For nearly a year of my life, I was involved in
a Christian cult called the International Churches of Christ (they are
also known as the Boston Movement, ICC, ICoC). This group drained
me spiritually, physically, emotionally and financially.
Since making the tough decision of leaving the
ICC, I have been active in the education of current members and
potential members about this group an its destructive practices. I
do not, nor have I ever "pulled" anyone out of this
group. I only respond when asked to assist.
The background of this group is too extensive to
cover here, and is very well covered on sites like REVEAL,
RESOURCE and TOLC (you can find links to these sites on the bar at the
If you want more details on my thoughts and
feelings on the ICoC as a whole, please visit my ICC FAQ page (link at
I got involved in the ICC in 1995 while living
in Kansas City. I was on America Online and met a man, Scott, in
the Christian Singles chat room. I was disillusioned with Christ
at that time, and Scott's comments about his church seemed almost too
good to be true.
We began emailing, chatting and talking on the
phone. After a few weeks of getting to know him, he seemed very
honest and genuine, so I gave him permission to give my contact
information to one of the leaders of the Kansas City Church of Christ
(Scott is a member of the Atlanta Church of Christ).
I received a phone call from Steve (one of the
leaders of the KC Church) and he invited me to his home to meet him, his
wife, and some sisters in the church. I accepted, as I was new to
KC and didn't know many people. I was eager to get hooked into a
church with people that were my age (I was 18 at the time) and hoped to
make new friends in a healthy atmosphere.
The people I met from the KC Church were
wonderfully happy people. One of the sisters was a musician, one
was into theater and the other lived close to me. We talked about
my family, my current church, religious background. They bombarded
me with love, kindness and invitations to all the upcoming church
events. How I loved to be accepted! These people were
exactly what I was looking for.
The sisters took me out for dinner, where they
opened their Bible's and began to talk with me about how the Bible is
God's standard and that I should take the Bible as the standard of my
life; I had to deny my feelings, my emotions, and base all my decisions
on the Bible. Then they asked me if I wanted to continue to study
the Bible with them. I was invited to attend their church service
on Sunday. I agreed. I wanted nothing more than for God to
be pleased with me... and to make friends.
The ICC boasts that the friends you make in the
church are the best friends you will ever have. I wasn't the most
popular person growing up, and I wanted friends. I bought into
that saying wholehearted.
I began to cut off all my friends outside the
church, I didn't have time for those superficial relationships. My
time was now taken up with the Lord's work! I spent all my time
with the sisters to make sure that I was exhibiting all the outward
signs of being a disciple (the ICC believes that a disciple is what
Jesus called his followers to be, not a Christian; therefore, one had to
show all the outward signs of being a disciple before he/she could
become a member of the ICC).
I told my parents about my church. I told
my old church about my new church. I told strangers at the mall,
grocery store, my apartment complex about my church. I told them
how wonderfully open people were, how my church followed the Biblical
principles of being a Disciple, and how my church was full of doers, not
The sisters I met at my first encounter with the
KC Church studied the Bible with me. They made sure everything I
shared at my studies was verifiable. They asked to see a scar that
I talked about in my studies. I showed them, I wanted to be
They willingly walked me through how to make
Jesus happy, and how not to keep crucifying Him with my actions.
The made it clear that every time I sinned, or even thought of sinning,
it was like spitting at Jesus on the cross. Did I want to do
that? Of course not...
Of the sisters I met the first day, two of them
became my disciplers (a term the ICC uses for mandatory accountability
partners). I was to meet with them every week and discuss my sins,
struggles and personal life. Nothing was private in the ICC.
Not even when you had your period. Being angry, sad, tired, were
all sins. After all, how could God use someone who wasn't
joyful? Clearly, my attitude had to be exemplary at all times, or
I was to let Jesus down.
My So-Called Life
As I said before, all my time was taken up by
the church. Everything I did was to be cleared with my disciplers
first and approved before I did anything. This was to make sure I
was putting the Kingdom (the ICC) of God first. I worked when I
was told, I ate what I was told, I shopped where I was told, I attended
events as I was told. There was very little freedom. I
didn't complain. I knew I needed structure. I truly believed
that the only way I could follow God was the way I was being told.
While I was studying to become a member of the
KC Church, I was told to evict my roommate because I could not live with
those who weren't members of the ICC. My roommate, at that time,
decided to move back home. The ICC found out I had an open room,
so sisters would move in and out of my house. I could afford to
put them up, so I was to give. And give, I did.
A typical day would start at 6:00am and end
somewhere around 2:00am. An hour quiet time, off to work, to a
study, to a service or Bible Talk (Bible Study small group), to another
study and back home. Leaving little or no time to take care of
myself or my household. I would cry some nights. I would ask
God to help me get sleep, if it was His will I do so.
Sin and Consequences
All sins have consequences. God punishes
sin. God hates sin. God loves the sinner.
I became ill with mono during my membership with
the KC Church. I was told it was due to unconfessed and
unconfronted sin in my life. I needed to come clean, and then God
would heal me. My illness was a punishment for my being stubborn
and prideful about my sin.
I was constantly asked if I had struggles with
an eating disorder (as I was overweight while I was in the church, also
a sin), masturbation or deceitfulness. I wasn't having a problem
with any of these issues. I wish that I had been. I wanted
so much to find out what sin was causing my life to fall apart. I
searched, I cried, I prayed, I sought advice. I came to no
My car died later that year. Again, called
punishment of my unconfessed and hidden sin. I couldn't get to
church services and was called uncommitted and lazy. I was told my
heart "was not in the church." To ask for a ride meant
that I was told to confess the sin that caused my car to quit. I
began to confess to things I was not guilty of. I wanted to please
people, not be rebuked.
From the time of my illness to the time I left
the church I was told I was a bad person. I was a terrible sinner
that God hated the actions of. That I was laughing at Jesus on the
cross with my every action. I believed it.
I was told stories of people who left the church
and how they became drug addicts, prostitutes, agents of Satan. To
leave the church was to leave God. I had to break! I had to
become broken before God. No one in the KC Church saw how broken I
became before God. I cried every time I prayed. I was afraid
of God. Did God hate me? Would I go to hell if I left the
church? Could I even come to the decision to leave the church.
I was told one evening by my discipler that I
wasn't cut out to be a disciple. I cried for days.
I went home for Christmas that year. I was
advised not to because it was too long to be away from the church.
I decided to go anyhow. My parents gave me information on the ICC
to try and convince me to leave the church...to leave a cult. I
laughed at my parents. The sisters told me that they would say
that. I knew it was false.
It was strange. No church, no
sisters, no one telling me what I should do. I was incapable of
making my own decisions. I had to call my discipler all the
time. I had to get back to Kansas City. For an entire week I
felt like I was farther away from God than I had ever been.
A Hard Decision to Make
How much longer could I take feeling like I was
evil? Bad? How much longer could I go on living if I were
making God so sad and angry?
If I leave the church I lose my friends, my
life, my identity. The church was who I was. I was not a
Christian or a Disciple, I was whatever my discipler told me to be.
I made the decision to leave the ICC the day
before I left home to go back to KC. I knew God. I knew God
loved me. I knew the ICC. I knew the ICC didn't love
me. Something deep inside made me realize that I was pleasing man
and not God. I had to get out. I had to find out who I
was... I had to be me, not my discipler.
More humbling than ever telling my discipler the
sins of my life was asking my parents to help me get out of a
cult. Admitting that I was a part of something that had ruined my
Ending at the Beginning
I ended my relationship with the ICC the same
way I began - disillusioned. Who was God? Did he care? Am I
going to hell? Should I really believe the Bible?
It's been nearly 4 years since I left the Kansas
City Church of Christ. All of my "real" friends from the
church believe I have left God and left the True Kingdom of
It's been nearly 4 years since I took personal
ownership of my feelings, emotions and decisions - even their consequences.
Blame and Beliefs
Do I blame the church for what happened to
me? Partly. I am responsible for not making an educated
decision on joining the ICC.
However, instead of the ICC and its members
being the open and honest church they claimed to be from the beginning,
they showed all the signs of a thought controlling, destructive
The ICC taught me to lie, to conceal my true
feelings. The ICC taught me to use the banner of Christ to destroy
I firmly believe that the ICC and it's members
(minus those who have just joined the church) know exactly what they are
doing to people's lives. I believe that those in leadership are
there because they have a deep and disturbing need to control others
I have been called bitter and hateful for
sharing my story. Is it bitter to make sure that everyone knows my
experience? Is it any different from those in the church saying
that all former members are evil?
Not at all. All sin is equal, at least
that's what the ICC told me.