Last week a group of Indiana Conference leaders and pastors gathered to pray for our collective multiplication efforts.

We heard from our Bishop, Julius Trimble, and then prayed over scriptures, reflecting on our call to multiply.  We invited the great Multiplier (the Holy Spirit) to open us up, that we might listen and hear.  Then we spent some time sharing what we heard.  It was a powerful day.  

So what did people hear? Here are just some of the comments…

  • We let everyday stuff get in the way and take our attention away from what we are supposed to do.
  • We worry about all kinds of stuff, but we are only supposed to be worried about making disciples.  
  • Intentional space should be made to pray together.  I appreciate this gathering for that reason.
  • We can have global impact.
  • People may not be interested in church, but they are interested in Jesus.
  • Don’t tell people what they need or need to do, but who they are [children of God].  We need to know who we are first.
  • We have everything we need to do what God wants us to do, but sometimes the feeling of scarcity stops us.
  • It is hard to break out of being institutionalized.  We substitute church for the mission of the church.  We need to concentrate on being sent and pleasing God.
  • We need to let ourselves be vulnerable, but it is easier/safer to stay busy and not notice those outside.  
  • We need to know the One who lives in us.
  • We try to make things happen on our own.  We need to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead. 
  • Our job is to build the Kingdom of God, building the church is secondary.  It is very freeing.  
  • We need to abide in Him and do the best we can.

Church Development invites you to join in this multiplication effort. Let’s help each other as we develop a healthy multiplying culture, a culture which results in the raising up multiplying leaders and the development of new faith communities–new worship services, Fresh Expressions, campuses, sites, churches, etc., all for God’s glory!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

P. S. Email me (ed.fenstermacher@inumc.org) if you’re interested in being a part of a multiplication cohort group or would like to pray for our effort on a regular basis. Join us!

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“Pastor, come quickly!” the youth urged as he was filling up the church van. They were returning from a youth event and were at a gas station in northern Indiana. “There’s a problem inside the store!”

The pastor upon entering found a man berating his church’s youth because they were speaking Spanish to one another. The man said that in America we speak English, not Spanish. The pastor immediately intervened and tried calming the man down. He explained that it’s common for his youth to speak in Spanish among themselves, and that they meant the man no disrespect.

The man asked him who he was, and the pastor explained that he was a United Methodist pastor returning from a trip with his church youth. Two women witnessing this exchange went up to the man and laid into him, defending the pastor and youth, saying this was America and people can speak whatever language they want. They went on to point to the van at the gas pump and say, “We’re all a part of the same church. See that cross and flame? That’s our church, The United Methodist Church.”

The pastor told me that his people are very anxious because of the present climate in the state and country. So, may all of us United Methodists be quick to stand with our Hispanic sisters and brothers, whether they’re members of our churches or not. And may we speak up and confront bigotry and racism even when minorities aren’t present. The Bible makes it very clear that we are to do this, and if we have the heart and mind of Christ we can’t help but do this. So let’s do it!

— Ed Fenstermacher

Have you heard of Fresh Expressions but you don’t really know a lot about it? Are you interested in reaching and discipling persons outside your church? If so, now’s the time to sign up for the Fresh Expressions “Vision Day” training, August 17th at First United Methodist Church in Wabash, IN. It begins at 9:30am and ends at 3:30pm (Eastern Time) and will consist of a training especially for pastors and lay people from churches interested in exploring this missional outreach model.

Now is the time to register because the early bird discount rate ends August 10th! For United Methodist laity and clergy in the Indiana Conference, the early-bird rate is only $25 per person, which includes lunch. That’s 55% off the general admission price!

Fresh Expressions was developed by the Anglican and Methodist churches of England fifteen years ago because both denominations no longer were reaching the population, especially the huge part of the population no longer interested in attending church. The model follows the example that Christ shares in Luke 10, when he sends out the 72 to the surrounding towns. So although Fresh Expressions is new, in many ways it’s as old as Christ. Don’t miss out; sign up today!

For more information contact ed.fenstermacher@inumc.org.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Can small rural churches really make a difference? Well, three United Methodist churches in the West District of the Indiana Conference are doing just that. Shelburn, Ebenezer, and Farmersburg UM churches are changing the lives of young people in their area through JAM, Jesus and Me. Although the churches collectively average around 100 people in weekly worship, they are reaching fifty children through their JAM ministry!

Bonnie Greene, a part-time school bus driver and one of the JAM leaders, says that the primary objective of the ministry is that every child knows God and how to pray.

Most of those being reached don’t attend traditional Sunday morning church. Bonnie says that they used to refer to the youth as unchurched until they realized that they were churched, that JAM was their church. And now she has a dream to reach their parents too.

A couple years ago, she was challenged by her church’s Conference Superintendent, Rev. John Groves, when he closed a Charge Conference with a prayer that included the phrase: “May the Holy Spirit come upon you and disturb you until you fall on your knees and He fills you with His power.”

Bonnie says that she kept thinking about that prayer, and as a result the Lord gave her a vision of reaching the JAM youth’s parents by offering them dinner at an off-site location. Bonnie says God even provided the name for it, The Table. To begin working on it, she and another person from the ministry recently attended Dinner Church training the Conference provided and are working on making that vision a reality!

So just think of how God can use your church!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

To hear more about this amazing story, watch this video of Bonnie sharing about the JAM ministry.

As a delegate to the 2019 General Conference, I waited for years for the conference to arrive. I read nearly 900 individual emails from pastors and laity concerned about our church and its impending decision regarding homosexuality. I met with other delegates, read thousands of pages of reports, opinions and perspectives, and above all prayed and reflected.

That long anticipated General Conference (GC) came and went. Nearly everyone on both sides of the issue left with a sense of brokenness, loss and pain. Initially I felt as though the 2019 GC was a wasted effort. We just did what we’ve done the past forty years, kicked the can down the road. Now that months have passed, I believe that, ugly and painful though it was, it was necessary for our church to go through the 2019 GC session.

So many people have been praying: God lead us! Holy Spirit guide our steps! Who’s to say that our prayers haven’t been answered and that’s exactly what God is doing? In a book I’m reading, Calling: Finding and Following an Authentic Life by Gregg Levoy, the author mentions that the Belgian physicist Ilya Prigogine, who was awarded the Nobel prize, says that “friction is a fundamental property of nature and nothing grows without it.” The author goes on to say: “We must therefore be willing to get shaken up, to summit ourselves to the dark blossoming of chaos, in order to reap the blessings of growth.”

Well, I would say the 2019 GC and its aftermath has done a great job of doing just that! Some are anticipating a repeat of the 2019 GC at next year’s GC session. By electing more from the other side, we will legislate our way through this mess–again. Others are anticipating the breakup of our denomination. Could it be that God is going to surprise us? Could it just be that we have to slog through this “dark chaos” (that definitely has “blossomed!) in order to get to where we need to go?

So what do we do? Continue to pray. Pray for our newly elected delegates. Pray for openness of heart and mind to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and open our ears that we might listen well. And as we go through these days, may we strive to do no harm. May we passionately pursue the mission to which we’ve been called. For me that means continuing to join God in the multiplication movement that is moving across the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church. Pedal to the metal is my mantra these days! What’s yours?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Have you already been to Fresh Expressions training? Are you ready for additional help? Or, are you new to this biblical-based outreach approach and you want to know more about it? In either case, you will find attending Fresh Expressions “Round Table” training, June 29th, helpful.

A Round Table is a three-hour session focused on helping a church design and develop a Fresh Expressions outreach effort in its community.

The Indiana Conference is holding two Round Tables, on June 29th.  One will be held at Covenant UMC in Fort Wayne from 8:30-11:30am (Eastern) and one will be held at Fishers UMC in Fishers from 2:00-5:00pm (Eastern).

This training will be ideal for a team from a church to attend together. Both sessions will cover the same material.   The cost to attend is $15 per person.  Sessions will be led by experienced practitioners from Fresh Expressions U.S.  To register for either event, click here.

The Fresh Expressions model has been shown to be a highly effective way to reach and disciple unchurched persons, especially those uninterested ever attending a church.  With nearly 4 million unchurched folk in Indiana, Church Development has a dream of having at least 150 Fresh Expressions meeting throughout the state by 2025.  We hope your church will have launched one or more of these!  Let’s keep this effort in our prayers.  All for God’s glory!

—Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

What if… What if our 1,100 United Methodist Churches in Indiana were each reaching outside their walls, sharing Christ’s love on a regular basis with persons uninterested in attending church?  That’s exactly what the Fresh Expressions model helps a church do.  Church Development  has set a goal of helping our conference churches establish 150 Fresh Expressions around the state by 2025.

Take your next step and explore this possibility by registering for one of the following training opportunities…

May 18th, Vision Day, sponsored by the SE District, held at Bloomington St. Paul UMC, 9:30am-3:30pm (Eastern). EARLY-BIRD PRICE DEADLINE IS MAY 11TH  Registration link.

June 1st, Dinner Church.  One of the most popular forms of Fresh Expressions (FX); sponsored by our Conference Church Development (CD) and the Indiana Assembly of God, held at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis, 9am-4pm (Eastern).  Registration link.

June 29th, FX Roundtables.  Vision Day follow-up training, especially for churches that already know the basics; sponsored by CD, held at Fort Wayne Covenant UMC, 8:30-11:30am (Eastern), and Fishers UMC, 2:00-5:00pm (Eastern).

August 10Messy Church.  Another popular form of FX; sponsored by Michigan City First UMC and Messy Church USA, held at Michigan City First, 9am-3:30pm (Central).  Registration link.

August 17, Vision Day, sponsored by the NW District, held at Wabash First, 9:30am-3:30pm (Eastern).  Registration link.

Also, consider attending on May 17th “Re-Missioning the Church from the Outside In,” a live-stream webinar led by UMC pastors Jorge Acevedo and Michael Beck, author of Deep Roots, Wild Branches.  Registration link.

God is doing a new thing in Indiana.  Don’t miss out!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development