International Churches of Christ
|International Churches of Christ|
|An International Church of Christ Worship Service|
|Classification||Christian Restoration Movement, Christian fundamentalism|
|Orientation||New Testament, Evangelicalism|
|Associations||Co-operating Churches of Christ|
|Geographical areas||global (160 nations)|
|Branched from||Churches of Christ|
|Separations||Kip McKean's International Christian Churches|
|Members||End of 2011 - 98 000, Sunday attendance = 150 000|
The International Churches of Christ is a body of co-operating religiously conservative, and racially integrated Christian congregations, an offshoot from the mainline Churches of Christ. They hold to the belief that each person is saved by the grace of God if and when they place their faith in Jesus Christ, become a disciple, repent of their sins, and are baptized.
It is a network of over 600 churches spread across some 160 nations, they consider themselves non-denominational. The structure of this family of congregations seeks to avoid two extremes; overly centralized authority and disconnected autonomy. The largest congregation, the Los Angeles Church of Christ, has over 6000 members. The largest church service was held in 2012 at the AT&T stadium in San Antonio, Texas, during a World Discipleship Summit, with 17 000 in attendance,
In 2000, it was called "one of the most controversial religious groups on campus" for its "aggressive proselytizing to college students".
The International Churches of Christ had their roots in a "discipling" movement that arose among the mainline Churches of Christ during the 1970s. This discipling movement developed in the campus ministry of Chuck Lucas. In 1967, Chuck Lucas — evangelist of the 14th Street Church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida (later renamed the Crossroads Church of Christ) — instituted a new project known as Campus Advance (based on principles borrowed from the Campus Crusade and the Shepherding Movement). Centered on the University of Florida, this program called for a strong evangelical outreach and an intimate religious atmosphere in the form of soul talks and prayer partners. Soul talks were held in student residences and involved prayer and sharing. Prayer partners referred to the practice of pairing a new Christian with an older guide for personal assistance and direction. Both procedures led to "in-depth involvement of each member in one another's lives", and critics accused Lucas of fostering cultism. The Crossroads Church of Christ and Chuck Lucas began to advocate focused evangelism.
Boston Church of Christ 
The Crossroads Movement later spread into some other Churches of Christ. One of Lucas' converts, Kip McKean, moved to the Boston area in 1979 and began working with "would-be disciples" in the Lexington Church of Christ.:418 He asked them to "redefine their commitment to Christ," and introduced the use of discipling partners. The congregation grew rapidly, and was renamed the Boston Church of Christ.:418 In the early 1980s, the focus of the movement moved to Boston, Massachusetts where Kip McKean and the Boston Church of Christ became prominently associated with the trend.:418 With the national leadership located in Boston, during the 1980s it commonly became known as the "Boston movement".:418
At the start of the 1980s the 'Boston Movement' established a "vision for the world", which required the planting of 'pillar churches' in key metropolitan centers to spread the Christian faith globally. Those pillar churches would in turn plant churches in the neighboring regions and thus facilitate the expansion of the gospel. The Boston church sent mission teams to Chicago and London in 1981, and New York shortly thereafter. In 1982 they established sister churches in Chicago and London, and in New York one year later. Then Johannesburg was planted in June 1986 as the first ICOC church in Africa. The Boston church itself witnessed rapid growth from 30 members to 3,000 in just over 10 years. By 1988 the budding Boston Movement had congregations in more than eight cities across the globe, and Kip McKean found that running the organization single-handedly had become unwieldy. He selected a handful of men that he had personally trained and assigned each a number of churches in a geographic region, naming them 'World Sector Leaders'.
In 1990 the Crossroads Church of Christ broke with the movement and, through a letter written to The Christian Chronicle, attempted to restore relations with the mainline Churches of Christ.:419 By the early 1990s many first-generation leaders had become disillusioned by the movement and left.:419 A formal break was made from the mainline Churches of Christ in 1993 with the organization of the International Churches of Christ.:419 This new designation formalized a division that was already in existence between those involved with the Crossroads/Boston Movement and "mainline" Churches of Christ.:418 Other names that have been used for this movement include the "Crossroads movement," "Multiplying Ministries," the "Discipling Movement" and the "Boston Church of Christ".
In 1994, the other position of Geographic Sector Leaders was added. Since each city has a single church, its membership may be large and geographically disperse; if so, it was divided into regions and then sectors of perhaps a few small suburban communities. This governing system attracted criticism as overly-authoritarian, but the ICOC denies this charge. "It’s not a dictatorship," said Al Baird, former ICOC spokesperson; "It’s a theocracy, with God on top."
In 1972 in Gainesville, FL, the 14th Street Church of Christ (renamed the Crossroads Church of Christ), recruited a young freshman at the University of Florida named Thomas 'Kip' McKean. McKean was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. McKean completed his degree program while training at Crossroads and afterward served as campus minister at several other mainline Churches of Christ locations. In 1979 he was offered the position of pulpit and campus minister at a struggling Boston-area congregation called the Lexington Church of Christ. In 1990, Kip McKean moved from Boston to head the Los Angeles Church of Christ. Los Angeles became the new central authority for the growing movement.
McKean's Resignation 
In early 2001, some of the Senior Leaders began to question the effectiveness of the present leadership structure as well as the qualifications of Kip and Elena McKean to continue in their global leadership role. By September, the issue had reached a head in which the majority of the leaders agreed that significant changes were necessary. In September 2001, the World Sector Leaders “encouraged” the McKeans to go on sabbatical. In November 2001, the McKeans announced that they were stepping down from leading the Los Angeles Church of Christ in order to take a sabbatical for an unspecified amount of time in order to focus on "marriage and family issues". All of the McKeans' adult children had disassociated themselves from the movement and though this was not the only issue for the sabbatical, it was a visible 'thorn' in Kip McKean's side.
In November 2002, the McKeans announced their resignations from their roles as World Mission Evangelist, Women's Ministry Leader and Leader of the World Sector Leaders. "Along with my leadership sins of arrogance, and not protecting the weak, this has caused uncertainty in my leadership among the World Sector Leaders." Later in 2002 the remaining central leadership was officially dissolved at the 2002 Los Angeles Unity Meeting. The World Sector Leaders also announced the disintegration of their leadership group with the suggestion that a new representative leadership group including evangelists, elders and teachers, be formed with an initial meeting in May 2003.
At this time, the International Churches of Christ administration, under the leadership of Andy Fleming (a former missionary to Scandinavia and the Soviet Union), began to formulate a plan for a massive reduction in the overhead of the worldwide organization. The goal of this administrative plan was to refocus the resources of the local congregations on building up their own ministries as well as guaranteeing continued goodwill in future missions contributions. By the end of 2002, the overhead had been reduced by 67%, and Fleming resigned as the Chairman of the Board.
Many of McKean's friends and closest work colleagues observed a number of unrepented sins in his life; after multiple confrontations a letter was drafted by numerous evangelists around the world calling for his repentance. Cited below are extracts from that letter:
In love, united as your brothers, we stand by these statements from the Brothers’ Letter to Kip McKean that call for your repentance of these specific alienating sins:
• Pride, Arrogance and Anger
– You have recently said, “I can fix any church.” And “You don’t understand. I am the star.” This kind of pride fits with your not responding to the 65 brothers from around the world. In light of the gravity of the situation, we are very disappointed that you chose not to respond. While we acknowledge that each of us is nothing but a servant of Christ, our combined testimony is exactly the church discipline the Scriptures prescribe (Matthew 18:15-17).
• Disrespect, Gossip, Slander and Condemnation Towards Churches and Disciples
– It is hard to overstate this point: you continue to rewrite the history of our churches in a simplistic, misleading and self-advancing way. Since 2003, you have refused to take a significant part of the blame for the parts of our church-building that burned up as hay and straw in the firestorm that went through our movement in the last few years (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)... But it cannot be said straightforwardly enough that many, if not most, of the current weaknesses in the very churches you condemn can be traced to the domino effect of your own short-term, short-sighted and shortcut leadership dynamic of the 1990s while you were leading the Los Angeles International Church of Christ and were the Missions Evangelist for the ICOC. Because of your unrepented sins, you were asked to resign from both of those roles.
• Ungodly Ethics and Hatred, Discord, Jealousy, Selfish Ambition, Dissensions, Factions and Envy (Galatians 5:19– 21)
- In the response, you attempt to justify divisive means by appealing to the fact that Jesus’ teachings often caused division. Preaching the truth of the gospel indeed causes divisions between those who choose to be disciples of Christ and those who reject Christ. But causing division amongst fellow Christians is wrong! Disciples who use divisive tactics cause ungodly division.
— Brothers letter to McKean
McKean refused to respond to these corrections and the rebuke from his closest friends and went on to form his own church, now called the International Christian Church.
What followed was a period of increased sovereignty among local churches. In the years following McKean's resignation, the central leadership was replaced with "the co-operation agreement" with 90% of the churches affirming to this new system of global co-ordination. Henry Kreite's letter of 2003 sparked internal reform and restructuring. Many in leadership positions issued public apologies for their lack of gentleness and participation in overly authoritative leadership practices and some resigned or were asked to leave. By 2004, Boston, Atlanta, and New York had lost a number of their members, and a small number of congregations severed their ties with the ICOC.
The Circle City Church (formerly the Indianapolis Church of Christ) is now an independent and non-denominational congregation, but has made several overtures to open dialog with the Indianapolis International Church of Christ congregation.
In 2004, Kip McKean made an effort to again assert his leadership over the ICOC at the International Leadership Conference in Seattle. The majority of ICOC church leaders rejected the efforts.
ICOC and mainstream Churches of Christ relations 
Efforts have been made by International Churches of Christ members to open a dialogue with mainstream Churches of Christ and Christian churches and churches of Christ. In March 2004, Abilene Christian University (affiliated with the mainline Churches of Christ) held a "Faithful Conversations" dialogue between members of the Church of Christ and International Churches of Christ. Those involved were able to apologize and initiate an environment conducive to building bridges. A few leaders of the Church of Christ apologized for use of the word "cult" in reference to the International Churches of Christ. The International Churches of Christ leaders apologized for alienating the Churches of Christ and implying they were not Christians. Although a better atmosphere for cooperation and understanding was generated, there are still fundamental differences within the fellowship. Early 2005 saw a second set of dialogues with greater promise for both sides helping one another.
Harding University (affiliated with the mainline Churches of Christ) is contemplating a distance learning program geared toward those ministers who were trained in the International Churches of Christ.
ICOC plan for United Cooperation 
Solicitations for governing structures and methods of inter-congregational relationships were requested by November 1, 2005, with the goal of completing a final proposal by February 1, 2006. The International churches of Christ are now a family of churches who have signed up for a co-operation agreement as a way of co-ordinating the 600+ churches efforts for global missions and maintaining unity. Mike Taliaferro, from San Antonio Texas, says "The co-operation plan is a far better way of co-ordinating and unifying a church family of the size and global nature of the ICOC. No longer can one man make sweeping decisions that affect all the churches. Building unity and consensus through prayer and discussion takes time but is worth it. The success of the Delegates conference in Budapest in December 2011 is testimony to the success of this less authoritarian approach"
Church leadership is congregational rather than denominational. The International Churches of Christ have no formally recognized headquarters, or hierarchical church government. Rather, the congregations are a family or a network with each congregation participating in service and fellowship with other congregations. The twenty eight Regional families of churches co-operate in evangelism, benevolence projects and training to see the gospel and compassion of Christ spread to their area of the world.
The annual Delegates Conference held before a regional conference in various parts of the world give an opportunity for the Delegates to plan, pray and fellowship with each other to foster global unity.
As of May 15, 2006 a total of 343 Churches agreed to and committed to the Plan for United Cooperation. At the end of 2009, the ICOC had about 92,524 members in 574 churches in 145 countries. The ICOC Co-Operation churches as a whole grew from 88,000 to 92,000 from 2009-2010. Currently, the total membership of International Churches of Christ is around 98,000.
2020 Plans 
In 2010 the "Evangelists Service team" formulated a "2020 vision plan", that all the thirty or so regional families of churches have a plan to evangelize their geographic area of the world. The plan encompasses the need to strengthen existing small churches and plant new churches.
They plan to build and strengthen those churches through a "best-practices" approach to ministry: oversee and support those churches through strong regional relationships and discipline, train their ministers and congregations through the newly formed "Disciple Bible Academy" being rolled out across the world, and provide global co-ordination and co-operation through "Service Teams" that specialize in "Campus Ministry", "Youth & Family Ministry" and other specialized ministries.
Church organization and services 
Each local congregation is governed by local leader(s), and is considered congregational in that ultimate authority remains with the local body. The leader of each congregation is referred to as an Evangelist, or Elders if the congregation has qualified men. Larger churches may have an Assistant Evangelist. The evangelist, also known as preacher, or minister, prepares and delivers sermons, teaches Bible classes, performs weddings, and sometimes performs baptisms. The baptismal rite, however, is not restricted to ministers. This position is typically paid, to allow the evangelist to disentangle himself from secular employment and focus on serving the congregation and leadership responsibilities. For most congregations the evangelist leads the local church in much the same way as most church pastors. He is often assisted by groups of men that have been elected by the local congregation or appointed by the evangelist. In many cases, church elders—from what were formally regarded as 'pillar churches'--act as advisers to the smaller congregations. Elders in some cases, or where there are no elders or evangelists, with the assistance of leading men of the congregation, are seen as the spiritual leaders of the congregation. Deacons also play a role in serving and overseeing aspects of the church. Teachers aid in deepening the Bible knowledge of the congregation.
One church 
The ICOC holds that the Bible teaches the existence of a single universal church. One implication of this doctrine is that, while Christians may separate themselves into different, disunified churches (as opposed to just geographically separated congregations), it is not actually Biblical to do so, and so such separations are not likely to take place between groups of Christians who are obedient to the Bible. As Jesus prayed for the unity of his true followers in John 17, the division seen in the Christian world is wrong. And so there is controversy over who exactly is part of "the universal church" and who is not. The ICOC believes that anyone who follows the plan of salvation as laid out in the scriptures is added by God to his "One Universal Church".
The ICOC sees God at work in many congregations around the world who are not necessarily affiliated with the ICOC. Christian Churches, Churches of Christ and other Biblically-sound churches have faithful disciples and Christians in them.
Sunday Worship 
A typical Sunday morning service involves singing, praying, preaching, and the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. One unique element in ICOC tradition is the lack of established church buildings. Congregations meet in rented spaces: hotel conference rooms, schools, public auditoriums, conference centers, small stadiums, or rented halls, depending on the number of parishioners. The location may vary from month to month. Though the church is not static, neither is it "ad hoc" — the leased locale is often furnished with an elaborate stage and sound-system. "From an organizational standpoint, it's a great idea", observes Boston University Chaplain Bob Thornburg. "They put very little money into buildings...You put your money into people who get more people."
This practice of not owning buildings changed when the Tokyo Church of Christ became the first ICOC church to build its own church building. This building was designed by the Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki. This became an example for other ICOC churches to follow suit.
Evangelism on College Campuses 
The International Churches of Christ has a long history, spanning back thirty years, evangelizing on college campuses. Each year an International Campus Ministry conference is held (ICMC) for college students. In 2004 the ICMC in San Antonio there were some 200 campus participants. In the last 7 years they have seen that number rise to 500, then 1000, 1500, 2000 and in 2011 they had over 2500 students meet in 2 different locations, one in Denver and another in Athens, GA.
To provide an international service opportunity for college age students, the ICOC has a program called the "One Year Challenge" (OYC) where graduating students take a year off and go and serve another church in the Third World  or a recently planted church in the First World looking to reach younger people with the gospel. The Boston Church sent out a domestic church planting to Portland, ME in 2012. The New England churches sent some 15 members to go with the team, but the OYC challenge also sent some 10 to 15 recent graduates with the team in order to the get the campus ministry off the ground quickly. There have been efforts like this made around the world in places like South Africa, Australia, Europe. According to the OYC website, In 2012 the 4 OYC sites that have been chosen are:
- College Station, Texas
- Charleston, West Virginia
- Columbia, Missouri
- Sydney, Australia 
Bible Talks 
A Bible Talk is a small group of disciples that meet usually once a week. They can meet almost anywhere, including college dormitories, restaurants, and members' houses. Bible Talks, or 'Family Groups', are designed so that disciples can read the Bible together and build relationships with others in the church. All are encouraged to invite guests as a way for the guest to be introduced to the Church in a more informal setting. The Bible Talk is very similar to the "cell group" or "small group" structure found in many churches to facilitate close relationships amongst members.
Flavel Yeakley in his 1988 book The Discipling Dilemma had this to say about the early approach:
One of the most impressive things about the Boston Church of Christ is what they are doing with their Bible Talk groups. Writers in the church growth field have suggested for many years that conversion requires a point of contact and a pathway. The point of contact is a way of meeting non-members. The pathway is the orderly sequence of events that can be expected to bring some of these non-members to the point of conversion. Churches of Christ that are not identified with the discipling movement used evangelistic meetings and evangelistic preaching in other church services as the point of contact a few generations ago. That worked with some people in previous generations. It does not work with most people today. These congregations did a lot of personal evangelism in small groups-a family or two of members studying with a family of non- members. These "cottage meetings," as they were called, proved to be effective in teaching many people. Sometimes people taught in this way had to be motivated from the pulpit before they made the decision to obey the gospel. The home Bible studies and evangelistic preaching brought many people to Christ a few years ago. In recent years, however, these methods have been less effective. The secret of the Bible Talk approach is that it is a non-threatening way for a non-member to be introduced to the study of the Bible. Bible Talk lessons are simple, practical, applied studies that do not focus on controversial doctrinal issues. They provide an opportunity to get people into the Scriptures and to show them that the Bible is relevant to their lives and that Christ has answers to their problems. These occasions also provide an opportunity for several Christians to build relationships with the non-member visitors. Once the non-members get interested, they are receptive to the evangelistic study that follows.
Disciples are student-followers of Jesus Christ.
The practice of discipling is one of the central elements of the ICOC's beliefs. Members believe that this practice is based upon and encouraged by Biblical passages.
|“||I believe it is Biblical for us to imitate the relationship Jesus had with the apostles and the relationships they had with one another. For example, the apostles had a student/teacher or younger brother/older brother relationship with Jesus. They also had adult/adult relationships with each other. Jesus paired the apostles for the mission. (Matthew 10) Both types of relationships are essential to lead people to maturity. Another text that demonstrates the student/teacher relationship is in Titus 2 where the older women are to train the younger women.
— Kip McKean
The Discipling relationships are based on the following scriptures; Ecclesiates 4:9–12; Proverbs 11:25; Proverbs 27:17; Hebrews 10:25; James 5:16 and the numerous examples found in scripture: Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and the early disciples, Paul and Timothy.
The church's emphasis on "discipling" has not been without its critics.
In 1988, Dr. Flavil Yeakley, psychologist and researcher, wrote:
After years of careful observation, I have come to the conclusion that the discipling churches are right in many of the things they do. They emphasize evangelism and get virtually all of their members involved in evangelism at some level. They have a very effective small group approach to evangelism. They are careful to make sure that prospective converts are thoroughly taught before they baptize them. They place a great emphasis on mission work and send some of their best people to the mission fields. They are conservative in doctrine. They spend most of their money to support the preaching of the gospel and little on paying for a church building. They are active in confronting sin in the lives of their members. They get their members into personal relationships that could encourage spiritual growth if used properly. They are baptizing a large number of people. They have a low drop-out rate. These strong points are important and they must not be ignored. By way of contrast, years of careful observation have forced me to the conclusion that many other churches of Christ are failing in these very areas where the discipling churches are succeeding.
There is, however, a very serious problem in the discipling churches that is not generally found in other churches of Christ. The next chapter presents the results of some research conducted in the Boston Church of Christ. A psychological test was administered to over 900 members of that congregation. Results of that study provide convincing evidence of an unhealthy pressure toward conformity in the Boston Church of Christ. It is changing the personalities of its members in unhealthy ways. Later in this book, you will find several follow-up studies done after the original research in Boston. Results of these studies provide compelling proof that the personality changes are being produced by the discipling methods employed by that church. Various comparison group studies show that these personality changes are not generally found in other churches of Christ or in various mainline denominations--but the very same pattern of personality change is observed in studies of various sects that are highly manipulative.
Discipling churches have some very serious problems in spite of the fact that they are doing a lot that is right. Other churches of Christ do not typically have the same problems, but there are many ways in which they are failing to do what they ought to do. Churches of Christ would face a terrible dilemma if these were the only two options. Fortunately, each congregation of the churches of Christ is independent. All members are expected to study the Bible for themselves and reach their own conclusions regarding matters of faith and doctrine. No individual member and no local congregation has to choose sides and accept one or the other of these two equally undesirable alternatives. There is a third alternative. Churches of Christ can correct all their many failings, do everything good that the discipling churches are doing, but avoid the errors that are producing the psychological manipulation.
The Boston Movement, a book written by Carol Giambalvo and Herbert Rosedale in 1997, contains the testimonies of ex-members of the ICOC. Amongst other things, the ex-members say that they were brainwashed, psychologically and emotionally abused by their "discipling" partners within the ICOC.
Since Kip McKean's resignation in 2001 and his dis-fellowshipment in 2005 the ICOC has made numerous changes. The Christian Chronicle, a newspaper for the Churches of Christ, reports that the ICOC has changed its leadership and discipling structure. Church leaders admit that some wrongs did happen prior to 2003, but maintain that such practices have since been reformed or discontinued. According to the paper, "the ICOC has attempted to address" the following concerns: a "top down hierarchy", "agressive discipling techniques", and "sectarianism".
Within the article, individuals make the following statements:
- Evertt Huffard, vice president and dean of Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tenn. “I saw a group who have learned from their mistakes and have tried to respond accordingly,” said Evertt Huffard, vice president and dean of Harding Graduate School of Religion in MemphisTenn. “My feeling is, if mainstream Churches of Christ were ever so open and honest about the mistakes of our past and responded accordingly, we’d be a healthier, growing church today.”
- Steve Kinnard, teacher and evangelist for the 3,000-member New York City Church of Christ, recalls that period as a “time of discipline” by God. “We got haughty. We got a bit Pharisaical in our attitude and our approach,” said Kinnard, a Freed-Hardeman University Bible graduate who joined the movement in 1981. “God said, ‘You guys need to stop for a minute and rethink some things.’ Now, I think we’re in a much better place than we’ve ever been.”
- Michael Taliaferro, an Abilene Christian University graduate said, “Back in the 1990s, we were baptizing a lot of people ... and we sure were proud of it, We should have never been the message. Christ and him crucified should have always been the message." He also says the ICOC’s efforts to right its wrongs as the movement’s “finest hour.”
Affiliated organizations 
Eleven ICOC churches have a Chemical Recovery Ministry aimed at helping people with addictions to alcohol, drugs and nicotine.
The following companies and institutions are informally operated or managed by the ICOC:
- Athens Institute of Ministry
- Baltic Nordic Missions Alliance
- European Bible School
- Florida Missions Council
- Illumination Publishers International (IPI) — Christian writing and audio teaching
- International Missions Society, Inc. (IMS)
- KNN/Disciples Today.net, a production of Kingdom News Network (KNN) — non-profit religious corporation in Illinois. www.disciplestoday.org
- Taiwan Mission Adventure
- Discipleship Publications International — publishing ministry begun by the Boston Church of Christ in 1992, but was never the official publishing arm of the ICOC. Now a separate non-profit organization; primarily prints spiritual literature
HOPE worldwide 
The ICOC directly administers or partners with over a dozen organizations. Some function as appendages of the church, others are entirely unrelated in their mission and activities. Of these, the largest and most well-known is HOPE worldwide, a charitable foundation started by members of the ICOC, which serves as the primary beneficiary of the church's charitable donations for the poor (though it is funded through other sources as well). ICOC volunteers, along with HOPE worldwide staff serve 2.5 million benevolent and needy individuals every year.
Church identification and beliefs 
Members hold to the Biblical and historical belief that the church was founded by Jesus Christ, and that its doctrines and practices were established long before these other traditions, movements, structures, councils, et cetera. Members also do not typically consider themselves to be members of a denomination, but prefer to simply be known as Christians (in contrast to, for example, a Catholic Christian, a Presbyterian Christian, a Baptist Christian, et cetera.), with no other religious title needed or preferred. Thus, a collective group of Christians is a church of Christ. However, they prefer to refer to one another as Disciples. (This stems from the New Testament where followers of Christ were called "Disciples" before "Christians".)
The ICOC regards the New Testament of the Bible as the supreme authority on doctrine, ecclesiastical structure, and moral beliefs. They acknowledge the Old Testament as historically accurate and divinely-inspired, and its principles as true and beneficial, but hold that its laws are not binding under the new covenant in Christ unless otherwise taught in the New Testament. Through holding that their doctrine is based on the Bible alone, and not on creeds and traditions, they claim the distinction of being "non-denominational". Members of the International Churches of Christ generally emphasize their intent to simply be part of the original church established by Jesus Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection, which became evident on the Day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2. They believe that anyone who follows the plan of salvation as laid out in the scriptures is saved by the grace of God.
Like the Mainline Churches of Christ, the ICOC recognizes the Bible as the sole source of authority for the church and believes that the current denominational divisions are inconsistent with Christ's intent. The ICOC, in order to unify congregations, taught that there should only be one church in each city. That church may have multiple satellite congregations or regions but they should form one church. Christians ought to be united Both organizations teach the necessity of baptism by immersion, and both reject infant baptism, teaching that baptism is for believers.
The ICOC affirms some moderate beliefs of Cessationism, but not original sin, the perseverance of saints and predestination. It does acknowledge incarnation, atonement, and amillennialism. Its view on Ephesians 2:8–9, is straightforward; people are saved by the grace of God in order to do good works which were prepared in advance for them to do.
Pepperdine University published a document highlighting the core beliefs of the ICOC:
GOD: FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT
GOSPEL: THE WORK OF GOD
- 1. The eternal purpose of any Christian is to know God and to glorify him as God, and let our life shine so others will see God. Our devotion and ultimate loyalties are to the Father, who is over all and in all and through all; to Jesus the Son, who has been declared both Lord and Christ; and to the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and empowers us to overcome the workings of the sinful nature (Acts 2.22-36, Rom 8.12-28).
- 2. The cornerstone of our faith is our belief in Jesus Christ. Everything we hold dear in our faith originates from his words and his way of life (John 3.16, John 12.47-48, I John 2.5-6).
- 3. The Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is sharp, powerful, effective, challenging, exposing, and encouraging when it is revered, studied, preached, taught, and obeyed because it is from our Creator and therefore relevant for all generations (1 Tim 4.13, 2 Tim 3.16-17,4.1-5, Heb 4.12-13).
- 4. Our salvation totally depends on the work of God, prompted by his own mercy and grace, not our good deeds. That work redeems those who hear, believe and obey the Gospel message through baptism into Christ through their faith in God's power and continue to remain faithful unto death (Rom 2.7, Acts 2.22-37, Eph 2.8-10, Col 2.12, Heb 10.32-39, Jas 1.12).
- 5. Our earthly mission involves every member's participation in the Great Commission to "Seek and save what was lost," in bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to all parts of the world. As we go about this mission, our testimony must be consistent with a Christ-like life of doing good deeds and supporting and encouraging other Christians and churches around the world. In imitation of Jesus' mission, we are committed to remembering the poor by demonstrating compassion to those who suffer by regularly doing whatever we can to lessen their burdens and supporting group benevolent efforts through international agencies such as HOPE worldwide and others (Matt 28.19-20, Acts 10.37-38, Col 3.1-6, Luke 19.10, Gal 2.10, Jas 1.27).
- 6. Our motivation to love God, love each other and love the lost is prompted by God's love for us, demonstrated in its greatest form by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on a cross for our behalf (2 Cor 5.14-21,1 John 3.16, Luke 10.27).
Although the ICOC's stance against the common doctrine of the "sinner's prayer" may be seen as controversial, Francis Chan, a well-known evangelical Christian, has been making statements that contradict the sinner's prayer and emphasizing baptism and the Holy Spirit 
David Platt, head pastor of The Church at Brook Hills and author of the book Radical weighed in on the debate in an article in Christianity Today: "Is it possible for people to say they believe in Jesus, to say they have accepted Jesus, to say that they have received Jesus, but they are not saved and will not enter the kingdom of heaven? Is it possible? Absolutely, it's possible. It's not just possible; it is probable". While he affirmed that people calling out to God with repentant faith is fundamental to being saved, he said his comments about the "sinner's prayer" have been deeply motivated "by a concern for authentic conversions". He highlighted recent research by the Barna study which found that 4 out of 5 Americans identify themselves as Christians yet:
- Less than half of them are involved in any church on a regular basis;
- Less than half of them believe the Bible is accurate;
- The lifestyle and beliefs of "born again" Christians are no different to the world around them;
- Others believed that Christians and Muslims worship the same God and that Jesus sinned while he was on earth.
Platt concluded: "The one thing that is absolutely clear from all these statistics is that there are a whole lot of people in the world who think that they are Christians, but they are not. There are millions upon millions of people who believe in Jesus and think they are saved, but they are dangerously deceived. And some, maybe many, of them have been deceived in the church".
Some others have labeled the sinner's prayer an "apostasy" 
Apologetics Index regards the ICOC's beliefs as deviant from the Christian norm, and therefore refer to it as a 'cult' in the sense that theologically speaking, it "misrepresents the Bible's teachings regarding grace, baptism, and salvation". In response, elder and church spokesman, Al Baird, says that "[w]e're no more a cult than Jesus was a cult".
The church employs a particular set of Bible studies called 'First Principles'. Dave Anderson, a critic of the ICOC, claims that these studies "are a system of indoctrination that manipulates the commitment of individuals to serve the interests of the group". Anderson asserts that these studies twist scripture in order to get potential members to believe that the ICOC has the correct interpretation of the Bible. Once a potential member is convinced of this, these studies, Anderson claims, then progress by seeking "increasingly significant commitments". All ICOC churches have a form of teaching for those who want to become members. The ICOC says that "[t]hese Bible Studies are a resource so that anyone coming to Christ has a clear understanding of who Christ is, his expectations of repentance, faith, discipleship and grace. Their involvement in His Body, the church, should also be clearly explained upfront before anyone can place membership, be restored or be baptised".
Regarding the issue of baptism. The ICOC has taught for years, that baptism is an integral part of any sinners conversion, and as noted above have been criticised for this stance by traditional religious groups. However, Francis Chan, a well known evangelical preacher, has made statements on baptism as being the point at which you are saved, which agrees with the ICOC stance on baptism
Members' Personality Changes 
In 1988, Researcher and psychologist Dr. Flavil Yeakley conducted a study of over 900 members of the Boston Church of Christ (BCC), the founding church of the ICOC. After completing the study, Yeakley concluded that "the discipling methods employed by that church" are "changing the personalities of its members in unhealthy ways". These are the same personality changes, Yeakley notes, found in "highly manipulative" sects, "not generally found in other churches of Christ or in various mainline denominations".
After publishing the results of his research in 1988, Yeakley reflected on developments within the ICOC and concluded that "[p]erhaps the most important development in the year since this book was written is that counselors in virtually every city where this radical movement exists are now being flooded with clients who are the psychological, emotional, and spiritual victims of this authoritarian movement. Psychologists who specialize in treating cult victims have reported that in several cities they are now treating more people from these discipling congregations than from all other groups put together. These professional counselors are unanimous in their judgment that the Boston-led hierarchy of discipling churches is a dangerous cult".
ICOC Controversy on Some Colleges and Universities 
The evangelical periodical Christianity Today in an article written in 1997, reported that campus ministers and religion scholars state that although the ICOC is "among the nation's newest and fastest growing movements", "it may also be among the most dangerous". The spokesman and elder of an ICOC church, Al Baird, disputes this charge, claiming that the "group's intense focus on evangelism and discipleship is grounded in Scripture" Robert W. Thornburg, former dean of Boston University's Marsh Chapel, says that the church is "the most destructive religious group [he's] ever seen." The dean goes on to say that "[t]hey're a destructive religion - everyone else calls them a cult - and they're the only group about which I would say that unambiguously"; he adds "[t]hey are destructive to freedom of thought, freedom of movement, and freedom of activity. They cut kids off from their families, and their method of recruiting and keeping kids in qualifies as first-rate mind control". In the same article the Rev. Peter J. Scanlon, Catholic chaplain... was somewhat less alarmed. "I think our kids will be OK. ...cults aren't limited to religion - you could have a beer-drinking cult too, and we do have that."
U.S. News and World Report ran an article in 2000 discussing proselytizing on college campuses. The article describes the ICOC as "[a] fast-growing Christian organization known for aggressive proselytizing to college students" and as "one of the most controversial religious groups on campus". U.S. News and World Report states that "some ex-members and experts on mind-control assert [it] is a cult". Furthermore, "[a]t least 39 institutions, including Harvard and Georgia State, have outlawed the organization at one time or another for violating rules against door-to-door recruiting, say, or harassment." U.S. News and World Report does also quote Professor Jeffrey K. Hadden's statement "[e]very new religion experiences a high level of tension with society because its beliefs and ways are unfamiliar. But most, if they survive, we come to accept as part of the religious landscape" and ICOC spokesperson Al Baird's insistence that the ICOC "does not condone harassment and is merely an evangelical church out to 'share Jesus with everybody'".
See also 
- Early Christianity
- First Christian Church[disambiguation needed]
- Restorationism (Christian primitivism)
- Kip McKean
- International Christian Churches
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