Exhibit Evangelism at the Illinois State Fair
In 1966 or 1967, the Lord’s church--after much planning and preparation--started an exhibit within the State Fair. In 1974, Burl Price became the director, with the 20th Street congregation of Rockford having the oversight of the exhibit. The goal and purpose of the exhibit was and is to reach (Mark 16:15) as many people as possible, and also to teach them (Romans 15:20) the good news (gospel).

In late 1974-1976, the director was Ray Christman. There have been several directors since its inception, and also several congregations with the oversight of the exhibit. After the congregation in Rockford, the Sunnyside Road church of Christ (Decatur) had the oversight. A number of years later it went to East Peoria church of Christ for their handling. From then until present the Highway church of Christ has the affairs of the exhibit, which it is responsible for.

There have been several directors since Burl Price (74-75), and Ray Christman (75-76). The following have been directors and are currently still working with the fair work: Bill Clary (77-84), Richard Hill (84-85), Peter Bumpass (85 to present), Ron Thomas (2006 to present), and JE Miller serving as Exhibit Coordinator.

Directing and Coordinating are much more than just a title. There are many things that have to be addressed:

  • Volunteers must be organized in shifts so that the exhibit is open 12 hours each day for 10 straight days (which requires many schedules to be planned and adjusted).
  • Since food and lodging are provided for the workers, some volunteers devote much time and effort to this area.
  • The exhibit site must be prepared to look inviting and to project a scriptural message (setting up the exhibit takes about a day and a half).
  • At the end of each year's fair, the display must be taken down and stored until next year.
  • Many congregations are then visited with presentations of the past year and the material for the upcoming year.
One purpose of the visits is to obtain financial support to help fund the exhibit. There are a lot of expenses (no salaries) for the ten days the exhibit is displayed.

There are a large number of home bible studies registered for each year. When they are received, they’re graded and the next lesson is mailed to the individual. There are many things for young children, such as Joy Junction, cameras to take their pictures, computer games, Bible quizzes, etc.

The exhibit is a lot of hard work but the ones that volunteer find it very rewarding, to be a small part in helping someone find the Lord. The glory doesn’t go to the volunteers; the glory goes to the Lord. Thirty years ago a man and his wife walked through the fair exhibit. They evidently believed what they saw and heard, for they obeyed the gospel, and the man eventually became an elder in the Lord’s church (and is still one to this day).

Exhibit Evangelism is truly an opportunity to take the message of God to the “marketplace.”

From the church website; edited in part by Ron Thomas & Stephen R. Bradd.

Exhibit Evangelism, Illinois State Fair, Church of Christ, Churches of Christ