Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

ncj20161-300x176It’s the second Monday of the month.  That means it’s a special day of prayer and fasting for those of us on the North Central Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee.  The committee goes into action this week as delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in Peoria, IL, elect four new bishops.  Following the last election, the Episcopacy Committee will assign all nine NCJ bishops–including the four newly elected ones–to the nine Episcopal Areas in the NCJ (Midwest).  As Bishop Mike Coyner is retiring, the Indiana Conference will be receiving a new bishop, something that has happened only once in the last 24 years!

So, I invite you, on my day of prayer and fasting, to join me this week in praying for the Jurisdictional Conference, not only ours in the Midwest, but the other four in the U.S., which will be meeting at the same time.  Together we’ll be electing a number of new United Methodist bishops.  Pray for the candidates.  Pray for us delegates who will be discerning which candidates to elect.  Pray for the twenty-two of us on the Episcopacy Committee who will be determining where to assign the nine NCJ bishops.  Pray, above all, that the Holy Spirit guides the entire process and that God’s will is done.

Prayer makes such a huge difference!  I had a greater sense of prayer support at the recent General Conference in Portland than any of the previous General Conferences I’ve attended.  I sensed God’s spirit on the floor of the conference.  And I believe we experienced a Kairos moment when we adopted the bishop’s proposal to create a commission to bring a plan dealing with human sexuality issues.  Never before had General Conference delegates asked the bishops to lead in this way.  I believe God’s movement in Portland among those of us there was a result of the prayers of many, many people and churches around the world.  If you were one of them, thank you so much!

With the election and assignment of bishops, the Jurisdictional Conference, I believe, will likely impact your church and mine, and our conference, more than any action taken at General Conference.  So don’t stop praying.  This week let’s lift our church and this special process to God and may the results be a real blessing to our churches, conference, and the world!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

UnknownWhy has McNatt United Methodist Church in rural northeast Indiana nearly tripled in size the past two years?  It still has the same part-time pastor, Rev. Bill Van Haften, who’s served the church the past 18 years.  It still is located on the same county road, far from any town.  It still has the same organist and pianist (who’s 85 years old!).  So what happened?  Why is it attracting lots of new people, including families with young children?

Pastor Van Haften says a great deal has to do with the church’s focus.  It is pretty much focused on prayer and serving others, including folk outside the church, and not much else.  This focus on prayer is central to the church.  In fact, the church’s Pastor-Parish Relations Committee leads in this area.  It meets twice a month to pray!  Prayer is central to the Sunday morning worship service.  When someone is in the hospital, the congregation holds their hands toward the direction of the hospital and prays for that person.  And, they always want to know the results!

A retired pastor, Rev. Fred Kellogg, began praying for the church to experience revival twelve years ago.  Pastor Van Haften says that it’s happening.  The church now has a dozen or so who help preach, each time a new ministry is started it explodes with growth, they’ve just hired a young member to serve as youth director, and attendance has risen from 40 to 110 each Sunday.  The pastor says he’s never seen a church so much of one mind–on praying and serving and worshiping God.

Does your church have a clear focus?  Is prayer a part of it?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development





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