Pastor Tim Hallman of Anchor Community Church (Fort Wayne, Ind.) sent this report about the church’s Easter service: “We have been holding two services since September 2005, but for Easter Sunday went to one service. We had a full house and a lot of fun celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. For Resurrection Sunday we focused on the Empty Tomb. Some members of our music team built a huge tomb on the front stage. It was a great looking piece of art. Inside we placed the communion table, covering it with a white sheet, along with some folded linens, marking where Jesus had laid dead. We ended the service with communion. One by one a family would walk into the empty tomb to receive the elements. It was very cool.”

Steve Smith (right), pastor of Lake View UB in Camden, Mich., writes: “Lake View Church enjoyed hosting the Community Good Friday Service for the Pioneer Area Ministerial Association. What a blessing to see about 200 people from this rural area gather for worship and communion. We are blessed to live in a community that has a strong evangelical influence. Our new ensemble named ‘Uniquely His’ presented the special music for this service, and our worship team led the praise and worship singing. Other area pastors were involved in the greeting, serving of communion, prayers and readings. Praise the Lord for a great service.
“Easter Sunday was a record-setting day for Lake View Church. We started the day with our Sunrise service and breakfast fellowship, and then continued with our regular services that include 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. Worship Celebration. Our focus in worship was on the empty tomb and all that it offers to us. We praise the Lord for the privilege of seeing three adults accept Christ as their personal Savior in the morning worship. In addition, we rejoice in the record attendance of 345! The entire day was a wonderful time of worship and celebration.”

Sally Harrison reports on Holy Week observances at the West Windsor UB church in Dimondale, Mich.:
“We gave a the drama of ‘Living Last Supper,’ a one-act play in which the 12 disciples each speak their minds about Jesus’ words, ‘One of you will betray me.’ It is based on the Da Vinci Painting of the Last Supper. We had performances on Thursday and Friday nights. About 80 people came on Thursday, and the 140 people who came on Friday maxxed out our sanctuary, which usually holds just 110.
“We had a afterglow (party with snacks) after the performance on Friday, and most everyone stayed. Some were family and friends, but some were new people from the community that we want to invite to our church as future friends. Pastor Paul Wall (right) was the driving force in this production and Mrs. Deb Fish was the director.
“On Easter Sunday at 7 a.m., we held a sunrise service at the cemetery CRYPT in Dimondale. We sang songs and prayed, and Pastor Paul gave a short sermon. We then went back to the church for breakfast at 8:00 and at 11:00 we held our regular church service, with many new people joining us.”

Picture Pilate standing next to the bloodied, tattered body of our Lord before the crowd from The Passion of the Christ. Listen to his statement: “I am innocent of this man’s blood. “

I was sitting in this Good Friday service with no responsibility, no upcoming Easter message to present. My sole purpose was to experience the service like everyone else there. And I was. The Holy Spirit rushed Scripture upon Scripture to my mind. He was bruised for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.

Suddenly, it came. Trickles, then torrents. I was once again immersed in an overwhelming sense of shame over my sin, the sin that put Jesus on that cross. And I wept.

Now the greatest shame of it all: many of us (dare I say most of us?) have not had such a moment since our surrender to Christ. Or at least not since those early days when our souls were so sensitive to spiritual truth and transformation that any sin we committed agonized us as if something hot approached sunburnt skin. We jerked away, wept., ran from it. And now?

I was blessed to feel the shame. I won’t stay there because Sunday’s coming. And my shame will all be taken away. Power will replace it. The power to run, be different, feel joy and peace. But today I was painfully reminded of sharing in the shame so that I can share in the living.

Do you feel the shame?

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
“The problem with denominations is that they want to shape the mission around their polity, rather than shape the polity around the mission. The latter view is the spirit of all the founding fathers and mothers of every denomination, while the former is the sorry state of every denomination today. The lack of mission urgency in North America means that denominational leaders think they still have time to develop modest, incremental strategic plans to tinker with polity, and time afterwards to then go about mission. The truth is just the opposite. The eternal destinies of individuals do not allow such laxness” (Paul D. Borden, “Hit the Bullseye”).
Stop and think about that paragraph for awhile. The history of this denomination would vouch for its truthfulness. Otterbein and Boehm didn’t seem too concerned about polity. They were driven by an insatiable desire to see lost people find Christ. Now we have conferences to change discipline and polity without even being greatly disturbed at the ineffectiveness of many of our churches in fulfilling a mission to the lost. As a result of being in this office a short time, I have been left reflecting on what it would take to bring us back to have a missional focus again. Do we really see the Great Commission as our mission? Was God a missionary God? If so, then isn’t the one mission of the church clear?
This Sunday we will gather in churches to celebrate the resurrection, ascension, and glorification of the Lord of the Church. Maybe, just maybe, “He expects the church in dependence upon him to accomplish great things” (Borden, “Hit the Bullsey”). And to be urgent in fulfilling our mission. Does it make any eternal difference whether persons place their faith in Jesus Christ? If the eternal destinies of individuals are determined by whether they have placed saving faith in Jesus, then maybe we ought to ratchet up our urgency of communicating the Gospel. I think probably most of our congregations believe it makes a difference, but many surely don’t act like it.
What if church wasn’t for us? What if church is really about reaching the lost? I know, we all want fellowship, being with our Christian friends, worshipping God…but we will have an eternity to do all that. Maybe church isn’t really about us. Maybe it really is about the mission! Reaching people, making disciples for Jesus Christ.
How different would our church and churches look if we really acted like we believed our task is missional? I think it would change how we talk about and to one another. I think it would change our priorities. I think it would change what it took to upset us.
Steve Dennie passed this quote on to me, I share it with you. It is from C.H. Spurgeon:
“If sinners be damned, at leasty let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
WOW!

Greg Voight has been assigned as senior pastor of the Lancaster UB church in Lancaster, Ohio. He had been serving on staff at Oak Harbor UB church in Oak Harbor, Ohio. The assignment is effective May 6.
Mark Rutledge has been named senior pastor of PraisePoint UB church in Willshire, Ohio. The assignment takes place immediately. Rev. Rutledge has been serving there as interim pastor.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop

A study I read said that filling a church pastoral vacancy now takes 18 months on the average. With that in mind, I have been pondering whether it is time for us to develop an Interim Pastoral system. Being an effective interim pastor requires a set of skills that are a bit different that those for a long-term pastorate.

Just wondering what your thoughts might be on the subject and whether you have had any expereince being an interim pastor or being in a church that has had an interim pastor.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
erinn_200.jpgWhen you call Pat Jones or me, you will be introduced to a new voice. That voice belongs to Erinn Caley, who became the Administrative Asst for Pat and me. Erinn graduated from Huntington College in 2003 and served two years in Japan teaching English. She is a gifted writer and photographer, and posseses computer skills that will be very valuable for this position.
If the names sounds familar, it is because probably is. Erinn is the daughter of Rev. Mike and Lynne Caley. Mike is pastor of the Banner of Christ UB Church near Grand Rapids, Mich.
So the next time you call either Pat or me, you’ll probably talk to Erinn first. Say hello and intoduce yourself. She is a delightful addition to our office staff.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
Just another brief encouragement to pastors and lay people that this seminar is coming soon: April 18 at Huntington University. We have many churches that I would characterize as being turnaround situations. We ought to have a number of our churches represented at this seminar. Pastor, if you can’t go because of work schedule, why not send the chairperson of the board or the chairperson from some of the key commissions, i.e. Word, Worship, Evangelism & Discipleship…
This is a quality presenter presenting a quality seminar, and I would hope that many of our UB churches which are struggling in relevant ministry would take advantage of the opportunity to attend. At this point, not many UB churches are registered.
If you need further information, you can contact me or the Graduate School.
I’ll be there. Hope to see you there as well!

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
Ken Sande, President of Peacemaker Ministries, says in an article that I had just read that:

  • 23% of all current pastors in the US have been fired or forced to resign in the past.
  • 45% of the pastors who were fired in one denomination left the ministry.
  • 34% of all pastors presently serve congregations that forced their previous pastor to resign.
  • And this one is really gripping: 1500 pastors leave their assignments every MONTH in the US.

The major reasons, he says are conflict, burnout, or moral failure.
He lists the most common causes for forced exits:

  • The church already being conflicted when the pastor arrives.
  • A lack of unity and the presence of factions in the church
  • Conflicting visions for the church
  • A church’s resistance to change
  • Power and control struggles
  • Personality conflicts
  • Poor people skills on the part of the pastor
  • Conflict over leadership styles
  • Dissatisfaction with the pastor’s performance
  • Theological differences.

After just a few months on the job, I would have to concur with much of what Sande has written. One concern I have is how awful we treat one another in the church. The way we speak to and about our brothers and sisters is in many cases just plain old sin.
Is it any wonder that we have trouble with evangelism and discipleship in many of our churches? Who would want to be “born again” into that sort of family? Many of the conflicts could be managed if people would simply act like the Christians that they say they are.
Now, don’t get the wrong impression. We have many good churches, great churches even, who do deal biblically with their conflict. But in the short time I’ve been in this job, I have seen the other side in far to many situations.
Brothers and sisters, this church needs a revival. Not some emotional meeting, but a revival that would put people right first with God and then with one another. We need a revival of attitudes, of values, of vision, and of mission. We are floundering for a revival. And as I say that, I realize that the image that pops up in so many minds involves visions of the past. We don’t need a revival of the past, we need a revival of the present that will impact our future. We do not need some emotional appeal that doesn’t affect the mind and will, but a move of the Holy Spirit that involves a change in the way we think, act, and feel.
My heart is burdened for this church and her future. People have told me that what we need are more “altar calls.” I agree, and let me explain what I mean before you get excited.
It seems to me that an altar in the Bible had several purposes. It was a place of remembering or memorial, a place of sacrifice, and a place of meeting with God. In the Old Testament, altars were placed beside rivers, in open fields, and on top of mountains. They certainly were not limited to one place in the temple.
Just think with me on this one. We need altar calls in beauty shops, barber shops, schools, factories, offices, homes, gyms, doctor’s offices, sporting events…. We need altars wherever there are people who have not met and fallen in love with the Lord. So it is reasonable to expect that Christians who frequent all these places plus a whole lot more should be building altars there and inviting people to develop a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
If we are going to impact our communities, we must take the altar out from the front of our churches and erect altars where there are lost people. There are many ways one can do this, and I’d guess that each of you could come up with your own list that is probably better than mine. So why don’t you come up with your list? Why don’t we pray for full altars in all of these places.
Some may wonder, “What is he talking about?” Just this: if we are to survive and thrive, we need to get the message out of pews and get it to where people are. After all, wasn’t that the strategy of the Apostle Paul (read the book of Acts)? What would happen if each of us considered ourselves to be a missionary at the beauty shop, barber shop, sporting events, schools, factories, offices, in our small groups…?