I recently returned from the Tulsa Workshop, an event that I enjoy each year. It's like a convention for Churches of Christ which includes some of the best preaching and classes you'll find anywhere. It takes place at the Tulsa Fairgrounds Expo Center for three days toward the end of each March. There are usually about five or six speakers to choose from in various locations on the grounds each hour as well as a couple of keynotes each day.
The event is sponsored by the generosity of two Tulsa congregations who alternate the hosting. There is no cost to attend, but free will offerings are collected at the keynote sessions each evening. Various booths are set up in the Expo Center building where you can learn about a number of ministries including singing groups, children's ministry resources, Christian Colleges and Universities, Children's Homes, and much more. Vendors of books and resources are on hand where discounts off retail prices are common.
Preaching and Teaching
Pictured is fellow blogger, John Dobbs during his presentation entitled Jesus Came to My Town in a Hurricane. It was inspired by John's experience as minister in his Mississippi town that was ravaged by Katrina. The recovery continues about 19 months later and John's congregation has been in the thick of it. He explained that Jesus had actually been there all along, but it took a hurricane to blast the church out of obscurity. They have taken this opportunity to show Jesus to their community. Katrina has broken down many walls including the socio-economic and also denominational walls, as people work together in the name of Christ. John tied all this into the ministry of Jesus in Scripture.
Other notable talks I heard included those given by Wade Hodges, Buddy Bell, and Don McLaughlin. One of Bell's talks on Life Changing Small Group Ministry was especially practical in regard to doing small groups effectively. The all-star cast this year also included Randy Harris, Jeff Walling, Keith Lancaster, Terry Rush, Steve Diggs, Bruce Marchiano (the actor who portrayed Jesus in the Matthew video series), Marvin Philips, John Smith, and the list goes on. Audio can be ordered from the Workshop's website linked in my first paragraph.
A Family Friendly Event
Here are our two kids, Justin and Erin, beginning Thursday morning at Workshop. We have taken them since they were babies in strollers. Their backpacks are full of Bible-related activity books which they sometimes pull out during the talks. But they surprisingly retain a lot of the sermon material which is often quoted to us later. And we didn't think they were listening.
The kids also enjoy the shopping since many available items are actually geared toward kids. Some vendors sell activities instead of merchandise. Here you see Justin climbing the wall. He is extremely agile and has been a climber since before he could talk. Erin preferred the inflatable jumping thingy.
I appreciate the volunteers who offered kid's classes during the day this year. The classes were biblical, innovative, and applicational. Our children had a great time. Bible Hour has always been available for the itty bitties during nighttime keynotes. Teen classes are also offered along with contemporary Christian concerts to appeal to that age group.
The praise and worship were as inspiring as ever. There were multiple singing groups with booths and they took turns performing on a central stage this year. Each year also includes a big concert. This year's was Watershed Worship. We weren't able to attend their big performance, but we did see them take their turn on the central stage. They brought the house down! Justin is really into their music and it does my heart good that he likes something with a positive gospel message. The last two years he has bought Watershed's latest CD. Their new one is called I Know You Love Me. I can tell you that it is awesome! My favorite tracks are "Arise" and "This is How We Overcome."
Every bit as exciting as the presentations is the fellowship. It's one reason I attend. It was great to visit with fellow bloggers John Dobbs and Darin Hamm. Darin used to be out here in my neck of the plains, but now he ministers near Tulsa. We are always reunited with several friends that we have known from all over the country through the years.
And how could I not mention the shopping? The Workshop is a great place to buy books by Restoration publishers who have limited distribution. This year I limited myself to only five books:
- Life Together: The Heart of Love and Fellowship in 1 John by Tom Olbricht
- Lifted Up: Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Fellowship in John by Tom Olbricht
- Embracing the Call of God: Finding Ourselves in Genesis by Rick Marrs
- Evangelicalism and The Stone-Campbell Movement, Volume 2, edited by William Baker
- Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger
I bought Simple Church on Thursday and I've already read half of this 252 page book. I cannot put it down. It's revolutionary.
So as always, the Workshop was a great time. I'd love to see you there some year.