4/09/2011

Gone With The Wind: It's Springtime!

Springtime at Tara


It's Springtime! Vagaries of the winds of war in the Churches of God are beginning to subside. Member allegiances, ministerial alliances, ownership of church real estate, territory and property continue to coalesce. Division of the spoils of the UCG-COGaWA war and reconstruction of what is left is on the horizon, if not already here. 

After the war - with money at such a premium, what better time is there to restart UCG's website. United's tattered, old website is getting laid to rest, while a new and improved UCG website gets debugged, ready for action.  

Here's the new UCG website marketing strategy, guaranteed to start high school dropout, adman and WCG founder Herbert W. Armstrong spinning in his grave, at warp speed:




UCG requires a validated email to register for their new website features, such as personal profile creation, connecting with website chat features, or messaging. It says that they "will NEVER give away your information to anybody else - we promise!". (Ed: Does "NEVER"  include not giving it away to that soon coming Assyrian-German army, invading to spank the United? Ouch!


Some new UCG website features:

  • · Website user accounts.
  • · Author pages with bio information, photo and content produced by that author.
  • · Online chat with other website user account friends.
  • · Better search engine.
  • · Mobile version.
  • · MP3 recordings of various booklets and publications.
  • · Recipe section (biblically clean).
  • · Commenting on posted content. (They can't really mean this, can they?)
  • · UCG congregation finder (by zip code). 
  • · Highest UCG contributors by zip code, congregation or pastor. (No, not really.) 
  •  · Ministerial salaries, bonuses and benefit payouts by rank or longevity. (Is that asking too much?) 

In this new website religious marketing scheme, UCG membership are expected to "encourage" one another, or anyone else that shows up at the website, forming a sticky glue of online connections.  Every relationship click to click to click of all 5,000 members of the UCG can be tracked, documents downloaded, database inquires analyzed, tithe records checked, online chat buzz monitored for dissident views. What's next, UCG online disfellowship? 

What UCG really wants to know is what happens when someone completely new shows up at the website; how much it costs and how long it takes to get them seated in a folding chair, loyally tithing every Saturday. One problem with that UCG church growth scenario is that Herbert W. Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong and the UCG's predecessor church, the Worldwide Church of God is now a failed and tarnished brand in the religious landscape. The Internet has a long and detailed memory of the fraudulent disaster that was Pasadena, back in the WCG's "good old days". 


8 comments:

Douglas Becker said...

Oh darn! And me just now figuring out Mega Menu navigation! For the site refuting British Israelism using DNA!

Time will tell, but I failed to see anything in those topics relating to mental illness and I think that is a significant oversight, given that the entire religion is based on an insane psychotic premise.

So we've upped the technological stakes. Does this mean that the minimum access to the site will require an Intel I7 Q720 with Windows 7 64bit? Will it be better seen on i-pad or in Internet Explorer 9 or Google Chrome 10?

This is all part of the over all push to preach using the Internet and hopefully reach China. I expect that will go as well as their push to go to India five years ago.

The question remains, who is the real target audience? Are they lapsing into an incestuous relationship dedicated to their own more prosperous members to get them to fantasize that they are doing great things to get out the gospel, when, in fact, they are only impressing themselves?

What of the gospel going to those in third world countries, such as are now served by the Seventh Day Church of God publication, The Herald of Truth?

And just think of virtualizing church services replete with all those wonderful Armstrong hymns! You don't have to go anywhere! You can stay and home and fellowship with all the other members online! No human contact necessary! It certainly saves a lot of money that would be wasted renting halls and even getting those Feast site contracts!

May 2011, eh? Too late to cancel the Feast sites for this year, but what with gasoline getting to be $4.00 per gallon just by May, think of the chaos it will be by 2012! Cancel the Feast sites! Stay at home and keep the Feast! One wonders how virtual footwashing will work!?!

Ah, the technological wonders for those who are rich and increased in hardware / software and have need of nothing!

The handwriting seems to be on the wall. The handwriting isn't about going to an all technological virtual church preparing a virtual people.

The handwriting on the wall has everything to do with being measured and found wanting.

I doubt virtual repentance is going to be acceptable.

Stan said...

Doug,

Churches of God love to brag and spin tall tales about delivering so much of what they have to say on the web, because it's a major cost cutter for a television and AM radio based church. Printed literature is very expensive to buy and mail. Television is getting less affordable with the spendable dollars that remain.

Now it's possible to get all of Armstrong's formerly secret beliefs out in the open with a few mouse clicks, so Armstrong's bit by bit conversion model (read: brainwashing method) has to change. All the playing cards have to be laid out on the table, with no doctrinal "aces" hidden up the sleeve. No worry about that - there's a new sucker born every minute.

Dave Pack was a case in point from Gary Scott's XCG blog. Pack can't afford television, so he brags about the internet, while keeping his members off of it.

What can be hyped? Number of hits, new visitors, return visitors, downloaded literature, downloaded prophecy booklets, for example - all of the ways web data collection can be analyzed which corporations expect to turn into growth, value, brand goodwill, or income streams.

Based on bottom line results, it's reminiscent of the internet bubble where companies were overvalued IPOs destined to become worthless stock.

The bottom line is, the Churches of God are no longer growing in real members. They are dying off and shrinking. If they aren't, point to the facts that prove it.

Same thing for Tkach's designer GCI scheme.The real stories of Herbert and Garner Ted Armstrong, not their carefully crafted public images, sowed the ultimate seeds of destruction.

Aging member demographics, a costly Medicare age ministry, and young people leaving the COGs as fast as they can support this lack of real growth premise. Spinning tall tales about internet growth doesn't. I suspect the bulk of the traffic generated comes from Worldwiders checking their own brand and other COGs out, not from a demand for the free product offered.

Douglas Becker said...

Stan, all your observations are on point.

Behind the scenes though, there are some of us discussing the fact that there seems to be something going on. Some of us are speculating that with more closed websites as the UCG site appears to becoming, many Churches of God are beginning to wind up "The Work" because they believe the End is Coming, whatever that can mean. They view the world as being full of "End Time Events" which they now believe are signalling that they are about to WIN really BIG and that the proof they were right all along is going to be evident to the whole world shortly.

And I wonder if the CoGs will begin engaging in dangerous behavior as a result, such as convincing members to dump everything they have into their particular sect?

Stan said...

Doug,


The COGs can be placed on a spectrum, with individual freedom or choice towards the left side, to totalitarian control towards the right. In this model, the RCG of the fifties would be placed to the far right side of the spectrum, with the WCG of the seventies more to the left. HWA’s “back on track” policy 1980-1986 shifts the WCG back more towards the right.

In 2011, an outside observer would place Flurry to the far right of the spectrum, and Pack somewhere in that vicinity. The UCG, run to some extent by group consensus, with discrete terms of office, would fall somewhere on the left hand side of the continuum. LCG, controlled by Meredith’s one-man rule, would somewhere to the right of UCG.

A similar comparison could be made in terms of current web sites. COGaWA’s website is developing some content, but is still in preliminary stages of deployment.

The last time I checked, Hulme appeared to have more of a closed website stance, with less information available to outsiders.

UCG’s new website is in beta stage. It looks to be in more of the open and up front category. There is no more Ambassador College for the graduates to secretly hide the Church behind anymore. What is most intriguing about the site is how registered UCG members may chat up to recruit the more casual non-member visitors, and what will be visible to both.

The “End Time” has always been coming to humankind with each passing day, since the beginning of life, where we like it or not. Science predicts the demise and collapse of our solar system one day. What will we do then? We are allotted only a short span of life in the greater context of time. Faced with our own mortality, people want to assign meaning to life, and imagine an immortal happiness of one sort or another.

One thing that is certain about life is that it is very uncertain. Life in the 1700s was far different than in the 1800s, than in the 1900s, than in 2000, and it will undoubtedly be far different in 3000 than we could possible imagine today, by any stretch of the imagination. Futurists have severe difficulty correctly projecting the future only a few months or years out. One only needs to look back at some of the dire predictions of the seventies to understand the magnitude of the difficulty. Perhaps what is more of a constant variable in this are the essential characteristics of humankind.

Uncertainty in life has always been a given. The future is even less certain, where the unknowns greatly outnumber the known. People love certainty, because it reduces risk, and the fear of the unknown happening. At the same time, fear of the unknown in life can be exploited to advantage. Religion has exploited the use of fear and uncertainty since time immemorial; but so has business, and politics. Uncertainty and fear about food supplies, economic issues, natural disasters, disease epidemics, and likelihood of war can always be exploited. Witness the ads telling people to put their money in gold, precious metals, real estate, or other “surefire” investments to play on the fear of paper money becoming worthless in the future. Politicians can demagog playing their fear card, when an economy crumbles and survival of a country is at stake.

Within western Christendom, people in general have always had fears and expectations about the world coming to an horrific, apocalyptic end. To some extent, they have been correct in the times in which they lived, just not in the way they expected. In the pre-Christian era and in other cultures, the same fears about the end of the world have been evident. In Japan, the earthquake tsunami has been called a sort of divine punishment. The day Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city of Pompeii in molten lava and volcanic ash, no doubt the same fears were voiced by ancient Romans who managed to survive and live for another day.

Douglas Becker said...

Indeed, the CoG7 has speculations that this may indeed be the End Time. It's just that they continue to live their lives without focussing on "The End Times" endlessly with escalating hyperbole, desperate for "The End" to come.

Other, non Armstrongist Sabbath (and Feast keeping) churches seem to have the same approach that they believe that Christ is returning some day, but they don't need to know the day or the hour, since they have their confidence in Jesus Christ and their Faith in God the Father.

It is the living of life day to day in balance without obsessing on the future which seems most sensible to me. The desperation does not.

Intense speculation yielding ever more wildly insane prognostications of doom, destruction, devastation hardly seem in any way useful, except to attract extremely nutty unbalanced people looking for security who can be tapped to provide the revenue stream for ministers to live comfortably both today and in their retirement. The only losers in this scenario seem to be the recruits.

Byker Bob said...

I had an interesting experience today! The teller assisting me as I visited my safe deposit box at the local bank had shared that she was Assyrian! I wanted to make sure I understood properly, so asked her if she had said "Syrian", or "Assyrian".

When she replied that she was Assyrian, I commented that I understood that Assyrians were predominantly Christian people. She told me that that in fact was the case, and added that many of her people are emigrating to other countries from Iraq, due to extreme persecution. Her family's church in Iraq was recently firebombed!

I had no idea there was a sizeable Assyrian population in Arizona, but my new friend actually extended to me an open invitation to visit her church which is located a few miles from the bank.

Imagine the reaction if I were to share this anecdote on some of the old school WCG forums and blogs!

BB

Byker Bob said...

Douglas,

I believe that the leadership of UCG and other splinters either read our forums and blogs more often than we realize, or else tune into TBN.

I know there have been discussions about the ways in which mainstream Christians have carefully analyzed where the gospel has been preached adequately, and have systematically targeted the areas where this has not been done. We've also pointed out that on TBN, there are both apocalyptic and Messianic Jewish teachers, accepted and well-respected. Some of the splinters have picked up on this, either from us or TBN, and have attempted to jump on the bandwagon, only to find that some doors wide open for others are seemingly closed to them. This becomes very confusing to those who believe that HWA preached the true gospel, and who know what has been said about open doors which no man can shut.

BB

Douglas Becker said...

Having just taken The Lord's Supper last night with an independent Sabbatarian church of God (which is also keeping the Feast of Tabernacles this year), I would like to share just what the non Armstrongists think of the Armstrongists. I would like to, but that would take too long.

Let's just say that there are those out there who recognize the Armstrongists for the hypocrites they are. That would not be so disturbing except that the Armstrongists are so stridently arrogant in their confident assertive incompetent ignorance. The other Sabbatarians often remark privately and publicly about the idolatry of Herbert Armstrong, not even mentioning that he was a false prophet, embraced, not bewared as commanded in Matthew 7:15.

The Armstrongists should be ashamed of both the slander of the legitimate Sabbath keeping churches of God AND the absolutely terrible example they set. I've had discussions of the reasons the CoG7 doesn't keep the Feasts. One of the many is the example of alcoholism exhibited at the Feast of Tabernacles. As for the Sabbath keeping churches of God, they know! The Armstrongists don't even see their own sins, but they need to realize that their sins are not invisible to the outside world.

As the Armstrongists move toward keeping Passover -- as opposed to the Lord's Supper (they are, after all, Old Testament Christians) -- and onward to the Days of Unleavened Bread, they seem not so much leaving Egypt as to invading it.