A brief history of the ICOC

Zephyr/March 9, 2001
By Becky Bosshart

The International Churches of Christ (ICOC) are built on the conviction that every person must first make a decision to become a disciple and then be baptized. The church puts a high priority on the ethnic diversity of members, on having a personal relationship with God and also practicing invitational evangelism.

Thomas "Kip" McKean founded the church in 1979 and now has the title of world missions evangelist. Elena Garcia-McKean, his wife, is the world women's ministry leader. They lead the "home church" in Los Angeles.

Their goal since 1994, as reported by the ICOC website, is to plant a church in every nation with a city of at least 100,000 people by the end of 2000. Information on the site indicates that the ICOC has 407 new churches in 171 new countries as of Jan. 2001.

The principle of discipleship is reflected in the mentoring relationships in the church. Every member has a more mature disciple that they consult with, confess to and learn from. Their focus on evangelism is found in their interpretation of the 'Great Commission' which is found in the book of Matthew 28:19-20, where Jesus commands his followers to go and make disciples of all nations.

Matthew 28:19-20 (RSV)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.

John Rosness, minister at the Greater Reno Church of Christ (GRCC), said the college ministry exists to give people the opportunity to study the Bible and become disciples if they would like. GRCC is the International Churches of Christ affiliate here in Reno.

The minister speaks

"The history of the church, really the church -- the true church of the Bible -- began in the first century, and so we are attempting to pattern ourselves after that church, so in the strictest sense the church has been around since the first century," John Rosness said, in an interview in Billinghurst Middle School, where the church was conducting its Sunday services.

Rosness said the ICOC grew out of the traditional churches of Christ from Boston in 1979 (hence the title the Boston Movement) in an attempt to restore many teachings of the Bible.

Why all this attention given to a group of people (126,894 people, according to the ICOC website) who want to call themselves "disciples"? The answer isn't easy because many people have different opinions about the ICOC. And deciding what role the university has in limiting the presense of certain groups on campus has been even more difficult for some schools.

"That is how Jesus did things," Rosness said. "He made disciples and taught those disciples to go make disciples so part of that is receiving discipling, receiving teaching."

Everyone receives discipleship in the church hierarchy, including leaders.

The ICOC Bible studies

"I am discipled by the guy who leads the church down in Las Vegas," Rosness said. "I feel great about that situation. He is more mature than I am. I readily admit that. I welcome his input and help."

Rosness said the treatment Madosik received from her discipler after she left the church was wrong. Madosik said she was called a liar by an ICOC member after leaving the church.

"If that truly is her experience, than that would certainly be wrong."

That's not what the Bible teaches and if that is what actually happened, then whoever treated her that way was certainly in sin," he said.

About the opposition that has taken place on college campuses, Rosness said that it is likely that a fair amount of it is "due to the fact that people are offended when the teachings of the Bible are applied."

He said the goal of GRCC is "to glorify God by obeying the Bible."

GRCC has existed for about four years and has about 60 members. The church service moved from Billinghurst to Swope Middle School and now services are in the American Legion Building in Reno, near the University.

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