My love for my brothers

Some people may find the Remnant Rats and Remnant Rats 2.0 articles that I wrote in 2017 a little unpalatable (perhaps owing to a loyalty or sensitivity to friends in the ICOC). Others may simply find them offensive or unloving. I understand the questions that may come up in their minds.

“Why can’t you just leave them alone? They are just trying to lead their lives.”

I think if one can understand the level of high esteem I have held my old ICOC friends in, all these years that they refused to come along and investigate the ICC firsthand, then one can see why I would want to help them see what God is doing with His movement.

I am very much aware that we are all getting on with our lives. We are all busy. We don’t necessarily want to talk about or read about the terrible tragedy of spiritual death. Maybe they seem like old war stories told over and over. In 2012 Blaise Feumba asked me to preach on the title ‘Imitate Me’ at the East Region Men’s midweek of the London International Christian church. He was in Haiti baptising the Mainline Church of Christ ministers that joined us. I choose to give examples of how I had put this principle of imitation into practice in learning from my ICOC brothers and sisters. I hope this will show my readers the utmost respect I have for my ICOC brothers and sisters.

Amazingly, one of my points was centred on a high profile service team leader who recently joined the ICC, John Causey. I must clarify that when I used the colloquial analogy of the ‘coat hanger’, I was referring to his broad shoulders and this is an analogy used in certain communities in my country to describe big-boned men. No offence was meant. I am a country boy and it comes out in my public speaking – please look past my accent and the setting and hear a few spiritual nuggets from my ICOC brothers.

It is my deep feelings of loyalty and longing that pushes me to continue to write to ‘The Remnant’. I know they are living their lives and baptising their children and apart from their children’s joining their congregations they have an approximate growth of 1% per year. They have jobs. Friends who disfellowshipped me in 2006 have got married and had children. Life goes on. Jesus said the following about life and it’s romantic notions of blissful ignorance. 

Luke 17:26-35,37 “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all..”

“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all…”

“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” “Where, Lord?” they asked. He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

Anyone who truly believes these words believes they need to reach out with every tool at their disposal to win souls for Christ. There are a significant portion of the ICOC that simply don’t know what is really happening on a spiritual level and who are blissfully unaware of God’s great victory through the ICC. That is why I have written these three times in my ‘Remnant Rats’ series. I have heard the death knell. I have witnessed the parts of the Body dying but still attached. It’s horrific to hear words like ‘discipling’ being used in the context of a 1-2% growth rate. It has been over a decade and a half that our former ICOC churches have been struggling to recover from the adoption of their cooperation style model of governance. They claim that they have ‘discipling’ but it is clear that whatever that actually means in reality, it is not effective in helping those being discipled to be disciples and in doing so to make disciples. Discipling, in the former ICOC churches is failing. My only conclusion is that it is not at all what we were doing in the ICOC or what God has led us to continue to do in the ICC.

Though it is disturbing to talk about these issues it is no more disturbing than a Quiet Time in Corinthians, Galatians, Hebrews, Romans or maybe other chapters or books of the Bible focussed on how far God’s people had fallen. Many problems, sinful practices and omissions are mentioned specifically in the Scriptures. It is therefore not unloving or judgemental to do so. Again, I love my former ICOC brothers and sisters. Anyone who has taken the time to listen to the audio I posted above should see clearly that I still have utmost respect and love for them. I am confident in this love. Jesus went first to the Jewish remnant. Paul went first to the synagogue in many Roman cities. I have no shame even when accused of being unloving.

I was with Henry Kriete in London when he was effective. He was an unusual preacher. I remember he baptised a man who had been a paedophile. I was at the baptism! I also remember him in Dublin at a conference as the main speaker around about 2002. I actually showed him around Belfast with his son and took his photo outside the home of C. S. Lewis! I loved him. I did not however, so much as even like his letter, in 2003. I felt it was unnecessarily critical. It destroyed a lot of good things I was trying to do because it catalysed a rebellion. It led to a vacuum where one preacher came to Belfast in the year following and preached absolute heresy. I was so stricken by the absolute evil of the preaching I ordered a copy immediately. Here is the key moment in the sermon where I realised that the new freedom in the churches post 2003 was of Satan.

This man was a false apostle who found it easy to preach a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-9, 1 Tim 1:5) in Belfast and Manchester ICOC and perhaps elsewhere. My wife and I both alerted several Manchester ICOC members but sadly none of them had the conviction to challenge the man, who they were paying for years to meet their spiritual needs, regarding the false gospel he was preaching. One brother who had been a friend for some years was quite angry when after a couple of years I challenged his faith on the matter. Both my wife and I called this preacher and were clear that we totally disagreed with his version of the gospel and made it very clear we would tell others that this was our position. With the autonomy that set in, it was not possible to do anything more. The other ICOC UK leaders outside of Manchester were powerless to deal with this horror as they had also adopted congregational autonomy. This form of autonomy did not exist either in Israel between the tribes (Deut 13:12-15) or in the church between congregations (1 Corinthians 4:16-17) yet I am not aware of any church discipline on that man up until today.

In the aftermath of 2003 a lot of congregations in the UK designed and redefined their core beliefs and published a congregational document that had been composed from the input of all the members. I was sent this by a former deacon of my old region in London. Having learned and memorised first principles repeatedly in the 1990s in that same congregation, I felt it read a little like a political manifesto. I visited Stockholm in 2007 and met with a member of their ICOC. He was a politician and had a big part in writing his church’s policy document. He admitted it was very long and sophisticated and agreed perhaps problematic in that someone coming from a different country would have to sign off on it to be a member. This was not the case in the early church of the bible. The church leaders respected the authority of the Scriptures and the members were of noble character (Acts 17:10-11). They did not have idiosyncratic local church rules. They were not authorised to add lengthy additional regulations to those already liberally prescribed by the Lord and His Apostles.

My reaction to the watering down and perversion of the gospel and poisoning of congregations was to join the remnant of sold out disciples in 2005. I had been asked not to come to church due to my fellowship with Kip McKean and was subsequently branded divisive and disfelloshipped by the leaders of that same church, the Belfast ICOC. I had been told at a meeting with the leadership just after my last Sunday, that it was not necessary to preach repentance to mature Christians. I was left with no other choice. I was in a lot of sin and certainly needed repentance to be preached to me. Thankfully Kip McKean, Tim Kernan and Argo Arneson gently restored me to a church in the throes of revival.

I sought out those among all my friends who still held to their original convictions. I literally had to research the bottom line beliefs of the people I knew. I wrote my article ‘Looking the wrong way‘ based on my survey. I realised that there were still disciples in the ICOC with sincere belief in the gospel. They remembered and valued their own salvation but were not seeing many others with the same conviction. Since then I’ve seen a lot of people join the ICC from the ICOC most of them seeking revival.

There have been rare occasions I have listened to ICOC sermons online. One was a talk from the 2012 San Antonio conference. Andy Fleming gave an account of the 10-11% church growth he had in Birmingham in the UK, 8 or 9 new members, one of whom he said he allowed to “speak in tongues“. He was quite fired up about it. A number of the questions from 2012 delegates seemed to be from smaller congregations who felt left out of whatever revival was claimed by the bigger congregations. It seemed to me that the bigger congregations in the UK have tried to respond to this need by sending ministers to some smaller congregations with some success in some cases. Sadly, though these are valiant men and women, giving some of the best years of their lives to this strategy, the former ICOC churches as a whole are not reviving. Gordon Ferguson reported for the year 2015/6 that the former ICOC churches had a growth rate of 1.9%. Gordon’s description of the situation was one that was dire and virtually incurable. The ‘former ICOC’ service team in 2017 suggested a 2.4% growth in their published questionnaire results. This must be understood as being buffered by the baptisms of a significant number of their teen children. It is not an accurate measure of their evangelisation of the lost world in that respect. Their first two 5 year plans from 2003/4 onwards were focussed on the mission of their children and their campus age young adults. This focus led to world wide failure on their part in the mission given by Jesus. In my former article I compared this to an estimated annual 61% growth of the ICC based on a starting point of 2007 and 42 members of the CAICC team. The ICC growth rate for the 2 year period of 2016/17 is very close to 23%. This is equivalent to the growth rate in 1997 for the ICOC. In 2017 the ICC planted 9 cities. In 2018 many more are planned.

I do not measure the success of the ICC with regards to our mission by how far ahead of the former ICOC churches we are. My wife and I are currently praying and preparing to move for the eighth time since we joined the ICC in 2005. No doubt there are many more of our members all over the world in similar circumstances. Operation Eagle will mean many will move within the United States and the World Sector Leaders have their own plans for more pillar churches in their world sectors. With the completion of the Crown of Thorns project we have plans to proliferate in each world sector. If it continues at its current rate of growth the ICC will outgrow the former ICOC churches in 2035.

The spiritual state of the former ICOC churches is summed up best by one of their young preachers at a recent event. Here is a segment of his sermon.

“When I look at the state of the world,  I have this really, really deep fear.. and the fear that I have, it has to do with our movement. I love the international churches of Christ. I am so inspired by the way that our movement came about..  by the examples of my parents, by the examples of many of our parents and those that are leading our churches. They did incredible things and God used them in incredible ways planting churches in almost every country around the entire world in 20 or 30 years and that’s unheard of. It’s incredible.. But my fear is this, that the discipleship that was lived out in the previous generation will not be replicated by our generation, that we will choose comfort over the mission field, that we will choose the American Dream or at least the kingdom version of it,

‘I find my spouse in Campus, I get married, we skip over the Singles entirely, we have kids, [crowd response] we have kids, – hey don’t be mad you know what I’m saying – , we have kids, we grow, we have good jobs and we give a bunch of money to the church, we even have our family group and we might even convert a few of our neighbours in a 20 year span and then at the end of it we say ‘wow what a great race we just ran’ ‘,

and in the meantime our movement continues to shrink, the fervour that we once had is lost and God no longer looks at us and thinks ‘I’m gonna use you to change the world’ and he raises up other people to do it instead of us.  This fear goes all the way down into my core. Let us not let that be true. Let it not be said about us that we did not carry the torch that was handed to us. Let it not be said about us that we were too comfortable to change the world. Let it not be said about us that we were unwilling to go into the mission field because we were worried about our jobs and our families here at home. Let it not be said about us that we resemble good church people but are not truly  disciples. Let’s be disciples that will change the world. Let’s follow in Jesus’s footsteps to change the world. “

The sad fact, as I am certain this young man is aware, is that God raised up Kip McKean for a second time in 2004 and that the initiation of the ICC movement in 2007 is already God using ‘people other than’ the former ICOC churches to evangelise the world. It’s true that the former ICOC churches have handed the torch to their kids for the most part. Gordon Ferguson suggested that perhaps the only way out of the trap of Lukewarmness and Autonomy was to listen to the rebukes of their children. Here is one such young man who is basically saying what the ICC leadership have been saying but how will a people who have disfellowshipped us, ignored us and in some cases persecuted and slandered us, suddenly repent because the same message is being preached by one of their children? I am sad for him but I love his heart. I hope he will not waste his best years of life and ministry to find out that he needed to become a rat, a Remnant Rat.

 

 

Remnant Rant 4.0 Catastrophic Christianity

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