The 1980’s and 90’s were a heady period of growth and expansion for the International Churches of Christ. We exploded into over 100 nations, and planted 500 churches worldwide. As the 90’s finished, however, our growth had stopped, our US churches were shrinking, and there were some problems we needed to face.
When the new millennium dawned, our issues became a full blown crisis. We lost 30% of our members, and what followed was a decade of reflection, repentance, and reorganization. As a fellowship we took several big steps. We apologized to each other. We held painful open forums in many congregations. Leadership practices were examined, and we repented where needed. The appropriate people were fired. We abolished worldwide offices of authority. It was a painful yet productive decade, and through the power of God we watched as He righted the ship and healed our wounds.
Today we are a fellowship of churches that loves God’s word and is eager to spread his message. We have tossed out the old pride and braggadocio, and (hopefully) replaced it with a humble attitude about ourselves, and toward other Christians outside our churches.
Honestly, I have never been more proud to be a part of the ICOC.We always said that if we got off track, we would examine the Bible, correct our mistakes, and recommit ourselves to the mission. I believe that is exactly what has happened.
So has a new era begun? Only time will tell, but it seems that “the storm is passing over.” Indeed, the clean up may be finished as well. Over the last few years, the climate has changed from one of looking backward to looking forward. Instead of correcting old mistakes, we are now focused on scaling new heights. Members around the world are comfortable with the way churches are cooperating. Trust has broken out. People are able to work together in exciting and productive ways.
The World Summit in San Antonio was a benchmark in our collective path. It was a celebration and conference like we have never had before. Not only was it our biggest gathering by far (roughly 17,000 attended), but it was perhaps the most positive and forward looking event in over a decade.
HotNews believes we have crested the summit, and are now truly advancing. Yes, we will face new problems in the future. And yes, we will need to be continually vigilant about not repeating past mistakes. But for the first time in recent memory, it appears we are back on the move, eyes forward, with plans and dreams and visions of helping others to know Christ.
In a word, we are leaving the distrust and reflection of the last decade behind, and moving into an era of growth and progress for God. That is what we are sensing and praying for here at HotNews. I for one will be excited to see what God has in store for us in this new and very promising decade.