By Ron Harding*
Since we live in an age in which the proliferation of information is often distorted, I have sought to carefully investigate and document with first-hand accounts – including my own – the incredible story of the spread of Christianity from the 1970’s to this very day. The primary purposes of this narration are to honor God with the truth and to encourage those who have never had the dream – or perhaps have lost it – to share in Jesus’ dream of the evangelization of “all nations.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Much of this rich history is intertwined with the life of my “partner in the gospel” Kip McKean. Therefore, using many of his experiences as a timeline – his faith, his faults and his rekindled fire – allows a detailed rendering for this “orderly [historical] account.” (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1) Please set aside a time when you have at least an hour to read this whole document to perhaps discover for the first time what happened to what for many of us was “our family” and what God now wants us to do.
Thomas Wayne McKean II (May 31, 1954 – present) was named after his ancestor Thomas McKean, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. (His mother nicknamed him “Kip.”) In 2003, Kip became the evangelist for the Portland International Church of Christ. In October 2006, after a valiant three-year effort to bring reform to the crumbling International Churches of Christ, the Holy Spirit used Kip, soon joined by other valiant disciples on every continent, to initiate the new Portland / SoldOut Discipling Movement. In May 2007, Kip and Elena McKean along with 40 other disciples from Portland planted the City of Angels International Christian Church, where he now serves as the “World Missions Evangelist” for this new movement of churches.
Of note in 1979, Kip and Elena were invited to lead the Lexington Church of Christ (later renamed the Boston Church of Christ). From these “30 would-be-disciples,” the Spirit ignited a movement of churches known as the Boston Movement and in 1994 renamed the International Churches of Christ. From a historical perspective, no other preacher in the past century has been directly responsible for the planting of so many congregations around the world. Kip’s tenacious embrace of Jesus’ radical dream “to evangelize the nations in a generation,” his bold theological reforms, his personal warmth coupled with his charismatic and uncompromising Bible preaching, allowed the Spirit to take the gospel from one small dying church in Boston to become almost 400 churches in 171 of the 196 nations of the world by the year 2000! Then as this noble effort was being tragically decimated in 2002 and 2003, God sent Kip on a rocky path of suffering and redemption. For almost two years, he wandered in a lonely, spiritual wilderness, which greatly humbled him. Yet, those dark days ultimately strengthened Kip’s resolve to fulfill the dream. Therefore in late 2011, it is so amazing that in a little more than five years, God’s new SoldOut Movement has 39 congregations in 20 nations… and counting!
Concerning “the evangelization of the nations in this generation,” some have asked, “What is going to be different this ‘second time’ around?” This presupposes the question, “Can it be different this second time?” The answer in the Scriptures is a resounding yes! The first time the Israelites approached the Promised Land, their lack of faith led them to the dreadful desire to choose another leader and to return to their lives of slavery in Egypt. This unbelief resulted only in their death in the desert. The second time the Spirit led them to the border of the Promised Land, the Israelites – having learned to rely on God in their wanderings in the desert – now succeeded to make God’s dream and promise a reality. This same learning from the past prayerfully will be true for God’s new SoldOut Movement. As Kip preached at the 2010 Jubilee on the theme of The Promised Land On The Second Try, “Second is best because God rewards the quest.”
Table of Contents
“Kip” McKean was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on May 31, 1954. Like many young men of the 1960’s, he was inspired by those who refused to compromise and were willing to sacrifice everything for a worthy cause. This temperament is also deep in the McKean family heritage, as they are called higher by the courage of one of their ancestors, Thomas McKean. As with all of “the Signers,” death threats were common. Interestingly, Thomas McKean not only signed the Declaration of Independence for Delaware, but also was “the President” of the Congress of Confederation – the highest office in the new United States of America – when news arrived from General Washington that the British had surrendered.
Kip’s father, serving as an admiral in the U.S. Navy, became a strong influence and an early role model for leadership and excellence. His mother, an artist, nurtured in him warmth in relationships and a character of resilience. Between the ages of seven and 16, every summer Kip alongside his beloved younger brother Randy and dear younger sister Dana spent one month with each set of grandparents – “Grampy and Grammy” and “Grandpa and Grandma.” Those days with his grandparents in Michigan and Indiana respectively heightened his sense of adventure and deepened his love and appreciation of family.
During his high school years – in Virginia Beach, Virginia; Winter Park, Florida; and Libertyville, Illinois – Kip was active in athletics, was selected to be a member of the National Honor Society, and also obtained the rank of Eagle in the Boy Scouts. During these formative years, Kip’s heroes became John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In time, Kip’s greatest hero became Jesus.
Kip married Elena Garcia-Bengochea on December 11, 1976. Elena was born in Havana, Cuba on September 2, 1955 and fled with her family to the United States in a boat in 1959. Growing up in Gainesville, Florida, Elena was an honor student, a ranked tennis player, varsity cheerleader, and Homecoming Queen at her high school. She was baptized into Christ the summer before her freshman year at the University of Florida on August 8, 1973. Kip and Elena met at the Crossroads Church of Christ and were married there. In 1981, their first child Olivia was born. Then in 1982 and 1984 respectively, Sean and Eric were born. Elena presently is a Women’s Ministry Leader in the City of Angels International Christian Church. There has been undue and sharp criticism towards the McKeans’ incredible children. However, their strong characters and godly upbringing are illustrated by the fact that two of their children graduated from Harvard and their youngest, though accepted at Harvard, chose to attend and then graduated from Stanford, where he served as captain of the renowned Stanford Tennis Team. (Their education was funded through the combination of the McKeans’ small savings, Kip’s parents, close friends of the McKeans, and scholarships – both academic and athletic, as well as financial aid.) Through the years, through all their individual trials, the McKeans remain an extremely tight-knit family.
Prior to high school, Kip was not religious. However, at the end of Kip’s sophomore year in high school, he became very involved in a dynamic fundamental Methodist Church in Maitland, Florida. Here he came to a deep personal faith in Christ and in the divine inspiration of the Bible.
At the end of his freshman year at the University of Florida, he was invited to a devotional sponsored by the 14th Street Church of Christ. (A year later, this congregation was renamed the Crossroads Church of Christ.) This congregation in Gainesville had begun a pilot program for campus ministry for the Mainline Churches of Christ just five years earlier. Some of the more progressive Mainline Churches of Christ desired to impact the secular college campus and initially modeled their efforts after Campus Crusade. They called this new program – led by Chuck Lucas – Campus Advance. Here Kip was taught to give up everything for Christ and be baptized for the remission of sins to become a Christian. As a 17 year old freshman, Kip made this commitment and was baptized at 1:30AM on April 11, 1972.
For summer vacation in 1972, Kip returned home to Chicago. He became very sick; boils covered the entire upper part of his body. Bandages were wrapped around his body for the next three months. He believes that at this time God was testing and humbling him, particularly through the scarring on his face. Of note, the members of the Mainline Church of Christ that he attended in the Chicago area never came to visit him while he was sick. This incident in his life sensitized him to meeting people’s needs, particularly visiting the sick. Later that summer, even though the doctors strongly advised him otherwise because of his weakened health, he returned to Gainesville so that he could once again participate in a strong fellowship of college Christians.
During his sophomore year in college, though involved in the High Honors Chemistry Pre-med Program at the University of Florida, Kip began to dream about becoming a campus minister. God reinforced this dream when his brother Randy was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 1973. Kip baptized his brother six months later. (His sister Dana was baptized 15 years later.) Kip’s Christianity also led to conflict where he lived in the Sigma Chi Fraternity House. That same year, his stand for purity almost led to his dismissal from the fraternity. However, many of his fellow fraternity brothers rallied around him electing him “Tribune.” Also, during his three years of living in the fraternity house, he hosted a weekly Bible Study in his room, through which eight of his fraternity brothers were baptized into Christ. These events solidified Kip’s sense that God was calling him into the full-time ministry, thus sacrificing the much more lucrative lifestyle of a doctor.
During his college years while attending the Crossroads Church of Christ, the vision of dynamic campus ministries throughout America was put on Kip’s heart. He was inspired by the powerful preaching of Chuck Lucas and his associate Sam Laing, as well as in their innovations derived from Biblical principles: “prayer partners” – based on the “one another” Scriptures, “counting the cost” with each individual before baptism from Luke 14:25-33, and evangelistic small group Bible studies called “Soul Talks.” At this point, the seeds of discipling were placed in his life as he personally saw how one man could affect another’s daily lifestyle and eternal destiny for God. During these early years of the “Crossroads Movement” – also known as the “Total Commitment Movement” – the Crossroads Church and the young ministers they sent out became more and more controversial within the Mainline Churches of Christ, because of these innovations. In some cases, these Crossroads ministry churches were “disfellowshipped” or “marked” by the “other” Mainline Churches of Christ.
In 1975, shortly after graduating from the University of Florida as a Phi Beta Kappa, the Spirit guided Kip to Philadelphia where he was hired as the Campus Minister for Northeastern Christian College (NCC), a Mainline Church of Christ school. Here he saw first-hand how uncommitted many of the so-called “Christian students” were: drugs, drunkenness, prejudice, impurity and immorality were prevalent. He came to a deep conviction that being religious is not the same as being a true follower of Jesus.
While Kip was serving as the Campus Minister at NCC, the King of Prussia Church of Christ gave him a scholarship to attend Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. There he was challenged by one of his professors, the Dean of Academics, that the Bible is not the “only” inspired Word of God. Shocked, yet sure in his faith, Kip strongly responded to the Dean’s challenge, “If there are any other holy writings beside the Bible, then Christianity is reduced to simply another philosophy like Confucianism, Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism. To me, Christ and His Word are the only way, the only truth and the only life.” This core conviction has guided Kip during his 36 years of full-time ministry. As with Jesus, the Apostles and all of God’s prophets, Kip has been persecuted with several death threats, as well as publically chastised in TV shows, on the internet, and in magazines and newspapers for his “narrow view” of the Bible and salvation. (Matthew 7:13-14, Acts 4:12) Yet, he has never wavered in his convictions about Jesus as the Christ and the inspiration of the Bible.
In the fall of 1976, Kip began to serve the Lord at the Heritage Chapel Church of Christ in Charleston, Illinois in order to initiate a campus ministry at Eastern Illinois University, then a small college of 9,300 students. During his three years there, God blessed his ministry with 300 campus baptisms.
Interestingly, Illinois was considered a “mission field” of the Mainline Churches of Christ, as the Mainline Churches are largely concentrated in America’s southern States – the “Bible Belt.” Kip was supported “as a missionary” by the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston, Texas. After nine months, some of the elders of the Memorial Church visited the Heritage Chapel Church. Instead of rejoicing at the large number of converts, they were appalled by the clapping during the singing of devotional songs, women praying in mixed groups, and the overall fervor of the worship service. Accused of “Pentecostalism” and “brain-washing,” Kip was fired by the Memorial Church two weeks later. Yet inside of the Heritage Chapel Church, the members were very appreciative and loyal. God blessed the church’s Biblical convictions from Kip’s preaching as financial support was quickly found from the Union Avenue Church of Christ in Memphis, Tennessee. The Union Avenue Church offered not only support, but also a full scholarship to Harding Graduate School of Religion, “a Mainline Church of Christ seminary.”
Continuing his quest of a Masters in Theology which he began at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kip attended Harding Graduate School for two summers. He concluded that though helpful in scholastic pursuits, seminary was not the way to train evangelists. Rather, it is one minster walking with another like Jesus with His Twelve, or Paul training Timothy and Titus.
Well documented at this time was that an “average” Mainline Church of Christ congregation had 150 members and only eight baptisms per year. Six were children of the members and the others were baptized from the world. More than half of the member’s children left the church, and over 90% of the other baptisms fell away. This stagnation remains in the Mainline Churches to this day.
Flavil Yeakley, in his book Why Churches Grow, reported that Mac Lynn’s first accurate survey of the Mainline Churches of Christ revealed only 965,439 actual members as opposed to the 2.5 million that had been claimed. He discovered that instead of an estimated 15,000 congregations, there were actually only 10,165 Mainline Churches of Christ in America. Lynn recorded, “The Churches of Christ have only 24 churches with a membership of 1,000 or more, only four with a membership of 2,000 or more, and only one with a membership of more than 3,000.” The largest Mainline Church of Christ outside the borders of the United States was and is only 500 in attendance. Yeakley also wrote, “In 1980, the Church of Christ in the United States did stop increasing and started decreasing in total membership [through fall aways and an escalating death rate in an aging membership]. It is clear that if the 1965-1980 trend were to continue unchanged, the Church of Christ would cease to exist in this nation in just a few years.”
During his time in Charleston, Kip realized that no matter how dynamic a campus ministry was, unless a whole church is “totally committed,” the campus ministries’ impact will be limited. From Kip’s experience and travels, he observed that many Mainline Churches of Christ with campus ministers from Crossroads split and many of these young campus ministers in turn quit the ministry. In time, he would preach, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.” (Luke 5:37-38) Thus, he concluded through prayer and Bible study that the best way to build churches where every member is “totally committed” is to start new churches – for “new wine [zealous young ministers] must be poured into new wineskins [new churches].”
In his years at Charleston and Memphis, Kip devoted himself to studying the Old Testament. This became a major turning point in his theology. First of all, he came to a deep conviction that unlike the Mainline Church of Christ whose plea was to be a “New Testament Church” a better understanding of God’s eternal plan and His Word would create a “Bible Church.” He fully realized that the Law – “the written code, with its regulations” from the Old Testament, were “nailed to the cross” thus nullifying it. (Colossians 2:14-15) However, Kip taught from 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” The word “Scripture” in the context of this passage refers only to the Old Testament; therefore, the intent by Paul was to call Timothy – and all disciples – to use the Old Testament “Scriptures” in their preaching, in their discipling, and in their lives. (City of Angels International Christian Church Bulletin – May 22, 2011: The Biblical Significance Of The Old Testament In New Testament Times)
Secondly, Kip came to differ with the Mainline Church of Christ on Bible interpretation. In the early 1800’s, Thomas Campbell – one of the founders of the Restoration Movement, which is the heritage of the Mainline Church of Christ – gave the Mainline Church of Christ the following creed: “Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.” This creed dictated that one must have specific authorization by command, example or necessary inference only from the New Testament in order to implement a teaching or practice. However, Kip – believing that both the New Testament and Old Testament should be the foundation of the church – coined a phrase in sharp contrast to the Mainline’s approach to interpretation. Kip taught churches should be: “Silent where the Bible speaks, and speak where the Bible is silent.” In other words, a Christian should simply obey where the Bible speaks, and speak (have opinions) where the Bible is silent. Theologically, Christians are free to implement any practice or apply any name that is not prohibited in the Bible.
These two revolutionary views of the Scriptures were the fundamental reasons that many Mainline Churches of Christ opposed Kip. Ironically, though he is regarded as the “founder of the International Churches of Christ,” when in the early 2000’s after the ICOC had returned to a more Mainline theological stance, because Kip continued to hold these same convictions, these revolutionary views of Scripture were the underlying causes for most of the leaders of the ICOC to vehemently oppose Kip and God’s new SoldOut Discipling Movement.
In 1979, during the McKeans’ last year in Charleston, the elders of the Lexington Church of Christ in Massachusetts contacted Kip to be both their pulpit and campus minister. At that time, this Mainline Church of Christ was desperate as they were considering closing their doors, because their number had shrunk to about 60 members. When the McKeans interviewed for the position, Kip expressed to the leaders in the Lexington congregation that in order for him and his wife to come, they would need to support him in calling “every member” to be “totally committed.” In this small dying congregation, history was made on June 1, 1979, as “30 would-be disciples” gathered on Friday night in the living-room of members Bob and Pat Gempel. At this point, the Lexington Church was simply viewed as another congregation of the “Crossroads” or “Total Commitment Movement.” The profound difference between the Lexington Church and the other Crossroads ministries would soon become apparent as Kip’s revolutionary call from the Bible was for every member of the church to be “totally committed,” not just the campus students.
In 1980, to help his congregation to grow spiritually and numerically, Kip developed a Bible Study Series called First Principles. (Hebrews 5:12; 6:1-3 WEV) The members of the church were asked to memorize these studies and then use the First Principles Studies so that each Christian could be trained to teach non-Christians the original standards that God has for individuals to become disciples of Christ. Perhaps the most radical and impacting study of the series was called “Discipleship.” In this study, Kip taught that in Acts 11:26: SAVED = CHRISTIAN = DISCIPLE. Simply meaning that you cannot be saved and one is not a true Christian without being a baptized disciple. Kip developed the Discipleship Study not only to convert non-Christians, but to expose the sharp Biblical distinction between the Lexington (later renamed Boston) Church of Christ, and all other “churches,” including the Crossroads ministries.
As a result of the call to “total commitment” to God and the practice of the Biblical concept of discipleship, the Boston Church of Christ multiplied disciples. Another of Kip’s radical innovations was the role of an evangelist. He believed that the evangelist’s charge was not simply to shepherd his congregation, but to evangelize that church’s region of influence. (2 Corinthians 10:13-16) Thus in Boston, he divided the city into four geographical “regions.” An evangelist was placed over the disciples that lived in this “territory” for the purpose of evangelizing the entire “field.” In each region, there were a number of “house churches” and in each house church, there were a number of Bible Talks. This “pyramidal structure” was Kip’s inventive application of Exodus 18:13-26.
To have the church appreciate the incredible training and sacrifice to becoming an Evangelist or Women’s Ministry Leader, Kip and Elena began to appoint qualified individuals in front of the congregation with a small ceremony where they shared personally about the deserving disciple and was closed out with a charge and the presentation of a Bible. This practice was imitated “everywhere in every church” in the Boston Movement, thus further unifying the churches. (1 Corinthians 4:14-17) Every church in the Boston Movement “recognized” the appointed Evangelists and Women’s Ministry Leaders throughout the other churches in the movement.
During the ten years that the McKeans served the Boston Church of Christ, the Spirit produced unprecedented growth. The original Lexington Church of Christ had witnessed only two baptisms in the previous three years before June 1979. Through the restoration of the radical practice that every member of the congregation is “totally committed,” the Boston Church of Christ had 103 baptisms the first year. The most dynamic Mainline Church of Christ for decades had only baptized 200 to 300 each year. In fact, during the 80’s, every year a list of Mainline Churches of Christ baptizing 100 or more was published which had usually only 15 Mainline Churches listed. With God’s Spirit working through the McKeans, the Boston Church of Christ saw 200 baptisms their second year; 256 their third; 368 in the forth; 457 in the fifth; 679 in the sixth; 735 in the seventh; 947 in the eighth; 1424 in the ninth; and in the churches tenth year 1621 were baptized into Christ. By this time also, the Sunday attendance in Boston was approaching 4,000 as the church met in the famed Boston Garden, “home” of the Boston Celtics. Not only was this the largest single congregation in the history of New England, but it also became the largest “Church of Christ” in the entire world.
Perhaps unappreciated by the casual observer was the challenge to meet the needs and keep faithful the unprecedented number of new Christians – over 2,000 in the first six years in Boston. In the 60’s and 70’s in the denominational world, there had been much discussion and writing on the “body life” of the church and “shepherding” one another. Thus, in the Crossroads Movement, “one another” Christianity was expressed in a buddy system called “prayer partners,” where each person chose their own “buddy” or “buddies.” They could even be of the opposite sex.
With so many new Christians in the Boston Church of Christ, Kip felt that the “buddy system” approach was not effective. Building upon the concepts of “shepherding” and “prayer partners,” he came up with “discipleship partners.” In these relationships, the evangelists, elders, and women’s ministry leaders – after discussion and prayer – arranged for an older or stronger Christian of the same sex to give direction to each of the younger or weaker ones. (This principle of mentoring is clearly seen in Titus 2:3-5, where the older women are commanded to train the younger women.) Each pair was expected to meet weekly and have daily contact. This “one-over-one” discipling paradigm was also applied to marriages; thus came the innovation of “marriage discipling” – a mature married couple discipling a younger married couple. Also honoring marriage, another of Kip’s innovations was to replace “Bachelor Parties” (often accompanied with worldly overtones) with “Groom Honoring Parties.”
In 1981, the Lord put a vision on Kip’s heart: “The evangelization of the nations in a generation.” This passion was ignited as he was influenced by former missionaries and the mission efforts especially of the Sunset School of Preaching – a Mainline Church of Christ school to train preachers – located in Lubbock, Texas. Kip’s plan was a simple one: if the Boston Church of Christ could place a small group of disciples (a mission team) in each of the key metropolitan centers of the world, they in turn – by the multiplication of leaders and disciples – could send church plantings to each of the capital cities of the surrounding nations that were under their influence. Then these capital city churches could send out church plantings to all the other cities of that nation and then that nation would be evangelized in one generation just as in the first century. (Acts 19:8-10, Colossians 1:6, 23) The key churches planted in the major metropolitan centers were called “pillar churches” – for a world brotherhood was envisioned to be built on them. Dr. Donald McGavran, the “Father of Modern Church Growth” (in the broadest definition of Christianity), saw the Boston Movement as unique in that it had a plan to evangelize the entire world from one congregation.
Kip zealously pursued this vision, as he trained ministers in Boston. Women were also trained in “women’s ministry” by Pat Gempel and Elena. These trained ministry couples were sent to the “pillar” cities. In 1982, Chicago, Illinois and London, England, were the first two plantings of the Boston Movement. By 2000, the Chicago Church attendance was 5,000 and the London Church attendance was 3,000.
In 1983, the New York City Church of Christ was planted. Though this city had a population of 18 million, only 18 disciples were sent from Boston. Kip deeply believed that only one church of “totally committed” disciples – no matter how small – would be necessary to evangelize an entire metropolitan area – no matter how large. At its zenith in 2001, the New York City Church had 7,000 in attendance.
In 1985, Toronto, Canada became the Boston Movement’s second foreign planting.
In 1986, Johannesburg, South Africa was planted. God used this planting in a powerful way to glorify His name among the nations, as the “black” and “white” disciples did not merely coexist, but in honor to God, for the first time hugged one another as “one church” in the midst of apartheid and under the threat of extremists. Paris and Stockholm were also planted in 1986, which proved language as an inconsequential barrier for the mission work of the Boston Movement.
In 1987 came the plantings of Mexico City, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Hong Kong, China.
In 1988, Bombay, India; Cairo, Egypt; and Tokyo, Japan were planted. The Tokyo planting was built on the Mainline Yoyogi-Hachiman Church of Christ foundation of the 1950’s built by George and Irene Gurganus – whom Kip affectionately called his “Spiritual Grandparents.”
In 1989, there were seven plantings composed of 120 Bible Talk Leaders sent out from Boston: Miami, Florida; Seattle, Washington; Honolulu, Hawaii; Los Angeles, California; Washington DC; Manila, Philippines; and Bangkok, Thailand.
In 1990, the McKeans moved from Boston to Los Angeles. It was from Los Angeles in 1991 that Moscow, Russia was planted. Valiantly, the McKeans personally led the mission teams to Manila, Bangkok and Moscow. In the first year in Moscow, 850 were baptized into Christ. Of note, in the summer of 1989 after planting Manila, Kip moved his family to Cairo after seven of the original eight mission team members – which were Americans – were deported by the government. This was a daring move for Kip, his wife and his three young children. He felt that if he was to call others to preach in such life-threatening places as the Middle East, he himself must set an example to demonstrate this radical level of faith and sacrifice. Not only in Cairo, but throughout all of his years in ministry to this present day, there have been death threats against Kip and even a few against his whole family, as preaching the truth always earns Satan’s wrath. (Revelation 2:13, 12:17)
Unique to the Boston Movement, not only did disciples make disciples, but churches planted churches. The Boston Church planted each of the “pillar churches,” which planted other churches, which planted still others. By 2001, at the time of his sabbatical, there were almost 400 churches in 171 nations and a combined Sunday morning attendance of about 200,000. 42 churches had more than 1,000 in attendance and 15 churches had more than 3,000 in attendance. The largest international congregation was the Manila Church at 6,000 in attendance. These numbers were staggering when compared with the Mainline Churches of Christ or any denominational group. Never in history has any church growth movement ever spread as quickly and to so many nations.
From 1981 on through the 80’s, many people especially leaders from the various elements from the Mainline Church of Christ, moved to Boston or to one of the Boston Church of Christ plantings to be disciples and to train to build churches. These people were in awe of God and the unprecedented growth that the Holy Spirit produced in Boston and its daughter churches. They were often referred to as “remnant disciples.” (Isaiah 10:20-22) Kip documents this exciting Biblical phenomenon of God gathering His remnant in both Revolution Through Restoration Part 1 and Part 2.
The amazing thing is that many of these people had several philosophical and doctrinal conflicts with each other. However, Kip made every effort to forge a bond of unity between all of these leaders from the Scriptures by working side-by-side for one purpose. On a sad note in 1987, when the Atlanta Church of the Boston Movement was “planted” through a split in a Crossroads ministry congregation, at this historic moment, the Crossroads Church of Christ sinfully “disfellowshipped” the McKeans, the Boston Church of Christ, and all of its affiliated plantings. Without debate, this made a clear distinction between the Boston Movement and the Crossroads Movement, which was in sharp decline in 1985 after the departure from the full-time ministry of their leader Chuck Lucas for personal reasons.
In 1988, because of the rapid expanse of the churches, several brothers encouraged Kip to focus on “a few good men.” (Exodus 18:13-26) After six months of prayerful consideration and several discussions, Kip and Elena chose nine couples: Doug and Joyce Arthur, Steve and Lisa Johnson, Randy and Kay McKean, Phil and Donna Lamb, Frank and Erica Kim, Scott and Lynne Green, Tom and Kelly Brown, Al and Gloria Baird, and Bob and Pat Gempel. These leaders – whom the McKeans had personally trained for the ministry – became known as the “World Sector Leaders.”
This was extremely significant, because the Mainline Church of Christ believes in autonomy – the independence of each congregation. Practically this means that all final decisions about that local congregation are made by the local leadership. They believe that conferring with leadership from other congregations is good, but there is no overseeing authority, which can give directives on matters such as: dealing with difficult situations, raising and sending money for mission efforts, or calling for certain disciples for mission teams to complete an overall plan. Yet in the Scriptures, Paul writes the “overseeing evangelist” Titus (who Paul himself oversees), “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you… for there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers… They must be silenced… Therefore, encourage and rebuke with all authority.” (Titus 1:5, 10-11; 2:15) So Kip, because of his vision and his convictions from Scriptures, forged a “leadership family” which he and Elena oversaw, where each couple would “oversee” the evangelization of “their region” of the world, which collectively covered the globe. (Of note, in the first few years, the Bairds and the Gempels – as Shepherding Couples – would, with the McKeans, make the major decisions for the movement. Later, the Arthurs and Johnsons became the most influential of the World Sector Leaders.)
On January 1, 1990, the McKeans went to fortify the Los Angeles Church, which was planted in August 1989 by Tom and Kelly Brown. In turn, the Browns were sent back to Boston for strengthening, and Marty and Chris Fuqua replaced them as World Sector Leaders. When the McKeans arrived, the Los Angeles Church had 154 members. By March 1993 when I was baptized, church services were incredible celebrations of God’s glory. At that time, the LA Church was having 3,000 in attendance! Amazingly in 2001, the last year that the McKeans led the congregation, there were 10,000 members with about 15,000 in attendance regularly every Sunday morning, and 2,500 were baptized that year. Of special note, one of my most memorable worship services of the LA Church was when 17,000 of us gathered on a warm Saturday evening in November 1997 in one of America’s largest stadiums – the Rose Bowl.
In 1991, the McKeans asked Bob and Pat Gempel as their charge as World Sector Leaders to become the Directors of HOPEworldwide. HOPEworldwide was the benevolent arm of the Boston Movement Churches. Its uniqueness from all other charity organizations was that the World Sector Leaders could mobilize every member of every church in every country for a focused volunteer effort to help the poor and needy around the world.
In 1994, the World Sector Leaders of the Boston Movement officially adopted the name International Church of Christ (ICOC). This name was first given to them by John Vaughn, a denominational church growth expert. He surmised that since the Mainline Church of Christ was located for the most part in the “Bible Belt” of America, the Boston Movement, to him with a similar plan of salvation, had an equal number of congregations internationally as they did nationally. Thus the name “International” Church of Christ.
Also in 1994, Kip wrote and laid out his most visionary project to date – The Evangelization Proclamation. Signed by the McKeans and all the World Sector Leaders, they vowed before God to plant a discipling church in every nation of the world that had a city with at least a population of 100,000 by the year 2000. It became more commonly known as The Six Year Plan. At its signing, we were in “just” 53 countries. Through the power of God, this monumental task was accomplished by July 2000. Unprecedented in the history of Christianity, in just 21 years, God had multiplied the “30 would-be disciples” in the Boston Church to almost 400 churches, 135,000 disciples in 171 nations with a combined Sunday attendance of 200,000.
Very encouraging are the following leadership appointments. In the late 80’s, Kip asked Cecil Wooten – a two-time recipient of the Purple Heart in World War II and the former Vice President of Chicago Bridge and Iron – to become the Administrator of the Boston Movement Churches. Each World Sector Leader had a World Sector Administrator. Cecil oversaw and coordinated this group. In 1993, the McKeans asked Al and Gloria Baird to oversee a new world sector called the Media and Law World Sector. Also at that time, the McKeans trained Cory Blackwell – a former NBA basketball player – and his wife Megan for the ministry, while building the Cross and Switchblade Ministry in South Central LA. Since Cory was from a Muslim family, the Blackwells were asked by the McKeans to become the World Sector Leaders for the Middle East. Another replacement among the World Sector Leaders was made when the Lambs, because of “family issues,” were asked to step aside in order to receive strengthening. (Sadly, the Lambs later divorce; Phil falls away, yet Donna remains faithful till her death by cancer in December 2007.) To replace the Lambs, who oversaw the Central and South America World Sector, Peter and Laura Garcia – the dearly beloved and trusted brother and sister-in-law of Elena – were asked to serve in this role. In 1999 Cecil was in his 70’s and wanted to take a step back from the rigorous demands of administration. Consequently, Andy and Tammy Fleming were selected to assume his role as the leaders of all the administrators throughout the ICOC. The McKeans made this into the “Administration” World Sector. The last World Sector Leaders selected were Russ and Gail Ewell. They led the NET World Sector – New media, Exceptional children, and Technology.
The leadership structure of the International Churches of Christ was as simple as it was creative and unique. Of the original World Sector Leaders – except the Gempels and the Bairds, whose role was to shepherd the group – each was given a geographic charge. There evolved eight geographic World Sectors: British Commonwealth – Great Britain, India, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia (Arthurs), ACES – Africa, Carribean, Eastern States (Johnsons), Europe (the Randy McKeans), Pac Rim (Kims), Central and South America (Lambs), Northern Federation – former Soviet Union nations, Scandinavia, Canada and the Western US (Fuquas), China (Greens), and later the Middle East (Blackwells). Each World Sector Leader Couple’s discipling group was composed of 10-12 couples: a World Sector Administrator, a World Sector Elder, a World Sector Teacher, and Geographic Sector Leaders (Evangelists). Also, in most world sectors, there was a World Sector Media and Law Couple. The World Sector Elders were collectively called the “Kingdom Elders.” They were overseen by the Bairds. The World Sector Teachers were collectively known as the “Kingdom Teachers,” and eventually led by Andy Fleming. The Geographic Sector Leaders (GSL) oversaw the evangelism of a region of that World Sector. For example, in the ACES, Mike Taliaferro was the “GSL” for Africa, and in the Northern Federation, Sasha Kostenko was the “GSL” for the 15 nations in the former Soviet Union – the Commonwealth of Independent States. In time, each GSL built their own discipleship group, which was composed of essentially an evangelist for each nation or group of nations, which was in their geographic field.
World Missions Evangelist – Sabbatical
At the beginning of 2001 as a college student in Boston, the oldest of the McKeans’ children began to question her faith. Though everyone who falls away must take full responsibility for this decision, it must be noted that this young woman was unjustly and heavily criticized – largely because of the high profile of her parents – and feeling unloved by many in the congregation contributed to her no longer attending church. (Luke 17:1-2) This single event caused uncertainty in the McKeans’ leadership among many of the World Sector Leaders, as well as among the Kingdom Elders and Kingdom Teachers. In September of 2001, the World Sector Leaders “forced” the McKeans to go on sabbatical – though later, some deeply regretted this decision.
Unbiblically applied to Kip were the qualifications of an elder, not an evangelist. The reasoning was that to “oversee” a church, one had to “manage his own family [well or] how can he take care of God’s church.” (1 Timothy 3:4-5) Also cited incorrectly was Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and… he will not turn from it.” Left out from this quote is the phrase, “when he is old.” Disregarding what is obviously implied in the phrase “when he is old,” is that during their younger years children may not be faithful to God, but will return to the kingdom because of their good training when they are “old.” (This has now been seen in the SoldOut Movement and the ICOC over and over again.) Even sadder is the lack of grace by almost all of the World Sector Leaders, Kingdom Elders and Kingdom Teachers. In the Scriptures, some of God’s and Israel’s greatest leaders had unfaithful children – Aaron, Samuel, and even the Old Testament’s “man after God’s own heart,” David – yet they continued to victoriously lead “all Israel.”
Kip was profoundly affected by his beloved daughter leaving the faith, the “stripping away” of his leadership, and the public condemnation of his “leadership style” and the Biblical teachings that propelled the movement to almost all nations. Most of all, he was brokenhearted at the decimation of the churches that came in early 2003. I remember quite vividly those dark days of the McKeans’ sabbatical. After working on Elena’s computer in 2002, I came downstairs to see my devastated friend and leader, distraught by the condition of God’s family and hurting from the lost relationships of those who abandoned him in his time of need. The only words I could muster were, “I don’t know what to say to you. But, I do know that the whole world is falling apart around us and you need to ‘get back on the horse’.” Through God’s strength found in weakness, this he did.
In the past ten years in both sermons and his writings, Kip is quite vulnerable about wrestling with bitterness, being depressed and unmotivated, as well as drifting and becoming quite distant in his walk with God for about a year of this one-and-a-half year sabbatical. Kip has openly confessed that these are all signs of one of the rarely acknowledged “seven deadly sins” – “acedia,” from which many other remnant disciples have suffered the consequences. (2 Corinthians 7:10; Hebrews 12:3, 15)
In the summer of 2002, the McKeans were invited to Bald Head Island, North Carolina, which is located near where the Cape Fear River empties into the Atlantic. Kip writes the following in Revolution Through Restoration Part 3:
In the waters off the beach known as Cape Fear, there were huge, raging waves as the currents of the Atlantic Ocean collided with the currents of the Cape Fear River. Historically, this tumult resulted in many shipwrecks. I went to spend time with God at Cape Fear. I soon noticed that where there should have been a lighthouse, there was only a weathered foundation. This is what I wrote that day:
The rage of the opposing currents
Has shipwrecked my faith.
The lighthouse has gone
And I have no direction.
I am alone for I feel your anger Lord
From your Word and from people who feel like foes,
That used to call me friend and leader.
I gloried in your victories
Which I foolishly called my own.
And now your hand is pushing me under the currents
For I exalted myself, and not your grace.
I am weary through unceasing pain
From morning until night,
In sleep there is a peace when I close my eyes.
But my dreams are full of anguish and darkness.
Because your lighthouse has been destroyed.
I am drowning in self-pity and bitterness engulfs me.
You know that I cannot bear much more.
I fear for your movement.
I fear for my family.
And I fear most for my soul.
I have thoughts of dying.
But realize there would await me
Only an unrelenting, malicious presence,
To be eternally away from you.
My daily tears have been for me,
Yet now they are because I have disappointed you
And have hurt so many through my sins.
Please forgive my arrogance.
I became confused in my pride
And I turned from your wisdom to mine.
I stopped consulting your Word and my brother prophets.
Let my heart return to that simple eternal moment
Where I first saw your lighthouse.
Through the calm sea of baptism
I responded to your Word.
I first felt your Fatherly embrace
Just 30 short years ago.
I was indignant at your enemies of false prophets
Those hypocritical leaders of your people
For they led me and the whole world astray.
I was damaged by their arrogance and sin.
But by your Mighty Hand, even that first day
You gave me the strength to confront them.
Now I am them. I find no fellowship.
Only angry confrontations.
The prophets I trained are furious
At the damage I have caused your movement.
Few remember my deeds, fewer my zeal,
Only you know my heart.
Father, lead me to rebuild that lighthouse.
If your mercy allows, I will help to rebuild it.
Today I promise you I will stop drifting out to sea.
Today I promise I will swim till I reach the other shore.
I will not quit.
I realize my sacrifice only brought you ever-lessening pleasure
As my heart became dull.
For you desire only a broken and contrite heart.
Only these prayers are the incense of heaven.
Today I promise to strive to be only a disciple.
I surrender my ambition to lead till you refine it in the fires of criticism.
I will no longer care what the media, my enemies and even my friends say.
Because this brought me to Cape Fear.
Only your approval will I seek.
My most heartfelt prayer is
Let me and my family make it through the raging currents.
Let your lighthouse shine mightily
So we can make it to the other side.
Kip continues in Revolution Through Restoration Part 3 reflecting on how his sins affected the movement:
During the sabbatical, God taught me to take full responsibility for my leadership in the kingdom, the decisions of the World Sector Leaders, and for the spiritual condition of each person in my family. My sins are clear and grievous. I have been arrogant, almost always thinking I was right. I did not listen. I did not actively seek discipling for me and my family. I was only partially open and deceit came into my life. This led to the sin of anger towards those who disagreed with me. Too often, I viewed these individuals as critical. I did not draw people out. I built an atmosphere in which people were afraid to speak up. There were times when I corrected people that I was mean, cruel and I even humiliated them. I was too controlling. For this I apologize. I am truly sorry…
Ultimately, my most devastating sin was claiming God’s victory as mine. In pride, I boasted in “my” accomplishments. I allowed people to give me glory; I did not refocus them to God. Though some have charged “growth was god,” this was never true. My goal was, and still is, simply “to win as many as possible.” (1 Corinthians 9:19) However, people developed wrong motivations and stumbled because of my overemphasis on numeric goals and accountability, though I still believe in accountability if it is used wisely as Jesus did. (Mark 6:30) In retrospect, I see that many leaders did not imitate Christ in me, but my ungodly leadership traits, and they are now being hurt by those they hurt. I confessed these sins while sharing my sabbatical journey at the Unity Meeting in LA [specifically Long Beach] in November 2002.
One evangelist called the Cape Fear Psalm, “Kip’s Psalm 51.” As for his shortcomings in his family, Kip humbly shared, “Though Elena and I believe that we raised our precious children in the Lord as each was baptized and remained faithful during their teen years, my biggest regret was that I put my children on a pedestal in front of the movement. This put too much pressure on them and hurt them spiritually as sometimes they felt that they could not measure-up. I have apologized to each of them for this. They have forgiven me, and we remain a very close family. I pray daily and believe with all of my heart that because of the godly training each received that one day ‘when they are [older]’ they will return to the Lord.”
God taught one last invaluable lesson to Kip about his sins in his leadership concerning the weak. He wrote, “God has a sense of ironic justice. To rid Jacob of his deceitful nature, God placed Jacob under Laban, a worse deceiver. To show me how insensitive and in fact merciless at times I had been to the weak, God placed me ‘under’ upset and – from my point of view – unforgiving brothers who would not give me any mercy or the benefit of the doubt, though I felt I had done so much for them through the years. I felt humiliated through shame and exasperated to the point of considering leaving the Lord. I learned that mercy expressed through kindness, forgiveness and gentleness – was not only God’s way to encourage and strengthen the weak, but the only path to keep a movement together. In all of these trials, my dear wife exemplified how one should love the weak by staying at my side with unconditional love.”
These lessons were painfully learned through the discipline of suffering that God allowed Kip “as a son” to endure. (Hebrews 12:5-11) However by July 2003, Kip – though severely weakened by these many trials – was a “changed man.” He was refreshed by repentance, and so the Spirit sent him to Portland to build again with these lessons freshly etched on his heart. (Acts 3:19)
At the onset of the sabbatical – shocking to many of us – most of the World Sector Leaders failed to support the McKeans in their time of crisis. Some World Sector Leaders agreed that because of the unfaithfulness of McKeans’ child, they were now unfit to lead. Some individuals were bitter and in their words, “The McKeans have too high of expectations for us and our churches.” Others, while silent for years, now openly wanted to be autonomous as well as doubting whether the world could be evangelized in a generation. Still others were simply too cowardly to oppose McKeans’ vociferous detractors. At this point, mercy, forgiveness and an ongoing support of the McKeans’ leadership on the part of the World Sector Leaders would have saved the ICOC from its fall. Indeed, the McKeans begged for the forgiveness of their sins and shortcomings, and even in tears shared Scriptures to this end. Yet, no mercy was extended. Clearly in retrospect at this juncture, a “domino effect” of “God’s ironic justice” was beginning to occur: as the World Sector Leaders had drawn back from the McKeans, so now most of the World Sector Leaders were being likewise undermined with no mercy by those under their leadership for similar issues: marriage dynamic, children’s behavior, and leadership style.
This created a leadership vacuum. It was at this point that the Kingdom Elders and Kingdom Teachers chose to elevate themselves. Of note, these two groups were composed entirely of people with their roots in the Mainline Church of Christ. They were fueled by their feelings of under-appreciation and entitlement. Very sadly, this bitter “Absalomic spirit” and common denominational roots bonded the Kingdom Elders and Kingdom Teachers. Like Absalom, they initiated a very calculated campaign to “steal the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6) by playing to the complaint: “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25) This “complaint” is one that all disciples have during the course of following anyone preaching the true Jesus. They heightened the issue of “unbelieving children disqualifying men from leadership” through a series of articles appearing on the Los Angeles ICOC website. Here, they also introduced their “Mainline doctrines” of “consensus leadership” and elders having authority over the very evangelists that appointed them.
In the Kingdom Elders’ and Kingdom Teachers’ lessons and local meetings, they viciously attacked the “hierarchical structure of the ICOC,” in which they were subordinated to the McKeans and the World Sector Leaders. As stated before, this leadership pyramid was Kip’s practical application of Exodus 18:13-26, and was the vehicle that the Spirit used to spread the gospel to 171 nations. They assailed Kip further on his “forceful approach of leadership and preaching” labeling this: “Kip’s militaristic style as a son of an admiral.”
At the forefront of this rebellion was Andy Fleming, the leader of the Kingdom Teachers, and Scott Green, who were both World Sector Leaders with a Mainline background. Fleming and Green, alongside Gordon Ferguson, Douglas Jacoby and Sam Laing – Kingdom Teachers – as well as Wyndham Shaw and Bruce Williams – Kingdom Elders – began a focused effort to teach against the Biblical concept of a central leadership with a central leader for God’s people, thus returning the ICOC to the “Mainline theology of autonomy.” They used professed “wisdom” and proclaimed that these “better and more mature teachings” (James 3:13-16) like autonomy and “discipling as an option not a command” would make “the kingdom” much “healthier.” Sadly, but again clearly in retrospect, these “better teachings” and their “wisdom” only served to halt the expansion of God’s movement, confuse and scatter disciples, and save fewer people.
After the McKeans’ sabbatical began in 2001, spearheading the “new direction” in the LA ICOC was Bruce Williams, my mentor for my first eight years as a disciple of Jesus. Williams opted to circulate the slander about the McKeans and the “new teachings” through “Family Talks,” each consisting of about 20 Christians. Williams – heightened in his influence by the support of his fellow elder in the LA ICOC Al Baird, who had been a World Sector Leader – travelled throughout the six county area of metropolitan LA, teaching the people that it was McKean’s personality, his “militaristic style of leadership,” and his inability to lead his own family that was the demise of our churches. Three deacons from Williams’ own region and I openly challenged Williams, calling him to stop the slander. Knowing I had been in near-daily contact with Baird as his personal computer consultant for two years, Williams contacted Baird and called me on a conference call where they insisted their claims were well-known amongst the leadership and they had the McKeans’ full approval to talk about the situation with his kids. I put into practice Proverbs 18:17, attempted to conference in Kip. However, the moment Kip was added to the call both Williams and Baird disconnected and refused my calls to reconnect. In my ensuing conversation with Kip, I was heartbroken when I learned the real truth that the McKeans had never given such approval.
Later in 2003, Fleming, Williams, and Baird – alongside former World Sector Leaders Marty Fuqua and Peter Garcia of LA – would perpetuate an unprecedented move. These men swayed those who held positions on the Board of Directors to use the authority given to them by the “laws of the United States” to supersede the “laws of the Scriptures” and force out the leader that even all of them for years had wholeheartedly agreed was “God’s man” – placed in authority by God to lead His movement and maintain unity. I remember the shock and horror of learning in a 45 minute discussion with Andy Fleming that this was a thoroughly thought-out and executed plan. He preached to the Riverside Sector of the Los Angeles Church about our new “freedom in Christ” “boasting” to the congregation how “he” had Kip removed. After Fleming’s lesson, he relayed to me more specifics.
Interestingly, there are many movements recorded in the Scriptures. Noah, Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, David, John the Baptist, and of course Jesus were all raised-up by God to lead remnants of God’s people to become great movements. Near the end of their lives, both Gideon and David personally chose to step away from their positions. However, only one time in all of Scripture is the leader of one of God’s movements ever forced out of his leadership position by the people he led. This occurred in Absalom’s rebellion against David with Absalom suffering the consequence of death. (2 Samuel 15-18) In time, God raised-up David to lead again – just as He has done with Kip. In the Bible, God always “raised-up” and “took out” His leader in “His” timing. God expected His people to trust Him and to wait on His timing instead of rebelling against Him and His leader.
Although the McKeans were fired in April 2003, this date was never announced to the International Churches of Christ. Immediately following the firing of the McKeans, another series of articles about “unbelieving children” was circulated, which essentially began, “We have continued to study the topic of unbelieving children…” Here, these same teachers completely reversed their stance on “unbelieving children” the very principle that was used to force out God’s leader. As of today, not one of the former World Sector Leaders, Kingdom Teachers or Kingdom Elders would say that an unfaithful child disqualifies an evangelist, because many of them have unfaithful children and presently serve as “Lead Evangelists.” Sadly, this unspoken reversal of position – to now “protect” themselves – exposes the dark evil of “using” the McKeans’ child to “rid” the movement of God’s man.
The harsh and ungodly treatment of the McKeans in firing them from the ministry, as well as this “double standard” about “unfaithful children,” would have led most couples to simply quit the “fish bowl life” of the ministry. Though severely wounded, what set the McKeans apart from most couples was their deep conviction that God had called them into the ministry, as well as their constant encouragement to each other to stay righteous before God and loving to their critics, not giving into Satan’s temptations of hate, self-pity, or “striking back.”
Of special note, only one World Sector Leader Pat Gempel has publically apologized to the McKeans. This she did at the 2005 World Missions Jubilee. It’s also important to state that Kip has said, “I’ll never condone in the new movement anyone speaking out naming the men and women in leadership in the ICOC, whose children are unfaithful and especially which of their children have become unfaithful and left God. I have personally felt the devastation it causes in the lives of a family and especially in the lives of the children. I still love all of these families very much. Therefore, I would never intentionally hurt any of these children, as I pray that each of them will return to God and once more be a faithful disciple.”
Sadly, the cruel public character assassination of both Kip and Elena using the spiritual condition of their children continues to this day. Yet, the sharp decline of members in the ICOC since the McKeans’ sabbatical in 2001, testifies to God’s hand being against this ungodly “conspiracy.” (2 Samuel 15-18) The rapid increase of disciples and churches in God’s new movement, which God has raised-up Kip to oversee – alongside a loyal and unified team of overseeing evangelists, women’s ministry leaders, and shepherding couples – testifies to God’s approval. Another significant testimony to God pouring out His blessings when authentic discipling was restored is in marriage and family. For years, the ICOC “boasted in the Lord” to have very few divorces. With discipling abandoned, divorce became rampant – even with couples who were at one time in the fulltime ministry. In sharp contrast, in God’s new movement once again divorce is non-existent in most congregations, as the marriages and families are “rejoicing in the Lord.”
The two most prominent aspects of the Mainline theology adopted by most preachers in the ICOC were: 1) Only a New Testament Church – the Old Testament Scriptures (though historically accurate) had no authority, especially in the area of leadership. 2) The interpretation of Scripture – “Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.” Since the New Testament does not explicitly have the term World Sector Leaders, the Kingdom Elders and Kingdom Teachers swayed the rest of the leaders of the ICOC at the Long Beach Unity Meeting in November 2002, to completely dissolve the structured, central leadership. In shame, the McKeans and the World Sector Leaders who had not yet stepped down were “forced” to resign their roles at the Long Beach Unity Meeting. (However, the McKeans were still to be paid full-time and in January 2003 began serving in the Cal State Long Beach Campus Ministry.)
This upheaval embraced a reactionary “new and better vision” of congregations that were “so mature” that they no longer needed overseeing evangelists. Most also embraced consensus leadership in the local congregation with no “Lead Evangelist” – as the term “lead evangelist” is not found in the New Testament. At this time, a movement to eliminate a structured outreach (Bible Talks) and structured discipling (Discipleship Partners) arose. “Kip’s vision” of the evangelization of the nations in a generation was called “a good idea” yet “impossible.” Some began to label him as a “false teacher” for this dream, believing that the pressure on the churches to evangelize the world in a generation was the primary source of bitterness in many leaders and in many churches.
The ultimate demise of what was then known and revered as the International Church of Christ came in February 2003, when Henry Kriete, a hurting and former Mainline Church of Christ evangelist in London, released his letter entitled, Honest To God. In his letter, Kriete advocated “a time for anger and the overthrowing of temples: I believe the time is now.” The rebellion of some of the World Sector Leaders and all of the Kingdom Elders and Kingdom Teachers was consequently passed on to all the members. Thousands left God confused and angry. Other disciples quietly “walked away” to try to find “the same church elsewhere,” which proved to be in vain.
Further confusing the membership was the decision by the Kingdom Elders and Kingdom Teachers in April 2003 to “reopen the door to the Mainline Church of Christ.” Kip – as a loving and concerned “father in the faith” – reminded and warned the LA leadership as well as what was left of the ICOC leadership that most members in the Mainline Church of Christ were not totally committed disciples. (1 Corinthians 4:14-17) He conveyed that trying to merge the “two fellowships” – ICOC and Mainline – would produce more confusion. Not heeding the words of “their prophet,” as of today, the ICOC has lost its distinctiveness and identity. Very significantly, to signal a fundamental change of doctrine, almost all ICOC congregations no longer called themselves the “International Church of Christ,” but simply the “Church of Christ.” For example, the Chicago International Church of Christ changed their name to the Chicago Church of Christ.
Satan’s doctrine of autonomy had two more destructive effects on the ICOC: First of all, outside the United States autonomy gave birth to a “sinful nationalism.” Many international congregations did not want their church led or overseen by “a foreigner.” Consequently – just a month after the November 2002 Long Beach Unity Meeting – the London ICOC fired their Lead Evangelist, for the most part because he was American. After the 2003 Kriete Letter that called for an angry rebellion, scores of missionaries were rejected by “the nationals” they laid down their lives to convert. These same missionaries returned home in shame. Tragically, they then needed to find secular jobs, as the American congregations could not absorb the salaries of so many returning missionaries, especially with their own weekly contributions plummeting because of complete lack of confidence in leadership and a flagging conviction about the “need” for a worldwide movement.
Secondly, autonomy – and “the hypocritical desire for each preacher to lead his own kingdom” – very sadly led to the “one ICOC church in each city” dividing into several congregations of varying convictions. For example, London divided into six separate churches; Los Angeles divided into seven congregations; and Atlanta divided into 11 congregations. While the ICOC embraces most of these other congregations as brothers, the SoldOut Movement is criticized for “planting new congregations” into cities such as these. The establishment of SoldOut Movement Churches in these cities does not condemn individuals who are saved as they continue to truly live as disciples in the ICOC’s splintered congregations. The planting of these “new congregations” simply says we are going to evangelize the world, including cities which already have disciples who will not work in unity with us. Ironically in the 80’s and 90’s, the Mainline Churches of Christ made the same statement when the Boston Movement (ICOC) planted churches in “their” cities. The ICOC position then and ours now is: the need for “another church” is that we do not believe that any other congregation will evangelize that entire city, and thus the world. We believe we must obey this command of God, because though “our congregation” is not the only church with disciples, it is the only church composed of only disciples.
In April 2003, the McKeans courageously confronted the LA ICOC leadership in the presence of Bob and Pat Gempel, who the McKeans asked to come as witnesses. Kip and Elena challenged Al Baird, Marty Fuqua, Andy Fleming and Bruce Williams on these issues: 1) Abandoning of discipling; 2) Return to Mainline theology, especially autonomy; 3) The silence – the deceit – about this decision with the LA membership; 4) The silence – the deceit – to the LA membership about the incredible numbers leaving the ICOC around the world in every congregation – falling away or walking away; 5) Calling the dream of the evangelization of the nations in a generation, ”Impossible.” McKean reiterated at the meeting, “The dream of an evangelized world is not only possible, but it was accomplished in the first century and is the command of God.” The McKeans were fired for these convictions.
Now with little support from any disciples anywhere, Kip takes his stand and writes Revolution Through Restoration Part 3: From Babylon To Zion. In this treatise of faith, despite all the opposition and abandonment of many once faithful brothers, Kip has been able to realize all the more the sovereignty of God and how He uses seemingly down and disastrous times as a means to propel the gospel of Jesus around the globe. He also humbly assesses his leadership, as well as what was godly and right in the Boston Movement, which became the ICOC. He documents where his and others’ sins and shortcomings were addressed with little or no mercy and forgiveness. Kip concludes that this lack of agapé love was ultimately responsible for the demise of what was once God’s movement.
In early July of 2003, at the invitation of the leadership of the Portland International Church of Christ, Kip and Elena moved to Portland, Oregon to lead a hurting and devastated church. When the Kriete Letter came out in February 2003, the Portland Church had 300 members. Yet at the McKeans’ first midweek just five months later in July 2003, it was only necessary to set up 25 chairs for the entire congregation. Over the next three years, the Portland Church experienced incredible growth to almost 600 in attendance on Sundays (with 400 in the membership) when they handed over the leadership of the church as they left on the “LA Mission Team” in early 2007. During the years following the Kriete Letter, the Portland International Church of Christ – under Kip’s seasoned leadership – was the fastest growing congregation of the ICOC churches in the world!
The Spirit’s revival of the Portland Church centered in Kip’s faith in preaching of the Word and his uncompromising but “now gentle call” for every member’s heart to obey it. Bible Talks, Discipleship Partners, a College/Teen Devotionals, and the weekly contribution collections were quickly reinstated. The turning point came early on when Kip, though weakened but faithful and wiser after over two years of intense suffering, called for an “Evening of Atonement.” On Wednesday evening, August 13, 2003, over 100 people gathered to share their repentance to God and to each other publically. Tony Untalan and Jeremy Ciaramella were the first to share, apologizing with tears and mentioning specific people in the crowd that they had sinned against. It moved everyone to tears. The sharing lasted almost three hours. Through this effort, about 50 disciples returned to be members of the Portland Church. By January 2004, the Portland Church numbered 120 disciples and word began to spread across America and in fact around the globe that “things were happening in Portland!” Over the next three years, individuals from 26 different states moved to Portland where many exclaimed upon their arrival as my wife and I did, “This is the church I was baptized in!” It was such a powerful time that DJ and Kacie Comisford – who moved from Ohio to be a part of the growing revival in the perpetually rainy city of Portland – wrote about their experience in a song:
Wasting – away here
When it was suddenly revealed
That we couldn’t make it here without rain!
What a shame!
Patiently waiting, begging God constantly praying
Please lead us to greener pastures!
God is there anywhere to go?
Is there any hope to grow again?
Where are the people that still dream?
Please bring us times of refreshin’.
Then He sent hope from the West Coast!
There’s plenty of rain on the West Coast!
Welcome to Portland, Oregon
Where the rain is pourin’
Hope your soul feels at home.
All the people criticizin’
But we are just baptizin’
Got plenty of H20!
And you say hey-o welcome home!
And you say hey-o welcome home!
Came here with nothing
But with the faith
God could do something great!
Now this was more than we asked for
That’s for sur
You shared your faith
You shared your dreams
Gave us love
Helped us to believe
You were the answer to our prayer!
God provided a place to go
He gave us hope to grow again!
And here are the people that still dream
Now are the times of refreshin’.
And we found hope on the West Coast!
There’s plenty of rain on the West Coast!
Welcome to Portland, Oregon
Where the rain is pourin’
Hope your soul feels at home.
All the people criticizin’
But we are just baptizin’
Got plenty of H2O!
And you say hey-o welcome home!
And you say hey-o welcome home!
In the early days of Portland to propel the message that God put on his heart, Kip relied heavily on Jeremy Ciaramella to build a website, not just simply for the Portland Church, but a website that would appeal to the faithful remnant around the world. The name Upsidedown21 (USD21) was selected; “Upsidedown” since the first century church “turned the world upsidedown” (Acts 17:6 RSV), and the “21” gave the vision that the disciples’ impact in the first century would be echoed in the twenty-first century. The weekly bulletin articles of the Portland Church were displayed on the USD21 website. Quite creatively, these articles were translated into seven other languages also displayed on the website. Feedback from the website was tremendous. Most of the people that ended up moving to Portland first got interested through the articles and Kip’s sermons online. He realized there was an entirely new frontier for unifying the people of God and evangelizing the world in a generation. This led him to yet another innovation, the appointing of Jeremy Ciaramella as the first CyberEvangelist at the 2004 Jubilee! (As of 2009, I was greatly humbled when Kip asked me to serve as the Lead CyberEvangelist for the SoldOut Movement’s Global Internet Ministries. Of tremendous encouragement to me are my fellow CyberEvangelists Jeremy Ciaramella, Rob Onekea and Tim Kernan.)
In June 2004, just eleven months after coming to Portland, Kip and the Portland Church hosted the first World Missions Jubilee entitled, The Lord Of The Fellowship. Many leaders of the ICOC attended – some genuinely interested in the incredible growth in the Portland Church. Others came skeptical and scornful. Trying desperately to bring reform, repentance and unity to what remained of the ICOC, Kip asked several of the more influential leaders in what remained of the ICOC to speak on the program. Most accepted this invitation. However, controversy followed as Kip delivered one of the most impassioned pleas for world evangelism through “making disciples” in his message, A Great Light Has Dawned. In the summer of 2005, the World Missions Jubilee was entitled UpsideDown21. It was on this momentous occasion after prayer and fasting that Kip decided that the only way to salvage the ICOC as a discipling movement was by “calling out the remnant.” Even greater controversy followed. In September, in reaction to Kip’s calling out the remnant, he was “uninvited” by Scott Green from speaking at the ICOC leadership gathering in Seattle set for early September 2005.
In Phoenix, adding fuel to the fire, Chris and Sonja Chloupek – former high-profile ministry leaders in the LA ICOC – after visiting the Portland Church in late September 2005, decided to confront Gordon Ferguson, one of the Kingdom Teachers and preacher for the now “very Mainline” Phoenix Valley Church of Christ – formerly the Phoenix International Church of Christ. They challenged him on the lukewarmness in the Phoenix congregation, as well as the hundreds of disciples that were falling and walking away. They appealed to Ferguson to ask Kip for help. In anger, Ferguson refused to seek help. Seeing his hardness of heart, the Chloupeks asked Kip if he would back them in starting what came to be known as the first “remnant group.” Now, all around the world, the term “Portland Movement” began to be whispered with the hope of a new day.
Contrary to democratic “Western thinking” where the “majority is always right,” on many occasions in the Scriptures, the “minority report” is the one that is of God. (Numbers 13:26-33; Matthew 7:13-14) Even in Elijah’s day, the question was surely asked, “Can 450 prophets of Baal be wrong, and one prophet of God be right?” Sensing people were “wavering between two opinions,” in October 2005, 65 evangelists and elders from some of the remaining congregations of the International Church of Christ wrote a letter criticizing Kip as a “troubler of Israel.” (1 Kings 18:17-21) They confronted him on being “divisive” not realizing that Jesus “came to bring… division” (Luke 12:51) and not realizing that divisiveness can be of God when someone preaches the Word.
There were four charges against Kip: 1) His words were “unwholesome,” as he called the ICOC Churches “lukewarm”; 2) The charge of divisiveness continued as the move-ins to Portland were called “sheep stealing” instead of the Spirit moving them to a place of revival; 3) Kip was called divisive because he accepted the invitation of evangelists in other places – such as Raul Moreno in Santiago, Chile – for the discipling of their lives and churches; 4) Kip supported any group of disciples that gathered from what was left of the ICOC to start a new church of “sold-out disciples.” A forceful yet humble response letter entitled, A Concern For All The Churches was written by Kip and the leaders of the Portland International Church of Christ. A second letter was written in response to Portland’s A Concern For All The Churches. This second letter, once again was subtly asking people, “Can all of us be wrong?” was signed by 85 leaders in what was left of the ICOC now hopelessly plagued with Mainline theology. This sinful letter officially marked Kip as divisive and not to be associated with.
However, as time has passed, many disciples around the world like me now understand that envy, jealousy and insecurity were at the root of these attacks. (Psalm 106:16) Of grave concern, cynics labeled these events as simply “church politics” instead of what it truly was: an epic confrontation for the hearts of the remnant and the lost souls of the world. Inspired by Kip’s stand that autumn and his nine-part series in the Portland Bulletin: God’s Mandate For World Evangelism, the Kiev (Ukraine) Remnant Group of 25 disciples was formed in December 2005. This was the first of many remnant groups established outside the United States.
Despite all of the criticisms from within the ICOC, the Portland Church continued to multiply disciples through not only baptisms, but through more and more “remnant disciples” moving to Portland to find spiritual revival and refreshment. Also after much prayer, Chris and Theresa Broom, leaders of the Central New York Church of Christ, made a bold decision in early 2006 to call their congregation to “fully join” with Kip. In June 2006, the Brooms led a mission team composed of Syracuse and Portland disciples which planted the Chicago International Christian Church. The mission team joined a small remnant group already in Chicago. This was in fact the first “church planting” of what was clearly becoming a new movement. In time, the Central New York Church of Christ was renamed the Syracuse International Christian Church. From this small but heartsy congregation of 120 sold-out Christians came such future leaders as Andrew and Patrique Smellie, as well as Chris and Kerri-Sue Adams. For its unparalleled sacrifice of disciples and finances for God and His new movement, the Syracuse Church became known as “the little church that could.”
Shortly afterwards in July 2006 was the sending of a 14 member mission team from Portland to Phoenix courageously led by Matt and Helen Sullivan, who now disciple Tracy and me. Having been inspired by the 2004 Jubilee, the Sullivans were “remnant disciples” who moved from the decimated Fresno, California ICOC to Portland to find revival and to train for the ministry. Combining the mission team and the remnant group in Phoenix, the Sullivans built a rock-solid “foundation.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11) Through discipling, they raised-up Chris and Sonja Chloupek as well as Luke and Brandyn Speckman into the full-time ministry. In 2008, the Spirit sent the Sullivans and a small mission team to join the remnant group in Santiago, Chile. Thus the Santiago International Christian Church became a “planting” of the SoldOut Movement. In turn, the Phoenix Church was dynamically led by the Chloupeks and the campus ministry was served by the Speckmans.
In Santiago, the Sullivans repeated their building of a solid “foundation” of disciples as they did in Phoenix. In turn, Raul and Lynda Moreno – the valiant leaders of Santiago – moved to Los Angeles for healing and training. (Lynda has expressed on many occasions that she suffered a “nervous breakdown” at the collapse of what was once God’s movement – the ICOC – and the desertion of her “friends” in the ICOC, which only intensified when the Morenos joined God’s new movement thus starting the Santiago Remnant Group.) As of 2010, the Chloupeks moved to Los Angeles for more training and to initiate a new AMS (Arts Media Sports) Ministry. The Speckmans now lead the great Phoenix International Christian Church. Very revealing is that the AMS Region of the old LA ICOC changed its name to the “Turning Point Church,” as its leaders receive much of their ministry direction and training from a denominational church that does not believe in baptism “for the remission of sin.” (Acts 2:38)
This dangerous doctrinal drift – with the pleasing appeal of “open-mindedness” – is also seen on the International Teaching Ministry Website of Douglas Jacoby – now the most prominent of the former “Kingdom Teachers” as Fleming’s writings are regarded as of little weight since he leads a congregation in Birmingham, England of less than 120 members which – according to Andy’s email to me in April 2012 – has averaged less than seven baptisms a year during his over four years there. On Jacoby’s website, which contains some very good commentaries on the Scriptures making it credible, he posts such articles as Baptism Revisited by John Lang. Lang teaches that the Baptist Church position on salvation before baptism is valid: “There is no conclusive Biblical support for the view that God rejects baptized, repentant believers simply because they believed that their salvation coincided with their point of faith rather than their baptism… [Therefore], we should be honest about our limitations and acknowledge our inability to precisely determine ‘who is and who is not a Christian’.” This is a “Satanic false teaching” from a false teacher “masquerading as a servant of righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) Yet Jacoby writes in his introduction of this article, “I appreciate brothers like John…”
One of the primary differences between the “first movement” (ICOC) and the SoldOut Movement is the unity among the leaders on doctrines such as salvation, “the view of Old Testament Scriptures,” church government (autonomy is sin), discipling and the vision to evangelize the world in a generation. Most in the ICOC in the 90’s “thought” that their leaders were completely unified, but this was never the case. During Kip’s years of leadership in the ICOC, his biggest challenge was unity. He was constantly encouraging, striving and “battling” with those in leadership to bring everyone to unity on the aforementioned Bible convictions “to replace” their traditional beliefs from their Mainline roots. Ultimately, this disunity of doctrine was a key reason that led to the fracturing of the once genuinely close relationships among the leaders. This disconnect between disciples now extends throughout the entire ICOC. While there are many pockets of faithful disciples scattered throughout the world who continue to live in much the same way as before the “new direction of 2001,” these insidious teachings will most likely cause this drifting to reach them as well.
In August 2006, the third World Missions Jubilee was celebrated. It was aptly entitled, Follow The Fire. In attendance was the new full-time minister from the Hilo International Church of Christ, Kyle Bartholomew. Kyle was converted in 2001 from the University of Hawaii – Hilo. He was the star and captain of their basketball team. Confident and charismatic, he realized that he was untrained for the work of the ministry. After participating in the Jubilee, he asked Kip and Elena to disciple him and his wife, Joan. Upon being asked to disciple Kyle, Kip asked Kyle, “You do realize how controversial the Portland Church is? If I disciple you, you will become equally as controversial.” Without any hesitation, Kyle responded, “I see no other possible alternative for my wife and me, and no hope for Hilo if you do not come.” Interestingly, Kyle was fully supported in this decision by his two younger brothers – Evan and Levi – and by most in the Hilo leadership group; however, less than half of the membership was behind this radical resolution.
In the May 25, 2008 City of Angels International Christian Church Bulletin, Kyle wrote an article entitled, Hope For The Islands! He recapped the history of discipling ministries in the Hawaiian Islands including his conversion: “When I was baptized as a disciple on July 29, 2001 through the efforts of the Hilo International Church of Christ, I was blown away by the commitment, passion and love that I saw in each and every disciple. What inspired me most was the dream that each disciple shared to evangelize the Islands, the Pacific Rim and ultimately the world in their generation. In 2001, there were about 60 disciples in Hilo, 75 in Maui and around 1,000 in Oahu – every disciple believed this dream was possible, and so did I!
Sadly, in November 2002 after the ICOC leadership’s decision to return to a more Mainline Church of Christ theology, as well as the advent of the “Kriete Letter” in early 2003, so many beloved aspects of ‘my church’ began to change. Gone was a fellowship where every member was a practicing disciple of Jesus. Gone was the deep love for one another through discipling relationships. And gone was the dream to evangelize the Islands and the world. By 2006, membership was declining at an alarming rate! Oahu dropped from 1,000 disciples to 200; Hilo went from almost 60 disciples to 38; and Maui was reduced from 75 disciples to 25. Oahu went from six full-time couples to two, and both Hilo and Maui went from a full-time couple leading each congregation to untrained volunteers, as vision and then contribution plummeted. Baptisms became extremely rare, restorations were almost non-existent and there had not been a single church planted from the Islands for over six long years. It was obvious to me that something needed to change!
In late 2006, I was asked by the “leadership group” of the Hilo ICOC to be the minister. They were indeed desperate as the Hilo Church had not had a baptism for over a year! Since I was untrained, I was convinced we needed additional help. Therefore, in considering which church to ask for help, I decided to attend the Portland World Missions Jubilee. I was so in awe of God so obviously working through the Portland Church, as the fastest growing church in the ICOC at that time, that I asked Kip and Elena to disciple Joan and me. Thankfully, they agreed. One month later, the McKeans came to help us rebuild the Hilo Church’s foundation to be composed of only disciples (1 Corinthians 3:10-11). After an eventful weekend of Kip and Elena’s preaching, God left us with a “Gideon-like” twelve disciples, whose dream was to once again evangelize the world in our generation! The other 26 members, many of whom were lukewarm, started a new congregation with the help of evangelists from both the LA ICOC and the Oahu Church of Christ. Not having a baptism for over a year in Hilo, yet starting with twelve sold-out disciples, God blessed us with 20 baptisms that next year! Sadly, yet to the point, the congregation that was started in opposition to Kip’s and my vision of world evangelism through God’s plan of discipling, still has not seen a baptism to this day.”
Upon the McKeans’ return to Portland, the Portland leaders, as well as others who believed in Jesus’ dream for the evangelization of the nations in one generation, pleaded with Kip to realize that the Spirit was initiating a “new movement” by calling him to start again. On October 15, 2006, compelled by the Spirit, Kip published in the Portland Church Bulletin the first of a three-part series entitled, Partners In The Gospel. Though the names “Portland Movement” and “SoldOut Movement” had been used by detractors for over a year, these three articles were the formal announcement of a new family of churches, a new movement of God!
I personally was so encouraged by the events of August, September and October 2006. At the tearful request of my dear wife who listened quite often to the Upsidedown21 website, I visited the Portland Church in late August, one week before the Jubilee. After just one service, I went up to Kip and said, “This is the church I was baptized in! I’m moving my family here as soon as possible.” I then came the following week to the Follow the Fire Jubilee and after confessing my sins associated with my lukewarmness, I moved my family to Portland on September 1, 2006. Shortly afterwards, Tracy at communion shared, “I finally have ‘my Ron’ back” meaning that when the ICOC made “discipling optional” (in reality for me non-existent) I had gone back to being my “old self” – a stranger to Tracy since we met and married in the church. However, through discipling, my “first love” for God was restored and I began to “do the things [that I] did at first.” (Revelation 2:4-5) In other words, I was a sold-out disciple again, and thus once more “the Ron” with whom she had fallen in love.
Inspired by divine wisdom, Jesus centered the first century movement of disciples not in the small towns of Galilee where He for the most part ministered, but in the largest of Jewish cities – Jerusalem. Later the center for the church would move to the most influential city in the whole world – Rome. Realizing that the size and accessibility of the city of Portland was limiting for a worldwide movement, the McKeans laid a fleece before God about where to move. The Lord put upon their heart to move to either New York City or Los Angeles. The fleece was simply: wherever the remnant group came out first, this would be the place from which to build again. In late October, God answered the prayer with a small remnant group – gathered by the Spirit working through Sal and Patricia Velasco and my wife and me. Though composed of only 23 disciples, the persecution was quite vicious. Therefore, Kip and I both felt that it would be best if I moved back to LA to stabilize the remnant group. Just before my return, a formal letter was sent out by the LA ICOC leadership wrongly “disfellowshipping” these few valiant disciples and me. Without question, the LA ICOC leadership – now overseeing a congregation of less than 5,000 – felt threatened as they had witnessed over 5,000 of their members walk away or fall away since the Kriete Letter and the unjust firing of the McKeans.
In the meantime, Kip and Elena – seeing the hand of God leading them – came to Los Angeles to minister to the remnant group and to climb their beloved “Mt. Shalom” (aka Mt. Hollywood) to vow to God that they would be faithful to His vision to the end. By January 2007, plans had been made to raise $150,000 to send a 42 disciple mission team from Portland to Los Angeles. The leadership of the Portland Church was given to Steve and Lisa Johnson, who later led many in the Portland Church astray with their hidden convictions on autonomy. The Inaugural Service of the City of Angels International Christian Church was May 6, 2007. We had an attendance of 324. The 2007 World Missions Jubilee was held in Portland that summer, because Kip felt that the young church planting in LA should not be distracted with all of the necessary preparations for a Jubilee. Also to encourage the Portland Church, the McKeans wanted to return with many of the newly baptized disciples from the mission team’s efforts. This would demonstrate that the Portland Church’s sacrifice of disciples and finances was more than worth it. The Jubilee was entitled, King of Kings.
Kip very prayerfully and with trustworthy counselors chose the name “International Christian Church” for the new movement’s congregations for three reasons: 1) The name “International” conveyed the world vision of the new movement. 2) “International” would also signal to the remnant that we are a revival movement out of the shattered “International” Church of Christ. 3) “Christian” because Kip’s view of Scripture from a Restoration Movement historical perspective was closer to the conservative Christian Church’s position: “anything is permissible as long as it does not contradict the Bible,” verses the Church of Christ: “speak where the Bible speaks…” which means that one needs a command, example or necessary inference to name or have a particular practice.
By the end of the first year of the City of Angels Church in May 2008, 104 were baptized into Christ. Kip’s ability to raise-up evangelists was once again witnessed as early on in the second year and unparalleled in the history of discipling churches in America, the Spirit sent-out the City of Angels Church’s first two mission teams: Honolulu, Hawaii – led by Kyle and Joan Bartholomew, and New York City – led by DJ and Kacie Comisford. In August 2008, the fourth World Missions Jubilee was held in Los Angeles and entitled, Declare His Glory Among The Nations. At this momentous event, not only was the New York City Mission Team officially sent out, but the Washington DC Mission Team, led by Andrew and Patrique Smellie and composed of disciples from Syracuse and Eugene, was sent out as well. The highlight of the Jubilee was Kip’s announcement of the forming of the Central Leadership Council (CLC) of the SoldOut Movement. The McKeans – after many hours of prayer and counsel – selected Evangelist Couples: Chris and Theresa Broom, DJ and Kacie Comisford, Andrew and Patrique Smellie, and Matt and Helen Sullivan, as well as Shepherding Couples: Nick and Denise Bordieri and Tony and Therese Untalan. The McKeans believe that in time any couple’s permanent appointment as “World Sector Leaders” will be made clear by God.
Later, my dear brother and sister Michael and Sharon Kirchner were added to the CLC as the third Shepherding Couple, as well as for Michael to oversee the administration of the movement. Previous to moving to LA, Michael served as a Vice President of General Mills in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He gave-up this “dream job” – literally sacrificing millions of dollars in future earnings – to join God’s new movement in Los Angles in the summer of 2007, as he like Moses “regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of [the American dream], because he was looking ahead to his reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)
Another historic decision announced at the 2008 Jubilee was the creation of MERCYworldwide. In the Boston Movement, the benevolent arm of the church was called HOPEworldwide. “HOPE” was officially started in 1991 under the leadership of Bob and Pat Gempel. With the World Sector Leaders as the Board of Directors (with Kip as the Chairman of the Board), HOPE became one of the most powerful and respected religious charities in the world as all the members of every church could be mobilized as volunteers, thus having a “worldwide” impact. Eventually, HOPE had projects in almost 100 countries. HOPE’s impact declined rapidly when the ICOC churches became autonomous. No longer could disciples be mobilized for worldwide projects, but also many church leaders had no desire to continue to fund a centralized organization. Interestingly, HOPE was officially founded in 1991 in the twelfth year of the Boston Movement.
Kip saw how HOPE had opened the door of evangelism to many nations, such as India and Israel. Therefore, creating a “new HOPE” was a very high priority in his desire to fulfill Jesus’ dream of the evangelization of the nations in this generation. MERCYworldwide was begun at the end of the SoldOut Movement’s second year. The Directors of “MERCY” are Nick and Denise Bordieri.
Also at the 2008 Jubilee, the travesty of Steve and Lisa Johnson’s abandonment (a second time) from Kip and Elena and Jesus’ dream for the evangelization of the nations in a generation became apparent. I will never forget in his Jubilee speech, Steve foreshadowing their eminent departure from the movement with the ominous opening words, “This is probably the last time I will be speaking to you at the Jubilee.” I was caught completely off guard because previous to the Jubilee, Steve and I had almost weekly Skype times where we mutually encouraged one another. We discussed some very challenging topics, but I had no idea what he was really planning.
Two weeks after the Jubilee, Steve Johnson officially broke away from the SoldOut Movement, when he delivered a Wednesday midweek sermon on autonomy. The week before this sermon, I had several conversations with Steve where he disclosed to me his true beliefs on discipling, autonomy and authority. He then told me that he was going to separate. This hurtful decision was precipitated by not wanting to pay a price that he and Lisa deemed too high to remain in the new movement – the loosing of most of their relationships in the ICOC and the Mainline Churches – their roots. Though subtly taught by the Johnsons after the Spirit had sent the McKeans to LA, now the Johnsons came out and vehemently opposed a central leadership with a central leader for a family of churches.
Largely through the efforts of Jeremy Ciaramella, the minister for the Eugene Church – planted from Portland in January 2004, a Portland Remnant Group quickly formed in reaction to Johnson’s unbiblical teachings. These heroic souls could not conceive of participating in a very staid Mainline worship service, into which the Portland Church immediately morphed. Upon news of this incident, critics seized the opportunity to attack Kip, Elena and God’s young movement. Stepping to the forefront to defend God’s honor, the new movement’s validity, and Kip’s “calling out of the remnant” was Chris Broom – then the Lead Evangelist of the Chicago International Christian Church. Broom composed a very profound document detailing the destructive departure of the ICOC to Mainline theology, paralleling this to the Johnsons’ deceit-filled leaving from the SoldOut Movement, which directly caused the Portland Church to crash from 400 to less than 200 in attendance. This letter was entitled, A Portland Report According To My Convictions.
The formation of the Portland Remnant Group was essential in Kip’s mind to reestablish a dynamic discipling ministry in Portland, since the city was the birthplace of the new movement. After prayer and fasting, my wife and I graciously accepted the invitation to lead a mission team from LA to Portland. I told Kip that I needed time to speak with Steve before we made any announcements so that I could honor Steve’s and my relationship. I called Steve and told him that I was not coming to Portland to be against him, but because he was refusing to work with us. I also conveyed that I still had the hope of having fellowship with one another. Since I was a professional drag racer for five years before I became a Christian, we agreed to go to the races at Portland International Raceway when I arrived. Sadly, Steve has never returned another call of mine since my arrival in Portland. The Portland Remnant Group joined the mission team in late 2008. In Portland, God has vindicated Kip’s call for a new movement where every member in every church is “sold-out.” After the sending of the mission team, the vibrant and new “Portland International Christian Church” continues to grow larger and larger than the now stagnated “Portland ICOC” which is autonomous.
The theme for the 2009 Global Leadership Conference (GLC) was Go Into All The World. It was held in early August and leaders from 20 different nations traveled to Los Angeles to participate. The following is a section of Kip’s account of the GLC as recorded in the City of Angels Church Bulletin of August 16, 2009:
“At the end of the lesson, I presented The Crown of Thorns Project. Remember that Jesus said to the faithful Eleven, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Spirit has made Los Angeles the “Jerusalem” of God’s new movement. So to evangelize the world, we must evangelize “our Judea and Samaria,” the United States. In just three years of existence, the SoldOut Movement has planted dynamic discipling churches in the four most influential cities of America – New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington DC – as well as in Portland, Honolulu, Hilo, Syracuse, Eugene, and Phoenix. These churches do not include several heroic remnant churches. The US congregations [alongside our future first world congregations such as London and Paris] will provide the needed resources – disciples and finances – to go “to the ends of the earth.” Therefore… we must plan to encircle the globe with unified discipling churches on the other five populated continents. Listed are the 12 targeted international cities that when a line is drawn connecting them forms a jagged circle – a redemptive “crown of thorns” – around the world: Santiago, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, London, Paris, Cairo, Johannesburg, Moscow, Chennai, Hong Kong, Manila and Sydney. It was so exciting that during the conference Sasha and Louisa Kostenko of Moscow, Russia and Joe and Kerry Willis of Brisbane, Australia solidified plans to move to LA for strengthening and further training. Of note, Sasha and Louisa were the number three and four baptisms when Elena and I planted the original Moscow Church in 1991. (The Moscow Church saw 850 baptisms in its first year!) In time, Sasha and Louisa married, went into the ministry, and by the year 2001, they led the 11,500 disciples of the 15 nations of the former Soviet Union! As He promised, our God is gathering a remnant from “the farthest horizons.” (Nehemiah 1:8-9) It’s happening!”
From the 2009 GLC to date, The Crown of Thorns Project has become a rallying vision for the movement. Throughout the SoldOut Churches, disciples like me simply want to make a difference and change the world.
The Plan For World Evangelism For The SoldOut Movement
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
“Jerusalem” – Los Angeles
“Judea and Samaria” – United States
Judea: LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Phoenix
Samaria: Boston, Chicago, Eugene, Hilo, Honolulu,
New York City, Orlando, Portland, Syracuse and Washington DC
2013: Atlanta,Dallas, Las Vegas
The Ends Of The Earth”
The Crown Of Thorns Project
Cairo Moscow Chennai Mexico City Hong Kong
Paris Johannesburg Santiago London Sao Paulo
“Crown Of Thorns Churches” Target Surrounding Nations’ Capitol Cities
Each Capitol City Church Evangelizes Their Nation
(Red – Church Plantings Green – Remnant Groups Black – To Be Planted)
God has always worked through a “remnant” from days of Noah to the present. Biblically, “the remnant” is defined as the small group of “survivors” that have retained or returned to God’s truths after most of God’s people have not chosen this path. (Isaiah 10:20-22) Nehemiah prayed to God for the remnant, “Remember the instruction you gave to your servant Moses saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there…’” (Nehemiah 1:8-9) Who would disagree that the ICOC was “scattered among the nations?” Therefore, so exciting in our day, God is gathering His remnant from “the farthest horizons”. When the Lord sent the McKeans to Portland in 2003, only 25 “survivors” gathered at that first midweek service. Yet this 25 through faith, forgiveness and discipling became the sold-out base to which God added. Interestingly, though the Portland Church was planted in 1991, they had never planted a single church until the McKeans arrived, and were considered “small and relatively insignificant.” Yet gathered that fateful evening were the “remnant disciples” that became the seeds of leadership for God’s new movement. Among those attending that night were: Nick and Denise Bordieri, Tony and Therese Untalan, their daughter Coleen (Challinor) – the only faithful teen, Jeremy and Amy Ciaramella, Jay and Angie Hernandez, Michael and Michele Williamson, and Sarah Travis (Dimitry) – one of only four college students.
By March 2004, the Spirit brought to Portland from “their exile” working a secular job in St. Louis, the first former full-time ICOC family – Victor and Sonia Gonzalez and their 10 children; the oldest Vic Jr. was in college. Victor Sr. was fired in LA, because his leadership style was “too much like Kip’s.” From 2004 to date, a thirsty remnant has come into the SoldOut Movement congregations finding living water – “the church they were baptized in.” Among the leaders – both former fulltime and non-fulltime – are: Chris and Kerri-Sue Adams, Erik af Klint, Alfredo and Alejandra Anuch, Argo and Anu Arneson, RD Baker, Evan and Kelly Bartholomew, Kyle and Joan Bartholomew, Cory Blackwell, Chris and Theresa Broom, Timur and Vika Butakov, Eric and Jackie Chapman, Jeremiah and Julie Clark, Chris and Sonja Chloupek, Ian and Margot Clague, DJ and Kacie Comisford, Anthony and Elizabeth Eckels, Jim and Donna Fenton, Blaise and Patricia Feumba, Carlos and Maria Elena Gallardo, Andy and Connie Goh, George Grima, Jacque and Jeanette Groenewald, Rich and Stephanie Hackett, Bill and Lisa Hamilton, Michael and Maria Hart, Tim and Lianne Kernan, Michael and Sharon Kirchner, Sasha and Louisa Kostenko, Lola Lof, Afa Maile, LuJack and Cathi Martinez, Jack and Jeanne McGee, Carlos and Lucy Mejia, Raul and Lynda Moreno, Steve Morici Jr., Fred and Alya Muratov, Gary and Cyndee Ochs, Rob and Burgandie Onekea, Roger and Kama Parlour and their children Joel and Brittany (Underhill), John and Bernie Pereda, Russ and Lana Preston, Mike and Suzette Purdy, Jake Ramsier, Raja and Debs Rajan, Steve and Kithy Ranga, Joe and Mary Santos, Jay and Barb Shelbrack, Oleg and Aliona Sirotkin, Andrew and Patrique Smellie, Evgeniy and Julia Sobolev, Amadou and Angele Sountoura, Matt and Helen Sullivan, Chris Teves, Dan and Deenie Triana, Sal and Patricia Velasco, Lance and Connie Underhill and their sons – Mike, Ray and Joey, Joe and Kerry Willis, Ken and Liliana Zindler, and Tracy and me.
In 2010, one of the most significant events was the coming of Cory Blackwell, the former World Sector Leader for the Middle East. Cory’s placing membership (now he calls it his restoration) in November 2010 was such a balm for Kip’s own wounds. Though the trauma of Cory’s wife leaving the Lord over ten years before and the subsequent ostracization from all ICOC congregations had almost destroyed his faith, Cory not only was reinstated Evangelist at the 2010 Global Leadership Conference, but now leads the South Central Region of the City of Angels Church and has been given the charge to once again evangelize the Middle East. (City of Angels International Christian Church Bulletin – November 28, 2010 The Dream Never Dies) Excitingly, since Cory became part of God’s modern day movement, his son CJ and daughter Avrie have become baptized disciples. After playing against Cory for seven years in the LA Church Basketball League (and beating him once in the Three Point Contest!) it’s great to be “partners in the gospel” with him and to learn from his years of experience!
In June 2011, another valiant leader Blaise Feumba and his wife Patricia joined God’s new movement. Upon requesting to join the new movement, Blaise expressed to Kip his sorrow for his signing the two letters against him in 2005. He apologized for his cowardice and was moved by Kip’s unconditional forgiveness. This email to Kip is recorded in the City of Angels International Christian Church Bulletin – June 19, 2011 The Glory Of The Second Temple:
I remembered those 10 minutes I spent with you in Seattle [at the 2005 ICOC Leadership Conference] wanting to understand what was going on in our family of churches at that moment. You told me you were going to start another movement compelled by the Spirit of God. At that point, I wasn’t sure that was the best thing to do, but after the churches in French Africa went through the same Satanic rebellion in 2007, I understood what you meant in that room at the Seattle Conference… Most of what has been said about you and Elena has been said about Patricia and me in a very smaller scale. But the pain and the sufferings we have been through were used by the Lord to draw us closer to His heart through countless nights of tears and grief in His purifying hands.
We survived by God’s grace and kept preaching the gospel for which I have been called. From a church [which I once led] of over 2,000 members in Abidjan, [Ivory Coast], a band of about 20 courageous disciples followed Patricia and me for the start of a new planting. We were all resolved to follow the clouds and not the crowds convinced that the church we have given our youth for was dead with politics and deceit. This was the new game played by the shepherds in the ICOC for power and influence. Without any support from men, we grew from 20 to over a hundred in two years, as well as sending out a new planting to Hiré, Ivory Coast, which now numbers 30 disciples…
I want to use this time to let you know that I am sorry for the letter I have signed against you in 2005, because I was not courageous enough to stand against the crowds. I did this against my conscience, but of this I do not blame anyone other than myself. Please forgive me brother because I have sinned against the Lord with a band of brothers who wanted to kill their “father” to take his position. We did not learn from David who understood that God hated rebellion against Saul no matter how badly Saul had treated him. I have no hatred in my heart against my former friends. In fact, I have resolved to pray for them every day begging the Lord to draw them back to once again be close to His heart…
At this time, I can’t think of another captain I would like to pursue this with. I have watched you over the past three years. Your deeds speak of God’s mighty hand on you. No matter what you have been through you are still standing stronger than ever for Jesus and for His mission to see this lost world evangelize in one generation. You have proven yourself worthy to be followed as you follow Christ. Here am I… with a burning desire to save as many souls as possible. I need you in my life. Our love to Elena.
Blaise & Patricia Feumba
With the Feumbas coming, two more “remnant churches” were added to the movement in Ivory Coast, where Blaise & Patricia had served in the ICOC as GSL’s (Geographic Sector Leaders) for the 22 churches in the 14 nations of French-speaking Africa. The Feumbas were likewise reinstated at the 2010 GLC to be Evangelist and Women’s Ministry Leaders. They now joyfully serve the Lord as fulltime servants in our sister congregation in London.
As stated before, Kip’s conviction is that the ultimate reason that the “first movement failed to evangelize all nations” was the lack of grace, mercy and forgiveness in his leadership, as well as in other leaders’ lives. Therefore, whenever someone is restored or places membership at the City of Angels Church, Kip often personally leads the song, We Love You With The Love Of The Lord. Also similar to the brothers greeting Paul at Rome, but unique to the SoldOut Movement is the “chorus” of sold-out disciples who gather at their city’s airport to greet a fellow disciple from anywhere around the world with We Love You With The Love Of The Lord! This is practiced by all SoldOut Churches on all six populated continents, as this hymn has become the anthem of God’s new movement trumpeting for all to hear that this “second time” to “love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all our mind and with all our strength” and “to love your neighbor as yourself” will be the preeminent teachings!
In 2010, the Spirit sent-out mission teams from the City of Angels Church to: San Diego powerfully led by Vic and Aurora Gonzalez Jr. and London dynamically led by Michael and Michele Williamson. London is the second Crown Of Thorns City to be planted after Santiago. The third Crown Of Thorns Church Planting – Sao Paulo – was sent-out by the Spirit at the 2011 Global Leadership Conference and is courageously led by Raul and Lynda Moreno. Lord willing, at the 2012 Global Leadership Conference, five mission teams will be sent out by the hand of God: Boston – led by Coltin and Mandee Rohn; San Francisco – led by Mike and Brittany Underhill, Orlando – led by Matt and Helen Sullivan; and the fourth and fifth Crown Of Thorns Plantings: Mexico City – to be led by Vic and Aurora; and Paris – to be led by Tim and Lianne Kernan, French-speaking Canadians who came to the first Jubilee and later formed the London Remnant Group.
Presently, the City of Angels Church attendance is nearly 1,000 on Sunday mornings. In each of the first three years of its short history, the Lord blessed the City of Angels Church with over 100 baptisms. Amazingly, this past calendar year – like the Jerusalem Church of old – “the Lord has added [to the City of Angels Church’s] number daily!” In 2011, God blessed this congregation with 366 additions: 260 baptisms, 49 restorations and 57 place memberships – many of whom have “come over” from the ICOC seeking revival.
The true impact of Kip’s leadership must be measured not only in the multiplying of disciples in Los Angeles, but in the multiplying of churches planted from LA. Even now, these churches are beginning to multiply leaders as the New York City Church sent out Steve and Kithy Ranga to lead the Syracuse Church and Mike Underhill to lead Chicago. During these past four years, 126 disciples have been sent out from LA to Honolulu, New York City, Portland, San Diego, London and Sao Paulo as mission teams, as well as for the leaderships of Santiago, Washington DC, Hilo, Kiev and Chicago. When one counts all of these churches, in just four years time, the Lord used the original 42 members of the City of Angels Mission Team to multiply into 1,500 disciples with a Sunday attendance approaching 3,000! Overall, the SoldOut Movement – through “church planting churches” and “remnant group churches” – collectively numbers 40 churches in 20 countries: Australia, Brazil, Chile, Curacao, Democratic Republic of Congo, England, Ethiopia, Estonia, France, Germany, Guam, India, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Philippines, Russia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Ukraine and the United States of America… and counting!
Kip’s uncompromising call from the Scriptures to all who would follow Jesus has remained the same for his 36 years in the ministry: “Go anywhere, do anything, give up everything.” For he believes that Jesus’ dream for “the evangelization of the nations in this generation” can and will be accomplished through a movement composed of only sold-out disciples. Most mornings “while it is still dark,” Kip prays that before he dies that the Lord will allow him to write as Paul did, “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and… has been proclaimed to every creature under Heaven.”
June 18, 2012
*The main sources for this biography were countless first-hand accounts, as well as an earlier narration on this same website written by Jeremy Ciaramella and Chuck Hess. Another key source has been the City of Angels International Christian Church Bulletins. Also, many of Kip’s writings, especially his Revolution Through Restoration Parts 1, 2 and 3 have been invaluable. Also, thanks goes to Kip and Elena McKean for the many conversations and emails that have allowed me to have first hand information on all the contents of this entire article. My prayer is that this commentary will be used by the Spirit to give remnant disciples deep Biblical convictions to join God’s new movement, and that these accounts will silence Satan’s lies about a true man of God – Kip McKean.