We run into people who think effective change is about methodologies, about us giving you a program to use. Our message has been, “It’s not about a prepackaged method, but about finding the most effective way to accomplish your mission in your locality.” How that happens in southern Ohio is different than southern Michigan. The key is what you’re trying to accomplish, not how. Bishop Ramsey and I have been consistent on that.

Most of our churches think in terms of program, not process. The mission is to make maturing disciples who reach other people, but most churches haven’t thought through a clear process for taking a totally heathen person who doesn’t know Jesus and leading them to a relationship with Jesus Christ, then to becoming dependent on Christ and sharing the gospel with others. There aren’t clear processes.

Instead, churches too often are just doing church. They know what programs they want, what music they like. But they aren’t thinking missionally about their role in the body of Christ and how to walk people through the maturing process. People don’t think in those terms, only in doing church and being cared for.


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!

I am reading through the Scriptures once again following a chronological plan. Several things struck me as I am reading through Exodus and the accounts of the plagues. For example, the interplay between God saying he sovereignly hardened Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh hardening his own heart.

But the key thought that struck me most this time had to do with the Lord saying several times, “I make a distinction between my people and your people.” At least three times when he brings a plague on the Egyptians, he protects the Israelites and the land of Goshen from that plague. The people of Egypt see the distinction, and because of that, they are favorably disposed to Moses and the Israelites.

A distinction. To mark someone or something out as different. To make a comparison between. To use as an illustration that is apart from the norm. To separate out as something admirable.

What a great description of God’s people. We are illustrations. We are protected from the consequential disasters that fall on others because of our relationship with the Lord. We are shown by the Lord as different, holy. When the Lord uses our lives to reflect the difference, people will see and hear and give him glory.

Do you see the distinction? Do you acknowledge how the Lord protects? Do you find that people are drawn by what they see happening in your life?

We have a loving Father who keeps watch over us. His purpose is to show everyone himself through us. He distinguishes us from those around us. And the ultimate end is that people will be apt to revere him because of what they see in our lives.

I’m grateful for such a wondrous God.

When I became pastor of Devonshire UB church (Harrisburg, Pa.) in 1988, I laid out my six-month plan for preaching. A couple ladies approached me.

“We don’t think you’re being led by the Spirit.”

“Oh?” I said. “Help me understand why you think that.”

“How can you be led by the Holy Spirit if you’re planning things out six months in advance?”

I asked them, “When did God lay out the plan of salvation? It was before the foundation of the world. He created this plan, then Jesus came 2000 years later and implemented it.

“If God can plan 2000 years in advance, are you saying he can’t lead me to know what to preach about six months from now?”

To them, being led by the Spirit was flying by the seat of your pants.

Pat Jones, Director of Healthy Church Ministries

  • None of them live in that community–they all drive in.
  • None of them speak the dialect spoken in that community (Mandarin, I believe it is).

Many of the adults do not speak fluent English, but all of their children do. They’re trying to figure out the most effective way to train their young people when they don’t by nature speak Chinese–they go to American schools and speak English. They want to reach their community and the next generation, but they don’t speak the language of either.

Right now, they’re looking for some English-speaking people to work with their youth. I appreciated the spirit I saw when I visited them last year.

On Sundays, the Chinese people make a day of it. They come for worship in the morning, usually do lunch together, and have worship later in the day. They have rooms in their building where kids can watch TV, study together, and do activities. A lot of fellowship happens on Sunday. It’s a cultural thing for them. It reminds me of the old days when you had service, stayed for lunch, then had an afternoon or later service.

Huntington University works on a governance system. If we have an issue with the university, we don’t go to a staff person, but to Dr. Dowden. He’s responsible to the board of trustees. The trustees establish the guiding principles and boundary principles for the University, but they let Dr. Dowden and his staff handle day-to-day things. 

In a church, the governance board operates the same way. The pastor is given authority to lead, but the board sets certain boundaries (such as, he can’t spend more than one percent of the budget at a time without getting permission). The staff work under the direction of the pastor and are accountable to him, not to the board. The board then holds the pastor accountable. 

A governance board doesn’t need more than 3-5 people. Some churches have made their elders group their board. Some call it the Executive Leadership Team or Church Leadership Council. Whatever the name, this group focuses on two things:

  • Make sure the big boundaries are being followed.
  • Monitor how goals are accomplished. 

Iglesia Reformada Emanuel is located in Jamaica Plain, Mass., a very urban suburb of greater Boston. It’s not a good neighborhood. They told me you don’t want to be out at night. When they hold late-night services, they ask the police to come stand guard during the service.

The congregation has a tradition of holding their Easter service at 3 a.m. This past Easter, while police officers stood around the periphery of where they were meeting, a young man in the house next door to the church was shot in the neck and killed. The officers saw the assailant toss the gun away after the shooting and while running through the back yard to escape. They caught him.

Lester Smith (right), senior pastor of Hillsdale UB (Hillsdale, Mich.), sent this report about their January 6 service. “January 6, 2008, the Day of Epiphany, fell on a Sunday. Epiphany recalls the wise men following a great light to come to Christ. So the Hillsdale UB Church celebrated the 12th day of Christmas by lighting a candle for each of the 12 people who came to Christ in December through our church’s outreach ministries. The congregation at the HUB gave the Lord an ovation for all those born-again in 2007, which was double the number of the previous year.”

I have been asked as we travel around why anyone should come to National Conference on May 31. What can we expect? What business will happen? Is it worth it?

Let me give you my answer. First, let me address what this isn’t. This isn’t a vacation with a purpose like Knoxville in 1988, where over 900 UBs came together. That’s not what we are expecting. While all who are interested in the future of the church may come, our expectation is that key leaders who are eligible as delegates from each church will come. That would mean a group of around 400 people, or around six times our previous number of delegates at National Conference.

Second, this isn’t going to be a meeting with a lot of Discipline revision business. Our goal is to do what is necessary for us to process the referendums voted on by the churches, choose Executive Leadership Team members, and handle any other business associated with those items. The normal reports will also be given. But that is about all the “normal” business we will do.

So why come? Come, because we need to reconnect in community around our common commitment to the Gospel. We will hear stories of how the Lord is doing something fresh in new churches, old churches, small churches, large churches, city churches, and country churches. We will celebrate new Christians and older saints with a renewed vision of ministry.

Come, because we will spend time hearing from Brad Powell about transitioning a very traditional church to one that is significantly impacting its world today. We will hear why speaking to the culture is a common need for healthy churches, new churches, and missionaries. We will be challenged as leaders as to our responsibility in sharing God’s heart to reach lost people. We will also renew our belief that the God who worked in the church in Acts is the same today, and the church of Acts 2 reflects how the church should function today.


Pam and I have a precious two-and-a-half year old great nephew by the name of Karson Cabe. Karson’s dad, Kraig, is the regional director for Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Northern Indiana. His mom, Christy, was the children’s ministry director at Emmanuel Community Church and has been a tremendous mother. Karson’s Miller grandparents are Denny and Karin. Denny is senior pastor of Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne, Ind. His great-grandpa Ray was our Bishop, with Lanie serving by his side for over 43 years of ministry. His Cabe grandparents are Lee and Melody. They are a wonderful Christian couple that have lovingly served the Lord in many ways and raised their children to faithfully serve the Lord.

Karson loves to play with Thomas the Train. And he loves Jesus. His prayer at bedtime a couple weeks ago signed off, “I love you Jesus, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.” Not bad for a two-and-a-half year old.

Last week, the world seemed to stop as the doctor told Christy that blood work indicated Karson has leukemia. They went immediately to Riley Children’s Hospital, the diagnosis was confirmed, and Karson began his three-year journey of chemotherapy. A terrible disease is loose in his body, and without treatment it will kill him. With proper treatment comes eradication of the problem and life.

We appreciate your prayers.

For all of us, nothing else is important right now next to doing everything possible to make sure that little man gets healthy and lives a normal life.

Isn’t that a parallel of how we should feel about loved ones we know who don’t know Jesus? They have a terrible disease loose in them. There is a treatment plan that will bring healing, but it doesn’t look desirable at the start. Life by necessity will change because of fighting this disease. And when we are burdened by the knowledge of their condition, no effort seems too sacrificial in helping or supporting the cause of getting them healthy. Nothing else is important. Nothing.

On the other side of the equation, the promises, grace, strength, and confidence we have in Christ are providing the “peace that passes understanding.” Our confidence and hope lie solely in the hands of the One who gave His own Son for us. And by His stripes, we are healed.

Karson learned a new song in the days leading up to his diagnosis. He sang it over an iChat date with our daughter Jalonna. “This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. ….”

That is the heart of an innocent little boy that loves and trusts Jesus without even being aware of what is going on in him. It is a heart that helps us remember and trust. That is Karson’s Gospel for us. We can confidently trust Jesus no matter what.