A DISCUSSION OF DIFFERENCES
What is it about the Boston Church of Christ that causes the changes in
psychological type scores discussed in the previous chapters? Since other
churches of Christ are not producing this effect, the cause or causes must
be found in the differences between the Boston Church of Christ and other
churches of Christ.
When Christians who are not identified with the discipling movement attend
the Sunday morning worship assembly of the Boston Church of Christ, they
often report that they see nothing wrong. What they observe in the worship
assembly is very similar to what they see in other churches of Christ. The
doctrines that they hear preached in the sermons are the same as those preached
in other churches of Christ. Visitors notice that the Boston Church of Christ
has elders, deacons, and evangelists. The organization, therefore, seems
to be the same as other churches of Christ. First impressions of the Boston
congregation are typically very favorable.
Several obvious differences between the Boston Church of Christ and other
churches of Christ have little to do with fundamental doctrinal issues.
The congregation is made up primarily of college students and young adults.
They meet in a rented sports arena. They have only one meeting a week when
congregation comes together. Each member of the Boston church is required
to attend Sunday morning worship, Wednesday evening House Church, and at
least one Bible Talk a week. There are over 60 House Church meetings throughout
the Boston area each Wednesday evening. These are Bible classes designed
to teach the members. There are over 260 Bible Talks in the Boston area
each week. These are small group meetings designed to reach non-members.
Each member is expected to invite at least 10 people a week to attend Bible
Most observers from other churches of Christ do not see these differences
as being significant. Most recognize these as areas where local congregations
are free to adapt to their own situations in their own ways. Some have questions
about the way some of these things are done, but most do not raise any objections
over these incidental differences.
There are, however, some differences between the Boston Church of Christ
and other churches of Christ that are fundamental. Some of these differences
involve factors that may be responsible for producing the unhealthy personality
changes observed in the psychological type study of the Boston church. When
I presented my report of that study to the leaders of the Boston church,
I made several specific suggestions regarding changes that I felt were needed
to correct that situation. It was my understanding that they agreed to make
these changes. My plan at that time was to wait one year and then return
to Boston to conduct a psychological type study among the new converts brought
into the congregation after these changes had been made. I was confident
that such a study would find that the problems had been corrected and that
personalities were no longer being changed to conform to the group norm.
in November of 1986, however, I
learned that the changes were never made. I continue to receive reports
from other churches of Christ in the area and from counselors who work with
the emotional and spiritual problems of those who drop out of the Boston
Church of Christ. These reports clearly indicate that the changes I suggested
have not been implemented. Indeed, the congregation appears to be moving
further and further away from what other churches of Christ would regard
as true New Testament Christianity.
APPROACH TO DISCIPLING
Other churches of Christ do not generally use the word "discipling"
the way it is used in the Boston Church of Christ and other congregations
that identify with the discipling movement. Other churches of Christ, however,
are concerned about teaching their members and helping them grow spiritually.
They just believe in calling Bible things by Bible names and they do not
believe that the New Testament ever talks about discipling someone who is
already a disciple. If they use the word "discipling" at all,
they would generally use it to describe the process of disciple making.
They would use other words to describe the process of disciple building.
The fundamental differences in regard to discipling, however, go far beyond
What the Boston Church of Christ calls "discipling" involves a
network of hierarchical relationships. In other churches of Christ, disciple-building
relationships involve peers. When I presented the report of
my psychological study, the leaders of the Boston congregation denied that
they practiced hierarchical discipling. But when the members of that congregation
turned in their psychological type forms, I had them write on those forms
the name of the person most responsible for discipling them. I then charted
the relationships and all the arrows pointed straight up their hierarchy.
New converts are discipled by older converts. The older converts are discipled
by Bible Talk leaders. The Bible Talk leaders are discipled by House Church
leaders. The House Church leaders are discipled by zone evangelists. The
zone evangelists are discipled by Kip McKean and the elders. It is only
the preacher and two elders who list one another as disciplers in peer relationships.
Furthermore, in my interviews with many of the members of the Boston church,
I asked them to name the person who was discipling them and to name the
people they were discipling. I never had the same people listed in answer
to both questions except with the preacher and two elders. Since that time,
articles in the bulletin of the Boston congregation have stated that in
discipling there must be a clear understanding as to who is doing the discipling
and who is being discipled.
When discipling resembles a multi-level marketing system, it is inevitable
that people will be influenced to become like the group norm. To avoid the
kind of personality manipulation observed in the psychological type study
of the Boston Church of Christ, disciple-building relationships need to
be peer relationships. Making such a change should not be too difficult
for the discipling churches. They have placed great emphasis on the "one
another" passages in the Bible. Reciprocal relationships between equals
would be consistent with the "one another" passages. Hierarchical
relationships are not.
Discipling, in the Boston model, involves each member having only one discipler.
In other churches of Christ, disciple-building relationships involve several
close personal friends. A new convert who identifies with several Christian
friends is likely to filter out the many ways in which they are different
and focus on what they have in common. The new convert, therefore, is much
more likely to identify with the Christ in each of these friends and less
likely to be made over after the image of just one friend.
From the time when the discipling movement first began among churches of
Christ at the Crossroads congregation, discipling has focused on confession.
New converts are taught that they must confess their sins to their disciplers.
If they seem reluctant to do so, they are asked a lot of personal questions.
If they still have no sins to confess, they are asked to read 1 John 1:8-10
and they are told that a refusal to admit sin is sin within itself. That
at least gives them something to confess. I suggested to the leaders of
the Boston Church of Christ that an emphasis on Bible study and prayer would
be much better than this emphasis on confession. They said that they had
already started moving in that direction. However, almost two years have
passed since that meeting and the reports I am getting from the Boston area
strongly indicate that the Boston Church of Christ still emphasizes confession
as an essential part of discipling.
The Boston church uses James 5:16 to justify their requirement that Christians
confess their sins to their disciplers. Other churches of Christ do not
believe that this verse teaches any such thing. New Testament scholars are
virtually unanimous in teaching that this verse simply means that if I sin
against you, I must confess it to you and if you sin against me you must
confess it to me. Every other passage of Scripture on the subject of confession
teaches that sins must be con-
fessed to God and to the individuals we have wronged. No other verse in
the entire Bible says anything about confessing to a non-involved third
party. The Boston Church of Christ rejects the Roman Catholic doctrine of
auricular confession. They do not believe that sins must be confessed to
a priest. What they are practicing, however, is seen by other churches of
Christ as being a form of auricular confession.
Other churches of Christ recognize that self-disclosure can have therapeutic
value in some cases for some people. There was a self-disclosure fad in
pop psychology in the 1960s. There were all sorts of T-Groups, Encounter
Groups, Sensitivity Training Groups, and the like. People were encouraged
to bare their souls to these groups. The experience helped some people and
hurt others. Psychologists later did some research on the effects of self-disclosure.
They found that when there is too much self-disclosure that comes
too soon in a relationship or that comes under too much pressure, it creates
a potentially manipulative, destructive, and dangerous relationship.
Christians need to have friends they can really trust. It often helps to
confide in a friend. Self-disclosure, however, is not always helpful. Some
personality types seem to benefit from self-disclosure much more than others.
Many faithful Christians have grown to maturity in Christ without ever having
much experience with self-disclosure.
Furthermore, self-disclosure is not what James 5:16 is talking about.
Other churches of Christ believe that the work of disciple building needs
to be done with the recognition that some people benefit from self-disclosure
much more than others. They contend that no one has the right to bind on
all Christians a practice that may be helpful for only some. They claim
that no one has the right to make self-disclosure a law when God has not
made it a law. The rules of the Boston Church of Christ require that men
disciple men and women disciple women. Other churches of Christ might see
that as a good practice generally for disciple-building relationships, but
they would not accept it as a rule that must always be followed.
Other churches of Christ believe that any self-disclosure that is done needs
to be done in the right way. It takes time to build trust. It takes a lot
of shared experience to build relationships to the point where self-disclosure
is appropriate. The interviews I had with members of the Boston Church of
Christ convinced me that they are getting into some really heavy self-disclosing
long before they have had the time to build trusting relationships. When
I asked members of the Boston congregation to identify the person most responsible
for discipling them, at least one fourth could not correctly spell the name
of that person. That does not sound like the kind of relationships where
intensely personal self-disclosure would be appropriate.
Other churches of Christ believe that if self-disclosure is going to take
place in disciple-building relationships, those involved must be taught
to treat things disclosed as being strictly confidential. Such matters must
not be revealed to others without the permission of the individual involved.
All too often in the Boston system, however, things disclosed to a discipler
one day are known all the way up the discipling hierarchy the next day.
The discipling hierarchy thus becomes a glorified
informant network. As such, it is an effective means of control--but it
is not a good atmosphere for healthy disciple building.
In the Boston Church of Christ, those being discipled are taught that they
must submit to their discipler. Passages such as Hebrews 13:17 have been
taken out of context to justify this requirement of submission. In the past
two years, I have interviewed many Christians in the Boston congregation
and many others who were once involved in the discipling movement in Boston
or elsewhere. Many of these individuals told me that their, disciplers required
total submission without question. A large majority of those individuals
told me that their disciplers often gave orders that had nothing to do with
spiritual matters. Those being discipled were told what courses to take
in school, what field to major in, what career to enter, whom to date or
not date, and even whom to marry or not marry. Leaders of the discipling
movement admit that such abuses have taken place, but they claim that these
are merely the excesses of young people with more zeal than judgment. The
system, however, puts young people without much experience or judgment into
positions where such abuses are likely to happen. Furthermore, many of these
young people have now had plenty of time to grow up and yet they are still
involved in the same abuses.
The Boston Church of Christ now teaches that Christians must obey their
disciplers even in matters of opinion where there is no biblical justification
for the orders given. They claim that Hebrews 13:17 refers to matters of
opinion and they claim that it includes the authority of evangelists, elders,
zone leaders, House Church leaders, Bible Talk leaders, and disciplers.
The Boston church claims that they have corrected any possible abuses of
authority by giving their members the right of appeal. If a member is given
an order by a discipler that the member does not want to obey, that member
has the right of appeal to the Bible Talk leader.
The appeal can be taken all the way up the hierarchy to the House Church
leader, zone evangelist, and even to the elders and the lead evangelist.
But if the order given by the discipler is approved by these leaders, that
member is required to obey. The only exceptions are that members are not
expected to obey an order that would require them to go against the Bible
or to violate their own conscience. The trouble, however, is that the leaders
are the ones who decide what the Bible teaches and thus what a person's
conscience should require.
Discipling churches teach that Christians are supposed to imitate their
disciplers. They support this doctrine with verses where Paul told Christians
to imitate him. One of these verses is 1 Corinthians 11:1 where Paul said,
"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." Other churches of Christ
believe that all Christians are supposed to imitate about Paul is his imitation
of Jesus Christ. If Paul imitated Jesus and Timothy imitated Paul and someone
else imitated Timothy--by the time the chain gets down to us there would
be little real Christianity left.
When a church practices hierarchical discipling with each Christian having
a single or primary discipler to whom sins must be confessed and who must
be obeyed and imitated, it is inevitable that the church will make people
over after the image of the group norm. That hurts people psychologically
DOCTRINE FOLLOWS PRACTICE
Throughout its history, the church has been plagued by pragmatism. The pragmatist
finds methods that
seem to work and employs those methods. If challenged, the pragmatist will
go to the Bible to find ways to justify the methods he has already decided
to use. That approach is quite different from the approach taught in the
Bible. Christians are supposed to begin by going to the Bible to find what
God wants them to do. Doctrine must come first. Doctrine must be the foundation
for practice. With the pragmatists, however, doctrine follows practice.
The practices associated with discipling that were discussed in the previous
section do not grow out of a solid theological foundation. They were not
discovered through careful Bible study. They grew out of a pragmatic concern
for finding methods that seem to work. Doctrines are now being developed
to justify the practices. Discipling, however, is not the only area where
doctrine appears to follow practice. Most of the differences between the
discipling churches and other churches of Christ are in the area of practices.
Only in recent years have doctrinal differences emerged.
In the discipling movement among churches of Christ, preachers appear to
have more decision-making and administrative authority than the elders have.
In Boston, for example, decisions are made in meetings of the elders and
evangelists. I attended all of those meetings for two weeks on my first
visit to Boston. I have interviewed many others who have observed these
meetings. One thing that all of us noticed is that Kip McKean presides at
these meetings, makes virtually all of the decisions, and gives instructions
to the other evangelists and to the elders. I asked the elders of the Boston
Church of Christ about this practice--which is most unusual among churches
of Christ. They defended the practice with the claim that they recognize
talent and use it. Observers from other churches of
Christ have never questioned McKean's ability as an executive or administrator.
What they have questioned is the propriety of any eldership turning over
that much authority to any preacher.
The discipling movement, of course, did not begin among churches of Christ
where local congregations are led by a plurality of men serving as elders,
overseers, and shepherds with the assistance of deacons and ministers. It
began in denominations where each local congregation is led by one pastor.
What developed in that context was a discipling hierarchy with one pastor
at the top of the pyramid. As the discipling movement spread into churches
of Christ, many observers believe that the real power has been held by the
preachers with elders serving only as figureheads and with deacons playing
only a minor role. If discipling churches have elders, they typically have
only two. Some observers believe that this is because two elders are enough
to meet the requirement of plurality, but not enough to get in the way of
the real power structure.
Many observers have noticed that when elders are selected in discipling
churches, it is the preacher who selects them. In cases that I have observed
personally, preachers for discipling churches have recruited qualified men
to join their congregations and become "elder interns." If they
successfully complete a period of discipling, the preacher appoints them
Other churches of Christ follow the pattern of Acts 6:1-6 in the selection
of elders or deacons. In this case, the congregation did the selecting of
the seven special servants and the apostles appointed those men the congregation
selected. Other churches of Christ believe that a man would be lording it
over the church if he became an elder without the consent of the members.
Leaders of the discipling movement claim that their congregations have so
many new converts that their members would not know how to select qualified
or deacons. In Acts 6, however, the Jerusalem congregation was made up of
new converts and yet the apostles trusted them to select these leaders.
For several years, the practice of discipling churches has differed from
that of other churches of Christ in regard to the authority of the preacher.
Until recently, however, the discipling churches denied that their practice
differed from that of other churches of Christ. They claimed that their
congregations were led by their elders. They are no longer making that claim.
They have started picking up the doctrine of evangelistic oversight that
was advocated, examined, and rejected in the early days of the Restoration
According to the doctrine of evangelistic oversight, the evangelist is in
charge of a congregation until elders are appointed. When elders are appointed,
the evangelist does not just appoint those elders selected by the congregation--following
the selection pattern of Acts 6. Instead, the evangelist selects the elders.
In the Boston version of the old evangelistic oversight doctrine, the evangelist
continues to make most of the decisions even after elders are appointed.
Whether in doctrine or just in practice, the elders of the Boston Church
of Christ function primarily in an advisory role. It is their lead evangelist
who is at the top of their hierarchy. Now they have gone one step further
by teaching that their lead evangelist is at the top of a hierarchy of congregations.
They use Ephesians 4:16 to support their claim with the argument that the
evangelists are the ligaments mentioned in the NIV translation of this verse--the
ligaments that hold the various congregations together. They claim, therefore,
that the evangelist is an officer of the universal church, not just a
ministering servant in a local church. That would give their lead evangelist
the right to direct congregations throughout the world.
The trouble with this interpretation is that this is not what the verse
teaches. The ligaments of Ephesians 4:16 are the Christians, not just the
evangelists. The body they hold together is primarily the local church,
not the universal church. Other churches of Christ do not believe that the
evangelist has or needs any authority other than the authority to preach
the gospel. The practice of the discipling churches has been consistent
for several years with the old rejected doctrine of evangelistic oversight.
Now their doctrine is getting in line with their practice.
Critics of the discipling movement have objected to the practice of having
pastoral functions performed by people who are not qualified to be elders.
When there are only two elders in a large congregation and the pastoral
functions are delegated from elders to zone evangelists to House Church
leaders to Bible Talk leaders to disciplers, the average member has very
little contact with the shepherds. The discipling hierarchy of the Boston
church is an efficient means of control. Critics, however, deny that this
hierarchy is a proper way for elders to perform their spiritual counseling-
teaching duties as shepherds.
Leaders of the discipling movement defend hierarchical delegated shepherding
with the example of Exodus 18:13-26 where Moses instituted a judicial system
with four levels. Disputes went first to a ruler in charge of 10 people.
If the dispute could not be settled at that level, it went to a ruler in
charge of 50 people.
Disputes unresolved at that level went to a ruler in charge of 100 people.
Appeals from that level went to a ruler in charge of 1,000 people. The only
cases that were brought to Moses were those that could not be resolved in
a lower court. This was an effective judicial system. Military organizations
have found a similar chain of command to be an efficient means of control.
But there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that God intended this Jewish
judicial system to be a model for the shepherding work of elders in local
Critics argue that hierarchical delegated shepherding gives too many pastoral
functions to young people at the bottom of the pyramid who are not qualified
to be pastors. James S. Woodroof preaches for the Church of Christ in Burlington,
Massachusetts. He said that in his congregation there are many people who
by reason of years ought to be teachers and they are not--but in the nearby
Boston Church of Christ there are many people who by reason of years ought
not to be teachers and they are.
DIFFERENCES REGARDING BAPTISM
Discipling churches delay baptism until they are convinced that the person
really believes and has fully repented and is totally committed. Other churches
of Christ do not believe that Christians have the right to judge such matters.
If people say that they believe, that they have repented, and that they
want to be baptized, other churches of Christ baptize them. There are, of
course, extreme cases that are exceptions to this rule. But if other churches
of Christ are going to err in this
matter, they want it to be in the direction of baptizing those who request
baptism. Discipling churches seem to err in the direction of withholding
baptism from those who are ready for baptism.
The elders of a discipling church in Florida refused permission for a man
to be baptized because he had not quit a job that required him to work on
Sundays. He was looking for another job, but did not feel it would be fair
to his family for him to quit his present job until he found another. In
the meantime, he knew that he needed to be baptized for the remission of
his sins. Other churches of Christ would have baptized him.
Leaders of a discipling church in Denver, Colorado, met with the elders
of the Bear Valley Church of Christ to discuss their differences. Leaders
of this discipling church were asked if they would baptize a person who
said he believed in Jesus Christ, had repented of his sins, and wanted to
become a Christian--but that he did not want to attend Bible Talk meetings
because he wanted to do his evangelism in a different way. They said that
they would refuse to baptize such a person because he is not yet converted.
Many observers believe that discipling churches delay baptism until the
disciplers are convinced that the prospective converts will submit to their
authority without question. The issue is not their readiness to obey the
gospel, but their willingness to submit to the control system provided in
the discipling hierarchy.
Many discipling churches have a tradition of requiring two confessions before
baptism. First they ask, "Do you believe with all your heart that Jesus
is the Christ,
the Son of God?" After an affirmative answer, they ask this second
question, "What is your good confession?" The answer is "Jesus
is Lord!" Leaders of the discipling movement admit that this second
confession is not required. They understand that the first confession implies
the second. That understanding, however, has not filtered down through the
discipling hierarchy. Some of the young people at the bottom of the pyramid
believe that a baptism is not valid unless both confessions were verbalized.
Many people who have come to discipling churches from other churches of
Christ have been taught by their disciplers that they must be rebaptized.
Leaders of the Boston Church of Christ admit that around five percent of
all their baptisms are such rebaptisms. Interviews with leaders of other
churches of Christ in the Boston area indicate that over half of those who
have gone to the Boston Church of Christ from these other congregations
have been rebaptized. When the Crossroads Church of Christ sent campus ministers
to work in other churches of Christ, such rebaptism accounted for a lot
more than five percent of their total baptisms. Now that the Boston church
is taking over the Crossroads-type churches, many of their members are being
rebaptized. The psychological function of the rebaptism phenomenon is similar
to the psychological function of the "replanting" terminology
used when the Boston church takes over a congregation: both serve to deny
the validity of the previous religious experience of the
individual. This cuts that individual off from his or her roots spiritually
and thus gives the discipler more power to control and change that individual.
What is happening in the Boston Church of Christ is a good example of how
the discipling churches view other churches of Christ. When half of the
people who come to the Boston Church of Christ from other churches of Christ
in the area are rebaptized, that gives these other congregations the impression
that they are not regarded as being faithful Christians since their baptism
is not considered valid. This impression is reinforced when new converts
in the Boston church are told not to attend the other churches of Christ
in the area. Leaders of the Boston church excuse this with the claim that
relationships are important and these new converts would not have such relationships
in these other congregations. It is true that relationships are important,
but that does not justify telling new converts that other churches of Christ
in the area are dead, that they are not spiritual, or that they could not
provide the discipling that the new converts need. Interviews with over
100 new converts in the Boston church and over 100 others who have left
the Boston church have convinced me that these judgmental comments about
other churches of Christ are the rule, not the exception.
When discipling churches call themselves the "remnant," this gives
the same impression. Leaders of the discipling movement try to explain that
they are just talking about a small group of Christians whom God uses to
achieve great growth, but they have tied their use of the "remnant"
terminology to the Bible and in the Bible it was only the remnant that was
faithful: all others were lost.
Discipling churches now constitute a totally separate fellowship. They cooperate
with one another. They are in competition with churches of Christ that are
identified with the discipling movement. This competition clearly implies
a judgment that these other churches of Christ are unfaithful. In recent
years, leaders of the discipling movement have become increasingly open
in expressing their judgment that the discipling churches are the only faithful
churches and that all other churches of Christ are unfaithful.
Gift projection is the tendency of some Christians to judge other Christians
by our gifts and to insist that all other Christians must develop our gifts
and get involved in our ministries in order to be faithful. This attitude
ignores what the Bible teaches about different Christians having different
gifts and being involved in different ministries.
Other churches of Christ believe that all Christians should be involved
in evangelism in some way, but they do not insist that all be involved in
the same way. They believe that all Christians should share their faith,
but they do not require that all Christians do this in the same way.
My study of the Boston Church of Christ convinced me that only 10 to 15
percent of their members had ever converted anyone. What I am talking about
are those who have taken a leading role in the teaching and persuading that
brought others to the point of obedience. I told the leaders of that congregation
ought to rejoice that so many of their members were involved in evangelism
at this level. But I also told them that they ought to rejoice in the fact
that virtually all the rest of their members are involved in evangelism
in other ways. I call them the "grinners," although that is not
a title the Boston church recognizes. The grinners are the people who invite
at least 10 others to Bible Talk each week. They regularly attend Bible
Talk. They do not lead the Bible Talk. They just sit there and grin and
say "Amen." When the people they bring with them to Bible Talk
get interested enough to be receptive to the gospel, it is usually the Bible
Talk leader who does what they call the one-on-one teaching. But the teaching
is not really one-on-one. It is two-on-one, because the grinner is right
there supporting the process, grinning, and occasionally saying, "You
need to do what he says." After this person is baptized, the grinner
becomes his discipling partner. It seems to me that the grinners are being
evangelistic. They are sharing their faith. But most of the leaders I talked
to in the Boston church felt that the grinners needed to repent and get
with the program.
Discipling churches talk a lot about being "fruitful" or "productive."
Some have taught that the only fruit of a Christian is another Christian.
That is not the way the Bible uses the fruit metaphor. Leaders of the Boston
Church of Christ understand that, but members of the congregation still
think that making converts is the only way to be fruitful or productive.
The Boston congregation provides only one role model for their members.
The people they brag on are those who are making a lot of converts. I urged
the leaders of that congregation to start providing other role models. I
suggested that they brag on some of their grinners who never have converted
anyone, but who are at least involved in the evangelistic effort and who
help the church in other ways. The elders sent me a tape of one sermon where
Kip McKean did this, but it will
take a lot more than one sermon to overcome the influence of previous years.
Having just one role model may explain a part of the psychological manipulation
discussed earlier. A church with only one role model is likely to make its
members over after the image of that one model. This is especially likely
to happen in a church where the members soon realize that there is only
one way to advance in leadership. In discipling churches, the way members
prove that they are qualified for various leadership roles is by making
a lot of converts and helping those converts make a lot of converts. What
this system ignores is the importance of many other gifts that are needed
in a congregation.
Critics of the discipling movement believe that these churches have never
really understood the theology of gifts, the value of diversity, or the
concept of the church as a body with many different members that perform
many different functions in many different ways. Several critics have suggested
that discipling churches resemble a giant reproductive system rather than
a whole body.
The public teaching of discipling churches proclaims the doctrine of salvation
by grace. That, however, is not what filters down through the discipling
hierarchy. What people at the bottom of the pyramid hear is that they must
earn their way to heaven by the merit of their works.
Discipling churches have many arbitrary rules that have no biblical foundation.
Some of these rules probably started as wise advice. However, what started
as wise advice needed by some people in one place soon became fixed rules
bound on everyone in many other congregations. Requiring that everyone have
an hour a day of quiet time may be good advice, but God did not give this
as a law. Those who have recently converted
from non-Christian backgrounds might need some advice about whom to date
or not date, but there is no law in the Bible requiring permission of a
discipler before dating. Furthermore, the emphasis on rule keeping that
spreads throughout the discipling process communicates the wrong message.
Some Christians may be helped by suggested goals or targets in regard to
their evangelism or other areas of Christian service, but those goals are
not laws from God. An over-emphasis on goals and targets for evangelism
communicates a message of justification by the merit of works.
Discipling churches have a practice of requiring prospective converts to
write out a list of all the sins they have ever committed. Other churches
of Christ find such a rule to be arbitrary at best. Many object to the practice
even if it is not treated as a law. They feel that it suggests the wrong
emphasis. This requirement about listing all sins prior to baptism suggests
a works-centered gospel of the changed life. That is not the same thing
as the gospel that changes lives--the Christ-centered gospel of grace.
There are significant differences between what the discipling churches teach
publicly and what the communicate privately to their members. There are
significant differences between what the discipling churches communicate
verbally and what they communicate nonverbally. You cannot get a book that
teaches you the Boston system. You have to go to Boston and be trained for
at least a year. The reason for this is that the real message in the Boston
Church of Christ is not the public message that is verbalized; it is the
non-verbal message communicated privately by the nature and emphasis of
the discipling hierarchy.
End of Chapter 4
Link to Chapter 5