The major error in the Boston Movement belief system has to be its view of authority. Its view of authority (having one Christian over another Christian) is likened to the authority Jesus had over the Twelve and Paul had over Timothy. However, they go even further by justifying abusive (un-Christlike) authority. This view of authority was greatly influenced by the book, Tale of Three Kings, by Gene Edwards. In reality, they twisted the premise of the book in a way the author never intended. The best statement of their view and some of its implications is set forth by Al Baird in a series of articles published in the Boston Bulletin (September 6-October 18, 1987; the entire series appears in the Appendix). Near the end of this series, Al Baird wrote:
Just as in the times of the New Testament, there will be people who are hurt and killed by abusive authorities, but God is still in control; if they were right with Him, and they will be ultimately rescued to the supreme security -- home with God. In questions of spiritual leaders abusing their authority, there are at least three options. (1) submit; (2) follow Matthew 18:15-17 in cases involving sin, or (3) leave those leaders and find ones to whom you can submit. It is not an option to rebel against their authority.
Responsibility of Leaders
When we are under authority we are to submit and obey our leaders even when they are not very Christlike (Al Baird, Boston Bulletin. "Authority and Submission." Part VII, October 18. 1987.)
Joe Garmon, who was discipled by Al Baird and sent to lead the Seattle, Washington planting, reflects this same view. On September 25, 1988, he wrote:
We become like Jesus when we accept authority. Jesus is often portrayed as a rebel, and certainly He rejected an ungodly social and religious system Yet, Jesus understood and accepted authority better than any man who ever lived. Jesus was God in the beginning (1John 1:1), but He was willing to give up that equality with the Father and to submit to Him. He cried out with tears to the one who could save him, and 'he was heard because of his reverent submission' (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus submitted to the Father's authority, 'I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also' (John 5:19). 'By myself I can do nothing' (John 5:30). 'For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me' (John 6:38). 'My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me' (John 7:16). Jesus submitted not only to the Father, but to sinful man as well. He totally submitted, even when He was wronged, and He was obedient to an unjust, ungodly death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). If we are to imitate Jesus, we must learn not to fear authority over our lives. Our trust is based not on the righteousness of the person in authority but on the power of God to take care of godly, submissive people (2 Peter 2:9). Jesus taught submission to authority. 'The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you' (Matthew 23:2, 3). Jesus rebuked abusive authority (Matthew 23:4), but He did not accept this as an excuse for disobedience. (Boston Bulletin. "The Attitude of Christ Jesus," Part I.)
The key to the Boston Movement's position is teaching that Jesus submitted to sinful man; therefore, even if leaders are sinful and un-Christlike, submission is still demanded. It's true that Jesus died for sinful man, but His submission to death on the cross was to God, not sinful man!
In Part III of the same series (October 9, 1988) Joe Garmon wrote:
Fear of authority. Often we are afraid to submit to authority because it might be abusive. Jesus was not afraid of abusive authority; he was even willing to submit and obey authority that was abusive (Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 27:11-50). Jesus could have 'called ten thousand angels' to rescue him, but he knew that all authority, even abusive authority has been established by God (Romans 13:1-7). Jesus was willing to submit to the ultimate abusive authority because God can work through it as well. When we trust God, we do not have to be afraid to submit to abusive authority. After all, when Jesus submitted, it looked like Satan had won; but God raised Him from the dead. God knows how to take care of the righteous (2 Peter 2:10)!
Joe was also involved in the reconstruction of the Brockton House Church in Boston prior to his leaving fur Seattle. As the Zone leader, he led this reconstruction with Kevin Younger, the House Church leader. In this reconstruction he said,
And everybody, everybody, in order to follow God, has to be a fisher of men. To be discipled means you deny yourself. You make a decision that self is willing, ready, and is going to die. And you give up yourself. You give up your desires, your ambitions, the things that you want in life, and you decide to live your life fully and completely to God. Not doing what you want, not doing the things that are pleasing to you, but doing what God wants you to do. That means, that means that when your House Church leader says to you, 'You need to change this. You need to give up that. You need to do this,' it doesn't matter to you. If your House Church leader came in and said, 'I want everybody in here to wear a red shirt,' then everybody has to wear a red shirt. You don't care. It doesn't matter to you. 'Yeah, but can he tell me that?' What does it matter to you if you have given up yourself? I'm not into it. We're not going to sit here and rationalize and reason what we can say and what we can't say. What we're saying is that every single person is a disciple and has given up themselves. And that's the only way to be in the kingdom. There is no self that you're hanging on to. And denying yourself means that you have decided to crucify the self, that you're giving it up, and because of that, you don't try to protect it, you try to put it to death for God's will. (Joe Garmon, Reconstruction of the Brockton House Church, Fall 1988.)
One might say that demanding every house church member to wear a red shirt is silly and ridiculous; but, according to the Boston Movement teaching on authority, the House Church leader could do this.
In fairness to the Boston Movement, Al Baird was confronted with the statements by Joe Garmon and Scott Green on August 2, 1989 (see Section II for the Scott Green quotes) to which he replied: "Joe Garmon, on the tape you are referring to, was wrong and he was corrected." (It should be noted that Al Baird didn't say that Scott Green was wrong and was corrected.) The question has to be raised: in light of Boston's teaching on authority, what was wrong with what Joe Garmon taught? Al Baird maintains that even abusive authority has to be obeyed; hence, the members of the Brockton House Church would have to obey Joe Garmon or else be in rebellion, which is not an option! (Al Baird, Boston Bulletin, "Authority and Submission," Part VII, October 18, 1987.)
The groundwork for such a strong authoritarian view of the evangelist was laid in a series of articles (Boston Bulletin, "The Role of the Evangelist") written by J.P. Tyner, who is serving as a Zone leader in Boston. In this series, he stated,
Secondly, God's people must be aware that they have a responsibility before God to respect, obey, and submit to His anointed servants (Hebrews 13:17; Titus 3:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). Far too many within the church of Christ have imitated the words of Korah and other leaders of Israel who raid to Moses, 'You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, everyone of them, and the Lord is with them. Why do you set yourself above the Lord's assembly?' (Numbers 16:3). It is true that all Christians walking in the light are holy and God is indeed with everyone of them. However, it is also true that through His Spirit certain men have been assigned responsibilities to lead in the Kingdom and that to oppose them is to oppose God who anointed them. In the words of Moses, 'It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together' (Numbers 16:11). (Boston Bulletin. August 2, 1987.)
Referring to church leaders as "God's anointed" and putting them on a par with men like Moses is challenged by Scripture. Where does the Bible refer to evangelists as "anointed"? Concern over terminology [like "anointed"] is discussed in Section V.)
When the Boston Movement refers to the leadership of a congregation, it is referring to the evangelists, not the elders. Kip McKean reported in the Boston Bulletin (August 16, 1987) that Tom Brown and the evangelists in San Francisco had "asked the Boston leadership to officially direct the work. " This is one of the earliest references to the Boston church directing a congregation it didn't begin. As the Boston Movement developed its view of the work of the elders and the work of evangelists, it concluded that the elders could only oversee the local congregation, whereas the evangelist can oversee more than one church. They use Titus 1:5 as their proof text. On August 8, 1989, Al Baird declared that since he was an elder in the Boston church, he didn't have any oversight of the Nashville church. (This statement is on tape and is quoted in Section IV.)
When Kip McKean announced that Al and Gloria Baird would lead Boston (keep in mind that Al was one of the three elders when Kip McKean made this announcement), McKean declared that Tom and Kelly (Tom's wife) had "assumed leadership a year ago" (Kip McKean, Boston Bulletin, "Al & Gloria Baird to Lead Boston," May 14. 1989). Further in the article, Kip McKean urged the readers to "respond in faith to God and our new leadership." According to Kip McKean, whoever is the lead evangelist is the leadership of the church. Al Baird is referred to as the new leadership even though he had been one of the elders for five years! Therefore, even in congregations where there are elders, the lead evangelist is still the leadership. When you couple that with the idea that the elders should humble themselves and be discipled by the evangelist (Gordon Ferguson, Boston Bulletin. "Progressive Revelation," Part III B, May 22, 1988), you see clearly who is in control of the direction of the local congregation.
In spite of Kip McKean's resignation as lead evangelist to become the missions evangelist on June 26, 1988, he still declared (as editor of the Boston Bulletin) that as the elders disciple him in his marriage and family, he gives "them direction with the ministry" (Boston Bulletin, "Boston," September 4, 1988.)
Much of the emphasis on this view of authority can be traced to the teachings of Kip McKean. Concerning J.P Tynes three-part Boston Bulletin series on "The Role of the Evangelist," Kip said they were "forthright and Scriptural" (Part III, August 16, 1987). Kip McKean put the teachings in a practical setting during the Denver Reconstruction in 1988.
Secondly, I asked for Preston to come here to Denver and lead the work at the Denver Gate. And he, now, is going to, so to speak, build the wall of Denver, or the Rocky Mountain area. And he's going to ask some of the brothers to go to Utah, some of the brothers to go to Montana, some of the brothers to go here and there. And see, we got to recognize this, in the church, as in the Old Testament, God's people have always been a kingdom and not a democracy. In a democracy you vote, in the kingdom you obey. You know, if there'd been a democracy at the Red Sea, it'd been a disaster. It is God's wisdom to have a kingdom Amen! And the man that will lead this work, though not perfect, but he is of God, is Preston. And you need to obey in the Lord. The only times you don't obey him is, if it violates Scripture or your conscience. But other than that, in all opinion areas, you obey. Amen? I think we got to understand that Preston may say, 'I want you in Aurora;' 'I want you in Langley;' 'I want you over here;' 'I want you in Boulder,' ... And, you know, when he assigns you to a House Church, when he assigns you to a Zone, when he assigns you to a Bible Talk, you will go, because that's part of the plan. Amen? Even if it's the Dung Gate. Now it's okay to want to be at the Fountain Gate. But you've got to obey. Amen? (Kip McKean, Reconstruction of the Denver Church of Christ, May 1988.)
The 1987 Boston Seminar discussed the authority of the evangelist. In a sermon entitled "Why Do You Resist the Spirit?" McKean stated,
The evangelist without elders in the congregation is the authority of God in the congregation. The only time he is not to be obeyed is when he calls you to disobey Scripture or disobey your conscience and even if he calls you to do something that disobeys your conscience, you still have an obligation to study it out and prayerfully change your opinion so you can be totally unified.
In 1987 Al Baird made a presentation on authority and submission. The thrust of his message became a series of articles in the Boston Bulletin. Al Baird preached:
We find out that the evangelists actually had authority in a number of different congregations as they were sent into these different situations.
This quote shows that Al Baird and Kip McKean agree on the role and authority of the evangelist.
Furthermore, Kip McKean sees his ministry as one of following the role of Paul. The following article sets forth his belief that he is functioning in a role like Paul's; or, in other words, in an apostolic role. Neither he nor Boston has ever publicly claimed that he is an apostle, but only serves in the role of one.
Therefore, we decided to pray, to study the Word and to seek counsel from trusted Christians as to how best meet everyone's needs. This culminated just two weeks ago as I took a day and night to pray and fast to discern God's will for our lives. God made it obvious that we should shift the emphasis of our ministry from Boston to a small number of lead couples and the key pillar churches they serve, thus following the pattern of Paul's role in the first century. (Kip McKean, Boston Bulletin. "McKean Becomes Mission Evangelist," June 26, 1988.)
How far the Boston Movement goes in regulating the lives of its members is a question which receives mixed answers. Since this treatment of the Boston Movement doesn't give personal testimonies from either present or former members, other than quotes from the Boston leaders, this question will go unanswered. However, Jake Jensen, who was active in leading the Singles ministry, wrote an article for the Boston Bulletin ("Revive Your Dreams," November 13, 1988) giving guidelines for dating.
Just as the Grecian widows had a particular need addressed in Acts 6, I began the devotional by giving some guidelines to better meet the needs of single adults in the area of dating. These guidelines are not cast in stone, but were given by the elders to promote the building of godly relationships that will enable us to be even more effective and productive in winning people to Jesus!
- In general, we encourage all single adults to go on a date once a week.
- If a single is not dating steady, but is interested in getting to know a brother or sister, we suggest dating that person every other week.
- If a single is interested in going steady, we recommend doing so after at least six dates or about three months. Steady dating is not a lifetime commitment, but a testing to see if the relationship is going to go anywhere!
- How long should a couple go steady before engagement? We suggest a period of nine months so that each person can really get to know the other's strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, etc.
- How long should the engagement period last before marriage? We recommend three months.
The "deed" is another example of the control the Boston Movement exerts over the lives of its members. The "deed" is used to encourage members who fall short of their proposed missions contribution to sell items to make up the difference. The "deed" (see Appendix) was used by the Chicago Church of Christ.
The 14-Day Plan (see Appendix) is an example of the control over people who are not yet a part of the Boston Movement. This plan was obtained from the Atlanta church, whose leaders are being discipled by Boston. The "prospect," who is the subject of the 14-Day Plan, doesn't realize that all of the attention he receives is well planned and controlled.
You are encouraged to read the following articles in the Appendix which will provide a foundation for authority as taught in the Scripture:
Dixon, Danny. Image. "Horse Bit Leadership," February 1988.
Fike, Byron. Authoritarianism in the Church.
Osborn, Carroll. Firm Foundation. "How Much Authority Does the Preacher Have?," January 30, 1979.
________ Firm Foundation, "The Authority of Titus," May 6, 1980.
________ Firm Foundation, "The Appointment of Elders," July 24, 1979.
Yoakum, Tom. A Word Study on Church Leadership.
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