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 congregations, globally dispersed, yet united in their conservative and racially integrated approach to Christianity. Originating from a campus ministry initiative at the University of Florida in 1967, led by Chuck Lucas at the 14th Street Church of Christ in Gainesville, this movement initially thrived on the principles of the Campus Crusade and the Shepherding Movement, emphasizing rigorous evangelism and personal relationships for spiritual development​​.

Kip McKean, a notable convert in the early stages of this movement, played a pivotal role in its expansion and formalization. After leading a successful campus ministry that grew significantly in numbers, McKean moved to Massachusetts in 1979, taking over the Lexington Church of Christ, which soon became known as the Boston Church of Christ. Under his leadership, the church experienced rapid growth, adopting a model of total commitment from its members and eventually leading to the emergence of the “Boston Movement”​​. The ICOC officially separated from the Churches of Christ in 1993, marking a new phase of independent growth and organization. It pledged to establish churches in every country with a city of at least 250,000 people within six years.

The movement’s approach has not been without controversy, often criticized for its discipling methods, perceived as overly controlling and authoritarian, leading to significant opposition from universities, media, and other Christian denominations​​. Criticism of the ICOC has focused on several theological and practical aspects, including a perceived distortion in the theology of grace and the Holy Spirit, overly aggressive evangelism, and an overly authoritarian leadership structure. These elements have led to internal and external conflicts, contributing to a mixed reception of the movement within the broader Christian community​​. The ICOC’s practices, particularly its discipling model, have been characterized by some as embodying elements of mind control, with leaders exerting significant influence over personal aspects of members’ lives. This has included directives on employment, relationships, and personal conduct, aligning closely with McKean’s teachings and leadership style​​.

The resignation of Kip McKean in the early 2000s, attributed to his acknowledgment of the negative impacts his leadership had on the movement and his family, marked a significant moment in ICOC’s history. Despite this setback, the ICOC continues to be active globally, pursuing its mission of evangelism and church planting, while facing ongoing challenges related to its past practices and leadership dynamics​​. It remains a significant presence in the Christian world, with a mission that continues to emphasize rigorous evangelism, community involvement, and the development of global church networks.

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