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Work in New York City area
Gardner Hall, P.O. Box 123, Port Murray, NJ 07865
Gardner@creced.com Web: www.creced.com,
(908) 850-5389
6/19/06

Teaching opportunities - Romania

I accompanied my father, Greg Gravitt and Buddy Payne to Romania May 18-27. Dad has been to Romania numerous times since 1992 and requested that I accompany him for a special series of Bible studies for Romanian men arranged by Marian Otvos. The session was conducted in a hotel in Bucharest. Dad taught a series on the kingdom, Greg Gravitt taught an excellent series based on Mark chapter 1 and Buddy Payne analyzed divorce and remarriage. I taught a workshop on making better public presentations of Bible messages.
While in Romania, I was able to visit congregations in Constanta, on the Black Sea, where James Hamilton preaches and in Bucharest. It was a privilege to meet disciples that I’ve heard my parents talk about for years, including some who served the Lord during a period of persecution in the middle 1990’s. Being with Dad and watching him give his simple yet deep teaching in his utterly sincere way, was a highlight of the trip.

Teaching opportunities – "Mainstream" brethren

There are about ten known Hispanic churches of Christ in the New York City. Sectarian concepts have influenced some of them in varying degrees. Many look upon God’s church as if it were an historical movement or a network of local congregations, "The Church of Christ Church." However, most are quite conservative regarding certain aspects of Bible authority. Many have vigorously opposed some of the modernist tendencies of the big Manhattan church of Christ. I have tried to maintain contact with many of these good brethren, sending them my bimonthly paper, Creced, visiting their meetings occasionally and talking with them when I have opportunities. I have become close to several and they are increasingly giving me opportunities to teach.

Every four months the brethren from several different congregations meet on Sunday afternoons for a special service. This month the Morristown congregation (actually Whippany) conducted that meeting and invited me to speak to the 100-125 in attendance. I decided that I had gained enough confidence through the years to speak explicitly about some of the sectarian thinking associated with institutionalism. I spoke about "Why there are so many churches," giving special emphasis to the role of area wide meetings of the second and third centuries in the development of Catholicism. While it is not wrong for brethren from different congregations to meet, they should never consider such gatherings as official area wide "Church of Christ" meetings. Such concepts are sectarian since the church of Christ in a given area is simply composed of individuals who will receive God’s mercy in that area. It is not a network of congregations that conducts official meetings. I mentioned by name several institutions that try to dominate churches in Latin American countries.

I was pleased with the response of the brethren. One brother told me, "It is true that churches where I’m from in Honduras allow themselves to be controlled by brotherhood institutions, but we’re not going to allow that to happen here." I always try to emphasize the danger of pride that often accompanies institutionalism and the "clergy" concept. One brother came up and asked me what titles I would suggest to put on an advertisement for his congregation. He realized that the word "Minister" is often converted into a highfalutin title. After I asked him a few questions, he decided that it might be best just to put the names and phone numbers of contacts with no titles, not even "Preacher." I heartily agreed. Such feedback makes me feel that progress is being made.

Local congregations

The Upper Manhattan congregation is making encouraging strides. The spirit is good and there is unity. Our Tuesday night Bible studies are increasingly full and active, especially with children. Jon Focht taught a children’s class on Tuesdays for several years and instilled enthusiasm in the handful that attended. Jon moved to Bethlehem, PA, but Tim Bunting has taken over and won the confidence of the kids. Some of the children who are coming have started to invite others. We have had over a dozen kids for the last few Tuesdays and I’ve had to send out appeals for more teachers. Esther Rodriguez, Marcos Grado and Alicia Stewart have helped with the children in the last few weeks. Last Tuesday there were about 15 present and we divided them up into three classes. Many have never had a Bible study in their lives, but are responding well.

The Fair Lawn congregation is doing reasonably well, though I often think we could do more.

Camp

I’m getting this report out early because of the young people’s camp which will be conducted July 2-8. Though not a church project, I feel that this is one of my most important personal projects of the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have over 125 kids plus about 34 staff! A problem I have is that though there is more demand for sponsors, it appears that many who have helped us in the past will not be able to do so this year. Therefore, if you know of anyone who could help financially with the camp this year, please have them contact me. We have had a few last-minute volunteers for financial help the last few days.

July and August will be extremely busy with Dad’s leadership camp in Alabama and a meeting in Bowling Green (Eastside). I ask your prayers that all these projects will glorify God and encourage those who are striving to follow him.