Posts Tagged ‘disciple making’

God continues to move in the Indiana Conference in amazing ways.  One such way is the addition of a new Korean United Methodist Church in West Lafayette named Korean Disciple that is already averaging around 100 in worship and has baptized nine people, including six adults.  Praise God!

church-plantingIts founding pastor, Jong Hyun Jung (a.k.a. Tim) has this to say…

“Korean Disciples Church started as a non-denominational church on July 7, 2013. Two families along with me (pastor Tim) began to gather together to pray for a new Korean church that is dedicated to serving the Korean community in the Greater Lafayette area in the summer of 2013. At the top of our goals was to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the area. I was the first leader of the church, and we first met in the lounge at the Purdue Village Community Center. We had 20 people attend the first worship on July 7, 2013.

“And, then, God sent us an amazing wave of revival and it grew to almost 100 in a year. As the number of people who come to our worship increased, we were in a desperate need for a place that is large enough to hold all of us. At that moment, Craig LaSuer, a lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in West Lafayette, graciously let us use the building at a very low rate, which helped us keep the momentum. We now develop many ministries and actively serve Korean undergraduate students who study at Purdue University.

“Because of my plan to graduate from Purdue University (I am a Ph.D. student in sociology at Purdue University), Korean Disciples Church formed a pastoral search committee and looked for a new pastor to fill in my shoes. With almost over 90% of yes from all-congregation vote, Korean Disciples Church decided to welcome Pastor Kookjin Yun (an UMC elder pastor) as our next senior pastor and become affiliated with UMC. The whole congregation is very excited about this transition. Our prayer request is that God helps us go through this transition period smoothly and make a great stride in making disciples of Jesus Christ in the Greater Lafayette area.”

Northwest District Superintendent, Rev. Chris Newman-Jacobs, points out “There are approximately 5,000 Koreans in the West Lafayette/Lafayette area and as one of their [Korean Disciples Church] leaders remarked, ‘About 200 of them attend other Korean congregations.  That means there are 4,800 more that we need to connect with and invite into the saving grace of Jesus Christ.’  Their spirit of mission outreach and evangelism is inspiring and exciting.  I believe this is an outstanding opportunity for the Indiana Conference a new population of disciples in the Lafayette area.”

The Conference Church Development Committee recently approved a $50,000 grant to help the congregation as it continues to develop and reach more people with the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Indiana Conference has two other Korean congregations, in Indianapolis and Bloomington, and we warmly welcome our newest sister congregation into our UM family!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Kristo's-131020aSt. Joseph United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has been spearheading a non-attractional church plant on the Fort Wayne’s south side the past few years called Kristo’s Hands and Feet.  Steve Mekura, the effort’s leader, recently reviewed an updated discipling plan with leaders from St. Joseph.  What the leaders discovered was that Kristo’s wasn’t a project that simply flowed from the mature Christians of St. Joseph to the non-believers and new believers in the south part of town.  God turned it around and now the Kristo’s project is actually challenging and shaping how St. Joseph members view disciple making where they live too.  Typically God, huh?

Here are comments from one St. Joseph member…

“The conversation completely changed for me when Steve started describing his formalized discipleship plan.  My heart was not open to the idea.  I thought our mission field is filled with people that often aren’t home, miss events, etc… there is no way we’re going to be able to convince them to stick to such a plan. I was skeptical that the idea of laying it out in such an intentional way, to people who have only begun to walk with or understand Christ, was way too much to ask.

“Then I started thinking about myself, “How would I react if someone from our church leadership asked the same of me?” What if there was something to hold me accountable for areas my personal spiritual growth is struggling and how I could be discipling others – which would both elevate my growth and impact others.  The thought was still terrifying and seemed like a huge undertaking – but the possibility of the growth it could bring began to be exciting.

“Then the conversation turned to responsibility … if I’m spiritually responsible for discipling those around me through the church activities I participate in, how does that change the way I act? What if everyone had that change in mentality, so that we are all discipling each other?  Putting aside the community for a moment, how would that change the culture of Saint Joseph?  What would it look like if instead of saying, “I get to hang out at camp with 27 senior high youth,” the conversation changed to the challenge of discipling them?  What if when we returned from camp, someone held me accountable for each person and asked what conversations I had with them … how I helped them grow for Jesus.  It would change the dynamic completely.  It could change the dynamic of Saint Joseph completely.  If it spread across Fort Wayne, it would change Fort Wayne completely.

“I commented that following Christ was never supposed to be easy, but we tend to make it very easy.  Maybe it’s time to make it more of a challenge.  Steve’s comment about ministry doesn’t end when he crosses Coliseum stuck with me too.  We need to be engaged in ministry at all times.

“The way God is leading us is consistent with what I felt at camp this year as well.  God loved us first, which the speaker turned into a verb: firstlove.  My takeaway from that week was, “Firstlove. Love first.” If we combine a genuine love for everyone with an intentional missionality focused on making true disciples, the possibilities are pretty exciting.

“Now, we do have to be careful not to make ministry a corporate chore. It still needs to flow out of a joy and not a duty … but if God is giving us joy by serving him, it may be important to formally recognize that comes with duty and responsibility as well. – Ryan”

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

imagesOne hundred people finding salvation!  That’s the goal of the South Whitley United Methodist Church, located in a town of 1,700 people in northeast Indiana.  This church, which averages fewer than 200 in worship, takes its vision “to passionately pursue those seeking God” seriously, so seriously that it set this lofty goal.

The church’s pastor, Rev. Chris Stahlman, says that the church arrived at the goal after some laity researched the matter.  They found that the average vital church in America averages 12 first-time commitments to Christ for every 100 in worship.  Rather that set a goal of 24, however, church leaders set a goal of 100 for 2015.  (I guess they see themselves as above average, which, of course, they are!)

The past few years, the church has been participating in the Fruitful Congregation Journey, a three-year revitalization process offered through the Indiana Conference.  As a part of the process, the church developed an intentional system for making disciples, including helping people respond to the invitation to follow Christ.

They track first-time commitments on the “connection card” used in worship.  Each preaching series provides an invitation to make a commitment to follow Christ.  Every small group, including Sunday school classes and Bible studies, are encouraged to provide a similar invitation at least once every three months.  Invitations are also being incorporated into special events, like Vacation Bible School and summer church camps.

Once a person indicates on his/her connection card that they’ve made a commitment to Christ, the church follows up with contact from the pastor, focusing on the person’s commitment to God.  They give them a book one month later that is a 60-day study about their commitment to Christ, and then three months later the pastor meets with them about making a commitment to the Kingdom and the church.  Of course, during this time the person will hopefully be worshiping, attending a small group, and be welcomed into the church family.

So, how has the church done so far toward its goal in the first two months of the year?  Pastor Chris acknowledges that it’s had fewer than ten people so far, but that the church will be really gearing up later this year.  Yet, think about it, had the church not set the goal perhaps they wouldn’t have extended any invitations to Christ and, as a result, they wouldn’t have had anyone who had made a first-time commitment to Christ.  What about your church?  What’s its expectations?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 12.52.24 PMWhat is the biggest concern of United Methodist laity according to a recent survey commissioned by UM Communications?  Our mission!  Nearly four out of ten respondents said that “creating disciples of Christ” is the first or second most important issue facing the church.

There are so many other things that easily distract us from our mission–our buildings, aging congregations, declines in worship attendance and giving.  In addition, there are voices that are placing issues of sexuality at the center of conversation, some even calling for church schism.  Yet, despite all of this, a significant percentage of laity are primarily concerned with us accomplishing our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

This certainly doesn’t mean other issues–poverty, social injustice, and sexual orientation/same-sex marriage–aren’t important too.  They’re simply not the main thing, our primary agenda.  They may be a part of it, but not the main thing.  And as I heard Rev. John Ed Mathison, former pastor of Frazer Memorial UMC, say many years ago, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  Especially in this day in which the institutional church is becoming more and more marginalized, we can’t afford to take our eyes off the ball.

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

 

 

HirschI was recently with Alan Hirsch–a South African-born missiologist, author, and a leader in the missional church movement–talking about the future of the church when he made this provocative comment:  

Eighty percent of the youth in our churches go to college, or leave home, and drop out of the church within their first year.  Why?  Because we, the church, created an “aquarium” environment during their growing up years–sanitized places, free from risks and danger.  He pointed out that the movie, “Finding Nemo,” captures this beautifully.

Hirsch explained that we in the American culture, especially the middle and upper classes, have almost a fixation on safety and security, comfort and convenience, which is different from those living in most other cultures.  The church reflects this, which is ironic given the fact that most transformative experiences in the Bible occurred in those moments of instability, danger, and risk.  After all, God created out of chaos.

So, rather than disciple within an aquarium environment, how might we in the church foster discipleship, especially of our young people, out on the edges, out where the real action tends to be?  Perhaps one reason young people gravitate to short-term mission trips, which take them “outside the aquarium,” is because they innately long for such experiences.  Isn’t that what Jesus constantly did with his disciples?  He took them out of their comfortable, familiar positions–fishing, tax collecting, etc.–to those places on the edges–sending them two-by-two without their gear, traveling among Samaritans, occasionally even breaking the rules of the day.  Why?  Because he knew disciples are more likely made outside the “aquarium” than within it.

Think about it!  — Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

 

AfterHours“If we simplify our church structure and reduce the number serving on our church council from around 20 people to around 10 people, won’t that put too much power into too few hands?”  This was a question I was asked by a church pastor this week.

At the root of this question, of course, is a question of trust.   Will our laity trust our leaders’ decisions more if there are ten more people at the table?  There’s also, however, the question of effectiveness that needs to be considered.  Does a team function better if it’s smaller or larger?

For most teams, smaller appears to function better!  A recent article not only makes this point, but it explains the science behind why it’s true.  It explains why a larger group results in poorer attendance and less participation.  The article is entitled, “The Science Behind Why Small Teams Work More Productively:  Jeff Bezo’s 2 Pizza Rule.”

This idea that “smaller is better” is in line with a recent discovery a Fort Wayne church plant has made.  Kristo’s Hands and Feet, a non-attractional church plant of St. Joseph United Methodist Church, has discovered that the lower-income folk the ministry is reaching respond better to a discipling relationship that is either one-to-one, one-to-two, or one-to-three persons at a time, rather than to the traditional small group that has about ten or so people meeting together at a specific place and time.   Discipling happens more effectively the way Jesus did it than the programmatic approach our churches tend to use–at least for those living in the neighborhoods Kristo’s is reaching.  Of course, in other settings this might not be the case or it could include both approaches.

What about for you and your church?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

 

Junior“So we have painters at our house,” my wife said to me over the phone.  “How did you know?” I asked a bit unnerved.  “Because our neighbor sent me a text commenting on the interesting music our painters are listening to.”  “Oh,” I said, as a big red flag rose in my head. “Yea, she [our neighbor] said the words were even shocking to a south-side hip-hop girl,” referring to herself, “that she was going to have to turn up her kids’ Raffi music.”

Well, I immediately went out and told our painters that there were young kids next door, so would they please tone down their music.  They apologized profusely and immediately changed music.

This just illustrates what many times happens when we build relationships with people for the sake of the Gospel.  It can get messy.  My painters had no idea that the lyrics of their music would be offensive to my neighbors, just as we Christians have no idea how offensive some of the stuff we do is–like asking strangers about their relationship with Christ when we don’t even seem to care what their names are or what’s going on in their lives.

Being in relationship with our unchurched brothers and sisters requires both parties to step into each other’s worlds and to see things through the eyes of the other.  True there will be bumps along the way, but that’s part of what it takes.

I’m pleased to report that the house looks great–after I spent a day touching up the detail work.  And I’m looking forward to continuing to build relationships with my new-found friends.

How about you?  How are you doing as you are the church in your neighborhood, with your neighbors?  May we be salt and light.  May God use us to bring the Good News!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

(You can read more about my painters in last week’s blog article.)