International Churches of Christ
(Revival Friday P.M audio tape, Marty Fuqua, Sept. 18, 1992, San Diego). "You take authority out of discipling relationships, and you have nothing. You have a palzy-walzy, non Christian relationship, it's what you have."
In the Boston Church of Christ movement (the I.C.C.), there is a strong emphasis on authority from their leadership. Those who have left the movement have been very vocal about what it is like inside the church. Members are expected to obey leadership in such ways as, whom they date, where to live, what courses to take in school. And of course it is all done under the sphere of church leadership and discipleship. A discipler's advice, ". . . can be accepted or rejected without sinning, so long as the person receiving the advice is convinced that his decision is the one God wants."
(Al Baird, A New Look At Authority,UpsideDown, issue 2, pg. 19.) Control is exercised to a very personal level in peoples lives. Some were even asked to quit their jobs to do ministry work to show allegiance to God, claiming that this is only advice, not law, by those who are in the position of authority. "I have taught and written that unless your leader calls you to violate Scripture or your conscience, obey him in all areas of opinion. While it is true that the Hebrews 13:17 leader will need to occasionally need to call for obedience in areas of opinion that are involved in shepherding our souls, I now believe that this previous teaching was too much the mentality of the general and not enough of the Father. For instance, it has been said if an evangelist asks you to move to a particular zone or Bible Talk, then you need to move. That may need to be the end result, unless the two of you come up with a better plan, but it omits the process of persuasion and motivation that leaves people confident and excited. The end result is the same, but the heart is very different. (ibid. pg. 49) I think it's plain to see that these leaders of this movement are shepherding people. While they try to explain it as a heart issue and making improvements, what is put in practice is quite different than what is written. This especially can be seen when disagreements arise.
In the whole movement the rules are dictated from the top from Kip McKean downward in a pyramid type model. All the churches are to conform to his standards. There is constant training to accept this type of unbiblical format. As we see in many other churches who promote the only true church theology, we find the same abuses passed down to its members. Spiritual elitism is promoted in their teachings using scriptures such as building your house on the rock not on sand. The rock is interpreted as their church; the other churches are on sand. Even before one becomes a new convert, they will go through a format of church doctrine, and given a steady diet of how wrong the teachings are in other churches and how right theirs are.
They are taught that the kingdom of God is the church and so they are to seek the kingdom first which to them is gathering together at Sunday services. Using Heb. 10:23-25, converts are also told not to miss meetings during the week, devotionals, Bible talks, retreats, seminars, etc. As a result, all of their time is taken up by the numerous meetings and activities. Your spirituality and dedication to the church will be questioned if you do not attend. This can leave little time for friendships and family outside the church.
(Marty Fuqua/Preston Shepherd,True Repentance Will Happen,audio tape San Diego)
"Unless you're willing to come to all the services, I mean any time we have a service, you know, sometimes, you know, we as leaders mess up, you know, we sort of get the word out on a last minute meeting, or something like that, . . .Hey, listen, our hearts are, when the body is together, I'm there, I'm there. If you're not willing to be at all the services of the body (with a good attitude), you can just hit the door, Jack . . . Isn't it super convenient that all of our doors have a lit exit sign above it? . . . If you're not willing to make disciples, if you're not willing to share your faith, if you're not willing to give sacrificially, there are the doors. You won't have a hard time finding them, they are even lit up. I like that!"
This movement is well regimented, made into an army of disciples and run like a well-oiled machine. While Jesus gave independence to those who believe, they offer to those converted, interdependence. What's amazing is that some people take to this format and believe they are practicing Christianity. New converts are taught to confess their sins to the ones over them, using James 5:16 out of context. Their disciplers hear just about everything one does wrong during the week. People are trained to put down any defenses and this becomes a normality of their church life. Looking back at the shepherding movements, this tactic is used to keep people from going elsewhere for fellowship. How can someone leave when people may know your most intimate sins? This information also can be used against you if need be, which many have said it has done.
(Marty Fuqua,The Cutting Edge, Boston Leader's Conf. August 1992) (talking about a sector in L.A. whose numbers were down) "We're gonna have a revival weekend next Friday night and Saturday. I expect you all to be there. And if you can't find your way clear to be there, then you won't be a member of our church. Some of them didn't come they aren't members." (They're probably rejoicing!)
Elder Al Baird wrote, "If it was true that leaders can only expect Christians to obey direct commands from the Bible, then they can call for nothing that any other member can call for."
Later on Baird states, "When we are under authority, we are to submit and obey our leaders, even when they are not very Christ-like." What Does the Boston Movement Teach, pg. 59-63. by Jerry Jones)
This is not what the Bible presents. God has greater standards for His leaders. A leader cannot ignore these standards and still qualify for his role over the church. The only true authority a leader has is the Scripture. If they are not conforming to Scripture, they then lose their authority.
When confronted with how this movement operates, you will mostly hear the members state, "We are not like that." Conduct may vary from state to state, sector to sector, and leader to leader. Most often the disciples are so ingrained with their movement's teachings and practices, that they don't recognize how they're really being treated
Here on Oahu, they apparently are operating at a lower level of intensity compared to L.A., San Diego, and New York. Yet the stories are still there about the abuses from those who were able to leave on their volition, or because something occurred which opened their eyes. The subtle manipulation that occurs can certainly be hard to spot when you're on the treadmill of discipling. Until one steps off and has time to slow down, looking at things from non- participant view, it's usually unnoticeable. If no big mistakes are made by a disciple, they will never know the authoritarian side of this movement.
Articles are taken from the spiral bound book International Church of Christ Birth of a Cult. (click> on books)