Seminars/Workshops to Grow and Inspire

Growing up in the Churches of Christ, spring and summer meant “gospel meetings.” The meetings were always evangelistic in nature, sometimes lasting a week. Previous generations had “protracted meetings” which could last a couple of weeks or even longer if the field was “white unto harvest.” As I got older the meetings shrank from a week to either Sunday through Wednesday, or sometimes even Friday through Sunday. The emphasis shifted from evangelism to “meeting needs,” primarily marriage enrichment type of meetings.

Now, I find it rare to see or hear of a congregation hosting an evangelistic meeting, although some “felt needs” kind of meetings are still held. I think this is a huge loss for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that congregations are exposed to fewer and fewer preachers and topics. Congregations have fewer opportunities to interact with each other, and the sense of “brotherhood” is suffering.

Where I am currently ministering (the San Luis Valley Church of Christ in Alamosa, Colorado) we recently hosted two amazing seminars/workshops. I want to describe each very briefly to encourage anyone who is looking for options to serve their community or to grow and inspire their congregations.

The Widowhood Workshop with Dean Miller. This is a workshop designed to (a) educate the congregation about the needs and ministry opportunities both for and by the widows and widowers in your community, and (b) empower a congregation to begin a ministry to its widows and widowers. Dean Miller is a widower himself, and is currently preaching in Maury City, Tennessee. This workshop is designed for three days (Sunday through Wednesday night) and is equal parts message to the congregation and outreach to community members. A separate presentation is available during one of the days (Monday, preferably) for Bro. Miller to speak to a community group and to encourage community members to attend the Monday-Wednesday night meetings. As Bro. Miller points out, the odds of both husband and wife dying at the exact same moment are just astronomically small. So, at some point in time virtually every marriage will end with either a wife or husband being widowed. Bro. Miller begins with a survey of biblical material documenting just how critical ministry to the widowed is in God’s revelation. He then explores the needs and feelings of the widowed, the various issues confronting the widowed, and even includes a special session on the question of remarriage and blending families. As a result of this workshop, a young couple has assumed the responsibility of creating a ministry to the widowed in our community, and I am firmly convinced that over time this outreach will have a significant impact on our community. I do highly recommend Bro. Miller and his workshop. More information is available at double-u double-u double-u dot widowhoodworkshop dot org. (spelled out to keep spam bots from attacking!)

Church Inside Out with Tim Archer. Tim is the Spanish ministries director at the Herald of Truth in Abilene, Texas. He has been a missionary in Argentina and has made numerous trips to assist the churches in Cuba. Tim has an incredible heart for evangelism, and through the years has developed a keen eye and a scholar’s pen to share what he has learned. What I love so much about Tim’s approach is that it is (a) thoroughly biblical, and (b) psychologically sound. Much of what I abhor about evangelistic programs, materials, and methodologies is that they hang a target on the back of a “lost soul,” and then force the “evangelist” to follow a prescribed methodology that is inflexible and domineering. A teacher is given a notebook (sometimes hundreds of pages long) and told to follow a rigid set of questions and then hold a Bible study using a set of chain references designed to convince the “lost soul” how to be a Christian in “X” number of sessions. If they have not been converted by the end of session 3 or 5 or whatever, give up and move on. One common aspect of these “follow the bouncing Scripture” methods is that the student is never, never, ever allowed to ask a question. If they do, the proper response is to divert their attention back to the chain reference of Scriptures and move them toward baptism.

Exactly what the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists teach their door-knocking missionaries.

Tim’s approach is much more student oriented. I cannot explain (nor do I want to) the entire process in this little post, but Tim begins with the student and his or her relationship to God, and then works with them to draw them closer to God. With some people that means what we do is pray for them, that God will “plow the field.” With other students that may mean listening to them (and YES, even allowing them to ask questions!!), with others that may mean we sit down and work through the gospel story (focusing on just one passage of Scripture, not a “follow the bouncing chain reference” approach). The goal for Tim is not just baptism (although he makes clear that is critical) – it is the creation of a disciple of Christ.

If your congregation is serious about creating disciples who can then create disciples, I highly recommend Tim’s seminar. You can contact Tim at double-u double-u double-u dot HearaldofTruth dot org.

One Body with Matt Carter. I learned of Matt’s seminar quite serendipitously through Tim Archers blog, the Kitchen of Half Baked Thoughts (a must if you want to be challenged in your thinking). Matt just recently completed a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Harding School of Theology, where he serves as the Director of Admissions. Matt also serves as a worship minister for the Church of Christ at White Station in Memphis, Tennessee. Matt’s doctoral project/dissertation was focused on the so called “gifts of the Spirit,” and he overwhelmingly demonstrates that we have almost universally misunderstood what those gifts are. I know that is a radical statement, but his study and defense of this proposition is conclusive to me. Once again, I do not want to attempt to explain the entire workshop in just a couple of paragraphs, but suffice it to say that the “gift” is not some miraculous manifestation of the Spirit that takes days, if not months or years, to discover. Rather, God prepares each Christian through a number of ways to be a “gift” to the local congregation, using the power of the Spirit. He begins with a thorough examination of the pertinent passages of Scripture, and then concludes with a session of personal reflection and communal affirmation, usually around a meal. This workshop was just unbelievably powerful for me, and I cannot wait to see how his message will transform our congregation. Contact Matt at double-u  double-u double-u dot onebodyworkshop dot com.

I was profoundly lucky enough to be able to combine Tim Archer’s and Matt Carter’s workshops into one extended workshop on one Saturday. Matt can conduct his workshop on a Sunday (Bible class, worship, and communal meal), and Tim’s workshop takes anywhere from 4-5 hours, depending on the congregation’s needs and Tim’s schedule. We were also fortunate enough to keep both Tim and Matt over until Sunday when they each presented an additional lesson.

All told, this little congregation received about a million dollars worth of information, encouragement, and blessings over the past two months. I am sitting here just in awe of the material we received – and attempting to process how we are going to put it all into practice.

If your congregation is looking for a message – or messages – that will empower and inspire your family to outreach and growth, I highly encourage you to contact these men to see if they can serve you in the near future. Tim’s and Matt’s schedules are full to overflowing, and Dean’s schedule will fill up quickly after word of his workshop is spread around. I suggest you contact these men quickly to arrange for a meeting with your congregation.

Author: Paul Smith

Paul Smith was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He holds the Bachelor of Science in Youth Ministry, Master of Biblical Studies and Master of Divinity, all from Abilene Christian University; and the Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Paul's passion is in teaching and preaching the gospel. Beyond the study of the Bible, his main academic interest is in the life and theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He is an unashamed mountain-goat, and longs to spend his time with his feet in a cold trout stream.

7 thoughts on “Seminars/Workshops to Grow and Inspire”

  1. Paul, It sounds like you had a great weekend. I saw some pictures on Facebook but did not make the connection with you. Matt and I know each other well; Tim and I have crossed paths a couple of times at Herald of Truth events and I admire the work he is doing with this workshop. I was part of the Doctor of Ministry group Matt was in when he started working on his project. It’s thrilling to see that it matured in this way. I have lived through the transition myself in gospel meetings. My great-grandfather would conduct a singing school in the afternoon a hundred years ago, then preach a protracted gospel meeting in the evening for a week or two. I have my own seminar, Call for Fire Seminar, which is an in depth study of prayer and prayers in the Bible. I have noticed that prayer doesn’t seem as needed as other “needs.” Let me know if I can help you in the future.

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    1. Wow, Michael – thanks for the information. I will certainly put your topic and availability in my “to-do” list for 2020. We really taxed our funding for 2019 with these workshops (I may have used up quite a bit of preacher equity to get Tim and Matt here), so I think the rest of 2019 we are going to be working on how to put all of this information to use. I really do see a need for the growth in prayer – so I would very much like to keep your seminar in mind. Do you have a web site or some printed information that I could have handy for planning purposes?

      Was your D.Min. project focused on prayer? My project/dissertation was way more heavily weighted toward the dissertation model, and I focused on confession in the Churches of Christ, or rather, the lack of confession within the Churches of Christ and what that has meant for us historically, and hopefully, what we can do to rectify that omission. Somehow or another I have not broken through to the major league speaking circuit. Hmm.

      I appreciate you following my blog so much, and it is really neat to make connections through it. I met Matt through the internet via Tim’s blog, and now that connection has grown to include you as well. I do hope that some day, if not in 2020 but sometime in the relative near future, that you and I will be able to meet in “3-D” and get to visit more in-depth.

      Paul

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  2. Paul, My dissertation will be connected to the seminar. I have had a couple of interruptions to my program (deaths in family, moving) and currently and am on leave of absence. In regards to the seminar, there is a descriptive list on my blog’s menu under the tab “Call for Fire Session Summaries.” There also is a link to the Call For Fire Facebook page, where you can send me a message for more information. I look forward to meeting you.
    Michael

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    1. Michael, sorry to hear about the interruptions. Funny thing – when I started my program they said I had 7 years. I was really on fire and imagined myself finishing in 3 or four. I actually started with my class-work at that pace. Wouldn’t you know – I submitted my final copy of my dissertation in March and my “clock” would have expired in June. Whew. As a beloved member of a congregation years ago repeatedly told me, “We plan, God laughs.”

      I will follow-up with all the info goodies. I do hope to see the fruit of your labors soon. If you need some encouragement from a has-been, let me know. Every situation is different, I know, but sometimes it really helps to have someone to talk to who has at least walked down a similar path to what you are walking. Best of luck in the near future, and may the interruptions cease and desist for a nice, long, season!

      Paul

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  3. Thank you, Paul. What a blessing to be with you and the congregation. The One Body Workshop works best in a congregation where members know and love each other, and that was evident at SLV. They are blessed to have you and your family.

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