Monday, March 28, 2005

Code Words

I was thinking after my posts last week about my experience in the International Churches of Christ (considered by many to be a cult) about code words. I made an allusion to them in my posts last week, which you can see here and here, but I didn't elaborate.

By code words I mean terms that are not used in general Christendom the way they're used in the ICOC. This group, like other cult-y groups, has its own lingo. The few I'll mention are the tip of the iceberg.


The ICOC taught me, correctly, that the definition of a "disciple" is a learner and follower of someone's teachings. That is not how they solely used the term, however. In the ICOC a "disciple" was someone who had already completed the eight required Bible studies and had been baptized by someone in the ICOC. A baptism in another church was NOT considered adequate; the candidate for discipleship, so to speak, would be "counseled" over and over--probably doing the "study" on baptism again and again--until he saw the light and agreed wholeheartedly that his former baptism had not been efficacious to wash away his sins. The ICOC was careful not to proclaim itself the One True Church outright, at least not right away. They told me that there were possibly other Christians in the world, but when they encountered the ICOC, they would join right away, because we were teaching The Truth. (Sounds like the One True Church to me...but the loophole allowed them to claim they weren't saying they were the only ones saved, which was obviously a common charge leveled against them.)

Bible Study

In the ICOC a "Bible Study" is either one of the eight studies you must complete to be a Disciple, or a D-Group (short for Discipleship Group) in which many ICOCers get together with a few non-members to try to recruit them to the church. The big difference I see between an ICOC D-Group and a Bible study with, say, Intervarsity or Campus Crusade is that the ICOC members are not there to collectively learn a lesson or participate's a little more scripted than that. Every member is there to focus on a non-member, gather what information they can that might be useful in proselytizing them, and try to structure their responses to affect the non-members emotionally (through love-bombing, for example). In my experience, while of course a focus of the Bible study is to help unbelievers come to know Jesus Christ, the Christians attending the Bible study are also there to grow, ask questions, and challenge themselves and others. An ICOC Bible Study (both the 8 studies and D-Groups) are much more top-down and always have a very specific and personal agenda that the non-members are unaware of.


ICOC members are on the lookout for "sharp" people to recruit. As I mentioned in a previous post, this equates to good-looking, well-dressed, charismatic and intelligent. The sharper, the better, because sharp people will be more successful at recruiting for the Kingdom (the ICOC). I guess they didn't want to consider 1 Cor 1:26-27:
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.

Ah, I love that Scripture.


In the ICOC "fruit" meant converts or recruits (a word they never used, of course). Sure, they'd acknowledge the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), but any time you heard "fruit," it was in the context of evangelism. I had been saved probably a few days when my new sister, Christine, looked directly into my eyes and said, "You need to start thinking about fruit." I knew she meant that I'd better get busy evangelizing (walking up to people and talking to them about coming to church--kinda like a "cold call," but in person). The ICOC was VERY good at justifying their stances with their interpretation of Scripture: Andrew, for example, immediately went to get Peter to introduce him to Jesus. This was an example for us to tell others about Jesus (read: about the ICOC) even if we'd only been saved a day. We were absolutely expected to do this wherever we went. It was exhausting to be standing at a bus stop feeling guilty if you didn't talk to everyone there about Jesus!

Morning Star

This is a specific example of Scripture mangling/re-interpretation I remember from those days.

2 Pet 1:19-20
And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.

I was told that the "morning star rising in your heart" is the understanding and knowledge that the ICOC is the True Church. It took me a long time to see this Scripture differently.

Fell Away

"Fell away" in the ICOC means that you have left the church. If you malign the church after leaving, you are marked (no one will speak to you--actually, they won't speak to you anyway unless they think you might come back). It is difficult to describe the heartache of losing those friendships, of going from such mutual affection and joy to walking past without a look of recognition. That sent me into a tailspin emotionally and spiritually, as at the time I left I knew no other Christians.

I praise the Lord for rescuing me from the dark pit of both my pre- and post-ICOC days. Surely, He set my feet on a Rock and has helped me through every trial.

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