Interviews with key leaders on the events planned for 2006
Truitt Adair, executive director of the Sunset International Bible Institute, Lubbock, Texas:
Can you tell me how manySunset supporters were sent the letter about the Tulsa Workshop decision? And,do you have any idea how Sunset’s decision might affect the Tulsa workshopattendance? (In other words, how big a part of the thousands whoattend was the Sunset connection?)
We sent our letter out toalumni and to other supporters on our workshop list knowing that many of them would expect to meet us atour booth in Tulsa. We felt that we owed them some explanationfor our absence, given our long history of alumni activities at theWorkshop. I seriously doubt that ourdecision will have a significant impact on attendance.
Like us, we expect othersto look at the program, the speakers and the purpose of this yearquote sworkshop and make a decision consistent with their vision and values.
How is it not consistentwith Sunset’s values and vision to participate in the Tulsa Workshop this year?And what kind of reaction have you received to the decision?
Sunset’s “three essentialvalues” are the Word of God, the lost of the world and the body of Christ, thechurch.
Unity in the body of Christwould certainly be a vital part of our value system, just as it was a emphasis of our Lord and His apostles. Having talked personally with workshopplanners, we are not convinced that their approach to reconciliation and unityis the way to accomplish the goal. Wehave been both commended and criticized for our decision but believe it was theright thing for us to do. We love our brethren whofeel differently.
As some push for”reconciliation” with independent Christian Churches, should Sunset’s action beseen as a “split” in our own fellowship over these discussions? Why or whynot?
I can hardly see how ourdecision not to have an official presence at the Tulsa W orkshop could be seenby anyone as a split. We are all for Biblical reconciliation.
It is the emphasis,orientation and agenda at Tulsathis year with which we respectfully differ. Additionally, Sunset’svisibility at Tulsaeach year has been largely due to its evangelistic emphasis as an InternationalSoul Winning Workshop. This year’ sprogram seems rather inconsistent with its own history and our primary reasonfor being there.
Tulsa Workshop director Wade Hodges sayshe’s especially looking forward to the Friday night keynotefeaturing Max Lucado and Bob Russell. Lucado’s congregation has taken”Church of Christ” out of its name and Russellis from a “ChristianChurch.” What kind of message does that send?
We were told by workshopplanners that each evening there would be a speaker to represent Church of Christ and one to representindependent Christian Church. As with any program of thiskind, planners endeavor to select speakers and topics that advance the messagethey are trying to communicate.
Though we would have chosendifferently, the program and speakers selected by workshop planners seem to beconsistent with the purpose and agenda of this year’s workshop as wehave understood in our conversations.
Are you aware of anyother institutions or display booth operators besides Sunset that decided notto have a presence at the workshop this year?
Several brotherhoodministries have contacted us to ask whether or not we planned to display at theworkshop. I advised each of them to contact the workshop plannersand talk with them personally, just as we did, and then make their owndecision. We have not tried to influenceother ministries one way or the other.
How do you view theemphasis that some (including the Tulsa Workshop and the ACU Lectureship)will make on the reconciliation issue this year? Is this a positive ornegative development in your view, and why?
Unity and reconciliationare Biblical ideals that we share. Wecommend the desire of these and any other brethren to pursue unity. We are not at all hostile toward any effort to bring brethren together,however we believe that these ideals must be achieved in the atmosphere of openand honest discussion of the things that divide us as well as those things weshare. Ignoring the a capella/instrumentaldiscussion, or worse, capitulating to the instrumental position, could bringmore division than reconciliation to the body. It is our fervent prayer and hope that good brethren in Tulsa and elsewhere will seek a Biblical path andgodly discernment in this dialogue.
Besides instrumentalmusic, do you see any other differences (doctrinally or otherwise) betweenChurches of Christ and Christian Churches? If so, what are they?
How we understand Biblicalauthority is the root. If ourhermeneutic anything not expressly forbidden is authorized then the door isopened to not only instrumental music but a myriad of other extra-biblicaldevelopments far less acceptable to even those among us who now accept theinstrument.
Do you have any thoughtson the long-term outlook that the reconciliation events (AbileneLectureship, Tulsa Workshop, North American Christian Convention, etc.) will meanfor our fellowship in 2006? Will it result in bringing people together(i.e., Churches of Christ and Christian Churches)? Or will it result insplitting Churches of Christ (i.e., conservative and progressive)?
I would like to think thatBiblically oriented, Spirit filled, God fearing brethren willcome together and forge a basis for real unity based on common fundamentalBiblical values. If scripture is ignoredand the wrong hermeneutic employed, then this exercise, however wellintentioned, could result in these groups being further alienated fromthe mainstream of our brotherhood.
David Faust, president, Cincinnati Christian University; executive editor, The Lookout Magazine; president of the 2006 NACC
Can you talk about yourbackground and why this is a cause dear to your heart?
My roots in the Restoration movement run very deep. I grew up in a churchof Christ in rural southern Ohio where my parentshave served the Lord for years. In fact,to the best of my knowledge my home congregation has met for the Lord’s Supperevery Sunday since 1858. I was baptized thereat age nine and I was a teenager before I learned there were other churches(also called churches of Christ) that didn’t use musical instruments like oursdid. One of my best friends in highschool attended an a cappella church of Christ every Sunday,and we discovered that our beliefs were the same on most matters although weengaged in some friendly arguments about the instruments.
As an adult I ministered with a Christian church in New York for 10years. Like most urban areas today, New York is achallenging frontier for evangelism where new churches are desperatelyneeded. I took a lot of lumps for beinga “conservative Bible-believing Christian,” but I also found that many of myfriends and neighbors in New Yorkwere hungry for the very message we offered. And they were fascinated by thebasic ideals I had learned as a boy: “Where the Bible speaks, we speak; and where the Bible is silent, we aresilent.” “We’re not the only Christians,but we are Christians only.” “Inessentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; and in all things, love.” Through more than 30 years of ministry I’veconcluded that these principles are still just as relevant as ever, but I’m sadthat we haven’t always practiced them very well.
I’ve long believed that we should be true to every clear doctrineof Scripture, but it took me years to realize that unity is one of thosedoctrines! When the early church was atits best, “all the believers were one in heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). In John 17, Jesus prayed for us to beone–not so we can sit around singing “Kum-ba-yah,” but so we can offer acredible witness to the world about the truth and love of Christ.
It’s time we get serious about what the Scripture says: “Make every effort to keep the unity of thespirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Speaking only for myself, I can’t say I’vealways “made every effort” to protect and promote Christian unity. I’m sorry that I haven’t paid enoughattention to my brothers and sisters in the a cappella churches over the years who believe in these sameideals. I’ve been missing out on somewonderful friendships, and I’m sure the Lord hasn’t been pleased with the wayI’ve neglected so many members of His family.
Can you discuss theimportance of 2006 as it relates to reconciliation between a cappella Churchesof Christ and instrumental Christian Churches/Churches of Christ?
After 100 years of separation I’m encouraged to see increasingdialogue and kindness between these groups. I know there are still areas of disagreement among us, but if we don’tknow each other, listen to each other, and really try to understand each other,how can we ever heal the sad divisions in our ranks? Over the last couple of years I’ve beenincredibly blessed by making new friends in the a cappella churches, gettingbetter acquainted with your colleges and your preachers–and yes, by readingthe Christian Chronicle! I’m praying that 2006 will be a watershedyear that will have a lasting positive impact onour relationships with one another. I’m praying that in thefuture members of Christian churches and churches of Christ will routinelytreat each other better, pray together more, and work together more effectivelyto help the needy and reach the lost.
Can you describe forreaders who might not be familiar with it what the North American ChristianConvention is, and the plans for unity efforts at the June meeting?
The NACC is NOT a delegate convention. It’s open to all. Nobody votes on social or theologicalissues. It’s just a big annual gatheringof Christians who come together for Bible teaching, fellowship, andencouragement. This year our mainsessions will include speakers from both the Christian churches and thechurches of Christ. They will developthe theme “Together in Christ,” drawing primarily from Ephesians chapter4. There will be Bible studies, prayersessions, and workshops on important issues like church health, family,marriage, evangelism, missions, elders, and other topics. The NACC is a family-friendly event, withquality programs for children and teens. Hundreds of exhibitors will set up displays representing Christianministries, schools, and mission works. There will be lots of great singing–with and without instrumentalaccompaniment. There also will be an optional bus tour to historic Cane Ridge, Kentucky,the site of the Cane Ridge revival more than 200 years ago.
As you know, thereconciliation issue is a concern for more conservative members of Churches ofChrist, who see instrumental issue as a doctrinal issue. Can you discuss yourresponse to those concerns, and also discuss the diversity among independent Christian Churches as it relates to this issue?
Personally I am growing in my appreciation for the beauty of acappella singing, and I have deep respect for this way of expressing praise tothe Lord. But as I’ve searched theScriptures I honestly haven’t seen convincing biblical evidence that requiresus to make musical instruments a test of fellowship.
I have no interest in forcing others to accept apractice that violates their conscience, and likewise I hope others willrespect that my convictions are based not merely on tradition but on mypersonal study of God’s Word. Icertainly can’t speak for all who attend Christian churches, but I think a lotof them would agree with this perspective.
Is instrumental music thekey difference you see between these two groups or are there others?
I don’t know that I’m qualified to answer that question. From my limited point of view, our similaritiesfar out-weigh our differences. But forthe last hundred years our groups have developed on parallel tracks that seldomintersect, so we really don’t know each other very well.
Both groups lift up Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and teach thesame basic plan of salvation, including believer baptism by immersion. Both groups hold a high view of biblicalinspiration and authority, both believe in congregational autonomy, and bothare trying to restore the faith and practice of the New Testament church. Our main disagreement seems to be how tohandle the “silences” of Scripture and how to distinguish between matters offaith and opinion.
We also face similar challenges. How should we communicate the unchanging gospel in a rapidly-changing andincreasingly secular culture? How can wereach out to our communities with authentic Christian service? How can we fulfill the church’s globalmission and reach lost people who are dying without Christ? These are critically important questions, andwe need to work together to answer them.
Wade Hodges, preaching minister, Garnett church, Tulsa, Okla.; director, Tulsa Workshop:
Can you tell many how many peopleattended the workshop last year (I understand typical attendance is10,000-15,000)? Also, do you expect Sunset’s decision to affect attendance thisyear?
Overthe past few years I think attendance has ranged from 6,000-8,000. I don’t have an exact count for last year. We are preparing for an overflow crowd thisyear.
I read your January 2 letter onthe workshop Web site, so no need to repeat all that information. But … canyou tell me why it’s important in your view to have the special tag-teamsessions this year with keynote speakers from a cappella Churches of Christ andindependent Christian Churches?
I see it as asymbolic gesture of acceptance and fellowship, similar to table fellowshippractices in the 1st Century. To see a Jew and Gentile eating at the same table was a sign that Godwas on the move.
You mention that you’reespecially looking forward to the Friday night keynote featuring Max Lucado andBob Russell. You’ve got one minister whose congregation has taken “Church of Christ” out of its name and anotherfrom a “Christian Church.” What kind of message does that send?
I think it sendsthe message that the Garnett Church of Christ considers Max Lucado and the Oak Hills Church to still be a part of the Church of Christnetwork/fellowship.
Truitt Adair’s letter to Sunsetsupporters suggested that “In 2006 the Tulsa Workshop will shift away froma soul-winning emphasis to focus on the reconciliation of the Churches ofChrist and Independent Christian Churches.”Is this an accurate statement?
I’ll let the workshop program speak for itself: http://www.tulsaworkshop.org/schedule/
Have any other institutions ordisplay booth operators besides Sunset decided not to have a presence at theworkshop this year? And, have any additional ones chosen to attend because ofthe emphasis?
Comparedto last year, we’re slightly ahead of schedule for booth reservations. We’ve had a few past exhibitors opt not toreserve a booth this year. We’ve alsohad booths reserved by exhibitors who are new to the workshop.
Will instrumental music be usedat any of the workshop events or services? Why or why not?
No. The workshop has traditionally been an a cappellaevent. We have no desire to see thatchange.
Besides instrumental music, doyou see any other differences (doctrinally or otherwise) between Churches ofChrist and Christian Churches? If so, what arethey?
I’m actually struck more by the similaritiesbetween the two, rather than the differences. Having said that, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to keep up withthe growing diversity in doctrine and practice in Churches of Christ, much lessChristian Churches. My guess is that only God with His bird’s eyeview can accurately contrast the two.
Do you have any thoughts on thelong-term outlook that the reconciliation events (Abilene Lectureship, TulsaWorkshop, North American Christian Convention, etc.) will mean for ourfellowship in 2006? Will it result in bringing people together (i.e., Churchesof Christ and Christian Churches)?
One of the outcomesI’m hoping for is that on a local level Churches of Christ and Christian Churches will be inspired to worktogether in missional ways. I don’texpect to see a bunch of mergers occur and I’m not encouraging it. But I do think it would be really cool if a Church of Christand a Christian Church built a Habitat for Humanity house together or pooledtheir resources to help the poor in their community or worked together to dosomething about the AIDS crisis in Africa as aresult of these events.
Or will it result in splittingChurches of Christ (i.e., conservative and progressive)?
I’m praying thatmy brothers and sisters in the Churches of Christ will remember that ourmovement began with a plea for unity and that what is happening in 2006 is anopportunity to restore something that has been sadly forgotten by too many inthe Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement.
Victor Knowles, editor, ONE BODY; president, POEM (Peace on Earth Ministries), Joplin, Missouri:
Can you discuss the importance of 2006 as it relatesto reconciliation between the a cappella Churches of Christ and independentChurches of Christ?
Reconciliation between us isvital for several reasons. We share the same Stone-Campbell heritage. More thanthat, we share the same spiritual DNA. The bottom line is, “If you are inChrist and I am in Christ then we should be together in Christ.” Our disunityis a disservice to a lost world. In the essentials, we are one. Innon-essentials, we need to allow liberty. In all things, we need to have morelove. The world is watching and needs to see that we can handle our differencesin a spirit of love.
Can you describe for readerswho might not be familiar with what the North American Christian Convention is,and the plans for unity efforts at the June meeting?
The North American ChristianConvention was formed in 1927 by conservatives to provide a national gatheringof individual Christians who wanted opportunities for fellowship and to hearsound preaching. It meets in a different city of the U.S. each year. As many as 50,000have attended in the past. Former NACC director Leonard Wymore said, “The NACCis not intended to be a base of sectarian cohesion or to represent theChristian Churches/Churches of Christ as a denomination, but rather to rallyChristians toward the person of Christ and the great themes of his Word as thenecessary basis for Christian unity.” The NACC is to conservative ChristianChurches/Churches of Christ what a large lectureship or international workshop(like Tulsa)might be to Churches of Christ.
The2006 NACC will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, June 24-27. The themeis “Together in Christ.” Main session speakers will feature Rick Atchley,Prentice Meador, Jerry Taylor and Jeff Walling from the Churches of Christ,plus about 35 others from the a cappella fellowship making workshoppresentations. President David Faust (also president of Cincinnati Christian University) says, “The2006 NACC will provide an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to one anotherin brotherly love. We will celebrate our common heritage and faith. And we willask the Lord to heal our divisions and help us achieve our common goal ofreaching a lost world for Christ.”
Itis being billed as “an epic event, an unforgettable family reunion.”
As you know, the reconciliationissue is a concern for more conservative members of Churches of Christ, who seeinstrumental music as a doctrinal issue. Can you discuss your response to thoseconcerns, and also discuss the diversity among independent Christian Churchesas it relates to this issue?
Thomas Campbell said thatinferences and deductions should not be formally bound upon the consciences ofChristians “farther than they perceive the connection.” Those of us in theconservative Christian Churches/Churches of Christ simply do “perceive theconnection” when our a cappella brothers present us with inferences anddeductions from Scripture that instrumental music is sinful. It is not that wedo no respect the authority of Scripture, we do! None of us want to displeaseGod and put our souls in jeopardy. It issimply that we do not “perceive the connection.”
Whileinstrumental music may be an issue worth discussing, it is not an issue worthdividing over. G. C. Brewer said, “Nothing should separate us from each otherunless it is something that separates us from God.” We simply do not see theissue of instrumental music as something that separates us from God.
Wemust practice forbearance. If we all saw eye-to-eye on every issue, we couldnever “forbear one another in love.”
Becausewe all don’t see eye-to-eye on every issue doesn’t mean we can’t workshoulder-to-shoulder in the things that matter most.
Wehave our own issues among Christian Churches/Churches of Christ but thus far wehave managed not to divide over those issues. We have varying views on the roleof women in the church, different styles of leadership, classic worship (hymns)vs. contemporary worship (praise choruses), what to call the preacher,observing the Lord’s Supper on days other than Sunday, and the role of baptismin a person’s salvation. We seem to stand as one, however, that the Bibleremains the inspired word of God and our only rule of faith and practice, andthat Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Our four “iron pillars”which we will not negotiate are found in Jesus’ prayer in John 17: thecentrality of Christ, the authority of Scripture, the unity of all believers,and the evangelization of the world.