The Truth Has Set Me Free
by Jennifer Porter
Table of Contents
- Cover Letter
- Main Letter
- The “First Principles” Bible Study Series
- The Word
- The Kingdom
- The Darkness
- The Light
- The Cross
- The Church
- Counting the Cost
- “Forcefully Advancing the Kingdom”
- Special Contribution And Tithing
- Adding Sins To The Bible
- Legalism And The Pharisees
- Focus On Numbers
- The Structure Of The International Churches Of Christ
- Authority In The Church
- Church Leadership
- Unity, Uniformity And Disputable Matters
- The Indianapolis Story
- “Falling Away”
- Church Finances
- False Prophets
- Slavery & Freedom
- Divisiveness and People Who Leave
My name is Jennifer Porter. I came to learn about Christ and His Word in early 1995, when I was a fashion model working in Europe. The fact that God loved me for my heart won me over from a world of materialism and superficiality. Jesus came into my life the moment I called out for his mercy, forgiveness, salvation and healing. I put my faith in Christ and left the modeling industry after fourteen years and a worldwide adventure in the business. The Lord was sweeter than anything I had ever tasted.
When I returned home from Europe, I got odd jobs until I found a position at a nutrition store, where I hoped to heal my wounded body and spend time away from home, where I was writing a novel about my experiences. There, at the nutrition store, I met a woman who was a member of the International Church of Christ. We built a friendship, and she invited me to study the Bible, which I did. The Bible studies helped me realize that I was not living as Christ had called me to live. I changed my ways — from using drugs and having ungodly relationships — and sought to live rightly for Christ. Before even attending a Sunday church service, I was baptized on June 2, 1996.
I soon started hearing the word ‘cult.’ I was afraid, but the women who studied with me assured me that they were just a group of people devoted to Christ’s teachings. Therefore, I followed the ICC’s ideology, reading my Bible, praying, discipling, baptizing, and loving people daily for three years. I grew in my relationship with the Lord, and believed that I was living the most correct life possible for Christ.
My parents became concerned about this group that consumed all my time and energy. They learned that the ICC had abused members psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. They researched it for a year and a half before doing an intervention.
I went on a family vacation in January of 1999. My parents had invited some former members and a minister to talk to me over the weekend. I was very angry and felt betrayed by them. But I knew that with God I had nothing to fear, so I talked to them. For three days we hashed out Biblical, financial and historical issues surrounding the ICC. What the Bible said mattered to me the most.
This was very painful for me because I loved the church. However, I had often feared that issues of salvation were being mishandled, and I had never believed that it was the “one true church.” My continuous prayer to God had been that if He wanted me to leave the church, then He would put a true Christian in my life who would show me through the Bible that what we were teaching and learning was wrong. Until then, I devoted myself to the ICC work. When the minister showed me for three days where the ICC teaching was wrong, I was humbled. After fighting in my soul, I realized the Lord was giving me a life-giving rebuke. I agreed to look deeper into the issues on my own.
I spent a few days reading about the ICC and in the Bible. It was overwhelming. Thanks to my supportive and loving parents, I went to Wellspring Retreat Center in Ohio for two weeks. It is a refuge for former cult members, where they can think in peace and learn about thought reform, mind control and the Word. Every day I studied Lifton’s criteria for thought reform and mind control, comparing them to the Scriptures. It was astounding. Wherever there was a Scripture that spoke against mind control, it was not underlined in my Bible, even though the Scriptures around it were highlighted.
Being the writer that I am, I spent late nights at Wellspring writing down everything I learned. I started writing a short letter to my friends in the ICC, with the intention of helping them see the Biblical issues that were being violated in the church. I learned so much and had such a fever to express it that the letter grew and grew.
When I returned from Wellspring, I talked to two women who I had baptized. I wanted to talk to the other women I had converted but they were staying at the leaders’ houses, and the leaders had told them that I was deceived, not a true disciple, and not to talk to me. I copied my letter and passed it out to the people I loved, delivering it to the leaders’ houses last. It felt like I was being chopped in two. I loved the people so dearly that it killed me to leave the church, but my hands were tied; the Word was being manipulated and I loved God and the integrity of His Word more than I loved them.
The next day my evangelist announced to the congregation that I had “fallen off the vine of Christ,” was “a bad seed,” and was to be treated “like a pagan or a tax collector.” No one was to speak to me. Two days after that, I walked into my apartment and found it empty except for my things. My three roommates, two of whom I had helped lead to Christ, and one of whom I had lived with for two years, had moved out of the apartment without talking to me face-to-face or explaining why they had done such a thing. It was an incredible feeling of abandonment, a wickedness that I had never before experienced, even in my dark and deceitful life in the modeling industry.
Even though I had let the leaders know I was willing to talk to them, they never contacted me. I got a few calls and met with a few people from the church. But I never found anyone who cared about what I had gone through; I have not one friend left there. I mourn for the women who were my friends, especially those whose hands I held as they came to Christ. I am happy they know the Lord, but sad that they are enslaved by man.
I found a one-bedroom apartment with my dog and started over. I have visited several churches and gone to many different services and Bible study groups. I still spend time in the Word daily. And I love the Lord more than I ever have; this has challenged me to trust and obey Him in all respects. I am happier, freer and more at peace than I ever have been in my life. I have learned that the Lord is not found in places, but in hearts. It has been the unconditional love of my family, my true friends outside the ICC, and my wonderful boyfriend and best friend who have shown me what Jesus is all about — for they have laid down their lives for my sake, and loved me as the Lord has taught.
I recently received an article in the mail from one of the women who baptized me. It was entitled “An open letter from Judas Iscariot.” It basically suggested that my letter was from Judas, and I was the betrayer himself. That was the only contact I have had from the three women who baptized me, who supposedly loved me the most.
Shortly after I delivered my letter to the church, the leadership told the congregation to turn in their copies of it. The leaders got together for a Friday night devotional and had a big bonfire and burned my letters. See Jeremiah 36.
Praise God for truth and freedom. I could never go back to slavery, now that I have found a free life in Christ. I feel as if I have crossed the River Jordan, and I am walking in the promised land. It is a land that overflows with abundance and blessings; it is a land that Jesus died for — a land of freedom, peace, and love everlasting.
I hope this letter helps you find that land as well.
With all my love,
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:3
“Jesus said, ‘I will never leave you nor will I forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5
February 1, 1999
I appeal to you to read this letter with your heart wide open.
After many days of praying, reading the Bible, crying, and researching, I have much to share with you. As my love for you grows deeper and deeper, I am compelled by Christ to share with you my findings in God’s Word. There, we find truth. I am only a seeker of truth; I claim to have no authority or monopoly on it, as only Christ can claim that (Jn 14:6). But I do confess my sincere love for you; I desire nothing but to see you walk in truth.
“I, THE LORD, SPEAK THE TRUTH. I DECLARE WHAT IS RIGHT!” -Isaiah 45:19
“In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of the truth listens to me.” (Jesus to Pilate, Jn 18:37)
1 Thess 5:21
tells us to “Test everything. Hold onto the good.” In the New American Standard Edition, the Scripture reads, “But examine everything CAREFULLY; hold fast to that which is good.” 1 Cor 14:29 encourages us to “weigh carefully what is said.” The original Greek of this means to “pass judgement” on what is said. Acts 17:10-11 tells us that it is noble to examine the Scriptures to see if what leaders say is true. In Rev 2:2 Jesus commends people for having “tested those who claim to be apostles but are not.” Kip McKean claims to be a “prophet,” and calls himself the “leader of the movement of God” (Woburn, MA: DPI, 1994, audio tape #9104, side one; McKean, Sydney, Australia, May 1996, audio tape). He has called himself “the Lord’s anointed” and has compared himself to Moses (McKean, Indianapolis meeting, March 17, 1994, audio tape one, side one). I have a question. Is it okay to test Kip McKean? Is it okay to test the First Principles studies? The Scriptures not only teach us that it is okay, but encourage us to test, examine, and make a judgement.
The thing that I love about 1 Thess 5:21 is that it tells us to test everything, and hold onto the good. The San Diego Church of Christ has so much good in it. Good people, good hearts, good principles, good faith, hope, love. . . . And as I “test everything,” I will do everything in my power to hold onto the good. But like verse 22 says, I will “avoid every kind of evil.” I have “examined carefully” the Scriptures that relate to the teachings of the SDCC. And I am compelled to share the exciting things I have learned. This is not about people, their sins, or the leadership, really; this is about holding out the word of truth in accordance with sound doctrine. And since the International Churches of Christ (ICC for short) say that their doctrine is Biblical, it only makes sense to test it, using the authority of the word as the standard.
Remember, when Jesus was questioned by Herod and Pilate, they found no fault in Him. If this is God’s true church, then it will stand an evaluation of its doctrines. The truth will stand.
If you feel fearful of these words, pray for truth; that’s what I did! And “the Spirit of truth . . . will guide you into all truth” (Jn 16:13). We must trust this. If you, like me, continue to feel fearful or resistant to listening to an evaluation of the doctrine of the International Church of Christ, I suggest you read Proverbs Chapters 16-17. (note 15:2: the wise commend knowledge; 15:7: spread knowledge; 15:10: if you hate correction, you die; also 12; 14: discerning seek knowledge; 15:31: listen & be wise; 15:32; read all of Ch. 16; also, 19:8 cherish understanding.)
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out” (Prov 18:15)
I have spent the last four years seeking out God’s truth and wisdom in His word. And the past month I have sought knowledge and wisdom more intensely that ever. Now I want to share these things with you in love, to speak the truth in love. Please know how much I love you all. I love you enough to tell you the truth. SO THAT IT IS CLEAR WHY I AM WRITING THIS LETTER, MAY I SAY NOW THAT IT IS BECAUSE I MUST OBEY GOD’S WORD BY TEACHING “WHAT IS IN ACCORD WITH SOUND DOCTRINE” (Titus 2:1). I desire to be a “workman approved by God.”
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15).
There are several Biblical issues that I will address:
- The Bible Study Series
- The Word
- The Darkness
- The Light
- The Cross
- The Church
- Counting the Cost
- “Forcefully Advancing the Kingdom”
- Special Contribution & Tithing
- Adding Sins to the Bible
- Legalism & the Pharisees
- Focus on Numbers
- The Structure of the International Churches of Christ
- Authority in the Church
- Church Leadership
- Unity, Uniformity and Disputable Matters
- The Indianapolis Story
- “Falling Away”
- Church Finances
- False Prophets
- Divisiveness & People who leave
Please read the whole Scriptures that I quote whenever you can, so that you can see the context and the entire beauty and truth of the Word.
The “First Principles” Bible Study Series
When I went through the Bible study series with two women I still love, admire and respect, I benefited from the experience. It was helpful to get into the Word and see where my life did not match up to Christ’s teachings. It gave me an opportunity to look at my sin and what Christ suffered for me. Because the study series was so helpful to me and has been to others, I have avoided the twisting of Scripture that I have sensed and suspected for years. With deepest apologies, I ask for your forgiveness for not examining these things sooner. I will now discuss these studies in light of my own discoveries, as well as those of many, many people who have analyzed these studies in the past.
I wholeheartedly believe the women who studied with me were sincere and did not try to manipulate me or lie in any way. And when I studied with people, I only wanted them to come to a faith in Christ, give their lives to Him and learn the glory of walking with God.
Yet despite our sincerity, this study series is harmful and deceitful. I am compelled to share the truth with my brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter how painful it might be.
First of all, one must ask oneself, in the Book of Acts, is there any record of someone being required to go through a set of Bible studies in order to be saved? At this time, only the Old Testament had been recorded. In Acts 2, when the people believed, did Peter require them to be taught one-on-one, to read the Old Testament Scriptures and to pray? Did he then tell them to make a list of all their sins, confess them to another person, and not relent until they broke down in tears? In commanding them to repent, did he prolong their baptism until they had broken up with boyfriends, apologized to those they had hurt, forgiven others, and cut off all sin from their lives? Before their baptism, did he “count the costs” with them, making sure they were willing to tithe 10% and only date within the church? Is this the pattern of Acts? NO. They believed, and were baptized. And they were saved.
Read about the people of Acts 2; Simon of Acts 8; the Ethiopian of Acts 8; Saul’s Conversion of Acts 9; Cornelius of Acts 10; the jailer of Acts 16. (The list goes on and on.) Were these people required to go through a series of Scripture studies prior to their salvation? They heard the Word. They believed. They were baptized. Is that not enough anymore? It was enough for Paul; enough for me too.
Please examine these studies. As of now, the ICC essentially requires this study series as a prerequisite for salvation. According to 1 Thess 5:21, it must be tested.
This study establishes the authority of God’s Word. It does not, however establish the authority of all interpretations of Scripture. Remember, the Word is a Sword; it must be used carefully. If not, it can cause serious harm.
1 Tim 4:16: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
We tell people to watch their doctrine closely, in the beginning. But when they watch it closely years later, as I am doing now, they are labeled as “struggling,” or, as I was, “doubting.” I do not doubt my faith in God, but I tell you the truth, I WILL watch my doctrine closely, so as to save myself and my hearers. I encourage you to do the same.
Acts 17:10-12: In the beginning, we encourage people to check the Scriptures to see if what ICC members say is true. In other words, they need to go over their notes on the predetermined Bible study. The question we must ask ourselves now, as members of the church, is do we check today to see if what the ICC leaders say is true? Or do we take it on blind faith, as “rules taught by men” that Jesus denounces in Matthew 15:1-9? We must continue to be Bereans.
II Peter 1:19-21: I always felt uncomfortable interpreting this Scripture as Kip had written it in the Disciple’s Handbook. The verse “. . . no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation” is said to mean, “There is no private interpretation of the Bible.” This does not make sense. The passage is about the origins of Scripture — the way in which it was written, not the way in which it was read. This Scripture says that the Scriptures themselves were not a result of the interpretation of the prophets; it does not say that there is one way to interpret the Scriptures today.
By establishing that no one can have their own interpretation of Scripture, the person we study with will have to accept Kip’s interpretation, a series of Scriptures presented in a predetermined order to mold the person’s ideas into that of the ICC’s.
This study, according to the Disciple’s Handbook, is intended to establish that the person the ICC member studies with is not a disciple, not a Christian, and therefore not saved. Regardless of that person’s faith in Christ, the ICC member sets out trying to prove that the person is going to hell because he or she does not fit the definition of the Scriptures selected on discipleship. This may seem a helpful study in what Jesus called a true disciple, but even though not ONE of the Scriptures used in this study even mentions salvation, we use it to prove that others are not saved.
The erroneous teaching comes from the equation:
“Disciple = Christian = Saved.”
This quote is derived from Acts 11:19-26. The Scripture is not about salvation; it simply says that disciples picked up the nickname “Christians” at a particular location. If this equation were true, why wouldn’t Jesus just tell us in a straightforward way that only “disciples” are saved?
If Disciple = Christian = Saved, then the words are interchangeable, right? Let’s test it. “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make Christians of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . . .” Let’s try again. “Therefore go and make saved people of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father . . . .” If someone becomes “saved” at the point of their baptism, as the ICC teaches, this is impossible.
The ICC, from Matthew 28:18-20, claims that only disciples are candidates for baptism. One must be “made” into a disciple before getting baptized. This church also teaches that the point of salvation IS baptism. According to the teachers of the movement, this is the time we become Christians.
Therefore, one must become a disciple in order to become a Christian. But the words are the same! Let’s look at the equation:
Disciple = Christian = Saved.
Who is a candidate for baptism? Disciples!
Who is a candidate for baptism? Christians!
Who is a candidate for baptism? Saved People!
Therefore, we must become saved before baptism, which is when we get saved. We must be saved in order to get saved.
Obviously, this is ridiculous, and the ICC doctrine collapses on itself.
To clear up the confusion about the meaning of Matthew 28:18-20, let’s look at other translations:
KJV: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost . . .”
The Greek reads: “. . . make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them . . .”
As you can see, the ICC interpretation of Matthew 28:18-20 falls apart when we look at the King James Version. When combined, these translations show that we are sent to make disciples (followers or learners) OF the nations, which is the people of the world. But the ICC has interpreted this as making disciples IN the nations. This is two different things. In one case, we teach people to be followers; in another case, we produce followers. The latter interpretation supports the ICC’s evangelization plan — to go into the nations and produce people who fit their criteria for “discipleship”.
I wonder if some of the disciples in the Bible would have fit their criteria for discipleship. Would Peter, who had followed Christ but repeatedly fell into sin even after he believed? Would Joseph of Arimathea? “Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (John 19:38). According to the ICC, one cannot truly be a disciple if one is “secret” about it. Especially if that were a result of fear! What about Thomas, who doubted? Are we merciful with those who doubt? No, we simply tell them that they are not saved.
From Matthew 28:18-20, the ICC teaches that only disciples are candidates for baptism. This comes from “. . . make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . .” But just because the verb “make” appears before the word “baptizing” does not mean that it must be done in this order. Take this example. “Go and get the mail, walking down the road and taking it out of the mailbox.” Or, “Cook me a meal, putting the pasta in the pan and heating up the sauce.” We cook the meal by putting the pasta in the pan and heating up the sauce. We get the mail by walking down the road and getting it from the box. We make disciples by baptizing people and teaching them to obey.
It’s important to note here that if we are going to follow the Great Commission in the order of the verbs, then we would teach people to obey after their baptism, not before! But the ICC teaches people to obey before baptism, which is not at all reflected in the practices of the First Century Church in the Book of Acts. The core doctrine of the ICC hangs on a grammatical error! Additionally, this interpretation of Matthew 28:18-20, when applied in other translations, does not hold up, because the KJV says “go . . . and teach the nations”. Do we think that God waited to reveal the secret to salvation in the late 1970s, when the NIV was published? I think not. God is bigger than that.
Incidentally, we use this study to judge others’ salvation based on their actions, even though God looks at the heart!
If we wanted to talk about salvation in terms of the Great Commission, one would think we might look at the other accounts. In Mk 16:15, Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” This is clear; Jesus speaks of spreading the word around the world and tells us who will be saved. This is certainly much clearer than Matthew 28 on salvation. But we don’t use the Great Commission of Mark, because it would recognize the salvation of many, many people outside the ICC.
If we are going to use a series of Scriptures to claim or disclaim a person’s salvation, why don’t we look at the Scriptures in which Jesus specifically tells us how to be saved? In the following Scriptures, it is clear that faith is both necessary (Jn 3:18, 8:24; Heb 4:2, 11:6) and sufficient for salvation (Jn 3:14-15, 3:36, 5:24, 6:40, 47; 20:30-31; also Acts 10:43; 16:30-31; Ro 1:16; 1 Jn 5:1,13).
Another thing the ICC interpretation of Matthew 28:18-20 claims is that “disciples make disciples.” I was once in a Bible study with a woman who had faith in Christ, was baptized, had repented of sin, and loved God. But we, ICC members, faithfully adhered not to the Word, but to the doctrine of the ICC, and claimed that since she had not “made disciples” or been “fruitful,” then she couldn’t possibly be a true disciple and therefore be saved. This crushed this girl. I wish she had asked me to show her where in the Bible it says that one must bring others to Christ in order to receive God’s grace and salvation! There is NO Scripture that says we must bring others to Christ in order to be saved. Yet the ICC uses this “rule made by man” to discount the faith of many people, therefore demolishing their confidence in their salvation.
I wonder if the ICC would have considered Tabitha in Acts 9:36 a disciple. “In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha . . . who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died . . . .” There is no record that she was saving souls. I wonder if ICC members did a discipleship study with her if they would tell her she needed to repent and be baptized again because she was in sin for not doing the “will of God.” It may sound ridiculous, but face it, it’s true.
What about Apollos? Read Acts 18:24-28. He was “a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.
When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him . . . .” Now, the ICC would claim that when they explained the Scriptures more adequately, they did something like the First Principles studies. Does the tone of this passage sound like Priscilla and Aquila explained to this man his condemnation for not being a disciple, challenged his “religiosity,” had him confess all of his sins to them, then baptized him and assigned him a discipling partner? The disciples of the Bible simply explained the Scriptures to him and let him go at his free will. Paul later calls him a brother. Would we do the same?
Look at the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40). How could he possibly have been a “true disciple” if he had not been “discipled” by someone? After Philip baptized him, Philip disappeared and the eunuch “did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.” Often times if someone is a believer in Christ and has been baptized in the past, the ICC study leaders tries to show that they are not a true “disciple” because they were not “discipled” by anyone after their baptism. If this were true, the Ethiopian was not saved.
Essentially, the Discipleship study aims to prove that Christ’s blood is not enough to cleanse; Christ’s sacrifice was not good enough to wipe away the sins of faithful men and women around the world. No matter what believers outside the ICC do, no member of the ICC will believe that a person’s conversion outside the ICC is enough for salvation. Yet, this is in exact contradiction to Jesus’ words.
“I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, whoever hears my words and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life! (John 5:24).
But the ICC teaches that faith is not enough, your previous baptism is not enough, you sincere love for God is not enough; if you don’t live up to their standards, you go to hell. The discipleship study is NOT Jesus’ standards for salvation! It is his standards for followers.He never says if you do not fit these standards you are condemned. He says if you believe, you have eternal life and will not be condemned. We don’t have to jump through hoops for God. He was nailed for us. We don’t have to nail others for him.
This study establishes that the church is God’s kingdom on earth. Although the study leader may not explicitly state that the ICC is the “Kingdom of God,” that is the doctrine. In fact if one does not understand this right away, one will understand it very soon, because everyone in the church calls the ICC the “Kingdom.” They use Dan 7:18 to show that the saints, or disciples, will inherit the Kingdom, and will possess it forever. Since the ICC teaching is that the only disciples they know of on earth are in the ICC, this will go on to mean that only people in the ICC are going to inherit the kingdom of heaven. In Luke 17:20, the study leader makes it clear that the king of this kingdom is Jesus; the subjects are the disciples [meaning only members of the ICC, but the student does not know this at the time], and the territory of the kingdom is the heart. What is interesting is that later on the kingdom will be equated with the church, the ICC, and this Scripture becomes null and void. Jesus says about the kingdom: “Nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.'” Yet the Kingdom is the ICC? The kingdom is within, yet it is an organization of people? It doesn’t match.
The next Scripture is where the ICC makes the first hint that the kingdom is the church. In Matthew 16:13-20. (Often, only verses 18-19 are read.) The Scripture simply does not say that The Church = The Kingdom. It says “. . . You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church . . . . I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . . .” No matter how we bend this one, it does not say that the church and the kingdom are synonymous. When the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost, the prophesies about the kingdom come true. Yet suddenly “the church is the Kingdom of God on earth established in approximately 33 AD” (McKean, First Principles, 1993, 11). No, the church becomes part of the Kingdom of God. Remember, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob take seats in the kingdom of heaven too (Mat 8:11).
The equation of the church with the kingdom causes theological problems, and Biblical scholars attest to this. The NT sometimes refers to the kingdom in the present (Col 1:13, 1 Cor 4:20), but many other passages talk about the kingdom as something to be inherited, we assume after this lifetime (1 Cor 6:9, 15:50, Gal 5:21, James 2:5). Let’s apply the ICC doctrine that kingdom = church into some Scriptures to see if it makes sense: Paul and Barnabas tell the disciples: ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the church of God” (Acts 14:22). If the Kingdom of God started on the day of Pentecost, and the disciples in Acts were part of that kingdom, as this study teaches, then this Scripture makes no sense. It would mean that the members of the kingdom had not entered the kingdom. They had to inherit something they already had? “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the church . . .” (1 Cor 15:50) “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the ICC” (Mt 8:11).
This confusion can be cleared up by the fact that many Greek and Hebrew words do not translate exactly into English words. The Greek language has a tense that means “before, now, and in the future,” or “it was, it is, and it is coming.” We do not have such a tense in English. So in English translations of the Bible, one tense is chosen, but actually verbs that refer to the kingdom are much more far-reaching than what our language allows for. The Kingdom was, is, and will be. It was something that existed in the past, exists in the present, and will exist in the future. It is not limited to the church. The church is part of the Kingdom. But children outside of the ICC are also part of the kingdom; mentally disabled people who God will have mercy on are also part of the kingdom. The Kingdom is bigger than the church.
Again, the church is the body of believers, correct? It is people. Yet the Kingdom is not something you can point to, like you can the church. It is within, it was something that Abraham was a part of, and something we are yet to inherit.
Yet since the ICC equates the church with the kingdom, they use Matthew 6:33 ( “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” and he will clothe you, provide food for you, and take care of you) to mean that the church, the ICC, must come above everything else in our lives. This begins the subtle focus on the church, rather than on God. And whenever someone does not go to church activities or put the movement first, then that person is not “seeking first the kingdom.” Does this Scripture in its original context have anything to do with attendance to church meetings, or putting the church above our families? No, but we use it to confirm that people will put the ICC above everything else. I agree that we must seek God first, but God’s Kingdom is not limited to an organization of followers. It is much, much grander.
When I did this study three years ago, I cried through the whole thing. It was a good cry. (I had already turned my life over to Christ about a year before meeting my friend in the ICC, and I believed in Him, but I had not been taught about repentance, and my life had a lot of sin in it.) To this day I appreciate the women who did this study with me. I appreciate their courage in challenging me to face my sin, their patience in letting me get out all the pain, and most of all, the times when they held my hand while I realized how much my sin had hurt me, my family and God. These are memories implanted on my mind and heart, and I do not regret the experience of studying these Scriptures for a moment.
Yet, despite my love for them and how much I have seen this study help women learn about sin and repentance, and how they can apply it to their own lives, I cannot lie and pretend it is a Biblical study. This study is man-made. We will be able to see that by looking at the Word:
The key to this study is Gal 5:19-21. The study leader defines these sins as being what “separates” the student from God (Isa 59:1-2). Galatians 5:19-21 is a very scary Scripture to read, because when taken alone, and not in context of the entire book of Galatians (and the entire Bible for that matter), it seems to say that if we commit these sins, we cannot “inherit the Kingdom of God.” Let’s put it in context. The book of Galatians is a letter written by Paul to a group of churches in Galatia, in which he says that righteousness does not earn us salvation, and that the only justification we can receive from God is through faith. He tells the disciples that living by laws and rules enslaves them, but living by faith frees them.
The letter is written to CHRISTIAN people. SAVED people. So Gal 5:19-21 is a warning to them not to live according to their sinful nature. Does Paul say, “If you are living like this, then you must repent and be re-baptized?” Does he say, “If these sins don’t apply to you, then maybe the ones listed in Timothy’s letter will, and if you have participated in any of them, then you are not really disciples; you need to start all over, study the cross, cry, get broken, write a letter to God detailing all these sins, confess all of them to someone who has already done this, then repent of all it and do your baptism over again because the first one wasn’t valid?
According to the ICC way, Peter didn’t know what he was doing in Acts 2:38, because he forgot to have everyone confess their sins to him and the other apostles, write their letters to God, and repent of everything before he put them in the water. As we look at the reality of this, Matthew 28:18-20 makes more sense. (teach people about Jesus, baptize them, then teach them to obey.)
This letter to the Galatian people is simply that; Paul is teaching them to obey the Spirit that they were given. He does NOT teach them that their baptisms were invalid and that they really were never truly saved because they participated in any of these sins. He simply says, “Don’t live this way!”
Writing a letter to God, confessing our sins to Him, is not a bad thing. I think it is actually a good suggestion. In the ICC, the justification for this confession comes from James 5:16. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Read all of James 5:13-17. The Scripture is specifically talking about someone who is ill. Verses 14 and 15 indicate that physical healing is the issue. “If any one of you is sick . . . the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well . . . if he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other . . . so that you may be healed.” The exhortation to confess is directed towards someone with a physical illness, who needs prayer for healing. Obviously, this Scripture does not command that people confess all of their sins to someone else before baptism (and salvation), nor does this Scripture command that a person must confess temptations and sins daily to others, specifically a discipler. It’s talking about a sick person confessing sins so others can pray for him! It doesn’t even relate to confession of sins before baptism. There is no other verse in the NT that even mentions such a practice.
So, is confession of sins to another human being a requirement for salvation? There is no Scripture that says it is. But in the ICC, if someone refuses to confess her sins to the study leader, then what happens? That person is considered prideful, unopen, fake, stubborn, etc. And what happens then? If she does not “repent” [of being required to do an unbiblical requirement for salvation], then the studies stop. We don’t keep studying with them. It’s over. It reminds me of when Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to” (Matthew 23:13).
One thing that is interesting is that when a person is doing the “Darkness” study, often that person already believes in Christ. “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name“(Acts 10:43). If ALL the prophets testify that those that believe in Christ receive forgiveness of their sins, why don’t the “true disciples” in the ICC testify to this? This church teaches that faith does not bring about forgiveness for the sinner. Yet the Scripture here says it does. Meanwhile, the ICC member is demanding an account of all the sins that have already been forgiven since that person believes in Christ!
Is this a practice that GOD would endorse? How does God feel about the “sin list” that is often showed to the study leader?
“If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
Therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130-3-4).
If God himself does not keep records of our sins, why do we have to? “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isa 43:25). Friends, why are we doing this? You say it is a “tool” to help someone, and maybe it is. But why do we require such acts when God himself does not require them? By adding requirements of salvation to the Bible, we chart dangerous ground.
This study tells people “how to get from darkness to light.” The “plan of salvation” is discussed. It amounts to this: 1) Hear the good news 2) Believe in Christ 3) Repent from sin 4) Confess Jesus is Lord 5) Be baptized.
These are all good things, and we should do them. Yet when looked at in light of the entire Bible, something does not ring right. Ever since the Old Testament, people were always saved by their faith. And when Jesus came, he repeatedly said that if people believed in him they would have eternal life. The book of Romans and Galatians, as well as several areas of the gospels seem totally devoted to explaining that people are saved by faith, not by the righteous acts they have done.
In Ephesians 2:4-10, it says that God, “who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.” Now, when did God make us alive in Christ? When we were doing righteous things to change? Or when we were dead in sin? When we were dead in sin. How were we saved? Grace. Read verse 7. In verse 8, he says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works so that no one can boast.” How were we saved? Grace. Do we earn salvation? No, it is a gift from God.
Let’s talk about that. What’s a gift? A gift is something someone gives to you for free. When someone is handing us a gift, what do we do? We reach out our hand and take it, right? Are gifts earned? No. They are given. And they are received. That is all. Yet in the ICC, when God is handing someone the gift of eternal life, it is held off until that person repents, gets broken, writes a list of sins, confesses, and changes herself to become a disciple. Is God conditional? Does he only give the gift of salvation to those who earn it?
You “know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16). In this single sentence, how many times does Paul repeat that we are not justified by observing the law, but by faith? Three. Again and again throughout the book of Galatians, especially chapter 3-5, it says that we are not justified by doing anything, but only by faith in Christ.
“I DO NOT SET ASIDE THE GRACE OF GOD, FOR IF RIGHTEOUSNESS COULD BE GAINED THROUGH THE LAW, CHRIST DIED FOR NOTHING!” Gal 2:21. Read this over and over again. Now look at the ICC’s Light study — the “plan of salvation.” Does it mention grace? Does it say that salvation is a GIFT from God? Does it reinforce that we can not earn salvation through doing these things, like repenting unto righteousness? Like baptism? Or do we SET ASIDE THE GRACE OF GOD? I tell you, it grieves me to the core of my being that this study sets aside the grace of God, and leads the person to believe that if he or she does all these things, then that person will earn God’s present, the gift of eternal life.
I do not renounce repentance or baptism, or confession of sins. Yet salvation is not a result of us doing the right things in the right order at the right time; salvation is when we are broken, dead in our sins, crashed down in the mud, when we say, “Lord, save me! I need you! I believe in you! You are my Lord! Forgive me!” And the Scriptures attest to this. The following list of verses and the accompanying questions are tools to better understand GOD’S plan of salvation:
1 John 11-13: on what basis does Christ give “the right to become children of God”?
John 3:16-18: what must one do to avoid perishing and receive eternal life?
John 3:36: How does one obtain eternal life?
John 5:24: How does one obtain eternal life and escape judgement?
John 7:37-39: How does one receive the Spirit?
Acts 10:43-48: what must one do to receive forgiveness of sins? What is the order of events in this passage?
Acts 13:37-39: How does the Scripture say we obtain forgiveness?
Acts 16:29-34: When the jailer said, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word to him, then he repented and was baptized. If he had to repent and be baptized to be saved, why did the disciples say that all he had to do was believe? The repentance and baptism is a natural consequence of his faith, but it is not a conditional upon which Paul said he would be saved.
Acts 26:17-18: How are we sanctified? How do we receive forgiveness of sins?
Romans 1:16-17: What is required in order to obtain salvation? How does the righteous man live?
Romans 3:21-24: How does one become righteous? On what basis are we justified?
Romans 5:1-11: How are we justified (v.1 & 9)? How are we reconciled to God? How are we saved?
Romans 6:22-23: How does Paul describe eternal life?
Romans 10:6-17: On what is righteousness based? What must one do to be saved?
Galatians 2:16-3:14: How are we not justified? How are we justified? (v.16-17) How does Paul say he now lives? (v.20); What is the answer to Paul’s rhetorical question in v. 2 — how did they receive the Spirit? What is the obvious answer to Paul’s question in v. 5? How did Abraham obtain righteousness? Who are sons of Abraham? How does God justify Gentiles? Who is blessed with Abraham? In verse 14, how do we receive the promise of the Spirit?
Galatians 3:21-26: Who receives the promise? In v.24, how are we justified? In v.26, how do we become sons of God?
Ephesians 1:13-14: List the events of salvation in order.
Ephesians 2:4-10: How are we saved? How are we not saved?
2 Timothy 5-10: In v.9, on what basis are we saved? On what basis are we not saved?
Hebrews 10:10-14: How are we made holy? Who has he made perfect?
1 John 5:4-13: What enables one to overcome the world? In v. 13, how does one receive eternal life?
1 Peter 3:18-22: See also Genesis 6:8-9. Was Noah declared righteous by God — before, during or after the flood? For what purpose did God send the flood — to save Noah, or to judge the world? What was it that actually saved Noah, and from what did it save him? Did the water save Noah, or the arc? Does the baptismal water save us, or does abiding in Christ?
1 Corinthians 1:10-17: If baptism were necessary for salvation, or the forgiveness of sins (which is the same thing), why would Paul be glad that he didn’t’ baptize very many people in Corinth? . . . If baptism were essential for salvation, how could Paul say that Christ did not send him to baptize? Didn’t Christ send him to get people saved?
I wrote these all down so that you can come to your own understanding on it.
These Scriptures, as well as an in-depth study of Acts 2:38 have helped me understand that it is by faith that we receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit: “That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Eph 1:13-14). “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive” (Jn 7:37-39). “The only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” (Gal 3:2). “Having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph 1:13). It takes a lot of studying these things out to come to our own convictions about it.
You may be thinking, well what about Acts 2:38? In studying the Greek with those who speak it, and reading many analyses of this verse, I have come to understand that the Greek word “eis” that stands for “for” in “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins . . . .”, when used together with the Greek word for baptized everywhere else found in the New Testament, actually means “on account of,” rather than “in order to”. ( I know this is complex, and if you want to learn more about this I would be more than happy to supply for you copies of the Greek studies that prove this.)
Is my question really “doctrinal”? Well, yes and no. If you believe baptism is the point of forgiveness and salvation, as I once very firmly did, I do not condemn you. But I have come to realize that “those who believe are children of Abraham.” And that just as Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness, so is ours. (Gal 6-14; Rom 3:21-4:25). But my deepest concern for this Bible study is that it “sets aside the grace of God” and the free gift of his salvation.
I can not continue to teach people that they must do all these righteous acts to receive God’s mercy and salvation. “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:4). [Here we find the true definition for “fallen away”: those that try to be justified by obeying the law] As it says in Gal 2:21, if we set aside God’s grace, and teach others that the way to attain salvation is through righteous acts, then there was no point in Jesus being crucified for us.
What a heart-moving study this is. The only thing I have to say about this one is that, depending on the way it is done, it can induce incredible guilt in the student-disciple. Sometimes we read the story about the cross to people by reinforcing that all these sins that they confessed to us put Christ on the cross. And that is true; it is good for someone to become convicted about their own sin. Yet often, since the motive of this study is “break” them, we become an accuser, accusing that person of crucifying Christ with their sins even if the Bible says that through their faith in his blood they are already forgiven.
Satan is the great accuser!
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony . . . .” (Rev 12:10-11).
says that “everyone who believes in [Christ] receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” So what this study perpetuates is a disciple from the ICC showing how the student-disciple, who often already believes in Christ, has “crucified Christ” with her sins, which that have already been forgiven through that person’s faith in Christ! It is true that we have all crucified Christ with our sins, but the accusation that someone who has faith in Christ is still separated from God because she has sinned is from Satan. He is the “accuser of our brothers and sisters!” And we “accuse them before our God day and night.” Yet when all is said and done, that person will overcome Satan by the BLOOD OF THE LAMB, which was shed for THEM. Christ’s blood was also shed for those outside the ICC. And that blood that is powerful enough to cleanse. Those brothers and sisters that the ICC has rejected will overcome them by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.
During my time in the church, I always questioned the idea that the ICC is the “one, true church,” meaning that no other church on Earth was valid in God’s sight. But let’s look exactly at what the Scriptures used in this study say to see if, when put in context, this claim is true.
Col 1:15-18 establishes Christ as head of the church. As we know, many churches around the world are centered around Christ’s sacrifice and lordship, so this does not in any way discount them so far.
Eph 2:19-22 establishes God’s household and the fact that we are members of it. How do we become members of it? Earlier, in the same chapter it says that we become “fellow citizens with God’s people” through his grace, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that NO MAN CAN BOAST” (Eph 2:5-8). So, in the context of this book, those that are members of his household are saved by faith in Christ, through grace. And no man can boast about his salvation, because it is a gift from God, given to whoever has faith in him. Who are member’s of God’s household? Those that through faith and grace have received salvation.
Eph 4:4-6 This Scripture establishes that there is “one body and one Spirit . . . one hope . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all . . . .” From this, the study leader says that there is “one body, which means one church.”
Now, as we know, Christ is the head of the church, and his people are the body. Therefore the church is an organism, correct? But the ICC study leader essentially tells the student that the church is an organization. The “one body” becomes “one organization of followers,” the ICC.
Yet the Scripture teaches that the body is an organism, made up of those that God has poured out his grace upon. Remember, we can do nothing to earn his grace, no matter how many Bible studies we do, how much we repent, even our baptism. Grace is a GIFT. It is interesting that the ICC Bible study stops at verse 6, even though the rest of the passage is about the church.
The next verse reads, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. (not as Kip apportioned it; as Christ apportioned it. Who chooses who is given grace? And in what portion? You? The Bible study leader? Or Christ?) The following verses are very important in understanding how Christ apportions his grace to each member: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:11-13). Some, not all, are evangelists. Some, not all, are teachers. Are all evangelists? Are all teachers? No.
Yet the ICC often claims that since someone else outside the ICC does not evangelize and has not taught someone to follow Christ, that person must not be a “true disciple,” and therefore is not saved. This is totally false. Not all have the same gifts. Paul calls us to reach “unity.” What does he want us to be unified in? “Unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.” Does he want uniformity? Or unity? He wants us to be unified in our faith and in the knowledge of Jesus; he does not say he wants us to be unified in our doctrine.
Okay, so if these other churches have people who have faith in Christ and knowledge of the Son of God, does he want us to be unified with them? What does the Scripture say? It clearly reads that he wants unity in Christ, not uniformity in doctrine. It also clearly says he wants us to be unified with other believers, yet the ICC never fellowships with other believers outside the ICC, unless it is to try to get them to admit they are not saved and join the ICC.
Romans 12:4-5 This Scripture reinforces that there is one body of Christ. (remember, one organism, not one organization.) It says that all the members of the body do not have the same function, “so we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” The ICC uses this to say that those in the International Churches of Christ form one body, and each member of the International Churches of Christ belongs to the others. The ICC = the body of Christ.
Let’s look at this Scripture in context. Before verse 4, in verse 3, it reads “For the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”
It is interesting that this is not included in the study, because by claiming that our church is God’s only true church, and all other churches are null and void, or “dead” in God’s sight, we certainly are thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. Let’s read the Scripture following verse 5: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
In the San Diego Church of Christ, we are told when we will serve, told when we will teach (disciple people), told to encourage, etc. Yet the Scripture says, “let” him do it, not “tell him to do it.” Does it say that all have all the gifts? No. In the SDCC, everyone is expected to have all the gifts; everyone is expected to prophesy, serve, teach, encourage, contribute and become leaders. Very few show mercy. (The SDCC condemns other churches and rejects the faith of many. This is done even though the Scripture says “be merciful because I am merciful.”)
Does the Scripture say that we all receive all these gifts? No, it says that each one of us have different gifts. But in the ICC we are all expected to have all of these gifts, or at least develop them. If someone doesn’t have the gift of evangelizing or encouraging, often that person is admonished or considered “unspiritual” or “weak.” So everyone forces themselves to develop all the gifts.
No wonder everyone gets so drained. They are trying to be something they are not, trying to live up to the standards of the leadership instead of God’s standards. Friends, God gives us each different gifts; he doesn’t command us to do things that he has not necessarily gifted us with. In the ICC, when someone doesn’t have all these gifts, he does not measure up to the standard of the leadership, and is always trying to “change” himself to fit the bill. Remember, a gift is not something we can create in ourselves, it is something God gives us to express his love through us.
1 Cor 1:10-13 This Scripture is used to show that denominations are “unscriptural.” First of all, the International Churches of Christ, by Webster Dictionary definition, is a denomination, “a religious organization uniting in a single legal and administrative body a number of local congregations.” The ICC qualifies on all accounts.
Besides that, lets look at this Scripture.
“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Cephas”; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?”
This Scripture is used to say that we must be “united”, and since some people have followed Luther, Calvin, Joseph Smith, the Pope, etc., then they are actually being divisive. Wait a minute. Are we not following the teachings of Kip McKean? We are. But the problem being addressed here is that people were saying “My favorite teacher is Paul! Well I like Cephas! Well I like that guy Christ!” And Paul wants them to come to unity on CHRIST. What does this Scripture call us to unity on? Christ.
The ICC Bible study excludes the next verse, where Paul says he is “thankful he did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius . . . he says “I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the GOSPEL . . . .” (1 Cor 1: 14-17).
Why is this Scripture excluded from the study? It shows that Paul wants us to be perfectly united in mind and thought about THE GOSPEL. This Scripture also shows that Paul was not sent to baptize. Yet the mindset of the ICC is that whoever we are studying with, we want them to get baptized, because we believe this “saves.” Yet, it is actually the gospel that saves! (1 Cor 15:2, Ro 1:16).
Faith, Christ and the Gospel is what most of the Christian world outside the ICC is unified on, and it is actually this church that is being divisive by thinking it can “exclude” everyone else from the Kingdom of God because they do not agree on every point of doctrine.
1 Co 12:12-26 It is interesting that this study stops at verse 27, because verse 28-30 tell how the different functions of the body of Christ make up the church. It says that there are apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, those with the gifts of healing, those able to help, those with gifts of administration, tongues. It says “Are all teachers?” Yet in the ICC we are all expected to become teachers even if we have not been given the gift. We are supposed to become “disciplers,” teachers of God’s word, even though the word says, not all are teachers. Not all are prophets. Not all have the gift of evangelizing. That’s okay to God! But is it okay to the ICC?
Heb 10:21-25 is used to tell people they must attend all meetings of the body, but that is not what the Scripture says. It says do not “give up meeting together”; it simply encourages us to continue meeting, to not give up doing so. It does not say we must be there every time the church gets together. This Scripture is so abused in the ICC that people become convinced that is a sin to miss a meeting of the body, or they feel incredible guilt about it. The bottom line is God is not a legalist. He is love, not Law. But in the ICC, if someone doesn’t come on Wednesdays or misses some meetings, that person is accused of being “unspiritual,” “uncommitted,” “weak,” “independent” — yet the Scriptures do not say this! It only says not to forsake the fellowship altogether.
In regards to this study, read Isaiah 56. Also remember that “dissentions and factions”, according to Gal 5:20, are sins that if gone unrepented, will prevent those that practice them from inheriting the kingdom of God. Who is being dissentious from the body of Christ? Who is being factious?
Counting the Cost
This study is designed to help the disciple “count the costs” of following Christ before getting baptized. During this time, the student-disciple sits down with a leader in the church, who then determines whether or not she is ready for baptism. Hold it right here. Where in the Scriptures do you see a human being deciding if another human being is “ready” or not to get baptized? Do you see anywhere in the Scriptures a human leader denying a person baptism for any reason at all? No.
“Yet to all who received him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave them right to become children of God — children NOT BORN . . . OF HUMAN DECISION . . . but born of God.” —John 1:12.
The fact that someone’s decision to be baptized into Christ is being evaluated and decided upon by another person is a violation of the gospel, and a violation of the freedom we have in Christ. Since the ICC teaches that baptism is the time we become “children of God,” reborn, then they are going in direct violation to the above Scripture, which says that those who believe are given the right to become children of God — which is not the result of a human decision, but a decision of GOD.
The “counting of the costs” study also includes talking to the student-disciple about tithing and dating only within the ICC. Friends, where in the Scriptures do we see a person having to agree to tithe and date only Christians before baptism in the New Testament? Nowhere! Can you imagine if the disciples in Acts 2:38 had to go through all this before their baptisms? It would have taken forever to get them all in the water! They were taught about Jesus’ way after their salvation. All they needed to have before their baptism was faith. Let me also say that I agree we should tithe and date only Christians. Yet there is nowhere in the Word that says that this is something that must be agreed upon before baptism.
About this study series, I can only say:
“If they do not speak according to his word, they have no light of dawn.” –Isaiah 8:20
** I want to say one last word on salvation here. Even in the Old Testament, people were saved by their FAITH. Why would the New Testament be any different? Why, after Christ had come, would God make salvation more difficult than it had been before, when the Jews were under the Old Law?
Step back for a moment, from the church, and look at God. He is not a God that would make it complicated for us to be saved. He is a God who would require one thing — faith in his Son. I believe that faith will overflow with repentance and baptism. But salvation is a Gift! Is God the kind of God that would say, “I’ll only give you this gift if you do steps A, B, C, D, and E? And if you miss one of these steps, I will not give you the gift.” And if no one is in your life to teach you step “F”, then you cannot have my gift? God’s heart is not like that. He wants all people to be saved and makes it quite simple for them.
I personally have enjoyed “discipling.” I have made many close friends and have learned a lot. There is certainly nothing wrong with having a friend in Christ who we can talk to, cry to, confess to and learn from. Yet this is not something that is mandated by Scripture. I think that the relationships between David and Jonathan, Paul and Timothy are exemplary and we should imitate them. But there is no command from God that we must each have a discipler who is over us in the Lord. There is no substantiation in Scripture for this being a mandate by God. However the ICC requires it for membership in the church.
Kip McKean has interpreted Matthew 28:18-20 by saying that everyone must “be discipled.” It is interesting to note that this “discipler” supposedly has authority over us in the Lord (Heb 13:17 says to submit to leaders in the church, not disciplers; the only leaders established by the New Testament are deacons and elders). It seems conspicuous that in assigning a discipler to be over us, the point that Jesus makes in Matthew 28:18 is ignored; he says, “ALL authority in heaven and earth has been given to ME.” It seems strange to use this Scripture to authenticate any human authority figure in our lives.
James 5:16 has been used to tell us that we must confess to our disciplers. Even if this Scripture were a Biblical mandate (which it is not), the verse reads “confess your sins to each other” (in the context of illness).
Yet the ICC does not encourage this. It encourages one woman confessing to someone “over her” in the Lord [which is unbiblical in and of itself, because only elders and deacons can be over us in the Lord], and that woman confessing to someone “over her,” etc. I can attest that my discipler didn’t confess her sins to me. But I confessed to her, often with tears. I often found myself saying, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” Why? I felt that I had disappointed her by sinning. And sometimes she told me that I did.
Wait a minute? My sin was against God! It had nothing to do with her. But this unbiblical, mandated rule by the ICC causes people to consider the outcome of their temptations in terms of whether or not they want to confess them to their disciplers. It is ridiculous. I am not saying that confessing to EACH OTHER is bad, but it is not a Biblical mandate, nor is this rule created by God. That’s the bottom line.
One-over-one discipling is a major problem in this church. Praise God that he does not mandate this, nor is there any example of such an organization of the New Testament Church. Yes, Paul taught Timothy, who taught Silas. Yes, God taught Jesus, who taught his disciples. But the fact that Jesus taught the apostles, does not mean that we step in Jesus’ shoes and teach others like he did. He is the One, the Master, I am His servant. “For there is one God and ONE mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men . . .” (1 Tim 2:5-6).
You see, a discipler is not a mediator between us and God. But unfortunately disciplers tend to act like they are. I don’t want to act as a mediator between someone else and God. The Holy Spirit is our Counselor (Jn 14:16,26). God gave us his SPIRIT to counsel us.
Then why is that in the ICC we must “seek advice” from a human discipler for everything we do? This takes the ability to make spiritual decisions and judgements away from the person. Yes, the Scriptures encourage us to seek advice. But advice is advice. You can take it or leave it. But in the ICC, if you go against advice, you are considered rebellious. This is unscriptural and promotes control of one person’s life by another. I can encourage, I can pray with, I can even have a one-to-one discipling relationship, where we teach each other.
It seems that the ICC has overlooked a Scripture regarding this discipling structure, where almost everyone is put in the position of being a teacher: “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 2:1). It says “not many,” but in the ICC, it is “many.” If someone wanted to be a part of the ICC and didn’t want a “discipler,” he couldn’t be a part of the ICC. Where do you see this in the Scriptures? A discipler being assigned to every member of the church? This makes too many teachers.
The discipling structure has an additional problem. Sins of the disciple get passed up the discipling chain. That’s the truth. I have talked to many people who have been in leadership in the ICC who say that it is very common for the leaders to discuss the sins of the disciples in their church. If the sin has been repented of and forgiven, why is this necessary?
Jesus did not tell his “inner circle” anything that he did not tell everyone openly. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in the synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret” (Jn 18:20-21). Would the leaders of the ICC openly have their leaders meetings in front of the whole church, including visitors?
Jesus did not have an “inner doctrine” that he told people in private, and another one that he put forth publicly. Do the people who are studying the Bible realize that their sins are being discussed outside of their earshot? We think we are helping them, but we are gossiping, and a gossip breaks a confidence (Prov 20:19). The discipling structure sets this up: advice goes down the chain of command; confession of sin goes up.
This is not the way that Christ intended his church to be structured. CHRIST set himself up as the ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN.
During my time in the San Diego Church of Christ (SDCC), I questioned the issue of “fruit” and “fruitfulness” because during my studies of the Scriptures, I never saw evidence that “fruit” = souls that are saved for God. But the leadership as well as the members continually referred to fruit as meaning people who had come to Christ. I would like to share my findings regarding this issue in God’s Word.
In Matthew 7:15-20 the word says that we can recognize false prophets by their fruit. It also says that “every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
The question, then, is “what is fruit?”
In Gal 5:22 the fruit of the Spirit is defined as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Php 1:11 refers to the “fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.”
In the King James Version of Heb 12:11, the “fruit of righteousness” is a result of training by God’s discipline.
Col 1:10 reads, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God . . .”
Many have interpreted this “fruit bearing” as bringing souls to Christ. Although I am devoted to this mission, there is no substantiation in the Scriptures for this interpretation. Even Prov 11:30, which mentions both ideas in one sentence, does not say that fruit = souls. The Scriptures simply do not refer to fruit as people; they refer to fruit as the characteristics (such as joy & righteousness) that people have through Christ. Now, there are other forms of “fruit” in the Word:
During The Lord’s Supper, in Matthew 26:29, Jesus says, “I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine again . . .” Here, he is clearly referring to the actually fruit, as in the grape, which is different than “spiritual fruit”.
In Gen 1:28, the LORD says to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” Here, he is telling them to have children and therefore populate the earth.
Much of the interpretation about “fruit” has come from Jn 15:1-17, one of my favorite passages that made me want to live in Christ four years ago when I first read it. (Please read the entire passage)
In Jn 15:1-2 it reads, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful . . . Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself: it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing . . . This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
In an article called “The Marks of a Disciple” by Roger Lamb, he quotes John 15:8, “This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” He writes, “. . . The promise of John 15 is that as disciples, if we remain in Jesus we will bear disciples. In fact, Jesus makes this a mark of a true disciple” (LA Story, 12/15/96, p.3).
Where does the Scripture say that this fruit is disciples? It does not. In fact, it is totally impossible for this to be true. This suggests the following diagram:
Clearly, this scenario is impossible. Even if the fruit were to drop to the ground and produce seeds, those seeds would not directly produce another branch on the vine.
The correct diagram of Christ’s definition of the fruitfulness of his disciples is as follows:
Unfortunately, because of this misinterpretation of Scripture, Kip McKean, in his speech entitled “The Dream; Super Churches” at the 1992 World Leadership Conference,” said, “Every member of our church is in a Bible Talk. They are expected to bring visitors every week. Everybody is expected to bring visitors every week. They don’t bring a visitor, we ask why. It’s not pressure, I’m concerned about their soul. You know, if you’re not fruitful, you’re going to be sawed off the vine. The unfruitful Christian is the one who falls away. I’m just concerned” (20).
Where does the Scripture say that “fruit” is visitors? Or baptisms? Or souls? Do we believe that God will saw us off Jesus’ vine if we do not perform?
The “mark” of the disciple is fruit, defined as love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, righteousness, self-control, joy, faithfulness, and so on. Against such things there is no law. We will not be sawed off Jesus’ vine if the only fruit we bear is love.
On a personal note, I want to say that I have seen many people feel inadequate, unable to live up to the standard, unhappy, and disappointed in themselves because they did not “bear fruit” that year. I have seen an evangelist in San Francisco tell his congregation they had “failed” because they only grew by one soul that year. Sadly, these people do not realize that their JOY is fruit. Their LOVE is fruit . . . . it breaks my heart.
A friend of mine told me that before she got married, she was challenged by the leaders to be “fruitful.” Where is this constituted in the Scriptures? That someone must bring someone to the Lord to get married? Regardless, this woman was fruitful; she was righteous because of her faith in Christ.
Because of this misinterpretation, people actually think they are the tree that John the Baptist preached about: “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Lk 3:9). This hurts people, and damages their confidence in both their salvation and the power of their Savior.
Isaiah 5:7 defines the vineyard and the garden well:
“The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”
The vineyard is God’s house; the men and women are his garden. He looked for their fruit (righteousness and justice) but found bloodshed and cries of distress.
One more point regarding this idea of “personal fruit”: In “The Cutting Edge, A letter to the LA Church” by Kip McKean, he wrote, “Let me remind you that since the Discipleship Series, we have redefined personal fruitfulness as either “planting” or “watering.” Therefore, let me encourage each disciple to not be a dead-end disciple, but to strive to be personally fruitful in one of three ways: One, meet someone who becomes a disciple. Two, study and become best friends with someone who becomes a disciple. Or three, to baptize your child into Christ” (LA Story, Dec 1997, p.3)
** First of all, since when does a man have the right to “define” or “redefine” a supposedly Biblical concept? Let’s leave it up the Word to define these things.
** 1 Co 3:5-9 totally discounts this concept as unscriptural. The Scripture clearly says, “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” How on earth could someone interpret this as meaning that if you help someone come to Christ, YOU are personally fruitful? The Scripture says YOU ARE NOTHING! Additionally, when we plant a seed and water it, a plant grows, not a fruit. The fruit comes later; just as the peace of Christ grows in time. And I certainly have no claim on the fruit that has grown in the lives of the women I have led to Christ. The fact that anyone has the audacity to consider themselves “personally fruitful” goes against God’s Word:
The Lord says, “‘I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me.’ Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” (Hos 14:8-9).
For a long time in the church, I felt very uncomfortable doing the “discipleship” study. I didn’t want to be put in the position of challenging another person’s salvation. Eventually, though, I became indoctrinated with this idea that only true, Biblical disciples are saved, and thought that I was helping people. And I believe in some cases I was helping people call themselves to the Scriptures, and to what a Christian is to God.
Yet the truth is that when a person leads a Bible study on Discipleship, or L&D, or even sits in the position of the discipler, they are playing judge, and playing God.
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jer 17:10). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2Co 5:10); “. . . You call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially . . .” (1 Pe 1:17); The LORD “comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth” (Ps 96:13); “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Ro 14:12); “. . . God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares” (Ro 2:16).
“You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgement seat.”(Ro 14:10).
Paul writes, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. . . . It is the Lord who judges me. THEREFORE JUDGE NOTHING BEFORE THE APPOINTED TIME; WAIT TILL THE LORD COMES. HE WILL BRING TO LIGHT WHAT IS HIDDEN IN DARKNESS AND WILL EXPOSE THE MOTIVES OF MEN’S HEARTS” (1 Co 4:3-6).
When we sit in Bible studies with people, we judge their salvation, and we judge their hearts. If someone declares to have faith in Christ, to love Him with all their hearts, we look for their sin so that we can stamp them as not a disciple, not saved, and therefore on their way to hell if they do not repent and join this church. Keep in mind, this church is supposedly the “Kingdom of God” and there is no other place where someone could legitimately be saved.
When questioned, members of the church say things like this: “There probably are some saved people out there, somewhere, but very few; in my 13 years as a disciple, I have never met one.” Even if someone heard the word, believed, repented and was baptized, we try to prove their condemnation by bringing out the sins in their lives, as if they had not already been forgiven by God, just as we have. This nullifies the blood of Christ, saying it is not powerful enough to save.
The reason we give is that they were not a true follower, “discipled” and baptized by a member of our church. Even the Ethiopian Eunuch could not be a true disciple by the standards of the ICC. His baptism was not valid in this church’s eyes, because he did not clearly “repent,” nor did he study the meaning of a disciple before his baptism, and, since Phillip disappeared after his baptism, the Ethiopian had no discipler to teach him to obey. So in the eyes of the ICC, he was not saved.
Friends, I am not interested in sitting in God’s judgement seat and asking for an account of people’s lives. That is God’s role, not mine. The Scriptures command us not to judge others.
“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Co 5:12).
By stating that we are the “one true church,” we also judge all other churches. We cannot “judge the heart and examine the mind”; that is God’s role. Yet, the ICC claims that it is the only way to salvation? Think about that. By labeling other churches as “dead”, we judge.
I have decided to stop judging. The elitism of it will destroy my walk with God and send me into his condemnation if I do not repent, be humble and allow God to the judging, for “The LORD knows those who are his . . .” (2 Ti 2:19). We do not know who is right with God, and we must repent and let Him open the Book of Life with people, and judge them according their works. He knows who are his, he knows their hearts, and I praise God that in all his wisdom he forbids us to sit in judgement of others.
This is a very sensitive issue for me. We are always looking for “sharp” people to convert. As a young Christian, I often brought the downtrodden to church. I was told by an intern, “Jen, bring people I would want to hang out with.” I thought, Don’t we want all people to hear the word and be saved?
I think we would all agree that yes, God’s will is that all people be saved. Yet we rely so much on outward appearances. Paul understood God’s wisdom in this: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor 1:27-29). Before this, Paul points out that our brothers in Corinth were not wise by human standards, nor were they “influential” people, or from noble families. They were weak when they were called.
Notice what Marty Fuqua of the ICC says about the West LA sector: “Yet as I looked at the West Sector, it was made up of the weak and the weird. And I said listen, ‘If you’re a white collar person, don’t you ever bring in another blue collar person. You reach out to white collar people. If you’re a blue collar person, don’t you come in here with someone who doesn’t have a job. You reach out to blue collar or white collar.’ I said, ‘If you don’t have a job, you get your hind end out and get a job. And then you can evangelize, and you can make a contribution.'” (“Cutting Edge.” Boston Leadership Conference, August 1992, audio tape, side one).
First of all, when did having a job become a criteria for evangelism? Second, what happened to being all things to all people? Brothers and sisters, what about the weak and the weary? Binding up the brokenhearted? For the weak, Paul became weak.
But the ICC doesn’t see it this way. The church does not teach the leaders to become weak for the weak. No, it tells them to look for the strong. “. . . .All leaders should be reaching out to those with leadership potential . . . We all need to reproduce ourselves by converting others like ourselves. Particularly, leaders should make sure that they are studying with and discipling those who have leadership potential.” (Gordon Ferguson. Discipling. Woburn, MA: DPI, 1997, 59).
Can you imagine if Jesus had this attitude? The Samaritan woman, the sinful woman, the lame and brokenhearted and shunned by society — the lepers, tax-collectors, prostitutes, the blind, the bleeding, the hungry and homeless would have never found a Savior.
Recently I listened to a tape to campus students about “David’s Mighty Men,” and how we needed to look all over our campuses to find mighty men that would do mighty miracles for God. The thing that the ICC teacher on this tape missed was that David’s mighty men were not mighty to start with. Look in 1 Samuel 22:2 “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader.” These are the men who ended up being “mighty” for God. Leaders in the ICC, are you looking for those who are mighty already, or are you looking for those in debt and distress, and letting God make them mighty?
If weakness were so bad, why would the Scriptures say the following things:
“For I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.” (1 Cor 2:3). “For to be sure, [Christ] was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him . . .” (2 Cor 13:4). “In everything I (Paul) did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). “God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Co 1:27).
On a much more personal note, I want to share what I have seen about a brother who I love dearly in our Lord. He has multiple sclerosis. He is a full time campus student. At the university where I attend, he is the only brother from the SDCC who goes there, getting his second Bachelor’s degree, taking a full load of classes. He wanted very much to be in our new and exciting campus ministry. I appealed to a brother on staff regarding this, and was later told that the leadership did not want him in the campus ministry because of the “pace” of what “the campus ministry would be trying to do.” It was clear to me that no one wanted to take care of the lame, as Jesus did, but instead obviously had their own agenda, rather than the Lord’s.
We have converted a lot of “sharp” people from the campuses. And that brother with multiple sclerosis sits on campus with his Bible open all the time, and shares the Gospel with whoever will listen. Meanwhile, our attractive and growing campus ministry sits in the front seats of the church, cheering our leader on, while our brother with MS quietly sits in the back.
Take note of God’s Word on this matter:
“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ . . . have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4; read 2:1-13)
“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers . . . Speak and act as those what are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement!” (8,9, 12,13).
The focus on converting “sharp” people is in every way a violation of the love and teachings of Christ.
“Forcefully Advancing the Kingdom”
We all know this phrase. It comes from Matthew 11:12, in the NIV:
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (NIV).
In an article written by Elena Garcia-McKean [wife of Kip McKean and World Women’s Ministry Leader], she lifted up sisters for their excellent job working hard for God. The title of the article was “Forcefully Advancing the Kingdom Through Women’s Ministry” (LA Story, 11/97, p. 3). This idea of forcefully advancing the kingdom has become so important that a brother recently told me, “We know that God only helps those who forcefully advance his Kingdom.”
Note that the original Greek of Matthew 11:12 does not take on this meaning: “But the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens suffers violence, and violent men seize it.” The KJV reads: “. . . the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”
This Scripture really refers to violence committed in opposition to the kingdom, and not men pushing it forth. This is a small misinterpretation of Scripture, and I don’t blame anyone for it. But what I want to point out is that when our leaders are not trained in Greek and Hebrew, as are Seminary grads, we are subject to the misinterpretation of Scripture without our knowledge.
Furthermore, this particular misinterpretation is a core belief of the ICC. It creates an atmosphere of forcefulness, and when people are turned off by that or don’t live up to the standard, they become shunned, in a sense, not “fit” for the kingdom of heaven. When I think about the mentality that this has caused, I grieve. I am reminded of this Scripture:
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thes 4:11).
One time I shared this Scripture with my discipler, and told her, “This is what I want!” She replied, “But Jen, this is not the life of a disciple.” And I thought, But this is God’s Word; this is His direction to the disciples. And what a way to evangelize! To mind your own business and win respect from others, so that they might see the love of God within us.
Please understand I am not against evangelism; I am all for it. But God reveals many ways to share faith, through love. Remember, it is the meek that shall inherit the earth; not the “forceful.”
Special Contribution And Tithing
Tithing is a Biblical mandate, in the Old Testament. But we are not under law anymore. We are under GRACE. I definitely agree that tithing is a good thing, even 10%, but it is not commanded in the New Testament Church. There is certainly no record of such a thing as a “special contribution” in the NT church.
Let me make it clear here that I love to raise money for missions. I have loved the Special Contribution because if helps send the gospel message around the world. But there is no record in the Bible where the leadership of a church asks its members, or as in the ICC, demands, of its members a 20 times, or 17 times, or 14 times contribution once a year. If someone wants to give it, and can, great. But where do we see the example in the Scriptures of people having to give anything to God, or to their church? Let’s look at what Paul says about it:
“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Co 9:7).
Is this what is happening? Maybe for some. But I have seen many young, single women who are trying to make it in this world on their own, barely able to make their bills, who are hard-pressed to make the demands of the leadership for special contribution. They do everything they can, but they are consistently badgered for their money, even when they DO NOT have it. “Raise it!” The leadership says. And there you go, having a church full of distressed people straining to meet the demands of the leadership, which come from the top down. The following quote is from a man who led the church in Indianapolis. He is speaking to his congregation.
“There are many things that go on and have gone on in this church that really aren’t up to us. Things such as our special missions contribution. And there was a time when we had a special missions contribution because we had the idea we wanted to do it. Because we wanted to be involved in the missions. Today we have a special missions contribution because we are expected to have a special missions contribution. The amount that we give is not an amount that is decided upon by us, by the leaders of this church or by you, the members. But it is an amount that is decided upon by the folks who oversee us in L.A. This year the amount is $254,000. That’s the amount that we are responsible for. I had no input into that. We weren’t asked. We were assigned a time period in which it must be given. And it is expected.
Our giving per member is monitored on a weekly basis, the expectation is that we should give $30.00 per member. And we don’t do that. We average giving about $25.00 per member. When you figure in the diversity of this church, the number of teens that we have, the number of senior citizens and the number of single moms and the factors that factor in, that’s what we give. And we feel pressure as leaders. We feel pressure about that — because the expectation is that we should be giving $30.00 a week . . .” (From a sermon by Ed Powers to the Indianapolis ICC congregation, Feb 27. 1994).
Let me ask you: whose expectations are we trying to meet? God’s? Is He in a hurry to send mission teams to every country by the year 2000? Even to places where the gospel has been spread for 2,000 years? Is God in a hurry to get your money? Or are the leaders? Let’s see what God’s word says about this:
“Entirely on their own, [the Macedonian churches] urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service [of giving] to the saints. And THEY DID NOT DO AS WE EXPECTED, but gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.”
Paul goes on to encourage the churches to keep giving, making it clear that he was “NOT COMMANDING” them. He then exhorts them to complete their giving, “ACCORDING TO YOUR MEANS. If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable ACCORDING TO WHAT ONE HAS, NOT ACCORDING TO WHAT HE DOES NOT HAVE. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed . . . .” (2 Co 8:3-5, 8,12).
Over and over again, I have seen young single women hard pressed to give this demanded contribution. I have seen the leadership ask us all to raise our tithes by five dollars a few months before the special, in which we are expected to times that by 17 or whatever random number the leadership makes up. Friends, I am not against giving, but the Bible declares that NO ONE SHOULD GIVE UNDER COMPULSION! (2 Co 9:7) Let’s see how Kip McKean views this matter:
“Secondly, we give the contribution in the discipleship group. You say, ‘Well, won’t everybody see what’s happening?’ Mmmhmm. Mmmhmm! And we make sure they give their tithe. You say, ‘Why do you do that?’ Because the Bible says in Malachi 3, if you don’t tithe you’re robbing God. And we don’t want anybody to go to hell cause they didn’t, they robbed God. You say, ‘That’s awful hard-line.’ You bet your booties it’s hard-line. Someone doesn’t give, we ask why. We know who didn’t give by the end of the discipleship group. Questions are asked. We have almost a hundred percent giving in our church. Someone doesn’t give, they’ve got some attitudes.” (Kip McKean, Malachi: God’s Radical Demand for Remaining Radical, Manila World Leadership Conference, 1994).
McKean teaches that tithing and giving of contributions is to be monitored by the church leaders. This goes in direct opposition to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:1-4:
“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven . . . But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done is secret, will reward you.”
Even in the “collection for God’s people,” in 1 Co 16:1-4, Paul tells the people to “set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income” so that when he comes “no collections will have to be made.” The ICC uses this as a Scripture about tithing, which is not what this is about as all. The church in Corinth was sending a special gift to Jerusalem to help them out. This was not a tithe, it was a gift.
The ICC knowingly has its members give under compulsion. I say this because these issues have been raised over and over again, even by an evangelist who was later kicked out of the movement without ever having this concern addressed nor repented of. We have to ask ourselves, is this from God or man? Can you imagine Paul and Timothy with their tally sheets, making sure everyone gives? And going after those who don’t? In the ICC, if you miss a contribution, you are talked to about it. Likewise, can you imagine Peter and Paul demanding a certain amount of money from the disciples, ever? For any reason? NO.
Please understand I have always loved to give to God, and been glad to raise money for the church. But the bottom line is that the practices of the ICC in regard to “tithing” and special contribution are NOT Biblical.
Adding Sins To The Bible
“Do not go beyond what is written” (1 Co 4:6).
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:18-19).
Leaders in the ICC often add sins to the Bible. Here are some that I have personally heard the leadership add.
“Independence” is a sin. I recently heard someone preach from the pulpit, “Independence is a killer! It will kill you! It is sin that must be repented of!” There is no evidence from the Scriptures that says that independence is a sin. Paul was certainly independent (after receiving the revelation of Christ, he spent three years alone before even meeting the other apostles – Gal 1:11-24). Then he spent 14 years on his own before joining them. (This is why we need men in the pulpit, who, like Paul, studied the Scriptures in a school.)
Lack of “fruitfulness” is a sin, and something we should be ashamed of! Of course this interpretation of fruitfulness refers to bringing souls to Christ, which is unbiblical. This is taken so far that people are taken out of leadership for this “sin.”
“Missing church” is a sin! Where does it say this in the Scripture? Even Heb 10:25 only urges people to not “give up meeting together”; this does not say it is a sin to miss church. But I heard that it was a sin from a well-respected teacher in the ICC.
“Being overweight” is a sin. I admit I took part in perpetuating this heresy. Debauchery is the sin, not being overweight. I apologize to my sisters and brothers for this judgmental attitude. I have heard leaders confess being overweight as sin.
“Insecurity” is a sin. Boy, this sure makes the insecure person feel more insecure. I thought our words were for “building others up according to their needs” (Eph 4:29).
“Being late to church” is a sin. My regional evangelist told us this at a devotional. For the rest of my time in the church I was continually fearful of being late to anything, because I believed it was sin. Once I was even told I had to stand in the middle of a circle and sing a song because I was one minute late to a service. Where do you see this attitude in the New Testament?
“Doubt” is a sin. “It is from Satan!” Now, we are talking about doubt about being able to baptize people, or get a certain number of people at church, or in our campus ministry. Many people in the ICC think that “he who doubts is weak.” Doubting God is not good. But what about doubting false doctrine? Any doubt in the leadership or teaching of the ICC is considered bad. But this is not referring to doubt in Christ or God. James 1:6 tells us that doubting God is bad. But Jesus accepted the doubts of another person (Mk 9:24). When Thomas doubted, Jesus did not condemn him; in fact, he graciously appeared to satisfy his skepticism about the resurrection. We must make a distinction between healthy doubt and doubting God. Doubting God is not the same as doubting our leaders. Let’s not get the two confused.
“Being critical” is a sin. This is interesting, because it is a form of mind control. By saying to someone in the church, “You are just being critical” we essentially shut off the person’s mind from critical thinking and analysis of the ongoings and behaviors of the church and its leaders. Therefore we do not think critically and blindly accept everything that goes on. (I’m sure people think I am being very critical by writing this letter; to them I say: “Examine everything carefully” (1 Thess 5:19 NAS).
“Missing your tithe” is a sin, supposedly because we had made an oath to God about our tithes. I agree that it is sin to break our oaths to God. But the New Testament Church was not required to make an oath about their tithe; they simply gave from their hearts. So in the ICC we are taught we must swear our tithe to God, so if we miss it, we sin. This is adding sins and requirements of the law to the Word.
Once I heard my evangelist say “If you are in bed before 9:30 PM, then you are in SIN!” Obviously there is nowhere in the Scriptures that would even come close to this one. I discipled a single mother who worked her rear off day and night supporting two children, getting up at four and five in the morning to have her time with God. She had to go to bed early. And if the evangelist says that’s sin I say that’s baloney.
“Discouragement” is a sin. Where does the Word say this? Does the ICC therefore claim that the Psalmists were in sin, because they were repeatedly discouraged, distressed, scared, depressed and anxious? Look at Isa 49:4. In prophesy of the voice of Jesus: “Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and in empty futility; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense is with my God” (Amplified Bible). Jesus was discouraged! And he looked to God. When God tells us in the first chapter of Joshua, “Be strong and very courageous . . . Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged . . .” (Joshua 1:7,9), he is encouraging us. He does not say it is sin to feel that way. Certainly our Lord felt that he had labored in vain at times; he felt like he had spent his strength for nothing, and it was God who encouraged him to go on with fortitude.
“Sentimentality” is a sin. By this, the church members mean that if you look outside of the church, to people you know, love and respect, and you believe that person is a true “disciple”, that is “sentimentality.” I believe my grandmother is a godly woman. She is full of Christ — and she exhibits his very love and gentleness. She is a true believer, but she is not a member of this church. I also believe my cousins are saved. The ICC calls this “sentimentality”. That means I am “sentimental” about their sin, and when I am sentimental about their “salvation”, I do not “help them.” These women are Christians in God’s sight, but I cannot see them that way, even though they 1)heard the word 2)believed in Christ 3)made Christ Lord 4)repented of sin and 5)were baptized. This the ICC’s “formula” for salvation, and yet if it is performed outside of their group, it is not trusted. What about, “Accept one another as Christ accepted you?”
“Worrying” is a sin. When did God command, “Thou shalt not worry?” He didn’t. He only encouraged us to not worry. He would take care of us.
“Being emotional.” I never heard this was sin, but it sure was treated like it. I was always “emotional,” and so were many of my close friends. And this was looked down upon. Jesus was an emotional man, so I don’t understand this. Another thing, now that I think of it, was that “not being emotional enough” was also shunned. Who can live up to the standards of the ICC? When are you ever good enough?
Many would say, well the Scripture says to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). But look at the context. In the Greek, “perfection” means “being complete.” In the passage beginning at verse 43, we see that Jesus refers to loving both the righteous and the sinners, loving those who love you and loving your enemies, greeting those that are brothers and those that are not. In this way, he wants us to be complete in loving all people, just as the Father is perfect in making the sun shine on both the righteous and the wicked. This Scripture has nothing to do with sinless perfection. It’s about being perfect by loving all people.
If anyone thinks, well, at least these “guidelines” will “help” you be righteous in every which way, please read Ecc 7:16-18. “Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise – why destroy yourself? . . . .The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”
All the righteousness in the world could not earn God’s gift of salvation. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his GRACE, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7). Using ICC “lingo”, that fires me up! Let’s not forget that all the righteous requirements of the laws that the ICC imposes on its members cannot earn salvation or grace. And more so, God will pour out his mercy on who He wants to, not on who we say meets the requirements of the law.
Legalism And The Pharisees
The ICC has been accused of this over and over again, but since I have been in a very loving ministry, I did not really see the legalism, or when I saw it I didn’t care. I wanted to come to church; I wanted to give my tithe; I wanted to make my discipling times; most often (but not always) I wanted to share my faith with new people!
Incidentally, if one does not share one’s faith, one is in grave sin. I wonder if the ICC would have rebuked Joseph of Arimathea, because he was a “disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews.” (Jn 19:38). The ICC would rebuke someone who was being secret about his relationship with Christ because of fear. But Paul even said he had “fears within.” (2 Co7:5).
I bring this up because oftentimes people are timid about “sharing their faith” with others. Basically the teaching is to “repent and get bold!” It is true that some of the disciples in the Bible preached about Christ continuously, fearlessly, and with great boldness. The Holy Spirit empowered them to. And I try to imitate this! But does God command us to share our faith with others? And if so, how does he want us to do it?
In Matthew 28:18-20, we are told to go and make disciples. In the original Greek, it reads, “As you are going, make disciples . . . .” In other words we are to make learners, or followers of Jesus as we go about our daily activities. How do we do that?
God gives each one of us gifts that will draw people to Christ. In Eph 4:11, it reads: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service . . . .” In 1 Co 12:28, it says, “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? . . . .” No. We are not all teachers. We are not all evangelists. But because of the Great Commission, we all need to make followers of Christ. Yet do we all have to do that by going out on the street and evangelizing? Is this everyone’s gift? There is nothing wrong with doing that. But what if some people have the gift of teaching children? Or serving? Or are doctors, that can heal, and thereby show God’s compassion and love through their work?
To the discipling movement, this is ridiculous! Everyone MUST evangelize. But God makes it clear in his word that he did not make all to be evangelists. But in the ICC, if we do not evangelize daily, we are in some sort of sin. We force it into people.
The motivation to share should always come from love. And often it does. I know I love to share about Christ because I love Christ. But when I am given a form to sign that says I will share with a certain number of people a day, and I will go “all out” evangelizing my campus, and I will pray that ten people be added to our ministry, and pray daily for a predetermined list of things and people, for a month, I think “where in the Bible do you see this?” Do you honestly think that Paul and the apostles made up such forms for their disciples to sign? Or did people not share the good news out of the joy of their hearts? The ICC “PUSH” steals the joy from sharing the good news. By the way, it is not Christ that we are told to share, but the ICC. We may share about Jesus and feel great about it, but ultimately we want that person to come to OUR church, study the Bible OUR way (in OUR translation), get baptized by US, and then be saved. In the ICC, the gospel does not save; the system does. And this makes it a burden.
Now, you might say, “It should not be a burden!” And you might say, “Jen, your heart is not right!” And I say, hey, I did share with people, I did baptize, I did study the Bible with people, and I enjoyed all of it, but all my acts of righteousness are filthy rags in comparison to God’s grace. Usually I did not feel overburdened; overwhelmed, but not overburdened. I loved to study with the women, I loved to give to the ministry.
But the ministry continually demands more and more from us, and the things in our lives, like school and family and artistic talents and hobbies that we enjoy get quenched. And suddenly we have no time to use the gifts that God has given us. And suddenly I see my sisters and brothers in Christ with that look in their eyes, that tired, burdened look. And they ARE burdened. Every time they walk by a soul and do not share, they feel guilt; that person’s blood will be on their hands. I go into a grocery store and don’t share; I feel guilty. The “disciples” in the ICC live a life of constant tug-of-war between striving for perfection and feeling guilty because they cannot obtain it. Why the burden? Don’t deny it is there; it is.
The discrepancy is that Jesus’ burden was light and his yoke was easy. “And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world . . . Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 Jn 5:3). So if Jesus’ commands are not burdensome, then why is it that so many of my friends in the ICC feel burdened, burnt out and look exhausted all the time? Well, what are Jesus’ commands?
“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us” (1 Jn 3:23)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn 13:34).
“Love is the fulfillment of the law.” (read Ro 13:8-10, Jn 15:12, Gal 5:14).
“Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
God’s commandments are not burdensome at all! And as I look at this I feel a sense of relief. Yet why is it that we in the ICC feel burdened?
“Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the words God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent’” (Jn 6:29).
How often do we hear this in the ICC? If someone were to ask a typical ICC member this question, that person would say “go and make disciples.” Yes, we must do that. But the work of God is to believe in Christ. If we admitted to this, we would then admit that there are thousands of people out there doing the work of God. It’s denial!
I often used Philemon v. 6 to tell my sisters to “be active in sharing [their] faith.” I assume this is the Scripture that the ICC got the phrase “sharing your faith” from. The Scripture says that if we share, we will have “a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Again, it’s good to look at another translation and look at this Scripture in context. The writer of the letter commends the brothers and sisters for their faith in Christ and love for all the saints. He then writes, in the NAS, “and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.” He then goes on to tell them how joyful he is because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through their love. So “sharing your faith” in this Scripture is fellowshipping with the saints in love! Not exactly the same thing as the ICC says it is, is it?
Again, I am all for evangelism, but let’s remember that the Scripture refers to the fellowshipping of our faith with other believers.
If God’s commandments are not burdensome, and the ICC members find themselves burdened (some to the point of leaving, preferring to accept their appointment to “hell” over staying in this church; some to the point of suicide; some to the point of mental insanity; some to the point of severe depression and loathing of Christianity), then what is it that makes the burden?
Rules. “There are no “rules” you say! Only “guidelines” to help you! Here is a list of rules not mandated in Scripture yet created by the ICC. If these rules are not obeyed, a person is admonished, corrected, rebuked, considered “unspiritual”, “worldly”, “deceived”, “selfish”, “rebellious”, “independent”, or “unwise”, even though these are rules NOT MANDATED BY SCRIPTURE.
- When you first start dating someone, it should only be once a month.
- Then, you can, after getting “advice”, start dating twice a month.
- Then, (in my and my previous boyfriend’s case, it was put off much longer than either one of us preferred — partially because he moved to another city and partially because the leadership did not give the approval), once you get advice and the permission of the leadership, you can be officially “boyfriend/girlfriend”.
I want to make a comment here about the rules on dating. The church teaches that we date all different people, even if we don’t want to. People have different opinions on this. But can you imagine Jesus telling Mary Magdalene, “Go out with Peter one week, John the next, then James, then Judas, then Paul, then Stephen . . . .” Then when Mary likes Peter, and Peter likes Mary, Jesus says, “Well Mary, just go out with him once month. Peter, then James, then John, then Mark, then Peter, then Luke then Judas . . . . Then they really like each other, and Jesus says, well you should still date these other guys even though you two only like each other. Peter, then James, Peter, Luke, Peter, John, Peter, Mark, Peter, Stephen . . .No wonder they called her a prostitute!]
Also, the leadership of the ICC calls this system of dating “God’s way”, even though there is absolutely no substantiation from Scripture for such a practice, nor is there even the notion that leaders in the church have any say over its members regarding these non-Biblical issues.
- You may ONLY double-date; anything else is frowned upon. [Eph 5:2, in the Greek, means “let it not be said that there is sexual immorality among you”. There were times that a brother and I read the Bible together by ourselves and we were admonished for this, even though there was absolutely no immorality involved.]
- You may not get engaged or married until it is approved by the leadership.
- You may not be a leader unless you are “fruitful” (bringing people into ICC).
- You may not be baptized until you have repented of sin and confessed to others.
- You should talk to disciplers daily, or as often as possible.
- Confess to disciplers all sins, and temptations.
- If you choose to move in with someone, it cannot be someone who is not a member of the ICC.
- You must have a quiet time with God daily.
- You must share your faith daily.
- You may not miss meetings of the body.
- You must give a missions contribution, calculated by a multiple of the regular contribution, depending on whatever the leadership decides.
The list goes on and on. The bottom line is that some of these may be good guidelines, but they are to be “obeyed,” and they are not guidelines from God that He lays out in his Bible! There are so many rules that we are not free to CHOOSE righteousness, because we are forced to be righteous — we MUST obey all these human guidelines.
Read Col 2:9-23. In verse two it says we have been given “fullness” in Christ. But in the ICC, we are not full. We are never complete. We must go to more seminars, more all night prayers, more this, more that. Those things are good, but God does not make them mandatory. The leaders of the ICC make them mandatory.
“These [rules] are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on HUMAN COMMANDS AND TEACHINGS. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Col 2:20-23).
“WOE TO YOU, BECAUSE YOU LOAD PEOPLE DOWN WITH BURDENS THEY CAN HARDLY CARRY . . .” (Lk 11:46).
If we do not measure up to the ICC standards, and I know many people who have felt that way, then they feel like “just quitting,” “giving up,” “leaving,” or, worse, that they are “not even a disciple and don’t deserve to stay in the church.” Christ never drove anyone so hard that they felt this way.
What is a true shepherd’s heart? Look in Gen 33:13-14. When Jacob and Esau were reunited, they decided to head towards Seir together. Esau wanted to accompany Jacob along the way. “But Jacob said to him, ‘My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.'”
A good shepherd moves at the pace of its young. The weakest one will set the pace. That way it will be taken care of, for it is tender in the eyes of God. My dear friends in the ICC, do not drive your flock so hard that the weak ones fall behind and die, for then you shall be a wicked shepherd.
Focus On Numbers
This is something that bothered me the whole time I was in the church, but sooner or later I got used to the system and wrote it off. But it still stands out to me as one of the most glaring sicknesses in the ICC. Numbers, numbers, numbers. “Share with 100 people this week! Share with five a day! How many people did you share with today? We had 100 visitors at church last Sunday! (everyone yells and claps) WE are the fasting growing region in all of San Diego County! Let’s baptize ten people this semester! Let’s all be praying for it! How many times have you missed church recently? It really shows where your heart is at.”
I know that the focus on numbers is much more prevalent in the leadership meetings, which I never had a part in. But even in the average members’ life, the numbers are so important in the ICC. We get calls from our Bible talk leaders, asking how many people we had at church on Sunday.
I have a question of my own about this. Who cares? God? Is He up there with his stat sheets? Is He up there saying, “CRANK the ministry”? Let’s see what he says about this:
From Christ “the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in LOVE, as each part does its work” (Eph 4:16).
Love builds the church. God builds the church. Now I know you in ICC would agree with that, but is that really what you practice? From my three-year experience in this church, I have seen God change lives. It happens in churches all over the world. But I have never seen in the Scripture such a complete and utter reliance on the self to “crank” the ministry. If we are truly a church that reflects the heart of God, we would not be running around counting everybody. Let’s look at the word for the answers.
Out of 27 books in the New Testament, we see numbers of converts listed twice. Once: “Those we accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (Acts 2:41).
After that, the word reads like this: “The number of disciples . . . increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). “And the church . . . was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers . . .” (Acts 9:31). “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers” (Acts 16:5). “Many Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men” (Acts 17:12).
“Many, a few, a number,” is the way they “count” how many come to the Lord. But in the ICC, these things are very strictly kept track of. The church computers know down to the dollar and down to the number exactly how many members there are, what the exact number of growth there is, how many people visited church, whose house church those people belonged to, how much is given per member, what the overall contribution is, what the budget is. Now this might sound okay. But does it reflect God’s heart? I have copies of the stat sheets, that measure percentage growth, and even “rate” the number of visitors per week as “BAD, GOOD, GREAT, or AWESOME.” The church literally punches the numbers into a computer and then spits out the rating for that week.
Let’s get back to the Bible here. Can we imagine stat sheets in the first century? “Of those 3,000, how many did you invite? Okay, let’s see here, and how many did your Bible talk invite? Make sure to get back to those people. Set up follow up studies . . . .” That couldn’t even have happened, because they did not even take people through a series of Bible studies prior to their “salvation!”
Another thing we do in the ICC is keep track of the studies everyone is going through. It is very common to see a Bible talk leader have a chart that tracks each person studying, the date they did each study on, who they did it with, and how close they are to getting baptized, as if this is a chart that measures how close they are to salvation! Can you imagine Paul and the brothers doing such a thing? I have even seen stat sheets that have “predicted baptisms” listed on them. How can we predict God like this?
“‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:16).
What about all this predicted growth? How often do you see charts and graphs on KNN that list exact numbers for each church? If we listed how many people leave the church, people would wonder why. We list baptisms, but not how many people realize that this church is wrong and leave. When people leave, they are “counted as fallaways.” I have even heard people call my home to speak to a woman in leadership, asking for a list of “possible fallaways.” How can we list how many people might turn their backs on Jesus Christ? Did the NT church keep such lists?
The ICC considers that when a person leaves its organization, that person has left GOD, and therefore goes to hell. For every three people who join this church, two leave. According to its own theology, more people who become members of the ICC end up condemned than saved. In keeping with its practices, the ICC sends more people to hell than heaven.
The Structure Of The International Churches Of Christ
This is an issue that has been criticized and written about so much that it pains me to even discuss it. But for those of you who don’t know about this — and I know there are many young Christians out there who have no idea what the bigger picture of the ICC is — I will explain it to the best of my ability. The church is made up of many churches that are organized in a hierarchical, pyramid structure. Generally, it goes like this:
L.A. (I think it is L.A. now; it used to be Boston, but wherever Kip McKean, the leader of the movement, is, that is the top church in regards to authority)
Capitol City Churches
Small City churches
In other words, L.A. has authority over the pillar churches, which has authority over the capitol city churches, and way on down the line. An example is that L.A. has authority over the San Diego (pillar city) Church, which has authority over Phoenix, Arizona, which has authority over smaller churches in the surrounding areas. L.A, over San Diego, over North County, over San Marcos, to make it closer to home.
Now, please understand that I am not in official leadership so I do not know the details of exactly how this all works (and I may not get every detail right here). But the idea for evangelizing the world is based on McKean’s claim that there is no such thing as church “autonomy” in the Bible. In other words, there were no independently legislated churches in the Scriptures.
First of all, that is not true. Look at Gal 1:11-2:10. Paul, after he was called by Christ, spent 3 years in which he “did not consult any man . . . nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was.” He spent three years on his own. “Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter.” He stayed with him about two weeks, and met James, but none of the other apostles. Then he took off.
FOURTEEN YEARS LATER, in chapter 2, he went to Jerusalem and hooked up with those “who seemed to be leaders” there to discuss the gospel. He says in verse 6, “As for those who seemed to be important — whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance — those men added nothing to my message.” He goes on to explain that Peter had his ministry, and Paul had his ministry, and “God . . . was at work” in both ministries, even though they were totally autonomous, or separate and independent.
So this is possible, for one church to be working on its own, and another to be working on its own, with no ongoing contact between the two. The bottom line is that there is NO New Testament structure in which the churches have any congregational authority one over the other. Yes, in Titus 1:5, Paul tells Titus to appoint elders in every town in Crete, but he does not say that one church in Crete is over another one.
McKean gets the “house church” structure of the ICC from the Jethro Principle in Ex 18:13-26, and says this is “God’s plan for church leadership.” This Scripture is about Moses leading the Israelites to Mt. Sinai. It is a good principle for organizing people. But it was never intended to be for the church, and furthermore, the principle is totally foreign to New Testament church organization.
The ICC structure looks like this:
Kip & Elena McKean
(world missions evangelist & world women’s ministry leader)
Eight World Sector Leaders
Geographic Sector Leaders
Evangelists and Women’s Ministry
Leaders (for Major Metro Area Churches)
Evangelists and Women’s Ministry Leaders (for churches in smaller cities and towns)
Region and House Church / Family Group leaders
Bible Talk leaders
Authority goes right on up the line, and direction comes right on down the line. Within each church there is:
House Church Leaders
Bible Talk Leaders
1 Tim 3:1-8 describes the tasks of “overseers”. Read it over. The word overseer means “bishop” or “elder”.
1 Tim 3:8-10 & 12-13 list the qualifications for deacons.
These are the only official church offices that the Bible gives a specific definition for. These are the ones who shepherd the flock, yet where are the deacons in the SDCC? Who are they? Are they house church leaders? Are they Bible talk leaders? The Scriptures suggest that elders and deacons have authority over the whole flock, including evangelists (for which there are no specific qualifications Biblically). So why is it that in the ICC evangelists have authority over elders? The ICC has arbitrarily given evangelists authority over elders, although that authority is not specifically given to them in Scripture.
The reason I raise this issue is that this church structure (one church over another church, over another church; one person over another person, over another)) is simply not the structure of the first century church, nor is it mandated or supported by Scripture.
Authority In The Church
1 Tim 3:1-13 specifically lays out God’s standard for those who are “overseers” and deacons. An overseer is traditionally called a bishop, and elders are also considered to be overseers. It says that person must be “above reproach . . . able to teach . . . He must not be a recent convert. . . .”
Now, what are “disciplers”? When I first started discipling a woman, we were told by my discipler that I would be responsible for this woman’s spiritual life, and held accountable to God for her salvation. Now, I later told the woman I discipled that she was responsible for her spiritual life. But the mentality is that a “discipler” oversees a person’s soul, a person’s spiritual life, a person’s relationship with God and eternal salvation.
In the ICC, many many many people are put in the situation of being “overseers” of souls when they are not “able to teach,” and they ARE recent converts, sometimes as recent as a month.
Titus 1:6-9 explains the qualifications for an elder.
Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” This Scripture is used to tell us to submit to and obey our disciplers, Bible talk leaders, House church leaders, evangelists, etc. Yet, the only “leaders” God defines as having authority over the flock are elders and deacons. So in the ICC, we have a bunch of people who have been given man-made positions and, [this is the dangerous part] man-made authority. Who are the leaders of the Bible? Elders and Deacons. Who must we submit to? Elders and Deacons. They are shepherds that must not “lord” their authority over us, but be our servants, as Christ came to serve.
*** You should be aware that there is no word for ‘authority’ in Hebrews 13:17 in the Greek text. Neither is “authority” found in the translations of the RSV, NASV, NEB, KJV, ASV, or NKJV. The Greek word for “obey” is peitho, which means to ‘persuade, to win over,’ and in the passive and middle voices, ‘to be persuaded, to listen to.” This is not our modern understanding of “obey.” In Heb 13:17, then, “obey” means to “listen to your leaders and if they win you over by persuasion then yield to this advice.” This is a much different idea than the “absolute obedience” that is poured into this passage.
Furthermore, in Heb 13:17, Jesus and his disciples clearly taught that leaders were to serve their followers, not dominate them (Matthew 20:25-28; Lk 22:25-27; 1 Pet 5:3)
1 Thess 5:12 “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. . . .”
This Scripture is used to tell us to respect our women’s ministry leaders, evangelists, disciplers, etc. (and we should all respect each other) But who is “over” us in the Lord according to the Scriptures? Elders and deacons. Do I believe we should respect our pastors, teachers, etc? Yes. But are they “over us” in the Lord, according to God? God does not say they are, although He does recognize their part in the body of Christ, through the spiritual gifts.
The ICC expects us to look at a “discipler” as someone who is “over us” in the Lord. There is absolutely nothing in the Scripture that would attest to this. You might say, well, God was over Jesus! Jesus was over Paul! Paul was over Timothy! Timothy was over Silas! But Jesus is over all. And today we do not have apostles who are over us. (The apostles had authority that was specific to them, and no one today has such authority.) We have ELDERS AND DEACONS who ARE GIVEN SCRIPTURAL AUTHORITY BY GOD to shepherd us. A “discipler” has no authority from God; neither does a house church leader or a Bible talk leader, etc.
Further, even Paul, who did have authority because he was an apostle (2 Cor 10:8; Matthew 16:19; Philemon 8) never used it to demand submission. He was exemplary in following Jesus’ example of teaching, explaining, suggesting, and showing, aimed at persuading and not pressuring. An immense amount of material has been written on this subject, most of it using the original Greek translations to refute the ICC’s teaching. The material I have is available for your perusal.
I want to make the point here that I have not personally experienced an inordinate amount of authority being exerted over people in the SDCC. In fact, our leaders in the North County Region have served us wholeheartedly, and I respect their work in the Lord, because I believe it comes from a sincere heart. But that does not change the fact that the pyramid structure and discipling system provides a mechanism for abuse to occur, especially abuse by someone who has been given authority that God never intended the ordinary Christian to have.)
Who chooses leaders in the International Churches of Christ? There are many Biblical issues that could be raised here, and have been by many people in the last 20 years, but I only want to show you one Scripture. In Act 6:1-7, when there was a need to have some leaders in the first century church, note that the disciples in the church got to choose those leaders. “So the Twelve [apostles] gathered all the disciples together and said . . . ‘Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them . . .'” (verse 2-3). The brothers — the disciples — the church — were able to choose their leaders! Do we have a choice of who our leaders are? Not in the ICC — we are told who they are, when they will come, when they will go, and we are expected to feel great about it.
Who chose the World Sector Leaders? The congregation? No. Kip did, just as Jesus chose the apostles. How dare Kip get into Jesus shoes and play Lord! Now, in the First century church, it was the BODY OF CHRIST who choose their leaders, not one man in an authoritarian position over the whole church. Not even Paul dared to do such a thing.
I love the leaders in the San Diego Church, with every ounce of my being. But I love even more the freedom that God gives his people in Christ. The freedom to choose, that does not exist in the ICC.
Unity, Uniformity And Disputable Matters
1 Cor 1:10-13 is often used by the ICC by isolating the words “no divisions among you,” and “perfectly united in mind and thought.” By doing this, we conclude that we are never to disagree with the leadership — to disagree would cause divisions. In context though, we find that Paul was speaking about a specific problem in a specific church community. What subject was he talking about when he was asking them to have the same “point of view”? He did not want any divisions over this issue of being followers of men, as they were supposed to be united in Jesus.
There were times in the Bible when people disagreed, but were still unified as brothers and sisters in Christ. Biblically, it is okay to disagree, even on doctrinal matters. Romans 14 says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” about matters of opinion, matters that can be disputed. It also says we cannot judge our brother for his differing opinion or practice.
In Galatians 2:11 Paul opposed Peter “to his face . . . in front of them all” because he believed that Peter was not “acting in line with the truth of the gospel.” That is exactly what I am doing here today. I am confronting the sin that is affecting the whole church in front of you all.
In Acts 15:36, Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement that led them to part ways. They disagreed, yet they were still united as brothers in Christ. Would this happen in the ICC?
In Acts 11, some believers criticized Peter publicly about his actions. And Peter gave a public explanation of the issues they raised. In 1 Co 16:12, Paul writes, “Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.” Wow! Didn’t Paul tell Apollos to submit and go? No, Apollos didn’t want to go. But he was not condemned for “going against advice”.
In the first century, people were allowed to have their own opinions, make their own decisions, disagree, practice different rituals or have different beliefs about disputable matters, and go where they wanted to go, and they were still united in Christ.
I want to be clear with you all about this public redress of the teachings of the ICC. According to 1 Timothy 5:19-20, no one should entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by 2 or 3 witnesses. Elders that sin are to be “rebuked publicly, so that others may take warning.” The Scripture says to, “keep these instructions without partiality, and do nothing out of favoritism.”
Now, this letter is a public criticism of the teachings of the ICC. Accusations against the eldership of Al Baird and the higher echelons of leaders in the ICC have been publicly entertained by thousands, if not tens of thousands. There are more than “two or three” who accuse them of not holding out the word with sound doctrine. This letter is public because the Bible teaches that if sin affects the whole church, and not just one or two people, then the whole church can hear a public criticism or rebuke of the teachings of the church leadership.
Is this a criticism of man or man’s teachings? It is an open criticism of man-made teachings that claim to supercede God’s teachings. This is not a Matthew 18 issue. No one has sinned against me personally, so that Scripture does not apply.
I hope that you can see that the Bible teaches an open discussion of differences of doctrine or opinion or practice are okay, and a fulfillment of the law: better open rebuke than hidden love. And love is the fulfillment of the law. Love rejoices in truth and does not delight in evil. Love puts off all falsehood and speaks truthfully to one another. And in the Bible if people over and over again publicly criticized and corrected even the apostles, than this letter is certainly justified.
The Indianapolis Story
Maybe you have heard about Indianapolis. In my time in the ICC, I heard several times that there had been an evangelist in Indianapolis who had “led his entire church to fall away from God.” That’s what I was told, by ICC leaders. Wow, I thought, I can’t believe that a preacher actually led his entire church to leave God! Of course “falling away” Biblically means turning our backs on GOD! What a scary thought. I honestly believed that this man had led his whole church straight to hell.
Recently I read the transcripts of the speeches this evangelist, Ed Powers, gave to his congregation in February of 1994. I also read speeches made by Kip McKean and transcripts about the conversations between this evangelist and Marty Fuqua and other leaders, which led to the Indianapolis Church of Christ and its leaders being expelled from the movement.
I was shocked. I encourage anyone of you, whether you are a faithful ICC member or not, to read these transcripts, and I will be more than happy to make them available to any one of you. But for the sake of time (it took me a day and a half to read it all!), I would like to summarize this story for you, for it burns in my heart and I cannot help but speak about what I have learned.
Ed got laid up for one week because he broke his leg. While he was laying in bed, he read his Bible, and realized that a few of the teachings of the Boston Movement, as the ICC was called at that time, were errant. He became concerned. When he recovered, he talked to his staff, the leadership, and expressed all his concerns, based on the Word. They got behind him. They agreed that they wanted to see these issues addressed, and changed.
The decision they made was to present the issues to the congregation first, see how they felt about the issues, and give the congregation the option of asking the leaders to step down if they wanted. Ed Powers knew that if he presented these doctrinal issues to the ICC leadership in LA, Mary Fuqua and Kip McKean, he could very well be fired and silenced, and the information would never have been presented to the congregation of people that he loved so much.
From reading these transcripts, I can say that this man and his wife loved God and loved his church. They repeatedly said they did not want to leave the movement. In a humble, compassionate way, Ed explained the issues:
- Biblical disagreement is not “divisive” Acts 15:36, Acts 11, Gal 2:11 & and the call for unity in Eph 4:1 is on “one body, one spirit, one hope, one lord, one faith, one baptism.” It is not on “one opinion,” or even “one doctrine.” 1 Cor 1:10 calls for unity on CHRIST, not on opinions. Romans 14 shows that we can disagree on disputable matters and be fully convinced in our own minds. This is not divisive, as long as we are unified in Christ. Divisiveness comes when people say “we know the only way to salvation; we’re right! And they are all wrong!”
- Legalism and the pyramid church organization; getting all their direction from LA, which was “over them.” LA told them how much to contribute. (This violates 2 Cor 9:7, which says a man should not have to give “under compulsion”.) Their attendance was monitored on a weekly basis, and rated “bad,” “good,” “great,” or awesome.” Even though they had been setting attendance records, the formula the leadership in LA punched them into came out saying they were “bad, bad, bad.” The leaders felt their joy was being robbed because they had to count numbers all the time. Leaders from Indy were being sent places they didn’t want to go. (1 Co 16:12 says they don’t have to go!) There is no example in the Scripture that shows that one church has authority over another one. Paul had his ministry, and Peter had his, and God worked in them separately.
- Only members in the ICC are saved? 1 Cor 15:1 says we are saved by the gospel.
- Matthew 28:18-20 says that teaching people to obey comes after baptism, not before. When you stop studying with someone, do you stop because he has rejected the gospel? Or because he has rejected some point of doctrine, upon which the Scriptures teach we could possible disagree and still go to heaven? (Romans 14). Do we tell people they are not saved because they don’t agree with everything in ICC doctrine? Or because they disagree with the gospel?
- Statistics and quotas were robbing people,” of the proper motivation of love, and wounding people who fail to measure up to those expectations.” [While he is saying these things, Ed continues to emphasize that they do not want to leave the movement, but because of Heb 10:26, they could not keep on sinning in these ways.]
After discussing these Biblical issues in much more detail than I have described here, he then had the congregation take a vote: if they wanted Ed Powers and his staff to resign, they were to vote “yes,” and he would arrange for LA to send them leaders trained in these ICC teachings; if they wanted Ed and his staff to remain in leadership, then they were to vote “no,” and the issues would be raised to the leaders in LA.
The congregation voted to retain Ed and his staff.
They all went home that night. Of course, phone calls went flying all over the US. Leaders in LA sent lots of disciples to Indy, to “save” the people. This started dividing the church; rumors flew around that Ed was trying to leave the movement, even though he had said the opposite.
He talked to leadership in LA, who invited him to come to LA to discuss these things. As a shepherd, Ed knew he couldn’t leave his congregation while people were all over the city dividing the church. Ed offered to pay for Marty and Kip to come to Indy, but they declined. They discussed it over the phone, and none of the Biblical issues were addressed. Finally they had a meeting face to face; still, none of the Biblical issues were addressed, Ed was labeled as divisive and kicked out of the movement. About 700 people went with Ed. About 200 stayed with Kip.
I read the transcript of Kip speaking to the people who decided to stay in the movement. He labeled the people in Ed’s congregation as “deceived” and having “fallen away from grace”. He encouraged the people in Indy to “forgive” those that went with Ed, which I found interesting, because he wanted the people to forgive them, but essentially said that God wouldn’t forgive them, since they had “fallen away from grace” and were going to hell.
These were people who clearly loved God! Their hearts were to obey the Scriptures, to love one another and stand for truth. Kip did not address the Scriptural issues at all. He completely ignored them. Instead, he compared the situation to the Israelites traveling across the desert, grumbling against Moses and Aaron. Kip said:
“People start talking bad about the leader of the movement. You are not grumbling against Moses and Aaron. You are not grumbling against Kip and Marty, Ron and Yvonia. You are grumbling against the Lord” (McKean, Indianapolis meeting, March 17, 1994, audio tape one, side one).
He called himself the Lord’s anointed and said that when you grumble against the Lord’s anointed, you fall away from grace. And then he “marked” Ed and the church, saying that no one was permitted to talk to them.
Families were divided. Husbands and wives, sisters, brothers, friends. And Kip made it very clear that there was only “one” church in Indianapolis, his church.
You must read the transcripts of this story.
This story breaks my heart because I was told that these lovely, God-loving people were going to hell because they were not in the ICC. I feel personally lied to, because these people did not leave God! In fact, they were kicked out of the movement and the SCRIPTURAL ISSUES WERE NEVER ADDRESSED.
Let’s talk about what falling away really means. Let’s go to God’s word.
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Heb 6:4-6). This Scripture is about someone leaving God, not withdrawing membership from a congregation.
In Gal 5:4
, Paul writes, “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Those who are trying to be justified before God by obeying rules and regulations are the ones who have actually “fallen away from grace.”
“Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away” (Lk 8:13).
In other words, if they stop believing when hard times come, they fall away. According to Heb 6:4-6, they fall away from God! (friends, God does not equal the ICC.) As one who will be counted on the stat sheets as a “fallaway,” I want to make it clear that I BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, he is my Lord and Savior, and I will worship him in faithfulness for all the days of my life.
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life! Jn 5:24
“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud’ (2 Pe 2:20-22).
People in the ICC often refer to this Scripture when talking about “fallaways.” My friends, does this sound like me? I know you will be told that I have “fallen away.” I have not left God! I would never leave God or Christ! It is not even an option for me! I have left the ICC FOR GOD!
Do you think it makes me happy to leave my friends? Those that I have poured my heart into for years? And you know who you are. My blood, sweat and tears are in this ministry. I am not leaving because I want to. I am leaving because I have to. How could I possibly stay in this church, knowing that the First Principles Bible Studies are absolutely unscriptural and deceitful?! I am leaving FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS! FOR TRUTH! FOR JUSTICE! FOR SOUND DOCTRINE! Read all of 2 Peter 2. The context of this Scripture is false prophets who promise people freedom when they themselves are slaves.
Sound familiar? This Scripture does not apply to someone who has decided to worship God and walk with Christ in truth.
The ICC teaches that those that leave their church leave God. I once asked a woman on staff, “If I leave this church, do you believe I will go to hell?” She told me yes. I was upset. I asked her why, and she told me that it was because when she knew people who left the church, they dove into sin.
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God . . . It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (read Heb 10:26-31).
In the ICC, we always hear about people who leave the church, who don’t go to other churches, but just “return to their vomit” by getting engrossed in sin. This may happen. And this should not happen. But do we ever hear about people who go to other churches, lead and shepherd, and have healthy Christian lives? NO. Yet in the time of my research I have met many, many devoted Christians that were once a part of the ICC, and several of them are preachers in other churches, youth ministry leaders, etc.
I want to make it clear that I AM A SINNER. But I would never leave God. I love God with all the strength of my spirit, to the deepest fibers of my heart. It kills me to know that my sisters and brothers in the ICC will be told that I have been in some “sin” and have turned my back on the living God. I have feared that God would leave me, but he has promised me over and over again through his word that my hope will not be cut off. (Prov 23:17-18, 24:14; Jn 5:24; Psalm 119:50; 1 Co 15:2).
Sisters and brothers, lets not be like Kip McKean, who claimed that an entire church “fell away from grace.” We are not God. How can we possibly judge who is under His grace and who is not? Let’s be His children and let Him be the Father.
I want to say that leaving this church has ripped my heart out. I love this church. I have absolutely loved this church and my time in it. I have poured my heart and soul into people in this church for years. Heather, Mari, Malissa, Priscilla, Tara, Joe, Kat, Deb, Dee, Anieka, Michelle, Andrea, Al, Franco, Scott, Rick, Tara. I do not want to leave; I have to. My heart feels like it has been ripped out of my chest and torn into pieces, then shred up and left in the mud. That is the only way I can think of to tell you how I feel.
Yet all of the flesh and spirit of my heart has been handed to God. And he has the power to mend these wounds, he has the power to teach me to keep giving my heart away, as Christ did. And the best thing about it is that my walk with God has opened up to vaster skies, larger than I ever thought possible. And I can cry out, “Abba, Father,” I can cry out, “Jesus, save me!” and no one stands between us anymore. Not Tara, not Ric. No intermediary except for Christ. NO, it’s just me crying out to a living God, knowing that he is the one I can confess to, he is the one that will lead me and guide me, and his Spirit will direct me along the path of peace, for eternity.
And I still am part of the body of Christ. What is wonderful is that God has already led me to many loving people who love Him, and I have not been away from the body at all! God is so much bigger than the ICC.
“You are so deceived.”
I don’t have anything to say about this; I only know you may be thinking it, either about me or about yourself. Pray for clarity; God will give it to you.
It grieves me to tell you that I have financial information about leaders’ salaries, expense accounts and homes, as well as where the HOPE contribution money is actually going. These documents I have show that tithes and contributions for the poor are not being handled righteously, and truthfully. If you would like information about this I can provide it for you.
I just want to suggest some Scriptures you may want to read on false prophets. Towards the end of my time in the ICC, I avoided these Scriptures because they scared me. But God in all his wisdom has given us great warnings in the Word, to prevent us from harm.
1 Tim 1:1-11 (note God’s work is by faith.)
2 Peter 2:1-22 (note v. 19 — promise us freedom, but are slaves)
(p.s. — notice this follows a Scripture used in the Word study; if we showed people the context of 1 Pe 1:20-21, we could prevent them from being trapped by our own false prophets!)
1 Ti 6:3-6 (note “does not agree with the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ”)
2 Ti 4:2-4 (note preachers should use “careful instruction.”)
Read the entire book of Galatians very carefully; it will help you understand what is happening in the ICC.
Slavery & Freedom
I believe that the ICC slowly but surely puts a yoke on the neck of the disciples that they cannot bear. Maybe the strongest survive, and the weak die out, which goes against all the teachings of Christ. We become slaves, not to righteousness or to God, but to those masters that hold the whips — those that are driving the herd, those that whip the righteousness into us. No wonder Paul writes in Gal 4:15, “What has happened to all your joy?” He knows that the disciples have been trying to become righteous by all their works, and not accepting the simple justification by faith. The joy is gone when we become slaves to law again.
“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? . . . I fear for you . . .” (Gal 4:8-10)
My desire is to, “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Isa 58:6). I ask you, members of the International Churches of Christ, is this your desire? Do you think it is okay to baptize someone into a church and after the fact let them discover that if they choose to go to another church you believe they will go to hell? Are you tying the cords on or are you untying? Are you binding with chains or are you loosening them? Are you speaking out against ALL injustice? Do you find it an injustice that the Word of God is being so mishandled? Do you care that thousands upon thousands of people are leaving this church brokenhearted, wounded, their faith crushed? How about those that wind up depressed, on the verge of insanity and suicide?
I ask you: what are you doing about your wounded sheep? Are you leaving them dead in the dust and moving onward, driving forward your flocks with a heavy hand, looking for the next sleek beast to tame and make your own? Let’s remember Christ’s words. In my life, they have taken on a new meaning:
“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to PROCLAIM FREEDOM FOR THE CAPTIVES! . . . to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who grieve . . . .” (Isa 61:1-3).
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1)
Since I have been studying the practices of the church in the Scripture, I have had incredible opportunities to meet Christians from many necks of the woods. I went to church in a town in the mid-west. It was amazing to see that the people were not all doing the same thing; they each had their individual personalities that made them unique. We sang songs, and worshiped the Lord.
Yet when the minister got up there was no resounding shouts of joy for him. And when he prayed before his sermon, he said “Lord, may your words be all that are remembered, and let my words fall to the ground.” I thought, wow, I could never imagine an ICC minister saying that. They are such powerful public speakers that we often look at their talents with awe. When really we should be looking at God with awe. But in an ICC service, we are so busy crowding new visitors and looking at each other that I wonder if we focus on God as much as we should.
At the service I went to in the mid-west, the minister preached God’s amazing word, talking about faith and Christ and the gift of eternal life. And at the end, he got down and everyone got up and started mingling. There was no huge round of roaring applause for this man. For he was clearly just a man and only God deserved the praise. It was never so clear to me that Christ is gentle, he speaks the truth about sin, just as this man did, but he was gentle and humble of heart. And so are his followers.
What amazed me was that during the announcements, the man asked for VOLUNTEERS to usher. And he passed out flyers about a campus retreat, encouraging the students to attend. There were no, “You WILL be serving in Children’s ministry; you WILL be ushering; we ALL are going to this event.” People actually had the free will to serve the church. That had the options. They had FREEDOM!
“Now the LORD is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Co 3:17).
** I’d like to comment about this idea that all other churches except the ICC are “dead” and “lukewarm.” This is very difficult for us in the ICC, because when we go to other churches, they are not all clapping, all taking notes, all flipping their Bibles with eagerness, all singing with all their hearts. We somehow have confused zealousness with salvation. “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge,” and I’m afraid that is what the ICC has.
Plus, who are we to judge? That little gray-haired lady sitting in the corner of the church quietly is just as much covered by Christ’s blood as the man on the pulpit is. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Let’s not look at the outward appearance. God looks at the heart. And we are not the judge of people’s hearts; the LORD is.
I also find that in other churches people may not eagerly crowd new visitors. And this might be disturbing; we might feel like, “Wow, this person doesn’t care about my salvation!” And that may be something that church needs to work on. But then again, that might something that the church members are leaving up to the Lord, in other words, letting the message hit the visitor’s hearts and convict them to put their faith in Christ. So let’s not be arrogant about the faith of others.
To those who insist on proclaiming this is God’s only true church, I ask you: “Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? (1Co 14:36). What about Mark 9:38, whoever is not against you is for you? Remember, “‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not take pride in one man over against another. For who makes you different than anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?” (1 Co 4:6-7).
Arrogance and a judgmental attitude are two very common attributes of people who have been subject to this kind of teaching. Remember to be humble and let God do the judging.
Now, friends, if you have made it to the end of this letter, and you are almost there, I commend you for your courage to search out the truth. I also hope that you will at least respect my decision to leave the ICC andretain my membership in the Kingdom of God! I know that many will judge me. But I will be free to worship Christ as Christ designed me to worship, with no mediator between me and God but Jesus Christ himself. And if you judge my freedom, I ask,
“Why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?” (1 Cor 10:29b)
My heart has broken and God has mended it, in this short time. I know that many challenges lie ahead, but at least I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, with every ounce of clarity that I have asked our Father in heaven for, that I have acted in accordance with the soundness and truth of his word.
“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought your precepts.” (Psalm 119:45)
Divisiveness and People Who Leave
It’s amazing how many stories I have read and heard about the shunning and banning and “marking” of members who choose to worship God somewhere other than the ICC. The Scriptures used to justify this, as far as I know, are 1 Co 5:5 (sexual immorality, greed, idolatry, slander, drunkards, swindlers), 1 Tim 1:20 (hand over to Satan those who have shipwrecked their faith), Titus 3:10 (divisiveness).
In regards to 1 Co 5:5 I assure you that none of these sins have overtaken me. Remember, GOD IS more powerful than Satan! And I worship the Lord. Also, let’s be clear that slander is “the utterances of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation” or a “false statement about a person”. I attest here and now that all of the statements in this letter are true to the best of my knowledge and my intent is not to damage anyone’s reputation.
In regards to 1 Tim 1:20, the Scripture in context is about people rejecting faith in Christ. I have not done this. In regards to Titus 3:10, let’s look at the whole Scripture in context. First of all Titus 3 is about how God has saved us, “not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” He goes on to say that he has renewed us by the Spirit so that “having been justified by his grace” we have the hope of eternal life. And Paul tells Titus to “stress these things.”
He then tells Titus to avoid “foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the LAW, because these are unprofitable and useless.” Then he says, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.”
So, what is the man being divisive about? What is he arguing about? Foolish controversies about the law. He is being divisive by claiming that we are under law, not under grace. Are the issues I have raised “foolish controversies?” And am I quarreling about the law? Or am I proclaiming grace? I am striving for sound doctrine, as Paul exhorts Titus to do in Titus 2:1. Am I being divisive by returning to law? No, I am stressing mercy, faithfulness, and the grace that springs to eternal life, as in Titus 3:1-8, which leads up to this passage.
I am not being divisive about Christ, but speaking what is accord with sound doctrine, speaking the truth in love, “putting off all falsehood” and speaking “truthfully” to you . . . “that it may benefit those who listen.” (Titus 2:1, Eph 4:15, 25,29).
“For I cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth” (2 Co 13-8).
“Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal 4:16)
This is the hard part, because Angie, Romy, Tara, Michelle, Anieka, Heather, Heather, Heather, Heather !!!! Mari, Katrina, Malissa, Priscilla, Serena, Erika, Andrea, my fabulous three – Kat, Deb, Dee — Jason and Al, Scott, Franco, Cleto, Mike, Ric, Sosefo, you all know my love for you. And from what I have heard you will be told not to talk to me. And I would never give up on any of you. Friendship is not conditional. If you are told to treat me as you would “a pagan or a tax collector,” remember: Christ loved the pagans and the tax collectors. He ate with them, and healed them and loved them and gave them the grace of his salvation. LOVE. ‘Tis the fulfillment of the law!
This is not a letter naming everything that is “wrong” with the International Churches of Christ. Every church will have many things wrong with it. This is a letter in response to the proverb, “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” (Prov 18:17). This church presents itself as “God’s One True Church,” “God’s Modern Day Movement,” “the Kingdom.” And I have come forward to question that.
There are so many doctrinal abuses going on in this church, outright, latent, rebellion against Scripture, that I can have nothing to do with it. I would love to be like Paul who came forward and opposed Peter to his face, in front of everyone, and Peter repented. But I have read about twenty years of records of ministers, Christians, damaged people, faithful people, sad, happy, upset, honest, neutral, objective people (many were members of the ICC, many were not, many left because things didn’t change, some killed themselves).
These people have come forward and questioned the practices of this church (and I have barely scratched the surface of the articles, videos and books that have been written about the unbiblical and deceitful practices of the ICC). And NO REPENTANCE on the part of the ICC church leadership has occurred in 20 years.
The only way I could possibly stay in this church is an abolisment of the mandatory discipling structure took place, as well as a discontinuation of the First Principles studies, and a wholehearted repentance occured in matters of grace, faith, contribution, numbers, legalism, judgements and arrogance on the part of the entire movement.
With God, all things are possible. But Kip, the elders and leaders have been challenged to respond to these issues countless times and nothing has been done.
“Rather, [I] have renounced secret and shameful ways; [I] do not use deception, nor do [I] distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly [I] commend [myself] to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Co 4:2)
I apologize to all of you for having been a proponent of false doctrine. It was never my intention to hurt any of you. If I was ever judgmental, arrogant or authoritarian in my ways, I apologize. I have only wanted to help people come to Christ and walk with him in the fullness of his Light. And many of you have come to Christ. Your salvation is real; just hold onto Christ.
If you ever leave the ICC, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Hold onto Jesus. HE is the true vine, not the ICC. Hold onto Jesus, and never let go. I am here for all of you, any time you need me. You can contact me at any time. I love you, unconditionally.
“I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” – Psalm 116:1
I love you all. I have to go. I have to go with Jesus Lord.
P.S.: If there is anything in this letter that is unclear, I apologize and I would love to explain what I meant to you. I have volumes of sources that have been written about the material in this letter. I would be glad to provide information to you at any time.
If you would like to learn more about the practices of the ICC, go to http://www.reveal.org. There is a wealth of information that is there. It is not pornography! It is knowledge. “Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge” (Prov 19:27). And with God, there is nothing to fear!
Jennifer Porter is not receiving ICC-related correspondence at this time. She feels that everything she has to say is in the above letter. If, however, you have any questions regarding this letter or feel that it is important that you contact her, then feel free to contact Calvin Kwan, Michelle Campbell, or Catherine Hampton. They will contact Jennifer for you if necessary.
Sources and Recommended Readings
The NKJV Greek English Interlinear New Testament, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1994.
Vine, W.E. Vines expository dictionary of New Testament words, A comprehensive dictionary of the original Greek Words, with their precise meanings for English readers, MacDonald Publishing Company, McLean, Virginia.
Baird, Al, “The Authority of Leaders,” ICC Audio Tape Transcription.
Fuqua, Marty, “Church Revival,” Boston Church of Christ Movement, Audio Transcript, San Diego, CA 9/18/92.
Fuqua, Marty, “The Cutting Edge,” Boston Church of Christ Movement Audio Tape Transcripts: World Missions Leadership Conference, 7/8/92-7/12/92
Ferguson, Gordon. Discipling. Woburn, MA: Discipleship Publications International, 1997) 59.
©1999 by Jennifer Porter. All rights reserved.