November 25, 1955
I may never have written you before, but you have written to me, and now I just want to sit down and tell you how much I do appreciate your interest. Perhaps I can answer some questions you may have had in mind. Hundreds of our friends who see me on Television, or listen to the broadcast, keep asking such questions as "What denomination do you represent?" Or, "Who sponsors and pays for your telecasts, broadcasts, magazines and booklets?" Or, "How can you publish a world-circulated magazine without subscription price, and give attractive pamphlets without charge?" Or, "For what REASON do you offer these FREE?" Or, "WHY don't you ask for money over the air?" You have a right to know these answers and all about me and this work. So, as briefly as I can, here is the frank and straightforward answer. And if you have any other questions, please feel free to write me. For a year I have been intending to give you, thru the pages of "The Plain Truth", a more detailed account of how God called me to His work, of its start and growth to its present world-wide scope and power. I hope this may appear in the January or February number.
I'm usually pretty skeptical about God speaking to anyone today in visions or dreams. God speaks to us thru His Son, Jesus Christ -- the WORD of God -- and the Bible is the WRITTEN Word. I didn't really believe it then, 38 years ago, but subsequent events have verified that God did speak to my wife at that time, shortly after we were married, revealing thru an angel that He was calling us to the mission of WARNING the world of the fast-approaching END OF THIS WORLD, the Coming of Jesus Christ, and the world-ruling Kingdom of God. At the time I was unconverted, not bothering to attend church, interested only in business and making money. I was embarrassed -- a little awed -- but immediately tried to put it out of my mind. But at age 30 God took away my business, struck me down, took away my idol of moneymaking and business prestige.
During this ordeal, the religious issue came between me and my wife -- almost separated us. She determined to obey God and live God's way -- I objected. Finally, I set out to try to prove to her by the Bible itself that this type of life wasn't necessary to be a Christian. For six months of intensive study night and day, I wrestled with the question, was forced to see the truth that she was right and I was wrong, and found myself face to face with the life-and-death DECISION of whether I would surrender my will to the will of God, or reject what I had found to be the TRUTH. God had softened me by repeated defeats to a point where I had lost all self-confidence, felt my life was worth nothing to ME any longer, and I was then willing to make the decision for GOD, and present my life to Him as a living sacrifice, telling Him it was worthless, but if He could use it and make anything out of it, He could have it. This experience changed everything! Life began to take on new hope, and intense interest. The BIBLE began to open to my understanding, like entering into the richest gold, diamond or ruby mine in the world, in glorious splendor. As I began for the first time in my life to UNDERSTAND it, I became enthralled with it, and studied it night and day, very much of the time on my knees in reverence, in excited and eager joy, finding for the first time the REAL RICHES!
After three and a half years of eagerly absorbing the divine inspiration and two understanding, God literally plunged me into His work as His minister. This was the last profession on earth I had wanted to enter. I did not, even then, seek entrance into the ministry -- I was literally PUT IN by circumstances of God's making. I had been thru a gruelling experience -- had known utter defeat, humiliation, hunger, suffering. God had rebuked and chastened me in many ways, burned out former egotism and replaced it with FAITH IN GOD. God must humble those He can use. And so, as I wrote to some of you a year ago, as the Apostle Paul said to those at Galatia: I certify to YOU, that the GOSPEL which is preached of me is not after man, FOR I NEITHER RECEIVED IT OF MAN, NEITHER WAS I TAUGHT IT BUT BY THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST.
... When it pleased God, who ... called me by His Grace, to reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him to the World, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood (men), neither went I to any sect or denomination or human theologian, but I went directly to the WORD of God, on my knees, to be taught, corrected, reproved, and instructed in God's righteousness and Truth. (Compare Gal. 1:11-18).
Have you ever noticed, in the Bible, that when God starts anything thru His called HUMAN servants, it must always begin as the very least -- the very smallest--and, like the grain of mustard seed, GROW large and great THRU GOD'S POWER? This present world-wide program, now reaching the millions and changing thousands of precious lives, started out the very smallest activity. It started with nightly meetings in a little one-room country school house, eight miles west of Eugene, Oregon. There was no money for handbills or advertising. I borrowed the use of a typewriter, and typed out slips outlining the sermon-topics. I WALKED over the country-side, for I had no car, where houses often were a half mile apart, personally inviting the neighbors to attend. In those days I had to rely on God by faith to get me to the meetings, often having to hitch-hike. The school house seated 36 and our average attendance was over 40 -- several standing thru the entire service. There were several conversions.
A few months later, the first Sunday in 1934, the door of radio was opened, and the program, then under the name "Radio Church of God," started on the air. It has never missed a Sunday since. It started on the smallest of stations, a mere 100 watts of power. This work of proclaiming Christ's true GOSPEL HAS NEVER BEEN BACKED, FINANCED, SPONSORED, ENDOWED, OR CONTROLLED IN ANY WAY by any denomination or organization of men. I remember that during those early meetings, late in 1933, a resident of that community met me out on the road and said, "Mr. Armstrong, you'll never get far. You're preaching the straight truth of the Bible, no matter whom it offends. People won't stand for that very long. People won't support that kind or preaching -- it's too strong for them!"
It was GOD who put me into His work. It was to GOD I had to look for financial support. From the beginning our faith has been sorely tried. I used to go up on top of a small mountain in that neighborhood, where I found a flat stone for an altar before which to kneel and pray -- and I had to find my way up there often. But God always heard and ANSWERED, often in miraculous ways you probably wouldn't believe. Today, God has provided me with a private prayer-room. I still have to go there often. On February 1, 1934 -- one month after the broadcast went on the air -- "The Plain Truth" made its very humble bow. It was mimeographed on a borrowed mimeograph, from stencils cut on a borrowed typewriter, at few cents' cost, except for postage. I don't remember that original "press run," -- but it was around 250 or 300 copies.
But it was GOD'S work and He blessed and prospered it. Mrs. Armstrong worked tirelessly with me. For two or three years she ground out the "magazines" on the mimeograph, addressed and stamped them and kept up the tiny mailing list which started gradually to grow. In nine years the work had multiplied to 30 times its size and scope at the end of the first year. The second nine years it multiplied 30 times its size at the end of the first nine. And now, entering its 23rd year in another month, it has become one of the most powerful works of evangelism in world history -- purchasing now more than FOUR MILLION WATTS of radio power per week, worldwide -- probably the largest user of radio on earth today, beside the Television program Coast to Coast, and mailing out tons and tons of literature, without charge. This year we have opened overseas Headquarters in London, England, with my son Richard D. Armstrong, now an ordained minister, in charge of our office there. Close to 5,000 copies of "The Plain Truth" now go regularly into the British Isles. Listen, dear Friend! Have YOU put God to the test, to find HOW TRUE are His PROMISES, in your Bible? Well I HAVE, and it seems He has blessed Mrs. Armstrong and me with every blessing within the heavenly sphere! But He still allows our faith to be severely TRIED! It seems it is always tried, too, right at this Christmas season. It seems that at this season every year, most people, without realizing what they are doing, FORGET any gift for CHRIST and His work, exchanging presents with their relatives and friends.
Did you ever stop to think about that? At this season people spend lavishly for Christmas presents, SUPPOSING they are following the example of the wise men -- not realizing those wise men did NOT exchange presents among themselves -- they gave their gifts to CHRIST! Of course, the truth is, they were not giving the Christ-child birthday presents at all -- it was NOT His birthday, but several days afterward! It was eastern CUSTOM to present gifts to a KING when coming into his presence -- and Jesus was born to be the KING of the world! -- the WORLD TOMORROW!
Now finally, let me answer the questions: "HOW is your work financed"? "WHY don't you ask for money over the air?" The answer is simple: Some 28 years ago I gave my life over to God for HIS use -- dedicated to living and doing HIS way, not mine or the way of the world or of tradition. God's way is that the GOSPEL cannot be sold like merchandise. God's people must not -- do not BEG. Our literature contains the true GOSPEL -- the true LIGHT that God sent into the world by Christ, which the world rejected. WE DARE NOT PUT A PRICE ON IT. We have nothing to sell.
From the first I've had to RELY SOLELY ON GOD for financial support. A few business corporations have offered to sponsor my broadcast and pay the bills -- PROVIDED I WOULD QUIT PREACHING GOD'S PLAIN TRUTH, and say only what they allowed me to say! Twelve years ago a large advertising agency offered me a personal salary of $100,000.00 per year if I would give up God's ministry, and go on the air five days a week on a large national net-work as a news analyst, sponsored by one of the great corporations in the food industry. My wife scolded me reprovingly for even telling her about the proposition! God's way hasn't been the EASY way -- but we know it's been the RIGHT way! We learned that God does have a few that are His own true people -- and from the first a very few -- a very small percent of the listeners -- began to send in their tithes and offerings freely and unsolicited, to carry on God's precious work, of reaping a harvest for His eternal Kingdom!
I remember how we got started on the air in Seattle -- the first time we were able to expand outside of Oregon. A family who had been drouthed out in the middlewest had moved to the Coast, and in getting a new start had saved up enough money to finish building their house. At the time they had only the outside shell -- no partitions, no rooms, no up-stairs -- just a ladder thru a hole in the ceiling so they could climb up to their beds in the attic. They sent us all the money they had saved to finish building their home. Mrs. Armstrong and I travelled over a hundred miles to take that money back to them -- we felt we simply couldn't accept it and deprive them of their home. They told us, with tears in their eyes, they would not take the money back -- they couldn't enjoy the home when they knew it would deprive THOUSANDS of hearing about an ETERNAL home in God's Kingdom FOREVER over the radio station this money would buy time on. They insisted the money be used to expand the broadcast, and assured us that in another year or so they'd save enough more to finish their own temporary material home for this world. I could tell you dozens of heart-touching experiences like that. But it illustrates how this work has been financed, and kept FREE to SPEAK OUT with God's truth, without fear or favor! So here is our policy -- which we believe is GOD'S policy. We do not ask for money over the air -- will not permit the announcers to make any such request. We send no request for money with the free literature. We DO have a precious family of Co-Workers -- but one must join that family VOLUNTARILY, and not of our urging!
WHO is a "Co-Worker"? If a listener or viewer sends in, voluntarily, an offering twice inside of six months, we carefully read the letter, and if the tone of the letter indicates the writer wants to have a regular part in supporting God's words financially, he or she is put on our "Co-Worker" list -- but if not, they are left on what we call our "Regular" mailing list -- made up of scores of thousands who have either NEVER sent us any money for the work, or who may have done so one to three times only. IF they are put on the "Co-Worker List" a letter is sent, explaining our action, and explaining that we have done so because Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" -- and so we believe their hearts are in this work. If so, we tell them candidly that I will send them my regular special "Co-Worker" letters, giving them inside information about this work, its plans for the future, its progress, and, when necessary, which seems to be most of the time, its NEED -- even as Moses sent out a proclamation asking Israel for material help, and as Paul admonished the Christians. But if we have mistaken their intentions, they are asked to tell us so, and they will be kept on our "Regular" list to continue receiving the magazine and other literature without any request for money. We believe this is GOD'S WAY as we find it in the Bible.
Before closing, may I say sincerely, and from the heart, THANK YOU for the very great PRIVILEGE of being able to serve you, on the telecast or broadcast, or by the things that I or colleagues on our staff have written. DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? I've found it's TRUE -- what Jesus said -- "It's more blessed to GIVE, that to receive!" I feel, sincerely, it is a far greater privilege God has granted me, in being able to serve you, and to be His instrument that thru my voice and pen (or typewriter) you may receive the precious truths of God, than the privileges He grants you in receiving. WE'RE BOTH BLESSED!
And may I add a word about the forthcoming new booklet, "1975 IN PROPHECY" -- a fast-moving, one-two-three SUMMARY of all the major prophecies in world events FROM NOW -- in plain, simple language, in their precise order of time-sequence, exactly as YOU'RE GOING TO SEE THEM HAPPEN! And are you enrolled for the Ambassador College Bible CORRESPONDENCE COURSE? I think it's the most interesting, most valuable course of Bible study ever prepared. Thousands think so. If you're willing to DEVOTE NOT LESS THAN A HALF-HOUR EVERY DAY to the study of YOUR BIBLE, then please write me and enroll by return mail. Or, ask for further information about it if you prefer. I enclose a self-addressed envelope for your enrollment.
Have you read our startling, eye-opening booklet, "The Plain Truth about CHRISTMAS"? Few today know where Christmas came from, WHY they observe it -- WHETHER it is really a Christian holiday -- WHAT the Bible says about it. It's shocking, but it's the TRUTH! THANK YOU AGAIN, for your interest in the precious things of GOD!
Sincerely, in Jesus' name,
HERBERT W. ARMSTRONG