(Originally printed in the May/June 1996 Issue of the MCOI Journal)
THE BIRTH OF A NATION
The year is 1773. The town is Boston. There is a great amount of unrest due to tensions with England. In the 1760’s, the English Parliament enacted the Sugar and Stamp Acts, which were punitive in nature. In 1770, six colonists were shot by British soldiers and violence erupted. This became known as the “Boston Massacre of 1770.”
This year (1773), the residents decided that they would take a stand. Their way of protest was what is called the “Boston Tea Party.” This stand for freedom would forever change the face of this continent. Freedom, it was believed, was every man’s right. The result was a war between the American colonies and England tor that freedom. Taxation without representation would no longer be tolerated.
The Revolutionary War, which was “Birthed in Boston,” was fought by freedom-loving, independent-thinking individuals. There are many examples which bear this out: but one which nearly everyone is familiar with is that of a prominent 39-year-old lawyer from Virginia named Patrick Henry. Patrick Henry was a member of the Revolutionary Convention since 1774 and was pressing the Convention in 1775 to adopt a resolution which would establish a state of defense in Virginia. He took a clear stand on the importance of this issue with the now famous words, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a document which proclaimed the independence of the 13 British colonies in America. It is called the Declaration of Independence. There are portions which we will look at as we think about the Boston Church of Christ, now known as the International Churches of Christ. The Declaration of Independence begins with:
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” We have enjoyed these liberties for over 200 years in this country. Rights which the Founding Fathers believed were given by God the Creator and are “self-evident.”
The Congress listed a number of grievances against the King of England which they believed were a usurpation of their God-given rights and responsibilities. In the final paragraph, they called on God to confirm the integrity of their attitudes and actions:
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,…”
THE BIRTH OF A CHURCH
The second “Birth in Boston”, is the birth of a church. The church which was born is the Boston Church of Christ. It is now the International Churches of Christ. This group is known by many names, such as the Chicago Church of Christ, the Los Angeles Church of Christ, etc. They believe that the Biblical mandate is to call the church after the name of the city in which it is located and that it is the only true church. Gordon Ferguson, who served as the evangelist in the San Diego Church of Christ, wrote:
“The concept of ‘church plantings.’ with one church per city is obviously in line with biblical examples. There is simply no biblical example of anything else. Further, if Paul appointed leaders in every church (Acts 14:23) and later instructed Titus to appoint elders in every city (Titus 1:5), the conclusion is obvious. The real problem today is that many ‘churches of Christ’ are often found in a given city. ” (Boston Bulletin, May 15. 1988).
The proposed solution is to plant a church in each city or “reconstruct” an existing church which is willing to repent and become “true disciples” by affiliating with Boston. Gordon Ferguson continued:
“The urgency which prompts these conclusions is the same urgency which prompts ‘church reconstructions. ‘ It takes a solid base of disciples to make disciples, because any living organism reproduces after its own kind. When a congregation is not living up to the standard of biblical discipleship, it must he called to repentance. That process has been termed ‘reconstruction’ because the standard of biblical discipleship must be re-established. Obviously, only congregations which want to be true disciples (emphasis added) are open to this process because no person or group can he forced to repent.” (Boston Bulletin. May IS, 1988).
As with the birth of the Revolutionary War and the Nation, there was a conception first. The Revolutionary War and Declaration of Independence were conceived through the tyranny of the British crown. The Boston Church of Christ was conceived out of the anarchy of the rebellious 1960’s. The late 1960’s and early 1970’s was a time of rebellion against authority and “the establishment.” Many of the young people became involved in the “hippie” movement. They felt that society was too confining and the churches irrelevant and dead. The call to “drop out and turn on” was very enticing.
Out of this grew a new kind of evangelism and church. Individuals, such as Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, began reaching the ‘hippies” on the beach. As hippies came to Jesus Christ, we saw the “Jesus People” movement begin… a radical new kind of Christianity. Groups of Jesus People roamed the country in buses painted with Jesus slogans and participating in communal living. Crew cuts and suits were out! Long hair and sandals were the uniforms of the day. Worship services were not accompanied by an organ and choir but guitar and tambourine.
There seemed to be no accountability, no structure to the life of these “radical” believers. A number of books came out in response to the undirected and undisciplined life style of those times. They were calling for discipleship, shepherding, and radical commitment not only to Jesus Christ but, in some cases, complete dependence on the group leaders or pastors and shepherds. I, like others, read many of these works and was impressed with the need for true discipleship and accountability. In some cases, the principles in the works were valid, but the cultural differences didn’t translate well into American life and society.
During this time, a young man by the name of Kip McKean was a student at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Kip met the pastor of Crossroads Church of Christ, Chuck Lucas, who was developing a college campus program called “Campus Advance.” Chuck recruited Kip and began “discipling” him. One of the primary books which Lucas used was Robert Coleman’s, The Master Plan of Evangelism. Lucas took a radical view of this work believing that Robert Coleman was teaching that Jesus controlled the lives of His disciples and taught them to control the lives of their disciples. This being the case, Chuck Lucas believed that this is the way people should be brought to Christ today.
Kip McKean was sent to the Heritage Chapel Church of Christ in Charleston, Illinois in 1976 to be near and begin a campus ministry at the Eastern Illinois University. Kip was successful in developing this ministry, but there began to be turmoil within the church as members became concerned about the methods being used. There were charges of manipulation and control in the discipleship process. There were a number of Churches of Christ who had Chuck Lucas trainees who were having the same conflicts. In several cases, there were congregational splits over the issue.
Against this backdrop or “conception,” we come to the year 1979. Kip McKean came to the small, 30-member Lexington Church of Christ. Here he established and refined the aggressive evangelism and discipleship process which had worked so well in campus ministry. A little over 200 years after the “Boston Tea Party” there was a birth of another kind. A church called the “Boston Church of Christ” was born. Within just a few years, the church grew to 1,000 members and, having outgrown their facilities, began meeting in the Boston Opera House. This church systematically took and continues to take away the very rights for which the Bostonians took a stand 206 years earlier. The rights which are “self-evident,” “endowed by their Creator,” and “unalienable.” The right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
They take away the “right to Life,” particularly eternal life. The Boston Church of Christ writes about the “Lethal Lies” which Satan tells:
” He propagates false, doctrine like ‘praying Jesus into your heart’ and convinces many ‘good religious people’ to believe that saves them. Yet what is God’s criteria for salvation as described in the Bible? Too few churches call people to make the decision to be disciples a! baptism (Matthew 28:19), Jesus says if you have not done this, your baptism is invalid Many people even in the ‘church oj Christ’ are deceived. Only baptized disciples will be witling to go anywhere, do anything, and give up everything for the cause of winning the world for a few of the lies Satan spreads about the critical area of salvation, “ (Elena McKean Boston Bulletin, Dec. 20. 1987).
The Boston Church of Christ, like mainline churches of Christ, do not consider anyone outside of “the Restoration Movement” to be Christians and, therefore, do not really mention other groups as “good religious people.” At one time, Boston believed that the mainline churches were Christian but have subsequently “realized” that they are just deceived.
“Early on I developed a series consisting of nine Bible studies on the ‘first principles’ (Hebrews 6:1-3). The members of the church were called to memorize these studies and then teach others to become Christians The most impacting was called ‘Discipleship’ where, from my study of Scripture, I taught what was clear in Acts 11-26: SAVED CHRISTIAN=D!SCIPLE, simply meaning that you cannot be saved and you cannot be a true Christian without being a disciple also. I purposely developed this study to draw a sharp biblical distinction between the Lexington (later renamed Boston) Church of Christ and all other groups. I taught that to be baptized, you must first make a decision to be a disciple and then be baptized. I saw people in and outside of our fellowship had been baptized without this understanding and then, in time, developed a disciple’s commitment to make Jesus Lord of their entire life. I taught that their baptism was invalid because a retroactive understanding of repentance and baptism was not consistent with Scripture” (Kip McKean, “Revolution Through Restoration,” Upside Down. April 1992).
According to their teaching, one cannot become a Christian unless they do so through the ministry of the Boston Church of Christ. Anything else is believing Satan’s lies.
The Boston movement eliminates the right to “Liberty.” There is no liberty allowed since their concept is total obedience to the leaders of the movement. Ed Townsend, while assisting as a leader in the San Francisco Church of Christ, wrote:
“Do you fully obey when you’re given direction and instruction or do you interpret, filter, or revise what you hear? If we are really going to learn from others, we must decide to fully obey.” (Ed Townsend, “Because You Say So, ” Boston Bulletin August 17, 1986).
Theresa Baird, the wife of one of the Boston elders wrote regarding the discipler:
“Ultimately, if we do not trust these people, we do not trust God. To the extent that I trust my discipler, Gloria Baird, I am in reality trusting God.” (Theresa Baird, “Forever Growing, “Boston Bulletin. October 22. 1989).
Terry Moore who, at the time this article appeared in the Boston Bulletin, was in the group for 6-1/2 years wrote:
“We hold back our affection and loyalty, maintaining an independence that kills the learning spirit that we are to have in our quest to become like Jesus” (Terry Moore, “Trust Me! The Key To being Discipled – Part I,” Boston Bulletin. July 16, 1989).
Kip McKean, at the 1988 Leadership Retreat, stated:
“…the whole point of being a disciple is that they don’t know what is best for them. But their discipler knows what is best for them.”
Daniel Eng was with the Boston Church of Christ from November 1984 until June 1991. He helped plant churches in Singapore, Jakarta, and Bombay. On February 4, 1993, he issued an open letter explaining why he left and enumerated the main reasons, four of which bear on this subject:
“1. One-over-one discipling which they believe and practice, giving the ‘discipler’ the authority to manipulate and control every aspect of the lives of the members including marriage, dating, sex, finances, school, career, future, friends, family, etc.
2. Unquestioned obedience and loyalty to human leaders in the Boston Movement where there is no room for disagreements, criticisms nor different opinions of any sort. To disagree or to differ with their leader or discipler is considered ‘prideful, arrogant, insubmissive, stubborn, independent, rebellious, disloyal and having a bad heart.’
6. Legalistic understanding of the Christian life which is opposed to a correct understanding of gospel and grace.
7. Mind-control methods being practiced to manipulate and control every member in their churches.”
Kip McKean, in an effort to stop anyone from exercising independent thought (liberty?) and checking out what the church was teaching with outside sources, labeled material which spoke out against Boston as “spiritual pornography” in his sermon at the Boston seminar on August 25, 1989.
For those in the Boston Movement, the “Pursuit of Happiness” is not allowed unless it is through their “discipleship.” According to the dogma, happiness only comes as a result of performance and the only performance worthwhile is what the discipler allows. Jobs, education, dating. marriage, where to live, entertainment all must be approved by the discipler. To question the discipler is to question God. Who wants to question God? The only worthwhile pursuits are promoting the agenda of the Boston Church of Christ.
Next issue: Salvation Boston Style.
L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr. is president Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc.