Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
Arpil 26, 1962
NUMBER 50, PAGE 6,10b

Another Bible School "Spectacular"

Roy L. Foutz, Greenville, Texas

We are living in an age of big things; big projects and promotions, with the necessary big spending. This is true in government, business, and the entertainment world. Movies are evaluated by the size of their cast and budget. Television has its "spectaculars" at regular intervals. The slogan "Think Big" is becoming a part of our way of life.

This attitude has caught on in the thoughts and actions of some of the brethren. Such slogans as "Million For Manhattan" and "Millions For The Billions," and the attendant publicity and promotion, indicate that there is nothing backward in the thinking and planning of some. Even in the very important area of Bible study, this desire for "bigness" has not been overlooked. Some churches (particularly Broadway in Lubbock and Madison in Nashville) have entered into competition to see which can have the biggest Bible school attendance of any "church of Christ in the world." I don't recall what the latest count was or who was ahead in the competition, but plans are now being made for a new record.

In the Highland Helper, weekly bulletin of the Highland church in Abilene, of February 25, 1962, an announcement was made of tentative "plans to have 5,000 people in Bible study one Sunday this fall." Although the attendance in Bible classes the Sunday before that date was only 1108 (and they have two study periods for that number) they are planning to have no less than 5,000 one Sunday this fall. This, of course, will take some "big" planning and promotion. Here are some of those plans, as outlined in the bulletin.

1. "We plan to set up some tents on the church property to accommodate the crowds." The only "property" they have is their parking area, so if they use that for tents they will have an even bigger problem of parking cars for 5,000 people. Of course, they might set up the tents in other locations, or even rent additional auditoriums in other parts of town. Several years ago, Broadway had one of their "classes" in the fairgrounds pavilion, where, by coincidence, a boat show was in progress. It was never determined how many came for the class or to see the boats. However, that was relatively unimportant, for the "count" was the big thing.

2. "We plan on having some of the very best men in the brotherhood to come and teach on subjects in which they specialize." Here is one of the key factors for these "spectaculars." It would be unthinkable to have nearly five times their regular number for Bible study with "ordinary" people teaching simple lessons from the word of God, but if they can get the "best" men to "specialize" for them, there might be a chance of reaching their goal. Of course, if they can get Pat Boone, Bobby Morrow, Byron Nelson, Billy Sol Estes, etc., on their panel of "specialists," there will be enough television, sport and business "fans" (both in and out of the church) to reach, and exceed, their goal of 5,000. Remember the 16,000 in Dallas a few years ago?

3. "Tentative schedule for this Sunday morning is from eight to nine, Bible study; nine to ten, Bible study and worship; ten to eleven, Bible study and worship; eleven to twelve, Bible study." Thus, there will be four sessions that day instead of the usual two. Somehow, they will manage to "squeeze in" the worship in the two middle hours. But, of course, on that "big day" the worship will be secondary to the 5,000 in Bible school. There will be some advantages in having four sessions, for the members of other congregations in Abilene can attend either before or after their services. I am surprised they are not planning afternoon classes, so it could become an "area-wide" effort. People from all around could come by one of the hours, and the number might reach 10,000 instead of 5,000. Who can tell?

I am sure that some are saying, as they read this, that I am being cynical and sarcastic in this article. If so, it is because I am thoroughly disgusted with the ballyhoo and exploitation that attend these promotions. It is to be expected in the business and entertainment world, but it is a travesty on the dignity and seriousness of the church and its divine mission to resort (stoop is a better word) to such tactics. I am not opposed to Bible study classes and to having as many as possible in attendance EACH Sunday and at other times, but I am "anti" the kind of project that is being planned in Abilene.

Another item in this same bulletin makes me wonder if Highland is as interested in getting people to study the Bible as they are in having "5,000 people one Sunday this fall." It showed 1108 in Bible school and 1558 in morning worship. That means that 448 of their own people did not attend Bible school that Sunday. It seems that a fertile field exists in Highland, and a more immediate goal could be to have 1556 rather than 5,000. They need to "brighten the corners where they are" rather than trying to set a brotherhood record "one day this fall."

Through the years, I have been rather closely associated with the Highland church, and I have many friends there now. There was a time when it was a strong church, characterized by sound preaching. In May of 1949, when I preached in a meeting there Brother E. R. Harper and the church were considered by many in Abilene as "antis" because of their strong opposition to some teaching of pre-millennialism in the college, dancing in the public schools, worldliness in the church, softness in the pulpit, etc. Shortly after that, Brother Harper wrote these words to me in a letter: "The church is slowly, but surely, going into digression. Such men as you brothers; (my brother Paul and I-RLF) will be able to help us keep this thing right." Then, "delusions of grandeur" began to set in, with their acceptance of the oversight of the Herald of Truth. As this "big" operation increased, their ideas became bigger with it. Now, with Mid McKnight to take the lead in promoting, they are on their way to even "bigger" things.

It is my prayer that the members at Highland and everywhere will see the folly of such "spectacular" promotions. Remember, the Lord said, "And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant." (Matt. 20:28) In the Lord's kingdom, "bigness" is determined by humble obedience and service rather than by big promotions and spectacular accomplishments.