Question: "What is the International Christian Church (ICC), and what do they believe?"
Answer: The International Christian Church (ICC) is a religious group that practices a strict, manipulative form of “discipleship” and seeks to control its membership to an ungodly extent, and many people have been hurt emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually as a result. Because of the ICC’s oppressive practices, errant view of salvation, and other false doctrines, we caution against becoming involved in the International Christian Church.
The International Christian Church was founded in 2006 by Kip McKean, who had earlier been instrumental in the Boston Movement and became a founder of the International Churches of Christ, another manipulative religious group. When McKean was forced to leave the ICOC, he moved from Boston to Portland and started up the ICC, duplicating his aberrant doctrines in the new organization.
The International Christian Church also goes by the moniker of the Sold-Out Discipling Movement. In many places, the name of the city where the congregation meets is included in the church name: City of Angels International Christian Church and Portland International Christian Church, for example. The organization operates its own college, the International College of Christian Ministry.
The International Christian Church has a number of problems. One is their view of baptism, which they consider a requirement for salvation. According to the ICC, only “disciples” can be baptized. To become a “disciple,” one must be sufficiently broken over sin, living a Christian life as defined by the church, and agreeing with the church’s interpretation of Scripture. Further, the ICC promotes a cult-like exclusivity: the only “valid” baptism is one administered by an ICC leader who agrees that baptism confers salvation. The International Christian Church thus views anyone outside their group as unsaved. Those who attend a different church are part of a sinful organization and not part of the “true church.”
The International Christian Church also places a strong emphasis on what they call “discipleship.” The techniques of heavy shepherding are employed: ex-members complain of legalism, heavy-handedness, lack of grace, lack of forgiveness, forced uniformity, verbal coercion, browbeating, and other manipulative tactics. Attendance at all church services is mandatory, as is obedience to church leaders’ commands. Bringing a visitor every week is expected. Evangelism is stressed to the point of competition—who can tally the most baptisms?
The tactics and doctrines of the International Christian Church result in fear, guilt, and anxiety in the membership. But their teaching that their church is the only road to salvation, coupled with playing on the emotions and constantly berating over sin, keeps the membership in line. In some cases, members are blackmailed into submission through the threat of releasing private information gleaned during “discipleship” sessions.
As with most spiritually dangerous groups, the International Christian Church mixes some good doctrine with the bad. But the fact that they are correct on some points of doctrine does not mitigate their teaching of salvation by works (i.e., baptismal regeneration), their exclusivity, their rejection of eternal security, or their legalism.
If you have been negatively affected by the International Christian Church or another manipulative group claiming to be Christian, we encourage you to seek healing. Although Jesus’ name may have been used to hurt you, Jesus Himself said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). God is able to heal those who have been spiritually abused.