Sunday, March 26, 2006

Family Reunion

I spent the last few days in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Every year for the last three decades, that city has hosted the largest gathering of people from the Churches of Christ in the world. The numbers have declined somewhat in recent years, but -- for those of us who grew up making the annual pilgrimage -- it is like a family reunion. We never even had to use the whole title (Tulsa International Soul Winning Workshop); we simply said "Tulsa". People knew what you meant.

I saw people I hadn't seen in years. Jeff Walling. Lynn Anderson. Marvin Phillips. Rubel Shelly. Mike Cope. Max Lucado. These are the rock stars of the Church of Christ. John Dobbs. Wade Hodges. Tim Spivey. Jon Mullican. These are, in my opinion, some of the rising stars.

This was an important year, historically speaking. One hundred years ago, a division that had been forming for several years was formally acknowledged between Restoration Movement churches that chose to use instruments and churches that chose not to. To some of my Evangelical friends, this division seems to be much ado about nothing. To those of us who grew up with it, it was huge.

This year, that division was acknowledged by thousands of people as having been wrong -- sinful even. It was fascinating to watch Max Lucado and Bob Russell share the platform. It was heartwarming to hear the cry for reconciliation and cooperation echoed with such force. Unity is important to God, and it is becoming important to Christians now.

I must admit, I was expecting some sort of fireworks. I know that people in the Churches of Christ can be fiesty, and I wondered if someone might see this as an opportunity to voice their disagreement. But nothing like that happened at all. As one friend said, "All the mean people stayed home."

Who knows what the future holds? How much longer will a gathering like this continue to be viable? How many more unified events will we see? What will it lead to? God only knows.

One thing's for sure: these are interesting times to be alive. God is on the loose, and his kingdom has broken into our world.

One other thing's for sure: family reunions bring mixed emotions. They remind us of what things were like -- good, bad and ugly. They hint to us of how things might be -- more good, bad and ugly. They cause us to reflect, and (hopefully) they cause us to project as well.

One final thing's for sure: there is coming a family reunion to end all family reunions. It will be interesting. The mere thought of it brings about mixed emotions in me. I want it to come tonight, but I want it to hold off a while longer, too.