May the abiding care of our heavenly Father and the grace of our Lord Jesus and the conviction of the Holy Spirit be with all of our spirits.
This is written in regard to telephone conversations we have had with you and various individuals concerning the plans for the ordination of John Osborne and Bob Trefz at the Steps to Life camp meeting. I want to begin my remarks by talking about “Pastor John,”( *see below) who lives in Florida. However, before I even begin those few remarks, I want to make a few other preliminary remarks of a personal nature.
When I was still in academy before going to Walla Walla College, I was in the process of making a final decision on whether or not to go to study theology and prepare for the ministry. During the time I was growing up, my parents had served as missionaries for the Seventh- day Adventist Church and had been involved in the medical work of the Seventh- day Adventist church. Wherever in the world we had been living, our family had been very closely involved in the work of the local Seventh- day Adventist Church. Young people are not able to research everything they are taught; they absorb a very great deal by simply watching, listening, and what you might call “mental osmosis.”
I had watched and listened and absorbed many concepts in my growing up years in the Seventh- day Adventist Church. My family, was, you might say, completely loyal to the Seventhday Adventist Church and our understanding of what the Seventh- day Adventist Church was. I cannot even tell you where I first learned or was taught it but I believed the Seventh- day Adventist Church was the church structure, or what is often called “the organization.”
*This is not a fictitious name or story.
I can remember driving past the Colorado conference office, in Denver, Colorado, and looking at the building that contained the official conference association with legal documents. It went through my mind as I would drive past that building that this was the church.
During the time I was in academy and deciding to study theology and become a minister I was clearly and plainly warned against it through sincere teachers. I was informed that there was a great deal of politics in the Seventh- day Adventist ministry and it would be better for me to go into some other kind of work where there would not be so much “politicking.”
No one in my family was a minister. I had absolutely no concept of what they were talking about. We had been taught ever since childhood concerning loyalty to God's church, which we understood was the organization. In spite of the counsel against going into the ministry because of the tremendous amount of politics in the church, I decided against that counsel and did it anyway. I received exposure to politicking in the Seventh- day Adventist Church for the first time when a senior at Walla Walla College. This exposure was painful. When I realized what I was dealing with I really did not want to have anything to do with it. I figured out that I could go to Vietnam. I knew I would get shot at over there, but I thought it would not be as bad to get shot at and maybe get killed as to endure what I could see ahead of me. I had things worked out in my mind to go to the University of Denver and follow a business career after Vietnam. But I kept praying about it and hoping that at some point in time, if a call didn’t come then I could take that as an indication that God would allow me to go into some other kind of work. Then I would not have to go into this business where there is so much politicking and so much hypocrisy.
In my heart, however, I knew that I had to be honest with God. If He was calling me into the ministry, as I thought He was, I could not refuse a call if one came. And I had to let potential employers know that I was available. I would not be able to go into some other kind of work unless the Lord saw fit for me not to receive a call into ministerial work. If I did not receive a call, I had plans to enter another area of work.
But the time came when I did receive a call. As I thought about it, I felt that I would have a guilty conscience if I didn’t follow it, so I went into the ministry. After I got into the ministry I was exposed to so much politicking in the Seventh- day Adventist church that I used to pray and ask the Lord if it would be possible to please let me be fired so that I could go to Vietnam. If I survived being shot at over there, I could come back and go into medical missionary work like my parents had been involved in and not be involved in all of this politics in the ministry.
I was in a meeting once when a union conference president told us that we shouldn’t do certain things, because, he said, “If you do this you will force us to lie.” I thought to myself, “What do you mean, we will force you to lie?” That is totally contrary to the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. But when you have apolitical mind, that is the way you think. The conference president told us point blank that they were looking for “teamplayers”— people that would do what they were told. You did not disagree with “church” authority on any point or you were fired. I found that in actual practice the Seventh- day Adventist Church did not have a representative form of church government at all. That was only a name, but in reality it was a hierarchy.
As time went on, I was getting along very well with my conference presidents. Eventually I became scared and began asking myself, “Have I been in this system so long that I am becoming a hypocrite? Am I becoming like the system? Is it affecting my mind? Am I not the way I used to be?” And yet, I could not leave it with a clear conscience. But the time came, when almost all of a sudden, the Lord took me out of it.
But back to my remarks about Pastor John, in Florida. I call him Pastor John because his first name is John. Pastor because, at onetime, he called himself the associate pastor of the church which I was pasturing. The conference president objected to that and so, as I recall, we finally took that title, which he had given himself, off the church bulletin.
Pastor John was a vivacious, intense, enthusiastic, gregarious, and highly musical person. As I recall, he had been a pastor of another Protestant denomination. He was a very engaging person. He could be talking to you in the car, or any place and just hold you spellbound with whatever subject he was talking about. He had a very volatile temperament, and controlling his temper was one area in life where I knew he would have a lot of praying to do if he was going to succeed. But he was one of the most personable and likable individuals that you would ever meet. He had a lovely wife and a well- behaved family, at least his children were well behaved whenever I was around them.
I got acquainted with Pastor John when I first went to North Dakota. He had forsaken his career, his job— everything, to become a Seventh- day Adventist. He was convicted of the truths of the three angels' messages and the Sabbath. Since he had been a pastor in another denomination, he wanted to be a pastor or a preacher in the Seventh- day Adventist denomination He was made the singing evangelist for the evangelistic team for the North Dakota conference.
Now, as is the case with some other individuals in this world, Pastor John was not really a manager of money. That was not his talent. In fact, he had a problem with getting into debt and not being able to pay his debts. He was a man of world vision, and of large plans. He was a visionary, but he needed the help of his wife (who was a very talented person) to make his visions come to pass. Both of them were excellent musicians. When you were in a group of a few ministers, as the saying goes, Pastor John was really the life of the party. He was a most interesting individual.
However, because of the problems that he had with money he rubbed the conference president the wrong way. Our conference president had formerly been a treasurer. He was a man who knew how to manage money and he didn’t like this business of getting into debt and not being able to pay your debts. So, the conference president was just not altogether pleased with Pastor John, because of his money problems.
The time came when the evangelistic team in the North Dakota conference, which was a small conference, was dissolved. They had no more conference evangelists so, of course, they had no more singing evangelist. Well, that was Pastor John's job, so now what was he to do for employment? He would like to have been a pastor, or to work as an assistant or associate pastor in a church. He was not making a request for anything large, but he wanted to work in the ministry. But the conference president told him, since he did not have a college degree, (there times when conferences do not require some pastors to have college degrees) he would need to go to a Seventh- day Adventist college and start at the beginning. In other words, he would need to take history, Freshman Composition, all the basic subjects, go through a four- year college course, and then go through a two- year seminary course. Then after he had gone through all of this, he could apply to be a minister or a pastor in a conference. The conference, however, had no money to help Pastor John with such a project.
Going to College
Pastor John not only had a wife, but he had children to support. So Pastor John decided he would go to a local community college to at least take the beginning courses such as Freshman Composition, history, and those sorts of things. The conference claimed later that he had done this against their counsel because they had counseled him to go to a Seventh- day Adventist college. However, as Pastor John pointed out, a Seventh- day Adventist college costs much more than a community college and his beginning courses he could take there for a lot less money. That was an additional point of friction between Pastor John and my conference president.
The community college that he chose to attend was in Valley City, North Dakota, which was in my district. It was my first year in the ministry, having never interned under anyone, but being sent directly to the largest city in the state and having another church in Valley City, sixty miles away, I was delighted to have the help of this vivacious young man and his wife in that little church. The little church in Valley City was almost in a desperate condition. Only five or six people attended on Sabbath morning and sometimes one or two or three visitors. Having pastor John's family come into the church almost doubled the attendance on Sabbath morning.
At camp meeting time, during camp pitch, pastor John rented an airplane and flew up to the town where we were having the camp meeting. The airport was only a mile or two or three from the camp meeting. When he flew in, I went and picked him up and brought him back to the camp. After he had visited different people there that day, I took him back out to his airplane and he said, “Come with me for a spin around the patch.” So we went up and just flew around the field a time or two, chatted together and then he flew back home.
That evening the conference president wanted to see me. I was informed that I could hurt myself very severely by being associated with Pastor John and what I had done was quite dangerous. I was given to understand that I should not do anything like that in the future because it could endanger my career in the Seventh- day Adventist ministry. The conference president didn’t want anybody befriending Pastor John in any way.
All the Way to the Top
You see, pastor John had a falling out with the conference president some time before. I don't suppose that any of the people in the conference knew this, but it just so happened that at the time when the real falling out occurred during a telephone conversation, I was at Pastor John's house. I heard his side of the conversation when he and the conference president were talking. They disagreed in a most heated and decided manner over the matter. The conference president was determined to have his opinion prevail in the matter. Pastor John felt that he would lose face in the whole community if that was done. Pastor John decided to call the union conference office, but no one there would do anything contrary to what the conference president had decided to do. So Pastor John decided to call Tacoma Park. Neal C. Wilson was then President of the North American division and Robert Pierson was the General Conference President. Pastor John was going all the way to the top, if necessary, to solve his problem. But no one at any level of the structure was willing to try to help Pastor John resolve the issue and do something contrary to what the conference president had decided to do. Pastor John was completely baffled in his attempt to get relief from a situation that he felt was unbearable.
During all of this time he was attending college, taking class work so he could be, eventually, a Seventh- day Adventist minister. He was active in the local church and visiting. Church attendance went up, and there was a wonderful spirit in the church. Everybody in the church loved him and it looked as if there was potential for church growth. When some of the church members found out that pastor John had called, not just the conference, but all the way to the general conference and had not been able to get any relief, they felt it would be appropriate, in this situation, to make this problem known to the entire constituency of the North Dakota conference. After all, the Seventh- day Adventist Church is supposed to be a representative church and it is really the people who are supposed to have the decision- making power. The representatives of the people, get together in a constituency meeting (at that time it was every two years) and select officers. They decided to send out a mailing to the entire constituency of the North Dakota conference.
It was this mailing that made the conference president so upset and determined that no minister or any employee of the conference should befriend Pastor John in any way because now his job was on the line. If people should believe the report in this letter it could have an adverse affect and he might not even be reelected as the conference president. I know that this was what was on the conference president's mind because there was a departmental man in the North Dakota conference at the time, whose name was Malcolm Gordon. During the camp pitch I just happened to overhear him and the conference president, as I recall, talking about what effect they thought this communication would have on the constituency meeting. Conference officials were successful in convincing the constituency that everything was on the level and, as I recall, all the officers were returned to their offices at that constituency meeting. Whether Pastor John was in the right or the wrong is not the point— the point is that the way we treat each other in these situations always has consequences as we will now see.
Pastor John was thwarted and was not able to get any relief from the constituency or any level of the church. Moreover, he was not encouraged to even pursue further studies for the ministry, since he had violated counsel by going to a community college to get his basic courses. He understood that the conference had frowned on what he had done and maybe his chances were not going to be so good to get back into the Seventh- day Adventist ministry after all.
At a later time there was a meeting of the ministers (I think it was for all the ministers in the whole Northern Union) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I did not drive to that meeting, but rode with another minister in his car. A friend of mine who attended this meeting reported the following incident to me years later and we were both very sorry over it. He told me that at this meeting Pastor John was in Minneapolis on business, at the same time, and he was hard up since he had a family to support. He was trying to go to school, support his family on the side and prepare for the ministry. While he was there he went to talk to some of our ministers. Since he was going to be on his way home, one of the Seventh- day Adventist ministers could have given him a ride in his car and just gone right by his place and dropped him off. (Valley City was right by the freeway.) But none of the ministers would really have anything to do with him. So, no doubt, he had to go and buy a bus ticket to get home. My friend, who was also a Seventh- day Adventist minister, who didn’t have a car there to offer him a ride told me how sorry he was. How terrible he felt at the way our ministers had treated this brother, who had also really been a Seventh- day Adventist minister, but was on the “outs” with the organization at that time.
Even though this Pastor John, was so talented, so vivacious, so personal, so volatile, and such a wonderful musician he was also a very sensitive person. Sometimes very talented people are also very sensitive.
In the aftermath of all these things (of which I have related a few details), Pastor John became discouraged. Almost everybody in the Adventist ministry had given him a cold shoulder. He felt like he had almost no friends in the whole world. The time came when, secretly, he left town. He did not tell anybody he was going. He did not even bother trying to finish paying out his bills in town. He just packed up his family and quickly left. He not only left town, he not only was not an Adventist minister, he was so discouraged he was not even an Adventist at all. He went back to Florida. As I recall, the last I heard, was that he was an insurance salesman there.
I Must Face Pastor John
I have thought a lot about Pastor John over the years. I know that the day is coming when I am going to see Pastor John at the judgment bar of the Lord, if no other time. And the thing that keeps coming back to my mind-- Oh, I know, he had a lot of faults; he didn’t get his bills paid; he didn’t manage his money; he made lots of mistakes -- but I have always wondered, “Is it partly my fault? Is it partly my fault because I did not put my reputation, my job, and my career on the line to try to save him?” I feel terrible about pastor John. I think to myself, “Did I do everything that I could do?” As I look back at it now, years and years away from the actual experience and I think of what was said and what was done, when I think of his children and of his wife, all of whom could lose their souls because of the conduct of the Adventist ministry, how petty it all looks! How narrow minded it all seems now! Somebody could say, “Well, they might have lost their souls anyway.” Yes, they might have. Judas lost his soul. But at least in the judgment it can not be said that Jesus did not give him every opportunity. We cannot say to Pastor John that we gave him every opportunity. As I look back at it, it does not seem at all like the spirit of Christ.
Putting Everything On the Line
Over and over again the thought has come to me, “Did I do everything I could to save Pastor John?” I can not work for Pastor John's salvation anymore. It is too late now. But more than once since that time, the thought of my heart has been, “Lord, by your grace, I will never let that happen again.” Everybody has feelings. Everybody has emotions. No human being has infinite strength. Did my deep loyalties to the organization becloud my judgment so that I did not put everything on the line to try to save him? I do not know why I did not see things more clearly then. All I know is that now it is too late. I have no idea where he is or if he is even alive. But I have decided that I do not ever want to make the mistake again of not doing everything -- not puffing my life, my career, my job, everything I have got on the line to save a soul.
The way we deal with each other in crisis situations can result not only in the saving or loss of the souls of others, but even people who are leaders in God's work can lose their way. They can become discouraged because everyone gives them the cold shoulder and no one gives them any support. There are leaders of ministries who have been fought and opposed and who have had to stand apparently alone, seemingly without a friend in the world. It is easy in situations like that for people to make mistakes (i. e. Edson White in the South)– when they are badgered, beaten down, opposed, baffled and thwarted and are trying to figure how to make ends meet, how to keep their family life together and how to make a ministry go forward. It is very easy to make mistakes when you are all alone and almost everyone is giving you the cold shoulder or outright opposing you.
“You Can Come and Live With Me”
My brother, Marshall, knew what it was like to stand alone and be opposed from apparently every direction. One time my brother called me on the telephone, when I was in Texas, and mentioned to me briefly what had happened to him. The rest of the short conversation went approximately as follows. I told him, “If they drive you out of town, you can come and live with me.” “Well,” he said, “thank you.” He knew what it was like to be rejected — to have your reputation, smeared, destroyed, broken -- to be betrayed by those who he considered to be his very best friends, to be condemned and to be forced out and to be notified that he was just fired from the system because he could not do what he was asked to do and still have a clear conscience. Steps to Life came into being because there is one question my brother always asked when there were forks in the road and decisions to be made. The question that was asked constantly, over and over again, is: Is it right? Is it right? What is the right thing to do -not, What is the political thing to do? That is why Steps to Life exists. I could go on in great detail, giving examples of that principle.
A Pivotal Issue In Adventism
A fundamental issue that was right at the foundation -- right at the bottom of the whole controversy involving Marshall at the Three Angels Church, in Wichita, was the concept of who and what the church is. My brother studied that issue through. He knew what the New Testament taught on who and what the church is and he preached it. He believed the Bible meant what it said. And he was afraid to interpret Ellen White in a way that would make her contradict the Bible. Just yesterday I was looking over a list of different sermons that my brother was preaching in 1986 and 1987. He talked repeatedly about who and what the church is and the New Testament concept of the church. People did not realize that he was addressing the pivotal issue in the Seventh- day Adventist Church in our time. Unless your bearings are straight on this issue, you will be confused, perplexed and mixed up on almost everything else.
There are very few people, even in special ministries, who understand the biblical, New Testament concept of the church. I am not saying that to criticize anyone. It is just a recognition of the facts.
I was working with Marshall in 1988, when he was forced out of the Three Angels Church. We were told that you had to be a part of the structure in order to do evangelism. But we were not a part of the structure anymore, so obviously, according to their definitions, we could not do evangelism anymore. We had to think through the controversy that had been foisted upon us. Since we are not now a part of the recognized Seventh- day Adventist Church structure, do we have a right, or is it even possible to do evangelism? We had to struggle through that question with our Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy and prayer. We decided that we had to be engaged in evangelism, because it was a divine command. We could not say that we were just going to do evangelism if we were given permission.
Is It A Church?
Another question we had to think through was, does Steps to Life even have a right to exist? When we did evangelism and prepared people for the church, there was no local church that was associated with the conference that we could take them to. The people in those churches were trying to fight us. We had our own group that we brought them to, but that group was not a recognized church by the conference. So, was it a church at all? Some people do not think it is a church. Steps to Life is based on the concept that we do have a church, whether it is recognized by the conference or not. It is still part of the body of Christ, because the body of Christ is never defined in the Bible in organizational terms. If it is wrong to have a church that is not recognized by a conference, as some people believe, then Steps to Life does not have a right to exist. We have had a local church here that has not been recognized by the conference ever since we began.
All manner of accusations have been shot at us from every quarter. It has been claimed, for instance, because of some of the messages I have given about the nature of the church, that we do not believe in church organization. That is a false accusation. In our church we do have church organization. We have elders and deacons, we have order and we do evangelism. We counsel together with other churches of historic Adventists. We do believe in church organization. We are not a new or a different church. We are Seventh- day Adventists. And we are a Seventh- day Adventist congregation, a Seventh- day Adventist local church.
We have also been accused of being separationists. That is a false accusation also, but I will not deal with that in this letter. All manner of attacks have been published and preached against our concept of the church (which we do not consider to be our own, but only the concept of the church according to the New Testament). Many Seventh- day Adventists today believe that there are two true churches. Now they do not acknowledge that fact, but they actually believe it. They say there is a visible church and an invisible church. Then they take some Spirit of Prophecy statements and apply them to what they call the visible church and they take other statements and apply them to what they call the invisible church. Such a concept, thinking or rationale has to be false according to the Bible. The Bible is very clear that there is only one church (see Ephesians 4). Any theory or theology which describes two true churches is false and unbiblical. To interpret the Spirit of Prophecy in that way is to make Ellen White contradict the Bible; it is to seriously misunderstand the nature of who and what the church is. The church is only one thing. It is one body, the body of Christ, as the apostle Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1. He describes it as the body of Christ, the bride of Christ. In Ephesians 5 he likens it to the wife where he says we are “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.” The apostle Paul makes a great deal of likening the sexual relationship of marriage to the relationship of Christ to the church. He does this not only in Ephesians 5: 30- 32, but he also does it in 1 Corinthians 6: 15- 17 where he says that “he that is joined to a harlot is one body with her, . . . but he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” If you are not joined to the harlot, you are not one body, and if you are not joined to the Lord you are not one spirit. If you are not flesh of His flesh, and bone of His bone, if you are not joined to the Lord, if you are not one spirit with Him, then He says in Romans 8: 9 you are none of His. So the concept of the church as the body of Christ is a concept that many Christians, many Seventh- day Adventists, have not thought through.
In the Bible and in the Spirit of Prophecy, many times something is spoken of and just a part of it is referred to. For instance, Jesus said, “If your brother offends you or he sins against you, go and speak to him alone and if he doesn't listen to you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. If he doesn’t hear them, tell it unto the church.” Now, what church was Jesus talking about? The church is only one thing. But Jesus was not talking there about the church universal. He was talking about what the Reformers called the church particular -- that is the local church, which is part of the church, but not the whole church. In the same way, many times in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy reference is made to the church and the writer is not referring to the whole church, but to part of the church. Some people take some of these statements and make a great deal out of them. They make them teach something that causes the writer to contradict the most basic teaching of the New Testament about the church.
The Identity of the Church In Jesus' Day
Who was the church in Jesus' day? There are people who believe that, “Jesus tried to conciliate the church” as much as He could. That is an irrational statement if you understand who and what the church is. However, many sincere Christians are so far from understanding what the true church is that they will make a statement like that. Jesus is the church. He was the church then, and He is the church today. The church is the body of Christ, so Christ is the church. Then how could one say that He conciliated the church as much as He could? Did He conciliate Himself? You see, our people today do not understand who and what the church is or they would never even be thinking things like that much less making statements in public, if they understood who and what the church is.
Jesus is the church. He was the church. The church is His body. The church in Jesus' day were those who followed Jesus – His disciples. Caiaphas was not the head of the church in Jesus' day. Jesus never laid down His headship of the church. He did not lay His divinity aside. He did not leave the church to someone else. It was still His body. He was still the head of the church all the time He was here. Those who recognized who and what the church was followed the head of the church and that is who the church was. They were the body of Christ.
This was a main issue in the time of John the Baptist. He attacked the Jews' concept of who and what the church is – who and what are the people of God. Of course, the church is God's people, not only in this world, but in all the other worlds (see 35M 17; DA 835). The Jewish people thought that because they were the lineal seed, the fleshly seed, the bloodline of Abraham that they were part of the true church. That is the way they interpreted Genesis 17. But John the Baptist told them, as you can read in Matthew 3 or Desire of Ages, 107, if their character and life were not in harmony with God's law then they were not His people. In other words, they were not part of the church. That was the critical issue in John the Baptist's day-- who and what was the church? He goes into it in great detail in Matthew 3. He told the leaders that what they thought was the church was not the church. He told them that they were not even members of the church and they did not like it. Ellen White says, of course, that in the time of the end God's servants will have to bear a more pointed testimony than that of John the Baptist (lT 321). At Steps to Life we have the same concept as John the Baptist of who the church is.
Jesus not only upheld the work of John the Baptist, but He reinforced his teaching even more powerfully. He told the Jews very plainly in John 8 that they were not Abraham's children because they were not like him in character. You can read a description of that in Desire of Ages, pages 466 and 467. Jesus went onto tell them they were the sons of the devil, because the devil was a liar from the beginning and a murderer and of course they were right then plotting His murder and telling lies. Therefore, that proved they were the spiritual children of the devil. They had characters like the devil, because they were sinning like the devil. As the apostle John says in 1 John 3: 8, “He that sins is of the devil.” So Jesus plainly taught that the person who sins, who lies, who plots murder, who breaks the law, who teaches people to break God's law, is not part of the true church. They can claim whatever they want to, but they are actually children of the devil. They are not the children of Abraham. They are not really members of the church. We believe this same concept.
The Devil's Church
Ellen White says the devil has a large church-- the synagogue of Satan. It is composed of those people who break God's law and teach other people to break God's law (TM 16). They can have any name, including the name Seventh- day Adventist, but if they are breaking God's law or teaching others to break God's law they are part of the synagogue of Satan. That is the Spirit of Prophecy speaking. That is not my idea or thought. That is what the Spirit of Prophecy says and what the Bible says in 1 John 3 and Revelation 2 and 3.
Marshall had this all worked out; I think, before he ever came to Wichita. I worked it out later praying and studying the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, trying to find out who and what the church was. One of the greatest chapters in the Bible about who and what the church is, which opened the whole subject up to my mind (I was amazed when I saw it, that I had not seen it before) was Revelation 12.1 will not take time now to go through a systematic study of Revelation 12. It is one of the greatest chapters, one of the greatest prophecies, in the entire Bible in my opinion. It specifies and defines who and what the church is.
There was a time when the Roman church captured the clergy, the organization, the buildings, the money — apparently everything. From a human point of view (of those who believed that the organization was the church) it appeared that apostasy had gained complete control. But if people understood Revelation 12, they understood that the structure was not the church. The structure (those in the structure) were the ones persecuting the woman, spewing out a flood of water, to cause her to be devoured by the flood. They were not really the church.
There were times during the Dark Ages when the church apparently did not have as much organization as might be desired because the church had to go underground. But the amount of organization that the church has is not the determining factor or the defining factor of the church.
In Great Controversy, 51 it says, “Romanists have persisted in bringing against Protestants the charge of heresy and willful separation from the true church. But these accusations apply rather to themselves. They are the ones who laid down the banner of Christ and departed from ‘the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. ' Jude 3.” When you lay down the banner of Christ, when you depart from the faith once delivered to the saints you have departed from the church, according to that statement. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3: 15). If you leave the truth, you have left the church. There is more that could be said on the subject of the church and the whole subject of the professed church, about which I am writing.
The Most Fundamental Issue
Why should I, in this letter, go into this much detail about the New Testament church-- the nature of the church? Because that is the most fundamental issue on which we are dealing. If we are wrong on that issue, (now, we may be wrong on some minor points), if we are substantially wrong on that issue, Steps to Life docs not really have a right to exist, because we have a local church. We are not just a ministry. We have had a church ever since we started.
There is a great controversy among God's people today about who and what the church is. Many still believe what I used to believe -- that the church is the organization. If the church is the organization, then to stay in the church you have to stay in the organization. Or, some people believe that you must remain attending a conference church. What does one do then if false doctrine is taught, and one's children are being deceived? What do you do if people are becoming hypnotized and principles of mind control are being used? What do you do when your family becomes deceived and deluded and they lose their souls? All this can result because a person has a wrong concept of who the church is. If they believe the church is “the organization,” as people call it, then, of course, it would be wrong to start a home- church. You must stay and allow your children to be lost or whatever happens to you in order to “be in the church.” When people who have believed that the church is the organization first hear the New Testament teaching or understand the New Testament concept about the church, they think, “Well, that disagrees with what Ellen White says.” They have taken Ellen White statements and used their own private definitions of what the church is and then placed them upon those statements. Then they have read things into them that they do not actually say. This issue is at the bottom of a lot of confusion in independent ministries today.
We have to remember that the Lord has told us that before we accept any doctrine or precept we should demand a plain, “thus saith the Lord” in its support. A plain thus saith the Lord in support of many of the theories going around concerning the church today simply does not exist. People are reading things into statements that they do not actually say.
If our views about the church are wrong, then we do not have a right to exist; we do not have a right to baptize; we do not have a right to ordain. We should just fold up our tents and go home. The two main principles out of which Steps to Life developed are the concept of simply asking the question at every turn in the road, “Is it right?” and secondly, “What is the Church?”
The Need For Counsel
At this point I have to say something that I wish I did not have to say. I will illustrate it first of all by saying this: There are a lot of people in the world who think Sunday is the right day to go to church. Thousands of people could be amassed to give you and me counsel to go to church on Sunday. I would not listen to that counsel whether five or 5,000,000 people were giving me counsel, because I know from the Word of God that the seventh day is the Sabbath. They either do not understand or do not want to understand. Therefore, they are not qualified to give me counsel on that subject. The same is true in regard to the church. I love other Seventh- day Adventist special ministries that have stood for the truth. But I have been aware fora long time that there are many people in other special ministries who do not understand the New Testament concept of the church. I love people who do not understand the New Testament concept of the church. I can be friends and work with them, but they are not qualified to give me counsel on ordination, baptism, or any of those matters because they do not understand yet who and what the church is according to the New Testament. Until I am convinced that they understand this thoroughly, it would just be illogical, irrational, unethical and inappropriate for me to look to them or for me to accept counsel from them about the church, just as much as it would be for me to accept counsel from a person about which day to keep when they did not understand that the seventh day is the Sabbath. If they do not understand that, they are just not qualified to give me counsel on that subject, although I could work with them and might receive counsel from them on many other things.
Ordination, Not an Option
If our views of the church are correct, then we have a right and a divine obligation and command to baptize. Not only that, we have a divine command that the ministry is to live of the gospel. Therefore, we have not only divine permission, but a commandment to receive tithes. That is a subject I will not get into, but that is all involved in your concept of the church. Thirdly, we have a divine command to ordain men to the gospel ministry. It is not optional. It is a responsibility, and an obligation God has laid upon His church. I would like to look at the experience of Paul and Barnabas.
As you study in Acts 13 and 14 and read in Acts of the Apostles or in Sketches from the Life of Paul, it is very evident that God is the One who selects people to be His representatives, or His ministers. No human being has a right or authority to do such a thing. God, Himself, is the One who selects His ministers. In Acts of the Apostles, at the bottom of page 161, it says, “Both Paul and Barnabas had already received their commission from God Himself, and the ceremony of the laying on of hands added no new grace or virtual qualification. It was an acknowledged form of designation to an appointed office and a recognition of one's authority in that office.” So they had already received the commission from God Himself and the ceremony of the laying on of hands did not add any new grace.
But a second point that is obvious in studying the experience of Paul and Barnabas is that after God has selected a person to be a minister of His, He moves upon those who are already ministers to recognize this selection. He moves upon His church to recognize the selection that He has made. And the church and other ministers in the church recognize the person that God has chosen by the fruits of His ministry.
It is evident also, by studying the story, that Paul and Barnabas were ordained to the gospel ministry by the church at Antioch. This was a local church. The church at Antioch cannot rightly be called “separationist” from the organized church in Jerusalem because they ordained Paul and Barnabas. It could not be truthfully said to the Antioch church, “You are starting a new breed of separationism.” It cannot honestly be said that they were moving toward a separate organization when they ordained Paul and Barnabas. They were not separationists or starting a separate church organization. They were merely fulfilling the divine command to ordain those whom God had selected and adding them to the duly appointed agendas in God's organized church.
We see in this story that Paul and Barnabas had received their call and ordination from God Himself. But those on earth in Antioch, who were part of the body of Christ, recognized the call and appointment of God. They went on record publicly as believing God had called Paul and Barnabas. The church had direct evidence from the fruit of their ministry that God had called them. The local church solemnly dedicated Paul and Barnabas to the work of the gospel ministry and by this act of the laying on of hands they added the authorization of the church of God on earth to the commission Paul and Barnabas had received from God Himself From this story I understand that ordination is no small, insignificant or trifling matter. But rather by this, Paul and Barnabas were authorized, not only to teach the truth, but to perform the right of baptism and to organize churches, being invested with full ecclesiastical authority. Ellen White says in Acts of the Apostles, page 161, “The apostles who had been appointed to lead out in this work would be exposed to suspicion, prejudice and jealousy. Their teachings concerning ‘the middle wall of partition' (Ephesians 2: 14) that had so long separated the Jewish and the Gentile world, would naturally subject them to the charge of heresy, and their authority as ministers of the gospel would be questioned by many zealous, believing Jews. God foresaw the difficulties that His servants would be called to meet, and, in order that their work should be above challenge, He instructed the church by revelation to set them apart publicly to the work of the ministry. Their ordination was a public recognition of their divine appointment to bear to the Gentiles the glad tidings of the gospel.”
On page 162 she writes that, “When the ministers of the church of believers in Antioch laid their hands upon Paul and Barnabas, they, by that action, asked God to bestow His blessing upon the chosen apostles in their devotion to the specific work to which they had been appointed.”
Ordination, a Church Responsibility
She goes on to say, on page 163 that, “The Holy Spirit, again bearing witness concerning Paul as a chosen vessel to bear the gospel to the Gentiles, laid upon the church the work of ordaining him and his fellow laborer.” So the Holy Spirit laid upon the church this responsibility. Now suppose that they had said, “Well, the timing is not right, because all of the Jews in the church will not understand, and therefore souls will be lost!” Someone might say, “Well, they had direct divine revelation.” But we have abundant evidence that the Lord has called these men (Bob Trefz and John Osborne) to the ministry. The Lord has clearly indicated His call of these men to the gospel ministry. The evidence is abundant and unequivocal to any candid mind who is willing to take an unprejudiced look at the fruit of the ministry of these two men. When the Holy Spirit directed the church in Antioch to ordain Paul and Barnabas, somebody could have said, “I wish you could have spent more time studying this first.” They could have said, “Paul has a choleric temperament and what if there's a failing out between Paul and Barnabas later? I can't even imagine the consequences of all this.” They could have said, “The Jerusalem headquarters church is going to blow apart. You are hastening, and precipitating an unnecessary crisis and bringing unnecessary strife and division into the church. After all James and the other apostles do not agree with Paul on some major theological issues. They are salvational issues and there are a multitude of people in the Christian church who are in the balance on these issues. We could lose the heavenly destiny of many a soul. We are not ready for it yet.”
Ellen White made it very plain in Acts of the Apostles on page 199 and 200 that Paul often had to stand alone against the rest of the apostles. And so they could have said, “We are not ready for it yet. It's not time yet. The Jews are just waiting for us to make this move. And it hasn’t been approved by the twelve apostles, let alone by the Sanhedrin. This will provide them just the ammunition they need to try to destroy us all.” Some could also have truthfully said, “You are building a big gap between us here in Antioch and the headquarters church at Jerusalem. Because of the great danger and jeopardy between us herein Antioch and the headquarters church at Jerusalem, we cannot participate. We cannot push ourselves out of the church God has established without acting with direction from Jerusalem. lf we do this many souls will feel it is wrong and we will put an argument into their bands that will cause many to be lost over this sensitive, emotional, divisive issue over the law and proper church organization because we acted without the auspices of the church at Jerusalem.” It could also have been brought up that Paul was a very aggressive and controversial person to be involved with. Not only was he a former persecutor, but he got into a religious controversy in almost every Jewish synagogue he entered. It could have been said, “He is probably capable by his aggressive speech to stir up a riot. He will be hated by the Jews and he will not be appreciated or understood by the headquarters church and even the twelve apostles will oppose him. This is certainly a most dangerous man to ordain. We are going to bring ourselves into great perplexity and conflict and precipitate a crisis and bring persecution upon ourselves if we follow this course.”
A study of the events following Paul's ordination shows that every one of these potential fears of the fainthearted were fully realized. He was opposed by the rest of the apostles. In fact, many years later, because of the faults, really, of the some of the apostles, especially the apostle James, and the leaders of the church at Jerusalem, Paul's ministry was cut short and he ended up in prison. Of course, when he ended up in prison many people could have said, “Yes, they really did make a mistake at Antioch when they ordained Paul.”
Paul, “the Apostate”
Ellen White writes about the way Paul was considered at that time in the book Sketches From the Life of Paul, page 226, “When Peter had been made a prisoner and condemned to death, the brethren had offered earnest prayer to God day and night for his deliverance. But no such interest was manifested in behalf of him who was looked upon as an apostate from Moses, a teacher of dangerous doctrines. It was not to the elders whose counsel had brought him into this dangerous position, but to the watchful sympathy of a relative, that Paul owed his escape from a violent death.” So Paul was considered an apostate from Moses and a teacher of dangerous doctrines. The people that considered him an apostate were some of the leading brethren in the Jerusalem church and apparently as you read the context of this chapter, even some of the apostles. Concerning this story Ellen White says, “It is the same spirit that the people of God in this age have yet to meet. In the great crisis, through which they are soon to pass, they will become better acquainted with the experience of Paul. Among the professed followers of Christ, there is the same pride, formalism, vainglory, selfishness, and oppression, that existed in the Jewish nation. Before the warfare shall be ended and the victory won, we as a people are to experience trials similar to those of Paul. We shall encounter the same hardness of heart, the same cruel determination, the same unyielding hatred.
“Men professing to be representatives of Christ will take a course similar to that taken by priests and rulers in their treatment of Paul.
“God would have His people prepared for the soon- coming crisis. Prepared or unprepared, we must all meet it . . . .
“In that coming emergency, rulers and magistrates will not interpose in behalf of God's people. There will be a corrupt harmony with all who have not been obedient to the law of God. In that day, all time- servers, all who have not the genuine work of grace in the heart, will be found wanting. It will require the firmest trust, the most heroic purpose, to hold fast the faith once delivered to the saints” Skcetches From the Life of Paul, 251, 252.
Many Seventh- day Adventists have never thought through the reality of the situation throughout Paul's life. The Jews occupied the position of being God's professed people during the whole of Paul's life. You can read words to that effect from Sketches From the Life of Paul, on page 224. The Christian church was looked upon as a little splinter group — a heretical, fanatical, offshoot, little Jewish sect. The majority of this little sect in Jerusalem still believed in keeping the entire law as a matter of salvation. They would consider anyone who taught the doctrines Paul taught as suspect and a heretic — part of a lunatic- fringe of the little, offshoot Jewish sect. Well, it could have been said, “With all the trouble and persecution we already have endured from the Jews by ordaining Paul you are putting fodder into the cannon of our opponents to destroy us all. The Jewish Christians will be influenced against us by this move, which has not been approved by the headquarters church. Your timing is way off.”
Although the Antioch church was capable of making a mistake, by not recognizing the voice of the Holy Spirit there was One who could not make a mistake in timing or anything else. When the Founder of Christianity ordained the twelve apostles to the gospel ministry He made no mistake. There were three leading apostles. All three, Peter, James and John would have been disqualified from ordination by the rules that some would like to enact today. All three had a volatile temper and were well capable of exploding without due cause. Years after their ordination to the gospel ministry one of them was guilty of swearing and attempted murder by decapitation. And the other two were guilty of solicitation to murder an entire city of Samaritans. When Ellen White describes the character of John at the time of his ordination she uses such descriptions as “combativeness,” “evil- temper,” “revenge,” “spirit of criticism, ' ‘and “violent spirit.” (See Desire of Ages chapter, “He ordained Twelve.”) Some penetrating minds of nearly sanctified saints could easily have questioned whether the Lord should not have waited to ordain them until a time when they had reached a higher level of sanctification – when they would not be such a constant embarrassment to the Lord of glory. But the Lord did not wait to ordain them, until all the rough points in their characters had been polished out on the grinding wheel of trial, grief and affliction.
I would now like to review a little history to some of the statements that have been made and questions that have been asked regarding John Osborne. First of all, the statement at, “Well, you haven't known John for very long.” The implication is, of course, that I should be going to those who have known him longer for counsel. I want to spend a considerable amount of time on this situation about counsel.
It is true that I have not spent as much time with John as you have. I believe the first time that I saw John was in 1954, but neither one of us were discussing things of a theological nature at that time. I am not a total stranger, as some might think, to John Osborne however. I know his mother, his older brother, and both of his sisters. I was not personally acquainted with his father, although I had seen him on a number of occasions. I have been in their home, that is his parental home, when he lived in Hendersonville, Tennessee. So I have more than just a cursory, passing knowledge of his family having known both of his sisters and his brother on a first name basis. I know for a fact that he has a godly mother.
“Let's Wait a Little While” (1990)
After Steps to Life was operating and Marshall and I were working together in 1988, we both were doing quite a bit of traveling. As we traveled, from time to time we would hear reports of various things about John Osborne. There was a time when he was trying to become reconciled to the conference. It did not work. Of course, it was impossible for him to be reconciled to the conference and work with any of us, so for a period of time, while we were not opposing him in any way, we were letting him do his work and we were engaged in our ministry. We knew he was trying to work with the conference and we knew from our experience that we could not. The time came, however, when John Osborne was not able to work with the conference anymore. At that point, re- evaluations became necessary of when, how or in what way we might be able to work together. Since he had been independent, and then tried to work with the conference, and now was independent again, Marshall's opinion was, “Well, let's just wait a little while and see how things sort out. Then we will know a little more after some time has gone by as to what course we should pursue.”
My sister and Marshall had a long discussion at the camp meeting in Kennewick, Washington in 1990, on the whole situation and the developments in regard to John Osborne's ministry and in what way we should relate to it. I wasn’t in that discussion, but my sister, who is working with me now told me, “Marshall said, that, ‘Well, we're just going to have to wait for a little while to see how things are going to develop. But by next year we're going to have to do something. '”
In the early part of 1991, we discussed the situation again. I had not had any contact, really, with John Osborne since he had been in the ministry. As we talked about it, we decided that we were going to need to go there and get acquainted with the ministry. Then we would just proceed on the basis of the evidence. I do not remember now what our point of contact with Prophecy Countdown was, but we did have communication with Prophecy Countdown and arrangements were made for me to go to the Rolling Hills Seventh- day Adventist Church and have meetings over a weekend. That was in the Spring of 1991. It was scheduled for the first weekend in August. That turned out to be the very next weekend after Marshall and Lillian's funeral. Because of the extenuating circumstances, John Osborne called me and said that he was going to be in town that weekend and he volunteered to take the services for me. I thought that was very gracious of him and said approximately the following, “Thank you very much. I would like to take a rain check, but I will be glad to come down another time.” So, I did not go to the Rolling Hills Seventh- day Adventist Church.
I was not the only one scheduled to go to preach and visit at the Rolling Hills Seventh- day Adventist Church and visit John Osborne's ministry. Marshall was scheduled to go there for the camp meeting in the fall. After Marshall's death, contrary to reports that might have been circulated, we did not change our stance, our approach, our philosophy, or anything as a result of Marshall's death.
During the latter part of 1991, I was trying to fulfill all of Marshall's speaking appointments, that had been made prior to his death. Since one of his speaking appointments was at the Prophecy Countdown camp meeting we called them and told them that I would be available to speak. However, it was reported to Prophecy Countdown that I would not be attending their camp meeting. It was apparently an accident that Teresa Kendall was in that area having some meetings and talked to Bob and Cindy Welder from Prophecy Countdown. Teresa let them know that I was open to going to their camp meeting and that rumors were rumors to us, until proven otherwise. When John Osborne found this out, Prophecy Countdown immediately called me on the phone and invited me to come to their camp meeting. It was just a few days away, but I said I would come. Because the dates had been changed from what they originally had been I already had other appointments and could not be there on the weekend, but I did attend during the week.
Private and Public Allegations
It was during this same period of time, during the late summer and fall after Marshall's death, that you listed for me a whole series of very serious accusations against John Osborne were given to me along with a list of names of people who could give me more information. Being so busy during that time, I really did not have time to even check them out or do anything about them. At our board meeting last January, although no one spoke to me about it beforehand and it was not on the agenda, a large part of the afternoon was taken up in bringing charges against John Osborne to our entire board of directors. At that time I stated that I had a lot of questions on the comments and statements that had been made. I decided that we were going to be forced, at this point, to do something.
Because the charges now were not now just in private, but to our entire board of directors at an officially called meeting they either stood as endorsed or approved. The charges have to be repudiated or rescinded. We were no longer dealing simply with one person talking to another person about a problem. We were dealing with an officially called board meeting of Steps to Life, which is a ministry that I believe God has called and ordained to do a special work in these last days. And we were dealing with another ministry or the leader of another ministry. This forced us then, to take the time to start getting involved in an investigation..
I must say that this has not been something that has been pleasant or enjoyable for me. Because of the various circumstances surrounding this situation, I have felt compelled to go directly to the sources to ask direct questions concerning various things and information. And frankly, I have asked John Osborne more sensitive and embarrassing questions than I have ever asked of any other human being in my whole life. I hope to the Lord that I never have to do something like this again. It was not my desire to ever do it in the first place, but because of the circumstances developing as I have just described, I felt that I was forced to investigate.
I must now state that as our investigation developed, we could not find objective evidence to substantiate a single charge or accusation that was made. I do not know of one detail that involves John Osborne in any culpability. That does not mean that no mistakes have been made, but when a person has repented, confessed and forsaken sin, we cannot hold them guilty. As far as we have been able to discover, every single one of the charges refers to something that was made right long ago, has been totally false or so terribly distorted that the entire tenor of the accusation or report gives a misleading impression.
I am now in the position where I must go to the next Steps to Life Board meeting and request that all the charges against John Osborne be repudiated. We cannot expect the blessing of God if we allow false charges against a fellow brother to be sustained without evidence and allow his reputation and perceived character to be destroyed unjustly.
I must also say that I have found John Osborne to be one of the most open persons that I have ever dealt with. After the terrible disillusionment, grief and shock that I had as a young man, when I discovered how the “system” worked in the Seventh- day Adventist Church and the terrible hypocrisy involved in the system, dealing with John Osborne has been like dealing with a breath of fresh air. When I asked him questions concerning these various charges involving some mistake or sin in the past, he never covered anything up. He told me exactly what was said or done, what mistake was made or not made, and the entire circumstances. If he said or did something that was wrong it was confessed, if need be, publicly.
Walking as Jesus Walked
Now brother, after a person has confessed that they have made a mistake, repented of it, and asked the Lord to give them victory, and it has been years in the past, and the Lord has given them victory on that point, is it following in the footsteps of Jesus, is it “walking as He walked” (1 John 2: 6) to keep bringing it up? And yet, this is what some keep doing. They keep bringing up things that are long in the past, that were repented of and confessed and forsaken years ago. I would not like for anyone to do that to me. That is not doing to someone else what we would like them to do to us. If we operate on that type of ruling, not a single one of the disciples would have been present at Pentecost or would have been allowed to be a minister in the Christian church. Every single one of them made very serious mistakes.
I can remember instances when high level administrators in our system would not apologize when they had made a mistake. Pride is what keeps us from apologizing. Pride is what keeps us from accepting rebuke and changing. I found that John Osborne was a person who has enough back- bone, who when he has made a mistake, to accept a public rebuke and confess publicly. Now that is one of the marks of a great Christian, in my opinion. When I was down at John Osborne's camp meeting just last week, we did not see everything eye to eye concerning a certain matter, so we prayed and talked it over. The Lord gave us one of the most blessed experiences of unity and working together that I have ever seen.
Candidness and Intensity
John Osborne is an intense individual. He is the kind of a person that whatever he does, he does with his whole being -- with all of his emotions, with all his mind, with all of his heart, with all his zeal. That is not sinful. Jesus' disciples were intense individuals. The leading disciples, Peter, James and John, all had that type of temperament. So there is nothing wrong with that. God has used people like that many times in the past. It appears that King David was also a very similar type of person. We have been able to talk over our differences with enthusiasm, and maybe some people would call it vehemence, but there was no loss of temper or anger by anyone. As I have already stated, (although John Osborne is a very intense person), I have found him to be one of the most open, candid people I have ever dealt with, one who does not try to cover up anything.
After the descriptions I gave in the beginning of this letter, of the type of situations I dealt with in the system or the structure of the Seventh- day Adventist church as a young minister, dealing with somebody that is this candid and open in response to the most sensitive questions that it is possible to ask has been like walking into sunlight.
I now need to make mention of the videos produced concerning “Twisted Tales Untangled.” Some have stated that John has broadsided other special ministries in these videos. I watched the videos and I did not get the impression that the board of directors at Prophecy Countdown was attempting to broadside any ministry. The reason those videos were produced was that lying charges against John Osborne in particular, and against Prophecy Countdown, in general were being circulated all over the world. Materials have been prepared and circulated all over the world in an attempt to destroy John Osborne and Prophecy Countdown Ministry. If an attempt like this was made, with slanderous, libelous materials, against Steps to Life, I would feel duty bound to make a response without allowing our ministry to simply be destroyed without saying anything. If we really believe God has appointed us to do the work we are doing, we would not allow it to be destroyed without at least making an effort to make a protest and to explain and clear the air in the situation. This is what the board at Prophecy Countdown decided in regard to the scurrilous material that has been going all over the country.
Prophecy Countdown has received numerous telephone calls from various places in the world from people that want to find out the situation about the various accusations made against John, so they have called to find out the evidence. The problem that is widely developing is that anybody who takes the trouble to really candidly investigate these accusations and these charges finds out they are not well founded.
Of course, every time John receives a call from somebody that is trying to check out these things they have heard from you, he becomes freshly aware that he is still being criticized. I asked John a couple of months ago, if he would promise not to talk about anything if the others would promise not to talk about anything. John told me that he would be glad to do that. But I can not go to John anymore and ask him not to say anything or reply to anything when he receives fresh evidence from these telephone calls that others are still talking to people about him and making charges and accusations concerning his moral character.
We are headed toward a pitched battle between truth and error with a magnitude of which we can scarcely comprehend. I believe it is of vital importance that the leaders God has chosen to spearhead this work be recognized by God's people on the earth. They have already been commissioned by God Himself. That is clearly evident by the fruit of their ministry. I believe it would be pleasing to the Lord for His church on earth to recognize publicly their divine appointment, just as the church in the days of the apostles did. If the true and faithful Seventh- day Adventists are really being led by the Holy Spirit, I think that recognition would be immediate and prompt. I believe the Lord has already decided the timing of this matter and I do not want to be behind the Lord. Some have expressed reservations about running ahead of the Lord. Personally, lam much more concerned about our very grave danger of falling behind the Lord. Being too late is just as bad timing as being too early.
The Strongest Evidence of a Divine Call
What is the strongest evidence that could be produced that these men have been called and given a divine commission to the ministry that should be recognized by the people of God on earth? Acts of the Apostles, 328 says, “The conversion of sinners and their sanctification through the truth is the strongest proof a minister can have that God has called him to the ministry. The evidence of his apostleship is written upon the hearts of those converted, and is witnessed to by their renewed lives. Christ is formed within, the hope of glory. A minister is greatly strengthened by these seals of his ministry.” This strongest evidence has been produced in both John Osborne and Bob Trefz. According to inspiration there is no stronger evidence that can be produced. There is other evidence that can be produced, but no stronger evidence that can be produced. People coming to the Lord and being baptized and sanctified as a result of these mens' ministry is overwhelming evidence to me. Recognizing their divine call, I would have an unclear conscience if I said, “No, lets just wait or delay or procrastinate.” All we would be doing by that is giving evidence that we were slow to believe and respond to the divine evidence the Lord has given to us.
Great consequences to the cause of God hang on this ordination. I believe it will be a most godly way of protesting the apostasy, in addition to other blessings that it will bring to God's people. The Florida conference disfellowshipped John Osborne for apostasy when he was not even present to defend himself. No charge of apostasy has been sustained against him. I cannot with clear conscience decline from protesting this horrible wickedness. The true and faithful Seventh- day Adventists who are not dead asleep should arise as one man and protest. God has given abundant evidence in the fruit of John Osborne’s ministry as to which side this man is on. It is entirely appropriate, I believe, and not a day too soon for the true and faithful Seventh- day Adventists to solemnly dedicate to God by fasting and prayer and the laying on of hands those whom He has raised up to defend the truth and expose the apostasy of His professed people.
I realize there will always be those who are slow to believe. It is one thing to be slow to believe, but is far more dangerous to try to destroy the very thing God is working to build up. It would have been most appropriate immediately after this unbiblical, despotic disfellowshipping (in the light of the fruits that are already evident in John Osborne's ministry) to have an ordination service right then. But now, after so many months have gone by, it is high time for decided action.
I am not against anyone who desires to spend much time researching the subject of baptism, the church, ordination or whatever they want to research. But I am not willing to sit by and wait until everybody is satisfied with their research on whether or not we are going to baptize someone, when people are ready to be baptized. While lam in favor of others doing as much research as they want to concerning baptism, when I believe people are ready to be baptized I am going to baptize them. The same is true in regard to ordination. This is not some new subject. This is not some new issue, as people are trying to imagine. In the Seventh- day Adventist church, we have believed in ordaining people before there ever was a general conference. We believed in ordaining people to the ministry before we ever had what is now called our “church organization.” It is not something new. It is not some new issue. It has nothing to do with new light or anything of the kind. It is strictly historic Adventism. Ordaining people to the gospel ministry in harmony with the Lords instruction given in the New Testament is something the Christian church has been doing for nearly two thousand years.
Running Ahead or Lagging Behind?
This is not something in which we are running ahead of the Lord, in my opinion. If anything, it is something which we are very far behind the Lord and He is trying to get us to catch up. The question I have to ask myself is, “How hard would the Lord have to hit me on the head before I would recognize that He is trying to get my attention? What would God have to do to get my attention to make me realize that He wants me to do something about this issue?” I hope and pray that the Lord would not have to do something drastic before He would get my attention, before I would think through the situation and begin to respond. One thing I know for sure, I cannot wait until everyone gets their thinking all straightened out on who and what the church is. Some people might not have that figured out when the Lord returns in the clouds of heaven. If the early Christians had been victims of that kind of thinking the apostle Paul never would have been ordained. What would God need to do to convince us that a minister had been given a divine commission to be a minister and should be recognized officially as a minister of the gospel by God's people on earth? What would God have to do to convince us of that?
When I was a young minister, it was expected that a minister would baptize at least a few people every year. In regard to that criterion, at John Osborne’s camp meeting this last Friday night, there was a marvelous outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I was not there, but Bob Trefz told me that everyone that was there said they had never seen anything like it. There was weeping and confession, the Holy Spirit was manifested and there was a call and people came forward— some for rebaptism, some for baptism for the first time. Last Sabbath over fifty people were baptized. I call that a most marked moving of the Holy Spirit. I have talked to people there that have become Seventh- day Adventists through the ministry of Prophecy Countdown. And they are being sanctified. The Holy Spirit is working in their lives. It is a marvelous experience to behold. I have never heard of any Seventh- day Adventist camp meeting anywhere in the world in my life time, where there has been an outpouring of the Holy Spirit of the same nature and extent as the reports I am receiving that happened last Friday night. I am Sony I was not there. I was already in Texas when it happened. The people who were there believe God took control of the meeting and took the reigns into His own hand. There was an outpouring of invitation, reproof and confession among the people that resulted in an experience of pulling together and revival and reformation that was marvelous to behold.
What happened at the Prophecy Countdown camp meeting last Friday night was not of just a human occurrence. It was a supernatural occurrence and it was either from God or from the devil. You can decide which you think it is from, I have already decided where I think it is from. I believe that God is trying to tell us something.
A young man who attended the camp meeting was so under conviction that he left early in the week and went and fasted and prayed for the rest of the week. He returned to the camp meeting on Friday night and said he had a message from the Lord that he had to deliver to have a clear conscience. He was allowed to deliver the message. I do not know all the particulars of it, but it involved both invitation and rebuke. The report I received was that the rebuke was accepted. There followed a wonderful period of confession of sin, of revival, of an invitation, of an acceptance of the call to follow the Lord all the way. People who had been in the valley of decision made up their mind that they were going all the way with the Lord. And a wonderful experience happened that Sabbath when over fifty people were baptized. I call that the moving of the Holy Spirit. I was a little disappointed when you did not seem to be impressed. I was as excited about that as anything I have seen or heard in a long while.
Several days ago there was a member of the Rolling Hills Seventh- day Adventist church who began to have some problem. She went to a physician and was told she had terminal cancer. Obviously, to a twenty six year old woman, this would be a most terrible shock. When she reported it to the Rolling Hills Seventh- day Church they were also in a state of shock and grief at her fate. This last Sabbath afternoon John Osborne and two of his associates from the church went to visit this young lady, prayed for and anointed her. Early this week when she went back to her physician, the physician was in a state of shock. “There's nothing the matter with you, you're completely healed, what happened? I don't understand what happened.” She said, “I can tell you what happened. My pastors anointed me last Sabbath.” When the physician heard that, tears started to roil down his cheeks and he said, “Well, there's nothing wrong with you. You are healed.”
What Would God Have to Do?
Is God trying to tell us anything or not, when we see people being converted, confessing their sin, being baptized, and people who were baptized months ago having an experience of sanctification? It is the very strongest evidence a minister can have that God has called him to a ministry. When we see the Holy Spirit poured out on a group of people; when we see people coming into a state of unity; when we see people choosing to forsake sin and confessing to one another; when we see God performing miracles of healing among His people; and when we see that God is in earnest to bring about a revival and reformation, and the latter rain that could quickly finish up the work on earth, I ask to myself, “Now how much would God have to do before a person would believe?” I can tell you, God has done plenty enough so I believe already. I do not need anymore evidence. I do not have to have one speck more. I believe God has endorsed the ministry of both of these men.
In addition to everything I have mentioned, I could mention that there are, as a result of the videos that these men have produced, thousands of Seventhday Adventists worldwide who are waking up to the situation in the church (the apostasy). And they are waking up to what they need to be doing to prepare for the coming of the Son of Man.
Jesus always rebuked unbelief. He rebuked those who were slow to believe. He never commended them for that trait of character. I do not want to be under His rebuke. I believe the Lord has given us such abundant evidence that He has put His stamp of approval on these men and has given them a divine commission for the ministry that, if I do not respond, I would actually feel that the curse of God was upon me for being so negligent to recognize the working of the Holy Spirit. I do not need any Bible conferences, study groups, or any more discussions to make this decision. It is time for decided action.
If I am an ordained minister of God and see that the Lord has given this kind of abundant evidence that these men are called to the ministry, and don't do something about it, how can I sleep at night and have a clear conscience? I can not do it. We plan (unless the Lord sees that I have misread every signal that I have been seeing, and the Lord decides to rebuke us and to delay or halt our way, which I am fully willing for God to do if we are about to make some terrible mistake) to ordain both of these men on the Sabbath of June 13th, at our camp meeting.
There is one condition under which we would cancel everything for the present. I have talked to John Osborne on the phone about this. I have not talked to Bob Trefz specifically, but I know that he would concur. John Osborne and I both concurred that if anyone showed us, from the Scriptures or from the Spirit of Prophecy a statement that indicated we were making a mistake, we would call everything off. Personally, I do not think anyone is going to find a statement like that, because I think we have done our homework well and are doing exactly what the Lord has asked us to do. But we are open to evidence from the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy.
More on Receiving Counsel
In statements that have been made to me and to others, some have said they have felt very hurt that I, (actually it was not just me it was more that just one person, but some seem to think that it was just me) decided to do this without obtaining their counsel. I need to address that subject briefly.
First of all, the decision was not made by one individual. It was not even made by two or three or four individuals. It was not decided in some closet at midnight sometime, that we were going to try to pull something off. It has nothing to do with anything like that. The decision was made at a public meeting. We had already done our homework. We had a public forum where we had a panel discussion and we looked at the whole subject of church authority. Questions arose about ordination. We had our Spirit of Prophecy books at the front and we read what Ellen White has told us concerning God's plan for ordination of people to the gospel ministry. We read right out of the Spirit of Prophecy about the ordination of Paul and Barnabas and that it was done at the church at Antioch. When we read it we were asked from the congregation, “Well if it was right for the church at Antioch to do, is it right for us to do it here?” We said, “Yes it is.” They said, “Well then, if it is right for us as a church to ordain our pastor would you do it?” We said, yes, we would. I still stand on the same statements I made then, I am not ashamed of what we did. We did not do anything irrational. We did not do anything hurried. We did not do anything secret. It was in a public meeting with approximately 100- 200 people present.
Would anyone care to say in public, “Yes, it is right to do it. The Spirit of Prophecy shows that it is right for you to do it, and you can do it, but I will not have anything to do with it.” Would anyone say something like that? How could a person contradict himself? If it is right— that has been the whole thesis upon which Steps to Life has been built from the very beginning. The only question that we have ever asked is: Is it right? And if it is right then we must do it. Now, it is true that there are times when there is something that is right to do, but God wants you to wait to do it. But in this case the Lord has given us abundant evidence that now is the time. In fact, now it is not early. It is getting late.
I want to make it clear that I counseled with a number of people on this. At Housick Fails, NY late last summer you listed a whole series of accusations and charges against John Osborne. Later at our board meeting in January, the same thing occurred. At the meeting at Hope in February the same thing occurred. And as a result of our board meeting in January. as I have already mentioned previously in this letter, we felt obligated to conduct an investigation into these charges. When we conducted an investigation and found that they were unfounded and could not be sustained with evidence, and I had received these communications at least these three times, do you think I felt you were qualified to give to me unbiased counsel on this subject? Frankly, I did not believe, and I still do not believe that you were qualified to give me counsel that is unbiased on this issue. Now, lam willing to receive counsel from you on other subjects. You are capable of giving me very good counsel on many other subjects, but for some reason, you are so emotionally involved in this issue that you cannot give me unbiased counsel. So I did seek your counsel, and do not intend to seek your counsel on this particular subject. It was no rejection of you as an individuals when I did not seek you counsel. It was just that I needed unbiased counsel. And when you need unbiased counsel, you need to go to someone who is unbiased on that subject.
One day soon we will be at the end of the road, I hope that we are still together. I hope we're both still on the same path.
John J. Grosboll
JG: tk, ht
June 4, 1992
I understand today that you have contacted our office manager and asked him to call a special Steps to Life board meeting to censure me for not obtaining counsel from you and_______ before making this decision.
Did you know that no one can take anything away from me? If there are those that are only seeking to reduce my influence, why don’t we talk about what would be perceived in this world as a real loss? If the Lord permitted my wife and my children to be removed from me and my job and responsibilities at Steps to Life and every material possession was taken away and I were sent out homeless and penniless—an exile or a prisoner with no liberty—if, after “losing” all of this I was sentenced to be slain, I would not consider myself really to have lost anything, because I have dedicated and given all these to the Lord long ago. As long as I have Jesus, I am happy and content, and if the Lord decides that I need any kind of a bitter draft or trial in this world to shape my character for heaven, praise the Lord. It is worth anything and everything to be saved.
I did not choose this crisis, but since I am in it I rejoice at the opportunity of laying everything on the line and am ready to lose all for the Word of God that I believe. I can show to anyone a plain “thus saith the Lord” for what I believe and teach. If you are standing on a plain “thus saith the Lord” you do not need committees, churches, or any conferences for that belief—God has already settled it in His Word. And one man with the truth, can stand against the whole world. It has been done many times, and I rejoice in being allowed to suffer whatever the Lord allows anyone to bring upon me for the sake of the Word of God.
The first time that I saw my brother, Marshall, lay everything on the line for what he believed, I was so electrified that when talking to my parents long distance that same evening, I indicated to them that I had never admired my brother so much as now. He was being persecuted from all levels of the “church organization” for his views about the church, among other things. I knew that these views were supported by the Word of God and I was happy to be able to support him as he laid everything on the line and stood apparently all alone. There was not a single minister on the payroll of the Seventh-day Adventist church, there was not a single evangelist or pastor who would stand with him. The entire organization of the church was apparently opposed to him. If you have the Word of God, a plain thus saith the Lord, on your side, God is always a majority. But in this world the truth is often in Gethsemane or on the cross. After that, I watched Marshall lay everything on the line a number of times. Although I supported him, I now have the high honor and the great privilege to follow in his footsteps and to understand personally, for myself, how it feels to have my closest and dearest friends turn on me and become my most fierce and bitter enemies.
Our decisions have not been made without prayer and counsel of the brethren. Our decisions were not made by a few private individuals—I have an official request from a Seventh-day Adventist church to ordain to two men. These men have probably been evaluated over a longer period of time than any two candidates for ordination in the history of the second advent movement.
You are calling people around the country and attempting to influence them against me and to use their influence to influence my administrative committee against me. Since I started writing this postscript, _______ has called and specifically asked to talk to Ron Reeves. Evidently you have decided that since I will not yield my convictions on this issue, an all-out effort must be made to influence my associates and board members against me. I am not going to engage in this political warfare by trying to influence anybody to stand with me. I want everyone to look at the evidence, pray, and decide on the weight of the evidence.
I openly challenge anyone to compare the fruit of their ministry with the fruit of any other Seventh-day Adventist minister in the United States who is up for ordination this year. We have not done anything in secret. Everything has been open and clear as the day. We are following gospel order for ordination as spelled out in the book of Acts more closely than I have ever seen any conference do. The idea that I should have called a board meeting etc. before making this decision is to required according to the New Testament. The decision rests not with boards or committees of institutions, but with the church itself who is under divine obligation to recognize the divine commission that the Holy Spirit places upon those whom God has chosen to be His ministers, they then have a moral obligation to publicly recognize “their divine appointment.” (AA 161)
A most serious, in fact devastating question could be asked at this point—if we are all being led by the same spirit, why are we having this conflict? Are we sure that everything we are saying, doing and planning is being indited by the Holy Spirit?
Incidentally, when the final decision was made to baptize, it was made by only a few ministers in a very limited amount of time and they did not then, or at any subsequent time ask their boards for permission to obey the Word of God. They did not need to because the decision was based on the Word of God. They had been praying and studying the issue for a long time. You were one of those ministers. At that very time (three years ago) you were willing to ordain men to the gospel ministry at our camp meeting.
If we should get permission from a board to baptize and to ordain, which are based on the Word of God, it is only a short step before we would need to get permission from the board about which day to go to church. When I talked to you about this on the telephone a few days ago, you didn’t see a problem in ordaining Bob Trefz. That is strong evidence that the real objection was not concerning ordination at all, but only whether we should ordain John Osborne. But now, in an effort to block John Osborne’s ordination, you have gone to those who do not hold the New Testament concept of the church, like we do, and united with them in attempting to claim that this needs to be studied out, etc.—that it is a new issue, etc. It may be a new issue for them, bit it is not for us.
If you turn back from the light that you formerly believed, I tremble for you. That is when light becomes darkness, truth becomes error and eventually the door of salvation closes. You and I have watched this happen to others. Are you and I in the time of our personal shaking—in that period of time of our own personal manifestation for a final eternal decision about our destiny? No former experience in my life has given me such a vivid picture of the reality of the judgement of the living. Oh brother, my bowels of compassion go out to you, you have no idea of the affections of my heart toward you.
One day soon Jesus is coming. Over and over in my mind I have asked myself the question the last few days, when it is all over, and I look back at the decisions I made today and the positions I stood for today, will it look like it was all petty and narrow-minded and self-serving? Or will I be glad that I stood up and protested the apostasy? Will I be glad that I was willing to risk everything to support those who were doing everything in their ability to teach and preach the truth and concerning whom the Holy Spirit has borne witness with power? Will I be glad that the commands in the Word of God were the standard that governed my decisions and conduct?
In this world we only know in part. But there, all the perplexities, all the trials we did not understand here will be made plain. I want to have the pleasant memory, that for the entire time of sojourn in this world, I had not feelings but of Christian love and kindness for you and your entire family and by the grace of God I trust that this will always be my experience. “Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it.” Song of Solomon 8:7.
With Christian Affection,
John J. Grosboll