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(Originally printed in the Winter 2004 Issue of the MCOI Journal beginning on page 8 )


The International Churches of Christ, popularly known as the Boston Movement, has been one of America’s fastest growing religious groups for two decades. Leader Kip McKean’s version of discipleship provides the structure for the movement at every level and spreads a simple heresy to hundreds of thousands of people. Boston Discipleship is an extra-biblical practice that has brought psychological pain to a multitude. It initially appeals to new or discontented believers and then becomes a means of controlling them. Evangelical churches and ministries are encouraged to avoid similar pitfalls.

The Background of the International Churches of Christ

The Boston Movement is a shooting star in the sky of American cult Christianity. It boasts church plants in 170 nations over the last 23 years.1McKean, K. (2002). Kip McKean Resignation Letter It is, however not shining as brightly as it once did. By God’s grace, it may soon burn out.

The 14th Street Church of Christ of Gainesville initiated the ministry at the University of Florida in 1967. The founder, Chuck Lucas, placed a strong emphasis on aggressive evangelism.2Paden, R. R. (1994). From the Churches of Christ to the Boston Movement: A Comparative Study He had previously worked with another Church of Christ outreach named Campus Evangelism. Flavil Yeakley states:

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, it seemed that what was working in campus ministry was an authoritarian approach. The scene on secular university campuses was one of anarchy, rebellion, lawlessness, and rejection of all authority. What seemed to be the answer was to face the times with frontal attacks using crusades, blitzes, and militancy. This kind of environment led Campus Evangelism and its successor, Campus Advance, to adopt an aggressive “total commitment” stance.3Yeakley, F. R (1988) The Discipling Dilemma Nashvile. TN Gospel Advocate Company

Yeakley cites five movements that influenced Lucas’s method of discipleship. They include Roman Catholic Spiritual Directors, Pietism and Wesleyanism, Watchman Nee, the charismatic Shepherding Movement, and parachurch organizations.4Yeakley, F. R (1988) The Discipling Dilemma Nashvile. TN Gospel Advocate Company He states:

Because of abuses, the Roman Catholic Church built in a safeguard in their Spiritual Director arrangement. They found that personal domination and manipulation can easily run out of control when one person is both the confessor and the Spiritual Director. They began to require, therefore, that the confessor and the Spiritual Director could not be the same person. In this regard, the modern discipling movement is about where the Roman Catholic Church was almost 1,500 years ago.5Yeakley, F. R (1988) The Discipling Dilemma Nashvile, TN Gospel Advocate Company

Lucas picked up Watchman Nee’s emphasis on delegated authority and, interestingly, Nee’s teaching that there should only be one church in each city.6McKean, K. (1992) Revolution Through Restoration 2003 The author states, “We always renamed the church after the metropolitan (city) area in which the church was located. First of all, we did this to be biblical…” The Boston Movement usually takes the name of the city when they establish a new church such as, “The Austin International Church of Christ.” The charismatic Shepherding Movement was centered in Ft. Lauderdale. Juan Carlos Ortez, a speaker for the movement, held views similar to Watchman Nee. The parachurch ministries to which Yeakley refers are the Navigators. Maranatha Ministries, and Campus Crusade for Christ.7McKean, K. (1992) Revolution Through Restoration 2003 Maranatha was headquartered in Gainesville, Florida at the time,8Paden, RR (1994) From the Churches of Christ to the Boston Movement: A Comparative Study and one of Campus Evangelism’s leaders, Jim Bevis, trained with Campus Crusade.9Yeakley, F. R (1988) The Discipling Dilemma Nashville, TN. Gospel Advocate Company In an article that traces the history of the movement Kip McKean states:

The Churches of Christ … initially modeled their efforts after Campus Crusade and called this program “Campus Advance.” A section entitled “Who We Are” on their web site states, “As disciples of Christ, our lives are committed to bringing his church to every nation within this generation.”10UpCyberDown The Online Community of the International Churches of Christ

Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism was also very influential.”11REVEAL, An Organization of Former Members of the International Churches of Christ

Lucas’s discipleship included a deep personal interaction that complemented the cold, extreme fundamentalism of the Church of Christ.12REVEAL, An Organization of Former Members of the International Churches of Christ Legalism flourished; and an authoritarian hierarchy took shape.

One of the students, Chuck Lucas, discipled at the University of Florida, was Kip McKean. Upon his graduation in 1975, McKean took a job as a campus minister for a college near Philadelphia and then moved to begin a campus ministry at Eastern Illinois University.13Zukeran. P.Y. 1996) A Critique of the International Church of Christ Dallas, TX, Dallas Theological Seminary In three years, his ministry grew to three hundred students,14McKean. K. (1992) Revolution Through Restoration and his attitude toward churches in his denomination soured. He states:

The spiritual condition of most of the Churches of Christ ranged from lukewarm to disgusting.15McKean. K. (1992) Revolution Through Restoration

Similar movements from the church in Gainesville and many patterned after them grew exponentially and came to be known as ‘the Crossroads Movement.” Relationships between established Churches of Christ and the movement worsened A number of churches split. In 1977, Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Houston. Texas withdrew financial support from McKean. stating:

We believe that Brother McKean has brought unbiblical practice, peculiar language, and subtle, deceitful doctrines to Charleston from the Crossroads church at Gainesville, Florida.16Burkhart. D (1977). Letter to Wayne Geiling of Heritage Chapel Church of Christ from Memorial Church of Christ

In 1979, McKean left the campus ministry in Illinois and took a small church near Boston. He required the 30 members of Lexington Church of Christ to vow total commitment17McKean, K. (1992) Revolution Through Restoration and began teaching them his “First Principles” Bible studies. He required them to memorize these nine studies so that they might teach others “to become Christians.”18McKean, K. (1992) Revolution Through Restoration They began to proselytize students in Boston-area colleges and the church grew to 300 members in two years and began planting other churches. They established churches in New York in 1981 and Chicago and London in 1982.

In 1985, Crossroads fired Chuck Lucas. Brian Ritt states:

I was serving on the ministry staff that assisted in covering up the real reason for his termination-sexual perversion and homosexual activity with younger men in his ministry. Irrefutable evidence was presented to the elders of the Crossroads Church clearly depicting a pattern of sexual liberties taken by Lucas over an extended period of time. 19Ritt, B. (2003). History Repeats Itself: The Rise and Fall of Kip McKean & Chuck Lucas

In Lucas’s absence, McKean became the unquestioned leader of the movement, and he began a move that would later be termed “The Great Reconstruction.” He states:

In late 1986, because so many leaders from so many different elements of the Church of Christ had moved to Boston or our plantings, we decided to call to repentance all types of mainline and all types of campus ministry churches who were willing to pay the price to multiply disciples. First, we would ask the interested church’s lead minister to move to Boston to be discipled and further trained. We replaced them with a Boston-trained evangelist to serve the church.20McKean, K. (1992) Revolution Through Restoration

Most of the Crossroad churches capitulated.21REVEAL, An Organization of Former Members of the International Churches of Christ New leadership was moved in, and many autonomous Church of Christ churches became part of the hierarchy of the Boston Movement overnight. McKean also asked all “true disciples” to move to his churches. He states:

Thus, we purposefully set about to glean the remnant into what now was clearly a new, modern day movement of God.

It was around this time that McKean began to teach a new soteriology as well, and thousands of people-including some of the top leadership of the movement-were rebaptized.

McKean moved the headquarters of the movement to Los Angeles in 1990.22McKean, K. (1992) Revolution Through Restoration By 1993 the Boston Movement claimed a membership numbering 45,000 in 139 congregations among 55 different nations.23Paden, R R. (1994). From the Churches of Christ to the Boston Movement: A Comparative Study The New York church had grown to 4000, the Chicago church to 2500, and the London plant to 1500. Boston was up to 5000, and they were meeting in Boston Garden.

As of January 2002, the membership was approximately 134,259. Sunday attendance was 192,169 in 430 churches among 170 nations.24Upcyberdown, (Accessed)

On Wednesday November 6, 2002, Kip McKean abruptly announced his retirement The next day the elders of the movement released a letter stating:

Unfortunately, there have been sins in Kip’s leadership that over time have seriously compromised his ability to continue to lead in his present role.25Gempel, A. B. a. B. (2002) Elder’s response to McKean Resignation

In early February 2003. the leader of the London church, Henry Kriete, sent a 22,000-word letter to the leadership of the movement calling for public repentance from abusive practices and for an autonomous structure for the organization.26Kriete. H. (2003) Honest to God

It is currently unclear whether an individual or council will rise to take McKean’s place. Regardless, the movement is still characterized by his soteriology. Further, ex-member Keith Stump states:

As long as the ICC maintains its interpretation of discipling, leadership and submission, the abuse and domination over the common member will remain. It is at the individual level where most of the damage is done…Discipling is inherently harmful because it robs people of the hallmark of adulthood – the ability to make choices and live with the consequences.27Stump. K. (2003) Humpty Dumpty Had a Great Fall: Reflections on Changes in the ICC

 An Unbiblical Authority Structure

Kip McKean mandated that everyone in the Boston Movement be discipled by a superior. Until retiring recently, he was at the top of the pyramid. Submission to extra-biblical authority was encouraged, and the questioning of authority was strongly discouraged. A feeling of spiritual elitism is common among those who stay in the movement. 

Delegated Authority

Discipleship in the Boston Movement is authority delegated from the top down; and it is mandatory. A Boston Church of Christ Bulletin from 1987 states:

In Boston, we elders delegate authority to zone leaders, house church leaders and Bible talk leaders in limited ways. This limited authority enables them to hold those under their charge accountable for working and growing in the Lord Jesus.28Baird. A (1987). Authority and Submission: The Boston Church of Christ Bulletin

At a conference in 1988, Kip McKean taught:

We need to make it abundantly clear it that every brother in the congregation needs to have a discipleship partner. To not have a discipleship partner is to be rebellious to God and to the leadership of this congregation.29Jones. J (1990) What Does the Boston Movement Teach? Bridgeton, MO Mid-Amenca Book

Scott Green’s teaching at the same conference reveals a distorted theological premise:

We see that Jesus himself was discipled by His Father. Why was that important? Because discipleship is an eternal spiritual plan. It is not an invention of the Boston church… I have been in the church of Christ all my life. I have never seen anything like what is being done in this movement and it is because we are restoring an eternal plan. Amen! An eternal plan. Jesus himself was discipled by the Father.30Jones. J (1990) What Does the Boston Movement Teach? Bridgeton, MO Mid-Amenca Book

 Unbiblical Leadership

Boston Movement discipleship is characteristic of the authoritarian practice popularized by Watchman Nee and the charismatic Shepherding Movement in 1960s.31Yeakley, F. R. (1988) The Discipling Dilemma Nashville, TN, Gospel Advocate Company It is authority that extends beyond Scripture. McKean recounts:

I came to differ with the Churches of Christ whose creed is “to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” This creed dictated that one must have specific authorization by command, example or necessary inference from the Bible to do anything…From the Scriptures I came to believe the opposite. I believe that we should be silent where the Bible speaks and speak where the Bible is silent… In building a life, a church or a “system” for a movement, we are “free” to do anything the Scriptures do not specifically, by command, by example or by necessary inference prohibit (Colossians 2:6-23).32McKean. K. (1992). Revolution Through Restoration

Submission to the movement is stressed right alongside sub-mission to Christ. Consider these statements from the Boston Church of Christ Bulletin:

Open Up To God. It is easy to trust God when you agree with his will. It is easy to submit to your discipler’s advice when it is what you would have done anyway. However, the true test of our trust and submission comes when we are called upon to trust and obey a decision contrary to what we would normally do or think.33Porter. B. (1989) Loving Your Family Part I: The Boston Church of Christ Bulletin

Often we rely on our own ideas and perceptions instead of listening to those who are discipling us. Peter let down the nets not knowing what would happen because he trusted his teacher. Do you trust those discipling you? Do you trust beyond the point of your own understanding?34Townsend. E. (1986). Because You Say So. Boston Church of Christ bulletin

Often we are afraid to submit to authority, because it might be abusive. Jesus was not afraid of abusive authority; he was even willing to submit and obey authority that was abusive… Jesus was willing to submit to the ultimate abusive authority, because God can work through it as well. When we trust God, we do not have to be afraid to submit to abusive authority.35Garmon, J. (1988). The Attitude of Christ Jesus Part III: Jesus The Trusting Son. The Boston Church of Christ Bulletin

Charges of abuse led McKean to offer a retraction in 1992. He stated:

I was wrong in some of my initial thoughts about biblical authority. I had felt that church leaders could call people to obey and follow in all areas of opinion. That was incorrect.36Bjomstad, J. (1993). At What Price Success?: The Boston (Church of Christ) Movement

Extra-biblical authority, however, is still widely and repeatedly expressed in such areas as mandated times and methods of dating for singles,37Enroth, R. (1992). Churches That Abuse Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House of giving,38Kriete, H. (2003). Honest to God and, especially, of evangelism.[39.Ibid.] In his recent letter to the headship of the movement, Henry Kriete states:

Perhaps more than all else, our discipleship hierarchy with all its ‘little leaders’ has caused more damage, heartache, and criticism than any other thing. Among the tens of thousands of untrained and ‘unspiritual’ disciples, advice has become permission, opinions have become orders, and the dignity and ‘right’ of our God-given freedom has been denied.39Ibid.

Jerry Jones earned a doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1974 and began serving as Chairman of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Harding University in Memphis, TN. He joined the Boston Movement in 1984 and rapidly advanced to the role of elder but then left in 1986. citing a number of doctrinal and ethical issues. He states:

When the Boston Movement is confronted with their wrong teachings, its practice is to attack the character and life of the questioner …40Jones, J. (1990). What Does the Boston Movement Teach Bridgeton, MO, Mid-America Book

Rick Bauer was a leader in the movement for 15 years. In his own words:

I had witnessed the spectre of someone walking into a meeting, presumably a personal meeting with a leader, and being confronted by eight or more leaders, all of whom are united in making the individual’s character or previously-confessed sin, regardless of how little it may have to bear on the problem, become the issue.41Bauer, R. (1992). Responding to the Boston Movement / International Churches of Christ.

Bauer himself was “marked” by the movement for bringing up doctrinal questions. Poor reactions to questions are not reserved for the upper levels of the movement, though. They are a means commonly employed to keep things under control.

In 1993 and 1994, several television reporters questioned two prominent leaders in the movement when news surfaced that the organization kept “sin lists” and practiced “breaking sessions.”42Frame, R. (1997). The Cost of Discipleship? Christianity Today. 41:64-66 In one interview, John Stossell said:

But we hear stories about people being broken by confrontational interviews; their secrets thrown at them until they break. Doesn’t happen?

Al Baird did not deny the accusation. He replied:

I would never say something never happens. And when you’re dealing with 70,000 people, it’d be naive to say nothing never happens.

Stossell continued:

It’s not common practice to break people?

Baird evaded his question, stating:

But I can tell you it is not what the leadership approves of in doing anything that Jesus wouldn’t do.4320/20 (1993). Report on the International Churches of Christ.

A multitude of former followers testify to the reality of “breaking sessions.”44A number of ex-members have posted their stories on the Internet. See: Athena Higgins, The Writing on the Wall:The Memoir of Athena Carreiro Higgins, a Former Disciple in the International Churches of Christ from 1988-1998 (Article Online Accessed April 15 2003); available from: Debbie Campbell, The Nashville Experience: Debbie Campbell’s Story (Article Online  Accessed April 15 2003); available from

Tim Neely, It Was Five Years Ago Today (Article Online Accessed April 15 2003); available from:

McKean’s mandatory Bible studies require new initiates to confess every sin they have ever committed. Disciplers are trained to probe. Those confessions are catalogued, and later they may be used to force people into submission. This abusive practice seeks to make people obey requirements by lowering their self-esteem. It contrasts sharply with Paul s admonishment of the Corinthian church. He motivated his audience by speaking of the transformation they experienced when they trusted Christ.45See 1Cor 6:9-11 and 2Cor 5:16-17, NIV He distinguished them from wicked, ungodly people, stating, “And that is what some of you were.” He taught, “… if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!Jesus stated. You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.46Matt 20:25-26 

Spiritual Elitism

To join the Boston movement, one must go through an intensely emotional process and arrive at the conclusion that the Boston Movement is the only true church. Spiritual elitism is a natural result of the experience. Members and leaders in the organization regularly compare  themselves with “denominational” churches. At a conference in 1995. McKean stated:

When you preach who is really saved: that you gotta have faith, you gotta repent, you gotta become a true disciple of Jesus, and then you gotta be water immersed for the forgiveness of sins received through the Holy Spirit, that excludes all other denominations… everybody else that’s out there.47Ruhland, J. (1996) Witnessing to Disciples of the International Churches of Christ (a.k.a. the Boston Movement)

Members of the movement refer to it as “God’s Modern Day Movement,” “God’s One True Church,” and “the Kingdom.” They claim to be “defining Christianity for this generation.”48Kriete, H. (2003). Honest to God McKean further states:

I believe with all my heart that the Boston Movement is God’s modern-day movement. For the past several years, through love, prayer, Bible study and intense conversations, we have tried to pull into God’s movement the remnant of all those who are surrendered to the Scriptures and who believe God’s dream is to evangelize the world in one generation. We will continue to seek other isolated disciples who may be members in false churches.

More Concerns with Boston Discipleship

Even member of the Boston Movement is trained to lead others through Kip McKean’s “First Principles” Bible studies. These studies define the movement. The second study is a lesson on discipleship The term “disciple” is said to be synonymous with “Christian.” The diagram “Disciple = Christian = Saved” is almost always used McKean composed this equation to convince people from other denominational backgrounds that they are not true Christians.49McKean, K. (1994). Revolution Through Restoration II. Next, the lesson caches that one becomes a disciple by forsaking all to follow Christ, denying self, being discipled. praying daily, and proselytizing others Finally, it is revealed that those who do not fit the criteria are not eligible for baptism and, therefore, are not true Christians. More studies follow and continue to build on this concept.

Joanne Ruhland lists nine general prerequisites before an initiate may be considered eligible for baptism She states:

The prospective convert must complete some or all of a series of studies with one or more ICC members, agree to attend all services, promise to read the Bible daily, begin recruiting others, agree to obey the church leaders, and give tithes weekly. Also, the individual must list all the sins he or she has ever committed, confess these sins to one or more members, and be ‘cut to the heart’ by the severity of Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for our sins.50Ruhland, J. (1996). Witnessing to Disciples of the International Churches of Christ (a.k.a. the Boston Movement).

One Boston missionary’s words are insightful:

Every single member of every congregation must be committed to making disciples. If any are not, then they are not disciples themselves. And if they are not disciples themselves, then they will not be going to heaven.[52.Paden, R. R. (1994). From the Churches of Christ to the Boston Movement: A Comparative Study.]


The Boston Movement has never taught a correct soteriology. Chuck Lucas’ Campus Advance and the subsequent Crossroads ministries all held to baptismal regeneration. That is why the movement was shocked when two of its highest leaders, Roger Lamb and Al Baird, were rebaptized in 1987. Though he has never admitted to a change in his teaching regarding the requirements of salvation, that is the point to which McKean s twist on Church of Christ theology can be dated. McKean’s words at a women’s retreat in 1987 are insightful:

In Matthew 28:19 when Jesus appeared to the eleven on the Mount before he ascended, he said, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them (there they are) baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey my Father’s commands.’ I really believe, sisters, we need to get it straight who is a candidate for baptism. It is the individual who is a disciple. You say, ‘Well, now, brother, that’s not been taught through the years so often in the Church of Christ.’ What does the book say? You say, ‘Well, now, brother, we didn’t even use that terminology back in the early days at Crossroads.’ What does the book say? …You’ve got to understand that we are in a process of restoration. The Holy Spirit is working and it is not that new truths are being revealed, but the old truths are becoming clearer. A lot of people in the Church of Christ say, ‘Well, we can’t get along with you folks because your methodology is different.’ That’s the word. Listen. I am seeing there is a lot more than methodology that is different. There has become an innate doctrinal difference, but they don’t recognize it because it looks like a methodology. I think not. It is a scriptural imperative. If it is a scriptural imperative, then it is not a humanistic methodology; it is a command that we must obey. Then, the Bible says that after they are baptized (and you only baptize disciples), then you are to teach them to obey everything the Lord has commanded… You must respond to Jesus with the commitment of a disciple and then and only then can you be baptized to be saved.51Jones, J. (1990). What Does the Boston Movement Teach? Bridgeton, MO, Mid-America Book.

Kip McKean placed a heavy emphasis on his own technical definition of discipleship and then combined it with an errant interpretation of Matthew 28:19 to form a new soteriology. Following the order of words in the English translation, he decided that the command to make disciples must be accomplished before a command to baptize could be administered. Discipleship, as he understood it, became the criteria for baptism. The grammar of the sentence, however, does not allow for such an interpretation. The three participles- Πορευθέντες* (Gr.: poreuthentes, Eng.: go). βαπτισθέντες (Gr.: baptizontes, Eng.: baptizing), and διδάσκοντες (Gr.: didaskontes, Eng.: teaching)-all modify the verb μαθητεύσατε (Gr.: mathÄ“teusate, Eng.: make disciples). One participle- Πορευθέντες (Gr: poreuthentes, Eng.: go)-may be taken as a command, because it is an aorist participle functioning in attendant circumstance with the aorist verb. But the other two participles- βαπτισθέντες (Gr: baptizontes, Eng.: baptizing) and διδάσκοντες (Gr.: didaskontes, Eng.: teaching)-are present tense; and they come after the verb, not before. They cannot function as commands. They may best be understood as participles of means. 52Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, (Grand Rapids, Ml: Zondervan, 1996), 645. In other words, the terms translated “baptizing” and “teaching” probably tell us how to “make disciples.” There is no way they can legitimately be interpreted as separate commands following “make disciples.” This is a simple mistake that easily could have been corrected, but questioning of leadership in the Boston Movement is not permitted. McKean’s new soteriology permeated the ministry at every level.

Another leader of the movement expressed it this way when speaking of his past experience as a student at Abilene Christian University:

My professors, I was impressed for awhile with the teaching, you know, learning Greek and all that stuff. I felt sort of vulnerable there. I didn’t understand because of all the people at least I came in contact with there was only one teacher that I knew who was out there knocking doors and getting in Bible studies and trying to lead the lost there to Jesus. I didn’t understand that. That confused me. Do you understand? That was confusing. I am not confused anymore. It all makes sense. They were not disciples! They were not Christians! They were not saved according to the Bible. You know, I don’t really look down on those people. I don’t believe they were even instructed right.53Jones, J. (1990) What Does the Boston Movement Teach Bridgeton, MO, Mid-America Book

Gordon Ferguson stated:

For years I have been puzzled by ‘Christians’ who were resistant to sharing their faith and to doing other things taught in the New Testament. I am no longer puzzled…And my personal conviction is that many of those in ‘churches of Christ’ have never biblically repented, have never become disciples, and are thus not Christians.54Ibid.

Leaders like Ferguson. Baird, and Lamb forged the path, and thousands of people were baptized for the second time in 1988. Even that baptism, though, is less than enough. McKean states:

Certainly to leave the family of God, the true church, is to leave God.55McKean, K. (1994) Revolution Through Restoration II

Al Baird taught:

If you walk away from the church, you’re leaving Jesus, and you absolutely lose your salvation.56Frame, R (1997). The Cost of Discipleship? Christianity Today 41: 64-66.

This is a radical departure from the biblical concept of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 describes salvation as a gift graciously given by God, not earned by a ceremony or lost by the efforts of men or women. Further, the Holy Spirit Himself guarantees die eternal salvation of all those who believe in Christ.[59.Eph 1:13-14; 2Cor 1:22.]


The Boston Movement ‘s authoritarian structure is particularly offensive to the strictly autonomous Church of Christ. McKean appointed nine World Sector Leaders in 1988. Most of the World Sector Leaders also served as the pastor of a “Pillar Church” that supervises smaller churches. Each congregation is broken down further into sectors or quadrants. Those sectors arc divided into zones. Zone leaders are accountable to the Sector or Quadrant Leader. A number of Bible Talk Leaders are accountable to each Zone Leader The Bible Talk Leader oversees the disciples in his or her group and regularly drives them to find disciples of their own.57Paden, R. R. (1994). From the Churches of Christ to the Boston Movement: A Comparative Study. There is no peer accountability. Everyone is directly accountable to a superior.

In his letter demanding change for the organization since McKean’s retirement, Henry Kriete states:

It is almost a truism that each new evangelist that takes over a ministry will prune and purge. Why does this happen, really? We all know. It is the need to look good from ‘your’ new beginning, or not to be blamed for ‘their’ weak ministry in the future… The deeper we go with these questions, the more obvious our systemic evils become.58Kriete, H. (2003). Honest to God.

He is referring to a practice of cutting off members who do not recruit new members fast enough. Later in his letter he states:

Look at us. In just over 20 years, we have gone from ‘the happy few’ to a full-blown denomination. And even more so, to a corrupted hierarchy with more personal control mechanisms than the modern Catholic Church, and with more bravado than the Pharisees themselves.59Ibid.

Yeakley observes:

Critics state that hierarchical delegated shepherding gives too many pastoral functions to young people at the bottom of the pyramid who are not qualified to be pastors.60Yeakley, F. R. (1988) The Discipling Dilemma. Nashville. TN. Gospel Advocate Company

It also lets high leaders command the beliefs and actions of multitudes and allows for no checks and balances, insuring that simple problems are repeated thousands of times. 

Psychiatric Concerns

The movement hired Flavil Yeakley, director of the Church Growth Institute at Abilene Christian University, to document their growth in 1985. They granted Yeakley access to every level of the movement. He interviewed 100 new converts and had 900 members fill out personality assessment tools from three perspectives.61Yeakley, (accessed). For information regarding the personality test see: CAPT: The MBTI Instrument (Web Page accessed 07/31 A)3); available from The website states, “The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator* (MBTI*) instrument, now taken by at least two million people each year-and translated into sixteen languages – was developed over a period of more than forty years, progressing from Isabel Myers’ dining room to a cottage industry, to the prestigious Educational Testing Service, and to its current publisher, CPP, Inc.” He applied the same test to 300 members of the mainline Church of Christ and to 30 members each of Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches. He also tested 30 members each of six well-known manipulative sects including the Church of Scientology, the Hari Krishnas, Maranatha, the Children of God, the Unification Church, and the Way.

Yeakley’s tests did not indicate any significant personality changes for the mainline Churches of Christ or the other denominations. Results of the six cults, however, showed a high level of change and demonstrated a clear pattern of change toward one particular personality type.62Ibid. Much to his surprise, the results of the Boston study followed the exact same pattern. Changes were observed that converged on the same personality type in the same way. “What all of this means,” proposed Yeakley: 

.. .is that the Boston Church of Christ is producing in its members the very same pattern of unhealthy personality change that is observed in studies of well-known manipulative sects.”[66.Yeakley. F. R. (1988). The Discipling Dilemma Nashville, TN, Gospel Advocate Company.]

The Boston Church offered two responses in 1985. First they argued that their members simply were taking on Jesus’ personality. Later, they argued that their test scores were indicative of a high number of radical conversions. Yeakley agreed to re-analyze the data and to do more testing. He concluded:

Results of the various follow-up studies show that the alternative explanations offered by leaders of the Boston Church of Christ and others should not be accepted. These changes cannot be explained by arguing that Jesus was an ESFJ. They cannot be explained as exaggerations caused by the effects of radical conversion from non-Christian backgrounds… There is something in the discipling methodology producing this unhealthy pattern. Whatever it is, it should be changed.63Yeakley. F. R. (1988). The Discipling Dilemma Nashville, TN, Gospel Advocate Company.

In the wake of the Boston Movement’s nearly 200,000 committed followers lays a larger group. At a leader ‘s conference in 1994, Al Baird stated:

Brothers and sisters, we are far beyond the problem stage, we are in the crisis stage. How many of you look at the kingdom stats every month? Some of you are liars. We can’t wait to see where we stack up on the kingdom stats. You look at 1994: there were 30,000 baptisms in the kingdom of God – I praise God for 30,000 baptisms, it’s the most in modern-day times in the kingdom of God. But also look below that: in addition to 30,000 baptisms there were almost 20,000 fallaways. You heard it right: 30,000 baptisms, 20,000 fallaways…’64RightCyberUp.: Recovery From the International Churches of Christ, (Web Page accessed February 28 2003); available from The website cites: Al Baird, Shepherding the Flock,World Missions Leadership Conference, Johannesburg, audiotape, August 11, 1995.

Evidence indicates that is the tip of the iceberg. The organization posted detailed information regarding the status of the movement from 1999-2001 on the Internet,65TOLC. Triumphing Over London Cults (Web Page accessed March 2 2003); available from probably for leader’s eyes only. The statistics revealed more than four people left for every five they baptized during those three years.66REVEAL, An Organization of Former Members of the International Churches of Christ. In his letter to leadership, Henry Kriete cites a quarter-of-a-million “fallaways.” He states, “there is now an entire sub-culture of enemies and critics that simply will not go away.”67Kriete, H (2003). Honest to God. 


The Crossroads Movement experienced exponential growth during its brief existence and the Boston Movement has encompassed the world. To their credit, everyone involved in those movements has taken the Gospel seriously. They have applied tremendous effort to spread the name of Jesus. However, their unteachable, heavy-handed authority structure has allowed a simple exegetical error to drive the entire movement from the heresy of baptismal regeneration to the greater heresy of extreme baptismal regeneration. They promote a false gospel. They also promote extra-biblical authority and require every member to submit to a potentially abusive discipler. The Boston Movement is a prototypical example of what can happen when one gifted leader exalts himself above Scripture and trains others to do the same.

This organization can serve as a warning to sincere evangelistic ministries. Ministers authoritatively cite their own experience or opinions alongside the Bible in some of the best ministries. The Bible is often used to substantiate beliefs and persuasions that arise from other sources. Young leaders often express authority in heavy-handed ways instead of setting an example and serving others. There is a temptation in every growing church for members to believe that they are at the best fellowship; the right one.

Though he still holds to a broken soteriology. Henry Kriete’s words are insightful:

We have our own names and terminologies. We have our unique theology and we know — exactly – who is in and out of our membership. With minor variations we follow the same patterns and traditions in all of our churches.68Ibid.

May those charges never describe an authentically Christian organization.Ω

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