International Churches of Christ

International Churches of Christ
   The International Churches of Christ emerged as a movement within the older Churches of Christ, one of the main branches of the Restoration movement that began on the American frontier in the early 1800s. The Churches of Christ were similar to Baptists concerning congregational polity and baptism by immersion, but chose a name reflecting their attempt to transcend denomina-tionalism, eschewed the use of instrumental music in worship, and included the Lord's Supper as part of their weekly worship. The Churches of Christ developed their major strength in the American South.
   In the 1970s, the Church of Christ congregation adjacent to the university of Florida at Gainesville began the practice of what was called discipling in its campus ministry. The discipling/ shepherding movement sought to turn nominal church members into active disciples of Christ, by assigning each new church member to an older more mature member. This mentoring process involved regular contacts between the discipler and the new disciple. With this program in place, the Gainesville church grew significantly.
   Influenced by the Gainesville example, Kip McKean (b. 1954) introduced discipling to a small congregation in Lexington, Massachusetts. The true church of Christ, argued McKean, consisted entirely of disciples. Eventually relocating to Boston and spreading his message through the network of already existing Churches of Christ, McKean articulated a program for world evangelization by building churches in the key cities of the world.
   As the "Boston movement" grew, it created a heated controversy within Churches of Christ congregations over the practice of discipling. Other churches criticized what they saw as aggressive proselytization among college students. A group of former members called the movement a destructive cult; they were backed by the secular cult awareness movement. In the wake of the intensive criticism, the fellowship removed several key leaders and modified its discipling program to make it less intrusive.
   In the meantime, the church continued to grow. In 1994, an Evangelism Proclamation was issued declaring an intention to plant a church in every nation with a city that had 100,000 residents by the year 2000. Beginning with 146 congregations, over the next years 246 new congregations were begun around the world. In the 1990s, the International Churches of Christ gradually separated itself from the parent body. McKean's evangelism program required a degree of centralized authority that was alien to the traditions of the Churches of Christ. The new body has introduced some instrumental music and has given women an unprecedented degree of leadership, though not yet admitting them to the ordained ministry. HOPE Worldwide was created as a social service delivery agency.
   In 2002, Kip McKean left his post as World Missions Evangelist, and the organization moved toward a more collective leadership. The International Churches of Christ is headquartered in Los Angeles, California.
   Further reading:
   ■ The Disciple's Handbook (Los Angeles: Discipleship Publications International, 1977)
   ■ Gordon Ferguson, Prepared to Answer (Los Angeles: Discipleship Publications International, 1995)
   ■ Robert Nelson, Understanding the Crossroads Controversy (Fort Worth, Tex.: Star Bible Publications, 1981).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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