By Steve Holt, Copy Editor
Directly challenging individual faith and Church of Christ evangelism, Dan Bouchelle delivered the opening theme speech of the 85th annual Bible Lectureship Sunday night in Moody Coliseum.
Bouchelle spoke on the topic “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven Has Come Near,” suggesting that many Christians fail to truly repent and become disciples for God.
“We must overcome the idea that discipleship is optional for believers,” said Bouchelle, senior minister at Central Church of Christ in Amarillo, in his sermon.
Bouchelle also made several pointed challenges to churches, asking why churches often “repel people who are the most attractive to Jesus.” He also accused many primarily white churches of moving out of the cities to the suburbs, asking, “How can we embrace Jesus and participate in a ‘white flight?'”
Comparing today’s churches to Wal-Marts, Bouchelle stressed that “church is not a business with customers.” He accused many large churches of vending “religious goods and services” while competing with area churches for more and more “business.”
Sunday’s lecture was the first of seven theme lectures, all of which touch on a different aspect of the Lectureship theme, “Welcoming the Reign of God.” All classes and lectures through Wednesday are messages from the book of Matthew.
Bouchelle got a positive reaction from the almost 4,000 listeners who filled the coliseum Sunday, as scattered applause and “amens” were heard frequently.
David Brown, who traveled with about 10 others from Springfield, Mo., said Bouchelle’s message was vital for today’s church.
“It made my heart want a lot of people to hear that message to catch a glimpse of what we should be and what we are,” Brown said. “This is a dream that I’ve had for some time now. [The speech] verbalized what I’ve felt for some time.”
Pam Horn of Abilene thought the questions asked in the sermon were especially challenging.
“I thought the speaker had some really good questions everyone should ask themselves,” she said. “He was challenging and made you look inside yourself and see who you are and what we can do as Christians, the church, a community to make a difference in our world-not just ‘play church,’ but live it.”
Dwayne Adams of Amarillo led worship Sunday night, mixing powerful traditional hymns like All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name with newer songs like “Lay Your Burdens Down.” At the conclusion of Bouchelle’s speech, those in attendance participated in communion, verbally reminding those around them that “we are the body of Christ” during the taking of the bread, and saying, “Until he comes” with the cup.
Monday at 11 a.m., Dr. Steve Weathers, assistant professor of English, spoke on “The Surpassing Righteousness of the Kingdom,” followed that evening by Pepperdine University’s Jerry Rushford, whose speech was entitled, “Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done.”
The 85th Lectureship will conclude Wednesday evening, when Lynn Anderson, director of Hope Network Ministries in San Antonio, gives the final keynote address.
Brown said Lectureship refuels him spiritually.
“I just like to be stimulated,” Brown said. “I really want to stay open and challenged, never complacent, so I come here to be re-charged.”