by Chris Lee, Former Member
I guess I had been a church-goer when I was a kid, with fond memories of going to St. Martin's church down the street. My grandmother had been attending a United Church, and my mother had gone to Catholic girls' school and then to the Anglican when she was in England for boarding school, high school, and nursing school. My dad is pretty much atheist, as he had been mistreated by people who called themselves Christians, and his family was pretty much atheists, albeit some were perhaps Buddhist.
Up until I was about 12, I had gone to the local church -- St. Martin's Anglican church; largely for service or for Sunday school. I participated in activities, like church picnics, Sunday school, or service without knowing why. My dad took me aside to have a talk when I turned 12 -- he told me that I had to decide for myself whether I wanted to go to church instead of going because my mother or grandmother took me. I was getting pretty busy with dedicating myself to academics, so I stopped going to church. I always was rebellious, and at the time, my grandmother and mother were the most influential in my life, I became an atheist for a time. I thought also, due to my studies in school, that Science could explain everything, and attempted to scientifically justify all matters.
During this time, I began to see little things like miracles, or some kind of "guardian angel" and other things -- I felt that there were supernatural forces that I nor science could not explain. I accepted that there were gods or a god or something, although I could not attribute this to any religion or belief. I at least was agnostic. At this time, I searched through the different religions, Buddhism, New Age, Hinduism, Islam, Shintoism, and so on - trying to practise the different beliefs. I tried to deny myself pleasure (Buddhism) or tried various crystals or Tarot or prayed to different gods, but nothing really worked. I read through the Qu'ran and various religious texts, and could not apply the "knowledge". I tried practising different things from various religions, attempting to believe in Karma or reincarnation or other "spiritual premises", but they did not have a life-changing consequence. I could not change my nature, I could not see the power in these religions.
I finally got back to Christianity around the summer of '88, during Music Camp, and started trying some of the promises. I would ask God if he would show me signs, if God would guide my way, if He would answer prayers and guide my reading of the Bible. This worked! I was amazed and agreed that Christianity was my faith. I also saw that Christianity was practical and real, and that it was a living religion. I still only read my Bible and prayed from time to time - I didn't have the courage to challenge my father so that I could go to church.
Also at this time, as a result of my lack of understanding of God, and of grace, I had an extreme fear of God. Partially, in retrospect, it was also an acknowledgement of my own sinfulness. (Revealed through the Old and New Testament, and also knowing myself.) Every time I stepped into a church or cathedral, I quickly prayed a fervent prayer, as an unworthy soul, a sinner, that God would not strike me down.
However, my best friend in (Handsworth) high school, Vernon Chang, was a very devout person, a believer, a Christian, and quite religious. When we became good friends, I entrusted a lot to him, a lot of my secrets, my pains and sorrows, my happiness and dreams. He was one of the few people who really inspired me to get into MIT and become an engineer, an Aerospace Engineer. Actually, he has given me many dreams with his passions and his interests. Vern started by asking me to attend "youth group" (or youth fellowship activities) at first. As I became more interested and more curious, Vern answered my questions, about things like the Trinity and the role of the church. Vern invited me to his church, the Rockland Pentecostal Church, and I went - this would be the last trimester in my senior year - the 1989-1990 year. (Vern was also slightly influential about my musical likings in Petra, the Christian Rock group, as I saw a lot of their videos at the end of high school.)
I came to MIT and had very little interest in religion or church, as I was particularly into secular humanism (i.e., my own achievements and efforts) and probably more than a little preoccupied with being "successful." I did see the large number of denominations and was wondering how all those arose, as the matter overwhelmed me and confused me a little. I researched this somewhat, and also somehow reached the conclusion that the standard by which all men would be judged, and thus, the truth, was the Word of God, the Bible. This was further augmented by a Bible seminar to which I, Vern, and our mothers went, "The Institute on Basic Life Principles" - and it was exciting to see that the Bible was indeed the Word of God, that it was infallible, and in how many ways it could be applied! This and my basically Anglican background laid the foundation for my belief in God and His Word.
However, my "commitment" (or lack thereof) to Christ was very short-lived, I still wanted to be successful, to do my own thing. I put God "back into a box" and returned to my secular humanism. I returned back to MIT for my sophomore year, and tried my best to be successful: to have straight-A's (which I received), to be involved in many sports (including football, soccer, fencing, and was captain for Ice Hockey, Intramural B-League), to be involved in many activities (including The Tech as Production Staff and Article Staff and MIT Symphony and a number of orchestras, and even being the founder for a club and being elected to president. I was definitely an image of success, but it didn't make me a better person.
Inwardly, I knew Christianity to be the "right and best" life. But I was resisting, I wanted to come to God on my own terms and on my own turf; I wanted to get my life settled, I wanted to have more time, maybe after college, maybe after I was happy. It was not convenient to follow Christ, nor did I strongly want to follow Him. It's funny how God sometimes does that -- following Him often is not convenient.
Unfortunately, I was still empty, lonely, and somewhat unhappy -- unfulfilled. Even being at the pinacle of my success. I definitely had a lot of "issues", mostly through being who I was: prideful, arrogant, elitist, deceitful, uncaring, unsympathetic, spiteful, hateful. I could not care any less about anyone else, as long as I got to where I needed to be. I would step on people deliberately to get ahead. I carried a lot of negative emotions in my heart. I was doing a lot of thinking about "What is the answer to happiness?" After an all-nighter for a Unified problem set, I remember praying that night (6am, Nov. 4th, 1991) that God would show me the answers to happiness, that I was willing to do things His way, and that He would guide me to a group that was trying to follow the Bible and would teach me how to follow the Bible. On Tuesday Nov. 5th, 1991, a friend from freshman year who had recently become a member of the Boston Church of Christ, Mark Rawizza (baptized Oct. 27th) asked me to join a couple of his friends on Friday Nov. 8th for dinner and a movie. Not having anything else to do that night, I decided to go.
On Nov. 8th, I went to Ashdown House (where they were cooking) at 6:00 (the expected time) and saw nobody, so I went back to my room, thinking of what I was going to do. At 6:30, Mark called, and asked if I was coming, and invited me over. I was struck that they were so patient that they waited for me before they started. Also, another thing that struck me was that Howard Loree (at that time, MIT's leader) asked me to join in the saying of grace... that showed conviction and it struck me that all three guys (the third being Gregg Adams, another member of the Symphony) were at least believers. I didn't know to say "Amen!" but I said "That's great!" We watched Dances with Wolves, a story about a man who found himself by going to the frontier, and afterward, they asked me if I ever searched or looked for myself or the meaning of life. We somehow got talking about Christianity, and I was really impressed by Mark's depth of convictions, and that he was really changed: I remember him from freshman year as the biggest complainer and very cynical, but he was basically "on fire"! They asked me to study the Bible, and I responded with a "YES!" and we set the date for the next day.
Saturday November 9th, 1991
Lobdell Food Court, MIT
Members present: Howard Loree, Gregg Adams, Mark Rawizza
We started with Discipleship, Saturday November 9th, at noon, after skipping the study from Jeremiah (29:11-14) -- they felt that I believed in the God of the Bible. I encountered my first problem, which was they they were using a very different definition for the word "Christian" than I was used to. (Mind you, the definition that I was using was not Biblical, but very worldly; I believed that a "Christian" was anyone who believed in God, Jesus, and the Trinity, and of course, the Bible.) I had a bit of time undoing this definition, but in the end, I agreed with them, that a disciple is a Biblical Christian. I knew this in my heart to be true, but had thought that "disciples" were more like "super Christians." They also defined a disciple as one who "is/was a fisher of men", which I also knew that I "should be doing, but wasn't", and it certainly convicted me. (It should be noted now, that I still agree that we should be "fishers of men", but that it is NOT the only criteria for being a disciple. A disciple, mathetes is a follower or student of Christ. That is all.)
In retrospect, looking back on this time, it was the first moments I truly wanted to follow God wholly and completely. I was ready to follow God.
Sunday November 10th, 1991
Fuddrucker's Restaurant, Boston, near Arlington T Stop
Members present: Howard Loree, Gregg Adams, Mark Rawizza, and one other
As I went to church with my "new found friends", and enjoyed it a lot, we only studied briefly the Word of God study, which I totally agreed with. At that time, it was fascinating to see how applicable and practical the Scriptures were, and I was delighted to study the Bible and learn more from my friends.
Monday November 11th, 1991
Lobdell Food Court, MIT
Members Present: Gregg Adams, Mark Rawizza, Rob Kim, Howard Loree
A rather confusing study; my friends Greg, Howard, and Mark, and a new person, Rob Kim, tried to show me that the Kingdom promised in the Old Testament had come, and that the prophecies had been fulfilled. That the King, Jesus, was not a mighty warrior king that the Jews were hoping for, but a spiritual king, a king of peace.
Interestingly enough, Rob and his wife, Ann-Marie, both left the ICC about 3 years ago over the issue of Indianapolis. Rob graduated in December 1992 (Mechanical Engineering) and married Ann-Marie, and then moved back to Minnesota to work, first at 3M. They were told not to talk to anyone from Indianapolis regarding the issue of the massive exodus during late Spring 1994. In the summer of 1994, his wife got word of Indianapolis, and was troubled. Rob and Ann-Marie drove to Indianapolis and talked to people there, including the leaders, and also the lead evangelist and his wife, Ed and Bobbi Powers. They came back to Minneapolis with this story, and the lead evangelist told him to stop the story he (Rob) was spreading. Rob questioned why, and the lead evangelist said "because [the lead evangelist] said so." Rob disagreed, and chose to leave the ICC at this time (in his words "We will not be going here anymore.", and was marked. Rob and his wife are doing great now, and are still attending church. Rob has finished his Master's in Mechanical Engineering and is looking at M.B.A. programs.
Tuesday November 12th, 1991
Rob started to take over my studies. We studied with Howard and Mark regarding persecution, that I would receive some persecutions. They were not specific about anything. Little did I realize the impact of this topic.
Wednesday November 13th, 1991
As I did not see lying as a grievious sin, my friends put together a study on deception (mostly from Revelation 20, Galatians 5, and other Scriptures) and about Sin to address this issue. This was probably "my most serious sin."
Thursday November 14th, and Friday November 15th, 1991
I was reminder as from earlier this week that not only did soldiers die for my freedom, but also our Lord Jesus Christ also fought for my freedom, freedom from sin. This study focused primarily on my sinful nature, and I was thoroughly convicted by the Scriptures about my sin. I was asked to construct a sin list, of all the sins and specific circumstances of sin. Most (or all) of this would be considered "minor sins", as probably the worst things I had done (according to them) was lie, hate people, be arrogant and elitist. They did see the sin list, but I got to keep that sin list. I eventually destroyed it later. This study was a two-part study, as the first day, we did Sin / Darkness, and the next day Light / Repentance.
Saturday November 16th, 1991
I was shown that baptism was the only way to redeem myself of the sin, to be forgiven of the sin that I had. I agreed with them, and saw that my infant baptism was only a splashing, that I needed to have faith to be properly baptized. I was not totally "sold out" yet, not really urgently trying to get baptized, as my thinking was that they would do so "in the right time."
Sunday November 17th, 1991
Church was again very uplifting. I also studied about all the denominations in the world, and about the "One True Church." I was asked when I would like to be baptized and I shrugged. As I was not really urgent, I was shown Revelations 3, regarding the Laodicean church. I was asked whether I'd go to Heaven or Hell if I died. I thought that God would appreciate a good heart, and that I was trying. It was not good enough for them, and they asked if I was right or wrong with God. I, of course, saw that I was wrong, and they told me to go pray about it for the rest of the day.
Monday November 18th, 1991
I studied these last few studies to prepare me for baptism, and ended the day with me getting baptized at 10:30pm. It was the greatest feeling of getting rid of so much excess baggage of sin, of attitudes, of ungodliness that I had ever felt, and I thought I understood my true purpose in life.
I have thought about this a lot, and have been asked by others, so I will state it here. This baptism, I consider it my true baptism still, since I did commit my life to Jesus as my Lord and Savior at this time. I genuinely did think that was I what doing and do not question it.
This brought in a period of doubt and trial due to "persecution": some of my friends from the MIT United Christian Fellowship (UCF) (whom I'm thankful for their friendship -- for they hung in for me, and I am still friends with some of them now) learned of my involvement with the church, and decided to go all out to inform me about the destructive qualities of the church.
Over the next seven months, I received about 7 inches thick of materials about cults, about the Boston Church of Christ and the Boston Movement, photocopies of articles about the church and its affiliates, books, articles about cults in general, and whatever else... and it was a time that really tried me. I really wanted to believe all people for what they said, and I basically had a cycle of 3-4 weeks of being totally convinced about being in the Boston Church of Christ and then being totally doubting (not attending any church activities and withdrawing into searching for God by myself).
I thought it was a good thing at the time, was that I totally resolved these things for myself, not allowing anyone to interfere or tell me what to think, and this had been a building block for me. It still is. And the only thing that sustained my search and to try to find the real truth behind all the lies and half-truths (which I had thought at the time) is that I really wanted to find the face of God for myself. (I had thought that I had really been involved with something good, something great, and that the persecution and the accusations were false because I had never seen them.) I really desired to follow God, not some religion or some church.
It took really studying out (with topical studies or studying with an Exhaustive Concordance on various words) every single topic, like Discipleship, Discipling, Evangelism, the Bible as the Word of God, etc., but it gave me rock-solid convictions about these issues and about persecution -- that people, no matter how much they believe that what they're doing is right, will make mistakes. Only God is totally perfect, so we should only listen to God. And also that I would never let a brother or sister fall away if I could personally help it. God really refined my character with persecution so that I could now stand firm in my convictions and also grow as a disciple. However, I realized later that there were many areas such as Authority, and so on that I hadn't studied.
One very good thing was that in doing all these things, I enjoyed very much being and becoming a student of the Bible. Of course, one of my weaknesses is that I can certainly know a lot about God, but not really know God. I also bought a Concordance and learned how to use it and used it thoroughly.
After resolving those issues, I also felt that I had never seen anything like the events and situations that happened in the articles (although little did I realize that if they happened, nobody was ever going to tell me about them) -- so I made a bad decision. Because I never saw any of this happen, I decided to ignore this material. I also resolved that, since didn't happen now, it didn't matter. I and Jude Federspiel (who was my new discipler, now that Mark had gone home for the summer) and some of the other brothers (including Howard Loree) started studying with my friend from freshman year, and my Rush roommate, who I'll call Bob. He was baptized July 31st, 1992 -- and fortunately, has also left the church. (We have great discussions about the church even to this day, but he is rather traumatized, having been greatly hurt by his experience -- and I understand. We don't talk about it very much any more.)
Around this time, since growth in the Boston Church of Christ was sluggish, and contribution wasn't increasing, leadership cracked down on "the apparent sin in the camp." From the eldership on down (i.e., below the lead evangelist), many leaders apologized for their "sin" in front of the church, especially of "lukewarmness" and "settling for mediocrity". A process of "disciple talks" were instigated to evaluate if people were hard-lined enough to still be members. Some members were told that if they did not want to remain in this congregation, that they were free to move to a less hard-lined congregation such as New York City or Chicago or some other ICC congregation.
I had my "disciple talk" (to examine my heart, whether I was a disciple) with Dean Farmer (now leading Berlin), Randy McKean (the brother of Kip; also he leads the New England-Boston-Europe World Sector), and Jude Federspiel. Essentially, the three of them counted the cost with me, and discussed any performance flaws and apparent "sins" and asked me to confess my sins, and I confessed what I thought was my most important (and most major) sin: that I had doubted, and was confused about the issue about the "bad reputation" that the Boston Church of Christ had, and that it had confused me, but since I did not see them, they must have been fixed or something. And I told them that I was gung-ho for the BCC.
Dean Farmer didn't like how I had missed a lot of midweek services, which I explained with being involved with a Chamber Orchestra (half-true). I passed with flying colors, and it was found that I was worthy to be a disciple and that Randy also deemed that I should be an Assistant Leader. I was told that I should have gotten more advice about going to Chamber Orchestra, but I told them that I would no longer be going, since I found midweek to be more important. Since I was deemed "sold out" for the BCC and that I had just shown my loyalty by converting Bob, I also started attending Bible Talk Leadership meetings.
Through the summer, as Howard foresaw that he was leaving, Howard started grooming me to be the next MIT House Church leader. I started taking on responsibilities like organizing ushers for the Boston Garden Sundays, preparing for communion and money counting, actually doing money counting for both Boston Garden Sundays and midweek. I still actually have a list of people from which I was supposed to call for ushers.
During the Leadership meetings, we were given a lot of information, told to us that "we were entrusted with this information, and this information is not told to the average member, but that we demonstrated that we were trustworthy." A number of unethical practices were taught, including divulging the sins of members (a.k.a. "sin lists"; although no paper was passed around, we did discuss the various states of members, as we rationalized that "we were doing this in their best interests"), and we were taught to manipulate people (in studies, as leaders, to members, to non-members).
I also had the opportunity to count money, up until I was thrown out of leadership, and also saw Randy McKean's paycheck one day (a bi-weekly check for $2000 after taxes or so), and also his and Kaye's contribution (weekly $160). I would go on the record saying that Randy himself grossed about $80-84K in 1992, and about $90K in 1993, from the Boston Church of Christ alone.
I went home briefly at the end of June, 1992 to see my brother graduate from high school. I hooked up with the Vancouver Church of Christ briefly and was thoroughly shocked; people treated me as if I were a god because I was from Boston. Everyone wanted to talk to me and pray with me and learn from me. Even the leaders wanted me to talk to the group during midweek. I sort of felt good, but was rather surprising.
There are some definitely good things that came out of my experience with the Boston Church of Christ. Definitely, I took Christianity with seriousness, and still do; I think that we should take God seriously and not just trivially. I learned to use the name "Christian" respectfully and biblically. As mentioned before, I got rid of a huge amount of sin in my life. Some brief descriptions of things I was "discipled" on:
Another good thing that happened was that over the summer, my Bible Talk started working at a food kitchen for the homeless. This was in Central Square, and we participated as the summer crew for 2 months, and it was a blast. We did Tuesday nights, and the Harvard Bible Talk did Thursday nights (as we had our Bible Talk on Thursday nights and the Harvard Bible Talk had theirs on Tuesday nights). I learned a lot about compassion and kindness, and it really blew my mind how low these peoples' self-esteem were. I was really tough, as we tried talking with some of the people conversationally, and they treated us like "superhumans" and not like "regular people". Maybe they really thought they were sub-humans, and thus weren't regular people.
Through the next couple of months, my discipler was changed to Dean Farmer, and since Dean was really busy, and Jim Ryan, my Bible Talk Leader at that time was also busy, I was asked to be a co-leader with Jim. In this time, I learned to be relatable and lead. I learned how to have emotions and to display them. (One of my nicknames at the beginning of my time in the Boston Church of Christ was "Spock".) I was given a study by some of the grads, a freshman who'd been talking to them since Interphase, Aaron Cárdenas, who got baptized Sept. 27th, 1992.
As a leader, I tried to function as a servant, I knew that I was fallible and always prayed to God that God would lead me to the right thing. It was a trying time, but I know that I did a lot of things that would be considered unorthodox by the BCC. (For example, I stopped myself short when I caught myself falling into one of their techniques, which I saw was ungodly: leading a group of people, everyone wanted to do something different. I wanted to yell, "Hey guys, I'm the leader here, follow ME!" However, I stopped short and started examining my own attitudes and was shocked that such a thing would come to mind!)
Towards the end of Dec. 1992, I was co-leading a Bible talk, as the leader, Jim, was getting very busy with his thesis and trying to complete his time at MIT. I also attempted to build up my Bible Talk in terms of faith, in terms of unity. Aaron also baptized a new guy, Michael Metzger (once an atheist) at this time.
I went home for Christmas 1992 and met with the Vancouver Church of Christ again, and everyone respected me thoroughly, as a leader and also as an MIT student. The latter was largely a result of coming into a Trivial Pursuit game about 35 minutes late and taking my team from "no slices of pie" to victory. (Needless to say, MIT students are rather good at Trivial Pursuit.) I was given opportunities to talk for short segments, which I did.
There were some events back even then which made me realize some time later (reflecting upon these events) that I was starting to gain a "Spiritual perfectionistic" mindset, which is to say, that the ICC was teaching me that I had to be perfect in all ways, that I could not blunder or sin. I had to be absolutely sinless and would feel extremely guilty if I wasn't. My outward walk had to be extremely perfect and clear to all. I know now that I will screw up and fall on my face; I need to get up and not worry about what other people feel about me. I know now that it's not not making mistakes that makes me a Christian, but how I deal with my mistakes.
During IAP (January) 1993 as the leader, I gathered my Bible Talk together to discuss some of the issues on my head. Just regarding relationships -- I saw a lot of problems and trouble issues. I discussed the possibilities with some of the men and women in the Bible Talk, just in fellowship, to see what they saw and if they saw any of the problems. Indeed they did, so I asked them about the possibility of having a discussion group about these problems and not just fixes, but possibly solutions and implementations. I received a very warm reception at this, and they agreed, and so, the men in my Bible Talk and I sat together for about two hours and discussed the problems and the issues, and resolutions and possible things that would help us. A paper, On Relationships, was drafted.
It was followed for all of 3 weeks, and things started falling apart. After 2 months, we went back to being disunited. Didn't we have a talk a while back? Disunited, men and women being separated, and absolutely very little sense of friendship. I sensed a strong sense of wanting to help others follow Christ, loving non-Christians a lot -- but there was no brotherly love, no philia, no godly or unconditional love agape in the group for each other. Why? Too much on our minds, my prognosis. We were being directed by a stronger force to do otherwise -- to focus on visitors too much, to ignore the needs in the Body.
A series of events lead up to more of an awareness about an "overfocus on evangelism." I had been feeling that I would like to form a band from the MIT-Harvard-Tufts Campus Sector, and Bob, another guy who I'll call Cal, Michelle Moody, and others had wanted to put together one. However, with all kinds of events for evangelism and meetings, it utterly and miserably failed. Although many people were excited to form a band (and were very musically talented), all but one or two lacked the time and commitment to concentrate on the band, and usually blamed it on their "schedule" (otherwise known as the excessive events that we had to do related to 'church'.) Many people just could not spare the extra amount of time for rehearsal.
I had been conversing with members of various Christian Fellowships on campus (a bit of a no-no for BCC members). Primarily because of Bob and my efforts, in convincing them that we thought there were Christians outside of our church (which I honestly did feel that way), and because we were willing to dialog with them, I was able to negotiate a three-on-three meeting between leaders of the BCC and leaders of the Christian Fellowships at MIT (specifically the United Christian Residence/Orientation Effort for incoming students). We were represented by myself, Jim Ryan, and Aaron Cárdenas. The MIT Christian Fellowships were represented by Elliot Hui, Jim Derksen, and Eric Ding.
I (somehow miraculously) got a really sore throat and did no talking. (Praise God!) Jim Ryan did most of the talking for our group. The first hour was spent debating doctrine, in which there were a lot of disagreements between our faction and theirs, seemingly just accepted as "opinion". Jim Ryan had some distinct differences in beliefs (even between myself and himself), as he stuck to the "official party-line" (official ICC stance). I had a sore throat, so was unable to vocalize anything. Jim Derksen largely took notes, and Elliot and Eric were mostly were doing the talking for the MIT Christian Community.
Then we got into the issue of whether Jim Ryan thought the others were Christians. This got into a lot of semantics and legalism, and Jim Ryan, in the end, said they weren't (largely because one was not baptized as an adult, and the other two didn't have the proper understanding as according to the ICC before they were baptized), even though they might have the right outward actions and the right heard. We canned the talk shortly afterward, my attempt at reconciliation failed.
In a good way, the BCC was and has never been recognized, nor since, and the MIT Christian Community has always been supportive of my actions and has helped me in telling people about the negative things of the BCC. Not to be too boastful, the MIT Christian Community has also recognized my attempt and efforts, and we have been on very good terms, even after I left the BCC.
As I stayed with the BCC longer, and also gained respect and rank as a leader, I saw that these problems were quite wide-spread, and wrote an 11-page, 8-point paper, which I termed Letter of Change. It addressed eight major concerns that I saw:
I had my Bible Talk and members of my sector (Harvard-MIT-Tufts), which I had started to 'co-lead' with Jim Ryan and Scott Sweeney, and got feedback from a number of people, and incorporated it into my paper. (Randy McKean and Dean Farmer were attempting to plant the Berlin Church of Christ at this time, so we were left to coordinate the Metro Campus Sector and coordinate with the Arts and Media ministry.) I wanted to get suggestions and comments, as well as a reality check, not to mention proof-reading and critique of my paper. I still have had people like Bob and other people like Cal and one other guy complement me and who still have copies of this paper.
I also remember having talked to Andrea Moormans (née Kazal) and how she felt the same way about a lot of these issues. Many of the other members did not feel that "they were spiritual enough, old enough, or had enough authority" to bring up these concerns, even though many of them agreed with me.
I finally handed in the paper, which had taken about 150 hours of prayer, meditation, thinking, studying (especially Scriptures), conversations, and writing to the leadership. However, the leadership of the church, including Jim Ryan and Scott, did not take this paper very well. Scott just ignored it and didn't read it; Jim thought that I wasn't spiritual enough to present it, and thought that I was making an attack on the church. The leadership (namely Brian Homet, acting in Randy's stead) stripped me of my rank, my leadership status, reducing me to a disciple, immediately following my giving them this paper.
My discipler took me out to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, with very little alternatives (not having the ability to get home on my own). I was stuck. Then they said that I had been causing factions and being divisive. I was prideful, rebellious, and sinful. They said that I needed to be just a good disciple and understand the basics, and be fruitful, as well as do better in my school work (which hadn't been a concern for anyone until now). Most disciples heard of the latter excuse, but only a handful knew of the former.
This event made me somewhat disillusioned about the church: I felt that the leadership hadn't treated this matter in a godly fashion. I felt that godly men would have at least tried to glean the good out of it. I felt strongly about this issue, but it faded, clouded over by my own guilt of failing my academics, being stripped of the leadership priviledges. I seriously thought about leaving the church one more time, and discussed it with Aaron. He really couldn't see why I would want to leave the church, and I convinced myself that this was the right thing to do and soon forgot it.
This happened right before the Fall term of '93. I decided to commit myself wholeheartedly to academics, knowing the if I failed any more classes, I would have to take time off from MIT. I also decided that I should still try to serve others (i.e., a leader is a servant), even though I was not officially designated a leader. I took advantage of the fact that Mike Metzger, and two new recruits, William DeShazer and Robert LaChance (now the Boston Teen Leader, as of June 1997), were living at my dormitory. We got together for prayer and quiet times a few times a week. I talked to some of the leaders in regards to my work, that it involved a thesis, and that would require a lot of hours of work, especially in the afternoons and evenings. I was just given, "You have to do what you have to do."
Through the term, up until midterms, things were going okay. I attended all of the meetings of the Body, and stayed pretty 'faithful'. As soon as I had to do the testing phase of my thesis, I started becoming more and more discouraged. I asked some of the brothers and sisters (notably my discipler Jim, my friends Jude, Mark, Lisa, and Bob, and my prayer group Will, Mike, and Rob) to drop in, say hi, chat for a couple minutes because I was doing testing for about 8-10 hours a day. Every spare moment for a week and a half was spent testing, and this was mostly by myself. Alas, nobody came to visit. Not a soul.
As well, the testing caused me to be late for events, such as Bible Talk or Midweek, and even I would miss Fridays from time to time from fatigue. (MIT is not such an easy school, and prior to joining the church, I used to go to sleep around 7pm on Friday evenings.) Or I would be doing so much that I'd lose all energy over the weekend, and this would have bad repercussions on Sunday morning, like being late, and once missing it because I was physically exhausted and burnt out, as well as that week, suffering from pneumonia.
I started missing a lot of events as the term wore on -- largely due to failing physical health. I couldn't attend the Bible Jubilee by the teacher, Gordon Ferguson, Love One Another. It was really tough - I needed the whole Saturday, as my thesis was due that week on Tuesday. I went through all the motions: bought my train ticket (as it was out in Lowell), purchased the book ($5) ... and told people about my thesis. I asked for advice. But yet, they did not understand. They insisted that I should be out there. I was given the ultimatum, "What is more important, your academics, or your salvation?" I just couldn't afford the time, so I skipped it. My rationalization was that I had been up until 1am the following night at the Devotional, and was expected to get up before 6am, catch a 6:45am subway train to get to a 7:30am commuter train to get up to Lowell by 8:50am and get there before 9, and then get back around 8pm-9pm (the earliest). This was just a bit ridiculous, and would cause me to fail my thesis. (as mentioned before, I was given, "What's more important, your salvation or your academics?") As well, I was late to various events because of working on my thesis or research, and obviously, my heart wasn't in making "all the meetings" or even "being present".
I missed or was late to enough events that after Christmas break, Jim took me aside with a number of the other leaders and told me that he and Brian felt that my name should not be on the membership roll, because I had not been attending a lot of the events, and so they made it optional for me to come to events. They said that when I felt motivated, that I should come. I continued being late to Wednesday and Friday nights and occasionally a Sunday morning (largely due to diagnosed physical exhaustion and clinical depression), so Jude and Sajjan (two assistant Bible Talk leaders) took me aside and told me to take some time off from the Body, that I should not come to any events, and think about my motivation and regain my perspective.
I will ironically note here that Jim Ryan has since left the ICC. He was named to be the first lead evangelist for the Athens, Greece church -- yet, upon arriving in Athens, and trying to proclaim the teachings of the ICC, he was shown the Greek New Testament (the original language of the New Testament), and shown that the ICC's teachings are just plain wrong in many places. While trying to show his leader, Randy McKean, that they were falsely teaching, he was fired, recalled back to America, and later left the church. We have since patched up our relationship, and he says that it is very obvious that there is financial corruption.
At first, I challenged what they said, but other leaders came forward to talk to me and told me that there were other reasons -- that I had been an example, role model, and star in the group, and that I was looked up to ... and that they could not have someone "in sin" as I was that was in a position of being "looked up to". To be concise, they said that "I was hurting people's faith with my actions," and asked me not to continue doing that by stepping away and getting myself right with God.
This was a major blow to me -- I was removed from my friends, and at least I had kept some friends outside of the church, although only a few. Better than none! It was very depressing, that in combination with a required withdrawal from MIT -- I was diagnosed with clinical depression at the end of January, having talked with a Psychiatrist during two appointments.
I sufferred from 'Church-burnout' -- I just didn't want to think about religion, or about church or about Christianity at this time; I just was overwhelmed and too depressed. During this time, I just had to get my life straight -- and get working, and get much needed rest. I also felt that I no longer had what it took to be a "disciple", to be a Christian, that I had fallen away from God, and couldn't bear to think about these issues.
It wasn't until May that I started thinking about these issues again, and after getting in touch with an old friend of mine. Frank Cortez, a good friend since my first days at East Campus, in the Fall of 1990, who had also been my lab partner for two of the core EE classes; we had gotten back in touch after being out of touch a lot. We had gone through similar religious experiences - he had been a Mormon, but had gone through a major transformation of leaving the church, a long process starting in the fall of 1991 ... and I had just left the BCC. We compared experiences and talked a lot, and there were a lot of interesting similarities (especially in recruitment techniques).
But the one thing that helped me the most was his vision of me, that he saw in me a man who was very loyal and very dedicated to the truth, who earnestly wanted to find and seek the truth; a man who ultimately wanted to follow the truth and would follow it with his entire heart. A man who would fight for the truth. A man who wanted to know my Creator through following the truth.
Three J's were also instrumental at this point in my life, and in the order of time: first, a good and caring friend, Jay Sims, who listened to my stories with a caring ear, who put me up for a month when I was looking for an apartment. Second, Josquin ("Jay") Corrales, my roommate, who helped me find an apartment, then helped me to find a job, and then helped me on the road to recovery and to higher self-esteem. Third, Jesus, my Lord and Shepherd, who healed my heart, and helped me to get in touch with people who could help me understand what I went through.
I did realize at that time that I did want to follow the Truth, and that the Truth was ultimately what matter the most in life. It is of no use to follow falsehood. I believed that the Christian God was a God of Truth, and that the god that the BCC believed in and followed was not the God of the Bible, otherwise, that god that the BCC believed in was a very wicked and evil and malevolent god. I realized that I had somehow merged both the ICC ("the church") and God together (why this happened, is because one is taught that "God's Will" is the "ICC's Will" and when the "ICC is doing such-and-such" it is said "God is doing such-and-such" and so on). I finally pulled God and church away from each other. I realized that the greatest dream and the most noble cause would be to know my Creator, my God, my Lord, to understand His will, to do His will, to look for Him, to find His face.
I still had yet to review my convictions, especially the ones that I had gained since studying with members of the Church, and I was still in a lot of emotional pain and didn't want to look at them yet, but I forced myself to start thinking about them. I went through my convictions on different topics, and starting coming to some very unusual conclusions.
When I finally came to some major conclusions, I wrote them into this paper, which I called Letter Of Conviction, as I needed to document what I felt. I kept feeling that there were so many negative things about the BCC, and the ICC in general, but that every time I talked to the members, they sounded so sincere, so godly (in a way), so devout, that it left me doubting myself sometimes. I spent much time sorting myself out about how someone could be so sincere and so intent in following God, and yet be so misled. I did come to the conclusion that sincerity did not equate to truth.
The more I thought about it, the more I reviewed, the more I analyzed, the more negative things came out of it. I talked to Adam Powell, a good friend of mine, whom had tried to warn me of the Church, but also that he had been a good example of a Christian to me, and we talked about these experiences a lot. I also talked with Deborah Flynn-Perkins, a good friend of mine, that had been in the New York City Church of Christ, Providence Church of Christ, and then the Boston Church of Christ; she had been studied with by Lisa Johnson, and discipled by Kim Horowitz-Farmer and Ann-Brigitte Talifferro, and was once the leader of the Harvard women's ministry. And I started to write my analysis of the Church, which sounded like negative things on alt.religion.christian.boston-church, a fairly recent newsgroup that had started up. Jay and other members talked to me about it, and it was rather confusing to me that these people sounded so sincere, so godly, so 'wanting to the right thing', but yet, I had so many problems with the Church. This is why I had to write up the letter to myself, to establish my beliefs, to see in perspective what I had recorded, and to compare and contrast and to remember.
alt.religion.christian.boston-church has been the biggest help and support for me -- it is my church ("congregation" or "assembly", as from the Greek) of sorts! Yes, the Internet has become one of the ways we communicate, and Paul would send letters to the churches -- and this is how sometimes I fellowship. I'm grateful for this newsgroup for all of it's enlightenment and support, and know that I'm not alone in this struggle for the Truth. That I'm not the only one who felt this way or left the Internal Churches of Christ or that knows these things or has felt these things. The abuse has been so widespread.
It is scary and amazing that my testimony is not alone. In fact, many of those stories have been recorded at this site, or REVEAL, or some other sites. The abuse has been extremely widespread; everywhere this church goes, it leaves people hurt. So many have felt the abuse of this church and indeed, as even one would see a doctor not because one is doing well, but because of some problems one may be experiencing, in the same manner, it is not that the ICC does not do some good. Of course, one can learn the same lessons in a more healthy environment. However, it is the problems that are creating abuses within the ICC environment. It is the sin that causes consequences.
One of the major things that was a tempting, as I had analyzed so much, was that I figured out the way to rise astronomically to power; I estimated that it would take about 3 months to become an assistant, 4-6 months to become a Bible Talk Leader, and 2 years to become a lead evangelist of a city through this method. It certainly was a temptation for power and control, but I knew deep down inside, it was not right, it was not the way. I could not follow it.
As I learned more, from July 1994 onwards, I found my calling -- and it was a glorious day. As much as the BCC was expanding and destroying people's lives -- I found that I had to enlighten people -- giving my side of the story, my experience, my perspective -- it was something that they could not refute, that they could not take away from me. I had to warn people -- even if the Church was not doing these things, just to be wary, to watch out for these things. "Test the Spirits", says the Bible -- we must always be looking for the Truth.
I started following the BCC members that I knew to talk to people who were evangelism targets and warn them about the BCC and what I had been through. I would sometimes involve myself in their discussions or studies. I have gotten involved when they were multi-teaming potential converts and in evangelism. I continued to post on the newsgroup, about my experiences. I have started support groups for ex-members and failed or current potential converts. I have been seen publicly meeting with ex-members. I have helped people who were dealing with the International Churches of Christ to get through tough times. I have shared my faith with members and debated with them about the International Churches of Christ and the truth... This, all in all, has gotten me marked. For which I am joyful -- I know the only important thing, beyond what I appear to other men, is how I appear to God.
I know that the BCC will use catch-phrases to damage control against me, saying that I am bitter, unopen, in sin, unrepentant, academically struggling, rebellious, prideful, divisive, causing factions, and persecuting them. To bitterness -- I am not bitter. I am glad that I left, or was asked to leave. I am just telling the truth! To unopen -- I didn't know that it was a sin. About in sin -- yes, I was 'in the BCC's eyes -- sinful'. I asked to change things that weren't as well as Jesus would have wanted. And I was divisive, prideful, causing factions by doing this. I was academically struggling -- I plead guilty -- because I spent all my time in Church or Church-related activities. Am I unrepentant? Or is that I learned from my experience and mistakes and would not like to come back? I am persecuting them -- no, I am telling the truth and talking about my experiences. Recently, I have heard that I am "a person wandering around campus slandering the church because I got into it too far too fast and now blame my academic failure on them."
I feel that, now more than ever, I am learning more and more about God's will, that I am on the road to the Truth, that my quest for the Truth will be on-going. But alas, it is a good feeling to know that the truth is not a destination but a journey, a journey that I can handle and that I am on. And I feel that I am happy with where I'm at, knowing that the Holy Spirit will guide me and lead me and teach me what I need to learn.
It's also something to note, that the final two terms after I left the Boston Church of Christ, I have been able to put my academics in the right perspective. I no longer was interested in just getting straight-A's for just success, I wanted to glorify God and learn the material as best as I could. We are called to be good stewards with what we have been given. I went independent from my parents during the last two terms, and have been able to glorify God with my grades; God blessed my efforts and I got straight-A's. I have also completed my degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT. I had been on track for a second Bachelor's in EE, and could have completed it in 4 years as a double major with Aero/Astro -- but alas, I am still 6 courses shy.
I have found my church home as of November, 1997 (ironically, almost six years to the day I was baptized) in Park Street Congregational, which I very much enjoy! I realize now that I need other perspectives, especially spiritual perspectives, and I need teaching and encouragement. I need a community, as Christianity is very hard to do alone. I also have come to the conclusion that my previous ministry, a ministry of showing the light to mistakes, of exposing darkness and untruth -- Ephesians 5:8-11 -- was insufficient. I have come to the conviction that I need to teach people Good Christianity.
There's a lot to rave about my church, and yet some things with which I also disagree, but these are largely not doctrinal things. I would say this about Park Street: It is the oldest active church in America, and there are a lot of historical marks that it has made. In 1950, at the request of famous pastor Harold Ockenga, Billy Graham made his first visit to Boston and started his crusade at Park Street. He moved to the Boston Garden as the number of people who came grew, and it is reported that there were over 25,000 who came sometimes. Harold Ockenga was also the one who united the religious arm of Gordon College (of Boston) with Conwell Theological Seminary (a small seminary in Philadelphia) in 1969 to form Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and was elected the first president of Gordon-Conwell. As well, close to this time, Billy Graham joined the board of directors of Gordon-Conwell, and is still to this day on the board of directors.
November 16th 1997 marks a new era of my life too: Ironically, almost 6 years to the day that I join the ICC, I join Park Street Church as a member, realizing the seriousness of becoming a member, especially in the Congregational way. It is a pleasure and a responsibility, an honor and a glorious beginning for me. It marks a time when I finally am able to find other Christians -- truly Christians -- who are my brothers and sisters in Christ, with whom I pray, strive to be more Christlike, and worship, even though we know we are sinners. Park Street is truly my home, my place of ministry, where -- beside the Lord, of course -- my support is.
I have also been helping people recover and leave the ICC, as my heart really goes out to the members, friends, parents, and family of members in this abusive church but also other abusive churches. Recently, I have been asked to be a staff researcher at Steven Hassan's Center for Freedom of Mind. Steven Hassan is the author of Combatting Cult Mind Control and a Boston cult expert and exit-counselor. I have come to the conclusion that I need to learn more about the Truth and would like to and need to learn deeply about my faith, to be responsible (James 3:1). I have thereby completed my studies in a Master of Divinity program (January 1998 to May 2005) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which is non-denominational/interdenominational Evangelical (and has a joint program with my church) to learn more. I feel very much the need to learn about Christian history, hermeneutics and interpretation, translation, Christology, Ecumenical and Church Councils, Apologetics, Ethics, Greek, Hebrew, and so on. Not to mention, I will very likely be the first ex-member of the ICC (and the first associated with the ICC) to obtain a M.Div.
(Shameless plug for seminary: It is indeed probably the place that is closest to Heaven, partly because it is just a fantastic experience. I'd highly encourage people who not only need a degree from seminary to consider Christian work or ministry to go there, if one has the gifts and talents and walk and academic skills and calling.) It has already been a fantastic blessing to learn so much about the Christian faith and to help others with this knowledge. And certainly, I do not deserve this great blessing, but God has given it to me, according to His abundant grace, just like I am justified by His grace alone, and the good work I do is another results of His grace. And I am thereby created to do good works. (Ephesians 2:8-14)
(The rest of this story ... is obviously left untold. Life has been a great journey and adventure, and truth is a fantastic journey and not a destination at which I have arrived. There is hope. There always is hope.)
To those who have left: There are a lot of things that the church does right. But there are a lot of things that the church does wrong, and those sins, those shortcomings do hurt. May you have time and healing to understanding what you have been through. Please try to learn about the things that the church does wrong, and why those things are wrong, and you will under some of the damage that the church may have caused you. Bob, you are among those -- and I'm glad to see that you understand part of the things through which you've gone. Be courageous to confront the pains and the hurts that you've suffered, when you are ready. Well-trained Evangelical pastors and counsellors are excellent resources. Support groups are great too. It's not an admission of weakness, but rather, a statement of faith, a recognition, and rather, an admission of strength, to say that you don't have the answers and are willing to learn. I believe that one place to start unpacking is right at what you believe about God -- not just paraphrasing Scripture, but how you view God. For by their actions, the ICC shows God as a cruel and fickle taskmaster, who only rewards you if you do what He wants you to do. This in short is not God. I and others will work on materials for recovery soon!
To those who are leaving or contemplating leaving: There are better churches, more healthy churches. There is often no best way to leave. To justify that you "left doing well", you are just doing the will of the ICC. You may be hurting yourself more by staying longer. You can have a great spiritual life outside the ICC.
To those who are still in the ICC: I have no contention especially with the lowest level of membership, which is often called "laity" by other churches. I think of the ICC membership as some of the most devout, loyal, sincere, and honest people in the world. I also think that most (99% plus) people, when they join, are truly Christians. However, you are being manipulated and controlled by a thoroughly corrupt system, and I would encourage you to be a Berean, to find out whether the claims of those who would be critics are true. There are significant doctrinal (Biblical) problems -- especially in the way hermeneutics is used. How many Greek scholars are in the ICC? How many seminary trained pastors? Dare I contend that having an untrained pastor is like having brain surgery by a witch doctor? There are great ethical problems, including scandals, drug-use, favoritism, misuse of finances, sin lists, and so on. There are psychological problems. You can study these and see if what people say is true or false. And certainly, you are NOT losing faith in God -- how does the fact that people sinning make you lose belief in a transcendent and good God? Hogwash! It only causes you to lose faith in a church, this church -- a corrupt one at that.
To those who are getting involved: I believe that the Truth will always stand on its own. If this group is the truth, then certainly read up on the other side of the story and find out if the claims are truth. I've heard that doing a Yahoo search on "Boston Church of Christ" will return many thousands of matches, including many which contain the word "cult" in it. Should you read this material and really investigate its' integrity, you will learn about the truth of the matter.
To those with friends or members of the family involved: It is tough. And much prayer is needed. But try to maintain a good line of communication that isn't demanding nor deprecating.
A final note of thanks to all those who have helped in all manners, shapes, and forms: first to God, for always being there, for protecting me in all circumstances. I would also like to thank Vernon Chang for starting my Christian Education, to Rick Bauer, Dr. Jerry Jones, Kyle Degge, Dr. Daniel Harrel and Dr. Gordon Hugenberger for continuing my education and being a support and encouragement. I would also like to thank my co-laborers in Christ, Dave and Monique Cloutier for their encouragement, support, teaching, kindness, and friendship. I would like to give a huge amount of thanks to special friends like Frank Cortez, my ex-Mormon friend and good friend to this day, my "older brother of sorts"; Josquin (Jay) Corrales, my roommate from March 1994 to March 1996; Matthew "Deathwish" Tom, who has been a bit of a rogue and takes this whole business as if it were "undercover operations" or "secret agent" stuff. Additionally, the encouragements and stories from Art and Lynn Ryter (LA), Terry and Karen Hunt (LA), Michelle Campbell (SF), Tien Tuyen (SF), Jeremy Kyle (Vancouver), Erol Doggan (Vancouver), Jay Repecko (Boston), Laurie Sawyer (Boston), Catherine Hampton (SF), Trenton Tam (Boston & LA), Ben Raymond (Boston & Searcy, Arkansas). A kind word of thanks to Jay Sims. I am also indebted to many people in Phoenix, including the former editors of the ICC Information Newsletter, John and Deborah Proctor, and support group members Evon Wright and Don Hulen. Thanks additionally (and definitely not finally) to Joanne Ruhland, Steven Hassan, Carol Giambalvo, Dr. Michael Langone and Dr. Edgar Schein for all of their information, support, and help.
©1996-2002 by Chris Lee <firstname.lastname@example.org>. All rights reserved.