Seeing Our Churches on Their Turf

Phil Whipple, bishop

When I came into this position as bishop in 2009, I decided I wanted to see things for myself. One of my goals for these past two years was to get into all of our churches and meet our pastors on their turf. I was able to accomplish that goal, visiting all of the United Brethren churches in the United States. It was an enjoyable journey.

Here are some of the things I have learned and observed during my travels.


I found our pastors to be enjoyable people with a strong love for the Lord and His church. They are mostly male and of the baby boom generation. They are committed to their families and have a fairly strong commitment to the UB church.

We have some strong leaders among us and many who want to learn how to lead more effectively.


It is no surprise that many of our churches are in rural locations. Most of them have been maintained very well, both inside and outside. We have many who are working at developing their facilities to reflect the changes that have emerged in the methodology of doing church today.


We are slowly and with some struggles moving into a balanced style of worship in many churches. We have some that are far ahead of others and some that are very traditional.

We have many good cooks among us. I have attended many potlucks and have found some wonderful dishes.

Our people are friendly, but we must do a better job of opening the front door through outreach and closing the back door through effective assimilation and discipleship. We must move discipleship away from just a learning experience to a lived-out relationship with Jesus that impacts all that we do.

Lay Leaders

We have some sharp leaders on some of our leadership teams at the local church level. They are made up of men and women who have a desire to see the church move forward and impact their community.

A number of churches are changing their structure to an accountability governance model.

The Cluster System

I have met with a number of our cluster groups. The cluster system is still a work in progress, but it has made some huge strides forward in the last two years.

Denny Miller has helped to keep the connection with our cluster leaders. We have many cluster leaders who are doing a great job with their cluster, and who are being the first point of contact when issues arise.

Overall Assessment

I have concluded that while we have some significant issues, we have a bright hope for the future.

I was impressed by the warm hearts from so many of you. I also saw churches and people engaged in the Great Commission. This is happening in some locations but clearly needs to be the rallying cry for UB churches everywhere, so that we reach the people Christ wants us to reach in these days.

I believe the commitment to the Great Commission is improving. We need to move further into the implementation of reaching people for Christ and growing strong disciples in our churches.

I want us to remain committed to our confession of faith and our core values. At the same time, I want us to be willing to aggressively move into the flow of God’s Spirit to see the church advance. We began as a movement of the Spirit of God, and that is where we must return.

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