We saw in the previous chapter that churches and missionaries have searched
throughout the years for the perfect solution to world evangelism. So far,
they have been unsuccessful in their quest. We have never been able to reach
the unevangelized fast enough and effectively enough to be satisfied with
our efforts. Seldom can it be said of these efforts anywhere in the world
that, like Paul and his comrades, we "have turned the world upside
down" (Acts 17:6). In spite of thousands of inspirational speeches
about going into all the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, churches
of Christ have not reached the world in our generation. Exciting rhetoric
and high hopes have given way in some quarters to discouragement and disillusionment.
Some churches and their leaders have given up entirely on the idea that
an evangelized world is a possibility.
DISCIPLING CHURCHES: AN IMPERFECT
It is no wonder, then, that the impressive statistics amassed by discipling
churches in the areas of conversion, retention, contribution for missions,
and church planting have influenced other churches of Christ across the
nation and around the world. We are a people who look for visible results
from our evangelistic efforts. In far too many congregations, there have
not been many visible results in recent years. Consequently, when word spreads
that churches com-
mitted to a certain methodology are experiencing phenomenal numerical growth
and have a plan to reach the whole world in this generation, brethren from
all over the world search to find the reason for their success. In spite
of periods of apathy, in our heart of hearts we are a brotherhood that longs
to grow, that longs to succeed in evangelism, that longs to carry out the
Mood of Cautious Optimism
When word reached us about the growth rate in churches like the Crossroads
Church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida, and the Boston Church of Christ
in Boston, Massachusetts, we were curious. What were they doing right that
so many of the rest of us were doing wrong? How was it that they were growing
dramatically when others of our fellowship were experiencing little or no
growth at all?
We then started hearing criticism. Since it is common to hear unsuccessful
people criticize the successful ones in almost every endeavor, we suspected
that there was a great deal of jealousy and envy in those who were negative
about what the discipling churches were doing. At the same time, however,
we heard very specific stories about some of the methods used by these brethren--stories
that made us think the criticism might have some validity. We therefore
adopted an attitude of "cautious optimism" about this fast-growing
movement within churches of Christ.
As editor of the Christian Chronicle, an international newspaper
of churches of Christ, I found myself facing a difficult question concerning
how to report the results of brethren whose methodology was under heavy
attack. I decided to treat this group as I would our mainline brethren and
report their starting results. In response to some brethren who criticized
for publicizing the efforts of discipling churches, I wrote an editorial
in an attempt to explain why we continued to cover the work of the Boston/Crossroads
churches. In that editorial, I explained that the Christian Chronicle
reports news about the discipling churches because we believe that they
are our brethren and their actions are newsworthy. I then went on to explain
This does not mean that we agree with everything they do. We have
serious questions about what we understand to be their definition of fruit
bearing, the demands they make on their members, their leadership patterns,
their insistence that their way is the way to evangelize,
their tendency to believe that they are the faithful remnant while the rest
of us are deadwood and their studied isolation from the brotherhood at large.
. . . No, we do not approve of everything we hear about the Boston/Crossroads
churches. Mentioning them in our news columns is not endorsement of all
I did not intend for that editorial to be a pro-discipling movement statement.
Rather, I thought it was an article that would point out some genuine concerns
about the movement and, at the same time, would call brethren of good will
in mainline congregations not to rush to judgement and sever relations with
these brethren of suspicious methodology whose visible results seemed so
As the months went by, I discovered more and more brethren both in the United
States and in foreign countries who felt that the editorial had indeed endorsed
the discipling methodology. They regarded the Chronicle and its editor
as pro-Boston/Crossroads. I still do not understand how people arrived at
that conclusion from the editorial. Whether their conclusion was due to
my inability to articulate concerns or to their reading into the editorial
what they wanted to see, I
want to state clearly here and now that I was always "cautiously optimistic"--only
that and nothing more. I was never pro-Boston. There were always deep concerns
that the critics of the movement might be right. I just wanted the brotherhood
to be careful in its judgment and not adopt an attitude toward these zealous
brethren that would preclude the possibility of unity and peace in the body
Cautious Optimism Gives Way to Pessimism
As the months passed after the appearance of that editorial, I became more
and more concerned about the direction being taken by the discipling churches.
Finally, I decided to publish a second editorial that would spell out more
clearly some of my principle fears about the movement. In that editorial,
I outlined three major objections.
First and foremost, the Boston/Crossroads churches take away individual
Christian liberty from their members. They do this by speaking where the
Bible does not speak and binding man made religious laws on people who should
be free in Christ. The leaders of this type of congregation believe that
they have the right to go beyond the Scriptures and create commandments
that members must follow.
If the members protest these human laws, they pay the consequences. They
are shamed, shunned and either forced into line or forced out of the fellowship.
While we also believe in church discipline, we believe that withdrawal of
fellowship must be based exclusively on God's law--not man's. . . .
A second serious error of the Boston/Crossroads movement is its system of
leadership. It is built on authority, power and intimidation. The leaders
(or leader) at the top of the authority pyramid in the local con-
gregation demand submission and obedience from their followers. Each member
has a person who is over him or her in a supervisory position, and each
member is accountable to his or her supervisor/discipler. A doctrine of
submission holds the pyramid together. At the very top of the congregational
pyramid of authority and power, one or two people gain mastery over the
entire congregation. . . .
A third serious error of the Boston/Crossroads movement is that it is inherently
divisive. Personal conversation with one of the leaders of this movement
has convinced me that this divisiveness begins in the heart because these
brethren do not really believe that there are any faithful churches except
the ones in their sphere of influence. They consider themselves to be "the
faithful remnant." The rest of us--regardless of the work we have done,
the results achieved and the years dedicated to the cause of Christ--are
apparently considered unfruitful, lukewarm or dead. The Boston/ Crossroads
leaders have drawn a circle to keep out anyone who has not submitted to
their philosophy and method.
The divisiveness continues when leaders of this movement decide to plant
a church in a new area of the world. They convince some faithful worker
who has been groomed for years to be a church leader, that he is really
wasting his time and talent working among the "lukewarm" or "dead"
churches where he himself was born again. Through heavy doses of guilt and
a steady stream of discouraging words, the Boston/Crossroads movement persuades
church leaders in the United States and abroad to train at one of their
bases like Boston or New York for two years and then sends them out to plant
a church that siphons off members of churches already planted.2
There is an obvious change in tone between the first and the second editorials.
What provoked this move toward pessimism concerning the discipling churches?
Reasons for Change in Attitude
Shortly after the first editorial appeared, I had a lengthy conversation
in May 1986 with a missionary in South America who advocated the discipling
methodology. I advised him that he needed to take great care in dealing
with this group on the mission field because of the long history of church
divisions associated with the implementation of that methodology. His response
was, "Well, I think there may be times when a local church needs to
divide if the church is so dead that it is not growing." This frightened
me because he was talking so casually about what should happen to churches
in which my friends and I had dedicated many years of our lives. We knew
those churches were not perfect, but we did not believe division would cure
spiritual problems. His careless approach to the idea of church division
caused flags to go up in my mind.
Not long after that conversation, I was in Lisbon, Portugal, for an evangelistic
campaign in June 1986. At the time, and I believe this is still true at
the time of this writing, the church in Lisbon was the fastest-growing church
of Christ on the European continent in terms of the number of full-time
workers involved in the effort. We were in the midst of a marvelous campaign
when I found out that one of the team members was considering leaving Lisbon
in order to train in Boston or New York and then come back to establish
a completely new work in Lisbon.
As different ones probed this missionary's desire to leave Lisbon, train
in Boston, and return to establish a new congregation, the story emerged
that church leaders in Boston and New York had contacted him and encouraged
him to take this step. I have since been told by one of the New York leaders
that the missionary first contacted them about training him. I do not know
which story is correct. I do know that a common tactic in the discipling
churches is to criticize any work that is not
theirs and discourage people about the training and work they have done
with mainline churches of Christ. It is no wonder, therefore, that
people who leave the discipling churches often leave the church entirely.
They receive a steady diet of what is wrong with all churches of Christ
except the discipling churches. When they reach a dead end with the discipling
group that is supposed to be so good and effective, they often see no need
to attend a mainline church of Christ that they had been constantly warned
The Lisbon missionary was so discouraged about the highly successful work
in which he was engaged that he was ready to leave his beloved co-worker
by himself and seek the perfect missionary solution in New York. Fortunately,
good brethren warned him against this approach, and he listened to them.
He continues to do outstanding evangelistic work in Lisbon, Portugal.
In the fall of 1986, I learned that there had been a serious division in
one of the congregations in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was the church where the
future New York missionary team had worshipped from May through August of
1986 while doing a language and cultural training internship prior to moving
permanently to Sao Paulo to begin mission work in 1987. I was very worried
about plans of the New York church to send a missionary team into Sao Paulo,
the city where my wife and I had lived with our family for some 16 years.
When we arrived in Sao Paulo in 1961 with 12 other families, there were
two tiny congregations in that city. By 1987, there were 17 or 18 congregations.
I was anxious about the negative effect the New York team would have on
the churches our team had helped establish and train.
When I learned in May of 1986 that one of my missionary friends had agreed
to help the New York group set up their language and cultural classes and
serve as a kind of host to the group, I was relieved. I felt that the missionary
who stepped forward to help out in this way would be extremely careful about
their doctrine and methodology and would unhesitatingly rebuke them if they
got out of line. What happened, however, was that he liked a great deal
of what he saw. According to two key leaders of the Santana congregation,
their members began to feel pressure from the missionary while the New York
group was in its training program. When the New York group returned to the
United States in August of 1986, the two leaders affirm that the missionary
began to utilize an authoritarian approach. The members rebelled and requested
the American missionary, his family, and their followers to leave the congregation
and not come back. In other words, the Brazilian brethren withdrew fellowship
from those believed to be sympathizers of the discipling movement.
That action sent a shock wave through churches of Christ all over Brazil.
While I had expected a division like this to occur at some point because
of the influence of the New York methodology, I never dreamed it would happen
so quickly. This division took place in October of 1986. In fairness to
the missionary who is, and always will be, a beloved brother, I do not believe
he would have accepted the methodology had he witnessed its full cycle.
He was impressed by the early stages of the technique and never had a chance
to see the whole approach in action.
In November of 1986 at the Pan American Lectureship in Mexico City, a group
of us from mainline congregations and from discipling churches met for lunch
and discussion. Those present were Al Baird, elder of the Boston church;
Andy Lindo, a leader of the Boston church; John Bailey, an elder of the
church in Hurst, Texas; Dale Brown, now an elder of the Golf Course Road
church in Midland, Texas; Teston Gilpatrick, a missionary to Sao Paulo,
Brazil; and Howard Norton. Our conversation was good, and it was frank.
We all asked questions of one another, debated critical issues, and, I believe,
left as friends. We continue to be friends and brothers to this day.
I came away from that meeting, however, convinced that the leadership of
the discipling churches was committed to the view that it had the right
to make religious demands on members that God himself had not made. I came
away fully convinced that the leadership did not believe in the restoration
principle of "speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the
Bible is silent." On the contrary, this group believed that it had
the right to speak for God, make rules for its members that God had not
made, and hold members accountable for obeying those human commandments.
As I learned at a later meeting in Boston--in the spring of 1987, a meeting
between our mainline church leaders and four of the discipling movement
leaders--the Boston leaders based their "right" to make religious
rules that God had not made on this premise: "Fathers have the right
to make rules for their children that God did not make, and children who
disobey those rules sin against God just as surely as if God himself had
made the rules. The church is more important than the family, and elders
have the responsibility for leading the church. Elders, therefore, have
the right to bind rules on members that God did not bind. Those who disobey
the elders' rules sin against God just as surely as if God himself had made
Once the full impact of this kind of fallacious logic sank into my mind,
I knew that I was going to have to speak against these precepts and not
In December of 1986, the elders of the Memorial Church of Christ in Houston,
Texas, asked me to fly to Houston and talk with them about the dangers facing
the churches of Christ in Sao Paulo because of the projected New York church
planting there. The Memorial church had invested money and energy during
a time span of some 25 years. They had fully supported Brazilian evangelist
Modesto Pellegrini and me for several of those years. Out of that meeting
came an invitation for Don Vinzant and me to travel to Sao Paulo and warn
the brethren concerning the dangers we believed they would be facing once
the New York missionary team arrived permanently in the city.
I was glad that Memorial wanted both Don and me to make the difficult trip
since he and I, along with our wives, were the ones who started the Sao
Paulo Missionary Team that went to Brazil in 1961. The things we learned
and experienced during that trip to Sao Paulo just after Christmas of 1986
and in the first few days of l987--plus the information we have continued
to glean since our return to the United States--have made it clear to me
that virtually every doubt or fear I ever entertained about the discipling
churches is justified.
The Sao Paulo Experience
Relying on information we had gleaned over many months and in consultation
with brethren in the United States, we decided to divide our Brazil effort
into two parts and deal with the discipling movement head-on. First, we
decided to conduct a seminar for church leaders in Sao Paulo entitled, "A
Study Concerning Our Freedom in Christ." Secondly, we determined to
follow up the seminar presentation by contacting personally as many Brazilian
and American church leaders in Brazil as we could to prepare them for what
we thought they would have to face in the days ahead. The plan worked well.
Invitations went out to church leaders all over Sao
Paulo and to some parts of the Brazilian Interior. All in all, we spent
about 10 hours in serious public study and discussion. The schedule was
8:00 p.m.--"Why We Are Here"--Howard Norton
8:30 p.m.--"A Biblical Study of What Paul Says Concerning Our Freedom
in Christ"- -Don Vinzant
9:15 p.m. --"The New York Church and Christian Liberty"-Howard
10:00 p.m. --Discussion--Don Vinzant
10:00 a.m.--"A Biblical Study of What Paul Says Concerning Our Freedom
in Christ" (2)--Don Vinzant
10:45 a.m. -- "The New York Church and Christian Liberty" (2)--Howard
11:45 a.m.--"Is the New York Church a Cult?"- -Howard Norton
12:15 p.m.--Discussion--Don Vinzant
12:45 p.m. - -"The Future of the Church of Christ in Brazil"--Howard
2:30 p.m. --Discussion and Plans for the Future- -Don Vinzant
We felt that the presentation entitled "Why We Are Here" was very
important for the approximately 75 people who were present on Friday night.
We explained that we were there because we felt an obligation to let Brazilian
Christians know that the New York group that planned to move into Sao Paulo
was not like any other group of American Christians whom we had recommended
to them in the past. Brazilians had always accepted complete strangers whom
we recommended and asked no questions. We explained that we could not conscientiously
recommend this group of people be cause we felt that they used methods that
to Scripture and contrary to the spirit of Brazilian democracy and freedom.
We further explained that groups of this kind were not welcome to practice
their methods on some of our American Christian college campuses, that some
of our very best elderships strongly opposed their approach to the Lord's
work, and that some of our most respected opinion leaders in the church
strongly objected to the extremes that characterized their methods.
We explained that we were present to strengthen those brethren and congregations
who had been so badly shaken by the church problems that had come to a head
in October of 1986 with the disfellowship proceedings of the Santana church.
The division in Santana was the first such happening in a Sao Paulo church
in the 30- year history of churches of Christ in that metropolis. The events
at Santana had also severely affected two or three other churches in the
area. Besides this, the Ninth of July church had almost experienced a division
because certain brethren there had tried to use authoritarian techniques
on members in that congregation--the only church of Christ in Brazil with
elders and deacons.
We explained that we did not want to see another Jim Jones situation in
South America. While we did not believe, nor do we believe, that there is
anyone in the discipling churches with the immediate tendencies of a Jim
Jones in Guyana, we said that we believed that
movements like the one we were discussing could easily degenerate into that
kind of a movement because the effectiveness of the movement required total
submission to those in charge.
We reminded the brethren of the importance of our freedom in Christ. We
know that they were happy to have escaped Catholicism, Pentecostalism, and
Protestantism and the man-made laws under which they had once lived in those
religious systems. We urged them never to let anyone persuade them to go
back into such bondage to man-made rules but rather to be true to the principle
of speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent.
We told them that we wanted our visit to help restore the unity and love
among Sao Paulo brethren that had been there since 1956, that we wanted
to help them develop a plan for confronting this erroneous approach to evangelism,
and that we wanted to urge Sao Paulo churches to become ever more evangelistic
in their local congregations.
Don Vinzant and I divided the seminar itself into two parts. Vinzant taught
material entitled "A Biblical Study of What Paul Says Concerning Our
Freedom in Christ." He dealt especially with teachings on Christian
liberty in Galatians and Colossians. He showed that the binding of
human opinions on Christians, regardless of how noble the goal that such
rules are designed to attain, is patently false from a biblical standpoint.
Showing that Christian liberty is one of our most precious spiritual blessings,
he warned against any movement, inside or outside the church, that seeks
to limit one's liberty in Christ.
Perhaps the greatest contribution Vinzant made, however, was to point out
that authoritarian movements within Christianity are not new. He even suggested
that our discipling brethren might have learned their authoritarian approach
from groups completely outside the Restoration Movement. As he demonstrates
in another part of this book, the charismatic movement was shot through
with authoritarianism for a number of years. Vinzant raised this question
concerning where the leaders of the discipling movement discovered the principles
they now use. These principles, he said, almost always have their parallel
in other authoritarian Christian movements and in the practice of cults.
If power and intimidation are not acceptable methods when we view them in
certain parts of the charismatic movement and in various cults, then power
and intimidation are not acceptable for use in any church of Christ no matter
how noble the goal that we are attempting to reach through the use of such
In my part of the seminar, I listed eight objections to the methodology
of the discipling churches and their leaders. First, discipling methodology
enslaves church members by taking away their freedom to make their
own choices in those areas where the Bible does not speak. Just
as a Roman Catholic bishop does not have the right to make one single religious
rule for members to obey, the leaders in churches of Christ have no right
to make one religious rule and bind it on the members. Their doctrine of
submission to disciplers and other leaders, their doctrine of confessing
sins to the discipler, their pressure on members to use their time and run
their private lives the way the leaders want them to (or suffer the rejection
of "friends"), their unwillingness to baptize believers until
they agree to follow the human directives of the leaders, and their creation
of a kind of perpetual dependency on the leaders of the church all lead
to a frightening loss of freedom in Christ. It is a loss that no Christian
should ever agree to experience.
Second, the methodology of the discipling churches causes division within
the body of Christ. Their doctrine of the "faithful remnant" cannot
but cause division. Although some leaders deny the teaching of this doctrine,
they believe that they are the faithful remnant. Other churches of Christ,
virtually without exception, are either lukewarm or dead. They do not have
God's blessings or they would be growing at the rate acceptable to the leaders
of authoritarian churches. Discipling churches are growing. They therefore
reason that God is blessing them. People in lukewarm or dead churches should
get out of them, move to a discipling church, be discipled by someone there,
and then do an effective work for God. There is no room in discipling churches
for weak members. It is a movement designed to accommodate the drives of
supermen and superwomen. Those whose energy and interest levels do not measure
up to the ever-increasing standards of the leaders must either get with
the program or move out of the way.
Third, the movement exalts leaders to the position of dictators. Leaders
say that they welcome the reasonings of those who disagree with the leadership.
The truth, however, is that those who continue to ask questions because
they continue to disagree are viewed as prideful and of a bad heart. Submission
and loyalty are the currency of the realm. People who ask too many questions
are considered insubordinate, disloyal, and full of human pride. Leaders
must be obeyed. Followers must submit blindly to their direction.
Fourth, the discipling churches have a weak doctrine
of grace. Disciplers take a legalistic approach to spiritual growth. Instead
of merely instilling inspiration and principles of the spiritual life in
members so that they can use them in their own development, Christian growth
becomes a kind of "forced feeding." Disciplers ask questions like,
Did you read your Bible today? Did you talk to someone today about his salvation?
Did you pray today? Why weren't you at the Friday night Bible study? You
say you were sick, but why didn't you rise above it and come anyway? Advice
must be taken. The mood is, "If you don't take my advice, I won't put
up with you anymore."
Guilt is an important part of the methodology. Leaders and disciplers make
the rules, quiz the members to see if they are keeping the man-made ordinances,
criticize them when they do not, view them as prideful sinners, and eventually
shun them if they choose not to submit to the opinions of those in charge.
In the bulletin of the Boston Church of Christ for August 17, 1986, Ed Townsend
had an article with the title "Because You Say So." In this article
he used the example of Peter letting down the nets in the deep water just
because Jesus said so, even though they had worked all night without catching
anything. He argued
that Christians must submit to their disciplers in the same way Peter submitted
to Jesus: totally, unconditionally, without question. Although I did not
have this article at the time of the seminar, it illustrates the kind of
control that leaders expect to exercise over their followers.
Fifth, the discipling churches have a weak doctrine of church growth. Whereas
1 Corinthians 3:6 shows that God is responsible for growth, these brethren
leave the impression that if everyone will just work hard enough with the
correct methodology ministers can make church growth happen. Workers who
are not producing must be doing something wrong, and churches that are not
growing at the rate the leaders determine as the norm are either lukewarm
The truth, however, is that God does not hold us personally responsible
for church growth. He holds us personally responsible for faithfulness to
the task of preaching. Effective evangelism does not always pro duce impressive
results, as Paul's visit to Mars Hill and Christ's teaching in Nazareth
Sixth, discipling churches have a weak doctrine of gifts and ministries.
Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12-14 that we do not all have the same gift.
These brethren, however, attempt to push everyone into the same mold and
force them into situations and types of behavior that quite often do not
fit the talents and personalities of the members. Winning people to Christ,
in the view of many of these brethren, is the only valid test of a worker's
Seventh, discipling churches use a methodology for evangelism and edification
that can be psychologically
damaging. The material in this book by Flavil Yeakley, Jr. goes into great
detail about this particular abuse. Every reader should carefully study
Eighth, discipling churches employ methods that are similar to those used
by harmful cults in American society. Is this movement a cult? I do not
know. I do know from talking to people who have come out of the movement
and to those who have worked closely with people in the movement that the
discipling churches are cult-like and that they do gain a kind of mind control
over the members. The movement has a hypnotic effect on its members. This
kind of control is not normally found in churches of Christ nor in any of
their members' para-church institutions. Any person who is in a discipling
church should read some good articles on how cults function. If he finds
a cluster of cult-like characteristics in the church he attends, he should
remove himself from that congregation and seek the fellowship of a more
balanced church of Christ.
These eight objectives would grow to twelve if I were giving the seminar
today. The other four objectives would be as follows:
- (1) Members who were baptized without a total commitment to submit to
their disciplers are now being re-immersed in significant numbers. Even
respected church leaders among the discipling churches are being re-immersed.
- (2) The Boston church is taking charge of local churches in different
parts of America. It is the "Mother Church" that tells other churches
what to do.
- (3) The authority of the evangelist is growing to the point that the
primary evangelist of the Boston church tells evangelists in other churches
what to do, Some people think he tells the Boston elders what to do, also.
They deny this, however.
- (4) There is a growing tendency for these brethren to use the allegorical
approach in the interpretation of Scripture. With this treatment of the
text, one can make a text mean whatever he wants it to mean.
What To Do?
People on the mission fields of the world, especially in metropolitan areas,
will probably have to deal with the discipling movement sometime in the
near future. What can missionaries do when they realize that a discipling
church planting is going to take place in the city or region where they
work? The answer is not easy, and I do not claim to have the infallible
response to the question. I do, however, have twelve suggestions. Let me
list these and comment briefly on each one.
First, develop a strategy for dealing with these brethren before the matter
becomes an issue where you are. There are now enough good brethren with
experience in facing the problem that there is no reason for any watchman
to be caught by surprise and without adequate information when the authoritarian
Second, remember that these brethren of the discipling churches are reacting
against evangelistic apathy in other churches of Christ. While you cannot
neglect a good defense against their errors, a strong evangelistic work
in your own congregation is one of the most effective ways to stand against
their aggressive tactics.
Third, remember that these men and women are our brethren. We can resist
their false teaching and their dangerous methodology without jumping to
the conclusion that there must be an immediate and permanent rupture in
our relationship with them. I personally like most of these brethren whom
I have met. They are zealous and sincere. I want to learn to be as zealous
for the lost as they are, but I want to teach them the way of the Lord more
perfectly. I want us all to be united in Christ "for we be brethren."
Fourth, keep yourself pure. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, and
we must not approach our struggle with them in a carnal way. If we adopt
the methods of Satan or the methods of sinful man to fight a spiritual battle,
the cause of Christ will suffer untold damage.
Fifth, prepare the brethren in your area before this movement arrives. If
the Sao Paulo seminar and private conversation approach will not work in
your area, find something that will. Do not leave those in your charge without
instruction and warning. No one but you can adequately handle this responsibility.
Sixth, confront the discipling people when they arrive in your area. Tell
them that you consider them brethren but brethren who are dangerous to the
work you are trying to do. Let them know in no uncertain terms that you
will not tolerate any abuse of the people whom God has given you to lead
Seventh, pray that these brethren will not complicate your own immigrant
status with the government where you are living. Those working with visas
in Brazil believe that these documents are becoming harder and harder to
arrange because of some highly questionable methods that they believe were
used by the New York team in order to get into the country over the objection
of local Brazilian church leaders.
Eighth, if you do not want this group to work in your city, write their
elders and plead with them not to come.
This may not resolve anything, but the elders need to know your sentiments
and those of other brethren who have been serving in that city over a period
Ninth, pray that all of us can make enough changes within the will of God
that we can work together in peace. Pray that a spirit of love and unity
may permeate every worker in your city so that people will believe that
God sent Jesus and that He loves us.
Tenth, revitalize your own congregation. If it is lukewarm, if it is dead,
deal with it. Try to correct it. Ask God to give you the strength and wisdom
to turn your work into a dynamic force for good that will bring glory to
the name of Almighty God.
Eleventh, develop a ministry for caring for those who drop out of the discipling
church. I am told by a responsible source that there is a flow of people
leaving the Boston church. Such people need loving, tender care in order
to overcome the scars and bruises that they sustain within the discipling
Twelfth, keep reaching out to these brethren who are caught up in the enthusiasm
and false hope that they have found the perfect missionary solution. Most
of these brethren, I am convinced, want to please and glorify God. In spite
of their dedication, they are on a path that leads to burn-out and spiritual
disillusionment. While we do not approve of their tactics, they are nevertheless
brethren for whom Christ died. Let us always treat them with the same love
and respect that we desire for ourselves.
NOTES FOR CHAPTER 7
1.. "What about News from Boston?" Christian Chronicle,
2. "Second Thoughts on Boston," Christian Chronicle, February
End of Chapter 7