Category: Articles

Revolution Through Restoration II: The 20th Century Church

Preface : by Al Baird 
“And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Acts 2:47
“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.”
Acts 6:7
“The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”
Acts 11:21
Revolution II is our first sequel to Kip McKean’s article, “Revolution Through Restoration: From Jerusalem to Rome, From Boston to Moscow”, which originally appeared in Upside Down magazine, April, 1992. Typically, movie sequels are rarely as good as the original. Kip’s latest article, “Revolution Through Restoration II: The Twentieth Century Church” is even better than the first.

Communication is a major challenge in every interpersonal dynamic. It is the major problem area in marriage as well as in churches. It is so very difficult to get everyone in every church around the world to grasp the big picture of what God is doing. Almost three baptisms per hour and two new churches a month in places we have seldom or never heard of staggers our minds. Kip has done an excellent job in this article of putting these events into perspective. A few days ago I was interviewed via telephone by a newspaper reporter in London. He had heard that the United States Churches had just sent 50 evangelists to London to help the church there — a major cause for alarm in his mind. Of course, I had to clarify for him that 50 disciples from Philadelphia and Washington D.C. had taken a vacation from their jobs to go to England to help out for a couple of weeks in a summer campaign! The world has a hard time understanding such commitment.

In a question that revealed his skepticism, a reporter challenged me: “Surely you do not believe that your people will be able to grow from 1,000,000 disciples to 5,000,000 as easily as you did from 10,000 to 50,000, do you?” “Why not?” I replied. “Just as long as everyone continues to do his part it will happen.” I have so much confidence that it will happen when I see what has already occurred. Your confidence will grow as well when you see the miracles of our church’s growth, the increase in the number of churches and the number of nations and attendance in just fifteen years. Truly God is good. It only gets better.

Plan for United Cooperation Summary

The purpose of this document is to provide a structure for Regional and International cooperation among our family of churches around the world.

The Regional Families of Churches

For decades we, like the churches in the New Testament, have functioned as regional families of churches.  This cooperation plan recognizes the existing families of churches worldwide and encourages their growth and continuation.

Churches participate in this “Cooperation Plan” by first identifying themselves with the circle of churches in their geographic region.  These regional families of churches are expected to engage in humble and meaningful relationships with each other at the regional level. They are committed to mutual discipling, exchanges of full-time workers, and cooperation on church plantings, missions and working relationships and mutually respectful,  agreed accountability with other church leaderships in their region. [1]

These regional families of churches are committed to cooperate in every way needed to advance the gospel and maintain doctrinal and relational unity.  Leaders meet regularly to pray, coordinate, and strengthen one another.   Regional groups work together to plant new congregations, plan regional conferences, camps, seminars, and events.  Each region establishes regional committees as needed and works together to strengthen weak churches.

Be Careful How You Build: A Study of The Statistical Narrative Of The International Churches of Christ (ICOC)

Today is an important moment for the International Churches of Christ (ICOC). As the movement enters its second generation, understanding our history, our strengths and our weaknesses, has never been more important. Although God’s word has world-transforming power and he desires for the whole world to be saved, there seems to be internal resistance impeding a gain in momentum and forward motion. I believe that part of this resistance can be attributed to lack of faith and discouragement, and self-focus rather than God-focus. At this moment, in this situation, we need the faith of Abraham as much as ever:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believe and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “so shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was a good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. (Rom 4:18-19)

That our moved as slowed in growth is a fact, but that does not change what God is able to do through our faith and faithfulness. What God wants to be done in this world, can only be done through his strength and wisdom.

From 1979 to 2002, the ICOC grew from a single congregation of about 30 members to a worldwide fellowship of 439 congregations and 135,072 members. Although the growth was perceptibly slowing in the latter part of this period, the organizational collapse and loss of membership in 2003 were severe and largely unanticipated by the leadership. The purpose of this in-depth statistical analysis is to examine the available data of this “initial growth phase” and look for trends and patterns that might have served as indicators and warnings as to what was about to take place.

Revolution Through Restoration I: From Jerusalem to Rome, From Boston to Moscow

Preface : by Al Baird
“Let it begin here!” cried the American revolutionists in Lexington and Concord over two centuries ago. The British band played The World Turned Upside Down as their troops marched into battle. No one knows who fired the first shot, but it soon became the “Shot heard ’round the  world.” Revolution had come.

What more fitting a theme for July 4th than Revolution? In 1992, Kip McKean wrote “Revolution Through Restoration” for Upside Down magazine. In it he describes the beginning of the church in Lexington, Massachusetts, and how it has truly become today’s “shot heard ’round the world.” This article explains who we are as God’s modern-day movement and where we came from, better than any other single piece of which I am aware. For this reason I frequently give a copy to someone with whom I am studying the Bible or to someone from the media who wants to know more about us.

Introduction: by Kip McKean
Revolution was and is in each step and breath of those who dare follow this man called Jesus. Revolution comes about only when there is at least one person willing to take a stand for God and say “the present system” is wrong and thus will not accomplish the purposes of God. All of God’s purposes center on His glory and meeting the needs of people. Jesus was the ultimate revolutionary.

After the first several centuries of Christianity, men tried to reform from within an apostate movement. When the Christian establishment rejected these men and women, denominations formed that genuinely attempted to be God’s movement. These predecessors, who strove to return to the Bible even to the point of death, are to be commended for their faith. Now in our day, we are confronted with unbelieving seminaries and dying denominations with systems of doctrines that have been compromised and crystallized short of the Word of God. However, His Spirit continues to call all men and women to make the ideals of Scripture become our everyday standard and sole authority.

Therefore, revolution in Christianity–a return to the doctrines and lifestyles of the first century church–can only occur when we abandon the apostatized systems and their poisoned foundations of traditions and hypocrisy. This path is both frightening and exhilarating, for only by studying the Bible and then by trial and error implementation of these rediscovered teachings can a movement be forged like the original that shook the entire world in one generation. Enemies and critics, Pilates and Judases will abound, for with each restoration of Scripture a more clear, narrowing and convicting, path appears.

The restoration of ancient paths evokes the same ancient reactions God’s movements have always received. Therefore, I felt the need to write a more complete explanation primarily for those who are seeking the truth but have heard only our critics, and secondly, to encourage and strengthen God’s people everywhere. My prayer is that this treatise will produce a deep, abiding sense of gratitude to our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. I write this article not as an apostle inspired by God, for I am not. I am simply a Christian who dreams that God’ s modern day movement will never stop restoring and living out God’s Word.

ICOC establishing churches in tough mission fields of the 10/40 window

The beginning of the Christian Church is reckoned from the great day on which the Holy Ghost came down, according as our Lord had promised to His Apostles. At that time, “Jews, devout men, out ofevery nation under heaven,” were gathered together at Jerusalem, to keep the Feast of Pentecost (or Feast of Weeks), which was one of the three holy seasons at which God required His people to appear before Him in the place which He had chosen (Deut 16:16). Many of these devout men there converted by what they then saw and heard, to believe the Gospel; and, when they returned to their own countries, they carried back with them the news of the wonderful things which had taken place at Jerusalem. After this, the Apostles went forth “into all the world,” as their Master had ordered them, to “preach the Gospel to every creature” (St Mark 16:15).

The core of the unreached people of our world live in a rectangular-shaped window! Often called “The Resistant Belt”, the window extends from West Africa to East Asia, from ten degrees north to forty degrees north of the equator. This specific region, which has increasingly become known as The 10/40 Window, encompasses the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists — billions of spiritually impoverished souls. The Indian sub-continent falls in the window and is among the toughest mission fields.

The ICC and ICOC – An In Depth Distinction

This paper reviews five philosophical differences between the International Christian Churches (ICC) and the International Churches of Christ (ICOC). It utilizes a combination of Scripture, history, personal experiences, and lessons learned. Who is my audience? Anyone inside the ICOC, the ICC, or with any connection to our past who is curious as to where the two movements differ. The paper is also written as an informational bridge aiding those in the ICC considering a transition to the ICOC.

A mistake is made in comparing most movements. One is not necessarily this and the other that. The ICC is broadly uniform because the culture, methods and styles are determined by one man. Even the websites largely use all the same articles. The ICOC is consistent on core doctrine but varied on cultures, styles, and methodologies. And the vast majority of our churches cooperate and our leaders are increasingly collaborating within their flocks. In this way the ICOC possesses an uncontrived unity along with sometimes messy diversity, similar to what can be observed in the New Testament churches. Fortunately, it appears that both the ICC and the ICOC share the same core doctrines based on Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:36- 41, Ephesians 4:3-6 and other substantive doctrinal passages.

I am increasingly convinced that it is easy to lose touch with the state of a flock or movement until something comes along and gets its attention. Usually it is membership losses, crisis, conflict, widespread immaturity, low morale and tapered growth. The ancient Corinthian congregation had some of those things, prompting the apostle Paul to deliver assessments, directions and follow up.

Paul called upon members in Corinth to do three smart things: examine themselves to see if they were “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5), ensure that they are learning from the past troubles that served “as warnings” (1 Corinthians 10:1-11), and confirm that “each one should build with care” (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). In other words, Christians should be really in, always learning, and mindful of their steps.

In the spirit of seeking sincere faith, learning and self-reflection, I’ve provided a historical backdrop that preceded the two movements and a breakdown of five philosophies of the ICC, contrasting them from the Bible and the ICOC.

The ICC and ICOC – A Concise Distinction

I was recently asked by two non-US evangelists in the International Churches of Christ about my answer to the question: “What are the main differences between the ICC and the ICOC?” No two people would answer this question the exact same way because we each have personal experiences. This paper was shaped by my: 1) 35 years as a Christian, 26 years of fulltime ministry, which includes the roles of elder, evangelists and teacher, 2) graduate education in New Testament, and in conflict management, and 3) my vocation as an organizational health and risk management consultant.

The ICOC has not published new positions concerning Kip McKean and his breakoff that led to the ICC since late 2005, when about eighty ministers affirmed a disciplinary position against Kip. Since that time the leading indicators of where the ICOC stands with the ICC has come from the writings of respected individuals such as Mike Taliaferro and Justin Renton. Like those papers, I am not inclined to write a paper that is merely us-versus-them, but to provide clarification.

One of the main ICC evangelists, Luis J. Martinez, aka “LuJack” posted the areas “the ICOC and the ICC agree on”:

1) that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; 2) that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day; 3) that Jesus Christ called us to be his disciples; 4) that Jesus Christ called us to be born again, born of water and the Spirit;
5) that Jesus Christ called us to “go and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them–for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit–in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”;
6) that we must teach ALL disciples to OBEY EVERYTHING Jesus commanded us;
7) that the Bible contains the very Words of God;
8) that the church is the body of Christ and the kingdom of God;
9) that the acts of the sinful nature are obvious;
10) that we must confess our sins to each other and pray for each so that we may be healed;
11) that we must seek FIRST God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and he will provide us everything we need for life and godliness;
12) that we must strive to evangelize the whole wide world while God gives us life to do so;

LuJack’s list of agreements are much appreciated. As readers will probably concur, the distinctions are not about core orthodox theology at the time of conversion to Christ, they fall under the category of philosophy and paradigms. These differences have a significant influence on the health of an individual and congregation, even after a short time.

I considered Kip McKean’s paper on the five differences between the ICC and the ICOC. I don’t think his explanations with the distinctions will satisfy a informed member of the ICOC. The following five statements more accurately contrast the two movements, in my mind, but not necessarily in any particular order.

From Survival To Revival

ABSTRACT: A brief history of a restoration movement’s evolution.
It was a watershed moment in the history of the International Churches of Christ. The conference meetings were long, and filled with tears. Church leaders were venting their years of pent-up frustration with each other. The conference began with the movement’s leader resigning, and by the end, everyone was uncertain about his or her own future. Two of the top leaders in the movement walked out together at the end of the last meeting, exhausted and emotionally spent. One ominously said to the other, “It’s over, we are done!” It was 2002, and many were predicting the end of the International Churches of Christ (the “ICOC”) 1 . The firestorm that started at a leadership conference in Long Beach spread rapidly through the ICOC fellowship. Everyone in the ICOC was about to experience God’s refining hand. Many predicted the end of the ICOC.

Fast-forward ten years and not only did the ICOC churches not disappear, but they are better situated to face the future than ever before. The International Churches of Christ have successfully reorganized and redefined themselves, beginning a whole new chapter in their history. Against all odds they have survived the firestorm and moved from survival to revival.

The history of the ICOC is a remarkable story. In one generation, hundreds of churches were planted around the world and tens of thousands were baptized into Jesus. With the rapid growth came tremendous spiritual and organizational challenges. The movement wrestled to meet the demands of a fast-growing body of young converts. These challenges were faced in countries and cultures all around the world as a system of leadership and organization developed over the years that initially produced highly effective results. Later, it became burdensome and overbearing. The ministry methods drew critics who attacked this movement from its earliest stages. As time went on, the movement became increasingly controversial and critics rose from within. In 2003 a firestorm of criticism from within burst across the fellowship that made it appear the movement had run its course and was finished. The firestorm exposed weaknesses in structure, methodology and leadership mistakes. From 2003 through 2004 most of the evangelists and elders of the ICOC made public apologies to their congregations and Interview Roger Lamb, March 30th, 2013acknowledged that God’s disciplining hand was upon them. Over the next four years the ICOC scrutinized and questioned itself in everything from doctrine to methodology. This led to a an amazing turnaround.

The following history is only a brief summary. As with any historical account, it is the responsibility of the writer to present what seem to be the most significant details for an accurate understanding of what transpired. This account is the result of numerous interviews of participants and eyewitnesses. Of course, it also reflects my own perspective as a participant for the last 30 years.

The International Churches of Christ Statement of Shared Beliefs

“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17.23 NIV

The following longstanding biblical doctrines and cooperative ideals have already guided us well on our journey thus far. These statements begin with the highest historical Christian essentials and move toward our common aspirations to be well-connected in Christ.

The International Churches of Christ: A Historical Overview

1960-1968
Though “Chairs of Bible” were established by Restoration Movement churches at state universities as early as the nineteenth century, Churches of Christ became particularly active in sponsoring these arrangements between 1960 and 1968. These “chairs,” as the name implies, were primarily academic in nature. They were designed to provide students at state schools with university level courses similar to those being offered at the time in church-related colleges. The directors of these chairs had graduate training in Bible and religious studies and were considered (and considered themselves) to be academics. Nevertheless, many of these ministries were eventually expanded to include worship services for students, opportunities for Christian interaction and community, and programs of evangelistic and benevolent outreach.

In the mid-sixties some staff members at the Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas, not previously involved in state campus ministries but strongly influenced by the work of the evangelical organization Campus Crusade for Christ, conceived of a different model of campus ministry-one that would be almost entirely centered on evangelism. Calling themselves “Campus Evangelism” (CE), they sponsored a series of well financed and skillfully produced “seminars” designed to introduce this new model to those already involved in the Bible Chair movement and to encourage the initiation of new campus ministries based on a more evangelistic model. Bill Bright, president of Campus Crusade, was invited to speak at the first of these seminars (1966).

A second seminar was held in 1968 in Dallas, ambitiously called “The International Campus Evangelism Seminar.” Over 1,000 people attended, the majority from congregations already supporting Bible Chairs. At this event CE announced it would sponsor a pilot project at the University of Florida in Gainesville, led by Chuck Lucas. Lucas had no prior connections with the Bible Chair movement.