Who would have thought CBS Morning News would feature Clinton, population 9,500, on its popular early morning program? Camera crews and national correspondent Jim Axelrod spent several days in Clinton interviewing and taping for a segment which aired live March 31. What brought national attention to Clinton? It seems word leaked out, probably from the publicist for the book, One Month to Live, that at least 17 churches in the western Oklahoma town had come together to study the book, written by Kerry Shook. “CBS’s first thought was that the economy is bad, and people are running back to God,” said Shane Hall, pastor of Clinton, First. “But once Axelrod came out here, he realized that’s not the issue at all. The economy here is not bad right now. It had nothing to do with that. It has to do with the fact we come together quite often as a community to study a book.”
Hall said then the idea evolved that it seems odd that many churches would get together just to study a book.
“The story that seemed unusual to them really isn’t unusual for this community,” Hall said.
Terrell Mitchell, minister of education at Clinton, First, said every two years, the Clinton Ministerial Alliance picks a study they can do city wide, and the churches take part at the same time.
The first one the community did was Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life; then two years ago, they studied Max Lucado’s Come Thirsty.
“We spent several months looking a different studies and types of books we felt would have an impact on each individual church as well as the community,” said Mitchell, who at that time was president of the Ministerial Alliance.
They chose Shook’s book, which had just been published.
Shook, who is the son of Damon Shook, pastor of Midwest City, Meadowood from 1972-78, came to Clinton for a kick-off rally in the high school gymnasium, where about 1,100 residents showed up.
Mitchell said Shook’s book is very well structured, but there is nothing in it that is astoundingly new.
“However, it is written in such a way that it makes you get with God and do some business,” he said.
The book did impact a lot of Clinton residents, Mitchell noted.
“A large percentage of this town has been focused on what they are going to allow God to do for the rest of their lives,” he said. “It’s not about dying; it’s about living. It’s about the mind set of having only one month to live and living the rest of your life that way.”
Shook said he came to Clinton, not to advertise his book, but because he saw that was where God was working, and he wanted to be a part of that.
Mitchell said he has heard story after story of people who have come back to reality after studying the book.
CBS interviewed a family who lost their 2-year-old son in a drowning accident about six years ago. The mother said, “You think you will never lose that feeling, but this book has shaken us back to the reality of what is important.”
Mitchell revealed that his family has been caught up in the “someday syndrome.”
“We have five daughters, one at OBU, one at Wayland University and three who are out of college and married, “he said. “We get trapped in that one of these days, we’re going to do this or that. But we have made it more intentional now. We have scheduled a trip to visit our daughter who lives in Chicago. It has brought us back to focus on what is really important.”
Mitchell said a banner hung across Main Street for the Clinton, One Month to Live Campaign, and 650 yard signs were posted all over town.
“When delivery people or others passing through town, asked about the signs, it gave us an opportunity to share how God can take us and change us.”
He said he has been working with a young man who is just out of prison and who has become active in church.
“His compliance officer drove by his house and saw the sign, called him at 10:30 that evening and asked him if there was something he needed to know,” Mitchell divulged. “He said he saw a sign in his yard that said he had only one month to live. So this former prisoner got to share with his compliance officer.”
Mitchell said at least 2,500 Clinton residents studied the book.
“That’s close to a third of the community that was actively involved, reading it, going to discussion groups, etc.,” he noted.
He added it is hard to go anywhere in Clinton without the subject being brought up—in barber shops, pharmacies, restaurants, anywhere people gather.
“I think this is what intrigued the secular press,” he acknowledged. “They seemed to think it is rare for Baptists, Methodists, Church of God, Assembly of God, the Christian Church, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc. to come together in one accord. But we lay down what we disagree with, so we can hold up Jesus Christ.”
Mitchell emphasized this is a God thing.
“I have to give the Lord the glory,” he said. “It’s not any doors we’ve been beating down. We told CBS we weren’t doing this so they would come and put us on TV, but because we want to impact our community for Christ.”
About 125 people gathered in the high school gym for the live CBS broadcast.
CBS morning anchor Harry K. Smith, in New York, asked some of the people what they got from the book, and received comments such as, “I’m going to be more patient,” “I have priorities on how I live each day,” “I’m going to simplify life, get back to basics,” “I’m going to spend more money on other people,” “I’m going to forgive more,” and Smith’s favorite—”I’m going to live life without regrets.”
“That may be the key to all of this,” said Smith.