Archive for May, 2015

Not the typical candidate

Posted: May 26, 2015 by efenster in Uncategorized

On May 13, I was driving from Indianapolis when I noticed a billboard on I-65, just south of the Columbus exit. It featured the face of a hopeful, young African American woman and words so large they only took seconds to read, “The best candidate is not always the typical candidate.” I was surprised to see the ad, especially since there was no identifiable brand or logo to go along with it. I didn’t notice any product, but I got the message (loud and clear).

I was just leaving a meeting in which Church Development (CD) staff announced and celebrated with conference committee members their endorsement of a new church start with predominant focus on reaching an African American (and multi-ethnic) population in Indianapolis, naming me (not your typical church planter in Indiana) as the new church start pastor. To my delight, having served on CD staff since 2009 among many of those in that room, there was no surprise, rather a great deal of excitement about the news; and upon noticing this signboard it struck me. We made history!

Since establishing Madison Ebenezer (1867), the first black United Methodist Church in Indiana, there has always been a need to empower ministry that addresses the Black experience in America. And in the Crossroads of America, namely Indianapolis-Marion County where 3-in-10 residents are African American, our conference acknowledges the opportunities that exist today. Ebenezer may have been a beginning, but the traditional church has followed suit – whether Muncie Trinity (in its heyday) or Indianapolis Barnes today.

Likewise, this new church will be passed the baton to continue a legacy that appreciates the contributions of the historical black church, but engages a new model of church to address the concerns of increasing numbers of African Americans and an African American community that is far more diverse in its theological influences – that is redefining and refashioning with greater texture shared experiences that speak to their emergent worldviews and the complexities of social realities like mixed race families, black immigrants and a growing underclass.

A partnership to establish a new church with the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis provides this unique opportunity for the Indiana Conference to “pour new wine into new wineskins” and reclaim our missional DNA as a church planting church. This new faith community, seeing the YMCA and its members as our mission field, and I get the privilege of being actively involved in supporting the Y, its programs and mission so that we reach the community for Christ.

Stay tuned for more info…

by: Sharon Washington

DSC_0184What percentage of people are unchurched–not having attended church in the past six months?  Well, according to a recent Barna Research study it’s not as  high, perhaps, as you think.  Throughout Indiana the figure ranges from 27-33% of the population being unchurched.  (See the prior blog for details.)

Ken Camp, managing editor of the Baptist Standard, mentions in a recent article that scholars from Baylor University’s Institute of Studies of Religion have found that Millennials may be more religious than we think, that the rise of the “nones” and the “in-your-face confrontational” atheism may not be as significant as the media has portrayed.

Camp’s article goes on with the following quote:  “People have been predicting the end of religion for more than three centuries,” said Rodney Stark, distinguished professor of social sciences at Baylor and co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion.

“Worldwide, eight in 10 people belong to one of the major organized faiths, and about three-fourths say religion has an impact on their daily lives,” he said.

Some specific positive signs in other parts of the world include:

  • Worship attendance in Latin American going from 10-20% to 60% over the past century
  • Sub-Saharan African has 10,000 independent, indigenous Christian movements
  • The number of Christians in China has grown from 10 million to an estimated 73 million since 1980

The article even points to positive signs in Europe.

The good news, then, is that the picture isn’t as bleak as it’s been portrayed.  Yet, the reality is that the church will have to continue to adapt and change, and to become even more focused on its mission going forward–and not itself.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development