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Conferences focused on doctrine, spiritual growth and unity draw crowds

‘It’s like a huge family reunion’

TEXAS: Sound Doctrine and Practice
LEWISVILLE, Texas — In this fast-growing suburb north of Dallas, the Lewisville church started with 120 members in 1997.
In the 11 years since, attendance has increased sixfold to more than 750 most Sundays, leaders said.
Much of that growth came as a result of emphasizing strong biblical teaching in the church and “teaching the truth in love” in the community, elder Harold Taylor said. “A healthy doctrine promotes evangelism, and evangelism promotes healthy doctrine,” Taylor said. “While some want to live outside the box, we want to live inside the Scriptures.”
Emphasizing the need for Bible study and personal evangelism, the congregation hosted a recent three-day Sound Doctrine and Practice Workshop with the theme “The Church … Growing Again.”
Speakers included Ralph Gilmore of Freed-Hardeman University, Dennis Jones of Heritage University, Ed Wharton of Sunset International Bible Institute and Howard Norton of Harding University.
“We have a great concern for the church,” pulpit minister Jeff Jenkins said. “Our motivation is to encourage the church to remain loyal to the Word of God and the principles of New Testament Christianity.”
About 500 people attended the all-day Saturday session of the workshop. The event featured a demonstration of the Mission Learning Center, a technique developed by Don and Sylvia Petty to teach children to support missions through hands-on cultural simulations of mission fields.
“Our prayer would be that when people leave this weekend, they would be very enthusiastic about their commitment to the Word and feel renewed and revitalized to evangelize their communities,” Jenkins said.
FLORIDA: Spiritual Growth Workshop
ORLANDO, Fla. — Despite high gasoline prices, the recent Spiritual Growth Workshop attracted about 3,000 people to the Rosen Center Hotel for two days of worship, fellowship and Bible instruction.
Organizers of the biannual workshop had expected attendance to be down slightly because of economic woes and the price of gas. The 2006 event drew 3,300.
“A lot of people make this workshop a part of their vacation,” said director Joe Roberts, minister of the Orange Avenue church in nearby Eustis. “It’s like a huge family reunion here.”
The workshop featured the theme “Messiah:  Mission and Message” and evening keynote speakers Wesley Leonard of Orlando, Randy Harris of Abilene, Texas, and Arnelius Crenshaw of Oklahoma City.
Classes on church growth, leadership and marriage enrichment drew participants from about 15 states.
“I have to have my strength,” said Martha Sue McCain, a church member from Newnan, Ga. “It’s just a wee bit of heaven being here.”
“It lifts me up when I’m around a lot of Christians,” said Stephanie Bradley, 15, who worships at the 50-member church in Williston, Fla. “It makes me want to strive to do better.”
Widespread cooperation and support  from Florida churches — about $58,000 from 50 congregations — is one reason attendance stays high, said fund-raiser Sam Samuels of Nashville, Tenn.
A balanced program with no agenda also attracts people, Roberts said. “We just want people to leave here and say, ‘Wow, isn’t God great!?”
The Orange Avenue church took over the workshop’s sponsorship in 2006. Previously, the Concord Avenue church in Orlando served as the sponsor.
TENNESSEE: World Convention
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Organizers bill the World Convention — a quadrennial gathering of members of Churches of Christ, Christian Churches and Disciples of Christ worldwide — as an opportunity, first and foremost.
They say the convention, held recently for the first time in 16 years in the U.S., provides those whose spiritual heritage can be traced to the Stone-Campbell Movement a chance to fellowship, develop understanding and practice cooperation.
What comes afterward for the estimated 2,000 participants? That is up to them.
“You can’t do things together unless you … have a relationship,” said Doug Foster, World Convention vice president and associate professor of church history at Abilene Christian University’s Graduate School of Theology in Texas.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘I thought all those Disciples of Christ people were devils, but they don’t have horns and tails after all.’”
Mike Cope, preaching minister at the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, and keynote speaker, said: “There are differences among the three groups, of course, but this isn’t a gathering that focuses on those. Rather, it’s a unity meeting.”
A “blended worship,” or a combined a cappella and instrumental session, took place nightly. Ken Young, worship minister at the Fourth Avenue church in Franklin, Tenn., led each evening’s music with the group Hallal and a handful of instrumental musicians.
Kelci Bills, also a member of the Fourth Avenue church, saw the event as “a chance for us, regardless of country or background, to sing the same song.
“I hope God is very pleased,” she said.

  • Feedback
    Very encouraging. Thank you for the story.
    September, 1 2008

    If someone fellowships someone who is known to disregard some commandments of God, then where will it stop? The difference between the “christian churches” and The church of The Christ” is not playing instruments in worship. It is their disregard for the authority of The Scriptures and what God commands.
    August, 26 2008

    Glad to read the report on the World Convention. As a Church of Christ member and minister, I still do not consider those Disciples all bad. We don’t need to draw our line in the sand on the music, though I will like forever practice that in my walls. There is more, and I say it is time to recognize that. I did take the opportunity last year to visit the Disciples of Christ museum in Nashville. Doing so, I helped pull myself across the line I had in my heart, and I feel stronger having done so. I think it is OK to worship and work separately, as long as we maintain the love and understanding that comes with the Cross of Jesus.
    August, 25 2008

Filed under: National Staff Reports

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