GROWING UP CHURCH OF CHRIST is a new book by Mike S. Allen (purchase at link below). I gather from reading that Mike and I are about the same age. We both grew up in Churches of Christ. He grew up in Searcy, Arkansas, immersed in the Harding Academy/Harding University world. I expect we have mutual friends, though I’m not sure who all they might be. My only other connection with Mike is the ministry of his dad. (I feel funny calling him “Mike”, but after reading his book you feel like old friends.)
Reading Growing Up Church of Christ is like reading someone’s journal … short anecdotes about … well… growing up Church of Christ. I am not sure that those who have a faith family outside of ours will understand the significance of most of it. It was interesting to get a peek at Mike’s spiritual journey. Included are some topical reflections on things like VBS, summer camp, instrumental music, and divorce. Don’t think that this is a book devoted to solving the issues of such, just a notation of their significance to Mike and the church in which he grew up. A chapter near the end of the book about choosing to stay or leave the Church of Christ family is of interest as well.
Truthfully, this is not the book I hoped it would be. I hoped for more stories about one of the previous generations best known preachers, Mike’s dad. Mike seems to shy away from being known as “Jimmy Allen’s son” … and I can’t identify with growing up in his shadow so I do not criticize that. I loved the story about Jimmy and the Harding Chorus. I would have liked to have had more of those stories. Mike’s dad also contributed to the brotherhood wide discussion on several themes with books about rebaptism and hell.
I also hoped for more stories that related to the Harding culture … though there were some. I would have also like to have heard more about Mike’s venture into the International Churches of Christ. And maybe more about his siblings. But maybe I’ve been too influenced by reality TV and expect to know too many details!
But ultimately, Mike wrote the book he wanted to write, and I think most Church of Christ people will identify with it. I read most of it in one sitting. It was hard to stop once I got started. You can interact with Mike at the blog Growing Up Church of Christ.
I personally had very little contact with Jimmy Allen. I attended some meetings he preached in the Mississippi Delta and bought his books. The stories of his meetings and the enormous responses are legendary. One night Jimmy preached to the large audience at the Tulsa Workshop. This precipitated a most unusual circumstance. As anyone who grew up Church of Christ knows, the Tulsa Workshop always remained perched on the edge of the progressive/liberal ledge of the church. I am a Workshop fan, but I have heard many things over the years that I totally disagreed with. Yet on the night after Jimmy Allen spoke (to thunderous applause several times during his sermon), Marvin Phillips (workshop director) gave a halfway apology to the audience for something Jimmy said. I would think that is the only time this ever happened. What was it that raised such objection that Marvin felt he had to address it? Jimmy asserted that he would never, under any circumstance, knowingly vote for a candidate that was pro-abortion. Jimmy got a standing ovation for that comment. I never asked Marvin about that, but I wonder why that received special treatment the next night. I’m sure I still have that tape, I’ve listened to it and another one on soul winning many times.