I was off to the University of Georgia in 1980. I started becoming dedicated to the Methodist church around 1978 or so. I was disllusioned wiht some of the cliquishness and shallowness of the church itself. I went to some classes where they were "proving contradictions" in the scriptures. Boy did they ever misuse the Bible to do that. Around October, I was invited to a Bible study. I went and enjoyed it. It was challenging and applicable to my life. Also, the people looked they genuinely enjoyed themselves. I was also getting involved with not the best crowd. They were engaging heavily in dungeons and dragons. This was with some people from the Methodist Center. Back to the subject, I was at the Bible Study, and the people invited me to church. I thought okay. They looked like they were having fun.
I went to the church and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was very convicting. The people were serious about the Bible, and they were devoted to each other. This was rather convincing. I was sick of apathetic Christianity. This is the stuff I always dreamed of. Well, I kept going, and eventually studied the Bible with the Bible Study leader. He was great about his approach with the Bible to me. He showed me some scriptures including Acts 2:38. I read the scripture, and came to the conclusion myself that I wasn't a Christian. He didn't have to say anything. This passage spoke directly to me. After several days of intense thought, I became a Christian.
The first few months were rocky. I heard rumors of Crossroads when I was home for the Christmas break. This was an issue I finally resolved. I went home for the summer, and grew stronger in the faith, though there was no ICC group in my hometown. I did okay for another year until I took some difficult courses. I was dropped a class and changed majors, because I felt I would be sacrificing time with the church, which I thought was wrong. I must have been brainwashed into that type of thinking. Well, I started struggling academically, and this affected my spiritual growth. Deep down inside, I knew that I needed to sacrifice more in my studies, but I felt that it was against God's will to do so. This was a vicious cycle.
Meanwhile, the congregation in Athens was in turmoil. First of all, the Campus View congregation, now a mainline church of Christ, had the campus group leave and form a church on Mother's Day weekend 1981. The group was doing really well until Feb. 1981... 27 conversions the last 3 months of 1980 and 15 or so more until about March. We went through 3 fulltime and 2 parttime campus ministers from 1981-85. The ICC congregation grew some, but the student group shrunk from about 60 to 20-25.
There were some incidents that happened to me in my 4 plus years there. When I came back from break, a brother told me that he was surprised I was back. He thought I would leave the church. Ironically, it was him who later left the church. I also had several people jump on my case for spreading "rumors" about Crossroads... I was a baby Christian, about 2 months old. I had just heard those rumors over Christmas break. Instead of gently instructing and correcting me, some of these people rebuked me. Fortunately, my Bible Study leader was very level-headed on this issue, and I got that resolved. Also, another Bible Study leader was asking me how much I was giving, and told me to give more. I am not sure if this goes into meddling. Later, after I brought a regular Bible study visitor to church, this same person told me not to bring the person back to church. It was okay to bring him to Bible study.
I finally graduated in 1985. For about six years, I struggled with the exclusive attitude of ICC, not aware that I was being exclusive myself. I visited a few ICC functions including the 1986 Florida Evangelism Workship, which may have been a prelude of Reconstruction. Very rarely did anyone keep in contact with me, and I was bitter. I really had problems with the ICC, but I wasn't quite sure where I stood with them. This was until 1992.
Some things happened in my life. I was getting laid off and turning 30. I hadn't accomplished much for my life considering my educational background. I was in another church of Christ, which was equally harmful to the ICC church. With the advice of a friend, I read a book called TOXIC FAITH by Jack Felton and Stephen Arterbern. It helped me see that I was misusing religion in my own life. I was using religion as a crutch and not as an aid to helping me deal with life and in my relationship with God. I left this harmful non-ICC church in Augusta, GA, and decided to resolve some things.
In this resolution, I decided to visit the ICC in Atlanta. I enjoyed the service, and thought that maybe it was my fault. Maybe, I perceived some of the abuses. Well, I visited it several times in Athens. It was not so good. First, there were Bible classes, which had no discussion. Next, I had someone approach me and asked me if I was a "disciple" after hearing I was in ICC. This person had just met me. Also, there were people seeming to think anyone who left their group did so because they had a sin or committment problem. Finally, the minister stated emphatically that anyone who believed that "petting" was okay did not understand the cross. I thought that this was offensive, particularly being discussed in mixed company. Second, I thought the preacher wasn't convinced himself, and he was trying to convince everyone else. I went home, and talked with an elder from another church. We both agreed that I shouldn't go back..This would be like an alcoholic going back to a bar. I wrote a letter to the ICC minister expressing my concerns. Predictably, he never responded back.
Fortunately, I am glad to get things together in my life. I am working as a temporary instructor at the University of South Alabama. I graduated with another degree with a 3.28 GPA, an improvement over the 2.65 GPA at UGA. I went back to UGA and pursued a Masters in Applied Statistics. I graduated with a 3.83 GPA. God was working through me. Obviously, I let the ICC affect my academic performance. Knowing what I know, if I was in the ICC, I would tell them that I would be as active as I could be, but that God put me in school for a reason. I wouldn't sacrifice academics for the church. I believe that God wants us to study for his glory..Do whatever I do for God's glory. To me, lackadasical academic effort is not pleasing to God.
Right now, I believe that the ICC is dangerously addictive. I struggle with the concepts of evangelism and giving largely because of this movement. I know they are important, but I don't like the abusive risks that the ICC has taken with these areas. I see these people as being in denial. They seem to be more concerned with the image of their group than their relationship with God. They may acknowledge the subject of grace, but as far as understanding it..Forget it.. I also believe that the leadership is corrupt. I have seen it happen to at least one of the Bible study leaders since being in leadership..To me, he is nothing more than a yes man. The hugs and excitement in the ICC services are a lure to the legalistic, cultic, dictatorial environment.
©1996 by Randy Cooper. All rights reserved.
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