– on the beginning of the International Churches of Christ


  •  Speaker: Professor John Wilson
  • The event: Pepperdine University, South Kensington, London on Saturday 20th March 2004.
  • Hosted by: Rock Resources, an independent teaching ministry evolving from ICC

The day consisted of four sessions, attended by around 40. There were representatives of  many London and UK congregations of the ICC and the Wembley Church of Christ. (While terminology has its limitations, the phrase ICC and ‘mainline’ Church of Christ seemed sensible to use in the discussions.)  After an introduction by James Greig the founder of Rock Resources, John Griffiths of the Wembley Church and Malcolm Cox from the Cricklewood Church led in prayer.

In the first session John Wilson gave a historical overview of the Restoration Movement leading up to the various Campus outreach programmes of the 1960s which gave birth to ‘Crossroads’ and ‘the Boston movement’. He painted a picture of admiration of the ICC but pain at a movement that would not co-operate with anything it did not control.

The second session moved from history to an analysis of the ‘issues’ of the ICC, and John pointed out regularly where he saw an overlap with issues in the mainline  COC. He highlighted six areas (all expressed to be John’s opinion – not ‘gospel’ but certainly necessitating consideration):

  1. Disciples only baptism, i.e. the question of commitment and understanding necessary prior to baptism. Why was retention no better with a higher initial ‘standard’?
  2. Walkaways (or fallaways). Both groups need to do better at nurturing. Ex-ICC members would be more likely to have hurts.
  3. Judging and condemning the discipleship of others. Much to learn from Jesus’ attitude in John 21:15-22 – “What is that to you?  You follow me” emphasis.
  4. Mixing submission to the gospel with the exercise of power. Sense of freedom or enslavement in the average Christian?  At issue between ICC and COC is exercise of power rather than doctrine.
  5. The problem with statistics. They are good, but the danger is in the link to having God’s special approval.
  6. Autonomy. The mainline church lost some of the healthy sense of ‘the cause’ that characterized evangelistic efforts of COC early on.

In the third session John answered written questions. He offered a defense of a capella music – surprising to some. He pointed out that a formal union of the two groups was not possible due to their structures, since nobody could speak for either group or bind them. However, John saw an increasing number of links of informal friendship between individuals in both groups which could lead to ‘joint ventures’. His vision for the ICC was to be a model of its traditional strengths of commitment and apologetic commitment to evangelism but in the spirit of serving the wider body, abandoning the quest for power and control.

In the final session James Greig read the closing prayer of the 2004 COC book ‘Down in the River to Pray’ and Paul Rowbotham read Jesus’ prayer in John 17 before we broke into small groups to pray for each other, for the Lord’s guidance and our individual hearts.

P.S. A commercial (!): John is presenting his archaeological work on Herod’s Palace at biblical Caesarea Philippi (modern Banias) at a lecture at the British Museum on Wednesday 14th April at 6pm,  organized by the Palestine Exploration Fund. Admission free, all welcome!


It was very encouraging to hear about the history of the church and the building of bridges between the ‘mainline’ COC & ICC. Also the fact that none of us have it down perfectly and need God to reveal himself to us personally. Thanks! 🙂

Today was great. It was very helpful to hear different perspectives, although on the important issues it was very encouraging to see that we have the same perspectives. For example, some of the problems we face are the same in both ‘movements’.

It was good to hear the principle of unity coming through loud and clear and that it’s more important than personal opinion (of which there is abundance).

Let’s not bother about questioning how to get closer to each other and sort out x, y & z, but lets get closer to God and let him sort them out & bring us closer together. [Jonathan Robinson]

Many thanks. Enlightening, I believe in unity and am open to the idea, but wouldn’t want ICOC to be superseded by a larger organization…more cumbersome.

Emphasis on church against an organization being loving and active – with that in mind hope to do more with COC. Interesting talk. [John Irving]

It has definitely helped me to understand the history of the church and have a much broader view on our origins. I feel very grateful for the opportunity of meeting and listening to John Wilson, a very enlightening experience. Very encouraging!

Thanks John for the session. I found it very informative... just to know where the church (ICOC & COC) have come from and to pray that we don’t repeat the past…to understand the doctrines of the COC…to even start thinking about future (together??)

John, the talks were great. The insights you had about the motivating factor for the formation and development of COC doctrine were fantastic. I really appreciated your openness and diplomacy in raising difficult and emotive issues. Your use of scripture was great and challenging. I had not considered the authority verses in that way before. I would love to hear more of your exegesis on the Greek.

P.S. It would be very instructive to know the annual % growth for the COC – 1600 annually is the total growth/total time, but does not reflect the actual growth per year…Thanks again.

Dear John, most interesting and thought provoking day which has changed my heart. God is constantly working in all of us and today he clarified things in my heart – so thank you. I look forward to heaven when in sinlessness we can find God’s unity but I feel something was begun today which may lead to than end. In Jesus, Marilyn Dean

John, it’s been a great inspiration today. Today, to me has been eye opening and I now have hope that we can unify as a church. I will look forward to seeing more of you in the COC.

I found the day both encouraging and sobering. It was great to have both people from the ICOC and the COC together, and I think it would be useful to invite the mainline church to other Rock Resource events.

The meeting was very good today. John’s experience and comments on church history and accounts have been very beneficial and enlightening. It’s great to be able to listen to someone with such experience and especially the sincerity which characterized the whole day.

The venue was great too and Mrs. Wilson did a great job…definitely an example of serving with a great heart.

Let’s do it again. Is it possible for more interaction next time? The new perspectives enabled a better possibility to make informed decision even if some perspectives were controversial, they were good to hear. The muffins were great!

Very helpful. Good mix of personal experience and fact. Seems natural to take this to discussion in some format. Can we attend anything else organized by John/Pepperdine? (Thanks for the info on the archaeology talk) [Amanda]

Enjoyed the day, very helpful. Thank you for organizing it. [J. Griffiths]

We’ve learned so much. A heart-moving lesson!!! Praise be to God!! Amen

Your perceptions are pretty spot on and let’s hope and pray for ever increasing unity and godliness!

I’ve enjoyed the lectures of John Wilson as he touched on the various subjects with understanding, love & humility. The greatest blessing was the out flowing of love, humility from the brothers. May God bless us all in unity. [G. Wembley]

John, many thanks for your kind and gracious presentation today. Your moderate and temperate attitude to so many difficult areas of controversy are really appreciated. I look forward with eager anticipation to following the direction that God reveals to us. With love in Christ, Adrian.

I found the session very thought provoking and encouraging. Thank you John for your spiritual maturity; Mike Fontenote might have been a good student of yours since he sounds and acts just like you. I look forward to future interactions. Love in Christ. Roger Frimpong

John, thanks for the sessions today. I think you presented very well and managed to communicate in a very encouraging way. I liked the tact, diplomacy and non-judgmental approach which helped us to gain knowledge without being defensive.

P.S. criticism of ICOC seemed spot on. Sean

This was a very positive experience. Thank you John for your time and humility in sharing your heart, experience and honesty. I look forward to developing relationships with COC in Clydebank, who we will be joining with next week on their teaching days. Thanks again, Marie Jarvis

I am grateful for John sharing his longevity in a spiritual community. I wondered if he could have talked about the role of the women’s ministry in the growth of the church life.