That is the only way to describe those wonderful days together here in Chattanooga, July 5-9. It is an "experience" that has to be shared in order to understand and appreciate it. I wish each of you could have been here with us. Disciples of Jesus came from many states to participate in the enriching spiritual feast. The love and fellowship were a great blessing to all.
Presentations were delivered on many vital Bible subjects, with discussion and questions following.
THURSDAY the program was as follows: DUSTY OWENS started it off speaking on the vital subject: "The Unity of God's People." He showed from Scripture that God's children -those truly born again- are already UNITED in Christ in the family of God. Our responsibility is to "keep" or "preserve" that unity or oneness. We must learn how to do this and do it.
STANLEY MORRIS dealt with "What Are We Really Trying To Say?" One point was that it is NOT "we" (whoever that may include) as a Group or Movement that speaks, but rather each individual is to speak for himself/ herself. No person, no organization, church, Movement, or group should speak for you. It must be YOU that speaks; speaking for yourself alone. Even in this writing, I speak only for myself, not anyone else. This is my personal overview of the Forum.
In view of the above remarks, I would like to digress here for some personal observations. Stanley did a great job and put these matters in perspective. But since the subject has been introduced here it gives me a chance to discuss some things along this line that I have intended to present for sometime. There was no official GROUP involved in the Forum, even though various individuals were involved. Everything was done by individuals who accepted the responsibility for some part of the work and all worked together to get it done.
Also, there was no official MOVEMENT involved in what we were doing at the Forum. The people directly involved with THE EXAMINER, the writers, those who financially support the paper, the readers, nor all of these considered together do NOT in anyway constitute a MOVEMENT, an ORGANIZATION, a FELLOWSHIP, a CHURCH, a RESTORATION, a REFORMATION, or even a SECT. The entire affair was arranged and carried out by INDIVIDUALS working together. No ORGANIZATION sponsored it or controlled it. Moreover, the people involved with the Forum did not constitute a FELLOWSHIP. We had a lot of fellowship, to be sure, but the people cannot rightly be called a Fellowship as that term is often used today. There is no teaching, position or doctrine to which all must or do subscribe. There is no "membership" in anything save the body of Christ Jesus.
The people involved in this Forum do NOT constitute a religious organization and definitely they are NOT a "movement" in any formal sense of those terms! We are simply individuals sharing and acting with one another m doing some things together. Yes, we do things in an organized, orderly fashion, but we are not "members of" nor do we "belong to" any organization that directs or controls our views or activities in serving the Lord. There is not a person or group of persons that speaks for us in any way whatever. While we are NOT a fellowship, we do have fellowship one with another when we are doing things together, such as sharing a common meal, singing, praying, studying, observing the Lord's Supper, or pooling money to help the needy or worthy endeavor.
As saints we are free in Christ, with each individual fully responsible for her/his personal beliefs and practices; and divergent views can be found among us, yet we seek to allow freedom of thought and speech. It is our desire to accept one another and thus keep or preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
We do indeed learn from one another. We do encourage one another to love and good works when we meet with others. But I repeat, there is no person, organization or institution to rule and control. The Truth and Freedom Forum was NOT setup, managed or controlled by Truth and Freedom Ministry, Inc. That little expedient organization has only six people involved in it, all members of the Board of Directors. While each one happened to be involved in the Forum, not one of them was acting as a member of the Board or in any official capacity whatever. Each one acted on his/her own, just as every other participant did.
In setting up the Truth and Freedom Ministry, Inc., it was necessary to have a Board of Directors. As I have explained several times in the past, there were two principle reasons for setting up the corporation. One was to provide a legal way for Christians to financially support the work of THE EXAMINER and receive an income tax deduction, which our government recognizes as legitimate. The second reason was to have an organization or corporation that would reflect some permanency and stability to others from whom we would purchase goods and services. One thing for sure and certain is that absolutely no claim is made that this corporate body is built by the Lord Jesus Christ; or that salvation is found therein, as is claimed by local Church of Christ churches, which are just as much human organizations or legal corporations as Truth and Freedom Ministry, Inc. Our little organization is nothing more than a human expediency; it certainly is NOT necessary. It is from man, not from God. The same is true of every local Church of Christ church; and it is time that the disciples recognize this church/corporation to which they give their allegiance and their $$$'s, and which controls their religious life, for what it is - a creation of men!
As long as my teaching and efforts can have any influence upon others, the work of faith and the labor of love in which we are engaged will never become a MOVEMENT, ORGANIZATION, FELLOWSHIP, INSTITUTION, CORPORATE ENTITY, or anything of that sort of kind. It will be and remain a free association of saints when and as the opportunity presents itself to meet together AS FREE INDIVIDUALS, who belong only to the Lord Jesus, to encourage one another to love and good works, to study God's word, to teach the lost, to recover the fallen, to pray, sing, take the Lord's Supper, take a collection to help the poor or preach the gospel to the lost, to edify one another, encourage the weak, and all the other good works our Lord wants us to do in His name. YOU, dear brother and sister, BELONG TO the Lord Jesus. Therefore, do not be or become the slaves of men nor of any religious human institution. The way of the Lord is so simple, unstructured and unorganized that men just can't accept it. Our relationship to our Lord is on a one-on-one basis. There should be nothing and no one between you and your Savior.
Now back to the main subject-the Forum.
BILL BAKER discussed "The Christian's Responsibility in a World of Evil." It was a good, helpful study that was of benefit to all. Like the others, Bill always presents a stirring, valuable study.
DEAN SPURLOCK handled "The Ordination of Elders" in an informative way. He made us re-study the matter.'
JAMES FINLEY delivered a very challenging lesson on "The Lord's Day." You will just have to hear/read it and get ready to do some heavy study of God's word.
C. L. EMBREY dealt with "The Christian and Civil Government" in an impressive and effective study. You need to weigh well what he had to say about this vital matter.
At the evening meeting, NORMAN PARKS delivered an informative and enjoyable presentation on "How The Church Got This Way." To close the study for the day, OLAN HICKS discussed in his usual able fashion what has been designated by men as "The Law of Silence."
FRIDAY began with STANLEY MORRIS discussing the subject of "Where Mistranslations Missed It." It was an informative presentation.
TERRY GARDNER stirred and challenged us with his presentation of "Simple Christianity." He is an able young man.
BOB JANTZ presented a unique, informative study of "Law and Covenants." You need to study what he set forth.
After lunch all previous speakers were put forward to answer questions relative to their topics and for further discussion. Then some of those who were not on the formal program were asked to make short talks.
At the evening meeting, I spoke on the assigned subject: "How I Got Here From There." Then J. ERVIN WATERS climaxed the day with a fine presentation of "Restoration Unity Plea Revisited." It was another great day of inspiration and learning.
On Saturday, JEFF RADA, a fine, able young man from California, started the day's activities with a presentation of "The Worldly Church."
ROBERT HACH, also a fine, able young man from Florida, presented an excellent study of "The Ekklesia of God." (These are two men we will be seeing and hearing more; rising leaders for tomorrow.)
ART THOMPSON and CHARLES HOLT each presented a short study of the vital subject: "Woman's Role," after which there was considerable discussion of the subject, with women (both young and older) participating. (Last summer at the Forum in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area a wonderful, precious, highly capable woman, a devout Christian, delivered an excellent lesson to all of us; and on a very short notice. Dare I openly tell of such a thing? Without the slightest hesitancy! At the next one there (probably in early November) I hope to hear her speak again. Surely a woman can speak to or teach a mixed audience (or, even a male audience) without "exercising authority" over the man. This gracious lady did it to the pleasure and benefit of all present.)
GAYLON EMBREY spoke on "Questions" that he felt that all of us need to consider or reconsider. Gaylon is always appreciated and enjoyed by the people who hear him.
BILL BAKER presented a challenging study of "Capital Punishment" that was of high interest to all. He has a book on the subject that is soon to be released.
ART THOMPSON closed the day's studies with a fine, challenging study on "What It Means To Follow Jesus." This is the greatest goal for all of us.
On Sunday morning the entire meeting centered around the Lord's Supper. You would just have to be a part of it to really understand and appreciate this very moving time. It lasted almost two hours! RICK ROBERTS coordinated this time together.
Cassette tapes of most of the speeches are available from Charles Baugh. At this time, I do not know the price of the tapes.
The consensus of the people was to have another Forum next year and the date will be July 4-8, 1990. It likely will be in Memphis, TN. Make your plans to be with us. It is a spiritual treat that is worth far more than it cost in time, effort, and money.
Another regional Forum is being planned for the greater Dallas/Ft. Worth area. The tentative date is November 3-5. If you receive this paper in time, make your plans to attend. HOARCE HOOPER is the principal coordinator.
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, AND FOLLOW ME'." As His disciples today, that is exactly what we must do-follow Jesus. Have YOU decided to follow Jesus completely? Only? Someday you will be judged by Him concerning this all-important decision. What will His answer be to you? To me? God bless each of you with the faith, love, and courage to take up your cross and follow Him. - CAH