Plain Talk was developed and overseen by Robert F. Turner, while he worked at the Oaks-West congregation in Burnet, Texas. Over the years, other men such as Dan S. Shipley, Joe Fitch, and Jim R. Everett served as contributing writers. During its 20 years of operation, Plain Talk served as a profound influence on the thinking and actions of many Christians, exercising a straightforward country wit that was uniquely Robert Turner. The personable writing style, characterized by unusual conciseness, were the lesser of its virtues. The great contributions of this paper were the keen insight and clear expression that so ably kept many a wondering mind on the straight and narrow, while granting clarity to difficult truths. Make no mistake, it is the lucid and succinct explanation of great Bible truths in simple speech that makes this paper so remarkable. The breadth and color were just icing on the cake!
Plain Talk was originally digitized and made available on the Cedar Park Church of Christ web-site. However, it was there released under limited copyright. Both Turner and Shipley would like to make Plain Talk as freely available as possible. Therefore, to serve as a mirror, thereby ensuring its ongoing web-presence, and to extend the flexibility of its licensing, Plain Talk is here re-released, but to the Public Domain.
In Their Own Words
About Plain Talk
Inside Front Cover, Book 5
This little paper was begun in 1964, in an effort to promote better attitudes among brethren, while offering all readers sound, practical Bible teaching.
Churchhood projects and the social gospel had changed many churches, and brought a serious rift among members of the church of Christ. Many "camps" had been established, with their publications as "flags" or rally points; and this editor had no desire to add to that number. Yet he knew compromise and vacillation were no solutions. He and the Oaks-West elders believed soundly based Bible exegesis, presented as objectively as possible, was God's remedy. This would have to come from writers who recognized their own limitations, and who would write with good humor, in the language of the people. The reader will judge the results.
The front page of every issue was deliberately aimed at improving attitudes. Page seven of each issue dealt with current questions from the readers; and page eight (STUFF ABOUT THINGS) sought to find "country" humor in the ways of men, without losing its teaching role. For many years page six was a "quote" page, where church history, and the theology of earlier years was reviewed. There were series of articles on interpretation, scheme of redemption, the church, etc.; and Dan Shipley's page (three) dealt chiefly with practical Christian living. In later years of the paper Dan used page five for outlines of Bible topics, suitable for preaching or home studies. Joe Fitch added his own free flavor to the pot.
The brevity of each article demanded concentration of thought and words. In turn, the reader must read carefully, keeping context in mind and not expecting to find every detail stated. This feature led to occasional misunderstandings, but seemed justified by the thought-provoking nature of Plain Talk. This is not a spoon-feeding project, but teaching for mature people who love truth, and are willing to "search the scriptures daily" and "prove all things, hold fast to that which is good."
Historical and Philosophical Footnotes
Synthesis of Back Cover, Book 5, and Introductory Pages, Books 4 and 5
For twenty years Plain TALK was published by the Oaks-West church of Christ, Burnet, Texas, and sent free of charge to all who requested it. ... But as the paper grew in popularity the church could not furnish back issues to the collectors, and brother Dan Shipley urged the editor to reprint the material for sale. Finally the SHIPLEY-TURNER partnership was formed completely apart from the church, and these books were made available ... Brother Shipley joins the editor in the hope that Plain Talk's spirit and Bible message will continue to live and be a blessing for future readers.
Look at that masthead! The book and sunburst originally drawn for an earlier paper (Son Light), and the lettering done with a mimeograph lettering guide. An artist once offered to give me a "nice job," but I felt that we had best represented our idea of "Plain Talk." So we have plugged along since January, 1964, trying to live up to our name and set forth our understanding of genuine non-sectarian Christianity. ... This little paper made no boast of greatness, but its message was widely acclaimed and oft quoted. Its directness, brevity, sense of humor, and rapport with real people were coupled with sound, practical Bible teaching. Its writers shunned no true "issues," yet sought to observe high ethical standards and maintain a positive spirit. This was not just a "policy" of the paper, but the sincere conviction of its writers. Public response has revealed many bible oriented people are hungry for such journalism. This is the fifth and last book of Plain Talk reprints, and represents an unusual event in the history of religious papers. Without financial pressures, with reader interest at its peak, with a steadily growing influence among our conservative brethren, and no internal conflicts over "issues" or procedures - Plain Talk closed its pages.
The close of PLAIN TALK brought wide protests, and many requests for explanation. The editor feels these twenty years represent an honest effort in this field, and has no desire to perpetuate a "flag" about which a "following" may rally. PLAIN TALK began as part of his desire to serve the Lord, and is concluded as a chapter in a book yet to be finished. All writers have expressed a sense of loss as this chapter was closed. It has been a satisfying experience. ... This was a deliberate move on the part of the editor to conclude freely, what was freely begun - a chapter in his life's work. So many of us are moved by surrounding circumstances - not of our making - it seems almost heretical to act independently. (Perhaps this is written with a feeling of need for some justification.) But it is done - and the future will have to reveal the wisdom or foolishness of such independence. The cliché"mixed emotions" was never more appropriately applied than to the writing of these final words.
We make no claim for perfection in form or content. We welcome constructive criticism, even as we urge objective reading and study. Let all be done with the desire to glorify God.
About the Author
Inside Back Cover, Book 5
The content, format, and spirit of PLAIN TALK are unmistakably Robert F. Turner, and its early years were entirely his product. Born in Scottsville, Kentucky (1916), he finished high school there; and began preaching the gospel of Christ. Freed-Hardeman College (1934-36) provided his early Bible-oriented training, and in the University of Illinois (1936-39) he was a Speech and Ancient History major. Then, many years in Arizona and Texas gave a western flavor to his work. The result is the semi-educated, country-western, free Christian spirit that shows in each article.
Mr. Turner has worked as preacher for Churches of Christ in Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Arizona and Texas; and has written extensively for religious journals since 1941. He has always done much evangelistic work, and for many years devoted full time to evangelistic meetings and lectures in thirty-six of the United States, five of the Australian territories, and in Canada and Mexico.
Beginning with the fall semester, 1979, Mr. Turner has taught special courses in Florida college, Temple Terrace, for a portion of each year; but he and Vivian call Rocky Roost II, Burnet, Texas, their home.