Question:Before I was baptized, I want you to know that I had some real struggles with all the information I learned about the International Church of Christ and the Boston movement. I studied with two or three other men for three or four months. My pastor from earlier days explained to me that this was possibly a cult I was studying with. I withdrew from the study and these men continued to pray for me. I was living as a backslider and knew it. They explained to me that I was not saved and I fought them with the whole "once saved always saved" bit. God convicted me down in South Carolina while on vacation that if I did not turn I would burn. I was so scared that I when I returned home I was baptized and have had countless great things happen in my life, not only because of God, but because these men stayed committed to me. I really watch these men and all I can see is love in their hearts. What's really crazy is how awesome their family's are! I mean the kids, wives, all of them are incredible! I mean it blows me away, the love and support they give one another and to me. Everything so far you have taught me on your web site they support. In fact I have told some guys about you and they were like, "Wow, this guy is great!" And I was like, Yeah, God totally hooked me up with a mega believer!" What are some of the differences that our church's have? I can't seem to find any but then again I can't even understand simple Scripture passages sometimes. I consider you my brother and a mentor in Christ.
I do appreciate the kind words, and I'm glad that I've made some difference in your life. I am positive that the folk you are with are sincere and strong in their beliefs. I can't talk about individuals, because I don't know them, nor would I want to sit in judgment on them. All I can go on is what I know about the organization in general and its stated beliefs.
The International Church of Christ has its roots back in the 1970's and 1980's among the churches of Christ. It originally started from a brother's class on how to teach people the gospel of Christ. It was picked up by a congregation in Florida, known as the Crossroads Church of Christ, where it was blossomed and was formalized. This is how the movement came to be known as the Crossroads Movement. One of the people converted became a very dynamic leader in the movement, but because of controversy in the congregation, he moved to Boston. The Boston group soon eclipsed the Crossroads group and the movement became known as the Boston Movement. Within years it took on a hierarchical form of government with one man at the top and the elders of the Boston church under him. This church oversaw other large churches in other major cities and they in turn oversaw small churches in their region. Eventually the leader moved to Los Angles and had the movement's name changed to International Church of Christ to keep it from being tied to one location.
I have details in my files, but that is a quick sketch of its history. My personal opinion is that its style of rapid growth doesn't give the members a solid foundation in what the Scriptures teach. As result, each succeeding generation of the group moves further from the original teachings of the Scriptures. The group is also known for its high turnover rate. A large portion of its members "burn out" and leave.
For example of something I disagree with the group is in the style of organization it uses. It is using a style not found in the Scriptures. In New Testament times each congregation was independent. The International Church of Christ has also added additional offices in their congregations. In the New Testament you find each congregation having elders, deacons, teachers, preachers, and members (Ephesians 4:11-13; Philippians 1:1).
One of the things that disturbs me is the attitude displayed by the leaders toward the Scriptures. I did a lesson once on a quote from Kip McKean (see: The Scriptures). Whether that viewpoint is shared in general is something I cannot say. I know I ran into a similar attitude locally in an International Church of Christ that once existed in Omaha.
The other thing that has saddened me over the years is that when I have talked to people who are members of the International Church of Christ, we have good studies together, but it isn't long before the elders there tell the members to stop talking to me. I suspect it is because as people become more knowledgeable about the Scriptures they start asking questions the elders and preachers find difficult to answer. But that is only my guess. My observation is that control of who a member talks to is strictly regulated. Your own church states this in nicer words, "We recognize other Christians who live by the same ‘rule of faith’ are saved; however, it may be detrimental for differing groups to interrelate closely depending on other critical differences. We intend to show respect to other believers while reserving the right to protect our flock from possible harm."
I also noticed that there is mention of women ministers: "We will sensibly compensate our full-time ministers (including women) for the value of their work, neither muzzling an ox nor enabling greed, in accordance with Scripture." I don't know if this extends to having women speak in the worship service (I Corinthians 14:34-35) or having authority over men (I Timothy 2:12), but does disturb me.
I'm quite happy to talk and study with you for as long as you like. As you know, my interest is in helping people understand the Scriptures and make application to their lives. I try hard to follow the advice, "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (I Peter 4:11).