Month of Miracles

Liza, Darlene, and Nichole baptized into Christ!

Three of our new sisters in the faith, baptized this month of July! God has truly ended our drought!

“By What Authority Are You Doing These Things?”

July 26, 2009
Jesus came from the Father full of grace and truth. There was no one who ever embodied this balance between speaking the truth and being compassionate toward the weak better than Jesus. And yet, Jesus himself was misunderstood, hated, blamed and ultimately killed for his perfectly loving efforts. So when I became a disciple of his on May 21, 1989 and was baptized into God’s Kingdom, I don’t think the full reality of whom I was following had truly sunk in. Oh, don’t get me wrong: I was grateful for the forgiveness of all my disgusting sin and amazed at the power to grow in my love for my fellow sinners (all mankind)—but it wasn’t until some significant turbulence hit the fellowship of the churches I called home that I began to understand on a whole new level what Jesus meant when he promised, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” (John 15:4)

In Mark 11:27-33 Jesus interacts with a group of religious men who because of their hard hearts had no intentions of following the truth. They had already formulated their self-serving version of the truth into a religion of exclusion, superiority and self-justification. Bottom line, they didn’t have much room in their hearts for the truth that Jesus freely offered. In Mark 11:28 they asked Jesus two questions: “By what authority are you doing these things?” and “Who gave you authority to do this?” Someone once said, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of the truth.” And these men who most likely were highly respected in their religious community were not about to let that happen! They didn’t want to attribute the obvious miracles and the powerful teaching from the Scriptures that Jesus was doing to God’s power. So they were framing the argument to convince every last Jew that Jesus was NOT getting his authority from God but from Satan. (See Mark 3:22) Thus, the facts and the fruit of Jesus’ ministry were conveniently and stubbornly ignored.

Jesus’ response shows how completely trusting he was in God’s sovereignty, even though he knew two things were at stake:that the salvation of the entire Jewish nation (all his friends and family included) hung in the balance of who they would decide to believe, the hypocritical Jewish leaders or God’s own son; that his own horrible odyssey of personal-suffering would soon result.

Vance and Yessenia!

Radical repentance was blessed. Spiritual twins, husband and wife, born on July 29th, 2009! God continues to bless the Syracuse Church!

One would think by that time in Jesus’ ministry, his detractors would have learned that when Jesus answered their questions with one of his own, it was generally going to be all down hill from that point on! But to Jesus’ question about where John’s baptism was from—heaven or from men—they, for some reason, felt compelled to continue their prideful quest to outwit God Himself. Their fear-filled answer was “We don’t know.” That sealed their fate because Jesus had just revealed the sinful motives of their hearts, and he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” He refused to tell them because they refused to love the truth and receive the Kingdom like little children (2 Thessalonians 2:10/Mark 10:15).

There’s been no lack of spiritual leaders in our day trying to frame a similar argument against what the International Christian Churches (the spiritual family I now call home) are trying to do and especially against leaders like Kip McKean, DJ Comisford, Andrew Smellie, Chris Broom and many others. These men have refused to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ using the cheap-grace materials of “wood, hay or straw” that are today’s worldliness, humanistic people-pleasing and tolerance of sin in the church; but rather, they have courageously held up the banner of discipleship, love for the truth and Godly sorrow that leads to repentance—these are the gold, silver and costly stones in 1 Cor.3:11-13 that Paul is confident will result in fruit that will glorify God. The fact is that Kip McKean is the man who was largely responsible for inspiring a group of 30 would-be disciples in Boston in 1979 to build Jesus’ church using all the authority Jesus had received from God and then given to his followers to go disciple the nations. (Matthew 28:18-20) No, Kip didn’t do it alone, but without him, God only knows how it would’ve happened. In twenty-some years these churches became known as the International Churches of Christ and planted over 400 churches in 171 nations, making disciples who would make disciples who would make more disciples. Another more painful fact is that Kip McKean allowed sins in his character and leadership to hurt this precious family of God’s churches, as well as his own family. Unlike many other prominent leaders in our former movement of churches who were and who continue to be equally as guilty of sins of commission and omission, Kip was willing and is willing to repent and bring those sins to the light in a most public and humbling way. Precisely because of his relationship with God, Kip was able to take responsibility for his own sins AND stay faithful to God’s call for him to teach others to obey everything Jesus commanded each of us! For those close to Kip these days, it is refreshing to see the extent that he hates and dies to his sin daily. Jesus says you will know them by their fruit, so it is also quite inspiring to see the disciples in all the churches he is currently influencing being called in love to this same biblical standard! “Times of refreshing” come to anyone who repents of their sin, and the hope rekindled in Kip’s personal walk with God has inspired many to dare to trust fully in God’s grace once again by continually bringing their own sin to the light!

When other people around you repent and start following Jesus again with all their hearts, it takes away all your excuses, but it also blazes a bright path. Thank God that happened to Kerri-Sue and I in 2005, as Chris Broom had publically repented of faithless leadership in our January church-wide workshops of 2004. I had personally pulled back from giving my talents wholeheartedly to God and had begun to offer myself more and more to the world. I justified my 60-hour work weeks as a public school administrator as necessary for career growth, and hey—wasn’t I still sharing my faith and studying the Bible with people?! Secretly, however, I was longing for comfort and praise from men and getting it in the form of high praise for my work in the Teacher Professional Development field of Technology & Curriculum Integration. However, my faith in what God could really do through a movement of churches was dying. During this time, Kip and Elena’s discipling of Chris and Theresa Broom rekindled many disciples’ faith and vision for doing even greater things, and they led the church in Syracuse toward a faith goal of planting four churches in four years throughout Central New York! Kerri-Sue and I repented of sitting on the fence and once again gave ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, moving our family gratefully twice in three years to serve the Kingdom!

Darlene baptized into Christ!

God added Darlene to our number recently, and blessed her with zeal! Yet another addition to our family in Syracuse, changed by the love of the Kingdom, and a deep love for God!

God’s timing was perfect and in looking back on the events and how they affected my heart, I see how Jesus was asking me two questions by the unfolding of the events of my life and the ensuing choices that followed: the first was, “By what authority are YOU living YOUR life, Chris?” The lack of spiritual fruit in those dry years of 2002-2005 was very humbling to look at compared to how I had allowed God to use me in my first 10+ years as a disciple in New York City. I realized that I needed to beg God to restore to me the joy of my salvation! (Psalm 51:12) How was I going to figure out all these agonizing fellowship questions, if I wasn’t willing to repent of my own lukewarmness!?

So the second question was actually quite easy to answer after I repented and it went like this: “By what authority did Kip and many others build the Boston ministry of the late 70’s/early 80’s into a world-wide movement into the 21st century?” I was personally sick of remaining on the fence to protect myself by saying, “I don’t know” like those hypocritical religious leaders. Isn’t that what so many are actually saying about how we all got here, who now claim that everything Kip built was on a faulty foundation? “I don’t know” was a cop out then and it’s a cop out now—I allowed myself this convenient confusion for months and years because I didn’t want to face the pain of believing that so many disciples and churches (myself and my own included) had become lukewarm. However, if this authority or power of Kip’s ministry was indeed “from heaven” then why couldn’t God be working now, again? I realized that I totally believed in what was started long before my baptism as a true disciple in 1989! And I believe it is by this same God-given authority that all of us will plant new churches in a way that only God has ever been able to do. God was working then (though not exclusively through the ICOC) and He’s working powerfully now (and certainly not exclusively through the International Christian Churches.) My hope and prayer is that He will continue working through any group of disciples and family of churches who hold firmly to an undying love for Jesus!

So I ask you, “Kip’s Boston Ministry of 1979 and following: was it from heaven, or from men?”

Depending on your answer, we might have a whole lot more to talk about!

Christopher T. Adams
Syracuse International Christian Church minister