Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Rising Threat of One Man

Over the past few years, the outlook of the ICOC becoming a power once again seemed doubtful. However, recent events in my home town of Cincinnati, Ohio have shown that the local ICOC, the Cincinnati Church of Christ, may have reached a threshold where they should be considered a serious and very dangerous threat, especially to students at the local college campuses. This threat may help accelerate the drive of the entire ICOC back to the intensity of its controlling practices when it was lead by Kip McKean.

In the beginning of 2013, the Cincinnati ICOC hired Doug Lambert of the Baltimore ICOC as its Lead Evangelist. A little over a year and a half later, in late August of 2014, Lambert spoke the the ICOC's annual International Leadership Conference (ILC) in Singapore. He spoke the first half of a lesson entitled "Building with Costly Stones". That cost for the members of his congregation is heavy. In his lesson, we learn the following:

1. Men make the church grow, not God.
"You see, the Bible says here 'God makes it grow'. So if it's not growing, it's not God's fault. [affirmations by the audience] OK, we understand it, if it's not growing, it's not because God's not doing His part - because He makes it grow. It's not because of the workers, it's not because of the field, it's not because of the situation, it's not because of the challenges, we've got to look at ourselves and say 'am I the man to make it grow?' Because God makes it grow."

Doug Lambert - Lead Evangelist - Cincinnati Church of Christ, ICOC International Leadership Conference (Singapore) "Building with Costly Stones", August 28, 2014 [6:21-6:55]
2. Growth is the increase of the number of members and the amount of money taken in through the weekly offerings.
"And I believe that as a leader, it's important that I bring faith to my church and to the situations. [affirmations from the audience]. The church in Cincinnati was very, very stuck. Except for a few campus and teen baptisms, it wasn't growing. And we came in; we said, 'we believe all ministries can grow'. We believe the members can get engaged and that the marrieds and the singles can grow. We believe our contribution can grow. [loud 'Yeah!' from the audience]"

Doug Lambert - Lead Evangelist - Cincinnati Church of Christ, ICOC International Leadership Conference (Singapore) "Building with Costly Stones", August 28, 2014 [7:56-8:22]
3. ICOC congregations are not autonomous.
"But coming to Cincinnati, the challenges were so daunting, with the eldership and the staff and the other churches in the area, I thought: I've got to write things down. I mean, I've got to have detailed plans, four typed pages of what I need to focus on."

Doug Lambert - Lead Evangelist - Cincinnati Church of Christ, ICOC International Leadership Conference (Singapore) "Building with Costly Stones", August 28, 2014 [10:55-11:12]
In the entire context of his lesson, it appears that Mike Fontenot, leader of the Hampton Roads ICOC in Virginia may have sent or allowed Doug Lambert to go to Cincinnati. Doug Lambert apparently has influence and authority of other ICOC congregations in the Ohio Valley area (covering Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia). In other words, Doug Lambert's role and authority is no different than the role and authority of the Geographic Sector Leader (GSL) in the ICOC before 2003. Consequently, Mike Fontenot's authority appears to be that of a World Sector Leader (WSL) in the ICOC before 2003.

4. Re-establishing an eldership is not a priority whatsoever.
"We focus a lot on building infrastructure: great Sunday services, great midweeks... staff meetings, getting the HOPE work really going, women's ministry, missions, children's ministry, great events, working with our board... building a leadership group, really getting the youth and family ministry really great... We've built our campus ministry. We have ministry training programs and internships. The big focus now is on our singles and our young marrieds..."

Doug Lambert - Lead Evangelist - Cincinnati Church of Christ, ICOC International Leadership Conference (Singapore) "Building with Costly Stones", August 28, 2014 [11:50-13:00]
Note that in context, "building a leadership group" means continuing to build himself and staff roles below him in the discipling hierarchy, not establishing a plurality of spirital men to lead the congregation as elders where Lambert would work at best alongside them.

5. Needs of the rank-and-file members are subordinated to the plans to build the church (numerically).
"But having a plan requires focus, doing it well and thoroughly, and completing it and then moving on to the next task. There's still a lot to do in the church. We've got a lot of holes and a lot of needs. Part of the problem: we've raised expectations now so that everybody's saying, 'Hey, what about this and what about me, how about over here?' And I'm like, 'We'll get to it!' [affirmations by the audience] It's going to take five years. So I told the church when we came in: it's going to be five years to build what we need to build."

Doug Lambert - Lead Evangelist - Cincinnati Church of Christ, ICOC International Leadership Conference (Singapore) "Building with Costly Stones", August 28, 2014 [13:20-13:50]
6.  An ICOC Evangelist still has unilateral authority to discipline ICOC Elders, even implicitly call for their resignation.
"When we came to Cincinnati, the eldership that was in place was very divided. And we had many conversations and I finally said, 'You know, this has been going on for a long time. We're setting a five month time limit on this. And within five months, this situation will be resolved because it has gone on too long.' I believe that I have the authority as an Evangelist to discipline elders if I need to. And so after five months, we got the elders together and they met and they decided that they needed to step down."

Doug Lambert - Lead Evangelist - Cincinnati Church of Christ, ICOC International Leadership Conference (Singapore) "Building with Costly Stones", August 28, 2014 [15:07-15:43]
1 Timothy 5:19-20 clearly states that two or three witnesses are needed to bring a charge against an elder. However, Lambert did not mention any other witnesses besides himself. (Making the other elders be the other witnesses makes no sense, of course!) In addition, Lambert has the authority to correct the unrepentant elders in front of the entire congregation, but no authority to make them step down from their role.

A previous post discusses the resignation of the elders in the Cincinnati Church of Christ and its conclusions and ramifications.

7. Additional restrictions (specifically membership in a shepherding group) are required to be a member of the church and thus keep one's salvation.
"And we decided we were going to have high expectations. ['Yup' from the audience] And we were not going to compromise. We're going to expect everybody to come to midweeks, we've heard that, right? [affirmations from the audience] But that is the expectation. And then we said everyone in the church, to be a member of the church, has to be in a small group. [affirmations from the audience] You don't want to be in a small group, you're welcome to attend as a visitor. [affirmations from the audience] But you will not be a member of our church - that was not without controversy."

Doug Lambert - Lead Evangelist - Cincinnati Church of Christ, ICOC International Leadership Conference (Singapore) "Building with Costly Stones", August 28, 2014 [17:05-17:33]
8. The destructive practice of pruning has returned to the ICOC.
"And as discipling began to spread through the church, I prepared the leadership. I said... we will have more fallaways in 2014 than we had in 2013. Because as discipling spreads through the church, there will be a slow bleed. [affirmations from the audience] Because some of our members actually like the fact that there was no discipling. [more affirmations from the audience] some of our members actually like the fact that Jesus was not Lord of the church or of their lives and kind of liked the way the church was and so as we're getting where we need to be, we knew that we would lose people. Now what's been encouraging is way more people have got on board because in their hearts, deep down, they really do want Jesus to be Lord. [a chorus of 'Right!' from the audience] But we couldn't be afraid of what was going to happen if we did what was right."

Doug Lambert - Lead Evangelist - Cincinnati Church of Christ, ICOC International Leadership Conference (Singapore) "Building with Costly Stones", August 28, 2014 [18:02-18:48]
Clearly if the ICOC's upper echelon of leadership chose Lambert as an example of how to build and grow an ICOC congregation a decade after the resignation of Kip McKean and the events of the Henry Kriete Letter, then their long-term intentions are as clear as crystal. Now that the organization has stabilized, the leadership intends to return to implementing controls (albeit some slowly) across the entire organization as McKean singlehandedly did throughout his twenty-three year head of the Boston Movement and ICOC.

It's a dangerous time to be a disciple.

4 comments:

awedmanor said...

Always measure against the Bible. If the teaching isn't Biblical, then it isn't good. Thanks for sticking to what is right and good.

Steve

X-Ray said...

And thank you for continuously teaching the truth so we don't end up in a mess like this!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I'm a current member of ICOC (in NYC, not in Cincinnati) and recently found your blog. From my perspective at this time, of the 8 points you outlined, only #6 resonates as clearly not biblical. The others seem like a stretch to make your point.

For #6, its difficult to come to a conclusion without being a part of that congregation or having a direct conversation with Mr. Lambert. Your exerpt of his message does paint a picture that is not in line with what the bible teaches. So, from my perspective, I intend to follow up as best as I can to verify this point.

X-Ray said...

And thank you for your compliment!

What I've written is in context. I've linked to the original lesson so you can listen to it yourself. As you correctly point out, "his message does paint a picture that is not in line with what the bible teaches".

I admit you have to listen to a few other comments Lambert makes around point #3. However, it's crystal clear that his coming to Cincinnati was not an act by autonomous congregations. Mike Fontenot sent Doug Lambert, plain and simple. Lambert is acting as a 1990's-style Geographic Sector Leader over Cincinnati and over the other Ohio Valley churches, although he does not hold that title officially.

Additionally, I don't need to interact with Joel Osteen personally to discern that he's a false teacher, so why should I do the same with those in the ICOC? A truly repentant ICOC (or ICC) leader will reject the teachings of Kip McKean, particularly those that contradict historic Christian doctrine. (See http://www.reveal.org/library/theology/kipwinningincincy.pdf for details.)