Monday, February 13, 2006

An honest mistake!

I share my birthday, 6th March along with Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564).

Michelangelo thought of himself first as a sculptor, although he was an architect, painter, poet and engineer. For Michelangelo sculpting became the process in unravelling the Idea – the image that is locked in the stone – by removing the excess stone until the mass has given away to living form. The eye guided him unlike his contemporaries who painstakingly abide by mathematical methods such as PHI (1.618) in order to reach beautiful symmetrical proportions.

Dan Brown’s contemporary novel – The Da Vinci Code – elaborates on the number one-point-six-one-eight as the Divine Proportion that guided many Renaissance artists. Describing Leonardo’s famous male nude – The Vitruvian Man – who ‘was the first to show that the human body is literally made of building blocks whose proportions ratios always equal PHI.’(Dan Brown ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (Soft cover) p. 133/593) Dan begs his readers to put this principle to the test. “Measure the distance from the tip of your head to the floor. Then divide that by the distance from your belly button to the floor. Guess what number you get?”

Michelangelo according to ‘Art Through The Ages’ said the following: “Measure and proportion should be ‘kept in the eyes’. ‘It was necessary to keep one’s compass in one’s eyes and not in the hand, for the hand execute, but the eyes judges.’ Thus, he would set aside Vitruvius, Alberti, Leonardo, Albrecht Durer, and others who tirelessly sought the perfect measure.”

Michelangelo’s theory to be guided by the eye compliments Biblical text. He absorbs himself with much Biblical subject matter during his career as an artist. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22,23 NIV)

The figure of Moses which Michelangelo sculpted was summed up by one writer “if this titan ever rose the world will fly apart!” Michelangelo could not betray the eye with unrealistic features. To the eye it appears that Moses’ ‘muscle bulge, the veins swell, the great legs begin slowly to move.’ However, amongst all the realness something odd protrudes from Moses’ head – horns! To the modern eye it seems that the artist bedevilled Moses! Even so, Michelangelo had little time for symbolic gestures; he sculpted realistic figures for the Catholic Church! Surely, the Pope would never allow a sinister plot portraying Moses with horns to look preposterous! Nevertheless, like Dan Brown novels there is a startling explanation, which will clear up the matter, why Renaissance artists sculpted and painted Moses with horns!

The horns have no symbolic meaning but derived from an error in translation. In Moses’ meeting with God his face is described as glowing in Exodus 34.

We find in the Hebraic text, which consists only of consonants and no vowels, the word “KRN”. When the text has been given vowels between the two consonants early translators place two “E’s” between the consonants. The word “KRN” becomes “K-E-R-E-N” that means HORN! Moses’ descend after being with God startled onlookers because of the horns on his head! Overtime this conclusion was taken up and become part of the Vulgate. The Vulgate becomes the point of reference for many renaissance painters and sculptors depicting Moses with horns. However, later scholars realise as more scripts came to light, that the word “KEREN” should have been translated as “K-A-R-A-N”, meaning GLOWING! Suddenly, the Biblical text becomes clearer and meaningful. Moses face was glowing after his descend being with God! The mistake had been rectified, nevertheless, Michelangelo’s horned Moses remains a language error immortalised in marble!

An honest mistake!

Why they want students to know NAD-thing?

Certain leaders within the International Churches of Christ (ICOC) hold to strong opinions regarding campus ministries to keep students uninformed about “ICOC church politics and current events.” This principle is termed “NAD: Non Adult Drama”.

Apparently, some ICOC leadership reasons college students don’t really care what happens in the ICOC at large. If this would be their attitude then what if students want to know about their church history or doctrine? Or worse what if they are confronted by it? Perhaps some ICOC churches since 2003 have formulated an “accepted doctrine of the group” which “is always more important than individual beliefs and personalities”. By questioning leadership is a certain sign of rebellion. For example, any facts that threaten the group’s integrity may be called, “lies of the devil.” Henry Kriete outright confronted the ICOC since 2003 by calling his past experiences with the ICOC as “cultic”. Not many ICOC leaders agree with him but many former members will.

What should be done? Should the shepherd’s gather their lambs into the pen and shut the noise out by disallowing them freedom of movement? But is this not what “cults” do? The cult builds a wall around the person as shelter from the outside world. The purpose of that wall is to control the amount of information that one receives from the outside. Cults control information through (1) their teachings on doctrinal as well as non-doctrinal matters, (2) their activities, and (3) physically isolating the members from worldly and unspiritual non-members.

But is a college student not a “learner,” an “apprentice” or “disciple”? If there is one thing I can take away from my student days at the University of Cape Town then it was advice given to my class: “READ your degree!” So I say to those students on campuses who fellowship with the ICOC: “READ your church!”

So what if Henry Kriete said your church is a cult! So what if it! Ask questions! Truth is truth. It is not fragile; it can stand examination, verification, even vilification. Truth stands tall and proud in the free marketplace of ideas. But don’t tell me you are not interested in “Non Adult Drama”! Did the ICOC not tell you that your baptism or any baptism according to Restoration teaching is base on an adult decision?

From a church administrative point of view students within the ICOC will always make up the numbers and be the most resourceful for building and expanding the movement. They become tomorrow’s leaders. But if our students refuse to READ about ICOC church politics and current events then to whom do they listen? This is precisely why some ICOC leaders want students to know nothing! Did Hitler not say: “Give the German soldier proper leadership and I can do anything with him.” Is this not the risk we run with our campus college ministries who prefer not to know NAD-thing?

The drama will not stop in this movement until adult leadership will take responsibility in realizing Kriete’s recommendations. The plea from Kriete can never be ignored: “Movement wide, we have no choice but to admit and apologize, expose and expunge, denounce and dismantle.”

to confess or acknowledge; to concede; to allow to enter;
to allow participation; to allow

to express or make an apology; acknowledge faults; to defend formally

the act or an instance of bringing a scandal, crime, etc., to public notice

to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate

to condemn openly or vehemently; to give information against; accuse; to announce formally the termination of

to take apart; to demolish or raze; to strip of covering

What is your leadership opinion or instruction on disciple relationships / dating & marriage / the Kingdom / who is saved – who is lost? Does “Your Truth” stands tall and proud in the free marketplace of ideas? Have you considered the internet?

The time for debate is not restrained by some human timetable – 1st February 2006. Students, let me apply practically how I go about READING MY (former) CHURCH.

I am uncomfortable when leaders like Mike Taliaferro (who has appointed me personally to stand in as Sector Leader - South Johannesburg) behave like Hitler.

Taliaferro, a former Geographic Sector leader in Africa and lead evangelist of the Johannesburg Church of Christ now back in the United States state the following during the September 2005 Seattle Conference in a remarkable class titled “Pulling Your Church Together.” He said: “…we began to call people back to decisions, and we did it one by one. We called the church back to discipling relationships. We called the church back to sacrificial giving… We made that decision. We resurrected church discipline… We confronted people that were divisive; some of them left the church. We resurrected confession of sin in the church… We reminded people of their commitment to all the services… Who’s lost, who’s saved – we had a talk about it.”

Mike Taliaferro’s leadership effectively has taken “back” San Antonio Church of Christ to former ICOC ways. Kriete’s recommendations were ignored. He follows the path of the Portland Movement. Standard teachings base upon “resurrected doctrine” by Kip McKean’s Portland International Church of Christ since June 2003 is prevalent in San Antonio.
Nevertheless, did Mike not state optimism during the April 1st 2004 Faithful Conversations? Why are we detecting an undertone of dictatorship in evaluating Taliaferro’s “Pulling Together” speech? “…we began to call people back to decisions, and we did it one by one. … We made that decision. We resurrected church discipline… We confronted people that were divisive; some of them left the church.” What has happened? Gestapo tactics – one by one? What divisiveness did leadership confront in the San Antonio Church? Why did some leave? Perhaps some one can comment.

Let us revisit some of those questions asked by the Church of Christ panel.

Talk about the changes you see going on in the ICOC.

Mike Taliaferro:
“We have done away with top-down hierarchy that we had in the past, and we recognize the mature independence of every congregation in our fellowship of churches … We have ended the practice of over/under discipling. We don’t believe one Christian should be giving orders to another. We are definitely stressing topics like grace, the cross, God’s love. We are moving away from performance orientation and getting back to basic Bible, as we should.”

What is the relationship of Kip McKean to ICOC today?

Mike Taliaferro:
We are a fellowship right now of independent, Bible-believing churches. Yes, we are going to have a man lead the movement, and that is going to be Jesus Christ.

Lastly, Chris Ogbonnaya who is very closely associated with Mike Taliaferro due to former “top-down hierarchy” paired up with Mike and added a few pointers in the same speech on “Pulling Your Church Together”. In my opinion Chris is trained to follow Taliaferro. And this is how any college student will proof there worth whom leadership can do anything with him.

This time we can assert what Mike meant by “Who’s lost, who’s saved – we had a talk about it.” Chris states : “We cannot marry a non-Christian. We’re not going to have marriages between us and a Catholic. You want to do that, hey, you’re welcome as a visitor. We had to do it… Is this authority? I say, ‘Yes’. It’s authority, and it’s authority that we have from God as leaders, to pull ourselves together, so that the church can march forward.”

Us and Catholics. Catholics are perceived as non-Christians!? Does God approve??? Who are these leaders talking with such “authority”? In my mind, they don’t fellowship with Jesus.

Does this not remind me of a similar article presented by Kip McKean recently? Some consideration was allowed in some ICOC congregations to marry non-ICOC members in the post HKL era. Whereupon, Kip McKean strongly retaliate by asking ICOC churches to marry only ICOC church members. Will other ICOC congregations fall in line with Portland teaching which “resurrected” former ICOC doctrine?

“What shall we do in our worldwide fellowship of churches? … Of consideration even the Catholics teach you should marry Catholics, the Mormons believe in only marrying Mormons and the Muslims have been known to kill a Muslim that does not marry a Muslim. Though these groups do not follow the Scriptures’ teaching on salvation, they understand the concept of marriage in relation to “their view” of “God’s people”. Are Jesus’ true disciples to be less convicted?”
– Kip McKean, “For The Honor of God” May 2005,

Internationally, this teaching concur in Douglas Jacoby’s book, ‘Shining Like Stars,’ ii edition, 1990 and was never revoked until the aftermath of HKL in 2003.

“Marry a Christian! (2 Cor 6:14ff, 1 Cor 7:39)” – Shining Like Stars, ii Edition, 1990, Study 12: Christian Marriage: Cord of Three Strands, p.258/316.

“Dating and marriage
a) Since we can marry only disciples (2 Cor 6:14, 1 Cor 7:39), it stands to reason that we should date only disciples.
b) Dating non-Christians messes motives up our motives and theirs, and is extremely unwise.” – Shining Like Stars, ii Edition, 1990, Lesson 9: Counting the Cost, p234/316.

The RSA ICOC congregations followed the practice. ‘Equipping Syllabus’ teaches ‘Jesus is Lord of our Dating Life or Marriage’ according to implication five:

e. Implication 5: Lord of our Dating Life or Marriage
“Marry only a Christian – obviously will marry someone you date, therefore best to date only disciples. (Exception: an existing dating relationship. Handle with care and wisdom, Not a must to break up – a must to stop sin, if any, and a must to discipline it and a must to make a decision that if a person is not really interested in becoming a Christian or is pulling person down spiritually, will break it off immediately. 1 Corinthians 7:39 – must marry in the Lord – no double standards between first and second marriage.”

Kip McKean rightly points to other religious groups (notice the strong presence of established cults) forbidding marrying outside their particular denomination. However, this inclusive viewpoint leads only to the belief in being the “one true church” and being the “only saved”.

If weddings or dating relationships in some ICOC congregations becomes regulated, then we need to know how they view other Christian denominations outside their particular denomination. Is non-ICOC members perceived as non-Christians? This is exactly what Mike and his gang underline.

Ideally and truly, the Scripture (1 Corinthians 7:39) wants Christians to marry only Christians, because marriages will suffer like some examples as indicated in the Old Testament, which are “written down as warnings for us, of whom the fulfilment of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11 NIV) Therefore it is wise in this regard not to test the Lord.

Let us note, that there is a difference in marrying non-Christians according to the New Testament as to favouring one denomination over another. Who is the non-ICOC Christian – Catholics, Muslim’s, Hindu’s and every one out there? I think Kip McKean and his followers supporting inclusive marriages by marrying only ICOC disciples is inviting disaster upon themselves. Why imitating others miserable “man-made truths”? McKean’s policy is not honouring God. It will cause once more unnecessarily trauma in the lives of many who carelessly imitate this folly. To answer Kip’s nonsense: “Are Jesus’ true disciples to be less convicted?” Does God disapprove interdenominational Christian marriages? Did he disapprove Grecian and Hebraic Christian Jewish marriage in the first century?

In conclusion, there is plenty “Adult Drama” in the modern fellowship of the International Churches of Christ. I appeal to students to combat Mike Taliaferro, Chris Ogbonnaya and Kip McKean’s fragile man-made truths and consider it as “NONsense!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Is Jesus' discipleship method a theological fantasy?

Many members of the International Churches of Christ (ICOC) still hold on to disciple practices as described in Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism while others have abandoned them.

Kip McKean founder of the International Churches of Christ has reinstated ‘former’ International Churches of Christ discipleship practices along with an improved version of First Principles teaching study guide in the fellowship of the Portland International Church of Christ since September 2003. Thus placing Portland in the forefront while other ICOC congregations still struggle to come to grips after the February 2003 release of Henry Kriete’s Honest to God letter, which scattered everyone.

Who can forget those famous 2003 apology letters! McKean’s super church, the Los Angeles ICOC apologised along with many other ICOC Churches connecting similar problems deriving from adhering to principles base on the disciple approach.

“We are absolutely committed to change.”
[Los Angeles Church Apology Letter, Tuesday, February 25, 2003]

“We participated in an authoritarian discipling structure where advice was too often perceived as command. Some felt controlled and manipulated. …
[Los Angeles Church Apology Letter, Tuesday, February 25, 2003]

“We need your help and support to make these changes deep and long lasting.” [Los Angeles Church Apology Letter, Tuesday, February 25, 2003]

Nevertheless, Kip advocates a former ICOC discipleship-teaching plan base on a voluntary teacher/student relationship (one-over-one or adult-to-adult discipleship). According to his understanding, discipleship relationships in the fellowship ‘was and still is the only plan of God to evangelise the world.”

McKean has responded strongly to many churches in the ICOC fellowship that have either abandoned or compromised discipleship relationships – ‘the now lost plan of multiplying disciples’. According to McKean, any suggestion by his colleagues stating that the Scriptures do not teach one-over-one-discipleship is ‘devastating false teaching’. Discipleship matters became a strong point of contention between factions in the ICOC during the period of August 2005. The September 2005 Seattle Conference was marred by two earlier proposals in order to unify the brotherhood. They were McKean’s Portland Story and an effort by the Los Angeles ICOC’s LA Unity Proposal. Currently many leaders are holding on to different opinions concerning “commitment” and church polity. In the aftermath of the Seattle Conference it is apparent that not every one is in favour of LA’s Unity Proposal or Portland’s Church Portland Story. Currently, neutral ICOC churches are awaiting the final outcome of recommendations by the Cooperation Proposal Group in February 1st, 2006. Nothing has come to pass yet.

Kip McKean, presently is the lead evangelist of the Portland International Church of Christ. He has express shock ‘by how few brothers and sisters in Portland understood the Scriptural principles behind discipling.’ During the Summer 2004, the congregation studied ‘the principles of Scripture in Robert Coleman’s book, The Master Plan of Evangelism.’

Robert Emerson Coleman’s research constructed a plan for evangelism by going ‘back to the Bible and asked one critical question: What was Christ’s strategy of evangelism?’ In so doing, The Master Plan of Evangelism was first published in 1963. The Master Plan of Evangelism was recently reprinted commemorating its thirtieth anniversary. Since the ‘little book’ inception it has become an instant success for everyone engaged with discipleship practices. Coleman’s research did not only attempt to unlock Christ’ overall plan for the Great Commission, but also emphasizing ‘the requirements for membership in the church be interpreted and enforced in terms of TRUE CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP’. These conditions of “true Christian discipleship” have ever since become a controversial issue amongst Christians. Some were not comfortable with the idea to allow others into their personal space, confessing inner thoughts and sins, while others express concern over manipulative tactics used by those in control. Even today as events unfold in the post-ICOC era many Christians of this particular denomination are puzzled what makes a Christian a “sold-out disciple”. Which churches to attend. Who marries who?

Nevertheless, The Master Plan of Evangelism’ impact is still significant in the International Churches of Christ, whether being used as a practical textbook demonstrating discipleship principles or through official recommendation from church officials. Let us also note that a great number of people within the ICOC movement have never studied Coleman’s principles, which invariably influenced Chuck Lucas and his student Kip McKean. I was amazed by many parallel teachings as described in Coleman’s book found in the ICOC after reading it for the first time in 2000.

Gordon Ferguson, former “Kingdom Teacher” (ICOC theologian) highly recommends The Master Plan of Evangelism in his book “Discipling” published in 1997.

“Years ago, when I was first learning about discipling, I read a very helpful little book entitled The Master Plan of Evangelism. Looking back over it recently, it seems quite basic, but when I first read it I was affected significantly. (If you have not read it, I highly recommend it.)

In his book Discipling Gordon Ferguson asked. “Why be a dull, uninteresting, uninterested pool of mediocrity when you can be discipled to be like Jesus?”

Gordon Ferguson since publishing Discipling remise on the dangers of former ICOC disciple principles during a three-day meeting held between panellists of the International Churches of Christ and its “parent church” the Church of Christ on the 1st April 2004 at the Abilene Christian University (ACU), Abilene, Texas. This open forum was called ‘Faithful Conversations’. I am not aware if the author has publicly denounced disciple practices as illustrated in Discipling. However, during this three-day meeting Gordon Ferguson articulated the problems of ICOC discipleship despite upholding a theological fantasy that Jesus was the Master Discipler and expects us to imitate his example.

Let us not forget 2003.

Give us a sense of what the public statements and apologies from ICOC leaders during the last year are about.

Gordon Ferguson:
They centred around four things;
(1) Authoritarian over/under discipling relationships. There were some good things about it, but abuses took place and some people were hurt very deeply.
(2) Authoritarian hierarchical leadership roles. Our intensions were good, but while we gave lip service to not lording over people, I think we violated Matthew 20 in exercising authority over one another in a worldly way.
(3) Performance-based motivation. We wanted to do great things for God, …but, honestly, I think we violated Galatians 1. We preached the gospel plus productivity and performance to the point that it became a different gospel that aroused the displeasure of God and brought on the discipline of God that we experienced as a movement. We are determined to change and have Christ as the centre of our message, not man or his performance.
(4) We have exhibited a judgmental elitism.

Perhaps the period of the Crossroads movement, the Boston movement and the International Churches of Christ can fit in with professor Michael Burleigh’s The Third Reich apt description on National Socialism by referring to it as “an extraordinary rape of the soul” during an “apocalyptic times”. “This was the price of mass stupidity and overweening ambition, paid with the lives of its citizens, whether directly compromised by dreadful crimes, or characterised by moral indifference or innocence.” In contrast, Burleigh advised caution concerning Ferguson’s remarks on comfortable pew-warmers described as “dull, uninteresting, uninterested pool of mediocrity” in need to be “discipled to be like Jesus.” Burleigh states: “Our lives may be more boring than those who lived in apocalyptic times, but being bored is greatly preferable to being prematurely dead because of some ideological fantasy.”

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

ICOC articles to follow

I have written several articles over the years since questioning ICOC theology and disciple practices. It is my intention to start "publishing" my commentaries on this blog as events unfold with the ICOC.

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