The  Bible says in Ecclesiastes that of the writing of books there is no end. I’ve worked in publishing and love books. It was very natural for me to want to resource people with books, and we were pretty selective about the books we gave out. “Hit the Bullseye,” by Paul Borden, got my juices flowing after I became bishop. I’m guessing that we gave away a couple hundred copies of that book.

We took the pastors of our largest churches to the Drive Conference in Atlanta, Ga., where Andy Stanley is the pastor. We thought they could benefit from that. But we didn’t forget the pastors of medium and smaller churches. We resourced people to get to Brad Powell’s conference in Michigan, and to Hit the Bullseye conferences. We resourced our cluster leaders with some of that training. That was something Pat and I did very intentionally–resourcing ministers and laypersons with particular things that reinforced what we said, and getting people to seminars and conferences.

Of course, it’s one thing to read the books and attend the seminars. It’s another thing to put it into practice. For a lot of people, there’s a disconnect. They get inspired by the book or conference, but it’s hard to put it into practice. I think a lot of our pastors struggle with some very sinful attitudes and mindsets in a lot of churches. And so they get excited, but come back to their churches and face open sin, and that discourages them.

We’ve been pretty liberal in providing resources–CDs, tapes, DVDs, conferences, books. I think it’s important to invest in our guys, our leaders, our sharpest and most talented guys.

Ron Ramsey: One common problem I’ve seen in our churches involves conflict resolution. They’re not good at dealing with conflict.

Pat Jones: We have hammered the Matthew 18 principles of conflict resolution. Sinful conflict is a major hindrance in our churches. We’ve seen and experienced that for years. Ron and I committed, at the beginning, to address sinful situations. In churches, how you disagree and address your grievances is vital.

Ron: I think you manage conflict, not resolve it. If it resolves, that’s good. But sometimes you can’t resolve it, yet can manage it so it doesn’t hinder what God wants to do in that place. Some conflict is just difference of opinion. Some conflicts are more substantive, issues between sin and righteousness. You would like to think that people not approaching it from a righteousness standpoint would be conflicted by the Spirit, but sometimes they hang in there, and it becomes a power struggle.

Too often, it’s a matter of power, of who gets to call the shots. People want to sit in the big seat and make decisions. Sometimes this stems from seeing pastors come and go, come and go. They figure the current pastor will only be there for a while, so they’ll run the church how they want. The pastor will just be a chaplain. We’ve tried to break up some of that thought. People forget that there is only one power source, one power seat, and that’s the seat that Christ sits in, and we’re all servants of him.

Pat: We have helped address the alligators, and I’m not afraid of addressing them. But we do that by opening up the scriptures and saying, “This is how God says it should be handled.” I don’t say you must agree with me, but here is what the Bible says about how you disagree with me. Here’s what Titus says about divisive people. You’re not battling me; you’re battling a scriptural truth.

When I went to Mainstreet, the church had been on a steady decline for several years, going from 330 people to 220. The worship service was so structured that if you went in at 11:10 any time of the year, they would be doing the same thing. If they did the responsive reading at 11:10, that’s where they did it every Sunday. The preacher quit at 11:30 whether he was done or not.

The power brokers of the church were members of the fully-robed choir. They marched in and sang the anthem

Then I showed up. My first Sunday, in 1993, I told them I wanted to begin the service with the song “Majesty.” “You’ll march in from the back, through the double doors, and charge forward like you’re capturing the mountain. And I want you to sing.”

They groused about it, but they complied. Because the new guy said so.

They had been doing things one way. I took them into the neutral zone. But what I wanted was to get to the point where we didn’t have a choir at all. That’s not something you pull off overnight. But in time, we got there.

It is now 8:17 a.m. (EDT) in Huntington, Ind. The staff in the office has been in a “full court press” for some time now to get everything done for National Conference. Sometime this morning we will begin packing the trailer to bring all the necessary forms, reports, supplies, packets, name badges, agendas, sermon notes, computers, printers, posters, pens and probably a whole lot more I can’t think of right at this moment.

We are checking and double-checking to be sure we have everything we need. I have checked with the main speaker, Tim Brown and he is set to be with us. We have had an excellent registration of over 850 individuals.

The point is: we are almost ready to make the trip to Sawmill Creek Resort, Huron, Ohio, for National Conference 2009. I am excited. Thanks to all who have been planning and praying for this National Conference 2009.

Just some thoughts….

  • I am surprised how fast these past four years have flown by!
  • I am thankful for travel safety for all who have traveled these past four years!
  • I am so grateful for the staff that God has placed in this building!
  • I am blessed to think of all the new friends who have come into my life in these years!
  • I am burdened for far too many of our churches that don’t “get it”!
  • I am flabbergasted at those who don’t know what “IT” is!
  • I have realized just how dependent on God I really am to do anything of worth!
  • I have been amazed to find myself in this position!
  • I am so thankful for the planning team that helped plan every detail of this National Conference 2009.
  • I am really looking forward to worshipping with all of you this week!
  • I am blessed to be trusting in The One who has my future in His hands!

Well, that’s it for this time. Hope to see you on Thursday. Drive careful ‘ya hear!

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L-r: Pastor Dan and Mary Alice Drake, Zachary Kennedy, and Courtney Clark.

Last Sunday, May 17, I was privileged to participate in a service at Olive Branch Church of Lakeville, Ind. (just outside of South Bend). I was there to install Zachary Kennedy as the church’s Young Adult and Youth Pastor.

This is a historic thing for Olive Branchy–their first staff hire ever, as far as I know. Zachary graduated this spring from Bethel College in nearby Mishawaka, Ind. He and Courtney are to be married June 13. For now, the new position will be part-time, but the church is praying tha tit can become fulltime in the very near future.

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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Our lobby at Healthy Ministry Resources looks different. We added something new: a stained glass window from our former national office. Let me tell you its history.

Way back in 1834, the United Brethren denomination bought printing equipment for a new publishing house in Circleville, Ohio. In 1853, the publishing house moved to Dayton, Ohio, where the denominational headquarters was located.

After the division in 1889, our group lost everything. We had a temporary publishing operation in Dayton for a while. Then, in 1897, everything moved to Huntington, Ind.

Initially, we used a building on South Jefferson. But after 20 years, we built a new, multi-story brick building at the corner of Franklin and Warren Streets to house the publishing operation and the denominational offices. It was dedicated on May 2, 1917, by Bishop Fermin Hoskins.

Above the main entrance they installed this beautiful stained glass window that said “Publishing Establishment of the United Brethren in Christ.” We relocated the offices to the current location in 1976, selling the other building to a local businessman. However, that stained glass window was still there 30 years later when I became bishop.

I thought we needed to reclaim that window. So we talked with the building’s owner. He said we could have it, as long as we paid to have it removed and paid for a replacement. No problem.

And so, the window was removed, and we had it restored to pristine condition. Then a local contractor mounted it in this beautiful wooden case, which takes up most of a wall in our lobby. It is lighted from behind, and looks gorgeous.

godswarthumb.gif I am reading a new book, God’s War on Terror, written by Walid Shoebat (Executive Media). Walid is a converted Muslim. Technically the book, in my opinion, is not edited very well, but as far as getting the point across, it is power-packed.

He says that the Bible is Futurology 101: “It is a detailed roadmap of so much evidence that God exists and His design from time immemorial regarding man’s destiny with many details concerning the future, especially the coming war with an Islamic coalition against Christianity and Israel.”

He believes that the nations that God goes to war against in the end time are all Muslim nations. His arguments are pretty convincing.

The book has 98 chapters and 490 pages. So you can see there are a lot of short chapters.

This is not devotional reading, but I think it is worth the read. Has anyone else out there read it? If so,I would be interested in your take!

We recently posted the nominees for Bishop and Executive Leadership Team, along with an explanation from the Nominating Committee That ballot is only tentative and not considered complete until the current Executive Leadership Team approves it. My bad. The ballot will be reviewed and approved by the ELT when it meets next Tuesday, and then we will publish the official one prior to National Conference.

I also want to comment on having just one nominee for Bishop. In case anyone questions whether that is procedurally allowable, the answer is “yes.”  There is no Constitutional or Discipline requirement to have more than one candidate for a position. That concept is found in our Standing Resolutions.  Current Resolution 23 states:

23. The Nominating Committee will nominate at least twice the number of persons required for all positions.

But Rule 24 states:

24. The Nominating Committee may move to suspend the preceding rule as it sees fit.

The Nominating Committee did due diligence in seeking qualified candidates for the position of Bishop, and after asking a number of individuals to consider the nomination, found one qualified candidate who was willing to serve. By consensus, they submitted one name and will take action at National Conference to move that Rule 23 be suspended for the ballot for Bishop.

I applaud their efforts. In their search, they had in mind a list of qualifications for the position. It was desired to see someone who has a proven track record of leadership.  Who knows what it was to lead a church to grow. Who is committed to Great Commission ministry. Who knows what it is to work with a team. Who has the gift of administration. Someone who has a heart for the church, and believes in the ministry of the local church.

It is imperative that we don’t compromise qualifications for the sake of a perceived procedural need. Our procedures allow for a single name to be placed in nomination.

My desire is that we all pray fervently for the work of our upcoming National Conference and for those who will lead us in the future. The task before them is great, but our God is greater.

The Easter season is always exciting for churches. That’s when we see some of our biggest attendances, and it’s when a lot of ministry occurs.

So tell me what happened during the Easter season at your church, so I can share it here with others. Or, just leave a comment.