CLA tackles Northeast Texas town
By John Warren
MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas--You've got questions? The Christian Leadership Academy says it's time for some answers.
"A Time for Answers" was the theme of the latest CLA campaign Dec. 15-16 in this Northeast Texas city on Interstate 30 about 40 miles north of Big Sandy.
Based in Hot Springs, Ark., the CLA for the first time sponsored a guest speaker. Ron Dart of Christian Educational Ministries, Tyler, Texas, talked to the audience about the Sabbath.
Mount Pleasant makes the 12th campaign city for the CLA in the United States and Canada.
The other speaker here was CLA founder Alfred Harrell of Hot Springs, Ark. Dr. Harrell spoke Friday night, Mr. Dart on Saturday night. Dr. Harrell spoke about the Sabbath. Mr. Dart's topic title was "The Forgotten Commandment."
The Journal talked with Tim Hall of Bono, Ark., campaign coordinator and CLA spokesman, about the organization's impact and plans.
"Our next campaign is planned for Oklahoma City on the 3rd of March," he said. "After that there is a lot of interest in Houston, so we hope to set something up there about two months after Oklahoma City."
Mr. Hall said he and other CLA volunteers, including Dr. Harrell, chose Mount Pleasant as the latest site because a supporter, Luther Waller of nearby New Boston, Texas, suggested it.
"Luther found the meeting hall and got 35 minutes of radio advertising time for $35," said Mr. Hall. "We inserted 15,000 flyers in area newspapers and also handed some out in shopping-center parking lots."
Where to go
A criticism some Church of God members have leveled at the CLA is that, when the CLA convinces a member of the public that he should observe the Sabbath, the CLA doesn't provide a place for him to attend church services.
"That is God's job," said Mr. Hall. "We don't send people to any particular church. We have literature for them to take home and study. We also have a church listing of Sabbath-keeping churches. After they have studied into the subject, we feel they will have the information needed for them to decide."
Mr. Hall said that about 100 people attended the Mount Pleasant campaign. Of those, at least 17 were new to any Church of God.
The Journal asked Mr. Hall who the CLA allows to speak at its functions. Is it only ordained elders?
Dr. Harrell has never been ordained, said Mr. Hall. "We do not buy into the concept that a speaker has to have been ordained," he said. "We believe God gives all His people gifts, and all who have the Holy Spirit have a responsibility to use those gifts."
Setting up and putting on a campaign is not cheap. The CLA spent $4,000 in Mount Pleasant, although efforts in other cities have cost as little as $500.
"We don't have a big budget, so we make do with what we have," said Mr. Hall.
The CLA receives support from several of the smaller Church of God groups and ministries, but none from the larger groups that follow more closely the old-WCG tradition, according to Mr. Hall.
"They [the larger groups] want to be on our church list, but there has not been any financial support. There has been limited help with finding a building or even handing out flyers. Karl Beyersdorfer [pastor of the Living Church of God in Joplin, Mo., and Tulsa, Okla.] did help us in those ways in Joplin."
Easy to prove
The Journal asked Mr. Hall why the CLA concentrates on a message about the Sabbath rather than repentance, eternal life and the Kingdom of God.
"We have refined our approach over time," said Mr. Hall. "The Sabbath is an easy point to prove. It seems like all the other things build on the Sabbath. We don't want to focus on things that the Churches of God don't have in common. The Sabbath is one thing on which we can all agree."
In their early campaigns CLA speakers would conduct question-and-answer sessions after the speaker's presentation about the Sabbath. But that didn't work out.
"The new people only want to prove Sabbath observance," said Mr. Hall, "but some longtime church members would always want to get into debates over things like is it a sin to eat out on the Sabbath."
Mr. Hall said the Mount Pleasant effort was the first that featured a speaker other than CLA founder Alfred Harrell.
"It is difficult to find a presenter who won't get into a doctrine that is divisive," said Mr. Hall.
"The new contacts don't care who the presenter is. We may recognize certain men's names from our church history, but the people don't know a Ron Dart from a Tim Hall or a John Warren."
Mr. Hall would like to see still more speakers added to the list.
"We have talked to a number of other men who say they would help. We want people who can speak and stick to the truth and promote unity in a loving manner.
"There are those who know the truth but don't seem to be able to present it in a loving way."
Mr. Waller, one of the CLA volunteers, found the weekend "interesting."
"I have been keeping the Sabbath for years, so I didn't really learn anything new," he said. "But it was all wonderful.
"The nicest thing was seeing the old brethren from Texarkana I used to go to church with."
Bill Steffek of Killeen, Texas, another volunteer, said this was the fourth CLA lecture he has attended.
"A lot of new points were brought out in a different light using different examples," he said. "This lecture touched on some new areas with examples that help illustrate the Sabbath. A different speaker with a different approach gives a different perspective. I am enlightened with new details with each lecture."
To contact the CLA for its campaign schedule, call toll-free (888) 776-0002, or write CLA, P.O. Box 20096, Hot Springs, Ark. 71903, U.S.A. Visit the CLA on the Web at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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