header_03I’m presently on my second visit to United Methodist churches in the Philippines.  When I first visited the country just over ten years ago, I got to know one of the oldest UMCs in the country, Knox United Methodist Church located in downtown Manila.

Knox is like a lot of our churches in the states.  It once was a church that the professional class called home.  But times have changed and with them the church has changed and adapted.  How did it do this?  Because it is totally focused on its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!  This means that whenever decisions have to be made, the church places the mission above personal preference.  An example of this is how Knox has intentionally decided to forgo air-conditioning in its sanctuary and instead use that money toward planting churches.

As a result, it has planted over a dozen new United Methodist churches–some located in the Middle East, for example Dubai and Kuwait.  This done by a church that intentionally is serving the poor around its main location.  It is a church that continues to give itself away, and God continues to provide it with all it needs–leaders, funds, and vision.

And last night I was privileged to see just a little of its fruit–a children’s dance troop, made up of local children, many of whom from poor families.  Bright smiles, full of the joy of the Lord!  No problem forgoing air conditioning when you’re looking face-to-face at children who reflect the face of Christ.  Christ gave up everything for us.  What are we and our churches willing to give up for Him?

– Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

 

IMG_20140520_140635Have you ever wondered how it would feel to evangelize when you’re an introvert, when you’ve spent most of your life as a Christian attending church rather than taking the church to the streets?  The following is an article written by such a person–an amazing person, Steve Mekaru.

Steve is amazing because in many ways he is a typical United Methodist layman, but he’s doing an extraordinary thing.  He’s helping St. Joseph United Methodist Church–his home church–start a “church,” called Kristo’s Hands and Feet, that has has no building and no real programs.  It’s hard to even imagine such a church, isn’t it?  Kristo’s is primarily focused on discipling people through building relationships with them first, and then with Jesus Christ.  And it’s working!  The church now has a number of people who are being discipled in this way, but let’s look back to last year and what it felt like when Steve begin his work…  (Thanks, Steve, for letting us share your story!)

From Introvert to…Evangelist?

July 2012
It’s a hot and sunny day as I head downtown, to the area we’ve chosen to minister in. I’ve just begun my journey with this new ministry and now it’s time to hit the streets and put my faith in action. I’m excited but also a bit scared. OK, I‘m really scared. How will I start conversations? Will anyone want to talk to me? What if they ask questions I can’t answer? Do I talk about Jesus right away?

As I’m driving, the Newsboys song “God’s Not Dead” plays on the radio, providing me with some encouragement. Yes, God is surely alive and He helps us in times like this. When we’re called to do something, He provides what we need. But I feel like Moses did, like I am slow of speech and tongue, not eloquent by any means. I’m usually among the last to speak up in meetings, prefer to go quietly about my business and can go virtually unnoticed in a room full of people. How does an introvert become an evangelist?

No time for fear. I’m in the neighborhood. I park in the Fairfield Elementary and begin to walk. I head south down Fairfield, right by the Lutheran Foundation (where the old Lutheran Hospital used to be) past the beautiful Lutheran park where kids are playing in the fountains. I’m still nervous but at least I’ve started.

My first encounter comes at a gas station, of all places. As I walk by, a man is behind the building washing off some rubber mats. I start the conversation by talking about the weather (how easy is that?) As we talk more, I find out he’s the owner, has had the station for a few years and came to the U.S. from India. I tell him what I can about this new ministry, but it’s hard when there’s no building to point to. Nevertheless, I’ve made a contact and learned a name. It’s a start.

Today I count the man at the gas station as a good friend, and have come to know the people who work for him. He has allowed me to put up flyers to advertise our events and I stop and chat with him whenever I get the chance.

I’m learning that sometimes we need to faithfully place ourselves in situations that are uncomfortable, and do the best we can. And then we do it again and again. Evangelism begins by listening and establishing a relationship. Many conversations come before a conversion.

Perhaps you know someone in need of a conversation. Go ahead. Be an evangelist.

Blessings,

Steve

The Fruitful Congregation Journey…

  • The whole course is packed with BIG takeaways.
  • Our FCJ team had opportunities to discuss and form ideas to lead our church forward!
  • I have learned so much through FCJ.  This is working in our church already.  Praise the Lord!
  • In addition to what this program will do for our church, it has revitalized my faith life.  Thank you.
  • Our meetings were never boring.  Always looked forward to our Saturday gatherings.
  • As I have told our congregations, the Fruitful Congregation Journey has really changed the way I think about so many things we do in the church.  This has been life changing for me.

These are just a few comments from first-year participants in the Fruitful Congregation Journey, a process which helps churches more effeFCJ Logo-600dpictively fulfill their mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  So far, over 200 United Methodist churches in Indiana have participated in this three-step church revitalization process.

The first step, called the Shared Learning Experience, takes teams from participating churches through seven monthly sessions.  Each session focuses on a particular aspect of effective church ministry.  Participants read a book prior to each session and then debrief that session back home with their pastor and others on their FCJ team.

A new group of churches is beginning the Shared Learning Experience this September.  There is still space available, so if your averages 50 or more people in worship and your church is interested in participating, please  email me at ed.fenstermacher@inumc.org.  There will be groups meeting this year in the following locations:  Chesterton, Fort Wayne, Kokomo, Martinsville, Greensburg, and Evansville.

If your church averages less than 50 in worship, hold tight.  We’re developing a special version of FCJ that we’ll be pilot-testing this fall with a group of churches.

– Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 12.52.24 PMWhat is the biggest concern of United Methodist laity according to a recent survey commissioned by UM Communications?  Our mission!  Nearly four out of ten respondents said that “creating disciples of Christ” is the first or second most important issue facing the church.

There are so many other things that easily distract us from our mission–our buildings, aging congregations, declines in worship attendance and giving.  In addition, there are voices that are placing issues of sexuality at the center of conversation, some even calling for church schism.  Yet, despite all of this, a significant percentage of laity are primarily concerned with us accomplishing our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

This certainly doesn’t mean other issues–poverty, social injustice, and sexual orientation/same-sex marriage–aren’t important too.  They’re simply not the main thing, our primary agenda.  They may be a part of it, but not the main thing.  And as I heard Rev. John Ed Mathison, former pastor of Frazer Memorial UMC, say many years ago, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  Especially in this day in which the institutional church is becoming more and more marginalized, we can’t afford to take our eyes off the ball.

– Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

 

 

Goal to launch 30 new UMCs in Indiana!

Posted: June 5, 2014 by efenster in Uncategorized

CCI LogoThirty new churches by 2020…that’s a goal set by the Church Development Team for the Indiana Conference.  The hope is for the conference to exceed its present church-planting rate.  The Indiana Conference has had about 25 new-church plants over the past 15 years.  So, the goal the next six years is to triple this rate.  To do that will require significant partnership with all the United Methodist churches in the conference.

  • It will require intentional prayer support.
  • It will require partnering with churches that already have a vision for developing new congregations.
  • It will require identifying lay and clergy leaders who have the attributes of a church planter.
  • And it will require raising additional funding.

To that end, we’re launching an initiative called, “Exceed,” whose purpose is to generate an additional funding stream beyond the present sources.  All funds given through Exceed, an Advanced Special of the Indiana Conference, will go solely to help fund new-church plants and off-site/new campuses of existing churches.  You’ll be hearing more about this in the future!

Right now you can participate by praying for this effort, becoming a financial supporter of Exceed by signing up at the website,  helping identify potential church planters, and exploring the possibility of your church perhaps sponsoring one of these 30 new churches.

Why is this so important?  Because studies show that new churches are much more likely reach new persons for Christ than existing ones.  Churches tend to go through life cycles.  The older a church is the more inward focus it becomes.  A new church is totally focused on reaching its mission field.

So, won’t you partner with us?

– Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

 

 

 

 

The Exceed Initiative is a ministry whose purpose is to generate new funding to start new churches in Indiana. The Exceed Initiative will raise $1.5 million to cover the launch of 30 new reproducing faith communities by 2020. New faith communities are the most effective way to reach unreached people. This initiative is a call to action for you and others to exceed your normal church giving by supporting this cause either through a one-time give or regular on-going support.

 

The Conference Church Development committee will be responsible for vetting each new faith community and expending the funds to discover, develop, and deploy into action passionate spiritual leaders and teams.  The Exceed Initiative offers 7 ways to give. Details are available on the website. Since 2009, this team has invested more than $1.3M in grants toward establishing new congregations, worship services, and faith communities. In order to reach our goal of starting 30 new faith communities, however, it will be necessary to raise additional funds each year through Exceed.

 

We’re counting on leaders like you and God, “…who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)

 

HirschI was recently with Alan Hirsch–a South African-born missiologist, author, and a leader in the missional church movement–talking about the future of the church when he made this provocative comment:  

Eighty percent of the youth in our churches go to college, or leave home, and drop out of the church within their first year.  Why?  Because we, the church, created an “aquarium” environment during their growing up years–sanitized places, free from risks and danger.  He pointed out that the movie, “Finding Nemo,” captures this beautifully.

Hirsch explained that we in the American culture, especially the middle and upper classes, have almost a fixation on safety and security, comfort and convenience, which is different from those living in most other cultures.  The church reflects this, which is ironic given the fact that most transformative experiences in the Bible occurred in those moments of instability, danger, and risk.  After all, God created out of chaos.

So, rather than disciple within an aquarium environment, how might we in the church foster discipleship, especially of our young people, out on the edges, out where the real action tends to be?  Perhaps one reason young people gravitate to short-term mission trips, which take them “outside the aquarium,” is because they innately long for such experiences.  Isn’t that what Jesus constantly did with his disciples?  He took them out of their comfortable, familiar positions–fishing, tax collecting, etc.–to those places on the edges–sending them two-by-two without their gear, traveling among Samaritans, occasionally even breaking the rules of the day.  Why?  Because he knew disciples are more likely made outside the “aquarium” than within it.

Think about it!  — Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

 

AfterHours“If we simplify our church structure and reduce the number serving on our church council from around 20 people to around 10 people, won’t that put too much power into too few hands?”  This was a question I was asked by a church pastor this week.

At the root of this question, of course, is a question of trust.   Will our laity trust our leaders’ decisions more if there are ten more people at the table?  There’s also, however, the question of effectiveness that needs to be considered.  Does a team function better if it’s smaller or larger?

For most teams, smaller appears to function better!  A recent article not only makes this point, but it explains the science behind why it’s true.  It explains why a larger group results in poorer attendance and less participation.  The article is entitled, “The Science Behind Why Small Teams Work More Productively:  Jeff Bezo’s 2 Pizza Rule.”

This idea that “smaller is better” is in line with a recent discovery a Fort Wayne church plant has made.  Kristo’s Hands and Feet, a non-attractional church plant of St. Joseph United Methodist Church, has discovered that the lower-income folk the ministry is reaching respond better to a discipling relationship that is either one-to-one, one-to-two, or one-to-three persons at a time, rather than to the traditional small group that has about ten or so people meeting together at a specific place and time.   Discipling happens more effectively the way Jesus did it than the programmatic approach our churches tend to use–at least for those living in the neighborhoods Kristo’s is reaching.  Of course, in other settings this might not be the case or it could include both approaches.

What about for you and your church?

– Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development