International Churches of Christ (ICOC)

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Boston Church of Christ

International Churches of Christ (ICC, ICoC)

International Church of Christ

The Boston Movement

Local Chapters: “CITY” Church of Christ (e.g. Atlanta Church of Christ)

Affiliated Organizations

Hope Worldwide

International Christian Churches

Sold Out Discipling Movement


Kip McKean


Kip McKean 1979- 2002

2002- present cooperative churches still using Kip’s theology

(ICoC officially warns members to stay away from Kip’s divisive teachings in 2005)

Group Description

This is a multicultural attractive group of people who appear to be very caring and enthusiastic Christians. They won’t tell you they think there is no salvation outside this group until you are very far along in the recruitment process and they have befriended you and made you feel special. They are very fun and good at making people feel welcome. This group claims to be just a Bible-believing honest Christian church, but it will demand every ounce of your being and rape you spiritually and leave you questioning yourself, your traditions, and everything about you that is you and replace that with only the parts of you they can use to glorify themselves. The group will make you put the kingdom (that is the group) first in your life, above your own dreams, ambitions, desires, family, friends, and self, and ultimately, above God. The people are very sincere and all under mind control themselves. The sincerity makes it seem more credible; they are not lying, because they actually believe what they are telling you.

The following is a general description from The International Churches of Christ (ICOC) and International Christian Churches (ICC) The ICOC is also known as The Boston Movement, Discipling Movement, Crossroads Movement, Multiplying Ministries, (City) Church of Christ e.g., Boston Church of Christ. The ICC is also known as The Sold-Out Discipling Movement, (City) International Christian Church, e.g., City of Angels International Christian Church, Chicago International Christian Church. They have alternative names to disguise their identity or alternate fronts such as Campus Advance, Christian Students Association, Alpha Omega, Disciples on Campus (not to be confused with the Disciples of Christ group with the same name), HOPE Worldwide, MERCY Worldwide, Disciples Today.


In the 1800s, a number of Protestants were concerned about the fragmenting Protestant Church, over what they perceived to be minutiae of beliefs. Instead, a number sought to return to First Century Christianity and only the Bible and tended to ignore any creed and statement of faith as only man-made, as well as ignoring any Christian history, and overlooking their own traditions. This became the Stone-Campbell American Restoration movement or the Mainline Churches of Christ. Even though most of the contemporary Mainline Churches of Christ that have roots in this movement are healthy and grace-filled, this movement has also produced legalistic and even cultic fruit. One example is Jim Jones and Jonestown. The other well-known groups are the International Churches of Christ (ICOC) and a rising splinter group known as the International Christian Churches (ICC).

During the 1970s, the Mainline Churches of Christ membership numbers had plateau-ed. In Gainesville, Florida, Chuck Lucas, the mentor of Thomas Kip McKean and campus minister for the Fourteen Street Crossroads Church of Christ, realized having every member 1) focus on recruitment ( evangelism) and 2) tied into the church via prayer partners would allow his church to grow rapidly. A number of Crossroads-trained leaders, especially Kip McKean, took these strategies and took over a number of churches and formed their own movement within the Mainline Churches of Christ, then dubbed the Boston/Discipling/Crossroads Movement. A number of high-control techniques were employed, ranging from “breaking sessions” where multiple members would confront a member on wrongdoings, to verbally coercing recalcitrant members to do what leaders and disciplers wanted.

As criticism mounted from within the Mainline Churches of Christ, including former Boston Movement leaders, Kip McKean discovered a new doctrine: Matthew 28:18-20 taught that only disciples those who were sufficiently broken over their sins, living the Christian life (in the ways McKean defined them) and agreed with his interpretations of Scripture were fit to be baptized. This new-found doctrine allowed McKean to schism from the Mainline Churches of Christ. Christian sociologists termed McKean’s movement the International Churches of Christ (1994). In 2003-2004, a series of events rocked the ICOC’s world. McKean’s oldest child, then a Harvard student, did not worship at or fellowship with the Boston Church of Christ. Since McKean had dealt with leaders whose children were not members by removing them from leadership, numerous leaders asked Kip to step down from his role as World Missions Evangelist, the ICOC’s top leader. Eventually, Kip admitted he had to step aside from ministry to work on his marriage. Henry Kriete, a high-level Evangelist in London, wrote a lengthy letter, admitting to abuses, problems, and areas needed for change, vindicating what numerous former church members and critics had been saying for 2 decades. Kip eventually was appointed the lead evangelist of the Portland, Oregon, International Church of Christ, and became convinced that his strategies were still correct and attempted to call other churches, leaders, and members to align with them. Instead, over 80 lead evangelists and other church leaders signed a statement against McKean’s conduct and vision and responded against his divisiveness. McKean decided to schism again, calling his new movement the International Christian Churches or the Sold-Out Discipling Movement.

Why are they considered an abusive/destructive group? Both groups teach the same doctrines, but the ICOC’s current practices of these doctrines aren’t as extreme as the ICCs. Either way, both groups are still very dangerous and destructive. Numerous ex-members complained of legalism, the heavy-handedness of treatment, lack of grace, lack of forgiveness (e.g., past sins brought up and used against them), manipulation, forced uniformity and conformity to church agenda, browbeating on all matters, even opinion. Numerous former members have noted a lack of ability to make their own decisions or diminished critical thinking skills. As members, students have dropped out, reduced their course load, or changed to easier majors due to the number of church-related meetings and events, which are deemed mandatory or very important. A typical non-leader member can spend between 6-15 hours per week in church events. Numerous members and ex-members have noted personality shifts and personality falsification toward the group norm. The church is also synonymous with God, making pronouncements into members’ lives. To disobey or not obey the church is to stray from God’s good graces and could result in condemnation. Numerous members have cut ties with former friends and families even if the friends and family were devout Christians. They teach a Gnostic Gospel: one that elevates spirituality and the spiritual e.g., becoming a minister as opposed to the mundane (e.g., studying, secular work). They teach a false man-centered Gospel of Works where the power and reliance on the Holy Spirit is unnecessary.

Doctrines and Some distinctive beliefs

Disciple: Members of the ICOC and ICC believe that only committed Christians who are involved in cold-contact evangelism, who have made the decision to follow Christ, agreeing with core ICOC-/ICC- defined tenets, are disciples.

Baptism: Members of the ICOC and ICC believe in baptismal regeneration, that the act of full immersion in water procures forgiveness of sins and subsequently gives the indwelling Holy Spirit; that baptism must be done to only a disciple. It is not a valid baptism if: 1) one does not hold to these beliefs, 2) the baptism is done by a church that does not have the same doctrines and beliefs as the ICOC/ICC. Individuals must start living the life of a disciple before they are baptized. (This is a contradiction as they teach that people are lost and not a disciple before they are baptized.)

True Church: The only true churches are congregations that have the same doctrines and practices as the ICOC and ICC respectively. No other churches are true churches.

Evangelism: The litmus test for many ICOC/ICC churches of a disciple is whether they evangelize, meaning they practice cold-contact invitation. They also tend to target relatively innocent and idealistic college students and other vulnerable people.

Strategies for discussion with members of the ICOC/ICC

1. Don’t focus on baptism, which is where they want to fight.

2. Do not agree to meet with multiple members or their friends alone.

3. Be actively involved in a healthy church and Christian fellowship.

4. Get them to define their terminology: don’t assume that they are saying the same thing you are.

5. Discuss justification by faith.

6. Show them other mature and devout Christians one can have a spiritual life outside of the ICOC/ICC.

7. Emphasize spiritual unity of Christians outside the ICOC e.g., the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene Creed, para-church organizations that work with multiple churches (e.g., Cru, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Navigators, National Association of Evangelicals, Christian Apologetics Alliance, etc.) although members may demonize all of these groups.

8. Discuss the personhood of the Holy Spirit as well as the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian; the dual nature of Christ (fully human and fully God); their continuous and unrelenting focus on falling short instead of walking with the Spirit.

Behavior Control

The ICOC controls how to dress, and who you can date/marry. You must get permission to date someone and must get permission for major and minor life decisions. Permission is called “advice” to make it seem benign. You are also told where you can live, who you can talk to and about what, what movies to watch, and how to spend your time. Members were at times forced to map out their schedules from 5 am to midnight and account for every moment – and repent of any amount of time wasted not glorifying God by recruiting, fundraising, or taking part in activities related to building up the group. You must attend every meeting of the body, which means: Sunday service, Wednesday service, Bible-talk, discipling time, and many more events. These include hospitality, sharing faith and benevolence, mandatory fun and prayer meetings, and leaders meetings if you are a leader, etc. It all may seem like people are fully committed and excited, but you are not allowed to refuse to attend these events; for any event you cannot attend, you must get permission to be absent. If you are dating, you are not allowed to have any sexual contact; this is enforced because a woman and man are not allowed to be alone in a room together (because that would give a hint of impurity). Double dating is enforced so no one is tempted. All sexual sins, lust, and masturbation must be confessed to your discipler. If you’re married, you are told how often to have sex (usually at least 3 times a week – or probably whatever your discipler thinks is a good amount). The wife must not say no, the husband must not say no, there is no such thing as autonomy or boundaries in marriage. You are responsible for making sure your spouse does not struggle with lust, and, since no masturbation is allowed, that means making yourself available. You must give money; people are forced into debt, as in order to become a member you must give at least 10% (mandatory) of your gross income, but most people give upwards of 15%, with an expectation that once a year you must give an additional 15-20 times your weekly contribution to special missions contribution. Since becoming a member, that is, being baptized, is when a person is “saved,” this means that they withhold salvation from people who don’t agree to give this amount of money. You are held accountable for giving your weekly pledge, which you are forced to make. If you don’t show up to midweek service, someone will probably come to your house to collect the contribution (justified as “checking in” on you to see that you’re “all right”). Obeying your leaders is equated with obeying God.

Information Control

Members are forbidden from reading any information that is critical of the group, and forbidden from talking to people who have left the group and are critical of it (divisive). You are only allowed to express negative information (doubts/sins) up the chain of discipling. There is deceptive recruitment and incremental disclosure: you must pass through and agree to accept one teaching before you can move on to the next. During studies, they insist on taking notes for you, etc. (so you only get their version of the scriptures to read).

Thought Control

Prayer is used to get people to control their own thoughts. In confession, you must confess every doubt you have to your discipler, and you are not allowed to think negative thoughts about the group. Anything that makes you doubt (think) must be avoided, which often means cutting off friendships with people who are not part of the group, and not spending time with peers in the group that you enjoy because if you become friends naturally, you might agree with each other’s doubts and not confess them up (this is also emotional control). People are made to fast in order to be broken before God (which means being willing to do whatever your leaders tell you).

Emotional Control

Relationships are controlled completely by the group: you are told who your discipler is (that’s your new best friend) and which Bible talk you are in. This relationship can be changed at any time and is often changed (so that your loyalty remains to the group). You are told whom to date/ marry and must get permission to date someone; the group has the power to refuse and to have the person break up with you if they do not like how you are behaving. Affection is withdrawn if you are in sin (which means any behavior that the group doesn’t like) and much praise is given to those who are producing- bringing people and baptizing (rewards and punishments). Shame and guilt is invoked as people are humiliated in leaders’ meetings if you didn’t have any visitors. People are made to stand up in large groups if they didn’t bring any visitors in a given amount of time. People are told that God is displeased and will cut off every tree that does not bear fruit and that God is going to spit you out of his mouth, that your “lukewarmness” makes God want to vomit, your sins killed Jesus, you killed Jesus, your sins mean that you deserve death, you will go to Hell if you leave the group, you will lose all your relationships if you leave the group, you will become mentally ill, fall away from God, go to Hell, etc. People are berated and made to fast in order to get them to agree. Because people must confess every sin, including sexual sin, lust, and masturbation, people are constantly made to feel shame and guilt. This motivates the person to fear losing his salvation and keeps the person dependent and obedient.

For the full, color-coded BITE model analysis of the ICOC, see here. For a discussion on why the ICOC and other discipling/ shepherding groups are harmful, see our article here.

Group Websites

Critical Websites

Other Resources

FOM: Why the ICOC and other Shepherding Discipling Organizations Are Harmful

ICOC history

Kip McKean’s Theology