“You’ll never get far, Mr. Armstrong,” said a resident of the Jeans neighborhood whom I met on the roadside one day. It was during the time I was holding three meetings a week at the Jeans schoolhouse, 12 miles west of Eugene, Oregon. This followed the six-weeks meetings at Firbutte school and formation of the new local Church of God which met at the Jeans school.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“Because you are preaching exactly what the Bible says. The Bible corrects and reproves people. People don’t want to be told they are wrong. People don’t like correction. What you preach is too strong for them. People will never support it.”
“If I looked to people for support, I would have to preach what people want to hear,” I replied. “I have learned that by experience. But I was not called to this ministry by people. I was not taught the gospel I preach by people. People did not put me in the ministry—Jesus Christ did. I am not employed by people, or any organization of men. I have been called, and sent with His gospel, by Jesus Christ. He is my employer. I rely on Him for support. He has given me the written promise that He will supply all my need. I believe He is able, and will do it!”
The man stared at me incredulously. He was speechless.
But now, nearly 40 years later, I can report that Jesus Christ did support His Work through His servant. He did supply its needs (almost infinitesimal at first, increasing gradually, yet always increasing). True, God works through human instruments. He has moved on the hearts of those He could make willing to become co-workers with Him and with me in this Work, now grown great and world-encompassing.
Eugene Campaign Starts
During the July-August meetings at the Firbutte school, and on through the winter with the new local Church continuing meetings at the Jeans schoolhouse, 12 miles west of Eugene, my wife and children had remained in Salem. I had lived with the Elmer Fishers on their farm seven miles west of Eugene.
But by late March I had rented a house on West Fourth. I think the rent was about $7 per month. I had arranged for meetings to start in the Old Masonic Temple on Seventh Avenue. Then one evening my wife and children arrived in Eugene with our household furniture and furnishings on Ed Smith’s truck. That night we arranged for my family to sleep on mattresses on the second floor of the Old Masonic Hall.
The year and three months spent in Astoria, averaging perhaps less than five hours sleep per night—with one ordeal of three days and three nights with no sleep—had left me in a condition which made it difficult to get to sleep at night. On this particular night, I had procured barbiturate sleeping pills, desperate for a full night’s sound sleep. At this time these sleeping pills did not require a doctor’s prescription. I shall never forget the experience. It was my first and last with the sleeping pills.
I had a good full night’s sleep, all right. But it was a peculiar sensation. It was not a natural but an induced sleep. It left me frightened. As I had sworn off chewing tobacco at age 5, I now swore off barbiturate sleep-inducing forever.
A few busy days followed, cleaning up this virtually abandoned Old Masonic Temple auditorium. Beside my wife and children, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher, and one or two others in the Church joined in the cleanup.
The Three-Point Campaign was ready to leap ahead on all three points. The broadcast had started the first Sunday in January 1934. The Plain Truth, mimeographed, made its first appearance February 1. And now, the first of April, the meetings were started in downtown Eugene, in the Old Masonic Temple.
As mentioned before, meetings still were being held three times a week out at Jeans schoolhouse—Tuesday and Thursday nights and Sabbath mornings. Consequently the meetings in downtown Eugene were held on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday nights. This was our first experiment in holding public evangelistic meetings three times a week. These meetings were carried on for 5½ months.
We learned by this experience that meetings held only three times a week are not as fruitful as meetings held consecutively six times a week.
Later, we were to learn that the same is true in broadcasting. A once-a-week broadcast, or even three times a week, does not produce results comparable to daily broadcasting six or seven times a week.
For this Eugene campaign I mimeographed handbills and announced it on the radio program. An attendance of approximately 100 was maintained up until the final two weeks. But this was much lower than later campaigns with consecutive six-nights-a-week services.
Here, as in the Salem meetings with Elder Oberg, the whooping, shouting, aggressive Pentecostal people were much in evidence at the beginning. But by this time I had learned that they were primarily concerned with working up an emotional demonstration. They were not interested in learning biblical truth, obeying God’s commands, and yielding their lives to be changed and transformed according to God’s Word by a living Christ who does His saving Work within us. A few vigorous sermons on obedience to God, and on overcoming, and living by every word of God soon discouraged them. Most of them stopped coming.
A large Pentecostal church carried a full hour and a half broadcast on kore of their Sunday night service. During one of these broadcasted services, their pastor said that if any of their members desired to visit any other church it would be quite all right, with the exception of the services I was holding. But he warned them against attending our meetings.
Shortly after we had moved into the house on West Fourth Avenue, three of the Pentecostal people who had attended the tent meetings held in 1931 by Elder Taylor and me came to our home. They were a middle-aged husband and wife and the sister of one of them. One of the women claimed to have a disease or sickness of some kind. They asked me to anoint this woman and pray for her healing.
I invited them into the house.
“Why,” I asked, “when you people claim to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit and say that I have not—when you claim to be on a much higher spiritual plane than I—when your pastor and your church denounce me, and say I am not God’s minister—when you claim that your Pentecostal preacher has God’s Spirit and power and that I have not—why do you come to me for anointing and healing instead of your own pastor?”
“Hmm!” they snorted. “Who’d we go to over there?”
“Well,” I pursued a little further, “in 1 John 3:22 God says that whatever we ask we receive of Him because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. This obedience to God’s commandments is a distinct condition to being healed. You people do not obey God’s commandments, although you attended our tent meetings in 1931 almost every night for six weeks, and you heard the truth about this made very plain. Now either you are deliberately rebelling, and refusing to obey God, or else you have been so blinded in your carnality that somehow the truth never really got through to you although we made it very plain—and you just never did really see it. Which is it?”
“I guess we just didn’t see it, brother,” came the answer.
“All right,” I said. “I can’t read your mind and heart as God can. I have to take you at your word. Since you claim you have not come to consciously understand the truth, and have not knowingly rebelled and disobeyed, I will anoint you.”
The minute I began to pray all three, true to Pentecostal heathen and unscriptural custom, began to try to drown out my voice by their loud expressions of “O praise you, Jesus! Hallelujah! Glory to God!” etc., etc., in a babylon of noisy confusion. Then immediately the woman I was anointing went into a wild, loud, uncontrolled laugh. This seemed to be a new fad at the time among Pentecostals in Oregon. They called it “the holy laugh.”
Instantly I put my hands on her head, and in a loud voice called on God, by authority of Jesus Christ, to silence this work of Satan, and cast the demon spirits out of my home!
Instantly, as if struck by a bolt of lightning, the woman’s hysterical unnatural laughter was silenced, as were the shoutings of the other two. All was quiet.
They rose to their feet.
“Well, anyway,” sneered the supposedly “ill” woman. “I’m healed, so there!” And quickly they left the house.
On another occasion a member of this Pentecostal church came running up to me on a Eugene street one Sunday morning.
“We’ve had a dozen men out looking everywhere for you,” he gasped breathlessly. “Please come quick! Our pastor’s wife fell over backward ‘under the power’ during prayer, and she’s unconscious, and we can’t revive her. Our pastor sent us out scouring the town to find you. Please come and pray for her, that she will revive. We’re afraid she is dying!”
I hurried over to this Pentecostal church. There they were, probably 400 to 500 of them, wringing their hands in despair, all crying out in confusion for God to revive the stricken woman.
I called out in a loud voice of authority for them all to be quiet. Then in very brief and few words I asked God to have mercy on their foolish heathenism, and revive this woman. I leaned down, laid my hands on her, and she revived. I took her by the hand and lifted her up, and then strode out of their church while an awed silence reigned.
I have never been quite able to figure out why so many, through the years, who have denounced me and claimed to be spiritually superior themselves, have come to me for prayer when they needed someone close enough to God that a prayer would be answered.
During the meetings in the Old Masonic Temple, someone told me of a man in the county jail who requested that I visit him. The prisoner was the “black sheep” brother of a very respectable man.
This prisoner seemed to welcome my visit. He was scheduled to be released from jail in a couple of days, and promised to attend the services. Two nights later he came to the meeting, with a girl he introduced as his wife.
As I believe has been mentioned previously, in those days I followed the evangelistic custom of giving “altar calls.” It was one of those things I thoughtlessly took for granted without checking for proof of any biblical or divine origin. All of us have carelessly assumed, taken for granted, accepted and followed more customs, ideas and ways than we realize. As the years have raced by, I have learned to be much more careful to check and prove all beliefs and practices. Later, when I researched again over the ministry of Jesus, of Peter, Paul, and the other apostles and evangelists of the New Testament, it became clear that they never practiced or instituted any such custom. So we dropped it immediately.
But at this time I was still learning, and giving the usual evangelical altar calls. And this young man and woman both came up. They appeared quite repentant. I spent some time with them afterward. They exhibited a spirit of willingness to obey God completely, and to embark on a new life of overcoming through faith in Christ, living by every word of the Bible. Next day I baptized them.
But I learned a serious lesson through this experience. Later we discovered that these two were not married. Actually they had gone through a ceremony of marriage, but it was bigamy. The girl had previously married another man in another state, from whom she had not been divorced. She had a little 2-or-3-year-old daughter whose father was a third man to whom she had never been married. From that time we have been very careful to check the marriage, divorce and remarriage status of all candidates for baptism. God intended that we learn by experience, besides direct instruction.
I told this girl she would have to leave this man.
“Well,” she replied, “I will, then, as soon as I can get a job.”
“No,” I said firmly, “you must leave him now!”
“But I can’t leave him now,” she protested. “I have no other place to go.”
“You come along with us, then,” I insisted. “Mrs. Armstrong will put you in our spare bedroom for tonight, and tomorrow we will help you make permanent arrangements.”
She was a weakling, and so was this man. So she gave in to our firm insistence. Next morning Mrs. Armstrong went into her room to call her to breakfast. The bed was empty. The window was open. The girl had climbed out the window and gone back to “her man.”
However, they were soon forcibly separated again. They had bought furniture and furnishings for a cheap rented house on contract at a local furniture store. This young man had then sold much of it for cash, and failed to pay his installments at the store.
Helping a Weakling
This fellow was in jail again. He called to me for help. On visiting him again in jail I learned what had happened. He promised to be good this time, if only I’d get him out. The furniture merchant said he understood the fellow had a brother of some means.
“If you will go to his brother and get him to pay up the furniture bill, we will withdraw the charges,” said the furniture merchant. “We don’t want to be hard on the boy. We are businessmen. We only want our money.”
I had no automobile in those days, but I traveled some distance to see the fellow’s brother.
“Mr. Armstrong,” he said after I explained the situation, “you may think I am a hardhearted brother, but I’m not. I’m going to do what I know is best for my brother’s own good. If I pay this and get him out of jail, it wouldn’t be 30 days until he would be back in jail again. My brother hasn’t had enough punishment to learn his lesson yet. I think he needs this 30 days in jail to think it over.”
He did think it over, and managed to keep out of jail for a year or so, after which I lost contact with him. But he and the girl were too weak to remain apart. They quarreled and fought when together, but they could not resist being together.
Rejecting all advice and counsel from me, the girl obtained a divorce from her first husband, and then had a justice-of-the-peace second wedding with this ne’er-do-well fellow, which at least legalized their adulterous living in the sight of man’s law.
Whatever finally became of them I do not know. Mrs. Armstrong and I spent a lot of time trying to help them get straightened out, but they were the type Jesus spoke of in Luke 8:13 in the parable of the sower. They listened to and received the Word of God gladly, but had no “root” or backbone of character, and as soon as temptation came along were too weak to resist.
The quotation “God helps those who help themselves” is not found in the Bible, as many believe, but is a saying of Benjamin Franklin. Yet it does express a Christian principle. Long ago I learned that I cannot carry others into the Kingdom of God on my shoulders, or drag them in. I can only point the way, proclaim the truth, give counsel and advice, aid in many material ways, and pray for others. I can give aid and help—but each must stand on his own feet before God, and by strong motivation yield to allow God to transform him and mold him into God’s own holy character. God does it by the power of His Holy Spirit. But we also have our part in denying ourselves, in overcoming, and in doing! It is the doers, not those who hear only, who shall enter finally into His Kingdom (Romans 2:13).
Nevertheless, this experience I have just related did cause a deal of reflection and study of the Bible to inquire how God is going to deal with human weaklings such as these. We find the answer in the parable of the pounds, and the parable of the talents.
In the parable of the pounds all 10 of Christ’s servants appear to have had equal ability, and each was given an equal portion from God at the start. The one who by overcoming and growth in grace and knowledge of our Lord multiplied what he started with 10 times was given the reward of ruling over 10 cities. He who multiplied five times, over five cities.
But in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) God gave to each, at the start of his Christian life, according to his natural ability. To one He gave five talents, to another two, and to another only one—according to the natural ability of each. The man with five talents doubled his spiritual stock-in-trade. Likewise, although the man with two produced less in number than the one with five, he also doubled what he started with. He did as well, in proportion to his ability!
Consequently we find it revealed that to whom much is given, much is required. To whom little is given, less is required. In other words, God judges each individual according to how well he overcomes, yields, develops and grows, according to what he has to do with!
This unfortunate couple of weaklings were not born with as much intelligence and strength of character (potentially) as many others. Consequently God does not require as much of them. But He does require of them as much effort in proportion to ability! We do have our part in the developing of the Christian life and character.
So-called ‘Bible Organization’
During these late winter and spring months of 1934 the opposition of Elders Ray and Oberg did not cease. I had rejected receiving further the $3 weekly salary from the Oregon State Conference after the memorable “all-day wrangle” meeting in early August 1933. But this alone did not appease their wrath against me.
At the biannual general conference meeting of the church at Stanberry, Missouri, which probably was held in August 1933, Elder Andrew N. Dugger had lost his previous iron control of the church by one vote. Thereupon Mr. Dugger promptly bolted the conference and organized a competing “Church of God” under what he termed “the Bible form of organization.”
He managed to induce half or more of the ministers in the church to join him in this new “organization,” on the argument that they were now reestablishing the Bible form of organization. Among those joining with him were Elder C. O. Dodd of Salem, West Virginia, an Elder McMicken, Elder Alexander of Kansas, Elder Severson, and Otto Haeber of Hawthorne, California whom I knew as a good friend. Mr. Haeber had not, I believe, up to this time been ordained as an elder but was an influential member.
Mr. Dugger had been accused of dictatorship, bossism and even crookedness. I had not as yet met him, and did not judge. Nevertheless his new form of organization tended to divert criticism. He claimed the original 12 apostles were intended to form the top governing permanent board of the church as Christ organized it. He called this board “the Twelve.” Mr. Alexander, Mr. Haeber and Mr. McMicken, I believe, were put on the “Board of the Twelve” (although there never were 12). But Mr. Dugger kept his own name off of that supposedly governing board, thus avoiding the accusation that he was “running things” as the head.
Next, taking the “70” which Jesus appointed for a one-time special mission (Luke 10), Mr. Dugger, with Mr. Dodd and Mr. McMicken, set up the “Board of the Seventy” leading ministers. On this board they appointed as many names as they could. There never were 70, however. On this board they had placed my name, and also those of Elders Oberg and Ray of Oregon. Elder Severson was, I believe, also on that board.
Finally, noting that the early apostles had appointed seven deacons to take care of the “business” of waiting on tables and serving proselyte widows (Acts 6:1-4), Mr. Dugger devised a “Board of Seven” to handle the business of the church, making himself chairman of that board. The difference was that the early apostles’ seven deacons merely relieved the apostles from the physical “business” of waiting on tables, serving food and otherwise serving physical needs of widows; while Mr. Dugger’s “Board of Seven” handled all church income and finances! Therefore it actually carried all the real power to govern. Mr. Dugger had control over the salaries of “the Twelve.” The word “business” appears in the King James translation. But both the Revised Standard Version and Moffatt translation have “duty.”
This “Bible form of organization” appealed to most of our brethren in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. There were still two factions in the valley—one of them still loyal to “Stanberry” as it was called, the other—which had incorporated as the Oregon Conference—being somewhat enamored of the new “organization.”
Mr. Dugger claimed “world headquarters” as Jerusalem, Palestine, with United States headquarters at Salem, West Virginia. Thus this became known as the “Salem church.”
In those days one biblical subject I was completely befogged on was the matter of Church organization and government. I knew the “Stanberry” pattern of a general conference was not scriptural. I knew that voting by human preference was unscriptural. I saw plainly that Christ chose His apostles—that they and the evangelists, in turn, chose and ordained elders in local churches. Consequently in the Church now meeting at Jeans schoolhouse, since I was the evangelist God used in raising up this Church, I chose and appointed Mr. Elmer E. Fisher as deacon, remaining as pastor myself.
But just what truly was the biblical form of organization I did not at that time see clearly. I was really confused on the question. I had grave misgivings about Mr. Dugger’s professed “Bible form” of organization. I talked it over with Mr. and Mrs. Fisher, Mr. Claude Ellis, and others of our church at Jeans. Mr. Fisher was not “sold” on it, either. He advised going slow.
Meanwhile Messrs. Ray and Oberg were exerting every effort to urge the Oregon Conference to go in with, and to keep me out of, the new “organization.” One of the basic doctrinal points of the Salem organization was abstaining from pork and observing rigidly the food law of the “clean and unclean” of Leviticus 11. Mr. Ray now tried to discredit me with the new “organization” with his anti-pork argument.
Consequently, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Ellis, the other members at Jeans and I decided we would simply leave the answer in God’s hands. We would pray and ask God to show us in this manner: If the Salem reorganization did accept me as “one of the 70” in spite of the opposition of Messrs. Ray and Oberg, we would go in. Otherwise we would remain independent.
For some months the status quo remained. Neither acceptance nor rejection came from Salem. Then one day Otto Haeber came to the office I had set up in an anteroom in the Old Masonic Temple, accompanied by Elder Alexander from Kansas.
I had never met Mr. Alexander before. But since I had heard a great deal about him, and read much about him in the Church paper, the Bible Advocate, I was happy to meet him. I was steering the conversation along the general lines of getting acquainted, asking about the work in Kansas and general conversation.
Suddenly Mr. Haeber interrupted, rather sternly.
“Mr. Armstrong,” he said abruptly, “apparently you do not quite grasp the importance of this meeting. Mr. Alexander is one of ‘the Twelve’! Mr. Alexander is a very important man! His time shouldn’t be wasted by mere friendly conversation. Mr. Alexander is the man who has the power to bring about your acceptance on the Board of the Seventy, if you can satisfy him about your stand on the ‘clean and the unclean’ meat question.”
I had known many important men in the business world, and I had not sensed anything in Mr. Alexander’s appearance or personality that was overawing.
“Well!” I exclaimed. “I had not realized! I beg your pardon for wasting your valuable time. I will tell you my stand on this question in one or two minutes.
“Point number one: I read in Scripture that sin is the transgression of the law. In Romans 7, Paul says the law it is sin to transgress is spiritual—a spiritual, not a physical law. Point two: Jesus Christ, speaking of spiritual defilement in Mark 7, says that physical food entering a man’s stomach from without cannot defile him spiritually, but that which comes from within, out of the heart—adulteries, murders, thefts, covetousness—transgressions of the Ten Commandments—defile the man spiritually. Point three: The ‘clean and unclean’ laws of Leviticus 11 are physical, not spiritual laws.
“Point four: Christ preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God. He commanded the apostles, and us today, to preach the Kingdomof God. That is the gospel I am commanded to preach. Point five: Paul says plainly in Romans 14 that the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, which is obedience to God’s law.
“Point six: Therefore I do not preach to the unconverted meat and drink because it is not the gospel. But, on the other hand, the physical body is the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit,’ and we are taught not to defile it, even physically.
“Finally, point seven: I realize fully that there were both the clean and unclean animals long before Mosaic law—even prior to the Flood—and therefore from creation. God did not create the unclean animals for food. Just as many plants and weeds are poison and not food, so unclean animals were not made to digest properly or nourish the human body. They are not creatures of God intended for food. They are not sanctified—or set apart—by the Word of God. Peter’s vision of the unclean animals in the sheet was given, it is distinctly stated in Acts 10, to show him that he should not call any man unclean—not to make unclean animals clean. Therefore I do teach every convert and every Church member that they should not eat the unclean meats. We do not eat them in our home. Not one of our Church members—not one of my converts—is eating unclean meats. But I teach it as a physical matter of health, not as a spiritual matter of the true gospel.
“That, in few words, Elder Alexander, is what God’s Word says and teaches and what I believe. Now I’m very sorry I wasted your valuable time, and since it is so valuable, I shall not take up more of it. Good day, gentlemen.”
And I opened the door.
Actually, I snapped out this explanation of my stand probably at a faster pace than most readers have been able to read it. It left Mr. Alexander a little bewildered. But he could not deny, refute, nor question a word of my explanation.
“Well, Mr. Armstrong,” he managed to say as they were leaving, “it seems to me you believe the same way the church does, only you may have a little different way of stating it.”
A short time later, I learned that they did consider me as one of “the 70.”
Thus we of the Church of God meeting at the Jeans schoolhouse, along with our brethren of the Oregon Conference, decided to go along with it in cooperation, but we of the new local church near Eugene did not “join” in the sense of becoming an integral part of it.
I then began to send in regular minister’s reports. We cooperated fully as brethren in Christ. But I did not accept a salary or expense money from them. None in our local church put himself under their authority. We kept ourselves free to obey God as set forth in the Scriptures, should any differences come up. And they did later come up!
After the experience of being ordered to baptize contrary to the Scriptures and the renouncing of the $3 weekly salary, we were firm never again to be placed in a position where we might have to obey men rather than God.
Result of Eugene Meetings
The meetings continued for two months in the second-floor hall of the Old Masonic Temple, just off the main street, Willamette, on West Seventh Avenue. But Mr. Chambers, owner of the building, had made arrangements for remodeling and permanent occupancy of the hall beginning June 1. I managed to rent a hall on the second floor, on the east side of Willamette Street between Seventh and Eighth, beginning June 1. Meetings continued there for 3½ months, closing the middle of September.
The downtown meetings had continued in Eugene 5½ months. Results actually were less than in other five- or six-week campaigns where services were held six nights a week. Definitely we learned that holding meetings three times a week on nonconsecutive nights does not build up or sustain an interest comparable to every-night services. This was an important lesson.
Nevertheless, there was a harvest. There always was a harvest. That was the main reason for the opposition from the other ministers. No one in the Church of whom I could inquire knew of any “fruit” whatsoever having been borne at any time by any of the other ministers then in the Church. Their jealousy, antagonism, competitive spirit, opposition against the only Work God was blessing, eloquently testified to the reason—carnality—lack of real conversion and yieldedness to God. God can use only those who have surrendered to become instruments in His hands.
I do not remember now how many had appeared to have repented, and believed, and how many had been baptized during and at the end of these meetings. It seems it was around 10 to 15. But several of these were of the type Jesus referred to in His parable of the sower: the largest number compared to the wayside. Jesus Christ sowed the “seed”—the Word of God—by my voice. There were the ones who came and heard, but did not understand nor believe; and Satan took the truths they heard out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved (Luke 8:12). Those stopped attending before the close of the meetings. Some compared to the stony ground, including the young man and woman already mentioned. They received Christ’s gospel with gladness and joy—but had no depth of character, and endured only for a while. Others compared to the ground covered with thorns—the cares of this world and desire for worldly amusements caused them to drop out.
Nevertheless, even though few of those brought in during those meetings proved to be the “good ground” which endured, there were some 10 or 15 additional ones making the start of a Christian life. A new Sabbath school was organized for these, meeting at our home on West Fourth Avenue on Sabbath afternoons. The Sabbath morning services continued out at Jeans schoolhouse. Often several from there came in to Eugene for the afternoon class at our home.