Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Renovator, not an Innovator.

“ I am distressed for thee, my brother... 2 Samuel 1:26 (AV)

The LA Story’s 1999 edition ‘From Here To Eternity’ commemorated the first twenty years (1979-1999) of Episode 1 that marked the end of the beginning stage of God’s modern-day movement a.k.a. the Boston movement better known as the International Churches of Christ (ICOC). The founders of Episode 1 were of the opinion that the Church of Christ denomination and other Denominational Churches did not accomplish the purpose of God due to faulty ‘systems’ and ‘mediocrity and traditions of men’. The new millennium and consecutive years ‘one-two-three’ were literally the ‘count-out’ for the ICOC as an organisation. Today, it exists as an incoherent organism. The interim years of 2003-2006 predominantly mark a power struggle between those “who is with [Kip] and who is against [Kip].” In “August 2005”, Kip McKean announced to the Portland fellowship, “is not a new beginning but an exciting Episode 2!”

The period of Episode 2 is a false start according to many ‘neutral’ or moderate ICOC churches. However, for the Portland International Church of Christ the race is on. The spectacular rise of the Portland ICOC is a constant ‘thorn in the flesh’ for many moderate ICOC fellowships who are no longer led by Kip McKean in the capacity of Missions/Lead Evangelist. However, a small number of ICOC congregations have strengthened Kip’s hand. The decision by the Johnsons to associate themselves with the McKeans will perhaps lead to more ‘prodical sons’ returning to the McKeans ‘old school’.

Not every one shares in the McKean’s optimism for the ICOC future as crustily stated in his August 21st, 2005 ‘Portland Story’. In fact, the majority of ICOC fellowships consecutively rejected the ‘Portland Story’. They were deeply insulted to be labelled “dying, former ICOC Churches.” A term ruthlessly applied in the same manner during the period of Episode 1 when the ICOC blasted the ‘mainline’ Church of Christ and other Denominational Churches for being “dying churches”. Kip’s verdict in ‘Revolution Through Restoration Part 2’, stated, “Denominational churches are dying. The mainline Church of Christ is dead.”

Ironically, Kip admitted that the ICOC is dead or was it?

“Gone, I believe, is the ICOC, I mean it’s a name we invented in 1994 anyway. Many churches have renounced the name International Churches of Christ and just going back to Church of Christ because they want to be identified with the Churches of Christ. I mean, good gravy, there are only a hundred of ‘em. That sure gives you distinction. But God forbid you’d be identified with others that are radical, revolutionary, dreamers to take the gospel to all nations, in one generation.” [Source: Kip McKean, ‘A Great Light Has Dawned’, June 2004]

Here lies the crux of the matter. The revolutionary message by “dreamers to take the gospel to all nations, in one generation” of an era captured in Episode 1 has reached its limit and spilled over in Kriete’s anguished letter for much needed ‘Revolution Through Repentance and Freedom in Christ’. The era of Episode 1 hailed the ICOC and Kip McKean part of the pantheon of Major Christian Movements and company like Jesus, the apostle Paul, Martin Luther, John and Charles Wesley, Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone. [Source: LA Story, ‘Breaking Away’, August 13, 1995]

Here, the magazine provides an insightful 5-pointer “Why Movements Fail”. It compares well to the reasons why the ICOC movement has failed!

“All movements have failed to repeat the early Christians’ success because of: 1) Failure to hold to the Scriptures 2) Failure to sacrifice self and renounce sin 3) Failure to love each other deeply 4) Failure to remain unified 5) Failure to keep their purpose clear. When any movement for God fails in these ways, it becomes just a Monument.”

The principle of “Continual Restoration - Man, Message, Momentum, Maintenance, and Monument” has reached an “unavoidable fork in the road” in the outcome of Kriete’s ‘Honest to God’ letter. No longer do ‘mature disciples’ like myself think like twenty year old campus students “to work the plan” or “pack a bag, go any where, do anything, give up everything” for the sake of “leaders in the Boston movement.” Rather, we ‘mature disciples’ go by faith “doctrinally and practically when we have seen the truth in the Scriptures.” How oblivious are those who follow a failed and tried doctrine of “God’s man, Message and Movement.”

Here, the articles of ‘Revolution Through Restoration, Part 1 & 3’ and ‘The Mandate of God for World Evangelism’ series written by Kip McKean do not carry innovative schemes but renovate dreams of God’s ‘former’ modern-day movement a.k.a. the Boston movement better known as the International Churches of Christ.

The ICOC organisation cannot ‘innovate’ itself [bring in new methods or ideas] because we who have lived and experience the epic of Episode 1 know “its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch! (Colossians 2:21 NIV) At the same time as political movements like Communism (1917-1991), Nazism (1933-1945) or Apartheid (1948-1994) the ICOC (1979-2003) have tried innovations and eventually succumbed! Let us be more specific.

The ICOC cannot ‘innovate’ its own ‘First Principles’ just as much as Robert E. Coleman cannot ‘innovate’ ‘The Master Plan of Evangelism’. Nor can it improve on its core doctrine of ‘sold-out disciples’ and belief system base on ‘Disciples=Christian=Save’ because “I [Kip McKean] composed this controversial equation to convict and help individuals with a denominational church background to see that they were not true Christians. ... In retrospect, this restored doctrine was the beginning of the formal split between the Boston churches and the mainline Church of Christ.” [Source: Kip McKean, ‘RTR 2 - The Movement of God’, 1994]

Biblically, we understand that not even the Judaizers (Christian Jews) could ‘innovate’ nor ‘renovate’ Jewish Laws in order to ‘enslave’ Gentile men to be circumcised. The concept of ‘freedom in Christ’ elevates believers of the Cross to a realm that is not earthbound. First and foremost, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 NIV) Secondly, “Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:17-20 NIV) Here too, we must come to grips that the cause of the ICOC is lost, unless, the ICOC leadership ‘renovate’ [restore to good condition or repair] former ICOC doctrines just for the sake of the stomach! In my opinion, the standard admonishment of the New Testament will judge the new era of Episode 2 in the Portland movement, as it judged the Boston movement in the era of Episode 1. “Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them” and “ Their teaching will spread like gangrene.” (Matthew 7:20, 2 Timothy 2:17 NIV)

The McKean’s are the founders of both controversial Episodes. Nevertheless, in my opinion, many Christians can learn a great deal from their dedication and commitment issuing Jesus’ message on local and foreign fields. After all, I owe my salvation to Christ, who has touched my heart through their evangelistic efforts of the Boston movement. To deny this in my opinion will be utterly foolish! Nevertheless, I strongly oppose their methods of discipleship and perception on the Kingdom of God.

The invaluable contribution that the husband-wife team made towards the meteoric phenomenal rise of the Portland ICOC cannot be overlooked. As young students they have embarked on a journey that they will complete to the end. However, here we must stress how vulnerable young hearts can be to discipleship methodologies, which can ultimately rule the heart without compromise as in the situation of the McKeans.

Thomas ‘Kip’ McKean born in Indianapolis, Indiana on May 31, 1954 and Elena Garcia-Bengochea born in Havana, Cuba on September 2, 1955 were both baptised as very young students (18 and 17 years old) in the Crossroads Church of Christ. Kip’s baptism is either April 11, 1972 according to RTR 1, “At the end of my freshman year at the University of Florida, I was invited by Sam Laing, a Sigma Chi fraternity brother, to a devotional of 90 college students. This devotional was sponsored by the 14th Street Church of Christ (later renamed Crossroads). This church in Gainesville had begun a pilot program in campus ministry for the Churches of Christ five years earlier. [1967] The Churches of Christ wanted to impact the campuses and initially modeled their efforts after Campus Crusade and called this program Campus Advance. Here I was taught to give up everthing for Christ and be baptized for the remission of my sins to become a Christian. This commitment I made in the early hours of April 11, 1972”; or April 11, 1971 according to a late article titled, ‘Celebrating 50!’ on Portland Church website, that read as follows, “Elena was baptized into Christ on August 8, 1972. (I was baptized as a freshman on April 11, 1971)”. [Author’s note: The year 1971 is a type error, many records ascribe to 1972.]

In my opinion Kip’s current ministry is about renovation, renovation and more renovation from here to eternity! Today there exists a war between the ‘house of Renovation’ and the ‘house of Innovation’ within the International Churches of Christ [2 Samuel 3]. This war affects the morale of the youth now known as ‘Generation Y’, among the 105 000 strong membership of this organisation. Fortunately, the battle is contained within the borders of the U.S. ICOC churches.

However, we can no longer ignore the following pivotal issues as observed in 2006.

Firstly. Former ICOC teachings Kriete’s letter made undone in 2003 is already being ‘repaired’ in the Portland ICOC. How soon will other moderate ICOC fellowships catch-up?

Secondly, Kip’s position is fortified with Steve Johnson’s addition to Portland Church staff since January 15, 2006. In the past, Kip describe Steve Johnson, a former ACES World Sector leader during the Manila World Leadership Conference in 1994 as the “glue of the World Sector Leaders”. The question remains if his “right hand cranker”, Douglas Arthur, formerly Commonwealth WSL will fully commit to the cause of Portland ICOC. McKean, Portland’s Lead Evangelist, appointed Johnson as an Associate Lead Evangelist.

Celebrating his 50th birthday this colossus of Episode 1 stated in 2004, “I am just as vigorous to battle the spiritual forces of evil to evangelise the world as in the early days of Boston!” A year later, Steve Johnson stated, “wherever Kip goes, I go.” [Source: Steve Johnson, ‘Forceful, Respectful Preaching’, Seattle Leadership Conference, September 8, 2005.]

Thirdly, Portland ICOC has boldly embraced an ‘old school’ doctrine of the bygone era in the Boston movement, which contrast sharply with moderate ICOC thinking not to repeat “the same short-term attractive results and the same long-term painful results.” Thus, according to a moderate group, Portland’s ambitions are not ‘politically correct’. McKean stand accused by certain ICOC leaders for not co-operating “with other leaders in a true adult to adult relationships”. In a statement by the ‘62-signatories’, “You are no longer a young man with lack of experience for an excuse.” McKean’s teachings and websites “contain unseemly, immature and unwholesome self-promotion and propaganda” that have not escaped their notice. In short, they stated, “You are confusing and exploiting many who are young, as well as those who are unaware of your past sins.”

In conclusion, ICOC leadership and members outside Kip McKean’s influence have an obligation to the youth - Generation Y to block ‘renovate’ ICOC doctrines. It is not a question of “re-set broken bones”, but taking the matter much deeper. The question remain. How prepared are moderate ICOC Christians?

Lately, the stakes have been raised with Portland’s intension to tap into ‘The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg’ - campus evangelism.

(Next articles: “Y” going underground? and Dinosaurs Past, and Present 2b)

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