Partners In The Gospel I, II, & III

The following three articles mark the official beginning of the Soldout Discipling movement. These are provided by the “UpSideDown21.org” Article Archives and should offer background into the context of the beginning of our movement of churches.


Partners In The Gospel Part 1

Kathleen Gaumond was baptized last Sunday!  Joyfully 
surrounding her are her family and the sisters who 
studied with her.
Kathleen Gaumond was baptized last Sunday! Joyfully
surrounding her are her family and the sisters who
studied with her.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Acts 2:47

Our Sunday October 8 worship service was spectacular! Amazingly, to close the service eight people were baptized into Christ! Visiting disciples from Australia, Guam, Mexico, Alaska, Florida and three cities in California expressed similar words as the Queen of Sheba when she visited Solomon’s Jerusalem. “She said, ‘The report I heard in my own country…is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me!…Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you!’” (1 Timothy 4:16) Afterwards, Kerry Willis of Brisbane, Australia shared, “This is the church I was baptized in!” (Kerry was baptized in the London Church in 1991.)

Kyle and Joan Bartholomew
Kyle and Joan Bartholomew

My sermon Sunday morning was entitled “You Might Be Fighting God.” In Acts 4:3-4, all the apostles are arrested. Yet that night an angel of the Lord frees the apostles and tells them to preach in the temple courts the next morning. While they are preaching, they are summoned to appear before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin challenges the apostles, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in His name’ yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching'” Peter and the apostles respond, “We must obey God rather than men.” When the Sanhedrin hears these words, “They were furious and wanted to put them to death.” Then Gamaliel says, “Leave them alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

“Partners in the gospel” - The Elders, Evangelists and Region Leaders 
of the Portland Church
“Partners in the gospel” – The Elders, Evangelists and Region Leaders of the Portland Church

From this passage, it is clear that in just six years, the disciples had “filled Jerusalem with the teachings of Jesus.” In our terminology, they had evangelized it. This does not mean everyone became a Christian or even “went through the study series.” It does mean they had heard about Jesus and His church. The Portland Church is as dedicated as the early disciples to fill our city with the teachings of Christ. We believe not only can we evangelize Portland, all of Oregon, all of the United States, but we have a deep conviction it is God’s will to evangelize the world in a generation. After all, Nike, Coca Cola and McDonalds have evangelized the world, can’t a people filled with God’s Spirit do the same?

Kerry and Joe Willis with their two 
children Ali and Luke
Kerry and Joe Willis with their two children Ali and Luke

As in Acts 4:3-4, persecution and controversy always surrounded Jesus’ Church. (Philippians 1:3-5) Likewise the Portland Church is persecuted by the world because of our “narrow-minded” view that drunkenness, lying, pre-marital sex, adultery and homosexuality are sin. (1 Kings 10:6-9) The religious world persecutes us because of our “narrow-minded” Biblical convictions on salvation. We believe that to be saved one must have faith in Jesus, repent of all ones sins turning from a life of darkness to live the life of a disciple, and then to be baptized for the remission of sins to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5) This means that those who practice the false doctrines of “infant baptism” and “praying Jesus into your heart” are lost. This infuriates the religious world. Since so many more people believe these false traditions rather than the Scriptures’ plan of salvation, they call us a cult. It is ironic that in their “open-mindedness” they condemn our “narrow-mindedness.”

Kyle Bartholomew is baptizing a University of 
Hawaii student.  This is the first baptism this 
year in Hilo!
Kyle Bartholomew is baptizing a University of
Hawaii student. This is the first baptism this
year in Hilo!

Perhaps most confusing is the persecution towards us within our own fellowship, the International Churches of Christ. Some refuse to visit or even read in detail about the Portland Church’s convictions simply saying, “Its just church politics.” Yet Acts 4:3-4 suggests that “Jewish politics” are a matter of salvation and if one opposes those who are doing the will of God, then one is indeed fighting God!

Rosa and Dorian Bonilla
Rosa and Dorian Bonilla

In 1979, God began to gather a movement in Boston. The Spirit moved in people’s hearts to come to Boston and our plantings from the Crossroads Campus Ministry Movement as well as the mainline Churches of Christ. God used so many to plant churches in 171 nations. In reflecting over the chaos of the last few years, I deeply regret my sins of leadership that hurt many disciples. I am so grateful that God in his mercy has given me a second chance. In three years time, God has grown the Portland Church from a few to 500 on Sundays! As in the early Boston years, equally zealous people are coming to Portland seeking our help to give them a second chance to strengthen their faith and evangelize the world. More and more frustrated disciples are choosing to start new churches rather than split their current congregations. This is exactly what so many of us agreed to in 1982 when we chose to stop sending campus ministers into the mainline Churches of Christ and instead planted new churches. Most all of the current ICOC Churches were begun this way.

Great news from the Campus Ministry! Pictured are Joy Axelson and Michael Tade who were baptized last Sunday!
Great news from the Campus Ministry! Pictured are Joy Axelson and Michael Tade who were baptized last Sunday!

The 20 some years of uninterrupted union enjoyed in the Boston Movement (ICOC) is a marvel and to me best demonstrates what is required to baptize as many as we did. Sadly, that union is gone. I am not saying that those remaining in the ICOC are all dead or lost, but the partnership we built is over. I am so thankful for the men and women who never gave up and endured in their congregations while many around them were leaving. And I appreciate the efforts being made in good conscience by brethren trying to unite again those churches. I consider them my brothers and sisters in Christ. But just as they don’t agree with me in everything, neither do I agree that they will successfully evangelize the world or maintain unity for long among themselves. Only the Lord and time will tell.

The Vancouver Region is rejoicing as God added two new brothers to their number in baptism last Sunday - Anthony Bonser (third from left) and Mike-el Jackson (forth from right.)
The Vancouver Region is rejoicing as God added two new brothers to their number in baptism last Sunday – Anthony Bonser (third from left) and Mike-el Jackson (forth from right.)

For these reasons, after several agonizing days of prayer as well as counsel from the Portland elders and evangelists, my decision at this juncture is to start over with whoever is willing to help in building a worldwide movement for baptizing lost souls. Learning from the past, we want to make it very clear that we are not condemning those who do not consider themselves part of this movement. Anyone who is a baptized disciple making every effort to walk in the light is a brother in Christ and promised heaven. Participating in this new movement is not an issue of salvation. This is an issue of building a unified effort to preach Christ in every nation. Being a part of this new movement is an issue of being able to go from one city to the next and find a fellowship of disciples who speak the same language and are kindred spirits.

Juliana Dacosta (third from left) and Squire SIlliman (second from right) were bapitzed last Sunday in the City Center Region. Juliana and her husband, who was baptized recently, are both dentists.
Juliana Dacosta (third from left) and Squire SIlliman (second from right) were bapitzed last Sunday in the City Center Region. Juliana and her husband, who was baptized recently, are both dentists.

God worked through the following events to solidify my convictions to start again. Kyle Bartholomew, the minister, and the shepherding couples of the Hilo International Church of Christ in Hawaii asked Elena and me to disciple them and rebuild the foundation of sold-out disciples in September. At its zenith, the Hilo Church had 60 disciples with almost 100 in attendance on Sunday mornings. Over the last few years, the church has shrunk to 35 to 40 (including kids) on Sunday mornings and only 10-15 on Wednesday evenings. (The attendance at midweek services is usually the real indication of the number of truly committed members.) We were in Hilo four days. After calling the entire congregation back to being sold-out disciples, the minister and both shepherding couples remained with a total of only 12 disciples. God blessed their repentance as the next Sunday they had 14 visitors, the next 11 visitors and last Wednesday they had a student baptized from the University of Hawaii! This was the church’s first baptism this year! When there is a base of sold-out disciples, then and only then will disciples multiply.

{$presentedImage[11]} Interestingly, while we were in Hilo, an evangelist from the Los Angeles ICOC accompanied by the evangelist and the two elders from Honolulu ICOC secretly met with the members of the Hilo ICOC who did not want to follow their leaders decision to have Portland discipling them. They formed a “new church” of about 20 members. This is fine with us, yet these same leaders returned to their home churches to preach that Portland was in sin because we believed in calling out a remnant and forming new congregations. They are teaching, “Starting a second church is divisive and unbiblical.” Yet this is exactly what they did. From a historical perspective, if one has a conviction that you should never start a new church, then he or she should attend the Roman Catholic Church as it is the most direct link to the first century church. But we believe many ICOC congregations have drifted in “life and doctrine” to such an extent that it is time for a revolution of starting new churches composed of only sold-out disciples. (Acts 2:36-38)

Patricia and Salvador Velasco
Patricia and Salvador Velasco

Today we are excited to announce the formation of three new congregations composed of only sold-out disciples. Praise God for:

Los Angeles International Christian Church – This church has 21 members and is led by Sal and Patricia Velasco. They had 54 at their first service on October 8. Excitingly they also had their first baptism after church!

San Pedro Sula (Honduras) International Christian Church (Iglesia Cristiana Internacional de San Pedro Sula) – This congregation is led by Dorian and Rosa Bonilla. They started with 16 leaders on October 7. Presently, they have 70 sold-out members.

Brisbane (Australia) International Christian Church – Joe and Kerry Willis will begin this new congregation this month. The original Brisbane International Church of Christ divided into two congregations last year. After speaking to both leaderships and visiting Portland, the Willis’ decided that God was leading them to begin a new congregation of sold-out disciples. At this time, a few Portland disciples are praying about moving to Brisbane.

These congregations will now join the Portland family of churches in Eugene, Oregon; Corvallis, Oregon; Salt Lake City, Utah; Phoenix, Arizona; Chicago, Illinois; Syracuse, New York; Savannah, Georgia; Hilo, Hawaii; Honolulu, Hawaii; Stockholm, Sweden; Toronto, Canada; Belfast, Ireland; Kiev, Ukraine; Santiago, Chile; Vina Del Mar, Chile; and Racagua, Chile. Truly God is forging a new movement of sold-out disciples that will evangelize the entire world in our generation. We now have brothers who consider us “partners in the gospel.” Now more and more disciples in other cities and states and countries and continents are contacting us asking us for help, wanting to join our fellowship. It is disappointing that there are some who are actively persecuting the efforts of the Portland family of churches, even though “the Lord is adding to our number daily.” (2 Timothy 3:12) For those that oppose us Gamaliel’s words are fitting, “Leave them alone’if it is from God you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourself fighting God.” Portland family of churches, heed Gamaliel’s words as well. Let us praise God for each baptism in the ICOC churches as well as the mainline churches for all who are faithful baptized disciples form God’s “church universal.” As for us in Portland, let us determine to build God’s “visible church” with only sold-out disciples who will multiply and evangelize their city and nation.

To individuals who are searching for spiritual renewal, we in Portland will embrace any disciple or group of disciples to go to the ends of the earth in order to save as many as possible. As “partners in the gospel,” our time will be spent preaching the Word and uniting those who want to spend the next 20 some years or more, Lord willing, making disciples of every nation. And to God be all the glory!

Kip McKean


Partners In The Gospel Part 2

Terri and Matt Wirgler
Terri and Matt Wirgler

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-8

Every week more brothers and sisters are joining us in fellowship to obey the Great Commission. Sunday, October 29 we welcomed our newest member of the Portland family of churches, the San Francisco (California) International Christian Church. This new congregation was initiated through the faith of Matt and Terri Wirgler. During the week before, Elena and I traveled to Los Angeles and San Pedro Sula, Honduras to strengthen these young churches. Thursday evening, we spoke to fifty-five zealous disciples in Los Angeles, courageously led by Sal and Patricia Velasco. Later that night, we flew to San Pedro Sula to help Dorian and Rosa Bonilla build a foundation of sold-out disciples. We were so grateful that Omar Valdovinos of Portland and Chris Williams of Chicago flew in to assist us in this task.

Pictured are Anu and Argo Lips and Erik af Klint from Stockholm, Sweden with Mary and Joe Santos of Honolulu. All of these leaders encouraged us  by visiting our congregation last week.
Pictured are Anu and Argo Lips and Erik af Klint from Stockholm, Sweden with Mary and Joe Santos of Honolulu. All of these leaders encouraged us by visiting our congregation last week.

Sunday in Honduras was glorious as 155 were in attendance and we appointed Dorian and Rosa, Evangelist and Women’s Ministry Leader. They are the first Hondurans to be appointed to this role in ICOC history. Of special note, the San Pedro Sula International Christian Church embraced Hector and Wendy Cardona back into fellowship. Hector is the father of faith to the disciples in the nation of Panama, having led the planting in 1998. Sadly, upon their return to Honduras the Cardonas were labeled divisive and disfellowshipped because the Cardonas’ convictions made them outspoken about the sin and apathy they saw unaddressed in the church. So for the past two years, they continued to worship our Savior alone with their four children. During this time, Hector shared that one of the ways the Lord sustained them was listening to all the sermons on UpSideDown21. Since two years ago, Dorian and Rosa had consented to the discipline exercised towards the Cardonas. When the Bonillas humbly in tears asked forgiveness from the Cardonas, both couples were resolved. Now, the Bonillas and Cardonas are excited to be worshipping and working together again. As David wrote, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit;for the Lord redeems His servants.” (Judges 2:16-19)

I have long been of the opinion that the Bible reveals numerous movements of God – from populating the earth, to the Exodus from Egypt, to conquering the Promised Land, to the building of a glorious Israel under King David, to the remnant returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, to making disciples of all nations. The rise and fall of God’s people roller coasters throughout the Bible and throughout history. Some have theorized that all movements, whether spiritual or secular, pass through five definitive stages: man, message, momentum, maintenance and finally monument, the death of a movement. I believe this cycle is clearly seen in Judges 2. When Joshua died, “another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil;they forsook the Lord;In His anger the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them;[the Israelites] were in great distress.” (Judges 2:10-15) Usually when people are in great distress they cry out to the Lord! In the case of the Israelites, when they cried out the Lord heard them and “Then the Lord raised up judges [leaders] who saved them;He was with the judge [leader] and saved Israel out of the hands of their enemies;for the Lord had compassion on them;But when the judge [leader] died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt.” (Judges 2:10-15)

Hector and Wendy Cardona with Rosa and Dorian Bonilla
Hector and Wendy Cardona with Rosa and Dorian Bonilla

In this instance, God’s way to save His people was to raise up a leader passionate for His mission. I believe that this was the Lord’s usual method for championing His cause. By using imperfect men to lead His people, our perfect God is glorified all the more! When a man proclaims God’s message, men who are often unknown to each other are drawn together by the Spirit and the momentum creates a synergy, a “movement.” Throughout history the death or departure of the leader usually signals the decline and eventual death of that movement. The major exception to that was of course the death of Jesus who just three days later rose from the grave and perpetuated a worldwide movement that hell itself cannot stop. That’s the movement I have always wished to participate in.

A few weeks ago, a dear friend felt compelled to write me and in an effort to be constructively critical, offered the formula “Kip + a few disgruntled people = new church.” I admit there is truth in this charge. Many brothers and sisters unhappy with their congregations are asking me and others associated with me to help them start new churches. I see this as an improvement over staying in an existing church and being disgruntled or falling away from God. This was exactly the position I took in 1982 when we began sending men and women around the world planting new churches. Most had been converted or grafted in from churches from which they had become unhappy. So I have to agree and even advertise that if you are unhappy with where you are and cannot resolve things, come with us. We are baptizing the lost and creating a new fellowship of Christians excited about sharing their faith. If you are happy (spiritually fulfilled and your conscience is clear) in the congregation where you are now, you should stay there; seek and save the lost from that part of the Kingdom. But if you are not happy, and cannot “get happy,” perhaps you should consider joining us as we passionately strive to obey Jesus’ Great Commission to go to all nations.

I have long loved the story of David in the cave of Adullam. “David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam;All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. About four hundred men were with him.” I think you could have said “David + distressed, in debt and discontented people = new church.” Certainly seems to me that this “formula” brought together righteous men who would in time become David’s mighty men. (1 Samuel 22:1-2) Similar formulas are uniting people in all kinds of endeavors. Even the Statue of Liberty with the inscription “Bring us your tired, your poor,” demonstrates that no matter how small or weak you are at first, there is power in a united people with a united vision. Remember, David was hated and despised by King Saul and so “divided” off from him. This in time created Judah, under David’s leadership, and Israel under Saul’s son’s leadership. Then seven years later God united Judah and Israel!

I own my part of being unable to resolve issues with lifelong friends who used to support my leadership. It’s no secret that many of us who once were “partners in the gospel” are not in fellowship with each other now. Let me restate that it’s no secret that many of my former friends have disfellowshipped me for what they say is divisive behavior, as did the mainline Churches of Christ in the early 1980s. It is clear, these brothers and those with me have a disagreement. For the most part I do not believe the brothers that oppose our efforts are malicious or for that matter lost. I do not think I am totally right and they are totally wrong. I do not believe I am the only one with the gospel (2 Samuel 23), but neither do I believe I am the only one with the problem. I am finding many others who are having the same problems resolving some of these same issues with some of the same people, yet are perfectly happy to join me in my desire to plant new churches around the world. Like Paul and Barnabas, who had what the Spirit recorded as “such a sharp disagreement that they parted company,” (Philippians 1:7-8, 18) I have decided to take who ever wants to go with me and evangelize the world. Until we die or Jesus comes, there is plenty of room for likeminded disciples to band together and win as many as possible.

Jesus’ dream, “the evangelization of the nations in this generation” unites the Portland family of churches. (1 Corinthians 14:36) The Spirit is moving in the hearts of many disciples and drawing us together. Before July 2003, when Elena and I arrived in Portland, we had no relationships with our present elder couples the Bertalots and Untalans or dynamic leaders such as the Williamsons, Bordieris, Comisfords, Thompsons, Eckels or Gonzalezs. Yet now we are all best friends! Likewise, as promised in Nehemiah 1, God has drawn together a remnant for us from the “farthest horizons:” the Brooms, Sullivans, Chloupeks, Jay and Angie Hernandez, Morenos, Bartholomews, Smellies, Lips, Kernans, Maxim Potapov and Natasha Kukoba, Santos, Willis’, Chris and Alba Williams, Hardings, Wirglers, Bonillas and Cardonas. Others, like the Johnsons, Banadygas and Velascos have been lifelong friends. Our common dream unites us.

Yes, once upon a time many of us agreed that our mission was to evangelize the world in one generation, in our generation. Now, not everyone agrees with that notion and in fact some even renounce it as “foolish,” “a false teaching” and “a good idea, but impossible.” Let those who agree work together. Let those who do not agree go lovingly and peacefully in another direction. God will in time sort it all out. Let me reiterate from the first “Partners in the Gospel” that I believe there are sold-out disciples in the mainline Church of Christ and many thousands in the ICOC Churches. Just as much, I believe any person in any church anywhere who becomes a disciple of Jesus and is baptized for remission of sins becomes a saved brother or sister in the Kingdom of God. Yet, the distinctiveness of this new movement among the Portland family of churches is as simple as this: we are in agreement to call each member to be sold-out for Christ and to co-operate with each other in our dream to evangelize the world in this generation.

As I reflect on all that was accomplished from 1979-2000, despite our shortcomings and doctrinal short-sightedness, I am moved all the more by God’s grace reaching thousands upon thousands of souls in 171 nations. Truly we were a movement of God. Today is a new day with new hope and I find myself with a new group of like-minded friends creating a new synergy; a new movement. I understand it’s the Lord who leads His true movements and I want to be protected in His grace as he advances His cause where ever and how ever He does it, with whom ever He does it with. As Paul said to the Philippians, I say to all my brothers, especially those who do not fellowship me any longer, “I have you in my heart; [and] long for you with the affection that is in Jesus;The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motive or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18) While we are not together, let us all pray that God will move us towards each other and the wounds of the past will heal and we will once again join hand in hand around pools of water baptizing lost souls in our tears.

Until that day you will find me with brothers and sisters who are in agreement. I will be with brethren who are in agreement on trying to evangelize the whole world in this generation. I will be with disciples agreeing on the message and agreeing on the plan to spread that message. I will be with disciples agreeing to build a movement centered on one personality.

And His name is Jesus.

Kip McKean


Partners In The Gospel Part 3

Pictured are Kyle and Joan Bartholomew from Hilo, Joe and Mary Santos from Honolulu,  Matt and Terri Wirgler and Ryan Casarez from San Francisco.  All of these  church leaders encouraged us  by visiting our congregation last week.
Pictured are Kyle and Joan Bartholomew from Hilo, Joe and Mary Santos from Honolulu, Matt and Terri Wirgler and Ryan Casarez from San Francisco. All of these church leaders encouraged us by visiting our congregation last week.

“Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” 2 Timothy 3:15

“God’s Not Finished With Me Yet” by Gerald Crabb

If you don’t like the way I am, don’t judge me yet just hang around

God’s not finished with me yet

Now I’m not what I used to be, there’s still work to do in me

God’s not finished with me yet

He’s working on my feet so they will walk straight

He’s working on my heart to keep it pure

He’s holding my hand so he can lead me and teach me to endure

When the going gets tough I get frustrated and I start to forget

Then I’m reminded that God’s not finished with me yet

One day I thought I had arrived till the good Lord brought me down to size

He said I’m not finished with you yet

Now I am on the potter’s wheel he’s molding me to fit his will

God’s not finished with me yet

We are all works in progress! Apollos was sincere in what he preached. In fact much of what he preached was powerful and Biblical, but in some convictions he was sincerely wrong. When he had the Word explained to him more adequately, he accepted it. He changed his mind and thus helped change the world.

Like anyone else, over the years I have changed my mind on some things and kept my convictions on others. As a young movement in the 1980’s, all of us were filled with optimism and idealism. This was especially true when we considered our children becoming of age and being baptized into the Kingdom. We believed they all would be baptized and remain faithful. Yet if a child was baptized and later fell away, I believed that the parents must have sinned grossly. I drew this conclusion because I had failed to read Proverbs 22:6 closely. This Scripture teaches, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I overlooked that little but all so important part of the Scripture which says, “when he is old.” With all my heart I believed that if the parents did everything to train their children, their children would not fall away.

Before 2001 when I was considered the “leader of the movement,” I used this misconception to gauge whether or not many should be in the ministry, or at least what level of leadership they could serve. I influenced many people and whether they all agreed or not, my associates went along with my opinion, which was in error. A number of people stepped down from various roles of leadership when their children decided to leave the church. But when my children began to struggle spiritually, I realized my mistake. Yet, it was too late. Since I did not apply the same standard to myself, my apologies to others seemed shallow and their lack of forgiveness seemed unchristian to me; an altogether demonic trap. It was at this time that many leaders felt I needed to resign. However, the pain inflicted on everyone’s children is the hardest thing to bear.

Through this difficult time I came to realize my opinion did not align with God’s use of Aaron, Samuel and David himself. I believe the Lord allowed me to walk this lonesome path so I would fully turn to Him as well as empathize with those that had likewise been unjustly judged for whatever reason. Truth is often painfully discovered, yet our God gives mercy to the brokenhearted. I believe with all of my heart that almost all disciples try their best to raise their children in the Lord. Therefore, I encourage all parents to claim the promise, “when a child is old” he will not turn from God.

From late 2001 to November 2002, not only were my failings and weaknesses used to disqualify me, but almost all of the World Sector Leaders felt a similar scrutiny and judgment and by November 2002 in Long Beach those who had not already stepped down or been “taken out” did so there. From where I see things, in my humble opinion, with the World Sector Leaders gone, those with a more mainline Church of Christ theology, became the most influential voices in the International Church of Christ. Among these were most of the Kingdom Elders and Kingdom Teachers and even a few of the former World Sector Leaders. Introduced and embraced at that time:

1. The dream to evangelize the world in one generation was renounced as “false doctrine,” “a good idea, but impossible.”

2. ICOC Churches became totally autonomous. In other words, the final decisions for a congregation rests solely on the local church leadership.

3. The leadership paradigm in local church leaderships shifted from the evangelists leading the church to elders leading the church. In many cases, a “lead” evangelist was called “unbiblical” and a consensus group with no “one” leader was embraced.

4. In almost all ICOC congregations, there was a marginalizing or elimination of discipling. Thus Discipleship Partners and Bible Talks as methodologies were abandoned.

5. The distinctive name “International,” which distinguished us from the mainline Church of Christ, was dropped from most International Churches of Christ. Thus in name and theology most congregations reverted to “Church of Christ.” At least one Kingdom Teacher, that embraced a more mainline Church of Christ theology, publicly denounced the collective methodologies of World Sector Leaders, Lead Evangelists, Women’s Ministry Leaders, Bible Talks and Discipleship Partners as the “evil system.”

As I travel around the world, many sincere disciples are still perplexed and ask why convictions that were held dear from the beginning of Boston in 1979 to the completion of the Evangelization Proclamation in 2000, were so quickly dismissed as “unbiblical.” I think the fundamental issue centers on one’s view of the Scriptures.

In the more conservative of the mainline Churches of Christ, the prevalent view of the Scriptures is “to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” In other words, there must be an explicit command or example in the New Testament for something to be accepted as church doctrine or methodology. In the extreme, this was why many churches split long ago over having kitchens in the church building, instruments in the worship services, or more than one cup for communion. (Interestingly, “church building” is not even in the Bible either.) Therefore for some of our brethren who grew up with this view of Scripture, they concluded that since World Sector Leaders, Lead Evangelists, Women’s Ministry Leaders, Bible Talks and Discipleship Partners are not explicitly stated in the New Testament, they decreed these titles, roles and methodologies “unbiblical.”

When I was in Boston in the 1980’s, I began to have trouble in my conscience with the old adage and eventually came up with my own version, “Speak where the Bible is silent and be silent where the Bible speaks.” It seemed to me then, and still does now, that we are free to implement any methodology that is not explicitly forbidden in the Bible. If the Bible is silent on it, we can comment as long as our “comment” does not contradict other Scriptures. If the Scriptures specifically command an action, we have no liberty to “speak,” there is no discussion, we must obey it! I still think that since there are no Scriptures against World Sector Leaders, Lead Evangelists, Women’s Ministry Leaders, Bible Talks and Discipleship Partners we are free to implement these methodologies, roles and titles, especially if they promote the gospel.

Another concept adopted in November 2002 from the mainline Churches of Christ is their plea to “restore the New Testament Church.” Though noble sounding, my conviction was and still is that the Lord’s Church is an “Old and New” Testament Church. I understand that Jesus has “canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.” (1 Corinthians 10) However, in Romans 15:4 Paul teaches, “For everything written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” We do not have to sacrifice animals to be pleasing to God anymore, but Mark 16:20 likewise teaches we should learn from the “examples” of the Old Testament not to “commit sexual immorality,” “test the Lord” or “grumble as [the Hebrews] did.” (Colossians 2:14)

Since 1979 my plea has been to build “Bible Churches.” My experiences with the mainline Church of Christ has led me to believe that many of them almost eliminate the use of the Old Testament as a basis for building the church. Yet Paul’s admonition to Timothy seems to contradict the notion that we can just discard the Old Testament. He tells Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” as well as “how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Proverbs 22:6) Does not the term “Scripture” here refer to the Old Testament? In fact, it may be that over half the New Testament was not even written at the time Paul penned these words to Timothy and certainly could not have been around while Timothy was growing up. Most scholars agree that the first of our New Testament books was the first letter written to the Thessalonians, around 50 A.D. If the letters to Timothy were written after 64 A.D., while Paul was imprisoned, and the first gospel, Mark, was written sometime later, as well as the writings of Peter, James, John, and Matthew; which “Scriptures” would Paul be speaking of? The Old Testament was the “Bible” for the early church, while Jesus was being confirmed by the preaching of His “Word [and] by the signs that accompanied it.” (1 Corinthians 4:17)

Therefore, principles that were condemned in November 2002 such as delegating authority from World Sector Leaders to Lead Evangelists to Regional Evangelists to Sector Leaders to Bible Talk Leaders are validated by such Old Testament passages as Exodus 18:13-26. Jethro says to Moses that “God so commands” the delegating of authority so as to not wear out the leaders as well as to meet all the needs of large numbers of God’s people. Also, the concept of calling out a remnant is clearly seen over and over again in the Old Testament.

I am like anyone else in that I have my own opinions about what happened to our fellowship. Years of unresolved bitter feelings, insular leadership, infantilizing people coupled with a lack of emphasis on God’s grace eventually dried out our fellowship. Then, one match in February 2003, the “Kriete letter,” was all it took to ignite a fire that refined almost everything. Since God is sovereign, my conviction is that either God set the fire or allowed it to be set.

In all of church history few groups, if any, have enjoyed over 20 years of united success like we did. So whatever explanation you come up with in regards to what happened to us, the reality is that we are still here, the world still needs Jesus and we have to decide what to do. As for me, my ambition is to motivate men and women to be totally sold-out for Jesus Christ and to at least agree that every member in every church is supposed to be totally committed to His mission. Like Paul said in Romans 15:14, “This is what I teach everywhere in every church.” I am not saying that Portland is a perfect church. I do not think there ever has been or ever will be a perfect church. How could there be if you and I are in it? But, God help us please, the standards have lowered so much in most ICOC congregations. Where once we all agreed on what it meant to be a disciple, men who know better are tolerating members not showing up for services, not giving their money, not sharing their faith, dating non-Christians and the congregations suffer because of it. Sadly, though there are a few baptisms, the multiplication of disciples and churches has stopped and our cities are getting more lost by the minute.

Yes, we are far from perfect in Portland. Many of my members get embarrassed when I brag about them. But I will keep on, not because they are perfect, but because we have all agreed for the ideals of the Bible to be our standards. Otherwise we become cynical and allow our shortcomings to enable people to sell short what God can do with us. Only one thing can be guaranteed, I and those with me will make a lot of mistakes again. But this time we will have more grace and mercy with one another as we try to fill each city and the world with the teachings of Jesus.

So, I have a question for you. Who’s your partner? What will your partnership produce? My prayer is that one day we all will become partners with one another and with the Lord. “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain…now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:1-3) If we start with the Lord as our partner, our fellow worker, we may just end up in the same field.

Remember, He isn’t finished with any of us yet.

Kip McKean

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

 
%d bloggers like this: