I came across this article, “Quoting Satan,” on SermonCentral.com. It is by Chad McCallum, pastor of Compass Point church in Byron Center, Mich. While we often kick ourselves for not being effective Christians, this article imagines how we must look to Satan–a strong, flexible, resilient force that he’s been unable to stop.

I know a church where people have strong opinions about what their church should be, but their opinion has no relation to what God says the church should be. They are people of power. And in the UB church–probably all churches–people with power tend to be people with money.

Nobody will say to them, “We’re going to build a church here, and we don’t need you or your money. We could use you and your money, but if you’re just going to be an obstinate person used by Satan to create problems–no, we don’t need you.”

I’ve had those conversations. It’s not easy, not something I relish. But it’s necessary.

My greatest concern is finding leaders to assign to churches. I get resumes nearly every week, but few of them I believe would be the kind of people I want to assign to one of our churches, because their experience shows that they’ve never led or grown anything. I think our single biggest need is to have enough of the right quality of people when we need them.

Years ago, if you started in a small church and kept your nose clean and didn’t ruffle feathers, you got promoted to a little nicer church. Then, if you continued to keep your nose clean, you got promoted to another church.

I think that kind of approach to assigning churches is terrible. But it’s all we knew and what everybody was doing, so I don’t condemn anyone for doing that. But to find people who are leaders, you really have to do some recruiting. It’s something I didn’t take the time to do as bishop–go to seminars, talk to professors, see who the top students are, build a relationship with them, see if they’re interested in doing something with us.

Well, I moved the last of my books out of the office over the weekend. I will complete a few loose ends over the next two weeks and then I will go to Greencastle, Pa., to preach at Macedonia UB and at the Rhodes Grove Camp Meeting Aug 16-20. Those will be my last duties as Bishop.

Many have asked what I am going to do in retirement. So I thought I ought to respond.

For the first couple of weeks, I plan to do very little. I am sure I will become involved in some projects around the house. This will be the first time for many years when I will not have a job to go to in the morning. But I believe more than my job defines my life.

First and foremost, I will still be a follower of Jesus Christ. I hope to have the time to read and study in detail a few topics for which I have a great interest.

I look forward to spending more time with my wife of 49 years, EJ. For all our married life, I have held a job and a great deal of the time she has been employed as well. Next to Jesus, she is the love of my life and I look forward to the time we will have together.

I haven’t been a “person in the pew” since my days in Wheaton, Ill., with Scripture Press. EJ and I look forward to finding a church home where we can serve in our areas of giftedness and interests.

Moving is also in our near future. Don’t know where yet. We had hoped to have a house purchased way before this, but so far nothing. We don’t know what the Lord is trying to say to us, but at this point we are still looking. We have leased a house from Huntington University for the past four years and we need to move out ASAP.

Every time we have moved, EJ and I have talked about the need to rid ourselves of much accumulation of “stuff,” but we really never have. We move it and store it away somewhere…garage, closets, attic, basement…you get the drift. This move we will have a huge moving-on sale, and hopefully a lot of that “stuff” can be moved from our house to someone else’s so they can store it away until that time they need to have a huge garage sale.

It will be nice to get settled somewhere.

After the dust settles, I’d like to do some pulpit supply, seminars, and church consultations as opportunities present themselves. I still believe what the rock in my yard says, “Where God is taking us is always better than where we’ve been.”  I look forward with eager anticipation to whatever that may be.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve my church in this high capacity.  It has been a rewarding, challenging, and humbling experience.

I just received a letter from Mike Turner, a layperson at the Liberty UB church of Stockport, Ohio, down in the beautiful hills of southern Ohio. He reports that on July 12, they baptized, in Wolf Creek, 13 people who had been saved in the past month and six who had been saved earlier in 2009. A nearby Nazarene Church learned of the upcoming baptism, and they baptized one more person, for a total of 20. Mike reports that 68 persons were present to witness the power of God, sing songs, and pray. Mike said it was a grand and glorious day.

Over the past four years, I had tried to be consistent in calling our churches to become healthy. I think some people thought I was saying all churches had to become large. But that was and is not the point. I believe that healthy churches do grow, but size isn’t the issue. The issue is one of being effective in seeing people come to Christ.

Liberty UB is a small church that is healthy because they are reaching people in their community. We have many of our churches who haven’t seen a conversion for a long time. The baptismal fount is dry! Oh that many of our churches might become involved once again in the harvest fields.

Way to go Liberty! The angels in heaven rejoiced on that day!

Over the last four years the subject of healthy churches has been sharp on my radar. I collected a file full of articles trying to describe the characteristics of a healthy church. I finally compiled all the ideas and want to share them with you.

This is not the result of a research project and is not verifiable in that sense. It is just observations I have gleaned from a number of sources.

So, what are the characteristics of a healthy church? I’ll give you the top 5:

  1. Leadership was the top characteristic. (I lumped together a number of things pertaining to leadership under this heading.) This includes leadership in its many varieties–leadership that is biblical, empowering, proficient, fruitful, positive, Great Commission focused, has a God-focused vision, has integirity.
  2. Outward-focused mission.
  3. (tie)  Inspiring worship and discipleship/spiritual formation.
  4. (tie) Relationships/belonging/assimilation and strong biblical focus.
  5. In touch with God/prayer/God-empowering presence.

I don’t know that I would have put them in exactly that same order, but I do agree that they are probably the most significant. One that didn’t make the top 5 or so was the functional structure component, which I believe is also very important.

My earlier experiences in ministry were not positive. It was okay, and we saw some good things happen, but I struggled a bit. I don’t know why.

My first church, in 1964, was a part-time church near Willshire, Ohio, when I was a student pastor. I was elected to this job in 2005. During those 40 years, I cannot recall a time when I ever called a superintendent or bishop because I had a problem in the church. There were probably times when I should have, and I was too dumb to know I should.When we pastored the UB church in Sacramento, Calif., it took me a number of years before things started to happen, and that’s about the time I left to spend four years at the national office.

When I spent 13 years with Scripture Press. That’s where I got the other side of my ministerial training. I had the Bible and theology and all that stuff, but I didn’t have a clue how to lead. I kept causing problems. There was friction.

Scripture Press invested in men and trained me in leading. They put me in a position where I had to lead to be successful. Without that 13 years, I don’t think I would have been successful at Mainstreet. And without those 12 years at Mainstreet, I wouldn’t have known which end of the tool to pick up as bishop.

In addition, at Scripture Press I had the chance to see churches of other denominations. I was in a wide span of theological perspectives, and saw there was a whole other world beyond the United Brethren church. I saw what was working for churches in other groups.

If I had gone straight from the national office to Mainstreet or any other church, I don’t think I would have been all that successful. So I thank God for those years at Scripture Press and what they taught me about leadership.

Ron: The majority of our churches have very fine people–good hearts, good intentions. But somewhere we lost the zeal and vision to do anything ourselves, to reach lost people and plant new churches, and have that be a regular part of who we are in our churches. Part of me says that if reproduction isn’t taking place, the body is unhealthy. So we have lots of good people, but basically they are unhealthy. So I believed my task was to be a Johnny One-Note to get our churches focused on outreach again.

I think that, for the most part, it has been fairly well received, at least emotionally. But then comes the volitional step–doing something about it. And I think that’s where we are. Churches will tell you they want to grow and change, but when you tell them what that involves, “No, we don’t want to do that.”

Pat: We have emphasized that we’re here to serve you, not to keep the denomination going. Wherever we went, our influence and reception was based more on relationship than on position. In the past, when the bishop visited a church, that was a big deal. But not anymore. There is a deep respect for this office, but not an obvious respect. For us, it wasn’t about our office but about honestly trying to help churches.

Attitudinally, we know we both have come across kind of loud and straightforward.  We don’t mean to be loud, but that is how we come across.  At the same time, we have sought to show honest caring for people while challenging them in a straightforward manner with the truth of the Scriptures.

Over the past few years I have been very interested in what research, organizations, consultants, and pastors report as the characteristics of healthy churches. As you might well imagine, they report a wide range. I would like to share with you the top 6-10 that I have discovered, but before I do that, I thought that maybe you have a list. It could be:

  • something you read (if so please give me the source).
  • just something you believe through experience or intuition.

Either way I’d be very interested in seeing your list. So tell me–what are the characteristics of healthy churches?I will leave office in one month, so don’t wait too long!

I have a hard time asking prayer for personal things, but our house situation is something that we need prayer about. We have been searching for awhile. We thought we had it settled: two months ago, we found a lot in Roanoke, Ind., on which to build a home, which was to be completed in October. But that fell through last week, and now we’re back to looking for a home.

As you think about it, I would appreciate you shooting off a prayer on our behalf  as we continue our search. We don’t want to buy something just because we feel pressured, but we are feeling some pressure. I have also asked the Lord whether or not we are missing something, but really haven’t felt led to anything other than pursuing something around here.

Anyway, EJ and I would appreciate your prayers on our behalf.