Editor’s note:

The question below is from a person who is part of the same religious movement I (John Oakes) am part of.  The question and answer should be understood in this context. 


Can you tell me about the History of our church? Where did our Church came from? And why does another church in Cambodia have the same name as ours (Church of Christ )?


Some of us like to say and think that we are a “New Testament Church,” and that therefore our history and background are not important.  I strongly disagree with this idea.  A lot of what we as a family of churches do has everything to do with our history and little if anything to do with the Bible.  Of course, most of our important teachings are coming from the Bible, but certainly not all of them!Our background can be traced back to a movement, primarily in the United States, in the early 1800’s.  This movement came to be called the Restoration Movement.  It was begun by men such as Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell.  The movement was an attempt to throw off denominationalism and factions and to get back to the simple gospel. The idea of these leaders was to throw off the traditions which divide us and simply worship God based on the New Testament teachings.  They thought that if we refuse to divide on matters of opinion, we can be united on matters of faith, as defined by the biblical teachings.   It is debatable how successful these men and women were in realizing their ideals, but it is hard to argue with the thing they were trying to accomplish.  Out of this group ultimately arose three distinguishable groups.  The three are now known as the Christian Church, the Disciples of Christ and the Church of Christ.  Of the three, the most conservative and doctrinally oriented is the Church of Christ.  A strength of the Churches of Christ is biblical knowledge and New Testament theology and teaching.  A weakness of the Churches of Christ is the tendency toward intellectualism and legalism and a lack of emphasis on the heart and devotion to God.  Of course, many individuals are not like this at all, but that is a useful generalization.In the 1960s in the US a movement within the Churches of Christ was begun primarily within campus groups.  This movement became focused on a particular leader named Chuck Lucas.  Working from the Crossroads Church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida, hundreds were baptized and dozens of young fired up campus ministers were trained.  This group, which came to be known as the Crossroads Movement emphasized what had typically been deemphasized within the Churches of Christ.  They stressed evangelism, personal devotion, holiness and close relationships between Christians.  Ministers trained by Chuck Lucas included Tom Brown, Sam Laing and, most famously, Kip McKean.Eventually, the Crossroads Ministry campus groups ran into roadblocks within existing Churches of Christ because those who had been raised within the mainline church became uncomfortable with the zeal and the hard line approach to discipleship exhibited by the campus students.  Churches began to split.  Eventually, Kip McKean decided to start a church of “disciples only,” which, in reality, meant a group of people who were all familiar with the practices of this growing campus movement.  This decision led to spectacular growth and the planting of hundreds of churches in over one hundred countries over the succeeding 25 years.  Due to sinful behavior in both camps, eventually the movement we are part of was ostracized from the fellowship of the Churches of Christ and came to be known as the International Churches of Christ.I assume you are aware of the history of our movement in the past few years.  Ultimately, the leadership style of Kip McKean had somewhat of a self-destructive effect because he tended toward a strongly centralized leadership structure which emphasized numerical results over spiritual growth, and ultimately led to Kip being asked to no longer lead the movement he had so powerfully raised up.Now, as to your situation.  There are Churches of Christ all over the world.  The majority of them are associated with the mainline Churches of Christ rather than our family of churches.  In the United States there are many more mainline churches that groups in our fellowship of churches, but in places like Cambodia, the Church of Christ is not very strong.  Nevertheless, it should not be a shock to come across a Church of Christ even there in Cambodia.My advice is to treat the members of this other group with respect and to receive them as brothers and sisters.  You can assume that there are sufficient differences, most or all of them over matters of opinion, that it is a bit unlikely that your congregation will unite as a single fellowship with this other group.  However, you should apply the Golden Rule and treat these Christians as you would want to be treated—giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are true Christians who love God as much as you do.It is not likely that you will be able to reverse history, but we can all be part of treating all believers with respect and to hesitate to judge others.  This does not mean you have to join their fellowship, but you should share what you have in common in Christ.If you go back to my web site you will find a power point on Church History and one titled Restoration or Reformation.  Both have additional material on this topic.Feel free to write if you have any other questions.John Oakes, PhD

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