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    Joyfully Growing In Grace engages in an examination of beliefs found in the Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Judaism, and Netzarim streams of thought and related sects.

    The term “Messianic” is generally understood to describe Jews who have come to believe in Yeshua/Jesus as their Messiah. Jews who are believers in Jesus/Yeshua typically call themselves Jewish/Hebrew Christians or simply, Christians.

    Many Christians meet folks who say they are ‘Messianic’ and assume that those folks are Jewish Christians. Most aren’t Jewish at all, but are Gentile Christians who have chosen to pursue Torah observance and have adopted the Messianic term, calling themselves Messianic Christians, adherents to Messianic Judaism, or simply, Messianics. Some will even try to avoid that label and say that they are followers of "The Way".

    These Gentiles (and to be fair, some Messianic Jews) preach Torah observance/pursuance for Christians, persuading many believers that the Christianity of the Bible is a false religion and that we must return to the faith of the first century sect of Judaism that they say Yeshua (Jesus Christ) embraced. According to them, once you become aware that you should be 'keeping' the edicts and regulations of Mosaic Covenant Law, if you do not, you are then in willful disobedience to God.

    It has been my observation that Christians who adopt the label of Messianic identify more with the tenets of Judaism than they do with the tenets of Christianity. Many reject the label of Christian altogether and some eventually even convert to Judaism.

    1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says, "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil."

    Joyfully Growing in Grace examines the methods, claims, and fruits of the Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Judaism, and Netzarim streams of thought and related, law-keeping sects.

    To borrow from a Forrest Gump quote, “Law ‘keepers’ are like a box of chocolates - ya never know what you’re gonna get!” The goal of JGIG is to be a resource to help those affected by the Torah pursuant movements to try and sort out what they’re dealing with. Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

    Be sure to click on the many embedded links within the posts here - there's lots of additional and related information for you to access that way, as well.

    Welcome, and may God grant you wisdom and discernment as you consider all of these things.

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Escape From The Iron-Fisted Worldwide Church of God Cult into The Power and Freedom of Jesus Christ!

It is with a grateful heart that I’ve received yet another testimony.  This one like so many others, came via an email, and is a great blessing to me and to others who contend for the Gospel in the arena with those who pursue Torah.  Many thanks to Mark Smith for the following.  Mark’s story is about coming out of the Worldwide Church of God, from which the Hebrew Roots Movement draws much of its doctrine. 

This testimony will also appear on the Testimonies Page here at JGIG.

If you have a testimony you’d like to share about coming out of the Hebrew Roots Movement (or a variation of the HRM), please email me at joyfullygrowingingrace at gmail dot com.  From talking to those who have come out of Law-keeping sects, I understand that it can be a difficult thing to write about the experience.  Many thanks to those who have been willing to take the time and effort to contribute here.

Keep ‘em coming!  Testimonies are a powerful witness to the Gospel of Christ!  Thank you!

Every blessing, -JGIG


Escape From The Iron-Fisted Worldwide Church of God Cult into The Power and Freedom of Jesus Christ!

by Mark Smith

The following is my testimonial of 18 long years in the Worldwide Church of God (HRM) Cult founded by Herbert W. Armstrong.  For more information on the founder and this cult, simply do some research on Google for more details and the history of the WCG cult.  [Exit and Support Network is a great resource. – jgig]

My father heard the founder’s convincing message in 1964 when I was 3 years old and converted wholeheartedly – my mother went along out of love for my father.  From the age of 3 years old to 21, I was indoctrinated in following and observing all of the old covenant teachings of the Torah/Mosaic law, the holy days and feast days, the Sabbath, plus extra biblical doctrine the founder imposed on us as further bondages and heavy burdens.  As children, we were not allowed to participate in the regular holiday celebrations at school, enjoy birthdays or participate in sports that typically scheduled games on the Sabbath.

While growing up, my father worked hard to support my brothers, sister and I with very little left over after paying income taxes and multiple tithes to the CULT.  For years, my mother would cook simple meals and shop at thrift stores, grow gardens and sew clothes for us to make it – and my father made good money – but gave much of it to support the cult’s “iron-fisted” control to OBEY and PAY!

There was 99 percent law mixed with their exclusive (we have the truth) spin within their doctrine claiming to being the ONLY one with the TRUTH while the rest of the world is lost.  The other 1 percent was teaching on the work of Jesus Christ and His suffering on the cross for our sins which was quickly diminished and perverted by the other 99 percent false doctrine.

Several magazines, books and correspondence courses were the means of being brainwashed and indoctrinated into their (“The”) way of spiritual growth, including fear based manipulation woven into the writings to compel followers into adhering to all the teachings of the founder.  There was the Plain Truth and Good News magazines to pitch to the followers and also to reach out to potential converts on a worldwide scale consisting of modern events, news, prophecy and God’s kingdom to come.

Problem was, there was NO emphasis about salvation in Jesus Christ.

Scripture they used to support the doctrines found in their publications were (TYPICAL OF A CULT) used out of context – and can be clearly discerned and recognized once you DO know the truth that reveals the errant false teachings!  Sin and scandals were common among members including leadership as well as the founder which demonstrated to me that their moral benchmark for godly living was skewed by legalism – NOT having the Holy Spirit moving through TRULY converted people demonstrating the power of the TRUE gospel of Jesus Christ.

Their basis for conversion was the required reading of two NON biblical books written by the founder and then water baptism.  Keeping the Torah’s dietary laws and paying first, second and third tithes filled the cult’s vaults and fueled the propagation of their doctrine worldwide as well as funding a luxurious lifestyle for the founder.  The pastors, deacons and so-called evangelists, did NOT reach people with the “true love of God” but infused control and manipulation that came from the very top – the founder.

The works-based righteousness that I and others tried to walk-in produced the fruit of SELF RIGHTEOUSNESS and a pious, pride-filled life.  Looking back at the fruit of people’s lives, it was clear that the Spirit-filled life of love, joy, peace, patience – etc… was null or void of the fruit that IS evident in a converted person demonstrating the love for God and others.

Falling away or leaving the cult equaled a one-way ticket to the eternal lake of fire.  Powerful, manipulative preaching kept (me) the followers/members in fear and awe that their teaching was OF GOD and somehow anointed.  Once you were a member, you were ensured of salvation within the chosen group of God’s elect, or FACE THE LAKE OF FIRE!!

The real kicker is… their version of the Gospel was what they call the “Good News” – the kingdom of God during the 1000 year millennium to come and that we would all be small gods occupying our own planets – kind of like what the Mormons believe.  Yes, the kingdom of God will be an awesome time, but the cult’s primary focus and doctrine of the kingdom is front and center OVER and above the gospel of Jesus Christ our Savior first… AND His kingdom to come!

Truth is, I don’t remember hearing TRUE solid and sound evangelism about the Gospel of Jesus Christ that would be centered on His redemptive work and the gift of salvation and eternal life through Him!

I left the cult in 1983 after suffering serious emotional and mental anguish about whether I should continue to live under that cults heavy hand or leave since my heart was no longer in remaining as a member.  Fact is I WAS FED UP, and even though I felt that I was condemned at the same time for leaving, I left out of feeling a need to save and salvage my sanity!

Before leaving though, I asked for counseling with my (cult) pastor, who then proceeded to bash me loudly and harshly about being emotional and showed zero compassion and love.  That was all I needed to make my final beeline for the exit door out of that cult once and for all in 1983.

However, my mother went along with it all those years from 1964 until she was fed up and then divorced my father in 1988.  Six years later, in 1994, my father committed suicide due to a complete breakdown from guilt and failure of losing a marriage, and felt like he failed his children, including feeling he was a failure in that cult as a deacon.  His death was extremely heart-breaking to us all… however we felt compassion on our dear dad who was caught in the destructive teachings of a cult.

I don’t remember any of us (my siblings and myself) condemning our father for our childhood… that’s because we know our dad did the best that he thought he could.

My brothers and sister came out of it shortly after I did.  I guess you could say I paved the way to coming out of the cult after many lost years under mind control and manipulation.  My mother drank herself to death in 2009.  My younger sister is not a believer, my younger brother moves all around the country as a vagabond, and my other brother who was a year and half younger is now gone; he died in 2006 from cancer.

I pray for my two remaining siblings that the Lord would reveal to them His Gospel having mercy and grace on them as He did with me.

Several years later, the Lord brought the gospel to me through coworkers and others in the public (thank God for people not afraid to share Christ), yet I vowed never to listen to any man again, but wanted to hear from GOD and GOD only what the truth was.  In August of 1996, I was searching for something to listen to on the radio and heard a man preaching and can’t remember who it was since it was a Christian station with many different teachers and ministers.  I broke my vow to not listen to any man and knew that I just had to keep listening to a new message (the gospel) that spoke to my heart.

Little did I know it was the Holy Spirit drawing me to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, our salvation and the forgiveness of sins that weighed so heavy on me!

After strong conviction from the Holy Spirit regarding my past and present sins, I received Jesus Christ as my Savior and experienced the NEW BIRTH, and started reading the New Testament learning about OUR SAVIOR, about faith, mercy, grace, redemption, sanctification, justification, fruit of the Spirit, love fulfilling the law, Christian living, eternal life to come, Revelation and the Kingdom of God, the message of the Old Testament and the Messianic line along with prophecies of Jesus and so much more!

Now fast forward to the present at 51 years old…

I praise God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ for His glorious love, mercy and grace upon those of us who receive Him and his Word by faith, revealing the wonderful promises to come – from everlasting to everlasting!

Unfortunately, there are several men online that have persevered [known as ‘splinter groups’ – info available at link provided above] and are pitching the teachings of the cult I grew up in.  THEY ARE MISSING the mark big time leading people into bondage.

As the days are growing more troublesome globally, the Lord has laid it on my heart to reach the lost with the (TRUE) message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I thank God for the TRUE warriors in the faith that are battling against and exposing the lies of false prophets and teachers that are everywhere.

Even though I would love to battle solely against cults and false teaching, I can do MORE damage against the evil one and false teaching by SOLELY focusing on preaching the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ which the evil one hates more than anything!

If you are reading this testimony about my life in a Hebrew Roots/Messianic-type cult and don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior… repent and turn to Him, calling out to Him in His name “LORD and Savior Jesus Christ” and believe that He died for our (your) sins, was buried and rose from the dead three days later.

If you’d like someone to pray with you about receiving Jesus Christ, contact the author of this site, or feel free to comment on this testimony.

After receiving Jesus Christ by faith, you will receive the gift and promise of the Holy Spirit and He will reveal to you the truth in His Holy Scriptures about the Godhead – who our Father in heaven is, who His Son Jesus Christ is, who the Holy Spirit is and MORE.  Read the New Testament books to learn about Jesus Christ… the gospel of John is a great place to start and read the other gospel books about Jesus.  Read the rest of the New Testament to understand the wonderful truths of Him and His Word.

I believe the Old Testament is best understood after you receive Christ as your Savior where you will become a new creation in Christ through the regeneration power of the Holy Spirit that will open up your spiritual eyes of understanding for His Word and the entire biblical message of God’s salvation plan for humanity.

Thank you Lord GOD of heaven and earth for this website and your glorious Truth and promises.

Love in Christ our Lord,

Mark Smith


Other Testimonies at JGIG:


Other articles of interest:

For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page.  General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE.  Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE.  Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well.   Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.



22 Responses

  1. This is a ‘ping-back’, meaning that someone has posted this testimony elsewhere. I usually don’t post these, but this ping-back comes from a forum, and there’s some interesting discussion there. You can click on the link to the left to see the discussion.

    […] glorious Truth and promises. Love in Christ our Lord, Mark Smith markbsmith7@yahoo.com Source: Escape From The Iron-Fisted Worldwide Church of God Cult into The Power and Freedom of Jesus Christ!… How many kings step down from their thrones? How many lords have abandoned their homes? How […]

  2. This is beyond sad. So willing to believe any negative report, you fall hook, line, and sinker.

    • So what is it that you’re saying, exactly, eleazer?

    • Well, I’ve heard a lot of stories like this about the WWC back in the day, from dear friends. Armstrong was a false prophet, that much is certain. It is illogical that a false prophet would lead his followers to the truth.

  3. There are a lot of deluded people false teaching garbage in the name of truth. Herbert W Armstrong was a delusional man filled to the brim with delusional ideas.

    • Several of which are incorporated into the Hebrew Roots Movement =o/.

      Same stuff with an Hebraic twist:

      British Israelism – Two House/Ephraimite Doctrine
      Feast Keeping – Feast Keeping
      Sabbath Keeping – Sabbath Keeping
      Law Keeping evidence of salvation – Law Keeping evidence of salvation

      You may think Herbert Armstrong was a delusional man, but if you’re a Two House believing, Feast-keeping, Sabbath-keeping Yisraelite you have a whole lot in common with him =o/.

  4. Wonderful testimony. Please beware that many off-shoots of Herbert W Armstrong still exists today and air on many Christian radio/TV stations. Many air after well known Evangelical ministers. One off-shoot to beawre of is Ronald l Dart’s Born To Win. He has now been cancelled from twenty-three Christian stations. What a shame that many Christians stations have no problem airing Dart and other off-shoots. Dart airs on many Crawford stations. I guess as long as the check clears the bank, many of these cults will air their programs. I have also noticed many Christians get confused with http://www.biblestudy.org with http://www.bible.org Biblestudy.org is many Armstrong offshoots materials. Bible.org is an Evangelical site with many excellent articles. If you are not sure of a ministry, check it out!

  5. I relate to this post absolutely. I grew up in the WCG and experienced so much of this anguish, confusion and fear. I cannot belong to an organized religion now because of this background, but I love God with all my heart and trust there must be a deeper knowledge and compassion to be gained for having seen it.

  6. Yea,I knew WWCOG was bogus after listening to Garner Ted on the radio for a while back in the early 70’s….he would have done better selling used cars

  7. Hi, I need help. My brother keeps on saying, that him and his family are going to be “teleported”, (or raptured,as I know it), to Israel. He has given us 4 dates, so far, between January and April. He is involved in WWCG for almost 30yrs. Do any of you know of this thing coming. They are all preparing to leave everything. I’m worried about his family and scared of a family suicide. He is a very violant person.

    • Hi Karen,

      Sorry to hear about your family. I did a bit of searching on the info you provided; I did not find anything. The WWCG ceased to be many years ago; perhaps your brother is involved with a splinter group that splintered off after the breakup of the WWCG. There is a list of splinter groups here:

      Offshoots & Splinter Groups of Worldwide Church of God

      Their main site is full of good information, as well.

      As for the best way to help your brother, keep sharing the simple truths of the Gospel with him and his family, love them well, pray pray pray, and leave the results to God. The following article may help to give you some comfort about the situation:

      Believers in the Hebrew Roots Movement: Are They Lost?

      Grace, peace, and prayers,

  8. A couple weeks ago a girl approached me in school asking me to come to her bible study. The next day she convinced me to go to her church with her, the same church being talked about in this. They baptized me and told me I could no longer wear my cross, or sign the name of The father, son and holy spirit. I’m scared and confused. They told me that now they are my family, and I am their sister. They said Ahnsahnghong is Christ and that I should now worship him and my mother who I guess is also God and lives in Korea. I dont know what to do. I want to believe in my loving Jesus Christ that I have always known, but these people make me feel loved and accepted and I don’t feel that often. They show me verses in the bible to back up what they say, and it always seems logical. If i leave the group I guess I no longer can go to heaven. They said the Church Of God is my new home, and that I need to worship with them from now on. Something in my gut tells me this is wrong, but it feels SO good to be loved and cared for by these people. I guess i’m commenting on this because a piece of me knows that what you are saying is true, and that i need to leave before it gets worse, but they say they love me, and they honestly seem so genuine.

  9. JGIG – I have been reading with interest the negative effects of Armstrongism on your readers. However, with the apparent conversion of the WCG, departing from the teachings of Herbert Armstrong, to orthodox Christianity since his death, wouldn’t it be appropriate to inform your readers of this conversion?

    • Point taken, and the site that I refer readers to, Exit and Support Network, addresses the history past and present of the WCG and GCI (Grace Communion International) with some caution. I understand that those at ESN may be ultra-sensitive in their examination of GCI, yet they have a page which raises caution regarding GCI.

      I’ve read through some of the GCI site’s articles and they seem to be on target in most areas, though I have not had the time to fully examine the site, so have hesitated to recommend them as a reliable theological site. Articles here and here have thought-provoking comments, but after watching this video and seeing GCI’s response to critics who say they’ve been teaching universalism, I’m developing a deep respect for the journey of their leadership and their commitment to integrity and faithfulness to the Scriptures in what they teach.

      I’m afraid that my hesitancy in putting GCI out there as a valid Grace ministry has been as one in this video noted: “When Barnabas brought Paul to other Apostles, they may have been a bit wary of Saul the prosecutor they knew, and rightly so!” Having watched the testimonies of the leadership of GCI, however, I am much more open to examining their site more closely with hopeful expectations =o).

      That said, I think it’s really important to note that though the WCG has ceased to be as a central entity, a number of (many) splinter groups have carried on the very destructive WCG beliefs and are no less aggressive in their marketing of those beliefs. So while some in the old WCG did embrace Grace, unfortunately, many did not, and carry on Armstrongism with great passion.

      Thank you for your comment – it’s prompted me to do some more research and learn some good things about GCI.

      Grace and peace to you,

  10. First, thank you so much for your story; I’m so happy you’ve discovered the freedom you have in Christ!

    I’ve recently developed a relationship with a man I met online. He listed himself as a Christian who reads his Bible daily and attends church weekly. I realized over time that he doesn’t believe at all what I thought he did. He is a member of one of the fundamentalist splinters of the Church of God. I’d never even heard of this cult before I met him, so it’s all very strange to me.

    I’m heartbroken. I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy this man for many different reasons. However, I’m very troubled that he is caught up in this cult. Two things bother me the most.

    First, he is an engineer who works about 50 hours a week. I would expect he would have plenty of funds, yet he lives in a single-wide trailer on a tiny rented piece of property. His neighborhood is bad; he is surrounded by known drug dealers and parolees. He paid less than a thousand dollars for each of his three cars (he has three so he can always be reasonably sure that at least one will be working at all times). He was very distressed when he had to pay just $100 in repairs on one of his cars to get it running again. He’s told me salmon is his favorite food, but he rarely eats it because it’s so expensive. He thinks I’m being very extravagant when I cook it for him. Either he is remarkably frugal, or the church is sucking up all of his disposable income.

    Perhaps more troubling is his perception of his relationship with God. He won’t come right out and say that he will lose his salvation if he doesn’t observe the required rituals, but he does say that “God wouldn’t be very happy” with him. He claims it’s different for me because I haven’t “received the message” that Christians need to do these things. I pointed out that he has given me the message and asked what my standing is now. He hemmed and hawed and didn’t really answer. The weirdest thing is his confusion whenever I say things like: “I prayed about such and such and God guided me to read X passage”, or “I was worried about this or that, but God reassured me and comforted me”. To me this is the normal Christian life. To him it’s incomprehensible. I get blank looks or he seems uncomfortable or confused when I tell him these things.

    So I finally come to the point: what do I do? I’m very distressed about the whole thing since I’m beginning to love and care about this person. I don’t see how this relationship can work, so I’m pretty sure I’ll have to end it. But I’m worried about him; he’s been in the church for a long time; he’s 39, grew up in the church, and seems to not really think about what he believes. He just gives the “party line” answers when I question him. Do you think there is a possibility that he is a Christian, just a very misled one? What would be the best way for me to speak to him about it so that maybe he would start to question and reconsider? Or do you think that’s even possible?


    • Hi Rachel, welcome to JGIG =o).

      You ask what do you do, and answered the question in the next sentence. I won’t say that you’re unequally yoked, because if you’re both in Christ, you are equally yoked on that level. That said, not everyone who is in Christ is compatible as marriage partners – YOU DO have a choice about who YOU spend your life with! And it sounds like you’re recognizing some clear red flags that tell you this is not the man for you on several levels.

      As for his belief system, be faithful to share the simple Truths of the Gospel with him:

      – Who Jesus is
      – What He came to do
      – What that actually accomplished, and
      – Who those in Christ are in Him

      Ending the relationship could of course make continuing to share with him a non-issue – that’s something you will need to choose to be content with – to be a piece to this man’s puzzle and be content to walk away trusting that God will bring other ‘pieces’ together for him to come into Grace. And that’s God’s deal, not yours =o).

      Grace and peace to you,

  11. I have a sister who is COG. She is unforgiving and quite hostile toward me. I asked her to forgive me for problems in our relationship in the past amd she said my words were cheap! I knew her attitude shows me her lack of understanding the most important message in the Bible and that message is forgiveness..our Lord Jesus Christ gave his life so that with our faith in this sacrifice and repentance for our sin we are forgiven. I believe the COG members truly believe they are a superior class of people. So sad…I pray for her often that she will come out of this cult.

  12. I also grew up in wwcg. From the time I was 5 until I was 14 and left. I could tell you stories that would make your head spin. It was a living hell. Although I believe in and love God very much, I have never belonged to a church since. I pray and talk to God from my home, much safer.

  13. I also grew up in WCG (my family joined in 1976), but my story is a little different. I was lucky, although the teachings were what they were, my family were very balanced and I feel no negative feeling towards the church, except sadness for all those (including my family) who were deceived and believed in that deception. I don’t understand to this day how they read the bible and believed what they believed. Armstrong’s doctrine just doesn’t make sense to me. There were positives to growing up WCG. I made life long friends, who are all christian and attend various different churches not associated with WCG/GCI. I enjoyed SEP and all the activities the teens got to participate in. We travelled all around the country visiting other churhces, meeting new people and doing activities that my school friends didn’t believe I actually did. Our pastors were pretty normal and yes they preached the Armstrong message but they were not bullies. I know there were some horror stories out there, but for some of us it was not like living in a horror story. When we left my parents were never bitter about the money they tithed to the church. To them it was just money and they chose to give it. We were not rich and we lived simply. We couldn’t afford a lot, but they still don’t begrudge it. They were just happy to understand the bible in a new light and discover the real message of salvation. I think once your have experienced the pull of a cult and that sense of belonging, and come out of it you use it as a blessing to be more discerning and prove things for yourself before signing up for the next popular belief or joining that enticing group.

    I hope everyone who struggles with memories of their life in WCG is able to move on and let go. Our parents did the best they could and we should be thankful we know better and no longer deceived.

  14. Great testimony! I don’t know who Mark Smith may be, but getting out of WCG while one still has their sanity is the best thing anyone could’ve done. My mother joined this group with her two brothers, sister and a couple friends around 1979. Worst mistake they could’ve ever made. Once they were kicked out in the mid 80s for questioning their local congregation’s policies, including breaking one of Armstrong’s rules about not going out to eat on the Sabbath after service if the sun was still up, my two uncles and aunt gradually dropped WCG’s policies while my mom and her two friends held onto them. Needless to say, Armstrong’s rules tore mom’s family apart. As a result, even some of her maternal relatives stopped talking to her as much. They would go years without seeing each other and my poor grandmother was in the midst of it all. If it wasn’t her siblings fighting each other, it was mom and her siblings fighting. And before I close this post, there may have been other dark secrets on mom’s side of the family even before they joined WCG. WCG just made things worse.

    To make a long story short, due to my mom continuing to keep Armstrong’s policies well after she was dis-fellowshipped, she eventually became mentally unstable in 2010. Afterwards, I realized being raised in “the truth” was for nothing. As much as I wished she could’ve came to her senses, it’s too late for that now.

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