Archive for December, 2013

BibleI’ve been reading through the book of Acts and continue to be amazed at how the early church was planted.  Early on Paul and Barnabas would go into a foreign town and share the Good News.  Some would respond positively, others negatively–sometimes even stoning the guys!  They’d stay only so long, they’d bless some elders–to whom they gave the oversight of the fledgling church–and move on.

One of the realities of church development is that leadership is key to any church planting or revitalization effort.  And we on Indiana’s UM Church Development team know how challenging it is to find and train good leaders.  It’s because of this that our team has devoted so much energy the past few years to leadership development.  For example, through the Fruitful Congregation Journey process, the team, along with many others, have trained leaders from over 200 congregations!  This training hasn’t been a simple workshop either but a series of sessions, workshops, and coaching consultations that take place over the course of several years.

Yet, back in Acts, Paul and Barnabas are appointing elders in towns like Lystra, Iconium and Antioch and then leaving these “baby church plants” in the hands of newly converted Christians.  If this were to happen today on our watch, we’d probably call this downright reckless!  So, how is it that this seemed to work?

A colleague on our Church Development team, Sergio Reyes, reminded us just yesterday not to forget the power of prayer and fasting.  On closer study of Paul and Barnabas’ ministry, the scriptures say that they would pray and fast and commit their new leaders to the Lord (Acts 14:23 for example).  There certainly appears to be a reliance–through prayer and fasting–on the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.

So what about us today?  As we raise up leaders in our churches, for our committees, our chair persons, to what degree do we truly believe that God is with us–Emmanuel?  To what degree do we truly believe that, as a result, God will help us raise up the leaders we will need  to do the ministry we’re called to do in 2014?  Is the practice of prayer and fasting an active part of our leadership development and discernment process?  Is God a part of the process or have we put God on the sidelines as we try to do our best on our own.  If not, maybe we need to take some cues from Paul and Barnabas and let God lead our leadership development process by practicing prayer, fasting, and discernment.

So as we celebrate Jesus Christ–Emmanuel–this Christmas, let us remember that God is with us in 2014 as well.  God will provide us with the leaders we need–if we simply trust in God.

Have a blessed Christmas.   — Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

New UM churches being launched in Indiana

Posted: December 12, 2013 by efenster in Information

03EC0C2383AA49DFBD2F9B635F887655_120913-facebookLast Sunday, the newest Indiana United Methodist church, The Branches, pastored by Rev. Alex Hershey, launched its public worship in an aquatic center in Plainfield, IN.  The church had 171 attend its opening service.  Praise God!

Another United Methodist church plant, Riverside Church, pastored by Rev. Daniel Payton, was  also to launch last Sunday, but its opening was delayed due to an ice storm in Jeffersonville.  Please keep Rev. Payton and the church in your prayers as they launch this Sunday evening at the Clark County YMCA.

The Indiana Conference Church Development Committee is pleased to announce the funding of two additional Hispanic church plants.  A grant has been given to Iglesia Crisitana Getsemani, a Hispanic United Methodist church in Fort Wayne, to plant a new Hispanic United Methodist church in Indianapolis.  The plant, led by Marissa Calleja, is called Casa de Dios and it is meeting in the Barnes United Methodist Church’s West Campus facility.  The congregation has about 40 meeting for weekly Bible study.

Another grant has been given to expand a new-church plant that has been meeting at First UMC in Hammond.  The church, Torre Fuerta (Strong Tower), is led by Esequiel and Suri Becerra and averages around 75 people.   It also is reaching an additional 40 or so people at its new Rio de Gracias congregation which meets at Hobart Trinity UMC.  The grant is to help Torre Fuerta move to a new East Chicago site. The town of  East Chicago has a population of 30,000 (half are Hispanic!), and there is no United Methodist church.

A grant also has been given to St. Joseph UMC in Fort Wayne to start a new congregation called Kristo’s Hands and Feet, which is targeting a low-income urban neighborhood using a non-attraction model of church planting.  See prior blog articles for details.

Additionally, the Church Development Committee has just given a grant to Monson Community UMC in South Bend to relocate one of its church’s worship services into a storefront space with the intention to continue developing a multi-ethnic congregation serving the poor and marginalized.  The grant will also help Monson Community launch a new Hispanic congregation which will also meet in the storefront.  In addition to these two worshiping congregations, the church has plans to develop a full-service training, resourcing center to assist the marginalized and poor.  Please pray for  the church’s pastor, Rev. Tim Aydelotte, and the entire congregation as they step out in this exciting new venture.

Let’s praise God for all these efforts and let’s keep them all in our prayers!

photoI’ve been attending a conference with United Methodist leaders from across the U.S. to discuss church revitalization and what strategies, resources, and insights can be most helpful to us conference leaders who are responsible for church redevelopment.  This gathering, called Route 122, named for the paragraph in The Book of Disciple that speaks about church vitality, has had some amazing speakers sharing some key insights.  We’ve talked about the eight keys that need to be a part of a conference strategy, trends and their implications, the U Theory, the Healthy Church Initiative (that we in Indiana call the Fruitful Congregation Journey).  All very helpful.

Each morning my personal devotional readings have been from the Book of Acts.  I’ve been reading about the early church and how it grew and spread.  I’ve been thinking about the United Methodist Church and how it is growing by leaps and bounds in Africa, the Philippines, and Asia.  And I’ve been wondering how the early church and the growing edges of the UMC happened without a Route 122 conference?  How did they do it, and how are they doing it, without knowing the eight strategic keys, the U Theory, money, staff (like me), and resources?   What do they have that the UMC in the U.S. seems to lack?

This summer I was fascinated with a proposal by economist and UM leader, Don House, who has concluded–through statistical analysis of lots of UM data–that if the UMC would enlist 1,000 of its churches averaging over 125 in weekly worship and raise $120 million annually, we could turn our denomination around.

All this has gotten me to wondering…is the answer, more education and strategies, more leaders working on revitalization (like me), more money in the hands of our larger churches?  What is it that we also need to consider that is revealed through the early church and the UM churches in the developing parts of the world.  My fear is that is we miss what they can teach us, all our efforts will still not get the job done.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development