In our travels I have heard rumors of a few of our smaller to medium sized churches discussing plans to build. That concerns me. Having led one church through two major building projects and another through major renovations, I know a little about the processes and impact such a move can have.

Several factors suggest that building more buildings is not always the wise decision to make as a steward of the Lord:

  • The state of today’s economy.
  • The fact that most of our churches, even those who are discussing building, are virtually stagnant or in decline.
  • The availability of creative new solutions that were not available even a few years ago.

But if you are still discussing building, please STOP and ask the following questions.

Can you present a clear rationale that answers these questions:

  • Why are you building?
  • What are you building?

I have heard of and talked to churches that erected buildings, and when the leaders were asked what it would be used for, they answered that they thought it would be a good part of their facility to have. No strategy. No plan.

If you cannot clearly communicate what will take place in that building once it is completed and how it will help you achieve your vision, DON’T BUILD!

2. Have you exhausted ALL avenues of meeting the need for which you are building?

Many churches only look at one solution for their need.

  • Could you double use your currently rooms with some flexibility in meeting times?
  • Are there other facilities nearby that could be used or rented to meet the need?
  • Is there a way to do a video venue to another part of your building to solve your over-crowding in worship?
  • Is there any way to do something short of building another building?

3. Is there another church in the area you can partner with rather than build?

The Body of Christ (all believing churches) has literally billions of dollars of assets sitting woefully underused across this country. If turf wars could end and barriers between fellowships would cease, we could work together to accomplish something great. Church is about relationships and transformational change, not buildings. So could you use a resource another church has that they would make available to meet your goals and needs?

There are other good questions to ask but these can get you thinking. Remember, people draw people. Relationships, not buildings, are the most important thing. And the only reason to build something is if that building will provide the most effective means of accomplishing your goals.

Ruby Cherry passed away Saturday, August 9. The funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, August 13, at Eden UB church (Mason, Mich.). Visitation will be at the Gorsline Runciman Funeral Home, 900 Michigan Ave., Lansing, Mich., at these times:

  • 1-3 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, August 12.,
  • 9-10 a.m. Wedneday, August 13.

Ruby was the wife of longtime UB minister Harold Cherry, and the mother of Kevin Cherry, currently pastor of Heart O’ the Lakes UB in Brooklyn, Mich. Rev. Milan Maybee will officiate at the funeral.

Contributions for those desiring to do so can be to the Gideon International or Global Ministries of the United Brethren in Christ.

John Cole, pastor of Northland UB (Traverse City, Mich.)
Last year we set a goal to have 40 children attend VBS, and we met that goal. This year we wanted to reach 50-60 children and their families. We held VBS on Friday evening, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday, and on Sunday morning during the worship service. Not only did we serve a total of 55 children, but we had probably a dozen visitors, including one who told John that she felt the Holy Spirit’s presence at our church.

At the conclusion of the VBS, which had a service theme, we took the children to an assisted living facility just down the road from the church. The children sang a couple of songs to the residents and gave them each a sun catcher they had made during the weekend. Even the smallest children willingly gave gifts and hugs to the residents. We wanted to give the children and their families an immediate opportunity to serve their community, and they did.

One parent sincerely thanked us for having VBS on the weekend because, as a parent who works fulltime, her child had previously been unable to participate. She also expressed a desire to begin attending Northland.

All of these things are great, but the best part of the weekend was when ten children, three from our own congregation, accepted Christ. We were so excited last year when three children made commitments. We have been asking God to show us needs in our community that we could meet and through this He has shown us lonely people who need companionship, parents who crave safe activities for their children, and many children and families who need hope. We got to share that hope with so many this weekend. We praise God for showing up in such a powerful way.

Leslie Lightner, an ordained United Brethren minister, passed away August 8 at age 58. He served as associate pastor of College Park UB church (Huntington, Ind.) and as senior pastor of Park UB (Bluffton, Ind.). Most recently, he has been a professor at Winebrenner Theological Seminary (Findlay, Ohio). The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, August 13, at Winebrenner, with visitation 204 and 6-8 p.m. on August 12.

Today we learned about the deaths of three persons who are well-known in United Brethren circles.

  • Ruby Cherry passed away over the weekend. She and her husband, Harold, spent a lifetime in the United Brethren ministry; their son, Kevin, is senior pastor of Heart O’ the Lakes UB church in Brooklyn, Mich. Ruby’s funeral is Wednesday.
  • Leslie Lightner, who served on staff at College Park (Huntington, Ind.) and pastored Park UB (Bluffton, Ind.), passed away on Friday. His funeral is tomorrow at Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Findlay, Ohio, where he has been a professor for a number of years.
  • Mrs. Archie Braithwaite, whose husband was a former Jamaica Conference superintendent, also passed away. We don’t have details, just the information that they had been living in Miami, Fla.

In June, Pam and I spent some time with Dalton Jenkins, pastor of our small Jamaican church in Yonkers, N.Y. We had supper with Dalton and his wife, Jacqueline (right), and then they showed us the 600-square-foot building where the congregation–about 22 people–hold services.

Dalton’s mother-in-law is Mrs. Larimer. She and her husband served in ministry in Jamaica. She’s very much a prayer warrior and preaches some. When I attended Jamaica Conference two years ago, she was invited to pray at the installation of Winston Smith as General Superintendent and the members of the Conference Council. They live with Dalton and Jacqueline.

The city of Yonkers is being upgraded. It is totally different from the Bronx, where we have another Jamaican church. Yonkers has a more upscale feel. They have a whole waterfront area that looks pretty upscale. Within a few blocks of the church are people from five or six nationalities–Mexican, Polish, Jamaican, and others. They are trying to figure out the best way to reach people in this type of community.

Jen Blandin, UB missionary in Macau, reports that she’s going to Beijing to watch the Olympics, “a sports dream of mine.” She adds, “While I’m looking forward to attending the games, I’m also excited to share this experience with a couple of friends. I would appreciate your prayers for safety, deepened friendships, and to ‘go with the flow’ as there will be LOTS of people to wade through in order to get to the various venue sites!” 

In her monthly newsletter, Jen also told this story from a recent Sunday: 

“Before the service started, some new faces walked in. One of the faces looked familiar to me, but I could not place how I knew her. After the service, I started up a conversation with the new people, and come to find out, the familiar face used to be a student of mine when I taught in a local high school in Macau several years ago!

“After she graduated from high school, she attended college in the States, where she began her relationship with Jesus! It was encouraging to be reminded that while I might need to let go of some relationships and things, God had not, and does not, let go!”

Jennifer Blandin, UB missionary in Macau, calls her monthly newsletter the “Macau Sports Report,” and always draws creative analogies between athletics and the work in Macau. In her July edition, she mentioned that she’ll be going to Beijing for the Olympics, which she describes as “a sports dream of mine.”
Follow the link to read portions of her July newsletter, which focus around the Olympics.

July was a month of several pre-Olympic activities, one of which was a four-team women’s volleyball tournament. It was fun to watch some quality play and to see how different countries adapt the game to their abilities. China was a strong and tall team. Brazil and Dominican Republic had a lot of excitement and energy. Japan was a team that would sacrifice their bodies to get to a ball and seemed light on their feet. All the teams could jump, and that made watching them spike the ball even more amazing.

Other international teams and athletes made Macau their pre-Olympic training home or pit stop. The most famous group of athletes to pass through has been the USA men’s basketball team. They easily handled their competition and seemed to be on track to hopefully win the gold medal. Other countries that have come through Macau include: England, Portugal, Mozambique, and Brazil. Sports action is definitely at an all-time high!

What is one phrase that causes many people to cringe? That’s right “work-out.” For some reason this 7-letter phrase causes more fear, dread, panic, and several other not-so-pleasant adjectives than any other English phrase. (Maybe “Clean your room” might come in a close second.) It could be the sore muscles the day after, getting sweaty, or taking the time out of a day to go and do it. For whatever the reason, working out is not the most enjoyable thing humans do, but it can be quite beneficial.

During July, there were several opportunities for me to “work-out.” One such workout focused on my hands. The workout started out with cutting up food without cutting off my fingers! It then moved to testing the agility of my fingers while working on my “Guitar Hero” eye-hand skills. This workout was made possible by some friends who opened their home, patiently taught me how to cook some Chinese food, and then allowed for some friendly video game competition.

Another “work-out” included a combination of leg and brain training. Morning is usually the time I head out for my daily walk. Since I usually stick to the same walking path, there are a few people I regularly see and greet. One such person is a Chinese man who is retired and has children who live in England. Each year my friend and his wife go to England to visit them. He knows some English, but would like to know more. When our paths cross each morning, a five-minute English and Cantonese lesson takes place. This has been a big help in getting my brain some exercise, because mornings are not my peak times! Thankfully the lessons usually fall within my understanding of Cantonese, but every once in a while my brain needs to work a bit harder! This “work-out” has also been a neat way to see a friendship develop.

The final “work-out” I would like to share involves my “letting go” skills. Due to changes in my job responsibilities, I have needed to let go of some things. There were some responsibilities I have been happy to give up, but there have been some that have not been so easy to give up because I enjoyed doing them. Yet, in order to be at the top of my game for what I do now, letting go has been important.

While most of July was spent in hard workouts in this area, it was also a month of receiving some neat encouragement. One such case took place the Sunday I preached. Before the service started, some new faces walked in. One of the faces looked familiar to me, but I could not place how I knew her. After the service, I started up a conversation with the new people, and come to find out, the familiar face used to be a student of mine when I taught in a local high school in Macau several years ago! After she graduated from high school, she attended college in the States, where she began her relationship with Jesus! It was encouraging to be reminded that while I might need to let go of some relationships and things, God had not, and does not, let go!