A "Portland Report" According to my Convictions

Guest Editorial: Chris Broom
Evangelist: Chicago International Christian Church

Preaching powerfully for the Kingdom of God

“Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, ‘You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’” Joshua 14:6-8

Here we see an incredible chapter in an epic story. Joshua and Caleb were two of the twelve spies sent by Moses to explore the Promised Land. They found the land to be exceedingly good and yet 10 of the 12 most prominent leaders of the tribes of Israel, the vast majority, gave a faithless report. They did not believe that God would bring them victory and therefore led the Israelite community into grumbling against their leader Moses, and thus God Himself. (Numbers 14:2, 27, 36)

Though in the minority, I write this article for the honor of God and for the defense of my friend and brother, Kip McKean and the Sold-out Discipling Movement. A few weeks ago, an article by Douglas Arthur featured on International Church of Christ (ICOC)”Hot News” brought up charges about Kip’s supposed slander, unwholesome talk and lack of repentance, which have led to a weakened church condition in Portland, Oregon. I have watched the Portland situation develop during the past 12 months, and would like to offer a different perspective “according to my convictions.” After all, “The first to present his case SEEMS right until another comes forward and questions him.” (Proverbs 18:17) The following questions must be answered in order to present an accurate and balanced account of the events that have taken place in Portland.

1. What is unwholesome talk and slander?
2. Why did so many people leave the Portland Church after the mission team to Los Angeles was sent out in Spring of 2007? (And why are they still leaving?)

Douglas states, “I personally traveled to Portland in May of 2006 to admonish… Kip and the Elders (Bob Bertalot and Tony Untalan) in Portland about letting no unwholesome talk come out of their mouths.” (Ephesians 4:29)

1. What is unwholesome talk and slander?

1. Unwholesome: harmful to physical, mental or moral health. 2. Slander: false statements or misrepresentations which defame and injure the reputation of another. As far as Douglas’ charges of unwholesome talk and slander, consider the following two quotes made by present ICOC leaders, who now oppose the Sold-out Discipling Movement:

Tom Jones, In Search of a City, pages 92-95:

Our new Cornell sister, Hope is baptized!

“The first answer (as to why I joined the Boston movement, which was named the International Churches of Christ – ICOC – in 1994) has to do with great disappointment that I and others experienced with the Mainline Churches of Christ. I read recently on a web posting… that ‘nominalism’ and lukewarmness in the Mainline Church created the ICOC. In this statement I believe there is a world of truth. Many of us did read the Bible on our own in the ’60s and ’70s, and we did find there, in Phillip Yancey’s words, ‘a Jesus we never knew.’ We found a Jesus who issued a radical call to discipleship. We found a Jesus who was revolutionary. We found a Jesus who intended for his gospel to be preached around the world and expected those of us who followed him to take it there, whatever it might cost us. … But then when this Jesus we had never heard about in our traditional churches was proclaimed, the reaction, in our view, was as negative as it was swift. The Jesus we never knew was a Jesus that most people did not want to know. Most church members were involved in pursuing the American dream and were happy with the comfortable Christianity that allowed them to work Jesus in around the edges of their lives. … In the Crossroads, and eventually the Boston Movement some of us found the one place we could go where Jesus’ high call was held out as “the normal Christian life,” to use the language of Watchman Nee. In this movement the standard – the norm – was a high degree of commitment. In the Crossroads Movement, the call had been for all to make Jesus Lord. In the Boston Movement the message was for every member of the church to be a disciple … Whatever sins and mistakes would later be revealed in the Boston Movement and the International Churches of Christ, calling people to a radical commitment to Jesus was not one of them…”

“The second reason I believe we united with the Boston Church was because of the vision and plan they had for world evangelism… We didn’t know anywhere else where a plan to reach the world was working… Again, I would say, whatever the mistakes have been in the ICOC, having a passion for world evangelism has not been one of them.”

Gordon Ferguson, Discipling: God’s Plan to Train and Transform His People (1997), page 95

“As I was learning the principles of discipleship, I was trying very hard to put them into practice in my life and trying to encourage others in the [Mainline Churches of Christ] for which I preached to do the same… I was amazed (flabbergasted would be a better term) at the lack of cooperation I received from the members. I then went outside the church to find people with hearts to be true disciples. I taught and baptized a number who were absolutely ‘sold-out’ for Christ. Then another surprise came my way – they started becoming like the older ones. I discovered that all groups have personalities, and those assimilated into them tend strongly to become like the rest of them.”

“When those young members first came into the church fellowship, they asked some very hard questions. ‘Why do large numbers come on Sunday mornings, fewer on Sunday night, and still fewer to the mid-week service?’ I began by telling them that many older members were weak and just needed to be encouraged by our example of being committed and zealous. After the newer ones started becoming like the older ones, I changed my answers to those questions. I told them that the others were in Biblical terms, lukewarm and losers of their first love (Revelation 2:4, 3:15-17). And further, if they did not repent, then they would not be saved… And even those who know better will be dragged down by the overall tenor of the congregation.”

These two men wrote according to their convictions. Should we write off their testimonies about the Mainline Church as “unwholesome talk and slander” or heed their testimonies as “speaking the truth in love?” (Ephesians 4:15) I not only agree with what these men have written, but must state clearly that the new discipling movement, the International Christian Churches (ICC), was started for exactly the same reasons these two men left the Mainline Church of Christ to join the Boston Movement (ICOC). In the Sold-out Discipling Movement, so many of us have felt disappointment at the lingering lukewarmness in most, though not all, ICOC congregations. We missed a central leader and leadership whose vision directed us in a clear plan for world evangelism. We tried to be a part of reforming the ICOC from the inside for four long years. As Gordon experienced in the Mainline, many converts in time reverted to become like the lethargic congregations they were baptized into. Frustrated yet hopeful,

Kip McKean

God answered our prayers as we felt the Spirit compelling us to join Kip in his call to “start again.”

Here are some hard questions for most ICOC and Mainline congregations, which need Biblical answers today:

* What should we do when a great number of the members of a church don’t attend midweek services?
* What should we do when a church is divided; when campus and youth baptize their friends into Christ, but married people who are too consumed with careers are pursuing the “American Dream” to the point of being choked, unfruitful and therefore “third soil” disciples?
* What should we do when a church leadership announces an engagement to a non-Christian and it is greeted with a applause in one church and a standing ovation in another?
* What should we do when we see many couples divorcing as divorce used to be so rare in the ICOC?
* What should we do in the worship service of a congregation where one can hear a pin drop because the loss of zeal is so painfully obvious?
* What should we do when a church abandons or makes discipling (teaching and training) optional and thus disregards the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:20 which is to “teach them to obey everything” after baptism?
* What should we do with those who believe all the above situations are wrong, yet “tolerate” these sins in their church? (Revelation 2:20-21)

This is what happens when leaders of a church lead out of sentimentality or fear of men rather than the fear of God! Some think that we should say nothing, for in their minds to address these issues would be unwholesome (harmful). I say that the unwholesome thing is to date or marry non-Christians in the first place, and to say nothing about it is unwholesome! If calling out sin is unwholesome talk, then Jeremiah and the other prophets would not be able to speak, and most of all, Jesus himself would be labeled as unwholesome and slanderous because the things He said were offensive to many and made many furious. “When Jesus left there, the Pharisees… began to oppose Him fiercely… waiting to catch Him in something He might say.” (Luke 11:53-54)

In Revelation 3:14-20, out of love, Jesus rebukes the church in Laodicea for their lukewarmness. If someone believes that I’m lukewarm, I hope they love me enough to tell me. If they think I’m lukewarm and I’m not, what’s the worst that could happen? My feelings could get hurt, or I could be offended. But if I am lukewarm and they say nothing, what’s the worst? I could go to hell! I have been deeply saddened during some of the conversations I have had with current key ICOC leaders. In these very frank discussions, they have said things about the condition of ICOC churches that Kip has bravely written about publicly, such as calling most ICOC churches “lukewarm”, and yet they flatter one another publicly. They falsely call Kip’s words “unwholesome talk,” but I think Jesus would call their words hypocritical!

2. Why did so many people leave the Portland Church after the mission team to Los Angeles was sent out in Spring of 2007? (And why are they still leaving?)

Douglas writes that after the LA Mission Team left Portland forming the City of Angels International Christian Church, 40 more people moved to LA over the next 15 months. First of all, only 17 moved to Los Angeles over that time period, but another 25 moved to other churches in the new movement. When Steve announced that he was no longer “partners in the gospel with Kip” another 30 immediately left the Portland Church forming the Portland International Christian Church. The question is why?

Last year in October 2007, Theresa and I flew to Portland out of love for the Johnson’s and the Portland Church. We had been hearing concerning reports from some of our friends who were members of the Portland congregation, and we wanted to talk to Steve and Lisa as friends and hear their side of things. I begged Steve to engage with the great guys that Kip raised up and left in Portland. I told Steve that if he didn’t, he was going to lose them. Steve told me that he was a couple of years away from his “A game” and if he was going to lose them, he was going to lose them. Doug implies that all those people left Portland because they were recruited. But why would people leave, if they were in an awesome situation? Could it be that Steve’s leadership and the overall direction of the church had something to do with why these people left? Here are some of the incredible disciples that remained in Portland after the City of Angels Church was planted, and yet later left to join the growing number of congregations in the new movement:

* Tony and Therese Untalan are one of the two original Portland Elder couples. They served in that role until June of 2008, when the Untalans moved to Los Angeles to be with the City of Angels Church. All in Portland hold Tony and Therese in the highest regard. Shortly after the McKeans went to Los Angeles, they had growing concerns about the Portland Church’s zeal, love and direction. Since January 2008, the Untalans repeatedly warned the Johnsons and the remaining elders that if they continued down the road to a return to the Mainline theology of autonomy, the Portland Church would split. Exasperated, they left Portland in tears witnessing the fastest growing church in the ICOC under the McKeans’ leadership, reduced to but a shadow of the congregation that inspired a new discipling movement.
* Juan Carlos and Betty Garcia helped build the Latin Ministry in Portland, were dismayed by Portland’s decreasing zeal and left to come to Chicago. They have led our Latino Ministry from 3 to 17 since January 2008.
* Anthony and Elizabeth Eckels were Region Leaders in Portland. They left in February 2008 to start our sister church in Orlando, Florida which has grown from 2 to 17. Despite their great love for Steve and Lisa, the Eckels asked Theresa and me to disciple them, not the Johnsons. Anthony simply felt that “Steve’s faith wasn’t there.”
* Michael and Michele Williamson were Regional Leaders. They moved to LA in June 2008 to train for the ministry. They also did not agree with Steve’s stance on “autonomy”. In fact, Steve took them out of leadership in March 2008, the day after Michael called the Portland Church “lukewarm”.
* Mike Patterson left Portland in December 2007 after confronting Steve on autonomy. Now full-time in our sister church in Phoenix, Mike is leading an incredibly fruitful campus ministry at Arizona State, which in nine months God has grown from 6 to 25!
* Jason and Susan Bond were an Elder-in-training and Deacon couple. Jason was also the lead songleader for the Portland Church. At the leadership meeting when Steve renounced the new movement, Jason confronted Steve, “Brother, you say that Portland will remain a discipling church, yet since February you and your wife were supposed to be discipling my wife and me, but we never even met for one discipling time… Steve, with autonomy we are now just another church on the corner… There’ll be no participation in an organized plan for world evangelism.” In less than a month after this meeting, Jason and Susan moved to the Phoenix International Christian Church. The Bonds’ daughter Rachel is one of the leaders in our new sister church in New York City, the Empire City International Christian Church.

Different from Doug Arthur’s claims, none of the above people were “recruited”. They left out of their own convictions.

The DC Mission Team rocks!

As most would imagine, Kip and Elena were deeply hurt by a sense of betrayal and the sad events in Portland, yet Kip graciously wrote about Steve’s and the Portland Church’s departure from the new movement, over the issues of autonomy and central leadership, simply stating, “We wish them well.” In contrast to this, many ICOC leaders want people to just write Kip and the rest of us off as “disgruntled, slanderous troublemakers.” This was said of Paul in Acts 24:5, “This man is a trouble maker, stirring up riots… all over the world.” I say that these people are awesome and they have deep convictions that matter. Roger Lamb would have everyone believe, as he wrote in one of his articles, that all those in the new movement have in common is their desire to be “controlled by Kip”. Is that really all we have going for us? Are we really all that stupid? Consider all those who formerly served in the full-time ministry that are now in the Sold-out Discipling Movement: in LA – Lu Jack and Cathi Martinez, Carlos and Lucy Mejia, Steve and Jeanne Bolin, Javier Ochoa, Victor and Sonia Gonzalez, Marty and Cathy Wooten, Sal and Patricia Velasco, Raul and Lynda Moreno, Nate Reid, Rob and Burgundie Onekea, Mike Purdy, Mike Underhill, Ken and Liliana Zindler, Jay and Angie Hernandez, and Rick and Heather Romney; in Hawaii – Kyle Batholomew, Jody Tyrell, Chris Teves, Albert Wagers and Joe and Mary Santos; in Las Vegas – Dan and Deenie Triana; in Eugene – Jeremy and Amy Ciaramella; in New York City – George Grima and DJ and Kacie Comisford; in Orlando – Anthony and Elizabeth Eckels; in Phoenix – Chris and Sonja Chloupek; in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Lola Lof; in Ecuador – Fabian and Susana Ruiz; in Suriname – Brandon and Peggy Ferrell; in Estonia – Argo and Anu Lips; in India – Raja and Debby Rajan and Vellaidurai Palanisami; and in Chicago – Roger and Kama Parlour, Jay and Barb Shelbrack, and Theresa and me. I ask you to consider why so many former full-time leaders left the ICOC and joined the new movement?

The fact is that in the Fall of 2005, many ICOC leaders signed letters against Kip primarily to build a hedge around their fellowships so that their people would not leave and join Kip’s efforts as clearly a new movement was emerging. Yet, didn’t hundreds of people feel similarly and therefore leave Mainline Churches to form the base of the Boston Movement during the 1980s? As church leaders we have no control over people who are unhappy with our leadership and choose to go elsewhere. I believe that Southwest Airlines said it best, “You are free to move about the country.”

Again I ask, why would so many people leave Portland, if they were in an awesome situation? In fact, if you are in a situation like that then stay there. Otherwise, pray and weigh all sides. Come and see! Then pick a team and get busy! We are confident that as we “fix our eyes on Jesus” and continue with the work of the Lord (there’s more than enough to do in every city) God will bless the work of our hands

There is one more thing that we need to clear up.

Doug states that … “In September 2006 Kip made a decision to break all ties with his former fellowship, the International Churches of Christ, and start his new ‘Sold-out Disciples Movement’.”

It is clearly documented that Kip was disfellowshipped for refusing to “repent”, or as we see it, “change” and compromise his convictions about central leadership, his 30 year stand against autonomy and the dream of evangelizing the world in our generation. When I moved to Chicago, I called Steve Staten to see if we could meet. Steve checked with the other Chicago Church of Christ leaders and then told me that there would be no meeting. As long as I was in fellowship with Brother McKean (whom Steve Staten and others had disfellowshipped), they would not be willing to meet with me. Doug, can you honestly say that we broke all ties? You state that Portland in May 2007 sent its “best and brightest” to LA on the mission team and yet Peter Garcia of the LA ICOC called them a “movement of Satan” when they landed there. Which is it? Is it “best and brightest” or Satanic threat? Are they the “best and brightest” if in the ICOC and a Satanic threat if in the ICC? And is “Brother McKean” a brother or not? Kip still continues to baptize hundreds, and raise up evangelists to plant churches. Could it be, like the Pharisees who called Jesus, “Beelzebub,” the ICOC is similarly accusing Kip? (Luke 11:15)

In Doug’s article, not only did it say Kip took all of the “best and brightest,” but it inferred that he left town with all the money, too! Steve Johnson wrote an article to the Portland Church on March 16, 2008 that stated, “Last year this congregation did an incredible thing and raised over $150,000 to send Kip, Elena and 40 other brothers and sisters to begin a new work in Los Angeles… We can all be thankful to have been allowed to share in this good work by supporting it with our money and our prayers.” In September 2007, just four months after the City of Angels Church was planted in LA, Kip sensed that Steve was feeling burdened about the financial picture in Portland. Therefore, he told Steve to keep $20,000 of the $150,000 and to no longer pay for the McKean’s health insurance or retirement plan (of which they still have none to this day). Kip did this so that Steve could afford to hire Buzz and Anita Banadyga, believing that Buzz would provide an evangelistic lift to Portland and Anita, Lisa’s mom, would strengthen Lisa by being at her side. Now that’s the kind of teamwork it’s going to take if we are going to meet each other’s needs as well as the needs of billions of lost people all over the world.

As for any implied sense that Kip and Elena abandoned those in Portland who desire to be active in the new movement, the 17 month old, 225 member City of Angels Church is sending their very heart, Ron and Tracy Harding, to lead the new Portland International Christian Church! This sacrifice comes after sending out two mission teams of 30 disciples – New York City and Honolulu – just three months ago! With all these sacrifices for others in their brief 17 month history, God has honored the City of Angels Church with almost 150 baptisms and 70 restorations! Now that’s movement!

Finally, I’m not in the new movement for relationships, but convictions! Joshua and Caleb didn’t become partners because they were buddies and liked each other, but because of their faith and deep convictions. They didn’t condemn the other 10 leaders because they didn’t like them, but because of their lack of faith and lack of godly conviction. When Steve spoke at the leadership conference in Seattle in 2005, He said “I won’t go to any party my friend Kip isn’t invited to.” What a friend!!! Talk about going out on a limb for someone. What Steve did was both bold and loyal and yet I don’t believe that Steve was EVER in the new movement because of shared convictions, but rather because of his friendship with Kip. Similarly, I believe many remain in the ICOC not because of common convictions, but simply because of friendship. Let me reiterate, I am not in the new movement because of relationships. My closest friends were in the ICOC and I cherish those relationships to this day, but I am in the new movement because of “my convictions”. I believe that what we are doing is of God and that a movement is necessary. The ICOC has lost thousands in the past five years. There is no longer geographic expansion or incredible numbers being baptized. One has to question whether it is a movement or merely a fellowship. The ICOC’s own numbers dictate a growth rate similar to the Mainline Church of Christ in 1979 (when the Spirit through Kip initiated the Boston Movement). At that time, everyone, like Tom Jones, agreed that the Mainline Church was disappointingly lukewarm. The average Mainline Church in 1979 was 150 members with only eight baptisms a year, six of them were children of the members. Since 1979, Kip has kept his Biblical convictions. I hold to these same convictions, which is why we are “partners in the gospel”.

Preaching the Word in season and out!

Now, let us consider the recent church planting in New York City sent out by the City of Angels Church. There are 20 million people in that city. Even if there are a million that are already saved (and I’m not saying there are even that many) that would leave 19 million lost people! Is there no room for more workers in the vineyard? On September 14, the mission team of 20 had 78 at their inaugural service! Theresa and I were able to attend the Washington DC inaugural on that same day. The DC Mission Team, sent primarily from the Central New York Church, also of the Sold-out Movement, had 134 in attendance and saw four added to their number that day (one baptism, one restoration and two placing membership)! Our churches need to be shaken up rather than to drift into lukewarmness and stagnation. Amazingly, in less than two years, the Spirit has propelled the now 32 churches of the Sold-out Discipling Movement into 13 nations! We wholeheartedly believe that through God’s power we will evangelize the world in this generation.

As Paul rebuked Peter, let this letter be a rebuke to every ICOC leader who has sinfully grumbled against Kip and unbiblically disfellowshipped him and the hundreds of us who share his courageous vision and Biblical convictions. I am especially disappointed in those leaders who didn’t even know Kip personally and yet signed letters against him simply because they were told to by those who were in authority over them. I would be ashamed to have done such a thing! Finally, it must be noted that as Jesus called for us “to turn the other cheek” neither Kip nor any in our family of churches has disfellowshipped anyone in the ICOC leadership for their differing views, as we consider them brothers.

Whether our convictions resonate with many or few – whether we are in the majority or the minority doesn’t matter. What matters is whether we are faithful and able to elicit God’s favor by showing our love for Him as we obey His commands. So, if you desire to be in a movement of God where every member is called to be in a discipling relationship and the vision to evangelize the world in a generation is held high, then come visit and if you see the church of the Bible coming alive, join us!

Chris Broom
Evangelist Chicago International Christian Church