Blown into the Windy City

Announcement – Planting of the Chicago International Christian Church

Chris Broom

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
In Syracuse we have a saying: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait – it will change.” Recently, my wife Theresa experienced this first-hand while driving to meet women from our church. In the beginning of the 20-minute drive, the winds were calm and the sun was shining brightly. Within minutes everything changed. Suddenly strong winds were accompanied by heavy rain that turned into pelting ice! Immediately Theresa and Jocelyn Graham, a single woman in our church, began to pray in loud voices as they considered God’s awesome display of power. They recognized that when God wants to change something, it will change quickly!
We are charged to “keep in step with the Spirit” but just as the origin and destination of the wind are unknown to the one who feels it, similarly the life of “everyone born of the Spirit” is unexplainable by ordinary reasoning. Its outcome is unpredictable, yet its reality is undeniable.
Pictured are Chris and Theresa Broom and Elena. Kip and Elena spoke at the Syracuse Church February 16-18, 2006.
As a freshman at Boston University in 1980, Theresa studied the Bible with Lisa Johnson and became a disciple in the Boston Church of Christ. In 1983 she moved with Steve and Lisa to plant a new church of “sold-out” disciples in New York City. She has served full-time in ministries in Boston and New York City as well as Mexico City. I was baptized in 1990 in the Performing Arts Ministry of the New York City Church of Christ. A year later I began serving in the full-time ministry and was appointed an evangelist in 1994. It was also in 1994 that Theresa and I were married. We continued to serve in Manhattan then Queens until the summer of ’99 when a gale force wind came upon us suddenly!
On a Wednesday night, Scott and Dionne Davis, the lead couple of the Queens Region of the New York City Church of Christ, proposed our moving to Syracuse where the church had been without full-time leadership for eight months. Four days later I preached in Syracuse for the first time. Within three weeks we had said good-bye to our ministry in Queens, moved to Syracuse with our two year old son, Austin, and found a house to rent where we moved in one day before Theresa came home from the hospital with our newborn daughter Maria. What a whirlwind!
Two years later the original 80 disciples from the Syracuse Church had almost doubled! Five campus students grew into a teen and campus ministry of over 40! This time of peace and growth changed in early 2003 when turmoil struck our worldwide fellowship of the International Churches of Christ.
In March of 2003, our church had an “open forum” which was more of a “love feast” than anything else. Many shared with tears of gratitude for God’s church and shuddered to think of where they would be without it. A dear brother made a statement that has become one of our mottos. He encouraged us to “eat the fish and spit out the bones.” We have learned so much from our past sins and mistakes and are convinced that there is still much to learn. In fact, we clearly see many mistakes that we made over the past three years. For one year, I allowed Bible Talks and discipling relationships to be suspended. We even stopped having leaders’ meetings, as everyone seemed to question the “correctness” of discipling. In Syracuse as in our worldwide fellowship everything that we had been a part of for years was being questioned. While we never stopped preaching strongly from the pulpit, there was no structure or mechanism that would allow God’s Word to be applied to every disciple and allow a godly direction so that the church could achieve anything of consequence. Disunity and distrust were running rampant.
Our church was quickly sinking into the mode of “assembly religion” where people come, listen, leave and do what they want. In this environment it is inevitable that people begin to drift and lose their commitment to God and His church. The passion and fire for God and His heart to win souls was being replaced with idolatry and lukewarmness as many began to put their energies into other things. Some moved away. Few remained faithful and full of fire for God – these people were the exception to the trend of drifting.

Throughout this time in 2003, we reached out to other church leaders like Wyndham Shaw, Sam Powell, Jim Brown, Steve Johnson, Bob Gempel and Ron Drabot. During the 2003 Dallas Leadership Conference we reached out to Kip McKean. We wanted to express our love and support of all these brothers’ leadership during such a trying, difficult time and recognize their service over many years. We wanted to help “hold up our leaders’ arms” so that their work would continue and our worldwide fellowship would not crumble. Also, if any person or church was in a position to help us, we would gladly initiate and accept whatever crumbs we could get. As my wife says, “We’re just little squirrels trying to get a nut.”
Interestingly, during the Dallas Leadership Conference my wife noticed that Kip was not on the program in any capacity. She questioned, “How could a man go from being the leader of ‘our movement’ to not even being able to teach a class at a seminar?” She thought of different leaders in the Bible. “Was Kip a man like Saul from whom the Spirit of God had departed and an evil spirit entered? Was he like Saul, no longer useful for God’s mission in any great way? Or was Kip more like a David, who sinned greatly, but with whom God was not finished using for His purposes?” (Acts 13:36) Only God and time would fully reveal the truth. However from our perspective at this time, the brightest light of discipling churches in America is in Portland under Kip’s leadership. (Matthew 7:16)
In 2004, against a prominent evangelist’s strong advice, we attended the Portland World Missions Jubilee. We were refreshed to see a church so vibrant and committed to God’s purposes. During this conference my wife sat with Lisa Johnson who was going through probably the most painful time of her life in all the years that my wife has known her. No matter what happens, we are family and need to be there for each other during the best and worst of times. I remember sitting with Peter Garcia on the stage after the last message and agreeing that we simply needed to repent, as we had not been the men of God that we needed to be.
Upon returning from the Jubilee we began to dream again for the ‘Cuse. We set a goal to plant four churches in four years. Already God has blessed these efforts. Chris and Kerri-Sue Adams recently planted the Mohawk Valley House Church, which just had their first baptism earlier this month! Likewise, Mike and Pam O’Donnell have been working with the Southern Tier (Ithaca) Church where several souls have been added. Please pray for the Syracuse Church, as our goal is to plant two more churches during the next two and one-half years.
Recently in January 2006, we traveled to Portland for four days to preach and teach at their Winter Workshop. While we were excited to help the Portland Church, we also learned as God ministered to us. We witnessed a level of love for one another and a level of open, honest and real discipling that called us higher. We returned to Syracuse determined to love people at a deeper level and call people to open, honest relationships where sin is confronted and not tolerated. I confessed my own cowardice and sentimentality. My wife confessed her sins of cynicism (a form of bitterness and faithlessness) and lukewarmness in her purpose to win souls. My Aaron-like leadership had allowed sins of distrust, lukewarmness, idleness and rebellion to go on without Biblical resolution. Now after repentance, Theresa and I have clear consciences. We have labored with tears, “great patience and with careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2) to help everyone in our church to be their best for God. The past few weeks have not been easy spiritually, emotionally or physically as we have taken up the sword of God’s Word without sentimentality. In some cases we have seen immediate repentance, refreshing and changed relationships. Spiritual death will occur when people are not willing to Biblically resolve sinful patterns. Now, our church is experiencing a revival and renewed energy. God promises His blessing when we are willing to “take up our sword.” (Exodus 32: 25-29)
In the book The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren emphasizes developing a “healthy” church, not just a growing church. “Healthy churches are based on a process, not on personalities.” (p. 70) This is not about who’s right but what’s right. Ultimately, the Bible is our blueprint for building strong, healthy churches and providing loving leadership that acts with God’s authority. Sin is the only thing that can stop God’s church from being unified and accomplishing God’s purposes.
Some will say that we are following Kip McKean – an “unrepentant man” rather than heeding the “sound, more mature leadership model of church elders.” Again, let me reiterate, this is not a matter of who’s right but what’s right. I fully understand, as many have said, “Kip is only a man.” Ultimately, he is a sinner who can do nothing and is nothing apart from God. (John 15:5, 1 Corinthians 3:7) We should never deify that which is not deity – whether a man, a plan, a methodology or a group. However, I am thankful for the discipling relationship that I share with him. I pray that everyone could have a relationship as inspiring, loving and mutually respectful as the one I currently have with Kip. Theresa and I feel blessed to be a part of a team led by Kip and Elena that thinks and acts as one man. (Acts 16:6-10)
In September 2005, my wife called Scott Green, the evangelist of the Seattle Church of Christ, to understand why his congregation’s leadership had spoken out against Kip’s so called “disparaging writings.” Scott said, “90% of what Kip writes is great but it’s the 10% that myself and other leaders have confronted him with many times.” This may be a matter of perspective. As my wife and I have been reading over everything that Kip has written over the past two years, I think differently. Although I may not agree with every little thing, overall, I feel encouraged and inspired by what Kip writes.
Ephesians 6:12 teaches us that flesh and blood are not the enemy – Satan is the enemy. Twenty-six years ago after my wife became a member of the Boston Church, she traveled to the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania during a holiday break. When she visited a mainline Church of Christ, an elder there took her aside and asked her not to return because of her affiliation with the “Boston Movement,” which Kip led at the time. Last November, I was asked by an evangelist in the New York City Church of Christ to speak to his group. While I was on my way there, this evangelist called me to express how embarrassed and ashamed he felt because the elders in New York had blocked me from speaking due to my association with Portland and Kip. History seems to repeat itself!
We understand that everyone has a responsibility before God to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) We pray for all the International Churches of Christ and individual disciples who are fighting to do that and we respect their right to choose the direction in which God is leading them. We also have the responsibility and right before God to do the same. To those that will claim we are dividing our fellowship of churches I say, “We’re already divided.” To those who say we are confusing disciples by planting churches in cities where there is already an ICOC church I say, “There is already much confusion because of autonomy. The ICOC churches have splintered. Congregational leaders are choosing to go in many different directions, though some have no direction at all.” We want to be aligned with all the congregations that share the vision for the proclamation of the gospel throughout every city in every nation in this lost world.
Therefore compelled by the Spirit, Theresa and I will be leaving the Syracuse Church this summer after seven years. This is a church that has been both generous and loving. Theresa and I are forever grateful for the way this church has taken care of us and our family. We are thrilled to pass the torch of leadership of the Syracuse congregation into the capable hands of my “Timothy,” Andrew Smellie and his awesome wife, Patrique. I am so proud of them and their faith and love which have been proven again and again.
Patrique and Andrew Smellie will lead the Syracuse Church when the Spirit sends the Brooms to Chicago.
We along with disciples from Wisconsin, Florida, New York and our sister church in Portland will join a group of “sold-out” disciples already in Chicago to plant the Chicago International Christian Church. This is not a replanting of the Chicago Church of Christ. We have contacted the leadership of the Chicago Church of Christ to try to set up a meeting to discuss how we can mutually co-exist. We pray for their efforts and hope that they will pray for ours. If anyone is interested in joining this new church planting, I can be reached at (315) 622-5282.
Ultimately, the reason we believe the Spirit is “blowing” us into the Windy City is the proclamation of the gospel. Only through a church that implements Christ’s plan of discipling will we evangelize the almost 9 million lost souls of Chicago, as well as the Midwest states, who so desperately need Christ’s love and forgiveness.