The International Church of Christ

NOTE: Christianity Today recently published an excellent news article on the International Church of Christ.

Visit for more up-to-date information on the International Church of Christ.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)

1. Key Facts

1.1 The International Church of Christ currently has 274 churches in 105 nations. Their total worldwide attendance is 138,302 people.
1.2 Their goal is to plant a church in ever nation with a city of at least 100,000 people by the year 2000.
1.3 Each International Church of Christ typically adopts the name of its city (e.g. the Toronto Church of Christ).
1.4 The International Church of Christ does much of its recruitment on university and college campuses.
1.5 This group is to be distinguished from the mainline Churches of Christ, a loosely federated group of congregations from which the International Church of Christ broke off.
1.6 The International Church of Christ is also known as the Boston Movement or the Boston Church of Christ.

2. History

2.1 In the early 1970s, Kip McKean, the founding evangelist and pastor of the Boston movement, was a student at the University of Florida in Gainesville. There he met Chuck Lucas, pastor of the Crossroads Church of Christ. Lucas was active in a campus outreach program for the Churches of Christ, developing “Campus Advance” principles. He recruited McKean and trained him in what was then and is now a radical version of discipleship developed primarily from Robert Coleman’s book, The Master Plan of Evangelism. Lucas understood Coleman to teach that Jesus controlled the lives of His apostles and then taught His apostles to disciple others by controlling their lives. Therefore Christians today should use the same process Jesus taught His apostles when bringing people to Christ. Lucas put this teaching into practice in a discipleship process which he taught to McKean and others.
2.2 In 1976, McKean went to Heritage Chapel Church of Christ in Charleston, Illinois and initiated a campus outreach at Eastern Illinois University. Several church members questioned his discipleship process and made charges regarding manipulation and control.
2.3 In 1979 McKean moved to the Boston suburb of Lexington where he became involved in the Lexington Church of Christ. Meeting on June 1 with thirty people—each committing themselves to the Lord and His work—McKean established an aggressive program of evangelism and discipleship. The church went from 30 to 1,000 members in just a few years and outgrew its facilities. By 1983 the church had to rent the Boston Opera House for its meeting on Sunday and meet in homes (“house churches”) for midweek services. Later that year the Lexington Church of Christ changed its name to the Boston Church of Christ.
2.4 In 1981 the Boston movement launched an aggressive missions program, sending out teams of people to establish churches throughout America and the world. These churches would be part of the Boston family of churches, under the authority and control of the Boston Church of Christ, and using the same discipling methods as the Boston church The Toronto Church of Christ was founded in 1985.

3. Beliefs

3.1 Baptism is necessary for salvation – They teach that one must be water baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Faith, they both teach, is not sufficient for salvation; it is not counted for righteousness until one obeys God by being baptized with the conscious knowledge that at the moment of baptism one is being saved and one’s sins are being forgiven. Furthermore, one’s baptism is not considered valid unless it is administered by the true church of Christ (i.e., the churches of Christ or the Boston movement).
3.2 Discipleship – The Great Commission to disciple is probably the core doctrine of the church.
3.3 Confession of sins – Believers are to confess their sins to each other (James 5:16).
3.4 Submission to authority – the authority of the leaders is God-given or delegated by God to such an extent that in disobeying them, one is disobeying God.
3.5 Orthodoxy – In many other respects, the International Church of Christ holds similar doctrine to evangelical churches everywhere.

4. Methods

4.1 Initiation – The goal is to be chained to someone more senior in the church, with someone you bring in the church under you to disciple
4.1.1 Nonmembers are invited to a non-denominational “Bible talk.”
4.1.2 At the Bible talk, they meet people who are genuinely warm and caring.
4.1.3 In the days following the Bible talk, they receive calls of encouragement from people that they met. At this point, nonmembers usually observe that these people are putting their faith into practice.
4.1.4 They (individually) are invited to a weekly Bible study, taught by a “discipler.” At these meetings, they study the Bible and confess sins. The discipler calls the disciple, always showing great interest and always ready to give guidance and advice. Five required studies take place: Word of God – showing that the Bible is factual and necessary. Discipleship – to get the person to admit that they are not a disciple of Christ. Light and Darkness – to show that they are not saved, and that they need to confess their sins. The Cross – to bring a sense of sorrow and urgency to the person The Church – a study which shows that the International Church of Christ is the only true church
4.1.5 Eventually, the subject of baptism is raised. Until a person is not baptized, they are not part of the church and not called brother or sister, nor are they saved. The moment they are baptized, they are saved.
4.1.6 Now a member of the church, they are urged to invite their friends and family to Bible talks.
4.2 Control – The personal life of every believer is controlled by a discipler who is over that person. There is a discipler over every discipler, a hierarchy of disciplers working its way up to the top. Each believer is expected to submit to his or her discipler, in matters such as working overtime, dating, etc..
4.3 Sin Lists – Sin lists, lists which included in much details members’ sins, have been found to be computerized and available to group leaders. An interviewer on ABC-TV’s “20/20” reported this and interviewed members to verify that the confessed sins are accurate.
4.4 Exclusion – “Leaving the church and leaving God are the same thing.” (Randy McKean). Members are ordered to steer clear of non-members, and if that means your wife or husband or fianc? or boyfriend or girlfriend, then so be it (Matthew 35:10).

5. Responding to the International Church of Christ

5.1 As with other groups, remember: “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
5.2 Remember their goal is to recruit you. Be appreciative of their expressions of concern and affirmation for you while you talk, but do not be manipulated.
5.3 Be ready to express the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. Baptism is not necessary for salvation.
5.4 Be wary of authoritarian control (2 Corinthians 11:20).

6. Warning included in Ryerson’s Student Manual (1992):

1. The R.S.U. recognizes a variety of religious and cultural groups here at Ryerson. However, there are some groups which the R.S.U. has chosen not to recognize. One such group is the Toronto Church of Christ. At the R.S.U. Board Meeting held on April 7, 1992, the following amendment was made to the Policy for New Groups on Campus:
WHEREAS the Church of Christ has been identified throughout North America, by COMA (Council on Mind Abuse) and other student unions, as having questionable recruitment techniques and practices; and
WHEREAS campus organizations associated with the Church of Christ have been linked to traumatic incidents amongst post-secondary students in the Toronto Area; and
WHEREAS religious and cultural groups recognized by the Ryerson Student’s Union (R.S.U.) are intended to emphasize areas of commonality and harmony with the Ryerson community and are NOT to emphasize recruitment or worship as their raison d’etre;
IT IS A RYERSON STUDENTS’ UNION POLICY THAT R.S.U. not recognize any group associated with the Church of Christ.
2. If you are being harassed, either in person or over the phone, please contact security and lodge a complaint.
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada