The “New Revolution” and the Chain of Cooperation

The COG was not able to develop leadership quickly enough to keep pace with the rapid expansion of the early ’70s. Many sincere but inexperienced and ill-equipped people were placed in positions of responsibility. Most colonies were led by newlywed couples in their late teens or early twenties. It was not unheard of for members who had joined less than a year earlier to be put in charge of colonies of up to 100 people, where they were responsible for everything from the physical well-being and financial support to the spiritual teaching and training of their flocks. The movement faced a leadership crisis.

Because we failed God in not training enough leaders when I told you to, this work has now grown into monstrous proportions almost beyond our control! … Our major mistake … in the beginning at both of our major Colonies, [TSC and Los Angeles, was that] we failed to train leaders, but multiplied disciples!

As fast as we establish Colonies, they fill up just like that! But they don’t have competent leadership—well-educated and trained. Some of our leaders are like little boys running around trying to be shepherds, able to get the sheep in, but don’t have the know-how to take care of them! And if we don’t do something about it, or God doesn’t do something about it, the whole fold could collapse! … The body has grown faster than the leadership!

“The Monster,” 1972

Until 1975, top leadership consisted of David’s personal family and a few charter members. Some held formal positions, while others exerted a great deal of authority in the colonies primarily because they had been around since the beginning and had personally known David and received some training from him. Most leadership at all levels was appointed by these top leaders, so that most members had little say in who ran their colonies. David had emphasized in his writings the need for colonies to be indigenous, develop their own leadership, make their own decisions, generate and control their own finances, print their own literature for distribution to the general public, etc. He encouraged members to choose their own mission fields, to launch out and pioneer new cities and countries of their choice, to establish and operate their own colonies, to produce their own local publications, etc.

As a means to those ends, David initiated a complete reorganization of the COG leadership structure in the “New Revolution” of late 1974 and early 1975. The new structure, called the “Chain of Cooperation,” would take control away from the few leaders at the top and spread it out onto as many shoulders as possible, raising up new members into positions of responsibility and provide more indigenousness for the local colonies.

In spite of many declarations of independence to encourage you to be more indigenous, we still have a few old bottles around who try to exercise too much control from the top instead of inspiring more initiative from the bottom. Some of these old-bottle groups have had big organizational meetings recently in which they’ve been trying to figure out how to run the world without even asking for my suggestions.

They are continuing all things as before as though they had never even read the multitude of Letters we have written on breaking up the blobs [very large colonies], decentralizing control, diversifying operations and trying to encourage greater independence for local colonies, local projects, local pubs, local childcare, local music, local government, local PR, local mail ministry as well as local distribution and self-support, etc.

There was a time in our early history, when you were nearly all babes [1 Peter 2:2], that you needed strong parental control, support, protection, indoctrination and direction, etc. But now you have grown into self-supporting, self-sufficient and strong pioneering parents and leaders yourselves, with your own jobs to do in your own countries and your own colonies and regions.

“The Shake Up,” 1975

The establishment of the “Chain” was such that each COG colony, together with one or two of its closest neighboring colonies, formed what was known as a “district.” The leaders of these two or three individual colonies (colony shepherds) were to elect one of their leadership teams (usually a married couple) to be their district supervisors (district shepherds). A group of two or three districts was known as a “region,” and the district supervisors would elect regional supervisors, and so on up the line. There were seven or eight supervisory levels between colony leaders and David. The supervisors at each level were to be elected by those they represented (but could be appointed in a provisional capacity) and approved by the level above them.

The primary purpose of this chain of cooperation was to coordinate the rapidly expanding missionary activities among far-flung communities. In his Letters advising the COG on the formation of this chain of cooperation, David emphasized that the leadership of the individual colonies was to remain on a local level, and that the chain structure was to be a means by which all colonies would be able to work together in mutual cooperation while retaining their autonomy. There was to be no top-heavy bureaucracy dictating goals and means.

In reality, however, very few of the chain supervisors were ever elected. Most were appointed by the few top officers whom David had commissioned to help carry out the program, or by their respective appointees. This eventually undermined the whole plan. This situation was further complicated by the fact that all communications between grassroots COG members and David passed through the offices of these same leaders, many of whom, it was later discovered, censored anything which reflected badly on their leadership.

The Chain structure remained for three years, until the birth of the Family of Love (later to be known simply as “the Family” in February 1978).

During the three years of the New Revolution/Chain of Cooperation, COG members around the world continued to zealously witness, distributing over 206 million pieces of literature in just three years, from 1975–1977, leading 2.4 million people to pray to receive Jesus as their Savior, and personally witnessing to nearly 45 million people. The number of members also rose from just over 3,000 in January 1975 to 5,100 in December 1977. Over that same period, the number of colonies rose from 228 in January 1975 to 741 in December of 1977. Meanwhile, the average colony size dropped from 13.3 to 6.9, as members continued to branch out into smaller colonies in new cities and countries.