DisciplesToday and ICOC Info Refine Roles and Cooperation
A Joint Announcement by Roger Lamb and Kelcy Hahn
September 9, 2005
In early 2003, I started a small website to “fill the gap” left when our family of churches stopped collecting membership information centrally. I respected the sensitivity of “stats” among us, but also believed there were many churches, especially mission churches, that were keen to continue sharing this information, and so I created the ICOC Info website as a vehicle for an unofficial coordination of this effort.
I was surprised and encouraged by the willingness of churches around the world to share data with me, and delighted that I could serve the churches in this way. My spiritual mentor and evangelist at the time suggested I also add links to church websites to better connect churches, and later readers suggested I add contact information for churches without websites, which I was happy to do.
A secondary motivation for starting ICOC Info was to provide an alternative to the many negative websites about our churches. I hated that many brothers and sisters, and even church leaders had to wade through rumor and slander to find news about their own church. Not all the news I link to is positive, but I resolved not to peddle in rumor or personal attacks. At the same time, I wanted to fill a vacuum that, when left unfilled by us, is certainly filled energetically by our critics.
These two roles are at times contradictory. Publishing a church contact directory and membership statistics looks “official,” and was therefore something I had long hoped would be taken on by a website that would represent more than just me personally, that would represent the broad support of our family of churches.
I was glad to see the birth of Disciples Today. Roger Lamb and I share a common desire for church unity and communication. Our relationship has been built on our convictions in Jesus, these common goals and mutual respect. Early this year, ICOC Info and DisciplesToday.net cooperated in gathering the first thorough collection of basic information about the ICOC family of churches since the worldwide organization was dismantled. We have enjoyed a great working relationship on several information collection projects.
This week I invited Disciples Today.net to take over the responsibility for the contact directory, events and membership information. I am happy to see this role taken on by Roger Lamb and his team. Truly, it was always a role better suited to a website such as Disciples Today. Roger and I have enjoyed a warm, brotherly working relationship, and continue to work together in that spirit. It’s the strength of this relationship and our common desire for church unity that has made this transition of roles—once Disciples Today has in place the required technical infrastructure, by the end of this year or sooner—possible. With subscribers from 96 countries, a team of volunteers and their technical resources, I believe Disciples Today will take this essential information gathering role to a higher level.
I will continue to maintain ICOC Info as a personal website that I hope will serve readers with a fast, accurate—but clearly unofficial—flow of information. Being less of a representative website, I will be able to return to one of my original goals—to make available on a pro-church personal website a variety of news and perspectives, some of which may be of interest to church members and leaders but not suited for a website that carries the additional responsibility, as Disciples Today does, of representing the churches. I will also continue to provide church growth analyses simply as a member.
Roger and I both anticipated our websites had the potential to compete and conflict with each other. Neither of us wanted to go that direction. I am so grateful for Roger’s humble spirit, his offer of partnership, and the brotherly cooperation he’s extended to me. This friendly re-definition of our roles is, we believe, in the interest of the church we both love, and is an affirmation of the premium we place on cooperation and unity. To Roger and the Disciples Today team, my hat’s off to you and the growing role in which you serve the church.
“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it...” Ezekiel 22:30
God found such a man in Kelcy Hahn who, as a regular Christian, saw a need and stood in the gap for God. Many have felt the communication deficiencies in the International Churches Of Christ family. When we went through The Storm of 2003, basic information about our churches was rapidly disappearing and hard to find. Kelcy saw a need and took up the toolboxes God had provided, using the gifts God had given him and started using the internet to gather basic information to help tie the churches together. He also made some very insightful observations about our churches. (See Church Data and Analysis.)
Disciples Today began in response to the same need. I am personally grateful for the confidence the churches have shown in Disciples Today and the acceptance it has gained in just 15 months of existence. As John Louis pointed out at the opening session of the International Leadership Conference in Seattle, our churches and members need to know which on-line information is broadly representative of our churches. Disciples Today is committed to meet this need according to our mission statement: To connect disciples and churches throughout the world.
Disciples Today and ICOC Info have enjoyed a working relationship that illustrates biblical unity. It has been a constant joy to seek the good of the brotherhood together. Early this year, together we collected the basic contact information for 90% of our churches. Disciples Today provided the broadest outreach and ICOC Info provided the data collection. The resulting information is posted on both websites.
In refining our purposes and audiences, Kelcy approached me with an offer to transfer the data from ICOC Info to Disciples Today and fully supports our forward efforts to collect and publish this information. When Kelcy and I met, unaware of what was on Kelcy’s heart, I approached him with an offer to be the Editor for the Headline section of DisciplesToday.net. We both readily agreed with each other’s suggestions and marveled at the way the Spirit had moved through this entire situation. Surely this is part of what it means to “maintain the spirit of unity.”
We believe this redefinition of our sites will allow both of us to better serve. We fully intend to continue serving in cooperation as we pursue our labor of love and passion for communication among disciples.
Disciples Today desires to use the internet for good and to find new ways to help disciples and our churches connect with each other to glorify God.
We need your continued prayers and support.