by Al Maxey

Issue #481 ------- April 1, 2011
Learned men are the cisterns of
knowledge, not the fountainheads.

James Northcote {1746-1831}

The 2011 Tulsa Workshop
Reflecting on a Time of Renewal

The annual gathering of disciples of Christ at The Tulsa Workshop, formerly known as the International Soul Winning Workshop, was held last week in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. This fabulous event was begun in 1976, the year I received my Master's Degree and entered full-time ministry for the Lord. Thus, the fabulous workshop that just ended this past week was the 36th in a long series of spiritually uplifting and energizing gatherings!! Saints from all 50 states, and from countries around the world, assemble each March to be fed from the Word of God, to enjoy sweet fellowship, and to encourage one another in their journey toward home. Attendees number in the thousands, which makes the singing within the Pavilion truly heavenly in nature! If such times of worshipful expression don't leave you with goose bumps, then I don't really know what would. Several singing groups also performed throughout the workshop, and they did a marvelous job of presenting the gospel in musical form. Just prior to my third talk on Friday, Psallo, a group from York College, performed, and just prior to my last talk on Saturday, two groups performed for an hour: New Reign, from Oklahoma Christian University, and The Singing Youth of Denver. All three were very uplifting, and they provided a great mood and setting for two of my talks.

In a brief description of this workshop, found on their own web site, the benefits are clearly and convincingly depicted: "Over the years, the workshop has come to be thought of as a giant family reunion! We come from different places, representing congregations with different worship styles and ministry strategies. Yet for three days at the end of March, we come together as one. When it's all said and done, we go back to our home congregations with a stronger faith, a deeper commitment to the way of Christ, and a greater appreciation of what God is doing in and through His people throughout the world." A unity of the Spirit, rather than an imposed uniformity, reigns over the gathering. Yes, we're all different in many ways, but we share a common bond -- we're the children of the Father through our faith in the Son. Our styles of worship may differ some, our ministry strategies may not be the same, but we are family ... we are all ONE in Him. What a foretaste of heaven to witness this in action here on earth.

The theme for this year's workshop was: "Let The Chains Fall Away." It was one I was personally very excited about, and I was thrilled to be asked to present three major talks on this topic, as well as to co-teach a fourth class with Don McLaughlin for preachers only. This particular presentation was on "How to Move Deeper into the Word," and Don and I presented some ideas to preachers on how to more effectively plumb the depths of God's Word and Will, and then how to connect with their congregations in the presentation and implementation of these Truths. It was far better attended than we had anticipated: every seat was taken, people were standing in the back, while several others sat on the floor in every free space in the room (including behind the podium, and at our feet). What a thrill to witness the devotion displayed by these disciples who were hungry for ideas on how to be better leaders of God's people! I thought the crowds at this year's event were actually much larger than those of the previous year, and the various talks appeared to be extremely well-attended -- I believe this was due in large part to the theme. People were eagerly anticipating several days of talks focused on our Freedom in Christ and how to shed the shackles that have bound us back far too long. One could literally see the joy upon the faces of the people in the crowds as speaker after speaker dismantled the legalistic chains that have enslaved the children of God. [NOTE -- in the photo at the top of this article you can get a feel for the size of the crowds. This picture was taken by Shane Coffman, one of the Workshop leaders, during my talk Friday afternoon on "Stale Worship." The people you see in the crowd represent only a portion of those assembled in the auditorium at that time -- there were more seated on the main floor, and many more in the bleachers at the back!! I heard many of the speakers say how encouraged they were by the attendance.]

My first presentation was Thursday at 2 p.m. The title of this lesson was: "Breaking the Chains of Rigidity: Frail Hermeneutics." In this study I presented the need for a more rational approach to understanding the sacred writings. The old CENI model has failed us miserably; it is time for something fresh ... something that truly connects us with the mind of our eternal Father and helps us to appreciate His grace and love! I offered what I believe to be a better hermeneutic. My second presentation was Friday at 10 a.m. (which was the aforementioned class I co-taught with Don McLaughlin for preachers only). My third lesson was that same day at 2 p.m. The title was: "Breaking the Chains of Rigidity: Stale Worship" (it was during this presentation that the above picture was snapped). I challenged the notion that "worship" was something done on specific days, in specific locations, in specific acts, that are highly regulated and restricted. "Worship" is the expression of the devotion of our hearts, and may be evidenced any where at any time and in any number of ways. I challenged the audience to rethink "worship," and to shed the shackles that have held us back from fuller and freer worshipful expressions!! [NOTE -- just prior to this talk, as I was standing at the back of the auditorium collecting my thoughts and listening to Psallo perform, three different persons came up to me (on separate occasions) and asked if they could pray over me, inviting God's Spirit to guide my presentation. From each of those moments of prayer I gained great strength and encouragement, and I thank these three men: Dr. Kieth Mitchell (I wrote the Foreword to his new book), Tommy Ledbetter (one of my fellow elders here in Alamogordo), and Ron Davis (the minister in Liberal, KS -- he was my Associate Minister some years ago here in Alamogordo). You are each special servants of God.] My fourth and final presentation was Saturday at 2 p.m. It was titled: "Breaking the Chains of Rigidity: Narrow Fellowship." I introduced the audience to three biblical figures (John, Saul/Paul and Peter), each of whom held to very narrow views of fellowship, and then showed how the Lord had enlightened each to a broader fellowship. I challenged those present to move beyond the sectarian walls of our own groups and to begin embracing ALL who are "in Him," regardless of differing traditions and teachings which our God has not made terms of either fellowship or salvation.

It is my fervent hope and prayer that my four presentations might be used by our God to touch the lives of those who were present at the workshop, and those who may hear these lessons in the future via the recordings that were made, which are now available to the public through the good people at Workshop Multimedia. I know that I personally was very much encouraged and uplifted by the talks I heard during the workshop, as well as by the one-on-one visits with various speakers and attendees. A good number of Reflections readers were there this year, and I truly enjoyed visiting with each of you. I only wish that I'd had more time to get to know you better. It was a real honor to meet and visit briefly with Jim McGuiggan, who has been a powerful force for good over many decades. Breakfast Friday morning with Don McLaughlin (which extended for two hours) was awesome (it was one of the true highlights of the week, brother), and I truly appreciated both Edward Fudge and Bobby Valentine dropping by our table to grab a quick bite to eat with us. Each of these men had several fabulous presentations during the course of the workshop, and I appreciate them both for their work. I had several visits with Terry Rush, and his encouragement during the event meant the world to me. What an inspiring leader!! Rick Atchley, Shane Coffman, Jason Thornton, Ray Downen, Dr. Kieth Mitchell, Kevin Skidmore, Brian McCutchen, Randy Harris and Victor Knowles -- each of you, during our opportunities to visit one-on-one, were greatly encouraging and edifying to me personally. Thank you for being the grace-centered leaders you are! I also appreciated the fact that there were about 15 from my congregation here in New Mexico that made the trip to Tulsa this year. Their support of my ministry has been a source of strength for 13 years now!!

One of the truly great blessings of events like The Tulsa Workshop is the opportunity to renew old acquaintances and to establish new ones. Shelly and I ran into people we had not seen in years. What a joy to embrace them once again and share with them a few moments of genuine familial love. Won't it be wonderful when our Lord returns?!! What we have only "tasted" in the way of fellowship here will be ours forevermore in that fair land! No more parting, no more brief encounters now and again, but rather a blessed gathering of the saints that will truly be eternal in nature (in every sense of that term). Brethren, if you want a foretaste of heaven, make your plans now to attend the 2012 Tulsa Workshop. I do not know yet who all the speakers will be, and I do not feel at liberty to disclose what the theme will be (the timing of that rests with the directors), but I can tell you what the result will be: greater joy, greater acceptance, greater unity among the people of God as we journey home!! Lord willing, I'll see you next year in Tulsa!!

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

(A 193 page book by Al Maxey)

One Bread, One Body
An Examination of Eucharistic
Expectation, Evolution and Extremism

(A 230 page book by Al Maxey)

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Alaska:
(Sent to both Marvin Phillips and me)

Brothers, What a blessing the 2011 Tulsa Workshop was! It certainly humbled me and my minor knowledge of the Bible. Fortunately, many of the things said at the workshop had already crossed my mind, such as: "God did not make clones; He did not want cookie cutter children" and "Jesus is the way, and yet the paths to Jesus are as varied as those seeking Him." God bless you both!!

From a Minister in Louisiana:

Brother Al, After all the years of "knowing" you via the Internet, it was great to meet you in person last year and this year at The Tulsa Workshop. I really enjoyed your class for preachers, which you taught with Don McLaughlin on Friday morning ("Moving Deeper Into The Word"). Your teachings have had quite an impact on my understanding of the Scriptures, and I'm very thankful that we connected electronically some years ago! Blessings to you and Shelly, and I really hope I get to see you again in about a year's time, if not before!

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, It was so great to meet you and Shelly at the 2011 Tulsa Workshop. You had some wonderful sessions!! I've come away from Tulsa with a renewed spirit and ready to take on more of the work I need to do for God. Thank you for your encouragement and love.

From a Reader in Nebraska:

Dear Brother Maxey, I heard two of your talks at the Tulsa Workshop. I have also been reading your articles in New Wineskins magazine -- very thoughtful and thought-provoking! You have well-stated many of my own thoughts. Thank you for sharing with us all at the workshop! VERY edifying! May God continue to bless your ministry!

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Al, It was so enjoyable to visit and share with you at the Tulsa Workshop last week. Thank you for blessing those of us who were at the workshop. I look forward to seeing you there again! Continued blessings to you and your valuable ministry.

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Maxey, I just want to drop you a brief note to let you know what a pleasure it was to see you again this year at The Tulsa Workshop. I regret that I couldn't spend more time with you one-on-one, but I realized that there were a LOT of other people there who wanted a bit of your time as well. Anyway, it was good enough for me that I was able to talk with you and Shelly for a little bit, get a picture taken with you, and listen to your messages! I'm really looking forward to reading your new book One Bread, One Body, and I thank you for autographing it for me!! May the Lord bless you richly, brother. This week in Tulsa has been an amazing blessing for me, and I am confident that it was the same for you as well. Let me also say that your lessons were incredible -- even better than last year!! I just hope and pray that the "powers that be" there will continue to invite you back to Tulsa as one of the speakers!! Thank you again for all the amazing things that you do!!

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Brother Al, I just wanted to take a minute and say "Thanks" for your teaching at this year's Tulsa Workshop. Your talks were right before mine, and I ended up so enthralled with your teaching that I completely forgot to be nervous!! Thank you! My husband was delighted with your talks as well.

From a Reader in Ohio:

Brother Al, It was so great seeing you and Shelly again, and to also get to meet your son and his beautiful family. I know you were very busy at the workshop with many of your other Reflections readers, as well as the other speakers, but it was good to spend some time with you. I continue to pray for you, Al, and I hope you can continue to shine His light for some time to come!!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, As usual, "The Iron Duke of Restorationism" -- Reflections #480 -- was another great article!! The Lord has truly blessed you with the ability to write in a clear, concise manner. Your battle against the legalists among us is meeting with great success, and many people are finally opening their eyes. Keep it up! I am booked at a hotel in Tulsa and I hope to get close enough to you to at least say hello. I know you will be swamped with leaders of far greater importance than I, but at the very least I want to meet you face-to-face and perhaps get a hug!!

From a Minister in Illinois:

Dear Bro. Al, A good friend, and a Christian brother of mine, just shared with me your article "When An Elder's Wife Dies" -- Reflections #64 -- and I found it to be not only biblically sound, but incredibly logical in its presentation!! Your thoughts and mine are identical, which is also extremely refreshing! Your thoughts in the article have helped to validate my own personal beliefs, and will prove helpful should the legalists in our congregation get up the courage to do more than grumble in the restroom about our upcoming installation of elders. I would also like to be added to your mailing list for receiving Reflections on a regular basis. Thank you, and God bless!

From a New Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, Thank you for adding us to your mailing list. I have found your Reflections to be a source of knowledge and encouragement. I thank God for you and your Berean spirit, which encourages us all to continue searching the Scriptures, as well as our practices, to find the perfect will of God. May God keep you in His care.

From a Baptist Pastor in Texas:

Brother Al, Thank you so much for your prompt reply to my questions. The links to several of your articles have proved extremely helpful. I have only recently been made aware of the CENI approach to biblical interpretation (I've got a dear friend who rigidly adheres to these things). Although I knew that these things (creating binding precepts from perceived examples and inferences) were wrong, yet I was finding it very difficult to articulate the reasons why. Finding your articles has been a blessing to me in that from studying them I have found that I was not fully comprehending the depths of this teaching in order to adequately respond to it. The only exposure I have had to Church of Christ doctrine has been through friends and acquaintances, and, to be perfectly honest, I have often found myself shocked and grieved by what I was hearing. Many times it seemed cult-like to me, and clearly foreign to the clear teachings of Scripture. While I can most certainly find many of the same rigid, legalistic tendencies in Baptist churches (of which I am a member and a pastor), I was wrongly under the impression that most all Church of Christ congregations were rigidly legalistic! So, I hope you can understand what a pleasant surprise it has been to find your Reflections. I want to sincerely thank you for giving your time and effort in addressing so many of these issues, and for publishing them on the Internet. I thank the Lord for you, and for what you are doing!!

From a Reader in Mississippi:

Dear Bro. Al, ALL of your Reflections thus far have meant so much to those of us who continue our struggles with legalism!! I just got this week's article ("The Iron Duke of Restorationism"), and it always ... always ... does my heart good to see that special email show up every week from Al Maxey!! Please know that you and your family are in my prayers. I know that people inform you each week how much your articles mean to them, but I seriously doubt if you can fully understand how much they REALLY mean to us!! Thank you!!

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Al, I was recently visiting at an Old Paths Advocate approved Church of Christ when one of the "Party Leaders" was there giving the sermon. The very first thing he did was chastise any parent that told their kids there was a Santa or Easter Bunny. He said to do so was a LIE, and that God would have none of these kinds of lies. Then, for the next half hour he continued to scream at the congregation, trying his best to scare people (and he did scare my wife and 5-year-old daughter ... me, he just made mad). After the service I had a chance to talk with him. I told him that he reminded me of the "mean old preachers" I grew up listening to, for which he thanked me!! Then he told me that he was actually trying to get someone so upset that they would walk out on him. What a child!! Bro. Al, thank you so much for your writings, which you work so hard on. They keep us all so inspired. I am now determined to speak the Truth about God's love and grace ... I will not be afraid any more!!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Dear Bro. Al, I find it disappointing that Bro. Jacob Creath, Jr. ("The Iron Duke of Restorationism"), a man instructed in the Scriptures, couldn't perceive the main theme of those Scriptures. While the Pharisees were writing their rules, and placing burdens upon the people too big to carry, Jesus came along and summed up the entire Law in just two simple instructions -- Love the Lord and love your neighbor! All of the Law and the Prophets are summed up by LOVE. If love trumped law under the old covenant, how much more so under a covenant of grace?! The legalists of Jesus' day searched the Scriptures because they thought that in them was eternal life ... and they missed the very key to the kingdom itself. How much more so do some very knowledgeable people today, blinded by law, totally miss God's central Truth!! Shake 'em up in Tulsa, my friend!!

From a Reader in Oregon:

Dear Brother Al, I hope that all is well with you. I've really enjoyed your recent articles! While there are some things the early Christians did that may shed light on eternal principles, nevertheless I have often wondered why we think we must emulate their methods in seeking to follow those principles. In recent years, I've found it interesting that many will quote from these "Church Fathers" of the second, third and fourth centuries when the quote or activity helps their case against a practice, but they would never rely on those same sources for other doctrines and practices that would clearly fly in the face of some of their own modern dogmas.

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Al, It is amazing to me to think that I've only been aware of your ministry for a little over two years, yet your writings have totally opened my eyes and been an enormous influence on my life! I was discussing with my cousin yesterday how it seemed meant to be that we should stumble across your Reflections. For several years he and I had discussed a great many of the things that you address, but we had no way of backing up our ideas with solid Scripture, or of putting them into eloquent words. I was going through a deep "crisis of faith" during which I had no idea how to square what I somehow knew to be true with what I was reading in the Bible through legalistic blinders. Then my cousin discovered you through your public response to the Baptist preacher who had challenged the preachers of the Churches of Christ -- Reflections #146 and #207. At the time we were trying to square our thoughts with the Scriptures, unaware that you had already done so! It's amazing how even the smallest thing, like finding you, can turn into such an abundant blessing!! Thank You, Brother -- I Love You!!

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