By Raymond Harris
When I was a boy it was common for traveling circuses to come to town about every year. Some years might see two or three such shows come through. In the main they were much like the traveling carnivals – they were all pretty much the same. Most every circus had a respectable collection of wild animals, some trapeze acts, a freak show, some exotic dancers, and an abundance of clowns. And so there was the saying (especially if money was extra scarce), “You don’t need to go . . . if you’ve seen one circus, you’ve seen them all.”
As we consider the ever expanding “Soul Saving Workshop” craze, we’re convinced the old saying regarding the-circuses now applies to the workshops.–Yes, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all!
The “Workshop” seems to be the real “In” thing right now. No longer are the institutional brethren all that excited about “Big Day” at the orphans home. No longer do they beat the drums and stir the brethren so much with state-wide campaigns for Christ. Even the college lectureship has fallen to an “I can take it or leave it” status. Now everybody who’s anybody, is buzzing about the “Great Soul Saving Workshops”!
The International Bible College of Florence, A.1., claims to have spawned and originated the workshops among churches of Christ. Their workshops go all the way back to about 1972. I did not know about or attend the earliest workshops, but by 1974 they were truly comparable to a three ring circus. In those days the little school with the pretentious name “International Bible College” didn’t have any facilities in which to hold such a “spectacular.” So, about twice each year they would commander two or three local church buildings, advertise nation-wide and when the crowds gathered, the clowns would do their stuff. The workshops in Florence ARE now held in the facilities of LB.C.; but, they are wearing a little thin here. For some time now most of the attendance and attention at the Florence workshops comes from out of state.
But, of course, the whole thing was too novel, too secular, and too exciting to keep it bottled up here in Northwest Alabama. So now the show has taken to the road. You remember in the old days, when the circus played so tong in one town and the interest and attendance began to wane. there was only one thing to do – move on. Even though the circus had a home town to which they returned periodically, through the years their circuit of travels was ever expanding. And so with the workshops. They have now played Tulsa, Kosciusko, MS., Fresno, CA., St. Louis, Indianapolis and Evansville, In., and other places.
Again, much like the circus, at the workshops, the performers and the acts are pretty much the same time after time. Before the handbill is distributed you can be sure the workshop will be promoting the bus ministry. reward motivation, youth church, singles classes, the puppet ministry, Salvation Army type benevolent programs and the every expanding roll of women in the church.
Yes, if you’ve seen one workshop, you’ve seen them all. If you have seen one workshop, there is little point in wasting your time, gas and money to attend the next one. Like the circus of old, they bark and brag that every workshop will be the greatest ever! Yet, if you will save your programs and compare them, you will find that almost every workshop features many of the same speakers, about the same subjects are discussed and they are all staged with much the same hoopla. The performers may change the name of their acts from time to time, but in the final analysis, each time out they say about the same things.
Let me show you what I mean. In the chart on the preceding page, we list a few workshops and some speakers and subjects that have been presented at various times.
|Some of the Cast|
|Albert Hill||Phil Powers||Joe Beam||Phil Powers||Charles Coil|
|David Powers||Alan Bryan||Phil Powers||Stan Addis||Marvin Phillips|
|Wayne Monroe||Marvin Phillips||Pat Casey||Stanley Ship||Carl Wade|
|Carl Wade||John Clayton||Carl Wade||Laverne Wade||Ron Brotherton|
|Laverne Wade||Ira North||Laverne Wade||Carl Wade||Laverne Wade|
|Alan Bryan||G.P. Holt||Charles Coil||Joe Beam||John Waddey|
|Marvin Phillips||Joe Beam||David Mellor||Nick Young||Flavil Yeakley|
|Ron Brotherton||David Mellor||G.P. Holt||Marvin Phillips||Phil Powers|
|Nick Young||Flavil Yeakley||G.P. Holt||Pat Casey|
|Jack Exum||Chuck Lucas||Albert Hill|
|John Waddey||Alan Bryan|
|Elvis Huffard||David Power|
|Some Subjects Discussed|
|Teaching with Puppets||Ladies Ought to Win Souls Too||Sex||Busing for Results||Bus Evangelism|
|. . . Help Revive a Dead Church||Dying Churches||Bus Breakdown||Planning a Children’s Bible Hour||Hope of the Gospel Through Benevolence|
|Woman’s Role in the Church||Bus Evangelism||. . . An Evangelistic Youth Camp||The Retreat . . .||Christian Women on the Mission Field|
|Solving Bus Evangelism Problems||Confessions of a Happy Bus Worker||. . . A Day School in a Small Congregation||Our Responsibility to Christian Education Song||Hope of the Gospel|
|How To Fill Buses Keep Workers & Pack Pews||Sex||. . . Teaching with Puppets|
|Children’s Bible Hour|
And finally, what can you elders expect when your young people and your preacher comes home from the circus – er -I mean the workshop? Well, they will be all excited and determined. They will insist, push and even demand that you elders buy buses, start a youth church, mortgage the building, build a family center, start a singles class and in general change the church into a church that resembles a cross between the Salvation Army, the Pentecost Church and the Baptist.
Truly, if you’ve seen one workshop, you’ve seen them all. And if your preacher and your youth are smitten by what they see and hear, within a year or two that little Christian Church out at the edge of town may more nearly resemble the Church of the New Testament, than the congregation where you now attend!
Truth Magazine XXIII: 37, pp. 602-603
September 20, 1979