As the weather gets warmer in Edmond, we look forward to a special time of year: graduation! Among all the events that take place on campus, Herbert W. Armstrong College graduation is one of the brightest highlights of the year.
The college is now in its 15th year, and it continues to provide a major boost to God’s Work. The Philadelphia Church of God currently employs 209 people at headquarters; 128 of them are under 30. Dozens of them are students and alumni, and these workers are performing critical tasks on a daily basis for God’s Work. There are loads of opportunity for young people in God’s Church!
God used the college’s namesake to raise up the sixth era of His New Testament Church. Herbert W. Armstrong started from scratch, both in terms of doctrines and in resources. He strove and struggled and sacrificed to learn God’s truths, one by one, and to preach them with increasing power, little by little.
“We reached the crossroads,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in his autobiography. “This was to be the real test. Ahead, now, was the possible transition from a small, struggling, virtually one-man work to a major-scale organization exerting a powerful influence on humanity the world around! Ambassador College was to provide the only possible means. It was to be the recruiting and training center, integrating into effective organization those whom God would call to surround me—to become this Christ-led and Spirit-powered organism. …
“Without the college, the work of thundering Christ’s gospel around the whole world could not have been possible. It could never have gone around the world. It was the development of the college in Pasadena that made possible the growth of the whole gospel work!”
Mr. Armstrong also made this bold statement: “The growth of the gospel work has directly paralleled the development of Ambassador College!”
Mr. Armstrong raised up colleges in California, England and Texas. Their purpose was to prepare and train young laborers. Before that, God’s Work had been hindered by a shortage of manpower. It needed more supporters educated in the way that Mr. Armstrong, the end-time Elijah, was educated.
The world urgently needs Christ’s message. God’s Work urgently needs laborers to help proclaim that message (Matthew 9:37-38). And God’s Work needs trained young people to support or replace the older.
Herbert W. Armstrong College has grown remarkably over 15 years. Now it has two campuses. This growth and these blessings show that God has a special interest in His young people.
A World Cut Off
Few understand this, but this world is cut off from God. This is plainly revealed in Genesis 3:22-24, when, after Adam and Eve sinned, God expelled them from the Garden of Eden and closed them off from “the way of the tree of life.”
Even mainstream Christians do not understand this truth. Mr. Armstrong himself wrote, “Even in these past 58 years I had not fully and clearly realized the significance of the fact revealed in Genesis 3:22-24—that, in fact, God had closed the Holy Spirit and eternal life to mankind in general until the removal of Satan at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ” (Mystery of the Ages). God purposefully cut off the vast majority of human beings from the possibility of knowing Him.
“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day,” Christ said in John 6:44. Throughout history, God has only called a select few into His Church. There is no other way to connect with Him. The entire world is cut off from God except for a tiny few. Those who have God’s rare calling need to comprehend how special it is!
In a July 28, 1979, sermon, Mr. Armstrong spoke powerfully about this, directly to the teenagers. “Now even our members don’t understand that!” he said. “I can’t pound that into even our own members! God has revealed that to me, and I want you to get it! I want you to understand it! I want you to believe it! God has not called people just for salvation! God is going to call everybody for salvation in the end.”
This was the message Mr. Armstrong had for the youth of God’s Church at the 1979 Summer Educational Program! He was trying to tell God’s young people that they held a rare and special calling, a calling not just to escape from world troubles, but to do a job—to do His Work.
A Special Category
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy” (1 Corinthians 7:14). This is a crucial verse. Unbaptized children of converted parents are not themselves converted, but neither are they cut off like the rest of the world. They are “sanctified,” or set apart. They are holy!
“While other people—not members of the true body of Christ—and all other children are cut off from access to God, your children—if you are a truly converted member of God’s Church—can believe in Christ—are not cut off from God—and much of God’s truth, even though as yet too young to be converted. But they are a special treasure to God!” Mr. Armstrong wrote in a September 1979 Good News article “Your Children—Future Gods?”
“Brethren, God’s Church is not showing even half the growth it should have from the oncoming generation of our members,” he continued. “This shows we have neglected the teaching of our children! When God has called you for special service in loyally backing the proclaiming of the gospel to the world by God’s Church, He intended that your children should also be called and enter into the work of God’s Church.”
God has an exciting future ahead for His young people—a future of contributing to His Work through their education, their skills, their aptitudes, their interests, their faith and their prayers.
At the end of his long life, Mr. Armstrong put a renewed focus on developing young people—through Ambassador College, Imperial Schools, Summer Educational Program; he added Youth Opportunities United, Youth Educational Services and Youth magazine.
These initiatives fulfilled a key prophecy: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6).
In this passage, what are the distinguishing characteristics of Elijah? That he would meet world leaders? That he would write and broadcast to millions? No. That he would turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers. How important family is to God!
The Sin of Neglect
In that same sermon to the youth camp in 1979, Mr. Armstrong explained that the Church was going forward with a new program that would help parents get closer to their children—that would help them counteract Satan’s powerful influence.
“God has a very special interest in teenagers,” Mr. Armstrong said. “And I’m afraid we haven’t been cognizant enough of that fact in the past. I know that when my daughters were young, and I was first converted, my whole mind was on the Bible and the things I was finding there. And somehow I don’t think I had enough time for my children …. [M]y time was so filled up with the Bible and getting the Work of God going, and things like that that I didn’t have the time that I should have taken.”
Later, he said, “After my original Bible study that resulted in my conversion, I was so overwhelmingly interested in the Bible and the new knowledge that God was opening to me, that, well I thought I was giving time to my two sons as they came along, and also, to the daughters who were 10 years older than they were. But, I know that I wasn’t giving them anywhere near the time that I should.”
When he gave that sermon and that very humble admission, Mr. Armstrong was 87 years old. He was old enough to be a great-grandfather, and busy enough to consume his time with only “mature adult things.” But he was focused on young people! This is when he put a huge emphasis on the Church’s youth programs.
“I am very thankful that the time has come that God’s Church is going to take a new interest in parent-and-children relationships, and in the relationship of the children of our parents in the Church,” he said.
Think on this. The Worldwide Church of God had been around for nearly five decades before Mr. Armstrong fully realized the critical importance of reaching the youth! How easy is it to brush this responsibility aside in favor of digging into the Bible or speaking with our adult peers.
In another sermon, given on Oct. 15, 1981, Mr. Armstrong corrected parents for neglecting their children. They were just sending them off to school and letting the teachers take care of everything. “Let me tell you,” Mr. Armstrong warned, “Satan is not neglecting your children! He goes to work on them when they’re, well, a few days old. By the time they are seven-, eight-, nine months old, they already have been infused with the spirit of selfishness.”
“Satan isn’t neglecting your children,” he said again. “Are you? Too many of you neglect your little children. You think you don’t need to teach them anything. But Satan is getting into their little minds as fast as their minds develop.”
Consider this strong admonition from Proverbs 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” This is especially true in the end time. Satan is cast down to Earth, full of even more rage and hate, and he is constantly on the prowl for unsuspecting minds.
Mr. Armstrong wrote another powerful article in the April 1982 Plain Truth: “What’s Wrong With the Younger Generation?” In it, he said that parents today simply do not realize the grave dangers facing our children.
“Never has the pathway of youth been paved with so many temptations and pitfalls—and strewn with so many moral casualties—as today. Never has the responsibility of child rearing and parental guidance and training been so grave,” Mr. Armstrong wrote.
“You who are parents—if you love your children—do not underestimate the danger. The school influence—the outside influences—all must be counteracted. The responsibility falls squarely upon the shoulders of you parents.”
And yet, he went on to write, “The alert, watchful, thinking parent need not be alarmed. The danger lies in ignorance, in laxity and in blinding the eyes to existing facts and conditions. Don’t underestimate the influences your children will be called upon to face” (emphasis added).
Ephesians 2:3 reminds us that before we were converted, we “were by nature the children of wrath.” Each of us is an incomplete spiritual creation, even after we have received the earnest of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in us. But our young people do not even have God’s Spirit dwelling in them yet. They need lots of help!
“Children who are in the Church of God are in a separate category, and they are not cut off from God, and it means that the parents can—if they will, if they do—they can counteract what Satan is doing,” Mr. Armstrong said in that 1979 youth camp sermon. “And just like the Spirit of God in Jesus counteracted it so that Jesus never committed a sin, parents can teach their children in such a way, and keep so close to them that they can more than outmatch Satan and all that Satan is doing.”
It is our job to help them come to recognize the harsh reality of Satan’s world. It is our job to help them see the incredible opportunities that come from living God’s way of life. It is our job to help them see that God’s Work needs them!
The Modern Dating booklet states: “Yes, sadly, too few parents take an active interest in the really tremendous drives and compulsions placed upon their children in early school years. They just don’t talk to their children about their school lives. They don’t make it their business to find out about their desires, hopes, dreams or emotional entanglements.
“And so the teenagers are left to fend for themselves. Struggling to act like adults when they are neither physically or mentally adult, many teenagers develop habits, personality traits and even postures which mark them for the rest of their lives.”
Study your children. Do not neglect their needs in favor of flipping on the television after a long day of work. Do not even prioritize serving in the local congregation over your own children. They have a deep and gnawing hunger for a sense of belonging, especially within their own families. If we parents don’t fulfill this greatest desire, they will go elsewhere to find it! That is why the sin of neglect is so deadly.
The responsibility lies with us!
Train Up a Child
In “What’s Wrong With the Younger Generation?”, Mr. Armstrong urged parents to take an interest in their children’s interests. Get and hold their confidence, he said. “Try to understand their point of view. You may need, tactfully and wisely, to help them alter it. Get them to confide in you, and make them want to come to you with all their problems and troubles.
“Don’t be ashamed to teach them frankly, yourself, the sacred and holy mysteries of sex—teach them young—before they become informed in a wrong way from other children. Ignorance of these matters is their worst handicap—knowledge, if imparted in a right and sacred way, is their greatest protection. Virtually all wrongdoing, of every possible nature, is merely a result of lack of understanding!
“Above all, teach your child self-discipline. Teach him to resist inclination and impulse—to do what he ought to do, instead of what he wants to do.”
Our children are not immune to Satan’s influence and to the vices that other children have.
A teacher at our K-12 school, Imperial Academy, told me recently that many of his students fail to consistently turn in their daily homework assignments. That is alarming. Early last year, my father, who founded Imperial Academy and Armstrong College, found it necessary to ban smartphones for students at both schools. If you are a parent of an Imperial or Armstrong student, do you diligently enforce this ruling? Do you supervise your child’s Internet usage?
Children will not automatically grow in character just because they are in God’s Church. It takes a lot of work, and most of that work falls on you, the parent! Your child’s well-being and future depends on whether you are willing to spend the time to turn your heart to your children, and to turn their hearts to you.
Does your child turn in his schoolwork inconsistently? Does he struggle to carry on a conversation with an adult? Do his interests remain immature? Does he have problems paying attention during Church services?
All children struggle with growing in maturity, but they don’t have to fail. They have you! And you have God’s truth!
“Bring your children up in sound Bible doctrine—it is the one best protection against all forms of temptation and evil in all the world,” Mr. Armstrong continued. “Teach the children to understand. Explain the why of Christian doctrine. It is reasonable, rational—don’t let them regard it as something foolish or silly. Let them realize that a true Spirit-filled Christian life is a full life—a happy life—a joyful life—a peaceful life—a life of power, of strength, of service, of accomplishment” (ibid).
If your child is struggling, immerse him or her in the Bible. Ignite a passion for God’s Word! You will be amazed at how fast children can mature after a few weeks of focused Bible study. At first, they will not naturally enjoy it. But help them build the daily, consistent habit, and the love for Scripture will come.
Satan’s world is a minefield for children. But Mr. Armstrong’s words give hope, as does Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Deuteronomy 6:7-9 give you the strategy to defeat Satan as he tries to kidnap your child: “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
Teach your children about the Bible constantly. In Deuteronomy 11:18-21, God commands us never to forget His teachings, and then to pass that life-saving truth on to our children!
Go For the Goal
God wants our children to struggle against Satan. He wants them to resist the pulls of the flesh. He expects them to battle the gravitational pull of peer pressure. But He also wants something else for them: “that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
As you turn your heart to your child, remember this: God’s way of life is the abundant life! It does require hard work. It does require spiritual and mental combat. But it is abundant! God wants to give our children exciting challenges. He wants us to push our children to succeed. He wants them to have direction, vision, goals. He wants them to learn instruments, play sports, participate in clubs, work jobs—He wants them to grow! He wants you to give your child a thorough and useful education, not just in the classroom, but in life.
“Education comes from study—from books—from lectures—from contacts—from travel—from thinking about what you see and hear and read—and from experience,” Mr. Armstrong wrote in his autobiography.
Guide your child through his or her education. Do not make the mistake of handing off the training and teaching of your child to teachers and administrators at a local school or social organization. Your child’s education is your responsibility.
Think about where you want your children to be years from now, and teach your children to think about it. Cultivate vision (Proverbs 29:18). Help your children build a gold-standard work ethic to reach their goals. Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Ambition is not only the desire, but the determination and the will to achieve the desired goal” (ibid).
Our children must learn to embrace trials and setbacks on the path to greatness (Romans 5:3-4). Some of the most beneficial life lessons come from failure.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4; Revised Standard Version). It is your responsibility to avoid trying to force God’s way onto your children in a manner that provokes wrath and rebellion. And it is also your responsibility to constantly work with them, discipline them and instruct them in God’s way so that they ultimately choose it for themselves!
In “What’s Wrong With the Younger Generation?”, Mr. Armstrong wrote: “The adolescents of today have hungry minds and hungry hearts. Their fate lies in our hands.
“Let’s not make the fatal mistake of thinking we can steer them safely from the shoals of worldly temptations merely by saying: ‘Don’t dance! Don’t go to movies! Don’t smoke! Don’t drink!’
“Their starved emotions, their pent-up energies, are going to find an outlet, one way or the other. … If you don’t give your children something constructively better, they will dance, they will drink, they will dissipate, in spite of you.”
Now get this: “If we don’t want them to fall victim to this world’s tawdry imitations,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “then we must show them the real thing.” Satan’s way is seductive, it is easy, it is tempting—and it is a miserable imitation! The real excitement, the real fulfillment, the real fun is God’s way! God’s way is the real thing!
That is what you must help your child see. It takes time and effort, but it’s the truth, and it’s worth it.
Our Children: Future Leaders
God ordained the institutions of marriage and family as an exact type of the exclusive body we can belong to on the spiritual level.
The royal marriage between Christ and His Bride makes possible the birth of all mankind into the Family of God! God is a family! Families are established through marriage—that is why God instituted marriage from the very beginning (e.g. Genesis 2:18). As parents, our children are the fruit of our labor. They are our legacy. The God Family legacy has already begun with our own physical families.
“Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth” (Psalm 45:16). The key words in this verse are thy and make. God expects parents to make their children princes and princesses!
God says our children will be remembered for all eternity (verse 17). Our young people are going to step into royal positions in the World Tomorrow. “We must continually remind our young people that they are God’s princes and princesses of the Earth,” my father wrote in The Key of David. “But they won’t remain princes and princesses. They are to become God’s kings of the universe! The most exalted calling in all eternity! They must be taught and encouraged to uphold that royal standard—act like God’s royalty today.”
Parents: If our job for all eternity is to teach and demonstrate God’s way of life to billions of spiritual children, shouldn’t we be passionate about fulfilling that purpose with our children on the human level?
“The key of David vision represents God’s plan for all mankind. It is not just for the adults of God’s Church; it is a message also for the youth. …The main lesson we need to get across to our young people is how to live the rich and abundant life now” (ibid).
That is the commission for parents in the Church. How rich and abundant are the lives of our young people in the Church? We have to inspire our young people with the education, the opportunities, the blessings God is offering them!
In the World Tomorrow, our cities will have been laid waste by nuclear destruction. Millions of acres of desert wasteland will need to be converted into usable farmland with rich soil. Converted adults will then be resurrected, glorified king-priests. Our unbaptized children will remain on Earth as flesh-and-blood humans to handle all these physical challenges.
“They are going to be the ‘young adults’ who, in the physical realm, will have to lead the world!” the April 1960 Good News says. “The kind of world leadership under the great Family of God that is done then will depend largely upon our training of our children now! Their character and, for that matter, whether they will be in the beginning of the Millennium depends on you—right now! … Their character is in your hands!”
Our young people will be the only humans to live God’s way of life before and after the Great Tribulation! As such, all people will look to them for leadership (Zechariah 8:20-23).
Our young people will be the first generation since Adam and Eve with the chance to build a perfect society! (Genesis 2:8-9, 16-17). They will be the first generation in the physical realm to get it right—to choose God over Satan!
“We will teach the world what God taught us through Mr. Armstrong—and a great deal more,” my father wrote in Isaiah’s End-Time Vision. “God’s colleges will be established all over the world. Multiple millions of Church congregations will be established. We will fill this Earth with God’s truth!”
In a sermon on March 10, 1984, Mr. Armstrong said, “There is no part of this Work that, I can see now, is more important than our work with the youth. … You know, when the new world comes, the World Tomorrow, we’re not going to just have all the perfect utopia that we think about and talk about immediately. It’s going to take time. And it is going to have to start with the little tots and with the children, with the youth and the young people. And by the time they grow up, we are really going to have utopia. We’re going to have to start while they are young.
“You hear a real good piano player, and I can tell you every time that piano player started when he was still quite a child—anywhere from 6 to 8 to 9 years of age. Many things you can do well if you start when you are young. And if you are going to live the kind of life you ought, and if you are going to be the kind that God wants us to be, and the kind that will bring happiness, peace, prosperity—everything good and everything we want—to this Earth, we’re going to have to start at the beginning.”
This is the vision behind our child rearing. Start raising the leaders of tomorrow—today.