Representatives from fifty different churches nearly maxed out the 100 person capacity of small Grace Bible Church in Banks this past Saturday according to one of its leaders, Trace Thornberry. Grace was one of many locations at which Focus on the Family held a simulcast training seminar across the nation for its new small group campaign The Truth Project.
Keynote speaker, Del Tackett, asked those watching to pray about leading a small home group centered around a video-based curriculum not dissimilar from the format of the familiar British program Alpha. The Truth Project is about the fact that, “there is absolute truth and we need to get that out there” said Thornberry. The intended audience, however, is any Christian who may no longer hold, what Tackett called “a Christian World View” of man, God and reality as he cited Barna’s study on the beliefs of “born again” Christians. The event’s insistence on the reality of absolute truth and conservative social roles with an apologetic flare could increase the gap between fundamentalist and liberal churches. “Many, I feel have a social gospel, few churches have vision to win the world and tell about Christ,” said seminar attendee Barbara Lighthizer of Portland Christian Center. In regard to restricting the purchase of the DVD curriculum to those who have completed the program, Lighthizer said, “They want to make sure it won’t be skewed, I think it will eventually be public.”
When asked if the churches in the Portland area have a truth problem, Thornberry commented, “I can’t speak for the churches around here, but the American Church has a problem.” Another attendee, Darrie Turner, missionary to Uganda, answered that “The Church reflects culture, not Christ. We’re concerned about the things our neighbors are concerned about, not what God is concerned about.” With the estimated average age of those in attendance to be around 40, Turner further commented, “given age segregation and the lack of [those in their] twenties and thirties even if 100% here led a small group, it would be limited in influence.”
While several churches in the greater Portland area also hosted the simulcast, leaders of Grace were surprised they were chosen as a site. Thornberry observed, “We were the only church on the west side that applied.” Thornberry was convinced of the value of the project by the teenage son of Wycliff missionary friends in the summer of 2007. “He didn’t just play the video, he had an energy about it.”
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