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5 Takeaways from the ICOC’s Journey and Lessons from Paul

The following is a blog post based on the research paper by Andy Fleming titled: “Let Each One Be Careful How He Builds

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.

1. The Foundation of Our Faith

The Apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of building the Church’s foundation on Jesus Christ. He warns that our work and what we have built will be tested. As mentioned in 1 Corinthians 3:10b-13, the quality of what we have built will be revealed, much like how fire tests the authenticity of precious metals.

2. The Test of Time

It’s not just cataclysmic events or divine intervention that test the strength and quality of our faith and work. Time itself serves as a formidable tester. Just as a nail rusts when exposed over time, so too can the quality of one’s work be exposed and tested as time passes. The ICOC experienced this “testing fire” over the years, revealing inherent flaws and mistakes. It wasn’t just in 2003 that our fellowship was tested. God was revealing things to us years before the Henry Kriete’s letter.

3. Learning from Past Mistakes

The ICOC’s journey highlights two critical missteps: the oversight of warning signs that were evident as early as 1990 in Boston and the pivot away from the simple principle of “one disciple making another disciple.” While shifting strategies and renaming might have seemed like the easier path, it did not address the core issues. Renaming the Los Angeles congregation the flagship of the movement, for example, didn’t magically fix underlying problems.

In addition to these issues, the Boston leadership in 1990 acknowledged that they had failed to meet the needs of members and that their organizational structure was out of date (see below). They also noted that decision makers had lost contact with the people and the most experienced leaders were only leading other leaders. Furthermore, they made a significant change in 1990 by decommissioning the “house churches” and focusing on “zone meetings” of 150-300 members. They believed that the relational intimacy of a living room could be reproduced in a rented facility, and the discipleship, training, and fellowship possible with a small group of people could be effectively reproduced with 5 to 10 times as many people present. However, this change led to a situation where only full-time ministry staff held key leadership positions, replacing a model where leadership was comprised of equal parts full-time ministry staff and regular members.

4.The Importance of Individual Engagement

One of the downfalls of having overpowering, executive style leadership is the potential complacency it instills in the followers. Instead of proactively seeking ways to serve and make an impact, there’s a tendency to wait for directives. However, the revival and strength of a movement like the ICOC is determined by the active involvement of every member. A discipling movement’s power is in Jesus working through each disciple. Every believer has a role, and none should shy away, waiting for instructions or using others as a benchmark for engagement.

5. Looking Ahead with Wisdom and Support

Taking lessons from the past, it’s essential to prioritize the coming generation. They carry the torch forward, and it’s our duty to equip them not just with wisdom and lessons learned from previous experiences, but with unwavering support in all forms. They too are called to work alongside God, and as Psalm 33:11 reminds us, the plans and purposes of the Lord endure through generations. Therefore, prioritizing God’s kingdom and righteousness, as Matthew 6:33 emphasizes, should remain central.

In conclusion, let’s continue to uphold the foundational teachings of Paul and ensure that, as we forge ahead, we do so with lessons learned, with individual commitment, and with undying support for the next generation, all to God’s glory.

You can read the full research paper, “Let Each One Be Careful How He Buildshere

"Although many disciples were made, we did not do a good job of keeping people faithful. Although many have great relationships, there are too many who do not. We, as leaders, are convinced that after much prayer, reflection and discussion that the problems are twofold: (1) We, as leaders, have failed to meet the needs of members, and (2) The organizational structure is out of date. Except for the general guidelines and principles laid out in the Bible, the specific organizational structure is not sacred."

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