A visitor by the name of Abner left some encouraging comments for me recently and a prophetic word that was very encouraging. Abner said that he read some TFI literature recently that related to going back to the beginning. I would like to write a few things about the beginning of TFI and the foundation it was built upon. TFI is certainly a global organization that impacted the world in a big way, and it could certainly be described as a global Christian missionary movement with a rich and productive history. Whether you agree with all of TFI’s doctrines, love them or hate them; this organization has led tens of millions of people to Jesus Christ, and has trained scores of effective missionaries over the last few decades. TFI has also reached Hollywood and a number of celebrities. Well known musician, Jeremy Spencer, from Fleetwood Mac is a current member of TFI and has been a member for decades. Former actor, River Phoenix, also had parents who were members of TFI. TFI has also produced some outstanding Christian music that has impacted a variety of Christians and non-Christians over the years, and music has been a key part of their ministry and outreach. TFI has been preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ globally for decades through: missionaries, DVD/TV/radio/internet, books, magazines, music and through various other means. They definitely achieved a lot over the years and I think it would be an interesting journey to back track and go back to the beginning, and have a look at how and where TFI started and what foundation it was built upon. It’s also a fascinating journey for myself, because although I am not a member of TFI, in the past I have been a member of a street evangelism ministry that was quiet similar to TFI. The street evangelism ministry I was once involved with did form in a similar way in which TFI was formed, so I certainly believe I have some excellent commentary to share as we go back to the beginning of TFI’s history.
Where exactly did TFI begin? As we rewind back the life of David Brandt Berg (the founder of TFI) we understand that TFI really started with the mission and vision of Berg. Much of Berg’s: evangelism skills, missionary skills and passion to reach the lost came out of his connection to a televangelism ministry. Before TFI or COG began, Berg worked for a televangelist by the name of Fred Jordan. Fred Jordan is considered by many as the very first televangelist. Fred had a Christian TV show called, ‘Church in the home.’ On the TV show, Fred preached the gospel of Jesus Christ and his target audience was the unsaved and unchurched. Fred also had a ministry on Skid Row (one of the poorest and most disadvantaged places in the USA). When visiting Skid Row, Fred would assist the disadvantaged with necessities such as food and other charity, and whilst helping them he would preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. Fred also had a missionary training center where he would train people to win souls for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. David Brandt Berg himself got a call to train as a missionary at Fred’s missionary training center, and Berg credits Fred Jordan’s ministry for teaching him much of what he knows. Berg worked for Fred for 15 years and Berg himself worked as a televangelist with Fred over the years. It would be fair to say that a missionary focused televangelism ministry, was the foundation and training ground that built Berg into the Christian leader he became.
I have had the opportunity to work with one particular ministry in the past that has some similarities to David Berg’s ministry and Fred Jordan’s ministry. A friend of mine who got saved in jail was rejected by many churches, and I myself had trouble fitting into churches and other Christian groups. I just had a difficult time finding acceptance as a Christian and I wanted to fellowship and serve the Lord. I then met my friend who was engaged in street ministry. He basically played the: guitar, piano and also sang Christian songs on the street, and in between songs; he would testify about Jesus Christ and also hand out tracts (pieces of paper which discuss the gospel message). I had the opportunity to serve in this ministry on and off for a number of years and it was a great experience. This ministry really reached the lowest of the low. I remember a man who heard our message and was touched by it, and this man was really thankful he was able to hear the message of Jesus Christ. As I looked upon this man he looked like he was dying, and if he is alive today I would be surprised. From remembering him, he looked like he was very sick and possibly a long term heroin user, he almost looked like a walking corpse. The man looked like he could die at any moment, and I remember this man offered us a one dollar coin to put toward our ministry. I was amazed. Even though it was only one dollar it was an offering I would remember for the rest of my life. I’m sure it was all he had, and as I think back to this, I remember the widow who Jesus observed giving her offering to the temple, it was only a mite (barely anything), but Jesus said she would be remembered in Heaven because it was all she had. As I think back to that heroin addicted man giving that one dollar, he reminds me of that widow who Jesus observed. These were the sort of people this street ministry touched. We did not have any support from any churches and were pretty much a stand-alone ministry led by a former prison inmate. My prison inmate friend and others in the ministry did watch a lot of televangelism TV programs though, and these were our main source of inspiration. Once every couple of years, we would attend a televangelism conference when the televangelist would visit our country. I remember one conference I attended was huge, and the televangelist said to us, “It’s your job to go out into the streets and preach, it’s your job to cast out demons and lay hands on the sick and pray for them.” He was really inspiring people to go and do it on their own, and that is exactly what we did; we just went out into the public domain and we shared the gospel and prayed for people on the street. Often our ministry would finish at midnight on a Friday night as we witnessed and preached the gospel to: ravers, drug users, alcoholics, homeless people, and people who looked so addicted to drugs that it looked like they could die in the next 24 hours. We would share the gospel and help these people with whatever we could; sometimes it would be buying somebody a drink or lending them some money. Other times we would give them some gospel literature and let them know we were there for them, and if they had any questions about Jesus and Heaven we would be happy to answer them. Over the months and years we had a number of people volunteer to help this street outreach ministry, and most of these people were regular watchers and followers of televangelists. If you are involved with a missionary focused televangelism ministry, it really inspires you to go out onto the streets and preach the gospel to the lost. David Brand Berg was no exception as Fred Jordan’s televangelism ministry equipped and inspired him to take the gospel to the streets, and by doing this he birthed The Family International (TFI)/Children of God (COG).
I cannot say enough good things about some of the televangelists I have followed over the years. Although I do not agree with all of Benny Hinn’s (well known televangelist) doctrines, his ministry has kept me in the faith as a Christian. There was a time that I was quiet ill and was isolated and alone, no Christian even visited me and I was stuck in the house alone. All I could do was watch the Benny Hinn Christian TV show, and as I heard the word preached through the TV, and as I watched amazing testimonies glorifying Jesus, I was inspired to continue on with my Christian faith. Many people involved in the street outreach ministry with me also followed the ministry of Benny Hinn and other televangelists. Mission focused televangelism ministries do produce good fruit. David Brandt Berg and the people I have worked with in street outreach ministry can also testify of this.
After much learning and experience within Fred Jordan’s televangelism ministry, Berg took to the streets and reached out to the hippy generation. These hippies were influenced by drugs and alternative music, and were considered the lowest form of scum by mainstream society and much of the church. It was Berg’s training within Fred Jordan’s televangelism ministry and his ability to blend in with the hippies, which allowed Berg to reach this generation who nobody could reach. Although Berg did have some differences with Fred Jordan, and although Fred forced the COG hippies to leave his donated building, which forced Berg and Fred to go their separate ways, Berg always respected Fred Jordan and was thankful for his ministry and what he learned from him. If one reviews Fred Jordan and David Berg’s relationship, you could say that Fred was a mentor to David Berg for a season, before Berg was called into his own separate calling. Although the doctrines and ministry of David and Fred were very different, Fred’s televangelism ministry was definitely a foundation that David Berg built upon, and it was this foundation that led to the creation of The Family International (TFI).
David Berg’s ministry obviously took on a lot more progressive and alternative doctrines compared to Fred Jordan’s ministry. TFI’s doctrines became far different from Fred Jordan’s doctrinal statement and most other conservative televangelist’s doctrines. I guess TFI members don’t really put themselves in the same category as today’s televangelists, because they feel their group is different than them. But the fact remains, TFI was built upon the vision and principles of a televangelism ministry. Sometimes Christian’s are called upon to be mentored by ministries or people who don’t even accept them, Berg himself was somewhat rejected by Fred Jordan in the end, after Fred Jordan kicked a number of COG youth out of his building. Despite being kicked out of Fred Jordan’s building, Berg never had a bad thing to say about Fred Jordan and it’s clear he respected him.
I think TFI members could learn a lot from today’s televangelists even if they don’t necessarily agree with all their doctrines. I have learned a lot from televangelist Benny Hinn and God has really spoken to me through his TV show. I do not agree with Hinn’s pre-tribulation rapture doctrine and I would like to see him take on a more protestant position, but you’re never going to find a Christian who you fully agree on everything with. The best thing to do is focus on what you do agree on and try and get the best out of that ministry, and when you focus on what you do agree with you really begin to develop as a Christian. In the last two decades, Benny Hinn has caused many Christians to actually go out into the highways and byways and share Jesus Christ. I remember meeting one particular woman who regularly watched the Benny Hinn show, and she felt compelled to go out and feed homeless people and share the message of Jesus Christ with them. I was amazed at the grace and love of Jesus Christ that this woman had in her, and it was clear she was filled with God’s Holy Ghost. I was amazed at the: love, grace and patience this woman had for the most: violent, angry and drug addicted people you could ever meet. Just like David Berg, this woman was inspired by a televangelist ministry to go and seek those lost sheep.
Multimedia is a powerful tool and with the invention of the internet, we now have another tool that can be used to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Inspired by a number of televangelists and by people involved with TFI, I have made a decision to be a contributor on this website to share Christian and spiritual truth with the world. I definitely think it’s important to observe the televangelism beginnings of TFI and its leader, and to also give my personal testimony about how televangelist ministries impacted my life in a positive way.
As far as TFI goes, I cannot deny their rich and fruitful history and it’s clear David Brandt Berg operated in a genuine prophetic gift. I have pretty much read all the Mo letters and TFI leadership documents that cover a range of controversial topics. I believe TFI is a genuine Christian organization and is following Jesus Christ based on the information the Holy Spirit has given me. TFI definitely is controversial and its doctrines are far more progressive and alternative than any mainstream church or Christian organization, but at the end of the day it has been confirmed to me through dreams and visions that TFI is a genuine movement serving Jesus Christ. Benny Hinn’s dreams and visions teaching really helped me to hear from God, and it helped me recognize that God gave me a prophetic dream gift, and that God was talking to me about TFI and showing me they were genuine disciples of Jesus. After looking into TFI, God really showed me that TFI is in fact a Godly organization, and it was the ministry of Benny Hinn (particularly his prophetic dream teachings) that helped me recognize TFI as the special organization that they are. If you can look behind the: smear campaigns, negative media attention, so-called scandals, mistakes and tragedies, then you can really see a very special movement of God in TFI that has achieved a lot for Jesus Christ over the years. In the end, only Jesus Christ Himself and His Holy Spirit can vindicate this organization for you and show you the truth. We walk by faith and not by sight. King David was the ruler of Israel for a long season, and his life was full of: sex scandals, murder and all kinds of controversy, yet despite his colorful history he was one of the most celebrated and successful leaders of Israel to ever be remembered. His bloodline brought the Messiah (Jesus Christ) into the world and Christians all over the world look upon him as a role model today. When you look upon, The Family International (TFI) and David Brandt Berg, try and look behind the so-called scandals, and try to look upon them as God looked upon King David. It’s been a real honor to explore the history of TFI/COG, and I can definitely say that David Brandt Berg and TFI have had a significant impact on my spiritual journey.
If you would like to read more about TFI and David Brandt Berg, please read more of my articles on this topic below.