By Mike Willis
For several years, the Crossroads church was the focus of national attention among the liberal churches of Christ. However, one of her satellite churches gradually began to eclipse the mother church. A group of brethren in Boston began to have phenomenal success as they moved beyond the crossroads.
The rapid growth of the Boston Church of Christ began in 1979 when evangelist Kip McKean was hired by a suburban congregation with fewer than 100 members. By December 1980, Sunday attendance exceeded 250. Today, more than 3,300 people worship weekly at the Boston Garden, home to the Boston Bruins and Celtics. In addition, more than 1,300 were baptized in 1986 at churches planted by the Boston congregation on five continents since 1982.(1)
The shift in leadership occurred, not only because of the phenomenal success of the Boston church, but also because of the removal of Chuck Lucas as preacher at the Crossroads church in Gainesville, Florida. The Crossroads movement was shocked by an announcement in the 25 August 1985 issue of ATC.
Our hearts are heavy and hurting as we share with you the unanimous decision of the elders to terminate Chuck Lucas as evangelist of the Crossroads Church of Christ. This decision was made necessary because of recurring sins in his life, which he has acknowledged.
The apostasy of Chuck Lucas created a vacuum in the Crossroads movement which was quickly filled by Kip McKean. The Boston church has since then moved to the forefront and the Crossroads church has taken a lesser important position. The movement has since been termed the “Discipling Movement” or “Multiplying ministry.”
More Rapid Changes
As the Boston church grew it moved beyond the crossroads, for it was willing to conduct its affairs without much concern for what the liberal brotherhood thought or what had been accepted as scriptural in the past. They have moved forward in their development of the “Discipling Movement.” In this phase of the movement, we see new ground being developed and explored. The balance of this material will deal with these new developments.
1. Submission to Authority. A series of six articles appeared in the Boston Church of Christ, the bulletin published by the church with the same name. This series of articles emphasized the obligation to submit to the leaders of the church. The articles explain: “(1) Submission is not agreement; (2) submission is more than outward obedience. . . (3) submission is not conditions. . . (4) Submission is not being quite.”(2) The thrust of these articles was to emphasize the obligation of the members at the Boston church to submit to their leadership.
2. Creation of House Churches. Operating without a building of its own, the Boston church rented facilities for meeting on the Lord’s day and divided their membership into house churches for other meetings. The elders “delegated” authority to house church leaders to oversee these groups. “Many of these ‘house churches’ have long ago outgrown the ‘house’ size, some of them 45 having as many as 250 members. . . . Therefore, the two elders of the Boston church, still headquartered in Lexington, are in essence, elders over a plurality of churches.”(3) The Boston leadership was willing to lay aside the biblical concept of autonomy.
Replacing “Congregational Autonomy” with Congregational Cooperation. The traditional idea that each group of disciples in a city is entirely autonomous from other disicples is not found in the Bible and has severely damaged efforts to win the world for Christ. Those with a heritage in the restoration movement have wrongly used the false teaching of “congregational autonomy” to justify disunity and noncooperation with other brothers.”(4)
Rejecting the concept of autonomous churches, the Boston church has perverted the organization of the church by making regional elders of its eldership (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-3).
3. Creation of Pillar Churches. Another departure from biblical organization has occurred in the creation of “pillar churches.” “Pillar churches” are churches designed to serve as branches to impact a whole region of the country. The San Diego Church is the “pillar church for the southwest”; the Atlanta church is the “pillar church for the southeast”; etc. Although Boston does not claim to be the pillar church for the world, they send men to these pillar churches to set things in order (make this church like the Boston church). Too, the leaders in the Boston church are sometimes the “prayer partners” of the leaders of the satellite church.(5) The result of this is the creation of a group of churches under one founding mother church. The Catholic concept of church organization, of one mother church influencing and controlling other churches, is very similar to the Boston influence over pillar churches which in turn are over other churches.
4. Remnant theology. The “discipling churches” have had difficulty in defining their place in God’s plan. In an article published in the BCC, Bob Gempel stated that the 66multiplying ministries” are the remnant of God’s people today. He wrote,
Nothing that we in Boston have said or done in recent months has stirred as much anger in the Brotherhood as our reference to the planting of a multiplying ministry in Atlanta as the gathering of a remnant of Christians from the Southeastern United States. It is interesting to me that our comfortability with remnant terminology ceases when we are faced with the possibility that we are not part of it.(6)
Because of the concept of the “multiplying ministries” as God’s remnant, the leaders go into a city with several churches of Christ to “plant” a “mission” work. None of the existing churches are places in which a Christian can worship and fulfill God’s will. A church built after the pattern of the Boston church must be created. Where the “multiplying ministry” has gone into an existing church, they either take complete control of the church or divide it. The Boston plan must be duplicated; consequently, the church will be divided or another church will be started in order to duplicate the Boston plan.
This is also the reason that many Christians are rebaptized when they become a part of the “multiplying” ministry. They “teach a narrow definition of what constitutes valid baptism. As a result, the church rebaptizes even people who were baptized in other Churches of Christ.”(7) As an example of this, Lynn Nitz, wife of Mark Nitz who preached for several years in the Cincinnati, OH area, was rebaptized when she joined the local “multiplying ministry” church in Cincinnati.(8) The “multiplying ministry” does not want to imply that they are the only ones saved.(9) Hence, they are sectarian to the core – they create a division within the church of God, separating themselves from others whom they believe to be saved. To separate oneself from the lost is one thing; to separate oneself from the rest of the saved is another. The former can be defended biblically; the latter cannot. The “multiplying ministry” needs to decide whether they are the “remnant” (the only ones saved) or not. To date, they have been unable to decide where they fit in God’s plan.
5. The use of music in the “multiplying ministries.” Our liberal brethren have allowed the college choruses to perform in their buildings for many years. Quartets and other groups have performed at singings in many localities. The development of a local church choir to be used for special performances was not that big a jump for the Crossroads church. The Crossroads church made this transition by organizing a group known as “The Crossroads Singers” who tour the country giving concerts in civic centers as well as local churches.(10) Their performances are partially secular and partially spiritual. Auditions are held to select performers from the congregation to compose “The Crossroads Singers.”(11) At the Crossroads church, the singers were used “in conjunction with evangelistic crusades, vacation Bible schools, and special services.”(12)
When the Boston church developed, what was begun at Crossroads was expanded. The Boston church had several members who were successful entertainers and they developed other musical performers. In 1982, the Boston church organized “The Freedom Singers” as an a capella singing group to be used in seminars and concerts. Writing about their performance, Bob Tranchell said, “One of their finest performances was the recent Holiday Concert. I came in prepared for an excellent evening of entertainment and walked away deeply touched. The mixture of a capella spiritual songs, testimonies from the performers’ lives and secular music was moving.”(13) In December 1987, a musical group from the New York City Church of Christ performed a concert and took a special contribution to raise $3000 for the poor. “In the next 5 months, several Friday and Saturday evening concerts will be hosted to raise money for a special contribution that will be collected by the London church in June.”(14)
They went another step in producing a musical entitled “Upside Down.” The musical was based on the book of Acts and traced the lives of Peter and Paul to their deaths. Describing the benefits from this musical, Tranchell also gives more details about the play, “There are four functions which a musical such as ‘Upside Down’ can impart – (1) to get the message out to non-Christians; (2) to encourage the Christians; (3) to give Christians a pure environment to perform in, and (4) to provide money for world missions. All the proceeds from ‘Upside Down’ will be given to world missions.”(15)
Tranchell also described a “band formed by Robert Duncan which plays contemporary Christian music and is made up of disciples in the Atlanta Church of Christ” which is known as “2:38.”(16)
In the following article in his material on “Recapturing the Power of Music,” Tranchell affirms, that, whereas instrumental music should not be used in the public worship services, “in a non-worship setting we should allow and encourage people to use their talents to the glory of God and the preaching of His word.”(17) The “multiplying ministry” has moved away from the doctrine of Christ in its use of music, involving the church in activities unauthorized (concerts, secular performances, plays, bands, etc.), using choirs at special services, and defending the use of mechanical instruments of music with spiritual songs outside the worship assembly.
The “multiplying ministry” has moved well “beyond the crossroads” and deeper into denominationalism. The tactics used by the “multiplying ministry” have been employed by Baptist churches for years to build large congregations, such as those churches where W.A. Criswell preaches in Dallas, Texas and Jerry Falwell preaches in Lynchburg, Virginia. The “multiplying ministry” is systematically creating a fellowship of churches like other denominations in America. Simply because they teach that baptism is for the remission of sins no more makes them the Lord’s church than it does the Mormon Church.
Recognizing what this movement is, why would faithful brethren go to men who are thoroughly infected with denominationalism to learn how to make more Christians? Nevertheless this has occurred. Connie Adams wrote, “What is of concern to me is the fact that in the last year or two reports have come of several preachers among us who have gone to Boston to study their methods of evangelism.”(18)
The “multiplying ministry” is more of the fruit of the liberalism which divided the churches several decades ago. The “multiplying ministry” churches have not repented of their involvement in liberalism; there has been no renunciation of the apostasies of the 1950s and 1960s. Instead this movement has moved deeper into apostasy, employing the tactics which have made the denominations grow, imitating the Falwells, Swaggerts, Criswells, and others instead of the church of the first century. Let us not allow their numerical growth to blind us to this fact.
3. Eddie Whitten, “The Discipling Ministry, Crossroads/Boston,” Contending for the Faith [May 1987], p. 5. The concept of elders serving over all of the churches in a city was proposed by Alvin Jennings in 3 R’s of Urban Church Growth (later renamed How Christianity Grows in the City).
5. Before moving to California, Tom Brown of Boston continued to “disciple” Bruce Williams in San Diego – BCC [20 December 1987], p. 1; Kip McKean continues to “disciple” Tom Brown in Berkeley, CA – Berkeley (CA) Church of Christ [May 1987), p. 1.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 8, pp. 226, 245-246
April 21, 1988