Bishop Julius Trimble, resident bishop of the Indiana Area, recently made a statement regarding a proposal that would separate The United Methodist Church over the human sexuality issues that the denomination has wrestled with for decades. It is expected the proposal will be considered at the General Conference session in Minneapolis in May.

No matter what the outcome, Church Development continues to focus its energy on helping Indiana’s United Methodist Churches to be as vital as possible and to promote a church multiplication movement in the state.

This past fall, seventy-five key leaders came together with Bishop Trimble for a time of intentional prayer, praying for a multiplication movement to be unleashed in Indiana. Since then nearly fifty pastors have been meeting in multiplication cohort groups learning about how to develop a stronger multiplication culture in their churches and to network, encourage, and pray for one another. This year there are at least four Fresh Expressions “Vision Day” training sessions planned throughout the state and an Indiana Conference team is attending a National Fresh Expressions Gathering in April.

All this is to say that in the midst of not knowing exactly where our denomination is headed, United Methodist leaders holding differing views on the human sexuality issues are unified around the mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Our prayer is that whatever the outcome in May these leaders and others in our state will continue to work together to that end.

In Christ’s service,

Emily Reece and the Church Development Team

Incarnation of the Spirit

Posted: December 12, 2019 by efenster in Ideas
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I was struck last week by something Rev. Tim Johnson said at a retreat I was at. Tim pointed out that in the Old Testament, God visited people–God meeting Adam and Eve in the garden, Abram and Sarai’s three visitors, Moses and the burning bush. During the period of the Gospels, God came in the flesh as Jesus Christ and walked among the people, the incarnation. And at Pentecost, God entered the people through the Holy Spirit.

He went on to pose this question: Are you intentionally cultivating a deep and profound relationship with the person living inside of you? For most of us at the retreat, we are very familiar with the God who visits and the God who comes (Jesus), but not so familiar with the God who lives inside us (the Holy Spirit). He challenged each us to intentionally get to know the Holy Spirit, to talk directly with the Holy Spirit, to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit better, and to allow the Holy Spirit to lead.

Ironically it took Jesus leaving before the Holy Spirit and its power came to His disciples. Jesus said, “Anyone who has faith in me will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). And right before he ascended from the earth he said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). What a a wonder that it took Jesus to de-incarnate in order for the Holy Spirit enter!

So, as we look forward to the miracle of Christmas, the incarnation of Christ, may we also take in the incredible miracle of the incarnation of the Holy Spirit in each of us. And may its power be unleashed through us in incredible, beautiful ways this season.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Are you and your church looking for ways to reach out to those outside your church? Are you looking for a model with a proven track record of effectiveness in reaching the growing percentage of the population who have no interest in church? If so, you’re going to want to attend a Fresh Expressions “Vision Day” training experience.

In 2020, the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church is partnering with Fresh Expressions U.S. to offer the following Vision Days:

  • Southwest District –  February 22 at Blue Grass UMC, Evansville; to register Click Here
  • East District –  March 7 at Union Chapel Ministries, Muncie; to register Click Here  
  • North District – May 2 in South Bend
  • North Central District – September 26

Vision Days are designed to help teams from churches understand this successful missional model of outreach, which is created by the Anglican and Methodist churches in England fifteen years ago and is based on Jesus’s sending of the 72 as recorded in Luke 10.

Over 700 people have attended Fresh Expression training in Indiana through United-Methodist sponsored events, including Vision Days, the past two years. And more and more churches are launching Fresh Expressions of church–dinner churches, messy churches, biker bible studies, kid’s clubs in mobile home communities, bible studies for runners, groups in coffee-shops, bars, YMCAs, and retirement centers. The list goes on and on! Wherever people meet, churches are taking the church to them on their turf in normal natural ways.

If you’ve already attended a Vision Day but need more help, contact me at Also consider attending the National Fresh Expressions Gathering, April 1-3, 2020, in Reston, VA. Those from the Indiana Conference get $50 off the $149 registration price if registered by November 30th. Contact Ed for details.

Don’t miss out on this new movement of God in Indiana. Plan to attend one of these Fresh Expressions “Vision Days” and bring your friends!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Rev. Eun-Pa Hong and Ed

Last week, I had the unique opportunity to go on a Congregational Developers Pilgrimage to South Korea with 27 United Methodist leaders from the U.S., including a team from our denomination’s Path 1. Here’s an article they wrote about it. I ditto everything in it! The experience was amazing!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

(P.S. Although I paid my own way, the Indiana Conference graciously viewed my time away as part of my job with the conference rather than vacation. I am so grateful I got this opportunity and certainly learned a lot!)

UM developers group singing at a worship service

Last month, Path1 took a deep dive into Korean Christian spirituality. We traveled to Bupyeong Methodist Church in Incheon City, South Korea. There we were met with extraordinarily radical hospitality. The church housed and fed us for a week. While physical eating kept us satisfied, spirituality fed our souls in a deep and abiding way. Each morning, we attended 5 AM worship that included hymn-singing, scripture, preaching and prayer. We participated in the Korean practice of Tongsung Kido, which means, “praying altogether out loud.” It started with three shout-outs to God and followed with passionate prayer spoken by individuals at the same time. It lasted for 20 minutes. It was cathartic and it was powerful as congregants and leaders alike cried out to God with their innermost supplications.

During our time, we learned at the feet of Rev. Eun-Pa Hong, Senior Minister since 1981, and his team of associate pastors. We learned about Korea, its history and economy, and the revival and growth of the Korean Church. We visited the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery where missionaries and their families are buried. In many instances, we heard heartfelt thanks for the sacrifice of foreign missionaries who gave their lives to help bring Christianity to the Korean peninsula. We visited the War Memorial of Korea where we learned about the Korean conflict of 1950-1953 and the many lives lost. Music, including the annual festival of choirs, filled our hearts and souls with sacred songs. We are forever grateful for this magnificent opportunity to take a deeper dive into spirituality and for the generous hosts who made every moment special. This experience will inform our own spirituality and infuse our work with a greater measure of the power of prayer.

Bupyeong Methodist Church, Incheon City, South Korea

November 2016 was the date that the Indiana Conference staff listed these two prayer concerns we had regarding the conference…

  1. That the hearts of our people would ache for what God’s heart aches for; that they would long to make disciples
  2. That more churches would embrace multiplication

About that same time our Conference set as its Wildly Important Goal (WIG) that our churches might become missional by 2020.

Well, after praying for these concerns for three years, our Church Development team is praising God for them being answered!

More and more churches are asking how their people can connect with and disciple those who are outside their walls. Scores are showing up for our Fresh Expressions Vision Days and Dinner Church training events. In fact, we’ve had nearly 700 participants since the beginning of 2018! And more Fresh Expressions training days are being scheduled for 2020–February 22 at Evansville Blue Grass UMC, March 7 in the East District, and September 26 in the North Central District.

We also are launching six Multiplication Cohort groups around the conference especially for pastors who have a desire to help their churches develop a deeper multiplication culture–developing leaders, making disciples, and starting new Fresh Expressions and faith communities. In fact nearly 50 pastors have expressed an interest in participating.

So, we haven’t fully accomplished our Conference’s WIG. There’s more to be done. But we praise God for the positive signs we’re seeing! We’ve come a long ways since 2016! I hope you’ll be a part of it!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

“Ed, I have a church that currently doesn’t do any ‘witnessing’ because the members think that means going out and asking people ‘if they know Jesus’ and quoting scriptures to them.  The idea that just building relationships for the sake of relationship and trusting that God will use these to build opportunities where we can share our faith stories is hard for them to grasp. Any suggestions?”

This is a note I received from an Indiana pastor this week. Even though one of our United Methodist membership vows is being a “witness,” I don’t remember the churches I’ve been a member of spending much time, if any, explaining how we should do that. When they did, the process they taught seemed so unnatural and complicated.

I know of a United Methodist Church that is presently walking its members through a small book by Michael Frost entitled, Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People. The beauty of this book is that it gives very specific simple handles on how a person can build relationships for the sake of witnessing in very normal, natural ways.

The author uses the acronym BELLS to provide us with a simple guide for witnessing.

B = Bless. You’re challenged to bless three people this week–at least one of whom is not a member of your church.

E = Eat. Share a meal with three people this week–at least one of whom is not a member of your church.

L = Listen. Spend at least one period of the week listening for the Spirit’s voice.

L= Learn. Spend at least one period of the week learning about Christ.

S = Sent. Reflect each week on how you’ve alerted others to God’s reign.

None of this will require a lot more time. It really simply is about us being mindful of others in our everyday life rhythms and intentionally connecting with them in normal, natural ways, and being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit as our paths cross with others.

So, BELLS is one answer. What have you found helpful? Please consider sharing it!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

I grew up going to church every Sunday.  My Dad would say, “It’s time to go to church,” and off we’d go.  My understanding as a child was church was a place you go, it was a location a building.  When I grew older and I was part of the Church Growth movement, I understood that an important part of church was inviting people to join us, to be invitational, attractional.  

More recently I’ve discovered that church of the New Testament was much fuller.  It was not only a go-to church, and an attractional church, but most importantly it was a sending church.

Today nearly 4 million Hoosiers don’t attend church.  A growing percentage of them have no interest in church.  So what do we do?  We have to embrace the full church—not only to be a go-to church and an attractional church, but one that sends out its people into the community, to incarnate the church in the lives of people right where they live, sharing Christ’s amazing love and good news, using their language, relating to them in normal natural ways.  

Fresh Expressions is a model to do just that. Although it comes out of the Anglican and Methodist churches of England, it actually is based on Luke 10 where Jesus sends out the 72.

This means those in a sending church, those involved in a Fresh Expression of church, will spend much more time out in the community than in the church building.  Going to dinner with unchurched folks, having them over to your home, will be just as important as attending Sunday school or Bible studies.  

Last Sunday I visited a church that sends people out and next to me in my pew was Paige, a young recovering drug addict and a mom.  Upon meeting her she said, beaming,  “I’ve been clean for five months and a day,” and then showed me before and after pictures on her phone.  The change was striking!  

You see why we should care about the 4 million who are unchurched? Because each one of them is a Paige!  And in taking the church to her, not only is she changed but we’re changed as well. Our faith is strengthened and renewed too.  So as my dad would say, “It’s time to go!”  Let’s go!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

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