DUNCAN — The Rev. Frank Barnes of Duncan has spent more than three decades telling the story of “The Tabernacle in the Wilderness,” revealing how Christ is portrayed in the tabernacle used by the children of Israel during their 40-year trek to the Promised Land.
In an interview with The Banner a couple of years ago, Barnes expressed his sadness at the possibility that once he is no longer able to tell people about the tabernacle, his research and carefully crafted model and re-creations of the furniture and other items used in his presentation will be lost. Now, with the help of author Tonya Holmes Shook of Waurika Lake, a new book, “The Tabernacle in the Wilderness: A Portrait of Christ,” will carry the story to a wider audience and future generations.
The book will be released June 6 by Publish America. Small but packing a powerful message, the book is a condensed, illustrated version of the lesson Barnes has been sharing all those years. It will be available on Amazon.com and other online book sources.
“When I give my presentation at a church, I do it in nine units,” Barnes said. “For example, I show slides and give background during the Sunday school time, then follow with 40-minute messages each in morning and evening worship. For each of the next three evenings, I give two 40-minute units. Each session deals with one of the pieces of furniture used in the tabernacle.”
The tabernacle re-creation Barnes uses and each piece of the life-size furniture represent some aspect of the person and ministry of Christ. For example, the brazen altar is a picture of Christ suffering and dying for the sins of the world. The golden lampstand is a picture of Christ as the Light of the World. And, the scapegoat is a picture of Christ, who became our Scapegoat, receiving, bearing and removing our sins.
“The tabernacle is God’s great object lesson portraying and exalting Jesus Christ,” Barnes said. “It is ‘God’s portrait of His Son!’”
He has given his presentation in 10 states, visiting many of them on more than one occasion. He will present another free tabernacle lesson in July at Western Heights Baptist Church.
Barnes is originally from Leedy, in western Oklahoma. After a tour of duty as a nose gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber in World War II, he attended Oklahoma A&M; College in Stillwater, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
His early ministry in Oklahoma included pastorates at small churches and four and one-half years as the Southern Baptists’ first missionary to the Cheyenne Indians near Hammon. He also taught school for three years during the early part of his ministry.
He then spent 35 years in the Northwest, where he was pastor of First Baptist Church in Kellogg, Idaho, for six and a half years and pastor of Pines Baptist Church in Spokane, Wash., for 26 years. Barnes also served as director of missions in Washington state for 2 1/2 years. Now 81, he “retired” to Duncan in 1990. His wife, the former Betty Jo Howard, is a Duncan native. Barnes is now interim pastor at Shady Grove Church north of Ratliff City.
Shook, also a Duncan native, lived in New Mexico and Texas before she and her husband returned to Oklahoma. A 2006-07 recipient of a “Who’s Who for Women in America” award, she is not only a prolific writer, but also an accomplished oil painter and wool spinner and is active in church and civic organizations.
She is the author of “Displaced Cherokee: Come Home, Come Home,” which was endorsed in 1986 by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries after she won a first-place award in an Open Class Category at the State Fair of Oklahoma. In addition to other books and short stories, she also wrote “The Drifters: A Christian Historical Novel About the Melungeon Shantyboat People,” published in January of 2005, which is now under consideration for production as a movie; “God’s Breakfast Nook: An Anthology of Americana Nonfiction Short Stories,” published in June of 2005; and “Anyone Can Be a Wool Spinner,” to be released this year.
Shook met Barnes when he gave his tabernacle presentation at Corum Baptist Church.
“I was so excited about what he had to say. I took extensive notes because I didn’t want to miss a thing. It’s so deep. There’s so much to what he presents, yet it is so simple. So profound. I wanted to read it over and over again.
“I said to him, ‘Frank, you need to write a book!’ and we wound up doing it together. He’s so busy, I kind of had to get behind him and push. I asked him if there would be a problem with plagiarism if I used his words, and he said, ‘You get that word out of your vocabulary!’ So we went for it,” she said.
The project took a couple of years, as Shook had two books published between their collaboration sessions.
“I was overcome by the mere fact of his message. It had to come out in public. The news is too good to keep,” Shook said.
“Frank is a modern-day Paul. He is mature in God’s Word. He makes it plain and preaches Jesus. Whenever we’re going through the ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death,’ with kids’ problems, drugs — whatever — God’s Word provides a successful life. God gives Frank that gift,” Shook said.
“My presentation is absolutely not controversial,” Barnes said. “Not one single time I’ve given it has anyone ever disagreed with it. It’s not anything way out, just common sense. Truths children can grasp. The tabernacle crosses denomination lines. It’s just Jesus. Every piece of furniture says something wonderful about Jesus.”
Although the tabernacle book was a collaboration, Barnes is an author in his own right. He has written books on his life story, including the Depression and Dust Bowl days; a book on his wartime experiences; “Controversy in Church: The Christian and Controversy”; “The Holy Spirit and You”; “What Jesus Wants You to Do,” a guide for new Christians; and a 300-page “Church Membership Orientation for Baptist Churches,” among others.
Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas, summed up: “Frank Barnes and Tonya Shook have performed an invaluable service to the body of Christ by writing ‘The Tabernacle in the Wilderness: A Portrait of Christ.’ This work will encourage you as you see God’s elaborate preparation for the coming of His Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. I enthusiastically recommend this work to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the riches of God’s Word.”