A ‘big’ step for one of America’s largest Churches of Christ

This fast-growing congregation wasn’t in the market for real estate. However, church leaders determined buying a 50-acre complex was God’s will.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

TULSA, Okla. — In “Hoosiers,” one of Mitch Wilburn’s all-time favorite movies, a small-town high school basketball team beats all odds to advance to the Indiana state championship game.

In the giant arena where the Hickory Huskers will play for the title, coach Norman Dale checks the distances from the free-throw line to the goal (15 feet) and the floor to the basket (10 feet).

“I think you’ll find it’s the exact same measurements as our gym back in Hickory,” Dale, played by Gene Hackman, assures his team. “OK, let’s get dressed for practice.”

But out of earshot of the awestruck players, the coach allows, “This is big.”

On a recent Sunday, Wilburn — preaching minister for The Park Church of Christ in Oklahoma’s second-largest city — told his congregation he could identify with Hackman’s sentiment in the 1986 sports film.

Just off a main Tulsa highway, a crowd had filled the 1,800 purple-cushioned seats in the multipurpose auditorium — with basketball goals pushed toward the ceiling — where the fast-growing church was assembling for the first time.

“Today, we find ourselves as a congregation in the midst of a big transition,” said Wilburn, pausing to express his discomfort at seeing his face flashed on two big screens behind him.

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This story appears in the September 2018 edition of The Christian Chronicle.