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‘Soul-winning’ evangelist Marvin Phillips dies at 86

Longtime Tulsa minister, known for his sense of humor, was passionate about Christian unity.

Marvin Phillips, a minister known for his ever-present smile, a missionary who raised money to buy countless Bibles for Africa and the driving force behind the Tulsa Workshop, died Wednesday after a long illness. He was 86.

Phillips was pulpit minister for the Garnett Church of Christ in Tulsa, Okla., for 26 years before retiring in 1996. He had served with the church since its humble beginnings in a school gym in 1970. In 2015 the congregation became The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ.

He oversaw the International Soul Winning Workshop, which brought thousands of members of Churches of Christ to the Tulsa Fairgrounds annually. The free gathering, later shortened to the title “the Tulsa Workshop,” ran for 40 years. Oversight of the event switched to the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa before the workshop ended in 2016.

Terry Rush, minister for the Memorial Drive church and longtime co-director of the workshop with Phillips, said in a social media post, “This man … made a difference. What a great friend!”

Phillips founded two foreign ministries and launched an ambitious program to raise millions of dollars to purchase Bibles for the African continent. He also started a side career as a positive speaker, hosted a weekly TV show and published five books, the Tulsa World reported as he retired from the Garnett church.

He had a well-developed sense of humor, family and friends said — including the ability to imitate a Coke bottle opening, a referee’s whistle and an electric drill. One book he authored is titled “Never Lick a Moving Blender: Humorous Insights that Motivate and Encourage.”

Phillips was a promoter of Christian unity and led efforts to increase fellowship between the predominantly a cappella Churches of Christ and the instrumental Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. He was a close friend of Victor Knowles II, president of Peace on Earth Ministries, a nonprofit associated with Christian Churches.

“Marvin Phillips, a dear friend, dynamic preacher, and great promoter of Christian unity and world evangelism has gone home to be with the Lord he loved and served so well,” Knowles wrote. “Marvin wrote 77 positive and powerful articles and columns for our magazine One Body and the Summer issue will feature one of his best, “I Am a Debtor.” R.I.P. dear brother Marvin.”

A ‘Celebration of Life’ will be held at the Park Plaza Church of Christ in Tulsa, Okla., Saturday, April 28, at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts in Marvin Phillips’ name to Oklahoma Christian University for ‘Church Resources’, or to the Park Plaza Church for ‘Bibles for Africa’.

Filed under: marvin phillips National Obituaries Top Stories

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