International Churches of Christ (ICOC)

A global network of churches known for its disciple-making approach and intense commitment to evangelism.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Restoration Movement
Location: International
Size: Approximately 150,000 members
Offshoot of: Churches of Christ
Offshoots: International Christian Churches (ICC)

The International Churches of Christ (ICOC) is a family of Christian churches that originated from the mainline Churches of Christ. Officially regornized under their current name in 1993, the ICOC is known for its strong emphasis on personal discipleship, evangelism, and a commitment to living according to the teachings of the New Testament.

Origins and Development

The origins of the ICOC can be traced back to the early 1970s, with the movement gaining significant momentum in the 1980s under the leadership of Kip McKean. McKean, a minister in the mainline Churches of Christ, began implementing a highly structured approach to discipleship and evangelism at the Lexington Church of Christ in Massachusetts. This approach, emphasizing one-on-one discipleship and a strong commitment to the church community, led to rapid growth and the establishment of new congregations.

Beliefs and Practices

The ICOC holds to the core doctrines of Christianity, including the belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the authority of the Bible, and the importance of baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Distinctive aspects of the ICOC include:

  • Discipleship: A central tenet of the ICOC is the practice of discipleship, where each member is paired with a more mature Christian, known as a “discipler,” for personal mentoring and accountability.
  • Evangelism: The church places a high emphasis on evangelism, with the goal of spreading the Christian message and establishing churches in every nation.
  • Baptism: The ICOC teaches that baptism by immersion is essential for salvation and is accompanied by a personal commitment to live as a disciple of Christ.

Growth and Global Reach

The ICOC experienced rapid expansion in the 1980s and 1990s, establishing churches in major cities worldwide. This growth was driven by its evangelistic zeal and the commitment of its members to church planting and discipleship.

Controversies and Reformation

The ICOC has faced criticism and controversy, particularly regarding its approach to discipleship, which some have described as overly controlling and authoritarian. In the early 2000s, the church underwent a period of significant reevaluation and restructuring, addressing concerns about leadership, governance, and the discipling methodology.

Current Status

Following its period of reformation, the ICOC has focused on developing a more balanced approach to leadership and discipleship, while maintaining its commitment to evangelism and church planting. The ICOC continues to be active in evangelistic efforts and community service, with a presence in over 150 countries.