Research * Examine * Verify * Educate * Assist * Liberate
International Churches of Christ (ICC) (ICOC) * Boston Movement * Crossroads Movement

REVEAL: About the ICC

1979-1987: The Boston Era

Through the early 1980s, the Boston Church of Christ grew and grew until its growth rate outstripped, not only the Churches of Christ as a whole, but all the other discipling movement churches as well. It also began planting and churches of its own -- New York in 1981, Chicago and London in 1982, and several more churches in various parts of the world in the following couple of years. It also began to "reconstruct" churches in the Mainline Churches of Christ, a process not unlike a hostile takeover, where the leaders of a to-be-reconstructed church were sent to Boston for training, and Boston-trained leaders were sent out to direct the church.

In each case, a "team" of people trained in Boston, including an evangelist and usually some interns, was sent to the new city. The evangelist and (in a few cases) one or two other people were on staff and their salaries paid from Boston, but the other team members were required to find work and pay their own expenses. Early in the 1980s team members were volunteers. Later on, team members were picked by the church leaders -- they nominally could choose whether to accept their "calling" or not, but in practice were in deep trouble if they refused. This basic pattern of church planting has remained unchanged through the present.

By 1982 Boston had supplanted Crossroads as the real center of the discipling movement. Crossroads continued to plant churches, but soon the Boston-planted churches in New York, Chicago and London were themselves planting churches throughout the world. New missions teams were forming constantly, urged on by Kip McKean's charismatic and emotional sermons urging people to "evangelize the world in this generation".

It was a message many people inside and, increasingly, outside the Churches of Christ responded to. Boston was "where it was happening", and many people transferred to new universities, quit jobs, sold houses, and moved, sometimes with with their families, to Boston to be part of it.

Two prominent leaders in the mainline Churches of Christ who "went to Boston", or joined the Boston movement, during the mid-1980s were Jerry Jones and Gordon Ferguson. Jerry left a little over a year later, and subsequently wrote three lengthy books which consist primarily of compilations of statements by the Boston leadership. These statements are scary to read -- they show the growing adulation of Kip McKean, to the extent that some of the movement's leaders were comparing him to the Apostles.

Gordon Ferguson joined the Boston Movement in 1986, shortly after Jerry Jones left. He is still a member, and by most accounts is the architect of the ICC's "church reconstruction" methods. These first appeared during the 1987 "Great Reconstruction" period (more about that later), but have come to be used much as corporate reorganizations have been in the 1990s -- as a means of shaping up churches who were failing to meet conversion or giving goals.

In 1985 the Crossroads Church of Christ fired the founder of the Crossroads movement, Chuck Lucas, shocking the movement. The reason given was that Lucas was guilty of sexual improprieties of a public and ongoing nature. Many rank and file members of discipling movement churches suspected a power struggle at top, but subsequent testimony by various movement leaders confirmed that the accusations were true.

Worse, these leaders stated that Lucas' behavior had been known to and tolerated by the elders at Crossroads for many years, who had covered up for Lucas until his behavior became so blatant that they couldn't any longer.

This would not be worth mentioning, except for two things. First, as previously stated, Lucas founded the discipling movement. (That's right -- Chuck Lucas, not Kip McKean.) Second, this was just the most public of a series of such cases. The discipling movement has had a history of sexually immoral leaders whose behavior was tolerated and for whom others in leadership covered up. In the discipling movement, members have routinely been held to standards of behavior which some of the leaders have failed to meet. Further, the movement's leadership has rarely held an evangelist or leader publicly responsible for his behavior.

During the mid-1980s the Movement and mainline Churches of Christ grew further and further apart. At the same time, the churches in the Movement itself were increasingly found in two camps -- those who approved entirely of Kip McKean and Boston, and those who were becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Boston's authoritarian structure and steady streams of burned out ex-members reporting horrific spiritual and mental abuse. Many of the Mainline Churches of Christ could not condone the methods and the reconstructions which the Boston Movement was using.

Upon the request of Al Baird, who had studied at his college, Abilene Christian College, in 1986, a supporter of the Boston Church of Christ, a mainline Church of Christ minister and church growth researcher (the Director of Church Growth Studies at Abilene), Dr. Flavil Yeakley, Jr. was asked to study the phenomenal growth of the Boston Movement. Al Baird and other movement leaders did not know that Yeakly had studied both mainline denominations and what are considered "cultic" groups, and noted that in cultic groups, a simple psychological test known as the MBTI (Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator) revealed that cult members' personalities would converge on a single type, usually the group norm, or the image of the cult leader. Thus, Yeakley ran this psychological test on a large number of disciples from the Boston Church of Christ, and on a control group of members from mainline Churches of Christ and some other denominations. Dr. Yeakley believed that the increasing accusations that the ICC was a cult were wrong, due largely to jealousy at Boston's phenomenol growth rates, and wanted to defend them.

Dr. Yeakley is also an honest man. When his test results showed an extreme level of "personality shift" in the members of the Boston Church of Christ from their normal orientation toward the orientation of the group norm, he realized that the accusations had a significant level of truth in them, and after seeing no changes in the Boston Movement, which had promised to curb its abuses, reluctantly published his results. (Personality shift is one of the most accurate measures of whether an organization is using mind control.) The Boston Church of Christ reacted by "marking" Dr. Yeakley, proclaiming him an enemy of the church and forbidding its members from speaking to him or reading his work.

In reaction, Dr. Yeakley had shown his work within the Mainline Churches of Christ, which issued warnings to various congregations within the denomination, and the Boston Movement was seen to be a dangerous outgrowth.

In reaction, a few months later, in early 1987, the Boston Church of Christ demanded that all discipling movement Churches of Christ which had not been planted by Boston originally allow themselves to be "reconstructed". This means that their entire leadership was to resign and be transferred to Boston for training, and make way for a leadership team sent out from Boston to take over. Those who refused were henceforth no longer to be considered part of the Movement. The Boston Movement thus severred its ties to the Mainline Churches of Christ.

Most of the Movement churches capitulated, but a number did not. Among those who refused were the Northwest Church of Christ in Seattle (whose evangelist, Milton Jones, had been very influential in the movement) and the Crossroads Church of Christ, where the movement began. This period also led to an exodus of members from churches which did capitulate, many of them long-time members and leaders who could not accept what was happening. One of the founders of REVEAL was among this group.

During this period Kip McKean also first formulated the trademark ICC doctrine of "Baptism as a Disciple" -- the teaching that one must both fully understand the purpose of baptism and have fully committed to following Christ and obeying the leaders in the Church (the two were seen as synonymous) in order for his baptism to be valid. Those who had not been baptized in accordance with this understanding of baptism were no longer considered to be Christian. Thus was also foundational for rejecting members of the Mainline Churches of Christ as being "Christian".

This led to a wave of rebaptisms in Boston-planted churches -- many of the top leaders were rebaptized at this time. Kip McKean, oddly enough, either never was rebaptized or has never stated so publicly.

Former members have taken to calling the period between late 1986 and early 1988 the Great Reconstruction. It also marks the final break between the ICC and the mainline Churches of Christ -- from this point, both groups considered themselves separate churches.

Previous Section | Table of Contents | Next Section


©1998-2001 by REVEAL. All rights reserved.

Home Page | REVEAL Autoresponder | REVEAL Webmaster