Where is the True Church?
No one wants to harbor the thought that they may have been deceived and betrayed by a false prophet or religious fraud who claimed to be "God's Apostle" or "God's Prophet"1 and who said his church was "God's only true Church" with "absolute truth." No one wants to become a member of what they believe is the "true church of God," only to find out later that they were lied to. To be deceived and spiritually abused in such a manner destroys our view of the world, of ourselves (as being competent to make right decisions), and our view of a God whom we felt we knew and trusted. Neither does anyone want to end up realizing the Scriptures were twisted for the purpose of controlling and financially exploiting them. It's much easier to deny part (or all) of what may have happened and go on searching for "the truth," "the true church, or "God's true church."
Before anyone decides to join one of these organizations, they should stop and look at the similarity in how they all proclaim to have "the truth" that no other church has.2 Examine the psychological methods they use. Does the leader use fear, guilt, and shame in order to get members to comply? Do they teach that you can only find eternal life through what they are teaching and by being in their group? Do they place a lot of emphasis on end time prophecies, proclaiming that only their church is getting out the true gospel or the restored gospel to the world? Do they say you must obey "the government of God" (even being willing to die for it) or else you will be cast out of their group? Are they secretive with where their finances are going? (not having any financial accountability) Has the leader given false prophecies? (Remember, it only takes one false prophecy to make someone a false prophet.) Do they offer you "the truth," "the true way," "inner secrets," "the purpose of life," "the mystery of the ages," "advanced knowledge," "revelation," or similar alluring things such as "prosperity" or "success" if you do certain works? Do they assert that they are God's "end time church," the "remnant of the one true church," the "continuation of the true church," or similar words? Do they claim to be "God's Apostle" or Prophet? Do they teach God is working through them alone and only they possess certain "truths" that others don't have? If so, beware, because if you aren't in their church, they believe you are "lost" and "deceived by Satan."
Don't be afraid to read what have others written or testified about a certain group or its leader. Don't just assume it is "Satan's lies." Take time to examine the life and history of the founder and the organization (the true fruits). Jesus said you will know them by their fruits. This goes far beyond believing that "none of us is perfect" and "God can use anyone." Read our article, "None of God's Servants Were Perfect" (for those who like to use this reasoning). Find out if the group's gospel really lines up with Scripture. This doesn't mean relying on the group's free Bible correspondence course to "prove" what they say is true. In almost all cases, the "answers" given are based on Scriptures which are taken out of context, and are doctrines which were borrowed, or plagiarized, from other false prophets/teachers, who in turn copied from others before them.
Believing there must be a "one true church of God" or "true church" which alone has the "true gospel," or "all the truth," or "all the answers," is known as "black and white thinking." There are many such groups in society, yet upon close examination we find that their belief system and methods of control are very similar. They speak of "the Kingdom," "the Work," "the Truth," "the millennium," "the end-times," "the elect," "God's Apostle," etc., and those who don't adhere to all of the leader's words are thrown out and shunned.
There is no church in existence today that has every doctrine or practice perfect. Only abusive, totalistic Bible-based cults (a.k.a. mind manipulating, high demand groups) proclaim such.
When we get caught up in "where is the one true church?" we can end up down a blind alley that will lead us further and further away from the true God of the Bible and His gospel of grace. Those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ alone as their personal Savior are already in the "true church." (I John 5:13) An individual does not have to become a part of, or join, a specific church or denomination in order to receive eternal life.
Pray for discernment, wisdom and guidance, and that you will not be led into error, as you read the Word of God (without the group's literature). Seek to know more about the Person of Christ Jesus, His all sufficient propitiation for our sins revealed in His death, burial and resurrection, not about certain "truths" or "new revelations" that some man or church tells you that they have.
By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
November 22, 2005
Last updated November 23, 2010
"...the truth is in Jesus." ~Ephesians 4:21
A Pull to Be in the "One True Church" (2011 letter to ESN)
True Original Church/Faith Once Delivered (Proof Herbert Armstrong Lied About the "Lost" Church Century)
Note about Ellen G. White (co-founder of Seventh-day Adventism and a group that HWA is known to have plagiarized / copied from) where she claims the "Truth" was revealed to her directly by God.
Spiritual Abuse Questionnaire (Questions To Help Identify Specific Areas of Spiritual Abuse, Deception, and Fraud) [offsite article]
1 Philadelphia Church of God (a major offshoot of Worldwide Church of God) believes that Herbert W. Armstrong fulfilled the prophesied role of "God's end-time Elijah." ("Elijah Has Come Already," Philadelphia Trumpet, July 1995) (HWA implied he was the "Elijah to come" in Mystery of the Ages, p. 9-18. Several statements by HWA claiming to be "God's Apostle" or "Christ's Apostle" are quoted here.) Gerald Flurry of PCG claims to be That Prophet.