Randy Cooper’s Story
Table of Contents
- “The Journey Begins”
- “Journey Gets Rough”
- “Not Totally Broken Away”
- “The Final Breakoff”
In September 1997 Randy Cooper made a number of postings to the usenet newsgroup alt.religion.christian.boston-church describing his experiences in the ICC. These postings are republished below with the original author’s permission.
Subject: My Story.. From: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 1997/09/04 Message-Id: <email@example.com> Newsgroups: alt.religion.christian.boston-church
The story behind my ICC experiences is in the reveal homepage. (http://www.reveal.org) However, I will put a more detailed story behind my ICC experiences for the next few days or so. I hope that this is something that many reading here can relate to. Finally, I hope that many people can see how the teachings of ICC are an aberration of the teachings of Jesus Christ and God.
I went to college at the University of Georgia. I was struggling with some depression, immaturity, and sin when I was going there. I was involved with the Methodist church, but the services were dull, and I was feeling very empty with my experience there. I felt that something was really missing in my life. I developed some friendships with the people from the Methodist Center, and we started participating in games like Dungeons and dragons. While nothing is wrong with the game in general, I felt that this game was having a negative effect with this particular group. They were really strange. However, I didn’t have many friends, and I felt the acceptance though I was uneasy about it.
At this time (late Oct. 1980), I was invited to a Bible study. I decided to go. That was one of the things I really enjoyed about the Methodist church. I sat in, and I found the lesson rather challenging. Furthermore, the people at the study seemed to have a good time about their religion. They invited me to church, and I thought, “Why not?”. I decided to go to the service. I really enjoyed the service. It was very uplifting, challenging, and intense. This was becoming every bit of what I was dreaming about in a worship service. I decided that I wanted to go every Sunday morning. I was hooked. I went that Sunday night, and I found another challenging worship service. These people weren’t afraid to challenge, I thought. On top of this, the people stayed for a long time after services ended. I am so used to people leaving right after services. I was impressed with their devotion. In addition, I was impressed with the number of people carrying their Bibles and using them in church. One of the brothers then asked if I believed if the Bible was God’s word. I replied, “No”. I was taught this in the Methodist church. The Methodist church has gotten away from this stance since that time (thankfully). The brother showed me several passages (2 Tim 3:15-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21). These passages really opened my eyes.
Several days later, I studied with the Bible study leader. He asked me what I believed on becoming a Christian. This was on a Thursday night. I told him, and we looked through some passages. He then asked me to read Acts 2:36-39. I was stunned when I saw this passage. I cam to the conclusion that I wasn’t a Christian after all. It hit me hard. The next day, we got together again, and I was starting to count the costs on becoming a Christian. On Saturday, I went to a football game with some of the members. I was extremely depressed, because I felt I was lost. I called my parents and told them I was thinking about being baptized. The conversation went extremely poor. Of course, tact was definitely not a strength of mine. I decided to research on baptism more.
The next day, November 2, 1980, I went to the morning service at the church of Christ. Later, I went to the library to research on baptism. After researching, I saw something about baptism making you a new creation. I was thinking if it makes you a new creation and Christianity makes you a new creation, then it is essential for becoming a Christian. A lot of people want to separate grace from baptism. I would like to, but I have seen too much evidence in the Bible supporting baptism as becoming a Christian. I don’t think believing in baptism for salvation is equated to believing in works salvation. I went to the Methodist Center that night, and I was starting to have second thoughts. I thought about all the friends I would depart from. After the service, I went to the church of Christ, and talked to some people about whether or not I was ready to make the decision. They decided to let me sit alone in a room and make the decision. After a few minutes, I decided to be baptized. I was baptized later that evening.
In retrospect, I believe that my realization of what I discovered in the scriptures had a lot to do with my being baptized, but my idealism is what attracted me to the church of Christ. I still attend the church of Christ, because I feel that many of their beliefs are closer to the Bible than many other groups, though I contemplated the Christian church, which is very similar in their beliefs (only difference is musical instruments). However, I am learning not to be so idealistic.
The Journey Begins
My first several months in the Crossroads/Icc were very shaky. I went home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I went to a workshop about Crossroadsism when I was home for Christmas. It was very negative against the movement. Not knowing what this was, I invited my brother to it and regretted it. I was very disturbed by the news. I went back and shared this with some people at the church. A brother or two rebuked me sharply for spreading gossip. Well, I went forward because I was depressed and wanted to gain the approval of the church. Later on, I ran into some other person who mentioned some negative stuff about the Movement. I refused to share this with anyone for fear of being rebuked.
The church was doing great until mid-Feb. Baptisms and growth were slowing down quickly. Something was happening I wasn’t aware of. However, in March, some stuff became clear. Our minister was fired for lying in the pulpit. The campus minister took over for him. Unfortunately, things didn’t improve. A large group left the Campus View congregation, and there was talk of removing the campus minister from the pulpit as well. The campus minister pleaded with them saying that the Boston congregation would help financially if needed. We had a meeting in April, and people were all voicing their opinions on the ministry. I decided to speak and all the negative stuff I had built up on this movement was made obvious in this speech. Quite a few people were shocked. The Bible Study leader decided to talk with me. He handled it extremely well. On my own, I came to the conclusion that I gossiped and didn’t get the facts straightened out. This time I truly repented and sought to reconcile some things with the people I felt bitterness towards. The Bible Study leader was very good in dealing with him. He knew I was the type of person who needed to come to a conclusion on my own about things. He just directed me to this. He was one of the truly positive aspects in the movement. He was the one who taught me the gospel.
A lot of the members left, and then two of the three elders resigned. The remaining elder decided to fire the minister when we were having devotional on the Friday night before Mother’s day. It was rather ugly. I went home later that weekend, and I knew a split was inevitable. I decided that weekend to go with the split. The Bible Study leader told me about the split, and I said I would go with them. The church became Heritage.
I went home for the summer, and was struggling spiritually. However, during the break I was getting to know some people at a mainline church of Christ. I really grew during the summer. I finally decided it was time to quit feeling sorry for myself and get on with my life. I came back very confident. When I came back, a brother said he was surprised to see me back. He thought I would fall away. The ironic thing is that he was the one who had left. Whether or not, he is seeking God’s will now, I don’t know. Overall, the year went very well. I moved to a freshman dorm to live around some Christians, so I could grow spiritually. My sophomore year was clearly my best year in the movement. I grew a lot. I also stayed for the summer. Things would go well for me until Winter Quarter of my junior year.
Journey Gets Rough
During Winter 1983, things were starting to get at the Heritage church of Christ. My grades were suffering. Actually, Fall 1982 should have been a warning. I changed majors from Computer Science to business, because I believed it would be easier. I also wanted to spend more time in the church, because I felt as if that’s what God really wanted. In retrospect, I made a poor decision. Doing this again, I would have told the people in the church that I would have to miss some activities to pursue my studies, and if they didn’t like it, then I would go back to Campus View. My grades were dropping. I had a 2.9 GPA and I finally graduated with a 2.64. Also, I did legalistic things like time my Bible studies and prayer times as “indicators” of how legalistic I was. I also wanted to experience this feeling of being close to God constantly. I would have this feeling of spirituality for several days in a row, but then it would fade. Now, I realize how unreasonable it is. Heritage was in its second campus minister in two years. Before, I would leave we would have two co-campus ministers and one campus minister.
The campus ministry really suffered through all this turmoil. When Heritage started, we had about 40-50 college students. By the time I graduated and left in 1985, we had about 20. There were several reasons for this. Many of the people graduated. Some did stay, and the adult ministry grew. However, we had about 75% fallaway rate among the students. The last two years were really awful. We had two co-campus ministers. Both were students at the school, and one of them was not effective in soul winning. The other person was an effective soul winner, but he wasn’t a good fit to the Crossroads system, whereas the first one was. The church wised up, and got a campus minister the next year. However, he was in the process of getting married and his effectiveness was rather limited.
During my fifth year, I decided to leave Heritage and go to Augusta after I graduated. I ran into a minister at the Augusta congregation. It was a very zealous church of Christ that was evangelistic. One of the times we had a devotional where we debated if evangelism was the most important thing. Another time we had an adult minister who wised up and decided that having 6 hours or less sleep per night was not a sign of spirituality but rather of neglecting your health (That was a good move). I am not surprised that the minister was finally resigned from the church before reconstruction). The thing that really helped me decide to leave right after graduation was when I took a regular Bible study visitor to a church function. The Bible study leader told me not to bring him back to church. I didn’t have the courage to ask him. The same Bible study leader asked me how much my weekly contribution was. I finally left in June 1985, but with some unresolved issues..
Not Totally Broken Away..
When I moved to Augusta, I was hoping that the Heritage church would see that there are other congregations that were evangelistic. I actually helped the congregation in Augusta bring the ministers down there to speak on evangelism that fall. However, I didn’t get many letters. Looking back, I know that my self-righteous attitude was as instrumental for the lack of response from them. I did go up once to attend a Wed. night Bible Class in 1986. I also went to the 1986 Florida Evangelism Seminar. I subscribed to the London Newsletter. While I was physically out of the Boston Movement, I wasn’t mentally or emotionally out yet. Later, I called a brother who did respond to me, and I found out about the reconstruction debacle in both Atlanta and Athens. It really disturbed me. There were a lot of fallaways. Before this time, the mainline church had some relationship with the Boston Movement. As a matter of fact, our youth group was invited to several activities sponsored by the Columbia church of Christ. One of the activities was the church camp. However, they didn’t invite us the next year and never told us why. I wrote back, and asked why. They said that the ministry was taking a different direction. The Augusta congregation went to another seminar, and they heard one of the McKeans say that we aren’t inviting mainline churches of Christ. They can come if they are interested in becoming part of the Boston movement. That was the last time the Augusta church participated with them.
I visited Athens in 1990, and went to Campus View’s Bible class and visited Heritage (changed to Athens house church of the Atlanta church of Christ since reconstruction) I was confused about where I stood, though I was leaning more and more away from the Boston Movement. The congregation in Augusta was having problems. Our regular minister left for Kansas and our bus minister took over. I though that would be great for the church. Well, in retrospect, I was wrong. The church really suffered. It became more and more like a Boston Movement church. The new assistant minister really had no business in leadership..Since he helped with the ministry back in 1988, the church began its decline. One of the reasons I went to Augusta was because they would get me involved. I was a Sunday school teacher and a bus captain, but I was getting burned out and depressed.
Late in 1991, I recieved news that I was getting laid off. In March, I came upon this passage in Matthew 6:33 about the kingdom of God. I was told that the kingdom always meant the church. Well, I looked in my Strong’s Concordance and found out that the kingdom encompassed more than the church. That’s where my final breakoff began.
The Final Breakoff
After finding out about the kingdom concept, I discussed with another person over the computer at work. He recommended a book called Toxic Faith by Jack Felton and Stephen Arterbern.. I realized how I misused Christianity and religion. I was a religious addict. It was hard to take but very enlightening. I was scared but realized that this information was valuable to me at this point of my life. I decided that it was time for me to leave the Augusta congregation. It became clear that the ministers wanted no elders and they had a control problem much like I see with ICC. I visited ICC a few times in Athens and Atlanta to reconcile some things in my mind. I was bitter with them, and I decided to see more myself about this movement. It was pretty good, but several things disturbed me. First, there was no discussion on the Wed. night Bible classes. Where’s the learning? I was getting rather suspicious that this could be a control thing. Also, I had a stranger approach me and ask me if I was a disciple after hearing I was in the movement. That gave me an eerie feeling. The deciding factor was on a Sunday morning. The minister preached a message on “Understand the Cross”. He said if petting was okay, then you really don’t understand the message of the cross. He was emphatic about this and even repeated it. I agreed with what he said, but the way he said it and the company he said it in made me feel uncomfortable. I wondering if he was struggling with this problem and trying to convince himself.
At that time, I joined a local church of Christ in the Augusta area. After talking with one of the elder, we agreed that it was best for me not to return. It was like an alcoholic going to a bar. I felt like writing a letter to the minister for the sake of closure, and I expressed my reasons for not coming back. Predictably, he never responded.
I am really glad to be out of this movement. The newsgroup has really helped me. The more I understand God’s grace and love, the more I want to share this with ICC members and exmembers, and the less I miss the ICC. I don’t blame the movement for everything. I wouldn’t have become a Christian. I was glad to leave it when I did. Also, I don’t blame to the ICC for everything. There were some things I could have changed, and there were some attitudes that created problems for me as well. However, I feel the environment of the ICC helped add fuel to the fire.