The International Church of Christ

NOTE: Christianity Today recently published an excellent news article on the International Church of Christ.

Visit www.tolc.org for more up-to-date information on the International Church of Christ.

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." (Matthew 7:15)

1. Key Facts

1.1 The International Church of Christ currently has 274 churches in 105 nations. Their total worldwide attendance is 138,302 people.
1.2 Their goal is to plant a church in ever nation with a city of at least 100,000 people by the year 2000.
1.3 Each International Church of Christ typically adopts the name of its city (e.g. the Toronto Church of Christ).
1.4 The International Church of Christ does much of its recruitment on university and college campuses.
1.5 This group is to be distinguished from the mainline Churches of Christ, a loosely federated group of congregations from which the International Church of Christ broke off.
1.6 The International Church of Christ is also known as the Boston Movement or the Boston Church of Christ.

2. History

2.1 In the early 1970s, Kip McKean, the founding evangelist and pastor of the Boston movement, was a student at the University of Florida in Gainesville. There he met Chuck Lucas, pastor of the Crossroads Church of Christ. Lucas was active in a campus outreach program for the Churches of Christ, developing "Campus Advance" principles. He recruited McKean and trained him in what was then and is now a radical version of discipleship developed primarily from Robert Coleman's book, The Master Plan of Evangelism. Lucas understood Coleman to teach that Jesus controlled the lives of His apostles and then taught His apostles to disciple others by controlling their lives. Therefore Christians today should use the same process Jesus taught His apostles when bringing people to Christ. Lucas put this teaching into practice in a discipleship process which he taught to McKean and others.
2.2 In 1976, McKean went to Heritage Chapel Church of Christ in Charleston, Illinois and initiated a campus outreach at Eastern Illinois University. Several church members questioned his discipleship process and made charges regarding manipulation and control.
2.3 In 1979 McKean moved to the Boston suburb of Lexington where he became involved in the Lexington Church of Christ. Meeting on June 1 with thirty people—each committing themselves to the Lord and His work—McKean established an aggressive program of evangelism and discipleship. The church went from 30 to 1,000 members in just a few years and outgrew its facilities. By 1983 the church had to rent the Boston Opera House for its meeting on Sunday and meet in homes ("house churches") for midweek services. Later that year the Lexington Church of Christ changed its name to the Boston Church of Christ.
2.4 In 1981 the Boston movement launched an aggressive missions program, sending out teams of people to establish churches throughout America and the world. These churches would be part of the Boston family of churches, under the authority and control of the Boston Church of Christ, and using the same discipling methods as the Boston church The Toronto Church of Christ was founded in 1985.

3. Beliefs

3.1 Baptism is necessary for salvation - They teach that one must be water baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Faith, they both teach, is not sufficient for salvation; it is not counted for righteousness until one obeys God by being baptized with the conscious knowledge that at the moment of baptism one is being saved and one's sins are being forgiven. Furthermore, one's baptism is not considered valid unless it is administered by the true church of Christ (i.e., the churches of Christ or the Boston movement).
3.2 Discipleship - The Great Commission to disciple is probably the core doctrine of the church.
3.3 Confession of sins - Believers are to confess their sins to each other (James 5:16).
3.4 Submission to authority - the authority of the leaders is God-given or delegated by God to such an extent that in disobeying them, one is disobeying God.
3.5 Orthodoxy - In many other respects, the International Church of Christ holds similar doctrine to evangelical churches everywhere.

4. Methods

4.1 Initiation - The goal is to be chained to someone more senior in the church, with someone you bring in the church under you to disciple
4.1.1 Nonmembers are invited to a non-denominational "Bible talk."
4.1.2 At the Bible talk, they meet people who are genuinely warm and caring.
4.1.3 In the days following the Bible talk, they receive calls of encouragement from people that they met. At this point, nonmembers usually observe that these people are putting their faith into practice.
4.1.4 They (individually) are invited to a weekly Bible study, taught by a "discipler." At these meetings, they study the Bible and confess sins. The discipler calls the disciple, always showing great interest and always ready to give guidance and advice. Five required studies take place:
4.1.4.1 Word of God - showing that the Bible is factual and necessary.
4.1.4.2 Discipleship - to get the person to admit that they are not a disciple of Christ.
4.1.4.3 Light and Darkness - to show that they are not saved, and that they need to confess their sins.
4.1.4.4 The Cross - to bring a sense of sorrow and urgency to the person
4.1.4.5 The Church - a study which shows that the International Church of Christ is the only true church
4.1.5 Eventually, the subject of baptism is raised. Until a person is not baptized, they are not part of the church and not called brother or sister, nor are they saved. The moment they are baptized, they are saved.
4.1.6 Now a member of the church, they are urged to invite their friends and family to Bible talks.
4.2 Control - The personal life of every believer is controlled by a discipler who is over that person. There is a discipler over every discipler, a hierarchy of disciplers working its way up to the top. Each believer is expected to submit to his or her discipler, in matters such as working overtime, dating, etc..
4.3 Sin Lists - Sin lists, lists which included in much details members' sins, have been found to be computerized and available to group leaders. An interviewer on ABC-TV's "20/20" reported this and interviewed members to verify that the confessed sins are accurate.
4.4 Exclusion - "Leaving the church and leaving God are the same thing." (Randy McKean). Members are ordered to steer clear of non-members, and if that means your wife or husband or fianc? or boyfriend or girlfriend, then so be it (Matthew 35:10).

5. Responding to the International Church of Christ

5.1 As with other groups, remember: "And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
5.2 Remember their goal is to recruit you. Be appreciative of their expressions of concern and affirmation for you while you talk, but do not be manipulated.
5.3 Be ready to express the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone. Baptism is not necessary for salvation.
5.4 Be wary of authoritarian control (2 Corinthians 11:20).

6. Warning included in Ryerson's Student Manual (1992):

1. The R.S.U. recognizes a variety of religious and cultural groups here at Ryerson. However, there are some groups which the R.S.U. has chosen not to recognize. One such group is the Toronto Church of Christ. At the R.S.U. Board Meeting held on April 7, 1992, the following amendment was made to the Policy for New Groups on Campus:
WHEREAS the Church of Christ has been identified throughout North America, by COMA (Council on Mind Abuse) and other student unions, as having questionable recruitment techniques and practices; and
WHEREAS campus organizations associated with the Church of Christ have been linked to traumatic incidents amongst post-secondary students in the Toronto Area; and
WHEREAS religious and cultural groups recognized by the Ryerson Student's Union (R.S.U.) are intended to emphasize areas of commonality and harmony with the Ryerson community and are NOT to emphasize recruitment or worship as their raison d'etre;
IT IS A RYERSON STUDENTS' UNION POLICY THAT R.S.U. not recognize any group associated with the Church of Christ.
2. If you are being harassed, either in person or over the phone, please contact security and lodge a complaint.

Transformed Living; Transformed Giving (Romans 12:2)

  • people at the end of the 20th century have the audacity to think that they invented the modern world
  • actually, the modern world created us
  • for instance, we think that we have invented technology - cars, fax machines, computers, televisions, and telephones
  • in fact, it's probably more true that technology has invented us
  • we have not transformed what we have made
  • what we have made has transformed us
  • take the car
  • researchers have noted the controlling power of the automobile
  • the car has transformed our lives, in some intentional but in mostly unintentional ways
  • the car created the suburbs, and separated residential communities from urban centers
  • it also transformed our lifestyles, courtship patterns, recreational lives, and our environment
  • as well it has become a leading cause of injury and death
  • did you know that 25% of the national economy revolves around the automobile?
  • roads, bridges, gasoline, rubber, steel, plastic, and much more relate to the car
  • the traffic cop, the stop sign painter, the auto insurance industry, and Al Palladini, all spun off the auto
  • if you think about it, the car has added a burden to parents that no other generation of parents in history has had to cope with
  • parents have to chauffeur their children everywhere
  • fenced yards are another unintended result of the automobile
  • this one example demonstrates the power of the world to transform us rather than our transformation of the world
  • nowhere is this more significant than in the realm of Christian stewardship
  • stewardship is our use as trustees of the time, money, and abilities that God has given us
  • and to be good stewards, it is absolutely necessary that we have transformed lives
  • we must be thermostats that set the temperature around us, rather than thermometers that merely reflect it
  • it is one thing to be a weathervane, and another thing to direct the wind
  • in Romans 12, the apostle Paul makes a passionate appeal for transformed living
  • he appeals to us to resist the pressure for conformity, and to proactively transform our living
  • (Romans 12:2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
  • one translation says, "Don't copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think"
  • Paul is warning us against adopting the outward behavior of the world
  • a true Christian, by their very nature, can't actually conform to the world at the center of their being
  • yet it's possible for a believer to take on the behavior and customs of the world, so that nobody can tell by looking at them that they are followers of Christ
  • one preacher said that there are two types of hypocrisy
  • one type is to act better than one is
  • but another type of hypocrisy is to act worse than you actually are
  • and it's possible for a Christian to outwardly act worse than they inwardly are
  • Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, had an expression: "Become what you are"
  • the normal course of events for the Christian is that our inward life of renewal should change and transform our outward behavior
  • yet in the endless pressure of the world, the opposite often happens to the believer
  • our outward behavior often conforms to the world, rather than to our true inward nature
  • when Paul warns us against being transformed by the world, what does he mean?
  • the Greek word for world, as Paul used it, means "the spirit of the times"
  • in other words, don't conform to the prevailing attitudes and opinions and norms of the day
  • don't let public opinion transform you
  • in Canada, indecency is defined as something that violates community standards
  • the problem with this is that community standards are always changing
  • Paul says, don't be like that!
  • in a poll of executives, 80% of respondents admit to driving while drunk
  • 35% cheat on their tax returns
  • 75% steal work supplies for their personal use
  • and 78% use the company phone for personal long-distance calls
  • there's more
  • the spirit of the age is not only low on personal honesty and integrity, but it teaches the following:
  • you happiness is number one priority
  • sexual freedom leads to happiness
  • no-one can tell you what's right and what's wrong; it's up to you to decide
  • abortion is every woman's rightful option
  • homosexuality is fine
  • "till death do us part" really means "as long as we're happy together"
  • society teaches all these things
  • and society attempts to press Christians into its mold
  • and Paul says, "Don't let them do it!"
  • what I've talked about really are issues of stewardship
  • what we choose to do with our minds, our automobiles, our tax deductions, work supplies, and bodies all are aspects of the issue of stewardship
  • perhaps nowhere is the world having more success in molding Christians than in the area of stewardship
  • John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, said, "Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can"
  • but the world today says, "Make all you can, keep all you can, spend all you can"
  • the startling truth is that the average Christian gives about 1% of personal income to the work of Christ
  • this is far, far behind the amount spent on housing, food, clothing, transportation, and recreation
  • the average Christian spends about 50 cents per day to the missionary work of spreading the Gospel over the globe
  • that's less than a soft drink in most machines
  • the chameleon is an interesting lizard
  • it changes its color to match the background
  • place a chameleon on green and it turns green
  • place a chameleon on brown and it turns brown
  • when it comes to giving, there is really no place for Christian chameleons
  • rather than reflecting the values of human culture, we must reflect the values of God's reign
  • [transition]
  • the opposite of pressure into the world's mold is the life of transformation
  • the imperative "be transformed" reflects the Greek word metamorphosis
  • this means not a change in the external scheme of things, but a change in the essential nature of the person, beginning on the inside and working its way to the outside
  • a key to understanding this is the transfiguration of Jesus Christ
  • the records indicate a change in the being of the Lord Jesus that began on the inside and worked its way to the outside - a shining, luminous transformation that permitted the essential eternal deity of the Christ to shine forth from the humanity of a Galilean carpenter
  • this is a perfect illustration of the transformation implied by Paul in Romans 12
  • he exhorts believers to demonstrate in the outward, observable aspects of life, that inward transformation that we have experienced in Christ
  • the sun gives of light because it shines
  • the rose exudes fragrance because it is a rose
  • and the believer demonstrates the traits of a believer because it is the nature of the believer to do so
  • Jesus didn't say, "Take salt and pour it on the earth?
  • rather, he said, "You are the salt of the earth"
  • Jesus didn't say, "Shine light on the world"
  • rather, he said, "You are the light of the world"
  • in other words, the Christian exercises saltine and illuminating influence in the world not first by doing but simply by being
  • the fruit tree does not transform the bud into the flower and the flower into some fruit by some extraordinary effort
  • it is the very nature of the tree at work
  • the same is true for the Christian
  • if and when we truly know Christ, the life of Christ within us transforms the externals of life around us
  • this happens as surely as sunrise follows the night
  • what we have to do is to prevent anything from blocking the natural expression of that inward, transforming life
  • we do that by keeping the commandment of the apostle John:
  • (1 John 2:15) Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
  • we are not to put supreme value on the lifestyle of the world around us
  • in the 19th century, Henry Thoreau abandoned the active life of the thriving New England towns of Lexington and Concord, to spend more than a year at Walden Pond, a pothole in the earth left by retreating glaciers 10,000 years before
  • while living in utter simplicity, he contemplated and wrote about the world's ability to keep us slaves
  • the simple farming equipment of the 19th century had as much power then to prevent transformed living as modern technology does now
  • only a resolute commitment to transformed living will demonstrate a lifestyle of transformation
  • this is most certainly true in the arena of stewardship
  • what we do with our time, money, and abilities is an accurate barometer to the degree our lives have been transformed by the power of the Gospel
  • in a world where Donald Trump is as much a hero as Billy Graham, we really need to think which one we're going to emulate
  • nothing so demonstrates the tangible change in our lives brought about by Christ as the willingness to give
  • it's no accident that Paul follows the remarkable chapter on the resurrection of Christ in 1 Corinthians with a practical appeal that believers give with individual responsibility, weekly regularity, and proportionate return to God's work
  • Paul immediately connects the mighty transforming power that raised Jesus from the dead, with the power that transforms selfish humans into regular givers to the kingdom of God
  • the biological process of metamorphosis takes place when an ugly caterpillar spins a cocoon around itself, and after that, emerges as a beautiful monarch butterfly
  • for a human being who has lived in self-absorption, materialism, greed, and possessiveness to suddenly turn into a spiritual, generous, and giving believer, is no less a miraculous transformation
  • this comes only by the grace of God
  • how does this transformation take place?
  • transformation takes place, Paul says, by the renewing of the mind
  • while our generation knows more than any previous generation about the mysteries of science, we have never really understood the difference between mind and brain, between thought and the physical framework in which thought takes place
  • it is only at the divine level by God's intervention that the mind my be changed in the transformation of life called Christian conversion
  • and when our mind is transformed, that change includes Christian stewardship - the living mind turns into the giving mind
  • it is the nature of God to give as it is the nature of light to shine
  • the mind of Christ can transform our minds and take us to heights of living and giving and giving that we otherwise could not reach
  • many of us are like the barnyard duck in this little poem:
    • My soul is like a barnyard duck
    • Muddling in the barnyard muck,
    • Fat and lazy with useless wings;
    • But sometimes when the north wind sings
    • And wild ducks fly overhead,
    • It ponders something lost and dead,
    • It cocks a wary, bewildered eye
    • And makes a feeble attempt to fly,
    • It's quite content with the state it's in
    • But it's not the duck it might have been.
  • there is a sense that we were intended to fly, to mount up with wings of eagles
  • only the transformation of life into the giving life of the Gospel releases me from that earth-bound grasping to the heaven-bound giving that characterizes the life of Christ
  • [transition]
  • Paul said in Romans 12 that we're to be living sacrifices to God
  • in the Old Testament, people offered sacrifices to God that were separate and apart from the worshippers' own personality and life
  • at best, they expressed a transformation in giving
  • at their worst, they were merely mechanical religious acts
  • further, the Old Testament sacrifices were intermittent
  • there were three great feasts every year in Jerusalem
  • those were the primary times of giving
  • on other occasions, people might give a free will offering
  • but the thought of each individual giving a daylong sacrifice to God was incomprehensible
  • also, the giving of sacrifices was limited to one place, the temple in Jerusalem
  • if one lived a mere 50 miles away in Galilee, the thought of a daily sacrifice was out of the question
  • but in the coming of Jesus Christ, the system of giving has been changed completely
  • we no longer bring material sacrifices first; we bring ourselves
  • we do not offer our sacrifices intermittently; it is a daily way of life
  • our giving is not confined to a religious shrine, but we are offered as living sacrifices to God wherever we go - our homes, offices, places of recreation, and at the church
  • when one sees life as a daily living sacrifice, giving to the cause of Christ becomes as natural as breathing itself
  • the transformed life is the giving life
  • all of nature witnesses to that fact
  • the withered and dehydrated seed falls to the ground
  • there, a strange, wondrous transformation takes place
  • the seed, moistened by the damp soil, disintegrates as the life-principle within the seed germinates
  • soon that seed becomes a slender shoot of life
  • that shoot becomes a stalk
  • that stalk produces a beautiful flower
  • the flower in turn produces another seed
  • you see, the life that gives is the life that lives
  • Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"
  • how can we validate the truth of that statement?
  • Jesus proved it by his life and resurrection
  • this morning we want to apply this truth
  • the transformed life will be the giving life
  • giving is actually a double miracle of transformation
  • it reflects the miracle of Christ within our life
  • it also reflects that providence of God by which our energy, work, education, and training are turned into that which we place in the offering plate and at the altar of God
  • our life transforms to money
  • that money transforms to ministry
  • that ministry then transforms again to life
  • the circle is complete

The New Age Movement

1. Key Facts

1.1 The New Age movement has been called "the fastest growing alternative belief system in the country."
1.2 The New Age movement is a loosely structured network of individuals and organizations, who share a vision of a new age of enlightenment and harmony (the "Age of Aquarius"). They believe in monism (all is one), pantheism (all is God), and mysticism (the experience of oneness with the divine).
1.3 The New Age movement is not really a cult; there is no particular creed or single organization to join. It is more of a movement with great diversity and different causes, including holistic health professionals, ecologists, political activists, educators, goddess-worshipers, reincarnationists, astrologers, etc.. Nevertheless, they share a common vision and worldview.
1.4 Characteristics:
1.4.1 Syncretism - combining and synthesizing different and sometimes contradictory religious and philosophical teachings
1.4.2 Monism - all is one. "Life is a Divine Oneness." We are like waves in a single cosmic ocean.
1.4.3 Pantheism - God is all and all is God. God is an "it."
1.4.4 Deification of Humanity - Humanity is God.
1.4.5 Transformation - We are transformed as we realize our oneness with God, humanity, and the universe. Our planet is transformed as transformed individuals take responsibility for the world.
1.4.6 Ecological Orientation - Since all is one, we must care for nature. To damage nature is to damage ourselves.
1.4.7 Coming Utopia - A new world is coming with a one-world government, global socialism, and a New Age religion.
1.4.8 Spirituality - An openness to Eastern meditation, altered states of consciousness, reincarnation, and channeling. A rejection of organized religion.
1.5 Statistics - It is impossible to know how many New Agers there are. However, there has been a marked increase in New Age-related activities, such as astrology, spiritism, psychic experiences, and interest in Eastern religions. There has also been an explosion of New Age products and bookstores.
1.6 Popular New Age books have been A Course in Miracles, Out on a Limb by Shirley MacLaine, and The Celestine Prophecy.

2. The Impact of the New Age Movement

2.1 Health care - New Agers have been strong proponents of holistic health care, focusing on the whole person and his or her surroundings. They also emphasize energy, not matter. They teach that we can unblock and redirect energy flow in the body as a means of healing through methods such as acupuncture, acupressure, therapeutic touch, and biofeedback.
2.2 Psychology - The human potential movement is a natural outgrowth of the New Age worldview. We are taught that we are our own god, and we can create our own reality. "Empowerment" is the key, through affirmations (positive self-talk) and visualization (mental pictures of what we want to create).
2.3 Ethics - Because all is one, there are no moral wrongs and rights. Everything is relative. We all create our own destiny - even victims of crime. When the acting teacher of Shirley MacLaine's daughter was burned beyond recognition in a head-on collision, MacLaine wondered, "Why did she choose to die that way?" Reincarnation and karma will bring about justice in the end.
2.4 Politics - A One World government is necessary to recognize the oneness of humanity. "Think globally and act locally." Political agenda items include ecological conservation, nuclear disarmament, relieving overpopulation and starvation, transcending the masculine and feminine in society, and redistributing wealth on a global level.
2.5 Education - Many textbooks have removed references to Christianity, but include many New Age ideas including Eastern meditation, Indian spirituality, yoga, chanting, visualization, and values clarification (helping students discover their own values rather than the values of their parents or society).
2.6 Business - Business has embraced the human potential movement, to increase productivity, foster better employee relations, and bring greater sales. Seminars help participants create their own reality and realize their unlimited potential.

3. Factors Giving Rise to the New Age Movement

3.1 Nineteenth-century Transcendentalism - The elevation of intuition over the senses as a means of finding "truth."
3.2 Revival of the Occult - Spiritism, astrology, etc.
3.3 The Inadequacy of Secular Humanism - Secular humanism taught that humanity and human reason were all-sufficient. This human reason did not solve every problem, people craved something more - something divine. The New Age movement met that need.
3.4 The 1960's Counterculture - The 1960's introduced an openness to new options and ideas. It also fostered anti-materialism, utopianism, an ecological outlook, a rejection of traditional morality, and an interest in the occult.
3.5 Influx of Eastern Ideas - The flood of Eastern ideas and practices into North America paved the way for the emergence of New Age beliefs. Hindus and New Agers hold similar views of God, the world, humanity, and salvation.

4. Theology

New Age Belief Christian Belief
Authority The Bible contains hidden or secret meanings - especially the sayings of Jesus. Only some see these secret meanings. The Bible supports the New Age worldview. It teaches that all is one, all is God, and man is God.

Revelation has also come through other religious leaders (Buddha, Krishna, etc.). Revelations continue to be received from disembodied humans, "space brothers" (UFOs), and channelers.

The Bible is to be interpreted literally, allowing for figures of speech. It is not a book of esoteric symbols full of hidden, secondary meanings. Jesus' own teaching was clear and open, not hidden and secret.

Leaders of other world religions did not teach the same truth. Jesus claimed to hold exclusive truth. Channeling is to be rejected by Christians. Departed human beings are not available for contact.

God God is all and all is God. All is one. God is an impersonal Force, or Consciousness, or Energy. The idea that all is God confuses creation with the Creator. Jesus did not teach a pantheistic idea of God. The idea that everything in the world is God can't explain evil. Christians believe God is personal, the Creator and sustainer of the world.
Christ Jesus was a mere human, but he became the Christ. He went as a child to the East to learn from Hindu gurus and holy men. Jesus is an enlightened "way-shower," on par with Buddha, Krishna, and Zoroaster. "Jesus" and "the Christ" are not two distinct persons. Jesus did not go East; he remained in and around Nazareth as he grew up. Jesus was not one of many enlightened masters; he is uniquely and eternally God.
Man Man is God. He therefore has unlimited potential. Man, as God, can create his own reality. Human beings are not God. They do not possess the attributes of God. No human being even comes close to God's greatness and majesty. Instead, we are finite creatures created by God, responsible to our Creator.
Salvation Human beings don't have a sin problem; they simply are unaware of their divinity. They therefore don't need salvation from sin. Therefore, Jesus did not die to provide salvation from sin. Through reincarnation, a person is eventually "reunited" with God. Human beings are not God. The Bible teaches that we have a sin problem and are in need of salvation. The Bible does not teach reincarnation; it teaches we die once, and then face judgment.
End Some believe in a singular "Second Coming" involving an individual named Maitreya, who will take the primary leadership role in the New Age. (Maitreya supposedly presented his credentials before 200 media representatives and world leaders at a conference in London in April 1990). Others believe in a mass "Second Coming" in which there will be a mass incarnation of the cosmic Christ in all humanity. New Agers present contradictory views of the Second Coming. Scripture reaches that the same Jesus who ascended into heaven will come again at the Second Coming.

5. Tips on Witnessing to New Agers

  • Begin your discussion on a topic on which you likely have compatible views, such as ecology, human rights, social justice, or the rejection of humanism.
  • Focus on how the objective, certain historical revelation of Jesus Christ is superior to mystical revelation.
  • Ask them about the problem of evil. If all is one and all is God, then evil and good are one. How can it be said that Hitler's extermination of six million Jews was part of God?
  • The statement that all truth is relative must therefore be relative, i.e. not necessarily true.
  • Focus on the personal God of Christianity, compared to the impersonal New Age God.
  • Point out that human beings are not reincarnated; they live once, die once, and then face judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
  • Show that man's problem is sin and not just an ignorance of divinity.
  • Befriend New Agers. "And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
  • Don't lose your patience or talk down to them.
Bibliography

Groothius, Douglas. Unmasking the New Age. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1986.
Rhodes, Ron. New Age Movement (Zondervan Guide to Cults & Religious Movements). Grand Rapids, Zondervan 1995.

The Grace of Giving

  • what do you do 18 times a minute, 1,080 times an hour, 25,920 times a day, nine and a half million times a year, and yet rarely notice?
  • the answer is: you breathe
  • if you are forty years old, you have already taken more than 375 million breaths
  • and each of these breaths was a measured gift from the hand of God
  • your lungs are one of the most important parts of your body
  • they furnish your blood with oxygen, and get rid of carbon dioxide and water
  • without the gift of oxygen and the gift of your lungs, you couldn't live more than a few minutes
  • if your lungs ever broke down and stopped working, even for a short while, and you had to take them in for repair, you would die
  • instead, your lungs have worked without fail since the moment you let out a cry at your birth
  • the Scriptures say,
  • (Job 12:10) In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
  • in God's hand is the breath of all mankind
  • have you ever thought what dependent creatures we are?
  • our very existence depends upon the grace of God, giving us the next breath we breathe
  • let's hear some more facts
  • the layer of oxygen hugging the surface of the earth is very thin
  • most humans could not survive breathing the space oxygen at 40,000 feet above the earth's surface
  • do you ever realize that only 5 miles of oxygen sustain the planet?
  • if you traveled five miles up from here, you would die
  • the very air we breathe is the gracious gift of God
  • can anyone here doubt that God is a giving God?
  • I want to consider a statement of Jesus against this backdrop
  • it's not recorded in the Gospels, but Paul quoted our Lord Jesus Christ in Acts 20:35
  • (Acts 20:35) In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'
  • the words of Jesus again is that it is more blessed to give than to receive
  • now, we all know it's blessed to receive
  • there's not one of us that this morning would be disappointed if we received a wonderful piece of merchandise
  • I received a free T-shirt the other week
  • I didn't really need another T-shirt, my life has not been transformed by this T-shirt, I don't even spend time thinking about T-shirts, but let me tell you, when I received my free T-shirt the other week, I knew that it is blessed to receive
  • because I went right away and put on that free T-shirt
  • what we forget sometimes is that everything good we receive comes from the hand of God
  • (James 1:17) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights
  • everything in life that we can call "good" comes either directly or indirectly from God
  • you see, God is a giving God, and what God gives is good
  • this morning I'm telling you that your breath, your health, your family, your work, your home, your car, your play, the ability to eat or to rest - everything you have that is good, it all comes from God
  • the late tennis legend Arthur Ashe inspired millions on and off the tennis court
  • Ashe contracted AIDS which he had contracted from a blood transfusion
  • he could have become bitter, asking, "Why me?"
  • listen to what he said:
  • "If I asked, 'Why me?' about my troubles, I would have to ask 'Why me?' about my blessings. Why my winning Wimbledon? Why my marrying a beautiful, gifted woman and having a wonderful child?"
  • you see, Ashe had perspective
  • insurance companies declare a hurricane, flood, or earthquake acts of God
  • but do you want to hear some things that are really acts of God?
  • the birth of a baby is an act of God - one of the greatest miracles, and it's God
  • the love of a parent is an act of God
  • the rainbow after rain, the majesty of a sunset - they're acts of God
  • the beauty of a composition, performed by a symphony - that's an act of God
  • many of you know Dr. George Bell, a pastor and previous president of Central Baptist Seminary
  • Dr. Bell lost his wife Gwen to cancer
  • in the hospital waiting room one day, someone asked him why he wasn't bitter about losing his wife
  • he replied something like this:
  • imagine your neighbor came to your door every day for 30 days and give you $100
  • he insisted that you take it, and wouldn't take no for an answer
  • then, on the 31st day, you watched as the neighbor passed by your house for the first time and gave $100 to the next neighbor
  • would you dare open your door and scream, "You cheat! Where's my $100?"
  • he said, "God gave me Gwen for all this time. And now, on the 31st day in a sense, he's taking her away. I choose to be grateful for the 30 days that I had her, instead of the 31st day that she's been taken away"
  • friends, God is so good
  • 88% of us will reach the age of 50, and some of you have made it already
  • over 70% of us will reach age 70, and some of you have made it there too
  • almost 17% of us will live to age 85 or more - Bill, you can take a bow
  • but most of us will live past age 70
  • just a century ago, do you realize that a 40-year old person was an old person in America?
  • God has been good in the extension of life
  • we should remember that God is a God of abundance
  • (Psalms 65:11) You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.
  • scientists say that one quarter of the ice-free areas of our world can produce enough food for 40 billion people
  • currently we have 6 billion
  • God has so created this world that if we got our acts together, this world could sustain almost 7 times the current population
  • he has made this world a world of goodness and life
  • God is a giving God
  • and God gives grace
  • the word grace in Greek indicates everything about an object or person that is winsome, appealing, and attractive
  • you and I are not deserving of God's grace
  • but God has given it to us anyway
  • and we can receive eternal life and be rescued from the consequences of our sins because of the greatest gift ever given - the gift of God's grace
  • God is good, and God has blessed us
  • repeat after me:
  • God is good
  • God has blessed us
  • now if God is a giver, that makes us receivers
  • life should be received by us as a gift from Him
  • that means we ought to realize we're not here because of random circumstance
  • nor are we the result of our own efforts
  • you didn't begin your own life
  • you didn't choose your family
  • you didn't choose Canada over any other country
  • there are a thousand such providences in your life with which you had nothing to do
  • they were received because they were given by the hand of God
  • and so, we should receive life as a gift from the hand of God
  • every day, in every occasion, and at all costs, we should see the goodness of life as a gift from the hand of God
  • Amen?
  • the greater blessedness belongs, however, to those who do not simply receive, but give
  • the world "blessed" should not be confused with the English word "happiness"
  • happiness depends on circumstances
  • blessedness does not
  • we are blessed as we not only receive, but as we give
  • it is more blessed to give than to receive
  • in the late 19th century, psychiatry had moved from the continent to England, and it was all the rage in London
  • one day a man visited a psychiatrist in London
  • finally, the physician told the man, "You're so depressed, here's what I recommend - go see Grimaldi the clown"
  • Grimaldi was the most famous clown in history
  • the man said, "That's going to be a problem"
  • the doctor said, "Why?"
  • "Because I am Grimaldi the clown"
  • you see, that's the human predicament as it relates to happiness
  • happiness is fleeting and chancy, and it depends on human circumstances
  • the biblical word "blessed" however, reflects what is spoken of in Psalm 1
  • Psalm 1 compares the blessed person to a tree that is planted by rivers of water
  • the plural indicates the abundance of resources available for such a tree
  • in a desert land where life is only sustained by the presence of water, such a tree sustains an abundant life that never runs out of resources
  • that is the nature of blessedness
  • the blessed life is the life with deep roots and stability, secured because of the life's resources
  • in New Testament times, Greeks called Cyprus the "blessed" isle because that island contained everything within its shores to sustain life
  • nothing had to be imported
  • in fact, the island could export to others out of its abundance
  • hence, Cyprus was called the blessed isle
  • to this day, the archbishop of Cyprus is called Makarious, the Greek word for blessed
  • the blessed life is one of abundance
  • there is a fullness of life when you are blessed
  • here is the paradox of truth so characteristic of the Bible
  • become a giving person, and you will be more blessed
  • that is, if you give, you will receive more and more abundance in every area of life that really matters
  • import the full meaning of the biblical word "blessed" into this text
  • the life that has endlessly renewed spiritual resources is the life that gives
  • the life that only takes, grabs, receives, and refuses to give is the life that dries up its very source
  • if you doubt this, only remember the lives of those you remember as being grasping, greedy people
  • then consider the full lives lived by those who give
  • only a little reflection shows the blessedness of the life that gives rather than grabs
  • I'll remind you that the word miserable comes from miser
  • misers are miserable
  • after the 1991 military coup in Haiti, the international community imposed an embargo on the tiny Caribbean nation
  • life for many Haitians became a matter of daily struggle for survival
  • a missionary told of a Christian woman who stood up in a meeting and prayed, "We thank you, Lord, for the embargo. It has taught us to depend more fully on you. And it has given us a greater longing for heaven."
  • this attitude demonstrates a blessedness that goes beyond circumstance
  • a man touring a rural area in the Far East say a boy pulling a crude plow while an old man held the handles and guided it through the rice paddy
  • they visitor commented, "I suppose they are poor"
  • "Yes," said the guide, "when their church was built, they wanted to give something to help, but they had no money. So they sold their only ox. This spring they are pulling the plow themselves"
  • many people would say they're crazy
  • but they don't know the secret of the blessedness of giving
  • it is unlikely that the richest person in the area could even imagine the inner contentment of the two who had given the best they had to the work of God
  • there is a fullness and a peace about the life that so gives to God
  • God has carved into the world around us the clear teaching that it is more blessed to give than to receive
  • the sun is the sun because it gives heat and light
  • that great atomic reaction in the sun means that it is a living star
  • if the sun did not give, it would be a white dwarf - a dead and dark star without light
  • a tree lives because it gives
  • in the process of photosynthesis, the tree breathes in carbon dioxide and gives off oxygen which supports animal and human life
  • the ocean lives because it gives
  • the water of the ocean evaporates and forms clouds
  • these clouds in turn carry the rain to the earth, that forms the rivers which replenish the life of the ocean
  • all of nature lives because it gives
  • Jesus espoused the philosophy, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"
  • we might well ask ourselves, how did this work out in various people's lives?
  • Darwin taught a life of biological evolution with no place for God in the scheme of things
  • he died a miserable man
  • Marx taught a life of dialectical materialism, and likewise died without comfort
  • his philosophy is now discredited
  • Freud taught a worldview of the human mind as conflict and denied the existence of God
  • he died a haunted man
  • today, few psychiatrists follow the teachings of Freud
  • what of Jesus who taught that the blessed life is the life that gives?
  • no one in history was more giving than Jesus Christ
  • he gave up a place in heaven to come to the stable of Bethlehem
  • he gave up the comforts that even a poor man has in order to be a traveling preacher and healer
  • he gave time to teach, heal, and exorcise
  • at the end, all Jesus had left was a seamless robe
  • Jesus even gave that up as the cross fell upon him
  • finally, Jesus gave life itself on that cross for a humanity that did not deserve the life of the Son of God
  • the great validation of Jesus' philosophy of life as giving came on the third day of the Resurrection
  • God intervened and raised up Jesus Christ as a mighty vindication of everything that Jesus did and said
  • included in that is the philosophy of Jesus that it is more blessed to give than to receive
  • there were plenty of takers in Jesus' world
  • the Jewish religious establishment that ran the temple consisted of corrupted religious bagmen, takers of people's money
  • the Roman Empire was history's biggest taker, taking the plunder of the entire western world into its hoarded treasures
  • yet the only reason most of humanity remembers the Jewish leaders as Annas and Caiaphas or the Roman leaders of Augustus and Tiberius is because the shadow of Jesus Christ fell across their lives and times
  • no philosophy of life has ever been vindicated like that of Jesus
  • the same is true of those who followed Jesus
  • every movement in civilization that indicates mercy, care, giving, and nurture finds the Christian faith as its wellspring
  • where did hospitals originate? With the Christian faith
  • where did care for orphans originate? With the Christian faith
  • where did prison reform, women's rights, child labor laws, emancipation, and a thousand other movements that lightened the load of humanity begin? All with the Christian faith
  • civilization would not be around without the Christian faith
  • go to the Hindu world and you see no thrust for the care of others
  • the streets of New Delhi and Calcutta show it clearly
  • go to the Moslem world and you find no great institutions of charity
  • you find only the inflexible fatalism of Islam
  • but visit anywhere the Gospel has gone, and you will find that great people give, and because of that, people live
  • have you really tried the philosophy of life, "It is more blessed to give than to receive?"
  • try it
  • it is the only instance in which God asks people to put him to the test
  • (Malachi 3:10) Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
  • when you make the commitment to give to God, to the work of God, and to the kingdom of God, you have the promise of Jesus that your life will become more blessed as you give
  • you have been given the grace of God in all of life
  • let that grace make you a giver
  • researchers have placed goldfish in tight little bowls
  • for months, they swim in small circles
  • when such fish have been released into a large pond of water, they continue to swim in tight little circles
  • they don't know that the barrier is gone
  • how much we're like that!
  • we move in our own tight little circles of getting, keeping, stowing away, hoarding and clutching
  • in so doing, we miss out on what the grace of God does in our lives
  • let us learn the truth of Jesus' words
  • we have experienced the grace of God
  • but the real blessedness consists in giving

Mormonism - The Latter Day Saints

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:8-9)

1. Key Facts

1.1 Membership - Total world membership is 9 million. Half of these are in the United States. Their growth rate ranges between 250,000 or 300,000 new baptisms annually; 75.3% of these claim a previous Christian affiliation.
1.2 Missionary Activity - Teenagers are required to volunteer two years of missionary service. Over 40,000 missionaries serve in 200 missions around the world. Each missionary baptizes about six people a year. House to house visitation and proselytizing those within Christian denominations is their major thrust.
1.3 Literature - Over three million copies of the Book of Mormon are distributed annually. Periodicals and commercials offer free copies or videos.
1.4 Wealth - With business and land holdings totaling over ten billion dollars, it is second only to the Catholic church in wealth.
1.5 Mormon Temples - Currently, there are fifty temples worldwide with another dozen in the planning stages. Three important functions are performed in the temples: temple endowment ceremonies (to guarantee entrance to heaven), eternal marriages, and baptism for the dead (living Mormons may be baptized on behalf of the dead). Only selected Mormons may enter the temples.
1.6 Practices
1.6.1 Mormons are asked to tithe one-tenth of their income. No offering plate is passed; the local Bishop is responsible for collecting the tithe.
1.6.2 The following items are forbidden: hot drinks, tobacco (except for treating bruises and sick cattle), and alcohol (except for washing the body). Meat should be consumed sparingly. Coffee and tea are rejected, but hot chocolate is permitted.
1.6.3 Mormons promote large families. Devout Mormons hold "Family Home Evening" on Monday evenings, where families are encouraged to participate in activities together.
1.7 Structure - A local congregation of Mormons is called a Branch (usually about 200 members). A Ward is a local congregation of 200 to 800 members. Above Branches and Wards are Stakes (5 to 12 Wards), Areas (a large geographical district), and the Headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1.8 Government - The Prophet holds the highest rank, and along with two counselors form the First Presidency. They are considered the living oracles of God. Under the First Presidency is the Council of the Twelve Apostles, and the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy. Each member of the Quorums is assigned a geographic area.

2. Mormon History

2.1 The Founder - Joseph Smith, Jr., "The Prophet" (1805-44)

2.1.1 Born - Sharon, Vermont. Moved to Palmyra, New York in 1817
2.1.2 Parents - Born to Joseph and Lucy Smith, inactive Protestants. His father was known to spend great time digging for buried treasures, using peep stones and divining rods. His son, Joseph, joined him. He was also known to mint his own money.
2.1.3 Reputation - "There exists no contemporary pro-Mormon statements from reliable and informed sources who knew the Smith family and Joseph intimately." The Smiths were regarded as "destitute of character" and were much persecuted as Mormonism grew.
2.1.4 First Vision - In 1820, he claimed that God the Father materialized and spoke to Smith as he prayed in the woods, telling him that all the churches are wrong and that "all their creeds were an abomination in his sight."
2.1.5 The Golden Plates - Smith claims that an angel named Moroni appeared to him on September 21, 1823. According to Smith, Moroni claimed to be a former inhabitant of America who, shortly before his death, buried some golden plates which recorded the history of the people and the fullness of the gospel. Moroni commissioned Smith to translate the plates from "Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics" to English using special stones called the Urim and Thummim. The following day, Moroni appeared and took Smith to a hill and showed him the plates. He forbade Smith to remove the plates until 1827. On September 22, 1827, Smith dug up the plates along with the Urim and Thummim.
2.1.6 Priesthoods - In two separate visions in 1829, Smith claims that John the Baptist and Peter, James and John appeared to him and a friend and conferred on them the Aaronic and Melchizedekian priesthoods.
2.1.7 The Book of Mormon - Smith translated the Book of Mormon with the help of his seer stone, instead of using the Urim and Thummim. He reportedly sat behind a curtain and read the translated text to various scribes, including his wife. The Book of Mormon was published in March 1830.
2.1.8 Other Writings - Smith began to "translate" the King James Version to a new version without using the Hebrew or Greek manuscripts. Instead, he used "the gift and power of God." He continued to receive 135 direct revelations, and he published them in other books.
2.1.9 Founding of the Mormon Church - The church was founded in 1830 in Fayette, New York. After two name changes, they settled on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1834. Strongholds were established, and Mormons began to be persecuted.
2.1.10 Smith's "Martyrdom" (1844) - Mistrust of Smith and Mormonism multiplied, particularly because of their acceptance of polygamy. When Smith ordered the destruction of an anti-Mormon publication The Nauvoo Expositor, the State of Illinois arrested Smith and his brother. On June 27, 1844, an angry mob stormed the jail. In the gunfight that followed, Joseph Smith was killed.

2.2 The Successor - Brigham Young (1801-77)

2.2.1 In August 1844, Young officially replaced Smith as prophet. Young is held in equal esteem as Smith in the eyes of Mormons.
2.2.2 In 1846, Young announced that the "saints" would abandon Nauvoo, Missouri. He led a brutal trek to the Great Salt Lake Valley. The early Mormons virtually carved an empire out of the barren land. The California gold rush and the opening of the transcontinental railway increased the value of their land..
2.2.3 Young founded the Brigham Young University, and ruled over the Utah Territory until his death in 1877.

3. Theological Beliefs

Mormon Belief Christian Belief
Authority Bible (King James Version), The Book of Mormon (1830), Doctrine and Covenants (1833), and Pearl of Great Price (1851). In addition, the current prophet can give new revelation which can overrule any previous prophet or teaching. The Bible is the very Word of God; the sixty-six books comprising the Old and New Testaments are inspired by the Spirit of God and are therefore wholly without error as originally given by God; and it is our final authority, our only and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice.
God God the Father is an exalted man from another planet like earth. He was begotten of the species of the gods, who existed before him in an infinite series of gods who were once men. He was married, died, and was resurrected to be the god of heaven. He and his goddess wife, Mother God, had millions of spirit-children in heaven. There is one God, who is Creator of all things, holy, eternal, and perfect.
Trinity There are three gods who are perfect in knowledge, power and glory. They have distinct bodies, although the Spirit only has a spirit-body. They are one in purpose, thought, and will. God self-exists in three distinct Persons -the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of whom is to be honored and worshipped.
Christ Jesus was the firstborn of all other spirit-children, including Lucifer, Adam, and humanity. We believe in the absolute and essential deity of Jesus Christ, and that He eternally dwelt in heavenly glory before being born as a man. He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died in the place of sinners to take their punishment for sin, was raised victoriously from the dead, and ascended into heaven. He now intercedes on behalf of Christians and will return triumphantly to the earth again.
Holy Spirit Early Mormons differentiated the Holy Ghost from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a divine influence who bears witness to the truths of Mormonism. The Holy Spirit is truly God and truly a person. His work includes giving new spiritual life to sinners, aiding believers in personal holiness, and comforting those who believe in Jesus Christ.
Man Human beings preexisted as organized intelligences, born of Heavenly Parents. Part of our progression to godhead includes a probationary period on earth. In heaven, a third followed Lucifer, and two thirds followed Jesus. Of those who followed Jesus, one third were less valiant and thus received black skin. Adam transgressed but did not sin. We are not responsible for Adam's sin. The ultimate goal of humanity is to become a perfected god. Man was directly created by God in the likeness of God, and is not a product of evolution. Man through personal disobedience became a fallen creature, incurring physical death and spiritual death. Every part of human nature has been affected by sin, and all are guilty before God.
Salvation Christ only atoned for Adam's sin. Our salvation began with Christ's atonement, but it is completed through human works. Baptism can be applied by proxy to the dead. There are three levels of heaven. Salvation is the free gift of God, neither deserved nor obtained by any work of man, but received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is entirely by the sovereign grace of God through the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ.
Church The original church fell away from the truth after three centuries. Mormonism is the restoration of the true church. It has prophets, apostles, and the seventy, and the authority to act in Christ's name. The local church is a group of baptized believers, who worship God, help and encourage one another, observe the ordinances, and reach out to their community for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, and every church has the right under Him to govern its own affairs. The two offices in a church are pastor and deacon.
End There will be a gathering of Israel and great tribulation for the earth. Jesus Christ will personally return to the earth, where He will set up a millennial reign. The righteous will receive one of the three heavenly kingdoms. Those in hell can gain heaven if they repent and obey Christ. Jesus Christ will personally, gloriously, and visibly return to earth. There will be a day of judgment, when the bodies of both the righteous and unrighteous will be raised. The righteous will eternally exist in a state of joy with the Lord; the unrighteous will eternally and consciously endure punishment.

4. Tips on Witnessing to Mormons

  • Mormons believe that Christian denominations are false. Their goal is to win you.
  • Mormons believe their authority comes from the Mormon priesthood. Anyone who has not received the Mormon temple garments has no authority; therefore, you don't have any authority or ability to teach them.
  • Mormons believe they are "the persecuted church." They expect persecution.
  • Mormons are encouraged to "bear witness:" "I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and died a martyr for the faith, that the Book of Mormon is true, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true restored church, and that there is a living prophet upon the earth today." They will encourage you to pray for this testimony, and to sense "a burning in your bosom" to signify its truth.
  • Mormons reject salvation by grace alone.
  • It is wise to use the King James Version of the Bible, since they respect it. Use the Bible to examine their claims.
  • Define terminology.
  • There is a place for bringing in Mormon history, false prophecies, and obscure doctrines. The goal, though, is not to proclaim the message of the saving grace of Jesus.
  • Sense their openness. Plant the seed, but do not argue. If you sense no openness, consider prayerfully whether to end your conversation.
Selected Bibliography

Martin, Walter R., The Kingdom of the Cults. 5th ed. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985.
Van Gordon, Kurt. Mormonism (Zondervan Guide to Cults & Religious Movements). Grand Rapids, Zondervan 1995.