Wadsworth, Ohio -- David C. Pack is determined to do whatever he can to share the Gospel message of the return of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Kingdom of God.
"We offer more literature than any organization on earth and we give it away," said Pack, president and pastor general of the Restored Church of God. "Our goal is to teach a way of life that is based on giving."
To help reach that goal, the Wadsworth, Ohio, church is planning to construct a three-building world headquarters.
Plans include a four-story, 38,000-square-foot administration building; a 450-seat auditorium; and a three-story, 19,200-square-foot training facility that will house a printing and mailing center, office space and classrooms. The church, which has more than 370 congregations in more than 50 countries and employs 67 people at its headquarters, plans to launch its cable television ministry this fall.
"We believe television will affect everything we do, exponentially. It's going to be an excellent way to get the Gospel of Jesus out," said Jeffrey Ambrose, spokesman for the Restored Church of God. "Our primary purpose is to preach the Gospel of the kingdom of God to all nations. We're currently doing that through speaking, the Internet and our publications."
Average attendance at Saturday afternoon worship services, which are typically reserved for members, is about 140. Visitors are invited by a member or a minister, usually after viewing videos and reading literature at its website (www.rcg.org). Once a minister is satisfied that the individual understands the basic doctrine, he or she is invited to a service. Membership is made official at baptism, usually three to 12 months after a first visit. Baptism is offered only to adults.
"We do value doctrinal agreement and harmony," Ambrose said. "We view our services as a classroom. God's people come to learn more about God's way of thinking and God's way of living."
Church leaders describe their organization as a continuation of the Worldwide Church of God, founded by the late Herbert W. Armstrong in the late 1930s. The broadcasting evangelist is often referred to as "God's End-Times Apostle," who prepared his followers for a utopia to be ruled by Jesus. Armstrong warned that the end was imminent and predicted a European beast would take the United States and Britain into captivity. He and his ministers focused on the date of the tribulation, the return of Christ and his millennial reign.
Armstrong's teachings incorporated fundamental Christianity, nonbelief in the trinity and some tenets of Judaism and Seventh-Day Sabbath doctrine. Members celebrate Passover and Yom Kippur rather than Easter and Christmas.
Although the ministry has been criticized by some cult-watching organizations, followers report that when Armstrong died in 1986, his church was attracting 120,000 people to weekly services, with an annual income of about $200 million. Circulation of its The Plain Truth magazine was more than 8 million, and "The World Tomorrow" attracted one of the largest religious television audiences in America.
Published reports indicated that Worldwide Church of God members paid as much as 20 to 30 percent in tithes. Leaders of the church said that is untrue and that members have always paid an average of 12.5 percent of their annual income.
"Members never give 30 percent to the church except for possibly our pastor general (Pack)," Ambrose said. "We do no fund drives. We believe in tithing to help with evangelism outreach."
Pack, who saw the church moving away from Armstrong's teachings to a more mainstream evangelical Christianity, left the Worldwide Church of God in 1993. He founded the Restored Church of God in 1999 in Wadsworth.
In 2009, the Worldwide Church of God adopted a new name -- Grace Communion International -- after rejecting Armstrong's doctrines. Grace Communion is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.
The Restored Church of God considers itself unique in that it does not fit under the three main branches of Christianity (Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism). It teaches that the Bible is mankind's instruction manual on how to live God's way. It also teaches that Jesus came as a savior and as a messenger to announce the coming of God's kingdom, to replace Satan and reign over the kingdom, and to reconcile mankind to God.
"We believe that the true Church of God is called The Church of God. We're nonproselytizing," Ambrose said. "We're not trying to shove our beliefs down anyone's throats. Our lay members are mindful to be able to answer questions."
The church teaches that God consists of the Father and Son and that the Holy Spirit is God's power. It also teaches that God's spiritual law is summarized in the Ten Commandments -- love toward God, covered in the first four, and love toward fellow man, covered in the last six. Members partake of communion once a year on Passover, Ambrose said.
The Restored Church of God's hallmark weekly video program, "The World to Come" (descended from Armstrong's "The World Tomorrow") had 6.42 million views or downloads last year. The goal of the broadcast, taped in an underground studio at the current headquarters, is to explain causes and solutions to the world's problems.
Following in his mentor's footsteps, Pack continues to deliver Bible prophecy messages, including a series that explains the prophetic events before Christ's return to establish God's kingdom. Pack explains that there are about 70 events that will culminate in the return of Christ and gives an overview of the major 26 in sequence. He encourages listeners to study their Bibles for more information.
"You must study diligently," Pack urges his viewers. "When Christ returns, it will usher in peace for all nations. The Earth will never blow up. It will never be destroyed. ... Christ and the saints will rule all nations ... all government corruption will be gone ... all religious deception and confusion will be gone."