepping out in faith to be obedient. As I hope I made clear, my concern is not for those who would come to one of these churches from LCG, UCG, COGWA and other COGs. It seems like it would be a better environment for them socially, spiritually, doctrinally... I agree, I can imagine the Spirit leading a group like this in a positive direction over time.

My concern is for those who join this church with no previous exposure to Armstrongism, who suddenly "learn" that they must keep "the law." For those who grew up in COGs, we just accepted that we really just needed to keep the parts of the law our minister or church said we did.

I suspect that a new person, though, who now "sees" that Christianity has been lying to him all these years probably will not be eager to just go along with what the pastor says on matters of obedience and salvation. If what the pastor and the Bible seem to say along that line of reasoning contradict, he will want to go to his Bible. Isn't that exactly the line of reasoning these teachers always take? "Don't believe me, believe your Bible." I'm concerned that evasive, inconclusive answers like the ones being reported from Rock Valley and Oak Stone could send new believers onto a much more sinister path toward the bondage of the Hebrew Roots movement. If vague, ill-defined answers based in questionable doctrine give enough room for upward movement, they can equally be a slippery slope to something more legalistic. To me, situations like the one I described here reinforce why faith in Christ can be the only true answer.

Mario Espinosa said...

Hi Martha,

I'm Mario Espinosa, the person whose Google review about RVCC is posted within your blog post. I stop by once in a while to read the posts on ABD and really like the work you all are doing. Your site has truly been a blessing for me since my departure from LCG in 2015. Well, anyway, when I stopped in to check out your blog site today, I was like "Whoa!!!!!" Thank you so much for writing this article and for including my review! I could've wrote more on my Google review about RVCC because I found the exact kind of things you wrote about, but like you, I didn't want to come across as if I were trying to smear Rock Valley Christian Church, Oak Stone Christian Church, and their leadership. But, you were spot on with everything you wrote! Great Job!

Take Care and God Bless,


Martha said...


Thank you for taking a moment to respond, and for posting your review in the first place. That took courage, especially from someone coming from a COG background. It was your review that helped confirm our suspicions and helped us figure out what we needed to research. I'm glad to hear that ABD has been as much of a blessing to you as it was to me when I found it. We pray that God continues to lead you on the journey He started when he called you out of LCG.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to post this in multiple parts as the system won't let me post it all together (sorry for the length!) This is part 1.

As a member of the 14:12 churches I thought I’d share some thoughts on your article.

Firstly, you might find it interesting that about 75% of Rock Valley’s congregation has no Worldwide or COG background. Most found the church because they were searching for a Sabbath keeping congregation, though there are multiple families in attendance who do not necessarily keep the Sabbath and/or Holy Days who are are a welcome part of the family! I’d imagine the reason you don’t find an exhaustive list of doctrinal beliefs on the RVCC website is because the church’s view is that we are united in our love for Christ and one another, and not by having all conform to a long list of the same doctrinal views. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to sees other Christians who have a genuine heart for God in the same way they see Sabbath-keeping Christians. We do not observe the Sabbath and Holy Days to try to earn salvation (as it isn’t possible to do so!) but rather because they are still God's (not Israel's) festivals and because they all point to the things that Jesus either has done or will do. We also commemorate them because of the blessing it brings to spend specially set-apart time with God and other believers. Those who choose not to do so should not be judged by anyone, that is between them and God, and we recognize that God has a unique path and calling for every person.

Anonymous said...

Part 2

You keep mentioning quotes from an email correspondence you had with David and seem to be imputing motives on his answers, and I can’t help but wonder - were you upfront with him about why you were asking such questions? That you planned to write an article using his answers? If not then it seems kind of unfair to make allusions to the fact that he wasn’t being completely transparent if you yourself weren’t. You asked specific questions to which he gave specific answers. Had you asked “Where did you go to college?” Or “where did you get your theological training?” I am sure David would have said Ambassador. He’s not one to hide things.

I think it’s interesting that more and more churches with no Worldwide or COG connections whatsoever are beginning to pop up that are keeping the Sabbath and teaching many other things that Rock Valley does, and yet I don’t see you writing an article “warning” people of those churches (Grafted Church in Oklahoma City is an example). Even huge well-known churches such as Gateway Church are coming back to Sabbath teaching. Why does the pastor attending Worldwide for a very short period during his young adult years and then starting a church years later with some of the same beliefs automatically make it “another COG church”? I’m not sure of all the things that you believe but I assume you still agree with many of the things that were taught in Worldwide - such as Christ is the only begotten son of God, it’s only by His blood that we are saved, that one day He will return, we should be seeking to show fruits of the spirit in our lives, etc. If you were to feel called to start a church, would it make much sense if your church was labeled “another COG church” because you used to attend Worldwide and are teaching some of the same beliefs? I'm sure the idea would be ludicrous to you because your new church would share way more differences than similarities, and that's exactly how I (and many others) see Rock Valley and Oak Stone. And I'm sure if someone wrote a blog labeling your new church as one that's secretly teaching "Armstrongism" it would be rather frustrating, and sad really, especially if the person writing it admittedly has had access to "very little information about the churches".

Anonymous said...

Part 3 (last one! haha)

As someone who used to attend the COG's myself, I can honestly say that I feel I have more in common now with what would be considered “mainstream” Christianity by the COG's than I do with them. Some examples of other doctrinal differences would be that we don’t teach the third resurrection, we believe today is the day of salvation and it is the job of every believer to preach the gospel (not just the corporate church), women pray during services, the congregation is a part of laying on of hands, the practice and seeking of spiritual gifts, teaching of the baptism of the Holy Spirit not just receiving of it, that we should be confessing and praying with one another, and serving the community (not just those in the fellowship) should be of high importance. The pastors also serve unpaid and seek to empower the Church body to fulfill the Great Commission. There are also multiple subjects that the church doesn’t take a stance on because there are good arguments to both sides and they just aren’t worth fighting about. Like I said, we are fine agreeing to disagree on many things as long as we do so in love. That was definitely not the case in the church I grew up in. I really can’t even explain the total difference in culture and focus, but it is drastic. You will also never hear HWA mentioned because he has no bearing on our faith. He was a flawed man and the only person we should be focusing on is Jesus Christ.

Anyway, I hope this gives you some insight and another perspective on Rock Valley and Oak Stone. Just like you, those of us who left the COG's to attend elsewhere are doing our best to leave the negatives from our past behind us and move on to a healthier and more fulfilling life in Christ. Everyone’s calling is different and the best thing we can do is love and respect one another, appreciating that each part of the Body is fulfilling the function that God created them to fulfill.

In Christian Love

Martha said...


Thanks for reading, and no problem on the length. Discussions worth having are rarely short.

First of all, I hope you got the message that I have mixed feelings about writing. I think places like Rock Valley are a genuine step forward for those in the Church of God movement. I do, however, have concerns about individuals with no prior connection to Armstrongism joining the church, and I'm not the only one who feels this way. I'm glad that you are having a good experience. Understand that others who have attended have had a different experience and share my concerns.

I disagree that it's not fair for Rock Valley to be labeled an Armstrongist church or a Church of God. All religious traditions come from somewhere and maintain many of the doctrines and traditions of their founders, forefathers, mentors, etc. The Lutheran church is descended from the movement started by Martin Luther. The Methodist church holds, in some form or another, to the teachings of John Wesley. Jehovah's Witnesses originated with a group started by Charles Russell, although later leaders have altered some doctrines. Where did Rock Valley descend from? Where did its doctrines and teachings come from? Either your pastor got them via direct revelation from the Lord or her learned them somewhere. Seeing (a) that he received a portion of his training at Ambassador College and (b) your church seems to hold some very non-traditional, defining doctrines/traditions maintained by those in the COG movement, the latter seems likely, and therefore, I don't see how it's unfair to label Rock Valley as a COG. For example, it would appear, according to the church calendar, Rock Valley held its "Lord's Supper" service the evening of April 18, the same evening that LCG, UCG and COGWA held their Passover service, rather than April 19, when Jewish families celebrated their Seder. Rock Valley's web site's description of the service is nearly identical to the services held by LCG, UCG and COGWA. Your calendar also describes some kind of Passover celebration, held the day after the Lord's Supper, at the same time the other COGs hold their biblically questionable Night to be Much Observed. Either this is a highly unusual coincidence, or they share a common source. Not to mention this appears to be the only time Rock Valley observes the Lord's Supper, which is also a COG tradition. As well as other traditional COG stances, like anti-trinitarianism, for example. I'm hardly the only one to draw this conclusion. Many web pages that try to compile and direct "scattered sheep" from the WCG list Rock Valley and Oak Stone as COGs.

Martha said...

I guess we will never know whether your pastor would have admitted he attended Ambassador College had I phrased my question differently. You say he would. I am skeptical. He seemed to have understood I was asking about his theological background, given his answer. And it wasn't the only question he answered evasively. He certainly had the opportunity to set that straight, since I followed up by asking him directly about Ambassador, but he chose to ignore the question for more than a month before publication.

I also could have been straightforward in my reason for contacting him. I suspected if I had, he would have ignored even the first message. As he has all follow up questions. I gave him an extremely lengthy period of time to do so. I can only imagine he either didn't appreciate my line of questioning, or Googled my email address and found the As Bereans Did web site. We're not exactly hard to find, and our background isn't a secret.

I never said that someone with a background in the COGs shouldn't start a church. But if they have a specific religious background - especially one that's known to be controversial - they should own it, not hide it. I believe we've established Rock Valley has a specific religious background. Heck, others in your own community believe you've established a specific religious background. Either stand by it firmly or take a stand and differentiate yourself from your past where you believe mistakes were made. That's what Paul did. You don't have to be Paul and remind everyone every 25 verses that you were a pharisee and made an about-face. But own your beliefs, or state where you've grown beyond your background.

I haven't attended a service, so I can't state how you receive those who don't keep the Sabbath or Holy Days. I did listen to services from around Christmas and around Passover and I must say, between the pointed statements and the audience participation, I have a hard time believing those who did not keep the Leviticus 23 holy days, or those who chose to celebrate mainstream Christian holidays, would FEEL comfortable or welcome. I find it hard to believe someone who believed differently could walk out of that service not feeling judged, as you stated. Really, it sounded very similiar to what I would hear at LCG or UCG, even down to the sources. Although I was very happy to see a resurrection celebration included on the Sunday during the Days of Unleavened Bread. I think that's both scripturally consistent and spiritually healthy.

Martha said...

Why did we pick on Rock Valley and not other, larger organizations? Mainly because we don't know what's out there, and we're just a few people with a few computers and a few minutes of free time anymore. We can only write about what we hear about. Our goal isn't so much to "out" every vestige of Armstronism as to help those with questions and who are struggling. Your point about Gateway Church is fair. I would say that many in religious traditions like Gateway also confuse the covenants, they just don't carry it to its natural conclusion, as many in the COGs do. Priscilla Shirer's book on the idea of sabbath would be another example up there with Gateway. And that is the slippery slope that scares me, from someone who attends a church like Gateway and follows their muddled message to church like Rock Valley or Grafted, but then also sees that these churches don't follow the full implications of what they teach, and ends up in a group like Philadelphia or a Hebrew Roots cult. Anyway, I think the Gateways and Priscilla Shirers of the world, like many others, unknowingly like to have it both ways. They embrace the concept of Sabbath, but neither want to carry it out to its fullest conclusion, nor deal with the implications that their entire religious tradition ignores the basis for this idea they want to embrace. Just like it seems Rock Valley WANTS to see both sides of arguments and possibly see mainstream Christianity as brothers, but at the same time adopts a 14:12 tagline and narrowly defines the 14:12 verse in a very exclusive way that virtually no one else does, and in the process throws shade on its mainstream Christian "brothers." I don't see how Rock Valley's 14:12 isn't, at the core, about keeping the seventh day Sabbath. I mean, I don't see you adopting Ephesians 4:28 as your mission statement. You aren't drawing a line in the sand with my conservative Christian church on issues of stealing, because we certainly don't advocate that.

At the end of the day, we will all give account before the Lord. As long as you and I have both accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, confessed and repented of our sin, and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we'll be fine. As long as I understand that my attending church on Sundays, some Wednesdays and Fridays isn't a condition for salvation, and you understand that your attending church on Saturday and Holy Day observances isn't either, that seems to be what God is after. But if you're in agreement, as your message seems to indicate, you've advocated a very spiritually mature view, one that I'm not sure new members at Rock Valley with no previous COG experience would hold, and I'm not sure it's a view at which they would arrive given the handful of messages I've heard. That's my main concern- not when you worship, or whether you use guitars, or blow a shofar on proscribed days. I'm content to let Romans 14 stand. It sounds like there are some good things going on there, which was my stance in the first place. Thank you for writing, and you, or Pastor Liesenfelt, are always welcome to clarify whatever you'd like here on this site.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to write back to me!

You’re correct that religious traditions come from somewhere, but there’s a difference between traditions and doctrines. Rock Valley’s traditions are vastly different from the COGs, and the doctrines that we do share with them are the ones that are founded on the word of God (admittedly the COGs have confused doctrines and traditions and have labeled many of their traditions as doctrinal when there isn’t scriptural backing). I realize that you and I may interpret these scriptures differently, but the COGs and RVCC/OSCC are not even close to the only group that interprets them in those ways.

Let me ask you a question - do the Messianic Jews have a background in Armstrongism? If not, why not? We agree with 95% of their teachings. So again, why do we get labeled as having a background in Armstrongism when they don’t?

As far as when we keep the Lords Supper and Passover, you have incorrect information. We do take of the wine and bread the night before the Passover as Jesus did, but recognize that Passover is the 19th (and the “Night to Be observed WAS the Passover). Many families do a Jewish Seder on that evening in their homes. And Rock Valley also takes of the lords supper throughout the year recognizing that the scripture says “as often as you take of this...” means there is no limit on how often it can be taken. Again, with as little as you actually know about us, I just don’t see how why you have taken then authority to label us as anything or write a blog giving others the “scoop” on who we actually are and what we believe. All of your other arguments (such as people who don’t keep the sabbaths couldn’t possibly feel comfortable attending RV with the sermons that are preached) are your assumptions and opinions but none can be backed up with proof, because again you’ve never been to the church or talked with those members.

I appreciate your comment about my views being spiritually mature, and for what it’s worth, I will just say that I am fairly new to the organization, and I’ve found every family that I’ve gotten to know within it that has no COG background (since they make up the majority) to be far above me in spiritual maturity. They’ve been great mentors to help me work towards establishing a more balanced perspective. I hope that eases some of your fears when it comes to new people coming in that don’t know anything about Armstrongism.

I am sure that your intentions for writing these articles comes from a good place of not wanting others to be hurt or led astray like so many were due to Worldwide. And I am glad that we can agree that we are both siblings in Christ though we have different views on things. I wish you nothing but blessings!

exUCGer said...

Looking at the blurb for Liesenfelt it's very vague to say the least! It's those kind of actions I feel that makes a lot of people nowadays wary to join any Christian group. And having a WCG background myself and seeing various websites pop up that preach an Armstrongist gospel and are selective in what they disclose about their past religious affiliation using generic words like having attended a "Christian school" or "Christian college" or left their "previous association" just makes me look more critically at them and probe them further with questions like what are they not saying about themselves? What have they got to hide? They're obviously seeking to protect themselves from bad press, but I need to protect my self and my loved ones from such people and groups who clearly have ulterior motives for obfuscating their past. I fell for the WCG once in my naive youth. And knowing what I know now to be true as opposed to what HWA/WCG taught like:

NTBMO is Passover
Tithing money is unbiblical
FOT is not a commanded 8 day annual holiday
3 days and 3 nights is an idiom for the 3rd day not 72 hours
British throne is not the throne of David
John the Baptist was the Elijah to come not HWA
HWA was a false prophet and false apostle
Laying of hands is not required to receive the Holy Spirit (HWA didn't even undergo this ritual when he was baptized!)
HWA's accusation of Christian paganism (à la Hislop's "Two Babylons") is false
3 resurrections is false (There's only 2 resurrections mentioned in the Bible)
There is no lineal history of the true COG from 33 AD to 2019

This is why we must be circumspect to never fall again to religious predators who pass themselves off as the genuine article. Like they say fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Don't allow yourself to be fooled a third time!

RVCC attendee said...

I normally do not respond to blogs. My free time is usually pretty limited. I felt like I had to this time around.
As an actual attendee of Rock Valley Christian Church I thought I would give my input.
I do not have the "World Wide Church of God" background. I had solely attended Assemblies of God and Calvary Chapel prior to attending there.
I sometimes watch religious cult documentaries as I try to understand how people could possibly get sucked into believing and not questioning everything that they are taught. I understand that a lot of attendees are born into it and do not know any better.
My conclusion is that cults typically mix some truth with lies. And they lead you to believe that you are "the special church" you have received this "special revelation from God". Apart from them and the congregants, no one else has the truth and they are all going to hell. It's all about power.

Even though you started off saying you had "mixed feelings about criticizing these churches" you proceeded to criticize and make assumptions. I could partly understand why you would be so skeptical about Pastor Liesenfelt's motives implying that he has an agenda and is being deceitful. "The unsupecting passer by" will pretty much not know what hit them. After all, Rock Valley looks like "any other community church".
I guess I appreciate your concern? Hopefully that means you are interceding for our church and any other church leader you suspect is being deceitful?
I don't believe it's wise to judge someone's motives having never met them.
Having attended Rock Valley for over 10 years, I can tell you that you are off with your assumptions. David is pretty open about his testimony. He only attended World Wide for a few years before moving on. I guess now he is branded forever?
After having met a few scarred ex World Wide members, my heart went out to them. I heard about the horrors that went on in World Wide. Having watched the documentary "Called to be Free" and some of Herbert Armstrong's teachings via Youtube, I have somewhat of an idea what they may have gone through. This sort of corruption and abuse is not solely unique to World Wide.
I first attended Rock Valley after my husband and I came to the conclusion that there would not be a rapture before the time of tribulation. I was not compelled to keep the Sabbath for the next 2 years. I never once felt not welcomed, or rejected. I did not mind having my own views and convictions that differed from Pastor David. I even expressed to him that I did not agree with him. He just encouraged me to actually do my own study and to pray about it. If after that, I came to the same conclusion, I was still welcomed to attend.

RVCC attendee said...

Part 2

Eventually, I decided to study it out for myself. I now keep the Sabbath.
I came from a background where the word "law" was a bad word. Once I actually prayed and asked God to show me, (regardless of what the conclusion would be) I began to see the word of God differently.
I guess what it came down to for me were a few things. How is the new covenant different from the old?
1. In Hebrews 8:10, I find that Paul is quoting prophecies on what the new covenant would look like for believers.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 And I will give you a new heart, and a new Spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues and be careful to obey my rules.
EzekieL 11:19-20, Jeremiah 31:33, Jeremiah 32:40, Deuteronomy 30:6
2. What is Isaiah talking about when prophesying about future events in Ch24:4-6?
3. Matthew 5:18 Have heaven and earth passed away?
I love how Jesus then proceeds to expound on what His commandments have always truly meant.
Personally,I do not look at the bible with the mindset of, how far can I go before I am no longer saved?
The bible is clear that we are not to judge how people keep or do not keep the law.
We are to judge ourselves. If we are busy judging ourselves this will typically keep us too busy from judging others.
I believe that I am to take the full counsel of scripture when considering what my walk will look like, and what will please my Father. The book of Romans no longer seems contradictory to me. If we are looking to works for our salvation, then Jesus died in vain.
Romans 3:20 For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight...
Paul then proceeds to say in Romans 3:31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. So what does that look like? That is between you and God. My goal is not to change your mind but rather give you insight as to how someone who once considered themselves Protestant, no longer wants to read scripture through the Protestant filter. Protestants are an offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church. So they are bound to have similarities. Way before the Council of Nicaea the early church would solely adhere to scripture. Gentiles and Jews would both attend the synagogues. Acts 13:42
After having a dispute about how the Gentiles were to keep the law, the elders of the church decided not to overwhelm them with so many things for they would learn about them eventually. Acts 15:19-21
I'm not crazy about all this divisiveness. It is true,a lot of the people who attend Rock Valley Christian Church do not have the World Wide, Church of God, or COGWA background. Our hearts are to stick to scripture and do what it says. Why is that wrong? I have no problem visiting Churches on Sunday. I do not have this "us versus them" mentality.....
Hopefully this will bring some clarity to you. I wish you the best, as we both continue to study God's word and desire to grow closer to Him.
God Bless you :)

Anonymous said...

I find much of the contemporary worship ahistorical. But I agree for the most part with what you've said.

I think these churches are a good gateway towards orthodox Christianity for those who have been stuck in COG theology. The Rock Valley folks seem to be more open to non-Cog opinions, and don't tend to have the mindset of "this is what we've always done/this is what the church (WCG) has always taught"

Although I do share the concern that people may be deceived by their looks of a mainstream Evangelical church.

nck said...

I thought you would like this article in light of your yearly Christmas apology item.


Anonymous said...

A reply to RVCC Attendee...
I watched a sermon last night by David Liesenfelt. I had never heard of him previous to last night, so this was my first watch of anything from that group. I must say I found the message inspiring and signed up for their newsletter. If I wasn't half the country removed from that area I would venture to say I would occasionally attend there on the Sabbath. Thanks for the input.