The Bishop’s Close-up View of Our Churches
Phil Whipple, Bishop of the US National Conference
In July 2011, I concluded two years as bishop. When I started in this role, I decided I wanted to see things for myself. So I set a goal of visiting every United Brethren church in the United States during my first two years. I wanted to meet our pastors on their turf.
I accomplished that goal. Here are some observations from my travels.
1. I found our pastors to be enjoyable people with a strong love for the Lord and his church. Our pastors are mostly male and of the baby boom generation. They are committed to their families and have a fairly strong commitment to the UB church. We have some strong pastoral leaders among us and many who want to learn how to lead more effectively.
2. It is no surprise that many of our churches exist in rural locations. Most of them have been maintained very well, both inside and outside. Many are developing their facilities to reflect the changes that have emerged in the methodology of doing church today.
3. We are slowly and with some struggles moving into a balanced style of worship in many churches. Some churches are far ahead of others. Some remain very traditional.
4. We have many good cooks among us. I can attest to that from many potlucks.
5. Our people are friendly. I was impressed by the warm hearts of so many of our people.
6. We have some sharp leaders at the local church level. These men and women desire to see the church advance and impact their community.
7. A number of churches are changing their structure to an accountability governance model.
8. I saw churches and people engaged in the Great Commission. This clearly needs to be the rallying cry for UB churches everywhere, so that we reach the people Christ wants us to reach in these days.
9. I have met with a number of our cluster groups. The cluster system is still a work in progress, but it has made some huge strides forward in the last two years.
Denny Miller, in his role as Cluster Coordinator, has helped keep the connection with our cluster leaders. We have many cluster leaders who are doing a great job with their clusters, and who are being the first point of contact when issues arise with pastors and churches.
I have concluded that while we have some significant issues and room for improvement, we have a bright hope for the future.
I believe our commitment to the Great Commission is improving. But we can do more to reach people for Christ and grow strong disciples in our churches.
Our churches must do a better job of outreach to open the front door, and be more effective in assimilation and discipleship to close the back door. We need to move discipleship away from just a learning experience. Discipleship should be a lived-out relationship with Jesus that impacts everything we do.
I want us to remain committed to our confession of faith and our core values. At the same time, I want us to aggressively move into the flow of God’s Spirit to see the church advance. We began as a movement of the Spirit of God, and that is where we must return.