Crossroads Fellowship

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cults and False Belief Systems

I am sitting in my office with quite a dilemma on my hands. Recently, the last two Sunday evenings, we have had a couple of folks visit the church that have become quite bothersome to me. These two folks are from a church in Nashville that is planting a church in Clarksville. The church they happen to be a part of is part of the ICOC (International Church of Christ), which is one of the fastest growing heretical movements in the country. The ICOC is not to be confused with other Churches of Christ, but is a denomination that is completely separate from that group. I had studied about the ICOC in a class on cults and false belief systems, and as these ladies told me about being from there it dawned on me what they were but I could not remember their beliefs totally. So I had to go back and do some more research on them.

Primarily the heretical beliefs of the group are as follows as taken from the textbook The School of Biblical Evangelism:

Initially, members of the International Churches of Christ (ICOC; also known as the Boston movement, the Boston Church of Christ, etc.) might resemble Christians who are excited about serving the Lord. They sound evangelical and they claim the Bible is their only source for doctrine. Such similarities are superficial. ICOC disciples (their terminology) are members of one of the fastest growing heretical movements in the world. Why classify this seemingly Bible-based organization as heretical? To warrant this designation, a sect must deny one or more of the cardinal tenets of the historic Christian faith. Among ICC’s doctrinal deviations are a works-oriented plan of salvation that is related to a faulty understanding of grace and the rejection of the doctrine of original sin.

While purporting to believe in salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8,9) in Jesus Christ, in actuality, certain sequential acts have been added as prerequisites for salvation. One must become a disciple, which by ICOC definition includes changing one’s lifestyle to conform with the movement’s standards for Christians, and be baptized. With these additions ICOC departs from the gospel of grace, which is the sufficiency of Christ’s redemptive work for all who believe (1 Cor. 15:1–4; John 3:16; Eph. 2:8,9), and enters the realm of the cults.

To become a disciple, the prospective convert must complete some or all of a series of studies with one or more ICOC members, agree to attend all services, promise to read the Bible daily, begin recruiting others, agree to obey the church leaders, and give tithes weekly. Also, the individual must list all the sins he or she has ever committed, confess these sins to one or more members, and be “cut to the heart” by the severity of Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for our sins. After meeting all prerequisites, the prospective member’s eligibility for salvation then depends on the leadership determining if the candidate is ready for baptism. Ultimately, then, receiving God’s grace in ICOC depends on faith plus the completion of works, the presumptuousness of the leaders judging another’s heart, and water baptism.

There are other problematic areas of Doctrine in the ICOC, but I believe that the preceding information sufficiently makes the point that I am trying to make. So now for the dilemma. These two ladies came two Sundays ago to church on Sunday evening as their church plant is only having services once a month in Clarksville on Sunday mornings. Last Sunday they came back and sat through the entire service. Afterward they stayed around to talk but the conversation they wanted to have revolved around the previous week's sermons. They had went home the previous week and worked up a retort to the entire class on investing in Kingdom work as it related to being a part of a church planting team. Basically trying to convert me to their doctrinal understanding. I am not so worried about me converting, but I am concerned with them possibly swaying newer Christians.

So as a Pastor what am I supposed to do? Do I warn the congregation about the false doctrine of this group and put them on their guard? I would say yes, and this blog article is one way to do just that. But further I worry for these ladies salvation as well. If their salvation is based upon self effort then I feel as I need to reach out to them. However how much reaching out do you do to people who believe they have all the answers. Is this the case where I work to seek the lost as Jesus did, or is this the case where the religious are to be warned and then left to their own devices? (Jesus did that with many of the "religious" people of his day. And at what point does my Pastoral role and guarding the flock from ravenous wolves kick in.

I welcome all who would bring advice in this area. I am not saying I am going to do everything that is suggested, but I will certainly consider everything that is. Please respond as best you can and let me know how the Lord is speaking to you about this situation.