Addressing church decline one child at a time
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — On a recent Sunday morning,…
OKLAHOMA CITY — Youth groups representing 50 congregations in Oklahoma and Texas packed the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City on a recent Sunday evening.
Hundreds of students took to the pews for Unite — a statewide youth worship night — filling the floor and forcing the church to open a section of its stadium seating.
Oklahoma Christian University President Ken Jones led the opening prayer.
“I pray tonight, Father, that you would be with each one of these young people who are here, that something can be done, said that will cause them to have even a stronger connection to you,” Jones said. “Father, we want blessings over all of our churches in this state, and we all want your kingdom to spread in this nation. We believe that the only way this nation can reverse the course that it’s on is that your kingdom spreads.”
Featured speaker James Simmons, lead minister for the Contact Mission Church of Christ in Tulsa, Okla., smiled as he studied the crowd.
“There’s so much of this world that tries to tell us through all sorts of different things that we are not
united,” Simmons said. “And the adversary will come in and … play these mind games. He says, ‘Yeah, you see that scandal there? That church? Yeah, they just split up, too.’ And systematically, he will give us this narrative as if the church is dying, is decaying.
“Here’s the thing: I am looking at the church of today, right here amongst us. You all are the church of now — not tomorrow, not Sunday.”
But unity doesn’t equal uniformity, Simmons stressed, referencing 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
“I am looking out, and I am seeing the kingdom of God tonight, because I see different churches,” Simmons said. “I see different groups. I see different ethnicities and races and cultures, all mixed together under one banner of unity in Christ.
“I am seeing the kingdom of God tonight, because I see different churches. I see different groups. I see different ethnicities and races and cultures, all mixed together under one banner of unity in Christ.”
“The church should be known as a banner of love, of peace, of forbearance with one another, but there’s so many times we hear in our culture that the church isn’t united,” Simmons added. “I’m here today to tell you that we need to get back to the sentiment of unity.”
One event sponsor is supporting that unity financially.
Taking to the stage, a spokesperson for Oklahoma Christian University announced that starting with the freshman class in 2024, the institution will offer a 50 percent tuition discount to all active members in youth groups within Churches of Christ.
High school students in the audience gasped — and then began to whisper to each other. A drawing open to Unite participants offered an additional $500 scholarship.
The university also provided dinner for the Sunday event after worship, serving students fried chicken. Concession trucks offered snow cones and other treats outside in the Memorial Road church parking lot.
The teenagers were then free to choose between a myriad of activities: rock climbing, pool, inflatable wipeout,
9 Square, pickleball and more.
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