Thursday, July 17, 2003

Manhattan takes a stand.
A group has found another place to worship away from the Sam Powells and Sheridan Wrights of the ICOC "Kingdom." Hey, nice diss! Hope you all do more than just change your name.

I am extremely excited to announce that we have found a worship space for
the entire region. We have found a meeting place where the entire body can
come together and worship God. The first service will be this Sunday at
4:30pm, the location is 76th Street and Central Park West. The space is
more expensive than we originally anticipated, it comes out to $1500 for
sunday, therefore we are asking anyone, who can and would like, to
contribute towards the space. On sunday please see any of the brothers from
the finance commitee, with whatever you feel like donating, please don't
feel obligated if you can't afford to offer anything. The space is
beautiful and completely insured it is being paid for by the support of
generous disciples and is separate of the church office. So we would like
to request for you to please invite your friends, any brothers and sisters
who might have stopped coming to services to church this Sunday. Let us
pray that Sunday will be a day pleasing to the Lord. Again the location is
76th Street and Central Park West this Sunday at 4:30pm. "Manhattan ignores Sam and Sheridan"

Kip Lite
Below is "Kip lite" -- some highlights from the letter by JUSTXD on ICC DF

We are fragmenting as a fellowship. Many disciples are in agony, caused by years of feeling unable to measure up to the “law” and judged as not “doing well spiritually.” They have been weakened by spiritual malnourishment, fulfilling Paul’s words, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Surely the hand of God is against us for not taking care of the weak.
Persecution, Satan’s attack from the outside, has rarely caused our churches long-term damage. However, grumbling and bitterness by both leaders and members have allowed the Devil to enter our sacred fellowship and begin to destroy it from within.

In the ensuing months, many of our individual congregations have likewise declared their own autonomy. The implementation of these decisions has already reaped disastrous results on the mission field. Funding for third world churches in many places has sharply decreased or is no longer available.

Many disciples are appalled to see their fellowship turning lukewarm and complacent --resembling the churches many of them came out of to become true disciples. People are watering down, and in some cases, totally abandoning basic Bible principles of discipleship due to the hurts resulting from “one sinner discipling another.” All over the world there are situations where vocal Korah-like grumblers are allowed to blast the church and God’s anointed servants.

The beauty of going anywhere in the world and finding like-minded disciples is gone.

The dream to evangelize the world in our generation has almost died.

As the leader of the churches until my sabbatical in October 2001, I take full responsibility for the decisions that were made by the World Sector Leader Group while I was leading as well as the consequences of my sins of leadership.

At the end of the year 2000, a great Jubilee was held in Los Angeles to celebrate the completion of the “Six Year Plan” as outlined in the Evangelization Proclamation. At that time God had planted disciples in 171 nations!

Because I was no longer in a position of authority, people felt much freer to share their criticisms.

The phone had stopped ringing. For the first time I began to realize that many of my relationships existed only because of my role.

My sins are clear and grievous. I have been arrogant, almost always thinking I was right. I did not listen. I did not actively seek discipling for me and my family. I was only partially open and deceit came into my life. This led to the sin of anger towards those who disagreed with me. Too often, I viewed these individuals as critical. I did not draw people out. I built an atmosphere in which people were afraid to speak up. There were times when I corrected people that I was mean, cruel and I even humiliated them.

Too often I would value talent and charisma over heart and spirituality. I lacked respect for people with different talents than mine. I also was too slow in allowing the relationships with my young “Timothys” to grow up from parent/child relationships into adult/adult mutual discipling relationships. Another sin was that I failed to resolve conflict. I miserably failed to reconcile brothers and sisters, particularly from the World Sector Leader group, who were in sharp disagreement with each other and with me. I believe that this, in time, led to unresolved issues in the relationships between world sectors and individual congregational leaderships.

Ultimately, my most devastating sin was claiming God’s victory as mine. In pride, I boasted in “my” accomplishments. I allowed people to give me glory; I did not refocus them to God.

Moved by the grace of God, my heart’s desire is to once more teach fellow transgressors to turn back to God.

I questioned whether God would use me again.

For those not familiar with our history, let me retell what God has done.

As with the Jews of the first century church, this influx of mature, seasoned disciples provided a constant fountain of leadership that helped propel God’s movement to all the Gentiles around the world.

In 1979 in Boston, Massachusetts, God gathered 30 would-be disciples in the Gempels’ living room. The Spirit put on our hearts three common convictions that in time would produce a group of true Christians dedicated to evangelizing the world by restoring the lost principles and practices of God’s people:

Unprecedented in the mainline churches, from 1983 on there were more than daily baptisms in the Boston Church that evidenced the grace of God. God was with us.

Continuing to study the Scriptures, the next conviction that easily followed was: the true church Jesus died for is composed of only true Christians, disciples.

In 1981, the Holy Spirit put on our hearts a plan to evangelize the world.

Though our critics multiplied, our Father in heaven multiplied the disciples even faster.

(It must be stated here I have always believed there were Christians –“baptized disciples”-- outside of our fellowship.)

I was determined to unify these disciples into a single brotherhood by calling them to leave the dying churches they were affiliated with and come into one of the Boston ministry churches.

HOPE worldwide, because it was centered in good works, shielded God’s evangelists and churches from persecution in several countries including even the United States.

By 1994, when the Evangelization Proclamation was written, God’s movement encompassed 140 churches in 53 nations.

Though there have been a few scattered divorces, mostly because of the sin of adultery, if you are married in our fellowship of churches and remain as faithful disciples, your marriage is almost assured of fulfilling the vow “until death do us part.”

Also true Christians wrote over 140 book titles published by Discipleship Publications International (DPI) and translated into numerous languages.

There was also a growing distance and distrust between the full-time ministry people and those with secular jobs. These were the seeds Satan planted that would begin to destroy what God had obviously built.

As God’s family, we have seen the miracles of God and rightly assumed God is with us. The real issue is not, “Is God on our side?” but rather, “Are we on God’s side?” We became enamored with “God is on our side” and lost the focus of seeking to remain on God’s side.

At this current hour in God’s kingdom, false teachers masquerading as angels of light are preying upon misguided, bitter disciples. With half-truths, these teachers have not only undermined the integrity and thus the authority of leadership, particularly evangelists, but also have introduced disruptive false doctrines that have been embraced by insecure congregational leaderships.

1) Every person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2:8,9) To accept this grace and become a true Christian, each person must believe in Jesus as the resurrected Son of God, repent of his or her sins, make the decision to be a disciple and then be baptized in water for the forgiveness of sins to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have chosen to most often refer to Christians as disciples since the terms “Christian” and “believer” have become so undefined.

2) God adds the baptized disciple to his church universal. (Acts 2:41) The church universal is all of the disciples in the world that God sees when he looks down from heaven into people’s hearts, whether they are in the ICOC, mainline Church of Christ, the Christian Church, in breakaway small groups or a single disciple in a denominational church. However, we have tried to use God’s standards in building the visible church, in which each congregation should be composed of only baptized disciples.

Remember the poor. Through our personal sacrifice, local congregations and through HOPE worldwide, like Paul, we have been eager to remember the poor.

What once was a joyous sacrifice for missions became a burdensome missions contribution multiple given under compulsion. What once was the spirit of a disciple to go anywhere, do anything, give up everything, in time became the same behavior without the heart. What once was charitable Christian advice and direction became authoritarian dictates which sometimes violated the consciences of the recipients, thus causing resentment and anger.

Many have concluded the reason for all of this sin, disorder and bitterness was “the system” – World Sector Leaders, discipleship partners, Bible Talks, megachurches, the “Study Series,” etc. (Some have even gone so far as to call it the “evil” system.) A system is simply applying Biblical principles to create methods.

The question must be asked, “Are we the movement of God, or at least a movement of God, or have we become simply a fellowship of saved disciples?”

As for me, two years ago when one of my children fell away,
Many of the Kingdom Teachers and World Sector Elders came to the specific opinion that each World Sector Leader would be disqualified from his role if one of his children was not a faithful disciple. Therefore, I needed to step down from the role of leading the movement.

Also, the Gempels and Bairds felt that over the next few months the bitterness would dissipate if the bitter World Sector Leaders would just speak freely without Elena and me saying anything in response to free them from their attitudes.

The combination of independently run World Sectors, the lack of opportunity for the confronted leader to respond, and an underlying bitterness produced by sins within the World Sector Leaders’ leadership proved to have catastrophic consequences.

However, with no higher authority ready to reinforce the credibility and authority of each of the World Sector Leaders, their influence in their groups began to crumble.

Thinking that stepping down would help unite the leaders and eliminate criticism and bitterness, Elena and I chose to step down the first night of the Unity Meeting in LA in November, 2002.

It is my personal conviction that some among our number who wanted to reshape the governance and doctrine of the movement were more influenced by their backgrounds in the mainline church than they were aware.

Since there was so much distrust revealed at the LA Unity Meeting, it was not surprising that when some of the Geographic Sector Leaders returned to their home congregations, they found the same mistrust, anger and hurt in their own staffs and memberships as well. In retrospect, it is easily understood that they simply reaped from their own people what they, in many cases unconsciously, had sown: the attitude of mistrust of those who led and discipled them. (Matthew 7:1-5)

I have learned that autonomy is defined differently by brothers that I deeply respect. I shall define an autonomous congregation as one that is totally void of any influence, direction and authority from any other church or individual. (This is the practice of the mainline Churches of Christ.) Therefore, autonomy is inherently disunity, the antithesis of brotherhood.

Though no one would dare breathe these words, the desire for autonomy in some is the desire to have their own kingdom. This is where the mainline Church of Christ preachers, though I believe many were good-hearted, went astray.

Because there were no other evangelists or elders overseeing their work, with no one in their lives, many gave in to the temptation to compromise their zeal, compromise the Word of God and/or compromise their purity. Romans 13 teaches that all authority (someone over you) is from God, and is meant to protect, not harm.

It was in this atmosphere that Henry Kreite wrote his letter, Honest to God. With the central leadership of the kingdom now being nonexistent, there was no “church leadership” to answer. Since the letter contained many elements of truth mixed with misinformation and bitterness, there was an outcry in many parts of our fellowship for a need to change “the system” and many of the ways we do things.

Henry advocated “a time for anger and the overthrowing of temples. I believe that time is now.” He urged churches to have “open forums” which further poisoned the membership towards the leaders as a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. In my opinion, a license to sin was handed to bitter disciples who, under the guise of “freedom in Christ,” often spoke publicly with malice and slander towards the ministry leaders and those who led them.

With no central leadership, and the fear that to respond was to be defensive, the leaders, particularly the evangelists, became weary, lost heart and many left the full-time ministry.

With the questioning of the “one-over-one” discipling and the elimination of the lead evangelist’s role in larger congregations came the erosion of the Biblical role of an evangelist being “over in the Lord” the churches in his geographic charge, even when those congregations had elders. This paradigm shift caused the evangelists who worked in these fields to lose their personal dreams to do great things because they were now limited to a smaller group in a single city.

Another mitigating factor in the erosion of this role came from Henry Kriete’s questioning of the way that money was spent, i.e. the lifestyles and the salaries of the evangelists. He also charged that there was deceit surrounding our missions contributions and the way the funds were spent. This charge was in spite of the fact that our administrators have diligently practiced the highest ethical standards of accounting and all of our large churches are audited annually by the most reputable accounting firms.

Up to this point, as a brotherhood, we believed that evangelists overseeing several congregations had the “right” to expect some pay from these congregations.

Alarmingly, our weekly and missions contributions have plunged, not because of the sagging economy, but primarily because of people’s loss of confidence in church leadership.

Autonomy breeds not only selfishness in finances, but a breakdown in advancing the kingdom. This is to our shame.

“What happened to the church where Henry served?” since his letter called the London Church to be “the epicenter of a ‘new movement’ of God?” The evangelist who was leading the London Church is American and his wife is French. Because they lost the confidence of a section of the London staff through their leadership sins, and because they were not British nationals, elected moderators asked them to resign without even consulting the church. Because the new church leaders adopted autonomy, there was no outside authority to back the foreign evangelist and to challenge the people to give the couple a chance to repent.

Pat Gempel, my mother in the faith, falsely accused of nepotism because at one time her three children and their spouses were all in the ministry.

When Nehemiah heard about the burned gates and the broken-down walls of his beloved Jerusalem, he wept. He prayed. He determined that he personally would return to Zion to help restore the wall.

In the midst of all the chaos in our fellowship, with unparalleled disunity between Christians, with so few people being saved, with so many leaving our brotherhood and with all the discussions about church governance, we need to stop and simply remember how great our God is and that there is nothing that is impossible for him.

I must confess right here that when I saw the extent of the crumbling wall, when I felt pain because of my sins and those who sinned against me, I and others began to very seriously wonder if we needed to once again start a new movement that could evangelize the world.

Since bitterness was unconsciously discipled through the levels of leadership, leaders must consciously exemplify and teach, and thus disciple, mercy and forgiveness into their relationships with each other and their flock. God must be grieving that many evangelists and elders still have bad attitudes toward those who were or are “over them in the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 5:12) For forgiveness to be a yeast that leavens the whole batch, it must begin with the leadership. Then God’s mercy working through us will heal our wounds and restore those cherished relationships.

Essential to this healing, and to my knowledge not boldly addressed, is the need for the membership to humbly beg for forgiveness from the leadership –for their bitterness, gossip, dissension, envy, disrespect and insensitivity to the devastating impact their rebellious spirits have had on the leaders and their families.

Sadly, several of our ministers have been so devastated that they have decided to leave the ministry because their repentance was not responded to with forgiveness.

According to the Scriptures, to grumble and be bitter toward leadership is to grumble against God.

Discipling is how you got saved! It is why there are churches of thousands that did not even exist just a few years ago. To stop discipling people within our congregations will mean that the untold thousands in our cities will die untold. Discipling is not only for the salvation of the lost, but I believe it is the salvation of the saved.

Discipling gave warmth to our fellowship and distinctiveness to our brotherhood.

We must not abandon discipling. We must reaffirm it because it is one of the key ways God changes us through the Spirit and the Word.

We believe that we should “be silent where the Bible speaks and speak where the Bible is silent.”

I have learned over the past few years that I was very wrong to discourage people with mental health challenges to seek professional advice and, when prescribed, to feel good about using medicinal treatments. God certainly works through doctors and professional counselors.

In terms of specific prohibitions, the reason the mainline church believes only in a capella singing (no instruments) is that in the New Testament, in the book of Acts and the letters, there is no mention of instruments in worship. Therefore, since they believe in a strict “be silent where the Bible is silent,” they believe it is sinful to use instruments in the worship.

The mainline church called themselves a brotherhood, but in fact there were multitudes of congregations in one city who did not fellowship each other.

A catchy phrase developed in the Churches of Christ segment of the Restoration movement was: “Bible things by Bible names.” It sounds so right. And yet, it leads to a narrowness of thinking as well as boundaries to our God-given creativity. (Remember, the word “Bible” is not in the Bible; the word “Scripture” is. So should we not call the Bible, “The Bible?”)

. However, if we are to once more become an advancing, growing movement of God, then our leaders must be men of great faith. After a period of time, if a congregation is not growing, then I believe the leadership needs to repent of their lack of faith and intensify their learning from other congregations. If their church still does not grow, then the evangelist (the man who leads the evangelistic charge) needs to step down and seek further training from another evangelist. The elders need to pray that God will send them an evangelist they can follow (and shepherd) as they build the church as a team.

We must never forget that our perfect God has chosen to work through imperfect men to fulfill his mission. This glorifies our God all the more. Central leadership, godly men surrounding God’s chosen leader, was present in each of the Old Testament movements,

I would encourage us all to pray that God will make it financially possible to return to the ministry all the people who left but feel called to serve again.

(Let me say right here that I do not believe the office of apostle and the corresponding miraculous gifts are present today.)

Also, only evangelists appointed elders as well as other evangelists. We do not see an example in the Scriptures of one eldership giving direction to another eldership. (In time, many of our evangelists will become elders. Only in this way should an elder give direction to another church, but it is by virtue of being an evangelist, not an elder.)

I would like to suggest that our new central leadership be called “The Council of the Brotherhood” -- comprised of missions evangelists (those that have geographic charge over numerous churches) as well as selected elders.

We feel obligated to God not to receive an undue amount of salary, but simply enough to provide for our families.

The results were that our top leaders were paid less than the top leaders of the denominations and the lower level leaders were paid more than in the denominations. The average income for our ministers is generally in line with the average income for denominational ministers.

If being in the full-time ministry is not the call for those of our number with the most God-given gifts/talents of leadership, then our ministers will be like the ministers of so many denominations who are either average or socially inept, have good hearts, but cannot lead people.

Also many married women have treasured the opportunity to work side by side in the Lord’s vineyard with their husbands.

The Lord has blessed us with the most baptisms this semester from the campus that there have been in several years.

We have firmly decided that we simply in good conscience cannot spend the rest of our lives in tears in Babylon. If we as leaders and members do not radically repent, then I believe God will look to start again.

6. Giving: We need to radically repent in our weekly giving. Though I do not think a tithe is commanded in the New Testament, this is perhaps a good target for each of us as Christians. "Kip Letter - Highlights?"

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