In October of last year, Mr. Lambert Greer observed the 50th anniversary of his ordination into the ministry of Jesus Christ. As the U.S. Mideast Regional Pastor, he and his wife Nancy serve congregations and ministers across 13 states, directly pastoring congregations in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. He was kind enough to respond to our request for an interview concerning his personal experiences and what he's learned after a half-century in the service of God and His people. Our questions and his responses are below. – Editorial Staff
Living Church News: Where and when were you ordained, and who performed the laying on of hands?
Mr. Lambert Greer: I was ordained during the Feast of Tabernacles in Long Beach, California, October 25, 1967 into the ministry of Jesus Christ. At that time the Church was called the Radio Church of God. Mr. Herbert Armstrong, who led in the prayer of my ordination, was joined in laying hands on me by the ministry present at the Feast site.
LCN: How did you come into contact with God's truth?
Mr. Greer: Through my parents. I was 15 when our family traveled 100 miles to Seattle, Washington to attend our first Church of God service. It was the First Day of Unleavened Bread. My parents were very new and did not realize there would be an afternoon service, but decided to stay. However, being unprepared, they sought something quick and reasonable in price for lunch. I remember my parents being a bit uncomfortable with the stares of a few members walking by as we enjoyed hamburgers on the First Day of Unleavened Bread! On reflection, the minister explained "unleavened" in detail in the afternoon service.
In June of 1960 our family moved to Eugene, Oregon. Our first Sabbath service was in the small white Church building on the west side of Eugene. I attended; my parents gave me no option. This period of my life is well described by Romans 9:16, "[It] is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy." I did not resist my parents, nor did I hate the Church. In many ways I enjoyed the Church, the socials, the brethren, the sermons about marriage, the laws of success, and prophecy.
During this time in God's Church in Eugene, there were several remarkable healings. I was inspired by them, but at the same time wondered, rather than believed. I was playing varsity baseball on my school team when I was spiked, opening a ragged cut on my heel just above the shoe. I hid this from my parents, as they often pressured me to quit the school team, even though I did not play on Friday evening or Saturday. The wound became infected, spreading in my body with a cut on my hand turning red with inflammation and infection. This had gone on for days and then in just a few hours I had a fever, felt weak, sick and had streaks running from the infected cut on my heel and my hand. My parents talked of taking me to the hospital, but decided to first call the pastor for anointing. It was late at night when the minister anointed me and prayed for God's intervention. After he left, my parents decided to wait, and—if I did not show improvement in the morning—to take me to the hospital. I fell asleep sometime after midnight and awoke at first light. I could not believe God's healing! My open and festering wounds were healed, the streaks were gone, and only two areas of pink skin remained. It is one thing to hear of a healing, but it is totally different when it is your flesh and your body.
LCN: What prompted you to go to Ambassador College?
Mr. Greer: It was a combination of many different influences—my parents, friends in Church, the ministry—and my attitude had changed toward the Church. It was 1962 and I was 17 years old, and it was Southern California, beautiful campus, employment on campus, why not? I was very excited by the prospects of Ambassador College, but I felt I would not be accepted. Even as I applied I was thinking I would only attend for one or possibly two years.
LCN: How would you describe your experience at AC?
Mr. Greer: Life changing! Growing up Catholic, I never read the Bible. My first test in Freshman Bible class prompted the instructor, Mr. Roderick Meredith, to ask me to come to his office. The meeting was short. He informed me that without improvement I would fail his class. God made me a student of His word. I read for hours beyond my class assignments, but it was later that I came to appreciate the understanding God granted as I read. God called me, and my life and heart changed.
LCN: Do you have any memories you would like to share of Mr. Herbert Armstrong?
Mr. Greer: Mr. Herbert Armstrong was my instructor in the Christian Living class, and I was a guest at a reception in the Armstrongs' home, with a group of classmates. My experience was common as a student. This changed in my sophomore year. I was told Mr. Herbert Armstrong wanted to see me in his office. I entered with anxiety, only to have Mr. Armstrong stand up from his desk and begin to apologize. The previous day in a campus forum, Mr. Armstrong announced from a list which students had been selected to transfer to the new Ambassador College Big Sandy campus the following year. I had prayed and fasted several times that I would have this opportunity. I was very disappointed when the list was read. As Mr. Armstrong continued, he explained he was beginning to have difficulty seeing with one eye and had skipped my name in going down the list. I was going to Big Sandy! I think my joy and excitement prompted Mr. Armstrong to sit down and visit with me for quite a while.
I sincerely believe God put in my heart the desire to go to Big Sandy. I worked on the grounds the summer prior to the opening of the campus in the fall of 1964. We worked hard during the day and were isolated, living on an undeveloped campus. In the evenings there were no distractions, and I turned to God in study and prayer.
On the first day of the opening of the Big Sandy campus, I shared lunch with the beautiful coed who became the love of my life, my wife Nancy. God blessed our home and marriage. We were blessed with a daughter and two sons. Today we have seven bright and healthy grandchildren.
LCN: Out of your 50 years serving in the ministry, could you share some of your favorite memories?
Mr. Greer: During the summer between my junior and senior years at Ambassador College, I was sent to Phoenix, Arizona as a ministerial trainee. The pastor I worked under taught me by example the bonds that can and should exist in family, both our personal family and our Church family.
After graduation in 1966, I was sent back to Phoenix to serve as a ministerial assistant. During the time I served in Phoenix, Mr. Gerald Weston was sent as a ministerial trainee to Phoenix. We shared a summer working together, which has linked our lives in friendship and we established a bond in the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Certainly, one of my favorite memories is being a part of the beginning of the Living Church of God. Dr. Doug Winnail and I were asked by Mr. Meredith to come to San Diego a few days in advance of the first Council of Elders meeting of the Living Church of God. Mr. Meredith asked us to answer the many calls coming to his home from the ministry and membership from around the world. Mr. Meredith, Mr. Carl McNair and the supportive office staff were busy looking for office space, a Sabbath hall and making the needed physical arrangements for the Work. The first Council of Elders meeting was incredibly inspiring. It wasn't just the reality of the support and unity of so many ministers and brethren, it was a oneness of spirit to not in any manner hurt the Church of God or any of God's people, including those members who were not with us and did not support Mr. Meredith's leadership.
In the first Council of Elders meeting the name "Living Church of God" was unanimously approved. I was invited to go along to witness the submission of the "Name Reservation Request Form" to the State of California authority. At the counter, the completed form was handed to a clerk. I remember she took the form to her desk and viewed a computer screen for a while, then asked a supervisor to join her. Together they looked at the application and computer screen and there was a brief conversation. The document was signed and returned, officially reserving the name, "Living Church of God."
As a minister I have witnessed a number of healings which those who do not share our faith could not explain. In the Living Church of God one of our members was rushed to the hospital with heart pain. The events of her dramatic healing occurred while she was in ICU and under the care of medical specialists. One of her daughters, not a member of the Church of God, was a head nurse in the operating room for cardiac patients at the hospital. After the mother was stabilized and moved to ICU, the family was informed by the cardiac surgeon reviewing the charts and monitoring her heart trauma in the Emergency Room that their mother would need major heart surgery. I went to ICU and anointed the mother. I received a call the next day—the mother's kidneys had shut down. A specialist was called in, but her condition worsened. The specialist told the family their mother was very critical and may not survive even another day, as she had not responded to any treatment. I went to ICU and again anointed the mother late in the afternoon.
The next morning, she was stronger and to everyone's amazement her kidneys were functioning—not barely, but in a normal manner. That afternoon all of her vital signs were so strong they moved her from ICU. I was told by family that the kidney specialist said he could not explain the turnaround. Her recovery was so fast that the very next day the heart surgeon scheduled testing to begin preparation for major heart surgery. With all the testing complete, the cardiac surgeon set up a meeting to include the other daughter, who was a member of the Living Church of God and a licensed physical therapist. The surgeon pulled out the test results and was studying them as the daughters sat waiting in the same room, watching him study scans, etc. He did this for a much longer period than expected. When he turned to face the daughters, he said, and I paraphrase, "I don't understand. Your mother's heart appears to be in a condition that is probably better than either of you." This wonderful lady, known for her love of the Church, her brethren and the word of God, was sent home, discharged from the hospital the next morning.
I have so many fond memories: the joy of sharing the truth with a new person, of counseling and baptizing them, being a part of couples joining their love in marriage, the ceremony of the blessing of the children, and especially having a part in leading others in worshipping God.
LCN: You were active in the online community early when the Worldwide Church of God began changing doctrines. What stands out most to you from that time?
Mr. Greer: My activity in the online community centered around the doctrinal changes, so I would like to address this first. The doctrinal changes were introduced with a publication sent only to the ministry, "News and Reviews," and via the presentations of the regional "Ministerial Conference Programs." Both the publication, subsequent presentations and even sermons given introducing doctrinal changes used an approach of ridicule, name-calling and deprecating humor as a method of persuasion. Many are influenced by this approach of using emotion to influence the thinking of others. It is humanly effective. But our emotions should not influence our judgment in understanding God's word.
Two of the Ministerial Conferences, 1993–1994 and 1994–1995, included presentations and workbook handouts titled "Hermeneutics." Hermeneutics is defined as "the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of the Bible)." The first year this was presented, I recognized accepting "new rules" for understanding the Bible was foundational, and it was the foundation of the doctrinal changes. I decided that if these rules were used by Christ and the apostles of God in the New Testament, then I would find them clearly demonstrated when they quoted the Old Testament. I started in Matthew, going through the entire New Testament and reviewing every quoted passage to find evidence of these "new rules." In the New King James Version, every New Testament quote of the Old Testament is in italic print, providing a simple road map for my study. I found none of the rules presented in the Hermeneutics workbook being used in the Bible. At the next Ministerial Conference, 1994–1995, following the second presentation of "Hermeneutics," I went to the evangelist who presented Hermeneutics II, and explained my process and findings. I did not know what to say when he responded, "Well, I know that."
What I did find strengthened and confirmed the doctrinal teachings given to us under Mr. Herbert Armstrong's ministry. I became much more aware of the logic and reasoning of God's servants in the New Testament. My study helped me to appreciate why Mr. Armstrong would often begin sermons and doctrinal discussions in Genesis. In my work as a minister, I generally was answering questions of difficult scripture or the false teachings of this world. It opened my understanding to realize that when we frame our thinking on the concepts of modern-day Christianity, we risk overlooking evidence in the Holy Scriptures.
The lessons I learned were exercised in the online community discussions and greatly aided me in personally understanding and addressing those who challenged the teachings and doctrines taught to us by Mr. Herbert Armstrong.
LCN: What do you find most satisfying about being in the ministry and serving God's people?
Mr. Greer: The work of the ministry to teach, baptize and be helpers of the joy of those God is calling. I also appreciate how much I learned from the brethren. If we accept God's Word, Ephesians 4:15–16, we realize every member has a share that contributes to the Body of Christ. If we turn our head and don't accept that we can learn from every member, even from the children (Matthew 18:2–5), we block out lessons and understanding that God intends for us to experience in preparing us for His Family. It is why attending Church services and fellowshipping with our brethren is so important to what God is doing in our life.
LCN: What are some of the challenges?
Mr. Greer: In today's ministry, distance and travel are a challenge. However, I find great joy in being a minister of Jesus Christ.
In the later years of my ministry in the Worldwide Church of God, I often felt more like a social worker and counselor for all areas of human weakness: addictions, conflict within families and homes, depression, anger management, sexual orientation and more. These were expectations of the new Worldwide Church of God leadership. There was a turning away from the promises of God, from the foundation of living faith, putting God first, trusting in Him and walking in His ways, so that He will be a light to your steps and will bless you when you come in and bless you when you go out (cf. Deuteronomy 28:6).
LCN: How has the world changed since the earliest days of your ordination?
Mr. Greer: We have many more conveniences and material blessings than we did in 1967, but we live on a much more dangerous and ungodly planet. There are many prophecies in the Bible we read in the context of the future, "the days to come," which now describe "our world today."
In the 1960s, the cell phone, Internet, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, video gaming and other social media were not yet invented. This has become the technology that is changing our world. The most dramatic change has been the influence this technology has on our children and young adults—actually, on everyone everywhere. Technology has opened the door for the expression of uninhibited human nature. Evil, hatred, anger, disrespect and offence instantly reaches across the rivers, mountains and oceans into the hands of a child.
LCN: With that in mind, what advice would you give to God's people today?
Mr. Greer: My advice would be to seriously listen to the words of Christ when He spoke of the end of the age in Matthew 24:4, "Take heed that no one deceives you." During the past 50 years I have known many, including ministers and leaders in the Church of God, who did not heed the words of Christ.
Revelation 18 reveals a future judgment of Babylon, and there is a warning to all who live in the days of her evil influence: "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues" (v. 4).
In Matthew 24, Christ gives us an overall perspective and approach for the end time. In verse 45, "Who then is a faithful and wise servant…?" and in verse 46, "Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing."
LCN: After 50 years in the ministry, what do you look forward to the most about the future of the Church?
Mr. Greer: We can have great faith in meeting the challenges ahead, not because of ourselves, but because we know God prophesied that what we seek to do will be accomplished: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
Scripture clearly reveals that, through the protection of God, a remnant of His servants will remain alive for the return of our Messiah. Consider these excerpts from God's Word: "…for the elect's sake, those days will be shortened" and "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" and "…the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them" (Matthew 24:22; 1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
I have the same desire as all who believe these words and live with faith in God: to be alive and witness how God through His Spirit will work in His people to accomplish the prophesied events which will be fulfilled. The scripture in Zechariah 4:6 is clear: "'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts."