Archive for the ‘Ideas’ Category

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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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

IMG_1208This week I have been reminded that many in The United Methodist Church are pushing the envelope.   Many pastors, churches, Boards of Ordained Ministry, Bishops, and entire conferences are reacting strongly to the decisions made at the recent General Conference session in St. Louis.  There are many who are trying to push the envelope regarding the church’s position on homosexuality and the church.  At the same time, there are people pushing the envelope in other ways.  For example, I learned of laity who are publicly administering the sacrament of communion.

Years ago I was asked to fill the pulpit when my pastor was gone one Sunday, so I did.  Before the worship service I saw the communion elements on the altar and so I asked who was administering the sacraments.  The lay people in charge of worship matter-of-factly said, “You are.”  I said, “Well, who is going to bless the sacraments?”  They again replied, “You are.”  That was a problem because I’m not ordained, I’m not a licensed local pastor, I am a lay person.

So what did I do?  I blessed the elements and served communion and no one said a thing.    Ever since, I’ve scratched my head and wondered about that day I broke our church’s protocol.  You see I’m normally a rule-follower.  But in this situation I broke our United Methodist rules, and no harm seemed to come of it.

Recently I was talking with some pastors.  They were saying that if we truly want a multiplication movement to break out in our churches of Indiana, we’ll have to loosen the rules, take risks.  I asked what that would look like.  Both answered by telling stories of laity associated with their churches that served communion in public.

One of the pastors has a layman who is an employee at a Walmart.  Every week he serves communion to twenty of his fellow employees in the back room.  The other pastor has a homeless man who started a bible study in a local McDonalds.  Each week he takes a McDonald’s hamburger and breaks it saying, “Take and eat this, Christ’s body broken for you.”  What do you say to such sincere acts, both done with groups of people who would unlikely darken the doors of a church?

So what do we do with that?  To what degree do we push the envelope of our United Methodist polity?  To what degree do we unleash the laity as we send them into the fields that are ripe for harvest?  Not only are people pushing the envelope in the area of the church’s acceptance of gays and lesbians, people are also pushing the envelope in regards to our church’s polity regarding the sacraments.  Where else may the envelope be pushed as we strive to make disciples of Jesus Christ and transform the world?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

Saturday, February 23, 2019 (St. Louis)

headshots+2-0055Good morning Lord. Well, it’s finally here, the special 2019 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.  Hard to believe.  We knew it was coming shortly after the 2016 General Conference, and it’s been looming out there in our future ever since.  Now that future has come.  We are here, and the conference begins in only two hours.

Lord, the people I’m talking with have come with a sense of solemnity.  I think we all feel the gravity of the moment, the profound impact our decisions here will have for our church.  There isn’t the excitement that I’ve experienced at the other General Conference sessions.  There’s not the joyful coming together.  As someone said, it feels as though we’re coming to a friend’s funeral.  Lord, we all understand the seriousness of this moment. We all are desperately looking to you for guidance and direction—a way forward.  We recognized things are broken.  Our covenant together is fractured and we can’t continue on this path. Help us to find the right path. Open our eyes to the steps that we must take to be faithful and obedient to you and to help our church to be the church you’re calling it to be.  Lord, we are a broken people in need of a guide, a shepherd.  We need you.  Please come and show us the way.

Lord, today we enter into a time of prayer and fasting, an entire day.  We dedicate this day to you.  We pray for openness of our hearts and minds, that our spirits might be attuned to you.  Help us to be quiet and to listen.  Take away the fears that we’ve brought with us to St. Louis—fears of what if’s, fears of the unknown, fears of failure and potential separation.  May you pour your love out upon us in generous amounts. May your love flow deeply into us, filling every part of our beings.  May your love fill our tables, our meeting space, the city of St. Louis to the full. May it spill out to the world beyond St. Louis that is watching and listening and waiting.  May your love cast out all fears and open us to the wonderful future you’re offering us.

Lord, if we must be accept that we have irreconcilable differences regarding our views on human sexuality in the church and must separate, may we do so in love.  May we continue to be friends, brothers and sisters in you.  May we continue to work along side one another though we may be in different church families.   And, Lord, I pray especially for the people in our churches spread across this country and around the world.  I pray that you’ll rid them of any anger, help them work through their grief, and to bring them peace with the decisions that come out of this conference.  Lord, may they focus on you and the mission to which you call your church.  Reassure them that things are going to be alright, that they couldn’t be in better hands, your hands.  And I also pray, Lord, for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters who find themselves at the center of ongoing debate that our church has been wrestling with for decades.  Lord, may they feel loved by their church.  May we not do harm to them, whatever the outcome.

Lord, again, we’re at a loss as to how to move forward.  We’ve been given some plans, some ideas.  Each one has shortcomings.  Each one will not be easy for everyone to embrace.  Lord, if there’s another plan, one which we’ve not discovered, please bring it to light during this conference.  Surprise us, Lord!  No doubt you can make a way where there seems to be no way.  May we be open to whatever that might be, and give us the courage to pursue it even though no doubt it will not be easy.  May we United Methodists be a faithful people, all for your glory!

Your servant, Ed Fenstermacher

Indiana Conference lay delegate to the 2019 General Conference of The UMC

imageHave you heard of the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica?  It was recently in the news, reported on by USA Today as well as many other media outlets.  The Thwaites Glacier—has lost an estimated 14 billion tons of ice the past three years, leaving a cavity nearly the size of Manhattan Island.  Scientists knew it was melting but they under estimated the enormity of the change.

Recently I was speaking with Rev. Ross Stackhouse, who is starting a new United Methodist faith community south of Indianapolis.  He expressed similar shock and alarm at the growing secularization of residents in his target area.  His efforts are focused on reaching the “nones” and the “dones,” those uninterested in church.  Since arriving to his mission field this past summer, he has connected with hundreds of people outside the church.  Though appreciative of his interest in them, few have shown any interest in attending his outreach events.

Just as the scientists underestimated the enormity of the loss of ice in the Thwaites Glacier, those of us in the church are underestimating the degree to which society is disengaging with organized religion.  On the surface, yes, we’re aware that the trends are in a negative direction, but we are not seeing the whole picture.  It’s much more widespread and accelerating at a faster rate than it appears.

So what do we do with this sobering news?  How about we take another look at the model Jesus gave us in Luke 10, when he sent out the 70.  This model was reclaimed by the Methodist Church in England fifteen years ago.  It’s called Fresh Expressions.  Now 20% of their churches have Fresh Expressions efforts.  Collectively they’re reaching 500,000 people each week and 75% of those reached were the “nones” and “dones”!

Just as Jesus’ model in Luke 10 didn’t require lots of money and resources neither do most Fresh Expressions efforts.  And just as the Luke 10 model simply requires two people to go out in pairs, Fresh Expressions doesn’t require more than a couple people who feel called and are willing to go out.  And finally Fresh Expressions are fun!  Jesus loved to attend parties and dinners as he related to people, and many Fresh Expressions efforts also are based on parties and dinners and living life along side those God places in your path.  They are very organic and relational.

41z0gTAFNjL._AC_US436_QL65_So let’s join Ross and begin to figure out how to reach the growing slice of the population pie that’s written off the church.  Fresh Expressions may be one model that we need to explore.  Below are ways you can do just that.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Book:   Bishop Kenneth Carter and Audrey Warren’s book entitled, Fresh Expressions:  A New Kind of Methodist Church for People Not in the Church.  It’s designed as a Bible study so form a group and read through it together.

Training Opportunities offered by the Indiana Conference this spring…

Fresh Expressions “Vision Day,” March 16, 2019, at Columbia City UMC (near Fort Wayne).  For more information and registration click here.

Fresh Expressions “Vision Day,” May 18, 2019, at St. Paul UMC in Bloomington, IN.  For more information and registration click here.

Dinner Church (a popular form of Fresh Expressions), June 1, 2019, at Lakeview Church in Indianapolis.  More information and registration will be forthcoming.

Fresh Expressions Grants offered by Church Development.  Click here for details.

 

isThe Indiana Conference has a goal that by 2020 100% of our churches and pastors will be engaged in life-giving changes for Jesus Christ in their mission fields.  This is referred to as the Conference’s “wildly important goal” or WIG.

Of course The United Methodist Church’s mission is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  Our WIG would have us do just that, focusing our efforts, however, especially on those outside our church walls.  Did you know that, according to MissionInsite, six out of every ten Hoosiers are unchurched?  That’s nearly 4 million people!  And as you’re probably aware, a growing percentage of these people have no interest in attending church.  In order to reach them, we’ll have to take the church to them!

Fresh-Expressions-LogoSo how do we do that?  The Methodist and Anglican churches in England give us a model called “Fresh Expressions,” which has been found to be highly effective in reaching and discipling such people.  In fact, the Methodist Church in England is reaching 500,000 persons every week through Fresh Expressions of the church, and 75% of those reached are non-church going folk!  If Fresh Expressions has proven so effective in such a secular culture, just think of the potential here in Indiana.

So the Conference’s Church Development Team has entered to a partnership with Fresh Expressions U.S. and they will be working with our districts in launching Fresh Expressions training opportunities to help churches figure out how they might use this missional outreach model as they pursue the WIG. Here are upcoming training dates. Put them on your calendar and bring a team from your church with you!

Together with God, we’re going to do something incredible in Indiana. Don’t miss out.  It’s going to be awesome!  — Ed Fenstermacher, Assoc. Director of Church Development

FX Training Events in 2019

Fresh Expressions “Vision Day”–March 16, 2019, Columbia City UMC, Northeast District  (See below for registration and details.)

Fresh Expressions “Vision Day”–May 18, 2019, St. Paul UMC, Bloomington, Southeast District

Dinner Church(A popular model of Fresh Expressions)–June 1, 2019, Lakeview Church, Indianapolis

Details on the March 16th Fresh Expressions “Vision Day”

Date:  March 16, 2019

Time:  9:30am-3:30pm (Eastern Time)

Location:  Columbia City UMC, 605 Forest Parkway, Columbia City, IN  46725-1255 (Near Fort Wayne)

Description:  Fresh Expressions is a model of outreach especially for churches that are seeking to be more missional.  It is one of the most effective ways for a church to reach and disciple persons who have no interest in attending a church.  It is a model that can be initiated by as few as a single person and it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of money.  It is a model that all sizes of churches can do, and in all ministry contexts.  All it requires is a bit of understanding and a heart for those outside the church that Jesus referred to as the lost.

At the Vision Day participants will discover…

  • How fresh expressions of church are renewing the church around the world
  • What it means for your church to be Mission-Shaped
  • How to intentionally engage with the community beyond your church walls
  • Tools for starting fresh expressions of church in your area

To Register:  Click Here

Sponsor:  the Northeast District and Church Development of the Indiana Conference UMC.   Workshop Leadership:  Provided by Fresh Expressions U.S.

Cost:  (includes lunch) Prior to March 11th $25 for Indiana United Methodist laity & clergy, $40 general public.  After March 10th $30 for Indiana United Methodist laity & clergy, $45 general public.