Okay, you know we are talking about Revelation here.

I just read an article from Peacemakers about the toll conflict is taking on the church and on pastors. Conflict has hindered or ruined many churches’ ministry. It has contributed to burnout or “run out” for pastors. In one denomination, they have 1,500 pastors per year check out of ministry, all because local church leaders (both pastors and lay leaders) seem unwilling or ill-equipped to address internal issues.

That moved me to revisit the messages the Lord gave the seven churches of the Revelation. The messages and calls to action are relevant for today. See where your church fits, and what God’s call is for your life.

Church 1: Ephesus was a doctrinally sound church. Solid on truth. But the Lord said they lost their first love, their reason for existence. The Call: Repent.

Church 2: Smyrna was a poverty church, in affliction because of its location and circumstance. The Lord did not rebuke them but encouraged them. The Call: Be faithful and hold on.

Church 3: Pergamum was located in a difficult, sinful community. They did not have biblically sound teaching in their church. They held to some strange things. The Call: Repent

Church 4: Thyatira showed evidence of moving ahead spiritually. But they were at a crucial point. They tolerated a very ungodly, sinful woman to have say over what happened in the church. The Call: The wicked should repent; others should hold on.

Church 5: Sardis had a reputation for and self-perception of being alive, but they were truly dead. This shows the need for an objective evaluation of us and not just our own. The Call: Wake up, repent, and obey.

Church 6: Philadelphia was faithful, battle-worn, and weary. They were commended and reminded of God’s promises. The Call: Hold on.

Church 7: Laodicea was lukewarm. They weren’t blatantly sinful nor spiritually sound and productive. They were blinded to their condition as well. The Call: Repent

Notice the consistent call God is placing on churches: REPENT. As I work with cluster leaders who are intervening with churches and as the Bishop receives numerous communiques from various places, it is clear that sin, gossip, powerplays, control, etc. are conditions hindering many of our churches. Tolerating sin while neglecting truth is commonplace. And the call is for repentance. Otherwise, the Lord will take action to remove the church from existence.

I implore you to examine your own church. Better yet, do a Natural Church Development (NCD) survey or use some other objective tool to assess the condition of your church. Then take the appropriate actions in response to God’s call.

This summer, it is the desire of the Bishop (and also mine) to do further training with the cluster leaders, that they might in turn help pastors better learn to deal biblically with conflict. We also want to examine how to create an atmosphere in which it is normal to handle conflict this way.

WinstonSmith.jpgJamaica Annual Conference was held March 15-19, using the theme “Healthy Churches–God’s Plan for Growth.” The meetings were held at the Malvern Campground, with the large final service held at a Missionary Church camp outside of Mandeville.
Rev. Winston Smith was re-elected as the leader of Jamaica National Conference, a position he has held since 2002. However, the title has changed. Instead of “General Superintendent,” he will now hold the title of “Bishop.” The national conferences in Canada, the US, and Mexico also give the title “bishop” to their highest elected leader.
Pat Jones, the US Director of Healthy Church Ministries, attended the meetings and presented seminars on issues related to church health. He submitted the following report:
“My wife, Pam, and I had the privilege of attending the 55th annual session of the Jamaican Conference. We were asked to come and teach them healthy church principles. It was a time of renewing some old friendships and establishing some new ones. Their energy and desire to learn were refreshing. Some of the key issues they discussed and acted on were:

  • “Continue to take responsibility for funding their building and church planting projects. They believe they can do much more than they have. Just as in the United States, if their folks were tithing and sacrificially giving, they could do much more.
  • “Change some of their procedures to free people from so many meetings so they can do the things they do well and allow others to share the load.
  • “Shift from talking about and voting to do things to truly implementing them.
  • “To engage the next generation in significant decision-making.

“We found that the challenges facing the church are the same around the world. I commend our Jamaican brothers and sisters for seeking to hear about principles that would help them change. They recognize that the issue is not knowledge alone, but being willing to pay the price to move from the comfort zone of what they have always done. There is an expressed desire to do so, but will there be a willful desire? Time will tell.
“Unity among them as they move ahead was a major theme throughout the conference. We pray that we may follow their example. We must joyfully and in unity do whatever it takes to effectively take the Gospel to this generation.
“We are looking forward to seeing all that the Lord is going to do in and through them in the days ahead. We believe that they are going to make a huge impact in their community for Jesus Christ.”
Follow the link below to view a number of pictures from the meeting.

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TaipaGroup_550.jpg
A dedication service for the new Living Stone church in Macau was held during the afternoon on February 26. This photo shows the people who attended. Most of the guests were from Hong Kong, and from the other two UB churches in Macau, Living Water and Living Word. Click on the photo for a much larger view.

A few persons should be pointed out. Front row, from the left: Jana Hoobler, Karis Vong (pastor of the Living Water church), Michael Chan (Chinese coworker in the English Language Program), missionaries Naomi and Carlson Becker, Mark Choi (Hong Kong Missions Director), and Ajiax Wo (Superintendent of Hong Kong National Conference). Sitting behind Jana Hoobler on the left are missionaries David and Melissa Kline.
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Jana Hoobler praying during the service.

Missionary Jana Hoobler reports, “Living Stone Church is off to a good start. Besides our staff, a few local people are attending regularly. A lot of our friends have also come to a service or two to sort of ‘check it out.’ The average attendance has been around 15 (seven of us are on staff). I’m loving being really involved in a church again, instead of just ‘attending worship,’ as I’d been doing the past few years at Living Water. I get excited every time someone walks through that door on Sunday morning!
JanaCarlson_300.jpg“The people who’ve been attending worship services at Living Stone are a variety of mature Christians, new Christians, and non-Christians. Pray for our staff and especially for Pastor Carlson and Michael (our local co-worker) as we seek to meet their broad spiritual needs.” (The photo on the left shows Jana translating for Carlson Becker.)

“I’m teaching fewer adult classes and more children’s classes right now. Several parents have shared struggles they’re facing in their families with me. I’m thankful for this deepening of our relationships. Pray that I’ll know how to point them to God as the ultimate Healer for their families.

“I’m in the middle of more paperwork with the government to get my official permanent residency in Macau. Please pray that it will all go smoothly.”

You are invited to join our UB churches in Canada as they celebrate 150 years of ministry. The Celebration will occur on June 10, 2006, at the Hartman Farm north of Guelph, Ontario. The celebration will occur from 2-8 p.m., with an optional historical bus tour from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The afternoon is truly planned as a celebration, with many activities for all ages, much like a fair. Highlights of the day will include:

  • historical displays from each of the UB churches in Canada.
  • square-dancing in the barn with instruction for beginners.
  • a tea room/tent.
  • games, contests, and recreational activities.
  • old-fashioned lemonade stand, popcorn and candy floss.
  • a wandering minstrel playing the banjo and singing.
  • historical costumes and picture taking.
  • pony rides.
  • a prayer walk trail.
  • a youth tent featuring four different bands.
  • and a catered supper meal, BBQ-picnic style.

The evening will feature an old-fashioned revival meeting under the big-top tent. The historical bus tour costs $10. However, everything else is without charge, though a freewill offering will be taken.
Please submit your registration form by April 30, 2006.

The historical bus tour will depart from the Parkwood gardens Church in Guelph and go to Doon Heritage Crossroads Village, a pioneer village in Kitchener which houses one of the oldest United Brethren Church buildings in Canada. It has been fully and accurately restored to early 1900s decor and architecture. After a time at Doon Village, the tour will proceed to Sheffield (just south of Cambridge), the location of the first United Brethren church in Canada. A light lunch will be served there. After lunch, the tour will return to Guelph and take vehicles to the Hartman Farm, location of the 150th Anniversary Celebration. Bishop Brian Magnus will be on the bus as the tour guide.

Carlson and Naomi Becker, UB missionaries in Macau, sent the following report on March 22. It tells about the launch of the Living Stone church on Taipa island. This is the third UB church in Macau.

We have involved our Cantonese language tutor, Larry, and his wife, Anna, in the ministry as well as a couple who have just moved back to Macau after having lived in Vancouver, Canada, for some years. Their names are Mike and Ellen, and they seem very interested in helping the church get a good start. Mike moved back to Macau to take over his father’s business. They live in the apartment building just a few feet from the front door of our center.

The Opening Celebration was held in the afternoon, and we had over 60 people present. There were about 12 from Hong Kong and about that many from Living Waters, a few from Living Word, and many other churches were represented as well. We had 11 visitors in church on March 19.

Our classes have been larger this term, for which we are grateful. It is harder to get to know each student as well as when they were a little smaller in number. We just had our morning “Current Events” class over for breakfast, and we had a really great time with them. We are enjoying getting to know them, and the opportunity to see them outside of the classroom is very helpful to us.

Sunday evening Bible study is larger right now, and we are thankful for that. One of the attendees recently went back home to Mainland China to spend time with her family. Before she left, she talked to Michael and me about what it would be like at her home. Her parents will have a picture of a departed ancestor, probably her grandfather, hanging on the wall. The family would offer sacrifices of food and flowers to the picture in hopes that the ancestor would bring them good fortune and watch over them. As we discuss some of these things in class, we find that many of the younger Chinese do not believe in these practices as do their parents. If they practice them, it is because they don’t want to offend their parents.

On the other side of the picture, we would have to say that the people are very friendly, and we feel very safe and appreciated. We are making some very good friends and are praying that God would lead them to believe in Christ as their Savior.

  • Jean Bell (with husband, Wes, right), one of our endorsed missionaries serving with Wycliffe in Brazil, received news on March 26 that her mother had passed away.
  • Marilyn Reeck is in North Carolina taking a course called “Learning that Lasts.” Roger Reeck is Tegucigalpa, Honduras, teaching a one-week linguistic seminar to Honduran missionaries as part of youth With a Mission’s missionary training course. He will then travel to the States to join Marilyn. Their youngest daughter, Elisa, graduates from college on May 10, and they will be able to attend her graduation.
  • On March 28, Jennifer Blandin, missionary in Macau, sent this note about the new Living Stone church in Macau. “Living Stone continues to grow and reach out to people. After our opening ceremony, the number of visitors has dropped, but the number of regular attenders has increased. This month Michael Chan has started a ‘family’ small group to reach out and care for people we have come in contact with.”

Thank you: the words seem too simple to be meaningful. But to a tired soul who wonders if the investment is worth it, they can bring some short-term replenishment to the brittle dryness. That is what I hope happens through this short paragraph.

Thank you for the investment you are making in your ministry, your cluster and the people in that cluster. Thank you for the time several of you are making now to deal with conflicts in your churches(and those of you who have not yet done so will probably experience this privilege sooner or later). God modeled for us in the Scriptures that there will always be the “good, the bad, and the ugly” to deal with. But by His grace we are more than conquerors. It’s never fun to deal with such stuff. We usually wonder if it is worth it. But it is.

Thank you for the time you’ve put in to help station new pastors. Thank you for praying for each other and supporting each other. Most of all, thank you for being like Isaiah and others who simply made themselves available to be used. Our Father will richly reward you for it.

Don’t forget that this site is for your use, to share stories of what the Lord is doing. That will be an encouragement to us all.

Pray for these:

  • Dirk Small is doing with a difficult situaiton in one of the churches in his cluster.
  • Mark Ralph, not to be outdone, has TWO situations he is addressing. The Bishop is meeting with him and those churches today to seek a solution.
  • We have a number of church openings right now and limited personnel to consider. Ask the Lord to bring us or raise up some strong young bucks.
  • Pray as we take time next week to flesh out the Bishop’s five initiatives.
  • Pray and ask the Lord to do something fresh in each of our lives this week.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
We are in need of locating a few, really sharp young pastors who can help us change our leadership DNA. Do you know any student that is currently in a seminary anywhere? Could you give me the person’s name and where he is attending school? I really want to begin building a list of strong potential “young bucks” to change the genetic DNA of our herd. You can send directly to me by email.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop
Just received some promotional material that churches can use to present the real truth of the Da Vinci Code movie that will be out May 19. It And got me to thinking about what our churches are doing, if anything, regarding the movie and subject matter. Sometimes these are tough calls to make. Do we do anything, or ignore it compeletly? The only problem is that some of your attenders read the book and some believed it was true. Other attenders will go see the movie and some will come away convinced that the claims it makes are true. Does that make any difference?
I personally believe that the book is a direct attack upon the reliability and trustworthiness of our Scripture.
The people you minister to every week will have questions about the book and movie. Will you be prepared to answer with answers that will satisfy them?
Just wondering if anyone is planning to combat this subversive material…that many will believe is really true. And if you respond to this please state whether or not you have read the book and/or plan on seeing the movie.