The Words of the Carlson Family


David Carlson
September, 1999

Before we begin I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge our brothers and sisters out on the front lines. While persecution has cooled here in America, our members in several nations remain subject to serious threats. Let’s do all we can to support them.

This month we’ll look at church growth. The Unification movement had grown amazingly in its first half century. Providentially, however, we’ve only been "playing catch up." The church itself is merely a Plan B to the worldwide acceptance True Father should have enjoyed right after World War Two.

Since we exist as a church (and now as a broader Family Federation), we interact with the world as such. Most churches seek to grow. For us, it is a Heavenly imperative. In the United States we’ve been through a slow period, and we’re seeking ways to "break through."


Several new religions grew quickly in recent years. In the early 1990s our Eastern European leaders watched the Hare Krishna explode in membership, while we struggled to gain a handful of converts.

This author urged a "wait and see" attitude. Such groups have a simplistic enthusiasm that’s very attractive to youth. They also have shallow foundations, and a rather myopic view of the human condition.

The Rajneesh movement was an extreme instance. They began by advising folks to "dance their way to enlightenment," and ended with their founder dead from STDs, and their leaders jailed for serious crimes.

Many new churches are worthy of respect. Our members have studied these, especially the Evangelical Christian "megachurches." They can be seen in many neighborhoods, building huge sanctuaries that host multiple programs for thousands of members.

We now understand how they attract so many members, and hope to emulate them.

These "church studies" work both ways. From the 1970s onward, a number of successful Christian ministers have borrowed our "witnessing, workshop, and actionizing" programs, modifying them for entire families.

How has the "differentness" of our church affected our growth? Which changes do we want to make? And what changes should we make—which may not be the same thing at all.

Persecution has of course been a negative factor, but it’s much diminished from the 1970s, when we grew rapidly anyway. We’re gradually finding acceptance, but note that it took the Mormons and Adventists 150 years to enter the mainstream.

Social conditions have changed. Today’s young people are career oriented. In response, many popular churches emphasize God’s material blessings.

Sunday Service

In America we used to focus on single people. Twenty four years ago, at our San Francisco center, we literally did not know what to do with an interested family!

With the growth of our own families we’ve come to resemble the mainstream, buying church buildings and organizing Scout troops.

The experience of our new San Leandro (northern California) church is instructive. Several local folks have joined simply by walking in for Sunday service. Others have come via personal invitation.

Some of these "walk ins" make one visit only—as is the case at other churches too. Our Rev. Thompson says he isn’t satisfied with his member’s "witnessing mentality," and thus, our care for these guests.

To accommodate visitors, he has streamlined the Sunday service, and cut back on jargon. Potentially shocking Providential news is reserved for separate meetings.

These new "neighborhood members" are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. How strongly should we urge them to attend our mobilizations, matching, and Blessing?


While pioneering in Twin Falls, Idaho, this author visited all 65 local churches. My members and I got receptions that varied from getting tossed out bodily to having fresh-baked cookies delivered by the church ladies. (We complimented that Pastor very highly.)

We saw churches that were small and happy about it, believing that Heaven will have several hundred inhabitants at most. Some churches were large but contented; a few were skyrocketing. Others were like ours, small and trying to grow.

There are liberal churches that hold short Sunday services laced with jokes and anecdotes—and hardly any Biblical content. Opposite this, in Macedonia I saw Orthodox Churches that have 2 hour services, and no pews. Everyone stands the entire time!

Unificationists take a middle ground.

We visited churches where everyone leaves right after shaking the Priest’s hand. Mormons have 3 hours of services, classes, and other events. Adventists hold group picnics and many other Sabbath activities.

Most churches ask for tithes in the Biblical "ten percent" range. Our church expects somewhat larger offerings.

The level of member commitment varies from church to church. Many congregations support an overseas missionary family, while staying home themselves. Mormon youths devote two years to full-time missions, and sometimes a retired couple will return to the field.

Unificationists accept travel as a matter of course. Once or twice a year our members "mobilize" for intensive campaigns such as signature gathering, town and international pioneering, and giving pre-Blessings. Many of our families volunteer for long-term commitments like National Messiahship.

A menagerie of organizations spring from these efforts. Some only last through a particular campaign, while others establish themselves for the long haul. Even so, we’re simple compared to the vast and intricate Roman Catholic Church.

Many denominations value congregational independence. In our church, central directions are serious, detailed, and frequent. Local efforts are put on hold while our overall focus evolves. Sweeping campaigns are swept aside in their turn.

The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have rigid, top-down organizations. This makes them very effective in some areas, but the result is not always harmonious. This author personally observed the grumbling (small town) reception of the announcement that Blacks could hold LDS/Mormon priesthood. Also, the JW’s mandate that they could not go into business with non-member partners.

Opposite this, most American Catholics ignore at least half of their own doctrines, as well as many specific dictates of Rome.

In our church this varies more on an individual level.


The Unificationist lifestyle is strict in regards to dating, alcohol, and more. Some churches are even stricter! The Wesleyan Holiness Church forbids divorce for any reason. Salvation Army officers need permission to implement many personal decisions. The Amish don’t own video games or cars. Stringent monastic orders never speak aloud.

Mainstream Christians expect to be "freely forgiven" by Jesus for past, present, and future sins, including adultery. They like to quote St. Paul’s flat out guarantee of a place in Heaven (Romans 8:38-39).

Our understanding of Fallen Nature and Indemnity is unorthodox, and considerably more demanding. Our view of a fully revealing, "self directed" afterlife is also very different.

Our member’s level of self-denial remains high, as with prayer conditions, and the internal revivals we’ve held, especially at Chungpyung with its "ansu" sessions. It is as if all Catholics became Priests or Nuns.

This stems from the True Parent’s teaching and example, and from taking the Spirit World seriously. (In comparison to others; and yet, still not seriously enough!) Boosting this are our many spiritually open members.

These standards can scare the heck out of potential converts.


Will we compromise so as not to discomfit our new, local members? The Methodists were the megachurch of their day, but they’ve compromised so much that they’re breaking up over issues like the ordination of homosexuals.

This author has seen independent megachurches shatter over a strong, "linchpin" Pastor getting caught in scandal. The Calvary Chapels continue to grow, and basically they’re asking their members to "wait for Jesus."

The fallen world proffers a whole range of compromise and danger: from secretly viewed Internet nudes; to unsanctioned remarriage of divorcees and widows; to drug or bullet-ridden scenes of insanity.

How shall we judge the seriousness of these? How many "free passes" can we issue? It appears we’ve tacitly issued some already, even at the highest levels. (I’m calling them "free" here even if they’ve been dearly bought by another . . . )

How can we ensure that our standards are honored, especially by converted families who have never lived in a church center? In countries where our members rarely lived in centers the record is dismal, especially when it comes to the Second Generation.

Our movement can and will expand. Let’s always be aware of what we’re becoming. We have even greater potential now that we’ve settled into skilled careers and loving families.

Let’s not berate ourselves for not having a high enough standard. We do! Even while listening to our conscience, and to our elders, as to how well we are personally keeping it. (Bearing in mind that True Father’s evocations of Heaven are pure, loving, and noble almost beyond imagining.)

We have to decide how best to change our movement in order to accomplish our goals. We must plan carefully for the future, both external and internal.

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