Wednesday, March 14, 2012


This dream seems to ask me to not forget an experience I had at the Clear Lake Church of Christ with a group who were influenced by a cult like movement within the larger mainline non-instrumental Church of Christ. The  dream presents some actual people in my Clear Lake Church of Christ nearly 30 years ago. A  middle aged  couple became welcomed  members of  our congregation. They had been life long Catholics. They were adorable outgoing hardworking people in the larger Springfield community. Their 'conversion' to the Church of Christ had come through the influence of their  college graduated minister relative. He in turn had changed to this religion as the result of a peculiar branch of the COC that were primarily active on various College campuses around the country. This group was called the *'Crossroads movement' having originated at a large COC by that  name in Gainsville, Fla. In the dream the couple had become  upset at their experience of being a part of our 'mainline' Sunday School class taught by a life long traditional COC person. They were  upset at what they saw as the lack of direct application of scripture to life style including the teaching that 'discipling' others by  converting them to the COC was the ultimate mark of a 'true Christian.'  This is what they had been taught by their Crossroads friends. They were bringing their complaint to me and others. Their college educated Sunday school teacher had also heard of their complaint and was looking to me to support his frustration with the couples' complaint. In the dream I was probing deeply into myself and the situation to try to understand it and to offer some direction/counseling to both parties in order to not lose either the teacher or the couple as members. It is very common in COC culture that when people have sharp emotional differences about the teaching and ' doctrinal correctness' of the congregation to leave the local congregation and start a new one, one that will be a 'truer church' than the one being abandoned. So a COC minister has to try to help all dissenting parties maintain a reason to stay with his congregation. In this dream I am attempting that by seeking to understand the nature of the conflict and by communicating with each party to move toward what is likely an impossible reconciliation with both having 'good feelings' about being a part of the Clearlake Church of Christ.
Clearlake Church of Christ Springfield, IL

REFLECTION: These Crossroad COC campus church groups met the basic criteria in our  American religious culture of being a religious cult. They centered around a top charismatic leader who was in charge of the original Crossroads Church in Gainesville, Fla. Perfectly like minded and 'trained'  young college men became similar ministerial leaders in the local campus churches that were started. College students were taught a strong 'discipleship' program and were given an interpretation of the Bible that reflected negatively on all other religious groups, including the traditional 'mainline' Church of Christ. Only the sincere COC people like them were the 'true Christians.' Main-liners or 'lifers' were described as being soft on evangelism and not requiring their church members to follow a devoted enough and discipled life. These 'crossroads' groups placed each new convert with a devoted crossroad trained peer who helped them make the 'proper life decisions' about dating(should be only within the group) social activities, 'evangelizing' etc. They were taught how to tell their non COC families that they were not true Christians  and needed to convert to the Church of Christ. The progress of such tutoring was reported regularly to the charismatic leaders. This group demonstrated in outer life the ideal that many mainline COC people had as their dream....dynamic youth oriented church groups that had mesmerizing congregational a'capella singing and local churches that were robustly growing with baptisms happening 'daily'. The mainline Church of Christ in general was also convinced, at least in formal doctrine, that only the Church of Christ made up of those properly baptized (immersed) and 'who understood' that the COC is the only true church. It was just that this new Crossroads movement of  energetic young well dressed college students was 'really' believing it, behaving accordingly and achieving by various pressure and fear-based methods the dreamed of results. The leaders of the group would negotiate with an older mainline college town COC to let this be the home of this new growing College Crossroads Church. The male mainline leadership, elders, was often so impressed with having such a successful outreach going on in their church facility they could  hardly resist allowing the Crossroads group leaders to in effect take over the older mainline church and its less cult like heritage. The Crossroads Movement developed later into the** International Church of Christ.
An International Church Of Christ Meeting In Chicago

This had happened on a less defined  or formal scale in the Clearlake COC when several people, including the couple in the dream, had been converted and indoctrinated by Crossroads people and later became members of Clearlake because they lived in Springfield. My elders too were very attracted to these people and glad to have such strong outspoken, 'evangelizing' and involved new members.

I also was at first highly impressed with this movement and the 'kind of church atmosphere' it was able to create and sustain. I even had interest in ClearLake becoming such a church with an emphasis of working on the local college campuses. But as time went on and especially when some of these Crossroads people became members of Clearlake and getting more acquainted with their leadership in other area churches I came to 'see' just how unhealthy and cult-like this teaching and behavior was. It directly sought to undermine the typical COC mainline identity. Like most 'outreach' minded young pastors, in my own way I thought the status quo of the COC needed to be changed and to become more 'sincere' and more 'devoted' to its unique call to be thriving growing communities of the the 'true church'. So in a way these Crossroads people had made what many of us COC main-liners had always longed to see happen. But I was now seeing that the way it was happening was at the cost of the converts surrendering their individuality and of accepting the direction of strong willed dictatorial charismatic male leaders. In the dream I had come to this kind of understanding. I realized that this couple was not as hardcore and cult-like in nature as the youth who had experienced such a 'Crossroads Conversion.' They were genuinely desiring to be part of the life of the mainline people in the church. But no doubt were being influenced by their more cult minded friends to 'stay strong' in the Crossroads hard line teaching.

When the elders fired me,after eight years as minister, on a Wednesday night effective immediately; none of the four was able to give me a single reason for this extreme action. An action I was confident would cause a major congregational disturbance. I think part of their motivation was to yield to the Crossroads type members who charged me with not being 'evangelistic.' And some of the elders may have had dreams that with me gone the crossroads influence would lead to a realized dream of a more growing and excited Church of Christ.  Jim

*Here is a simplified description of what I am referring to as the Cross Roads Movement Church of Christ. It later expanded, was home based in Boston and took on the name International Church of Christ.

** I am not well informed about the history of  what was eventually named the International Church of Christ. And this dream reflection is intended to make no statement about this movement beyond what I experienced in my own local  Church of Christ in 1983-84.

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