Since its inception in 2004, the ICOC Cooperation of Churches has been blessed with clear qualitative and quantitative growth. We all praise God for his guidance and providence during these years. Our faith in the Lord and devotion to one another has grown year after year. As a result, we presently have 657 individual congregations in 32 Regional Families in more than 153 different nations with a total membership of more than 105,000 and an attendance over 130,000.  96% of the total number of churches on the ICOC Church Locator, comprising 95% of our total members, have committed to the Plan for United Cooperation.

The vision of the ICOC is to fulfill the prayer and plea of Jesus to be completely unified, not only in our faith and doctrine, but also our cooperation. Only by cooperating in a healthy, effective manner can the expectations of Jesus to build his church strong, to serve the poor and needy, and to seek the save the lost on a worldwide scale, truly be fulfilled.

While great efforts have been made to unify and build cooperation amongst churches historically connected with the ICOC, and great progress has been experienced, some confusion and challenges still remain.

Some congregations:

  • Are not participating in a Regional Family of Churches
  • Are not encouraging their staff, leaders, and members to attend ICOC Conferences and Events,
  • Some do not readily welcome ICOC members as members upon moving in
  • Do not identify their church as committed to the ICOC Fellowship.
  • Yet they want to be included in the ICOC Church Directory.
  • In essence, they meet very few, if any, of the descriptions given for Church Membership in the ICOC Cooperation of Churches, as stated below.

To demonstrate integrity with our principles, to make our relationships truly meaningful, and to protect disciples in local situations, we must have clear standards in regards to churches who do not follow these principles in spirit or in practice.  Based on the 2009 Cooperation Plan Summary reprinted below and using the conflict resolution principles of Matthew 18, these situations will be handled with patience, grace, flexibility and truth in this manner.

Procedure for addressing churches who do not cooperate with other churches and have no regional affiliation:

From the 2009 Cooperation Plan Summary ratified by the Delegates:

“Churches are also free to withdraw their participation. The International delegates are also able to exclude a church from participation if it is deemed necessary and appropriate. Cooperation between congregations is the one another way of biblical relationships and remains crucial to our success in preaching the gospel to as many as possible.”

  1. Concerns about the church will be addressed first to the concerning church leaders by other individual leaders.
  2. If their concerns are not sufficiently addressed, individuals and church leaders will express their concerns to the Chairmen and Delegates of the Regional Family of Churches involved and most affected by the concerning church.
  3. If those Chairmen of the Regional Family of Churches cannot reach resolution with the concerning church, they will bring the matter to the Evangelists and Elders Service Teams who will discuss and decide whether or not to pursue this process.
  4. If the Evangelists and Elders Service Teams agree that the concerning church needs to be addressed at this level, they will jointly assign a delegation of Regional Chairmen, Evangelists and Elders to communicate the concerns with the Evangelists and Elders or Leadership Team of the concerning congregation. This group should include men who are well respected by the leaders of the concerning church and who have a relationship with those leaders and leaders whose churches are affected most by that church.
  5. This delegation should express the concerns of affected members, the Elders Committee and Evangelists Committee and make specific appeals for unity and repentance, where appropriate.
  6. The church leaders of the concerning church can decide whether or not they would like to change and become a part of the ICOC Fellowship according to the Plan for United Cooperation within a clear and reasonable time frame.
  7. Their concerns will also be clearly addressed.
  8. If the concerning church decides they do not want to be a cooperating part of the ICOC, then their wishes will be honored and it will be communicated that:
    1. the ICOC will remove their contact information from the ICOC Church Locator on the Disciples Today website and
    2. a new ICOC church will be planted in that city.
    3. This would not be a judgment of whether or not the members of the concerning church are Christians, but it will be an expression that the ICOC is committed to having a sister congregation that is participating in fellowship in every major city of the world. ICOC members who move to those cities wish and deserve to have this opportunity, and we do not want them to be deprived of that for simply historical or sentimental ties to the past.
  9. When the new church is planted, the relationships between those churches in that city will be approached with great sensitivity and direction without compromising our unified principles and doctrines.
  10. If the local leadership is not willing to meet with the ICOC Delegation, those leaders will be notified of all the efforts that have been made and all of the above actions.

Cooperation Plan Summary

August 5, 2009

The purpose of this document is to provide a structure for Regional and International cooperation among our family of churches around the world.

The Regional Families of Churches

For decades we, like the churches in the New Testament, have functioned as regional families of churches.  This cooperation plan recognizes the existing families of churches worldwide and encourages their growth and continuation.

Churches participate in this “Cooperation Plan” by first identifying themselves with the circle of churches in their geographic region.  These regional families of churches are expected to engage in humble and meaningful relationships with each other at the regional level. They are committed to mutual discipling, exchanges of full-time workers, and cooperation on church plantings, missions and working relationships and mutually respectful,  agreed accountability with other church leaderships in their region. [1]

These regional families of churches are committed to cooperate in every way needed to advance the gospel and maintain doctrinal and relational unity.  Leaders meet regularly to pray, coordinate, and strengthen one another.   Regional groups work together to plant new congregations, plan regional conferences, camps, seminars, and events.  Each region establishes regional committees as needed and works together to strengthen weak churches.

Matters of International Importance

Every year delegates from each of these regional families of churches [2] are committed to meet to discuss matters of international importance. [3]  The regional families of churches send delegates to this meeting to act on the agenda put forward. [4]  At this meeting questions are addressed concerning international conferences, our international web presence, mission work, HOPEww, etc. [5]  The delegates have established committees to insure cooperation on global needs and these efforts have borne much fruit.

Evangelists, elders and teachers from around the world will seek counsel and consensus with each other to meet global needs, through our International Leadership Conferences and annual Delegates Meetings.  Communication to connect the churches and individual disciples is through Disciples Today.

Who can participate?

The regional families of churches include all congregations that embrace sound doctrine and a desire to cooperate.  Churches may be invited to join or request participation.  Membership would be recognized by that regional family of churches and/or the international committee. [6]  Following the New Testament pattern, if a congregation strays from sound doctrine [7] the regional family of churches will discuss the issues with the specific congregation and take appropriate actions; potentially including the exclusion of an errant congregation from the regional family of churches.   Churches are also free to withdraw their participation.  The International delegates are also able to exclude a church from participation if it is deemed necessary and appropriate.

Cooperation between congregations is the one another way of biblical relationships and remains crucial to our success in preaching the gospel to as many as possible. [8]  May God bless all our efforts.

[1] If a church offers to join us, and is accepted, then they are also agreeing to close and meaningful fellowship with surrounding churches.

[2] We currently have about 30 of these “families of churches” worldwide.

[3] The last Delegates Meeting was held in Denver in October 2009.

[4] The number of delegates sent from each family of churches varies according to size. Two delegates minimum.  Larger regions have one delegate per 1,000 members.  Observers are welcome.

[5] Any topic that is appropriate can be discussed.

[6] If a church asks to participate but has no ties to any neighboring churches, the committee heads can help steer them into an existing family of churches.

[7] The shared beliefs and practices described in the original Cooperation Plan detail many of these.  We respectfully recognize that each church leadership may vary in implementation of practice in keeping with these listed Bible principles.  Our complete normative doctrine is found in inspired Scripture alone.

[8] The Cooperation Plan has blessed our churches.  God has enabled us to host dozens of conferences over the last few years, attended by thousands of disciples.  It has brought together dozens of teachers, elders, women leaders, campus leaders, HOPE workers, and others for committee work around the world.  It has enhanced our communication and coordination.  We hope all congregations in our fellowship will join with us in affirming this summary document.

Click here for the Plan for United Cooperation in many languages.