Is David Pack’s RCG a Dangerous Cult?

The RCG’s logo.

In a person’s search for a true religion, they may eschew what’s mainstream because they see that something is wrong. As they do so, they may consider an alternative that catches their attention because it happens to be more outspoken.

One such outspoken religious organization might be the Restored Church of God (RCG), which was founded and led by David Pack.

Some have risen the concern that Pack leads a cult, and that his church is one that a person is better off staying away from. It’s because of this that I’ve decided to evaluate the RCG to determine whether it’s a cult.

David Pack’s RCG is part of a greater movement colloquially referred to as Armstrongism. This movement is named for Herbert Armstrong, who departed from Adventism over doctrinal disagreements, then went on to form his own church. Armstrong’s church was controversial for its disagreement with mainstream orthodoxy, especially concerning Sabbath observance, and for favoring Biblical holy days over more mainstream holidays, which Armstrong pointed out were of pagan origin.

After Armstrong passed away, some members of his church broke away and formed their own sects, citing his successor’s departure from the church’s doctrine. David Pack belonged to a particularly large breakaway group which was insistent on maintaining Armstrongism’s teachings. However, Pack was fired from his pastoral position shortly after the group’s founding, citing the spiritual condition of those under his leadership.

I was already aware that, when it comes to cults, there’s something about them that inspires some strong feelings. It’s because of this that it’s hard to find someone willing to write about them with an impartial viewpoint. However, I’ve found that there’s something about Armstrongism in particular that especially upsets people, even if they can’t get an accusation against most Armstrongian groups to stick, besides that they disagree with them. I suspect that this has a lot to do with the fact that Armstrongism disagrees with their own church, and that the mere existence of Armstrongism as a movement is challenging to them. People really don’t like having their own religion challenged, even by the mere existence of people staying in their own lane. It’s because of this that researching David Pack has turned up some results that were interesting.

Before I begin the analysis, I want to point out that I’m not personally familiar with David Pack or with anyone in his church. While there may be a focus on some of his more concerning behavior, its not my intention to present the worst of David Pack to render an unfair verdict.

To perform my analysis, I’ll start with the general criteria that I use to determine whether a group is a cult. This criteria can serve a person well to form a skeptical viewpoint based on a first impression. While dangerous cults tend to be abusive, exploitative, manipulative, or deceptive, this is usually not evident upon the first impression. This list focuses mainly on what a person would likely take notice of upon first impression, or with a little research.

Also, I’d like to point out that an organization does not need to be religious in nature in order to be a cult. However, because the RCG is a religious organization, in this case that is a moot point.

Here is the five-factor criteria I use to find red flags that an organization may be a cult. Of course, there can be other signs that might make this evident to you, besides the ones listed here:

  • A cult tends to try to convince prospective members that they have a problem, then present themselves as the solution to that problem,
  • Cults tend to have an adversarial relationship with its host society, may appeal to tribalism, or has a tendency to split the world in two,
  • There is particular esteem placed on leadership, which is usually not held accountable,
  • Membership can appear exclusive or valuable, attention in marketing may be placed on prominent members,
  • There is an obvious mechanism with which to extract value.

With this criteria, let’s examine how David Pack’s RCG holds up.

  • A cult tends to try to convince prospective members that they have a problem, then present themselves as the solution to that problem,

To be fair, this is basic marketing, and most organizations exist to the end of solving at least one problem. What makes cults concerning is the amount of pressure that they place on prospective members to turn to them to solve the problem the cult convinces them that they have.

Most churches point out that humanity is in need of salvation. The RCG is not unusual in this regard. What is unusual about the RCG is David Pack’s insistence that a person is not in the true church unless they are in his church, which would be the RCG specifically. While Armstrongian churches believe that most of the Christian world has gone astray, few churches are as narrow as Pack’s RCG.

  • Cults tend to have an adversarial relationship with its host society, may appeal to tribalism, or has a tendency to split the world in two,

Most Christian churches believe that humanity is in a fallen state, and in need of restoration. Their general outlook when it comes to sin is “hate the sin, love the sinner”. The RCG tends to be consistent with most of the Christian world in this regard, to their credit. Of course, there may be more judgmental individuals who speak for themselves.

  • There is particular esteem placed on leadership, which is usually not held accountable,

The Pastor General of RCG, David Pack, is usually featured prominently in RCG’s materials. While this is interesting in itself, Pack also attempts to authenticate his authority with his claim to have known Herbert Armstrong personally. Pack refers to Armstrong as though he were a prophet, and refers to himself as an apostle.

This strong insistence on bringing attention to himself indicates that Pack has a high degree of insecurity, and desires attention. This would not be unusual for a cult leader, at all.

David Pack is famous, particularly among other Armstrongians, for his antics. More on this coming up.

  • Membership can appear exclusive or valuable, attention in marketing may be placed on prominent members,

Believe me: David Pack is, by far, the RCG’s most prominent member. But I get the idea that, if someone famous were to join the RCG, David Pack might not let them outshine him.

Also, prospectives should be warned that, once a person joins the RCG, they are expected to remain a part of it for as long as they live. This is due to a belief which was once popular among Armstrongians that it’s considered an unpardonable sin to leave the church. However, many Armstrongians seem to be backing away from this belief.

  • There is an obvious mechanism with which to extract value.

Most churches encourage tithing, which is usually just 10% of a person’s income. If that were all that the RCG were asking for, they would not be unusual in this regard. However, Armstrongian churches tend to hit their member’s incomes almost as hard as government, and the RCG is not an exception.

In addition to what’s called a “first tithe”, Armstrongians are encouraged to save up a “second tithe” throughout the year, to help them observe yearly festivals, particularly the weeklong Feast of Tabernacles, which is usually observed at hotels and resorts. I still don’t know how it’s considered religious to spend a tenth of a year’s income in a week, but Armstrongians seldom question it. Some members might keep a “third tithe”, but that’s not usually compulsory, due to the history that Armstrong’s church has with it.

In addition to all this, members are encouraged to make special offerings at festivals, in addition to other offerings that members may voluntarily make (usually in the form of money). Considering all the money that Armstrongian churches hit their members for, it’s vexing that they use the material they distribute to ask for more money. It must be expensive to run their office space while renting convention halls and other churches for services.

Sometimes, I suspect that Armstrongism is as unpopular as it is because normal people cannot afford to join.

Before I continue on, I’d like to point out that I have no animosity against Armstrongism. I bring this up because a lot of material that I found while researching was evidently written by people with an axe to grind. These people really need to get over the fact that there are some people who have religious viewpoints that are different from theirs.

Having said that, David Pack is a seriously interesting guy. While I can write an essay on some of his more concerning behavior, I think I can get the point across by briefly mentioning some select antics, which should be plenty to paint a picture of the kind of guy he’s like.

David Pack, as pictured on

Why focus on Pack? Because he’s made himself such a central figure in his own church that examining him provides clues as to what kind of church he runs.

For one thing, Pack seems completely serious on the idea that these are the end times. Armstrong himself claimed as much, but Armstrong made the mistake of setting dates on which he believed that Jesus would return. “Dates” being plural, because Armstrong made the prediction on multiple occasions, but changed his mind when it became clear to him that he was wrong. What’s especially disappointing about this in Armstrong’s case is that Armstrong was a former Adventist. Adventism’s most famous failure was setting a specific date for Jesus’ return, but the date passed without this occurring. Being a former Adventist, Armstrong should have known better.

Nonetheless, Herbert Armstrong was the kind of guy that David Pack could look to and think, “prophet”. So, Pack would later attempt to establish a connection between himself and Armstrong in an effort to establish his own apostleship.

But remember, Pack believes that his small church (of perhaps 1000 members) is the only true church, so because he believes that this is the time of the end, he believes that the two witnesses of Revelation would be in his church. Pack has suggested that he may be one of the two, though he seems to go back and forth on this.

This is to say nothing of the 144,000 or the innumerable multitude, but perhaps Pack is enthusiastic about his church’s potential for growth.

While it may not be specific to David Pack, there is a popular opinion among Armstrongians that Herbert Armstrong was the “Elijah to come”. But Jesus said that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of that prophecy. Did all these people somehow miss this when they read the Gospels?

While this says a lot about Pack and his background, he also likes to combine his passion for false prophecy with his hatred for competing ministers. And boy, how passionately he hates them.

In the early-to-mid 2010s, David Pack made a prediction that three prominent figures from other Armstrongian congregations would all die, all on the same day. And he somehow arrived at this conclusion from some supposed hidden message that he somehow read from the book of Haggai.

Don’t feel intimidated about reading the book of Haggai for yourself to see what it says, as it’s only about 1 or 2 pages long in most Bibles.

David Pack should have lost whatever following he had the moment he made that prediction. But he didn’t. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the date that Pack set came and went without any people of repute in other Armstrongian groups dying. It seems as though Pack didn’t learn from Armstrong’s mistakes concerning setting specific dates for false prophecies.

In any case, Pack should have lost whatever following he had left, but he didn’t. This can seem confounding, but not so much when you understand that when someone is in a cult, they tend to be less critical of the shortcomings of their leaders. In light of this, consider the fact that many Armstrongian sermons place a heavy emphasis on “being a good follower” and obedience to leadership.

Also in David Pack’s list of prophecies is his prediction about a reunification, which would supposedly see a few Armstrongian groups coming together. This must have sounded nice to most Armstrongians, considering that with all the divisions in their history, a reunification would be a change of pace. But because it was a David Pack prophecy, it would have a David Pack twist: they would be united under his leadership.

Of course. No surprise, there. What’s also not a surprise is that it was yet another David Pack prophecy that did not come true.

Another interesting fact about the RCG is that it purchases a high amount of advertising on social media. One might imagine that such outreach attempts would be strongly successful. Or, they would be, except most people don’t seem to respond to them. Perhaps it’s evident to many people who see these ads that something is wrong. Some of these ads contain the names of other Armstrongian groups, which makes it evident that Pack was trying to pluck away members of Armstrongian groups which aren’t as cultish.

Also, the RCG once celebrated the fact that their website has been accessed at least once from each country in the world (though I imagine that there were some exceptions). They took this to mean that the Gospel has effectively reached the whole world. That the Gospel would reach the whole world is accepted by Christianity as a precondition for the end of the current age. Apparently, the RCG only counted access to their own website, because apparently they think that other churches don’t count. And apparently they are using the accessing of their website as the metric for their success, because the RCG sees itself as an “online ministry”.

Considering all this, you might be able to predict my verdict as to whether David Pack’s RCG is a dangerous cult. If you were to join the RCG, it would be very dangerous to your pocketbook. Putting that aside, when one considers how narcissistic and out-of-touch with reality it’s leadership apparently is, it’s strongly likely that there is exploitation taking place, especially when considering Armstrongism’s heavy emphasis on submission to leadership.

The mechanism for the extraction of a high amount of financial value is abundantly obvious. What’s also obvious is that Pack uses the RCG as a mechanism for the extraction of admiration, which would be a dream come true for a narcissistic person, which David Pack apparently is.

There are obvious signs that David Pack’s RCG is a dangerous cult. It’s not acceptable that as much value is extracted from its members as the RCG extracts from them. While we don’t currently have more immediate evidence that it’s members are being exploited, if the RCG were to be more carefully investigated, it wouldn’t be surprising to discover some more serious abuses.


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