The Children of God was founded by David Brandt Berg (1919–1994) in 1968. Working outside of mainstream denominations, he and his family recruited, trained, and inspired thousands of predominantly young adults, many of whom had no former interest in denominational Christianity or in becoming full-time “missionaries.” Known as “Moses David” and endearingly called “Uncle Dave,” “Mo,” or “Dad” by members, he was born in 1919 in Oakland, California, to Hjalmer and Virginia Berg.
David had a rich Christian heritage. Many of his forefathers, as well as both of his parents, were deeply committed Christians who challenged the status quo of their day. His maternal forefathers were German Jews who converted to Christianity in the mid-eighteenth century, and subsequently joined the Dunkards. State persecution of this offshoot of the Lutheran Church led the Brandt family to migrate to America in 1745.
David’s grandfather, author and lecturer Dr. John Lincoln Brandt (1860–1946), also underwent a dramatic conversion in his mid-twenties and became a Methodist circuit rider, and later a leader of the Campbellite movement (now known as the Churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ), building and pastoring 50 churches throughout America and one in Australia. David’s mother and father were also pastors and evangelists, but were expelled from the Disciples of Christ for testifying of Virginia’s miracle healing, which was contrary to that denomination’s dogma. (See Virginia’s book, The Hem of His Garment, about her healing.) They later served with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, though often operated as independent pastors and evangelists. His mother, Virginia Brandt Berg (1886–1968), was one of the early female radio evangelists of her time. David spent much of his childhood and teen years in evangelistic service with his parents.
David later became an ordained Christian and Missionary Alliance minister. During his years as a pastor and evangelist, he had become increasingly disillusioned with the ineffectiveness of what he termed traditional “churchianity.” The church’s emphasis on ceremonialism and lavish buildings, and its general lack of interest in evangelical outreach appalled him; he believed that the church as a whole was failing to fulfill Jesus’ mandate to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). David later wrote:
Even I, a staunch, confirmed defender of the faith and churchman of the cloth of the past could not help but see that the Church bore no more resemblance to Jesus and His disciples and the Early Christians than capitalism does to communism! Even I, whose very existence depended on the Church, could see that it was not what Jesus intended nor what God ordained nor the kind of a Church that could win the world and save mankind from destruction, much less set an example for a full life of satisfying Christian service and healthful, happy living!
Too many religions and religionists are still living in the past, even a pagan past, in which they have inherited too many hangovers from the former paganism and idolatry of heathenism with its love of buildings, temple worship, sanctimonious priesthood, elaborate trappings, complicated ceremonies, superstitious traditions, and a dictatorial stranglehold on the souls of men!
“Flesh or Spirit?” 1971