A one-day workshop on “Strategic Planning for the Local Church” will be held July 16 in Fort Wayne, Ind. It’s limited to 30 persons–the first 30 to register. This seminar was previously held in February, and it filled up.

The presenter is Dr. Rick Upchurch, director of the Huntington University EXCEL adult education program. His office, along with all other graduate school offices, is in the Healthy Ministry Resources building (and all of us agree that he’s a great guy). Rick is an ordained Nazarene minister who has worked with local churches the past ten years as a consultant in leadership-related areas.

Date: Thursday, July 16, 2009
Time: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Location: Innovation Center, 3201 Stelhorn Road, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Cost: $99 (or $79 each if 3 or more persons come from the same church). Includes lunch.
CEU Credit: .5 CEU

The class will focus on:

  • Steps to an effective strategic plan for your church.
  • How to implement change in a way that produces results.
  • Leadership types and how to maximize your personal type.

You can register online. You can also contact Dr. Upchurch by email.

Dr. Paul Fetters spoke that summer during Pacific Annual Conference, the summer after my ninth grade year. He spoke on the family, and it was excellent, even to this budding sophomore.

We used a camp in Watsonville, Calif., outside of San Francisco, which meant a nine-hour drive for those of us from Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Most of our youth group was there for the conference Bible quizzing finals.

But this particular night, I wasn’t paying much attention to Dr. Fetters’ message. Instead, I was flirting with Tammy, a shy but very cute girl. We were sitting beside each other about in the middle of the left-hand section of the tabernacle. It’s all branded deeply in my memory because of what came next.

As I carried on–and it would have been mostly me, because Tammy was so quiet–I apparently disrupted people around me. Suddenly, I felt a big hand clamp onto my shoulder from behind. I looked over my shoulder.

One of our ministers, a big guy, well over six feet tall, had grabbed me from two rows back. He then said to me, in the type of hushed voice Jack Bauer uses, “If you don’t quiet down, I’m going to take you outside and whip you like one of my own kids.”

I quieted down, fast.

I doubt that, in my traumatized state, I actually listened to much of Dr. Fetters’ message. But at the end of the service, my heart still beat in overdrive.

That hand, that large physique, that Voice of Intimidation, belonged to the pastor of our church in Sacramento. A guy named Ron Ramsey.

On Saturday, Huntington University awarded degrees to another 235 graduates. This 111th commencement was held in the Field House of the Merillat Complex for Physical Education and Recreation. The break-down included:

  • 7 Master of Arts degrees.
  • 6 Master of Education degrees.
  • 62 Bachelor of Arts degrees.
  • 198 Bachelor of Science degrees.
  • 7 even Bachelor of Social Work degrees.
  • 21 Associate of Science degrees.
  • 3 honorary doctorates.

You can view more photos from Commencement and Baccalaureate at the Huntington University site.

While reading from Trial and Triumphs: History of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, I came across a quote from our Bishop’s quadrennial report of 1929:

“We stand in need of a great spiritual awakening throughout the Church. A greater emphasis should be placed upon the actual presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our people. A consciousness of the intervention of God…is the only antidote which will counteract the poison of materialistic teaching which is everywhere pouring in upon Christianity, killing the spirituality of the church and rendering the lives of thousands barren and unfruitful.”

Wow!  That could have been written about the Church in 2009 as well.

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At the Cristo Rey UB church in Costa Rica.

Before Charlene and I went to Spain as missionaries, we spent a year attending language school in Costa Rica. When I visited San Jose in January to see our churches in that city, I discovered some major changes.

The city is much more violent. I used to walk all around the city with no sense of danger. Now, I was told, even the locals don’t go out walking on the streets.

Probably the biggest crime now is extortion–not only in Costa Rica, but all through Central America. Someone calls you on a cell phone and says that if you don’t leave a certain amount of money at a certain place tomorrow, they’ll kill you, or your wife, or your children. They don’t even bother to kidnap you. They just threaten you over the phone.

Anyone who appears to have any money is at risk. You don’t need to be rich; a middle class person will do. The police don’t know what to do about it, because how do you prove anything from a phone call? And people don’t go to the police, because they have no idea who called them. Maybe it was a policeman.

In Honduras, one day I walked from the Bethel School, where we held the conference, back to my hotel. I heard about it. They said I shouldn’t put myself at risk like that.

The same is true in many places around the world. In the Philippines, Sierra Leone, and other places where United Brethren churches operate, you just don’t go walking around. Even locals get mugged, have their pockets picked, have cell phones taken off their belt. If they’re hitting the nationals, sooner or later, if you visit regularly, you’ll get victimized if you don’t take reasonable precautions.

Wow, things are a bit crazy around Healthy Ministry Resource as we put together a big packet of materials for all delegates to the National Conference. Which is just three weeks away.

The packet contains:

  • Reports from Bishop Ramsey and the various directors.
  • Materials regarding elections–vision statement, bios, ballots.
  • All of the proposals for changing the Discipline (about 30 of them).
  • Executive Leadership Team minutes from the last two years.
  • The Rules and Procedures of the conference.

Bishop Ramsey stresses: READ THE REPORTS. We’re not going to spend a lot of time going over them during the conference. That would be redundant. We have too much ground to cover.

The packet of reports will probably go out Thursday or Friday. But right now, you can download most of them, and also view them online at the US National Conference site.

Delegates are also advised to download the UB Discipline from the US National Conference site. Perhaps pastors could print out a copy for each delegate. It may come in handy when we’re doing Discipline revision.

This spring, as part of my sabbatical, I had the privilege of taking some time away from campus to study the Civil Rights Movement and the African-American experience. Chris and I read several books on African-American history and visited numerous historic civil rights sites in 10 cities in Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The experience was enlightening, sobering, sad, discouraging and motivating. Perhaps the greatest point of sadness was the realization that too few of us were involved in this movement to right the wrongs of racism. Perhaps Edward Gilbraith said it best in Reconciliation Blues when he writes: “Looking back, it seems that most white evangelicals were out to lunch during the Civil Rights Movement–or worse, on the wrong side.” (p. 108)

This three-week intensive study has affirmed for me the importance of our work as a University toward racial and ethnic reconciliation. My desire is for Huntington to model the kind of diverse community that is consistent with Scripture and our faith.

Our Diversity Committee is already developing plans to undertake a year-long, campus-wide emphasis in 2009-2010 to study issues of cultural, ethnic and racial diversity. This is important work and I look forward to the involvement of all faculty, staff, students and Board members in this discussion.

I ended my spring sabbatical by running my 7th marathon (26.2 miles) in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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I had a great day this past Sunday visiting with our churches in Holly Hill and Port Orange, Florida. Both are wonderful churches with excellent pastors and kind-hearted people. I’d transfer my membership to either one if it weren’t for the long commute.

If folks are looking for a winter haven in the south, I’d encourage them to check out the Daytona Beach area. We have wonderful UB churches that would be happy to have them join the family.

In Port Orange, Faith UB has been demonstrating God’s kindness by creating garden plots so neighbors can grow produce for their family’s needs. Church member Pat Gill laid out the thirty or so raised gardens that come complete with drip line irrigation and are marked off in one-foot by one-foot squares. This system allows families to harvest crops four times per year. Wish I could do that in Indiana!