Church service shows strong spirit of unity
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, February 21, 1999
By Kara Altenbaumer
It seemed like many other Baptist, Methodist or Church of Christ revival meetings I had attended as a child.
Members of the Lubbock Christian Church greeted me at the door, found me a seat next to one of their leaders and gave me a Bible to use for Jan. 28’s topic, “The Coming of the Kingdom.”
They seemed especially curious about how I’d heard about their meeting, about who had invited me. I told them I heard about it from a co-worker and did not conceal the fact that I’m a reporter.
The girl seated next to me talked about transferring from the University of Texas at Austin to Texas Tech to help start the church. She said she had been raised as a Pentecostal and introduced me to her boyfriend, who had also come from Austin.
She introduced me to another girl who had recently married another member of the group. Both had come to Lubbock to start a local branch of the International Churches of Christ. She said her childhood faith was Catholic.
There were about 30 others in the room. Most of them appeared to be in their 20s and were white, black, Hispanic and Asian.
The service began with hand-clapping songs, including “We’re Marching to Zion.”
Once the evening’s minister, Pete, rose to the podium, I was surprised at the amount of interaction between he and the crowd. There seemed an almost constant stream of “Right on” and “Come on Pete.” There was a strong spirit of unity among the group, as if they knew each other well.
Pete’s lesson that night focused on the Kingdom of God, comparing it to the modern church, specifically the International Churches of Christ. A handout with his lesson asked questions such as “Does it Matter if I Go to Church?” and “Does it Matter Where I Go to Church.”
I had learned from research on the group to look for signs that the International Churches of Christ claimed to be the only way to salvation. Pete seemed to give them.
Some of the signs included statements about how the Lubbock Christian Church would be a family to the students. Pete called the teachings of childhood “wrong.”
According to local ministers and research, the group is reputed to lead members away from their families, telling them to abandon old relationships.
Pete told those in attendance that people would call them “weird” for being in the group. “People will call you a cult,” he said.
He said it was important to meet daily.
The end of his handout challenged those in attendance to “come to all services of the church” and to “study the Bible together as often as possible until (the member) is born again into the Kingdom.”
After Pete’s sermon, the crowd separated into small groups of men and groups of women. The leaders seemed to focus the discussion and asked whether I had ever heard about the Kingdom of God in such a way.
Slowly the groups broke apart and people drifted toward the door. There was no closing prayer, no altar call, no offering, no definite end.