I left a church in the ICOC eight years ago but have always felt blessed
by the experience. I live in Iowanow and while there are various churches
and ‘types’ of christians here, I don’t see the fellowship or
accountability that I knew as a disciple. But yet I can’t believe that God
will abandon the thousands of people who know only mainstream
christianity. Has the ICOC changed their position on who goes to heaven
and who doesn’t?

That is an interesting question. First of all, it is not clear that there
is an ICOC any more, as the centralized organization no longer exists.
Nevertheless, there is a more or less loosely united group of churches
which make up the former ICOC. For myself, I have not changed my
viewpoint on who is saved. I have always chafed at the exclusionary
attitude of our leaders with regard to who is saved. It is
(unfortunately) true that the ICOC in the past took a rather hard line
view of who is saved. The general teaching is that someone needed to be a
disciple before being baptized in order to be saved, which is true,
technically, but we tended to use an overly narrow and restrictive
definition of a disciple of Jesus. We taught (whether unknowingly or not,
you can decide) that unless someone is “sold out,” which is defined as
sharing their faith, being “discipled,” being devoted to the fellowship in
specific ways and etc., then one?s salvation is in doubt.

In my region of the San Diego Church of Christ we just finished a series
of very good lessons on salvation. The conclusion was that salvation is
based on the sacrifice of Jesus and the grace of God. Salvation is a
matter of response to that offer of grace. Our required response is faith
in the gospel, repentance, which is a heart-felt change of mind and heart
over our sins in response to the sacrifice of Jesus, followed by baptism
into Christ. We concluded that many things which had been typically added
by the ICOC, either by direct statement or by implication are unwise and
perhaps even dangerous innovations. Requiring people to write a list of
sins, or to attend church for a specified time or to evangelize or to talk
to particular people etc? while possibly wise in an individual case, are
not acceptable as requirements for baptism (which would imply requirements
for salvation).

Does that make it clear? Be aware that no one can speak for all of the
former ICOC churches and members.

Let me respond to one more thing you mention. Yes, I agree that the
fellowship and accountability within the former ICOC churches has become
weaker. I would say that on the whole, the weakening of the fellowship is
not a good sign, while the weakening of the accountability is more good
than bad, as the atmosphere of the accountability in the past was too
controlling and did not tend toward maturity. A form of voluntary
accountability can be very positive, but our way of doing this seemed more
like control than accountability. I believe that if you decided at this
point to return to worshiping with a fellowship aligned with the former
ICOC you would find the changes to be overall positive.

May God bless your efforts to serve him in the future. Feel free to ask
me more specific questions if you like.

John Oakes

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