Francisco Raudales (center) with the plaque presented by Global Ministries.

In January, I was privileged to attend the Honduras National Conference. This was the going-away conference for Francisco Raudales, who had served as superintendent since January 1997.

There were many expressions of appreciation for his ministry over the years. I presented a plaque on behalf of Global Ministries.

Juanita Chavez was elected as the new superintendent. They didn’t announce the vote tally, but her selection definitely pleased the crowd, and people were supportive even if they personally didn’t vote for her.

Praying for Juanita Chavez as she begins her new role as Honduran Superintendent. L-r: Francisco Raudales, Juanita Chavez, Jeff Bleijerveld.

I wasn’t able to stay for the closing service on Saturday night, but Francisco told her 2000 people attended. My last official act was to pray for Juanita Chavez.

Prior to the election, Juanita had been working on a strategic plan for the coming years. It wasn’t a plan with specific outcomes in terms of numbers, but outcomes in relation to healthy church development and healthy conference development. That was exciting to see. They were looking down the road–how do we get there? how do we know when we’ve developed healthy ministries?

It was something their governing council, the junta, put together, and they gave her the lead. It’ll be neat seeing her work through that in the coming years.

In a seminar on Church Consultanting, I learned a concept that I found to be very helpful. You may have heard the Berry Bucket analogy before. You have four buckets of berries in your church.

  1. The Older Former Berries (those who are older than the pastor and were there when he arrived).
  2. The Younger Former Berries (those who are younger than the pastor and were there when he came).
  3. The Older New Berries (those older than the pastor but came since the pastor).
  4. The Younger New Berries (those younger than the pastor and have come since the pastor).

The Older Former Berries usually want the pastor to be a chaplain. The Younger Former Berries are mostly related to the Older Former Berries and are the “yes but” people. The Older New Berries are on board with the direction of the pastor and they bring some wisdom to the discussion. The Younger New Berries are the “Let’s Go” people.

The former berries can never get heavier. So a great deal of the pastor’s time is reaching and training new berries. And the closer you get to equilibrium, where the new berries equal in number the former berries, the level of conflict increases. You must count all four groups and help them know each other. And there should be a time in one’s ministry where the new berries outweigh the old berries. That, of course, requires reaching new people for Christ.

I found this very helpful when trying to transition Mainsteet Church to be an outward -ocused church whose purpose was to “See Everyone Become a Fully Devoted Follower of Jesus Christ.” How you treat each group is extremely important to the health of the church in transition.

If there are just a few new berries, it’s more difficult to make a significant transition. Some former berries may get on board with transition, but the greatest momentum in the transition will come when there are new berries. Hopefully a good percentage of new berries are people who have recently come to Christ and are being discipled.

The number of registrations for the US National Conference now stands at 212, Almost a fourth of them have signed up for the UB Historical Society Banquet, at which Pat Jones will speak.

With ten days to go before the March 15 deadline, Bishop Ramsey has received:

  • 106 local church reports.
  • 96 reports from churches about their referendum results.
  • 99 signed local church covenants.


Back row (l-r): Carlos Salazar (MC – Holland, MI), Jimmy Santiago (MC – Chicago, IL), Volfi Valenzuela (MC – Ft. Wayne, IN), Tulio Duran (MC), Dalton Jenkins (UB – Yonkers, NY), Gary Rowland (MC – Ft. Wayne, IN), Martin Roman (MC – Kalamazoo, MI), Tom Blaylock (MC/UB – Everywhere), Gordon Kettel (UB – Grand Ledge, MI), Brian Reinhardt (MC – Sebewaing, MI). Front row (l-r): Bob Loar (MC – Blissfield, MI), Jeremy LeVan (MC – Mishawaka, IN), Matt Woodburn (MC – Macomb, MI), Roy Scott (UB – Brooklyn, NY), Howard Matthews (UB – Grandville, MI), and Josh Hossler (MC – Macomb, MI).

Church planters from the United Brethren Church and the Missionary Church held a retreat together January 29-31 in Orlando, Fla. They focused on three things: encouraging the church planters, sabbath rest, and learning from each other’s experiences. Tom Blaylock, who works part-time in church planting with both the UBs and MCs, headed up the event.

Two days ago, I mentioned some things Bishop Ron Ramsey and I have learned during the past four years. Here is one more: People value historic relationships over spiritual health.

In a number of churches, one or two individuals or families use gossip, slander, or position to either attack the leadership or cause division in the church. Rather than stand up and address the sinful actions of these folks, the people tolerate the sin and watch to see how long the pastor can survive it.

My question is, “Why do you tolerate this?”

The church is unhealthy because cancer is ignored or tolerated. The Body, not just the pastor, must be willing to stand up.

Jesus’ desires for his Church should take precedence over how long someone has been in a church or what your personal relationship has been with them if they are acting ungodly. Scripture says to warn a divisive person once, warn them a second time, and then have nothing to do with them (Titus 3:10). Where people have stopped tolerating such actions, freedom and blessing have come.


The church at Bo, in Sierra Leone

While attending Sierra Leone Conference, I didn’t sense a strong feeling of expectation in regard to support from North America. In fact, a number of younger pastors–some of the rising young leaders in the conference–came to me and said, “We need to be supporting ourselves. We appreciate everything the US and Canada have done in the past, but it’s time for us to take ownership of the ministry God has given us.”

The church in Bo just completed a new sanctuary that seats 400. It would be an impressive building in the United States. And they never asked the conference or the US for a penny. They built it themselves. They also run a school next door to the church, and it receives no outside funding that I know of.

encountered something similar in Nicaragua. A discussion began about how Central American churches could participate in mission giving. They said, “We’ve been on the receiving end for a long time. We’d like to do something that puts us on the giving side.”

They raised the idea of taking a missions offering and sending it to the United States. I told them about how the Canadians already participate with us in two offerings, Self Denial and Thank Offering.

They jumped all over that, thought it was fantastic. We need to work out the details of how we distribute the funds they send; they wouldn’t want us to send it back to them. But to send money to us, and then it goes somewhere else–that’s something we can do for them, as they seek to reach out to the world.

It is hard to believe that almost four years have passed since the Bishop Ron Ramsey and I began this journey together. In our travels and interactions, we have learned (or been reinforced in) many truths about churches. Here are a few.

God can and will bring transformation to the willing.

It has been thrilling to see the power of the Lord released into the lives of people who humbly sought his desires over their own comfort and previous traditions.

Discipleship produces evangelism.

Many churches are trying to do evangelism but are not equipped to walk with people through what it means to be a disciple. But where churches are creating environments where people are truly growing in “grace and knowledge of the truth,” evangelism is the natural outcome. That brings long-term, sustained growth.

People can’t do what they have never seen or experienced.

We can’t assume people know what to do just because they have been told. If they have never seen it, experienced it, or done it, how are they supposed to do it? That is why mentoring and exposing them to other patterns is vital. People do more what they see than what they are told.

There is no power without personal and corporate prayer.

We have found where the pastor and leaders are busy doing rather than being, there is no power. When there is no corporate emphasis on prayer and personal study of the Scriptures, there is no power. Methodologies may change, but the basics never do. Craig Groschel’s book “IT” captures this truth.

People confuse forms and functions.

Some have asked us when God ordered the church to change. As far as functions, he hasn’t. Worship, prayer, study of Scripture, using our gifts in ministry, preaching, evangelism, and giving as stewards are all functions that will never change.But God has called us in Psalm 78 and other places to effectively communicate the great truths about the Lord to the next generation. And to do that, our forms and methodologies must change. We must not confuse the non-changing functions with the need to change forms.

What truths do you see?