Sunday morning, January 24, I joined Rev. Mark and Sharie Schnell to worship with the team at Albion Wesleyan Church. Mark and Sharie have been commuting from Marion to serve this congregation as transitional pastors. The Schnells were intending to conclude their service last spring when the pandemic changed their plans. I am grateful for the way that they have served the church in person and online through this challenging season. After the worship service, I met with the leadership team for a brief conversation about the upcoming transition. I am grateful for the leaders who have held Albion Wesleyan together through this difficult period.
Sunday afternoon, I chaired a Local Church Conference for Muncie Memorial Drive Wesleyan Church. This was an important conversation for their members to explore next steps. They are prayerfully considering a significant shift in their ministry and wanted to have this opportunity for open and honest dialogue. I appreciated the generous spirit of this meeting and anticipate a positive outcome for the Kingdom. Special thanks to Keith Wheeler, LBA vice-chair, for his assistance in this transition.
Sunday evening, I joined the team at Hartford City Wesleyan Church for a prayer gathering. Two of our dedicated LBA members led us through a time of prayer for unity in our nation and in the body of Christ. This was my first opportunity to connect with the congregation since the DBA authorized my appointment as interim pastor. While I’ve been serving in that unofficial capacity for the past several months, this appointment allows for me to make staffing recommendations for the coming year. Attendance has been rebounding with 123 present yesterday morning.
The greatest news from Sunday, January 24, was when Pastor Brent Miller reached out to let me know that they had baptized 8 believers who wanted to follow Christ in this step of obedience. Praise the Lord for this wonderful report of spiritual victories from Southside Wesleyan Church in Gas City. If you’ve not yet planned a baptism service for this spring, please add one to your calendar. Consider planning a baptism opportunity on the Sunday before or after Easter.
Monday was a quiet office day, writing the team update, following up on calls, emails and other connections from the previous week, and preparing for the week ahead. Tuesday morning, I joined with Assistant DS Mike Colaw and the pastors of Region 2 for a leadership development event hosted by Trinity Wesleyan Church. Charlie Alcock, IWU professor and youth ministry expert, shared a compelling session on developing next generation leaders. Charlie’s presentation was insightful and his passion is contagious.
Tuesday afternoon, the General Board of The Wesleyan Church connected for a brief Zoom call. Some district conferences will not attempt to convene in person this summer due to the uncertainties of the pandemic. The General Board was asked to approve a resolution authorizing these delays where necessary.
Dr. Jim Lo and Dr. David Smith met with our district office team to continue to develop the pastoral care and prayer support model that we’re planning to implement in the new conference year. I am deeply grateful for their willingness to partner in this ministry as district shepherds to our local church leaders.
Tuesday evening, I connected with Pastor Brian Williams and his leadership team at Sims Wesleyan Church. Brian was first appointed to serve this congregation in 1987. While the community has undergone a great deal of change in the past three decades, Brian has faithfully led Sims Wesleyan forward through his effective preaching and compassionate congregational care. The LBA unanimously affirmed his extended call.
Wednesday morning, I met with Rev. Claudia Silva at Casa del Alfarero Iglesia Wesleyana in Richmond for our annual coaching conversation. Pastor Claudia is another of our committed bi-vocational pastors who leads this congregation and also for an Hispanic congregation in Union City. My next stop was in Muncie for lunch with Rev. Lee Miller who has been appointed to plant Crossover Wesleyan Church on the east side of the city. Lee took me to Camp Redwing near the reservoir where they will be hosting their first gatherings for this new ministry. It was encouraging to hear how God has opened doors and helped Pastor Lee connect with unchurched people in the area.
Thursday morning and early afternoon was set aside for the Superintendents’ Institute hosted online by our General Superintendent Dr. Wayne Schmidt. This meeting was originally scheduled for San Antonio but it was still productive to convene via technology. In the morning session, Dr. Schmidt was excited to share about a marketplace multiplier’s initiative that he’s been developing with his team. The afternoon session focused on the development of networks within The Wesleyan Church (i.e. Dirt Roads Network) and how they relate to existing governance structures.
The best thing about our meeting was hearing the stories of disciples making disciples and churches multiplying. The Heartland Region was well-represented with multiple new churches being planted in Greater Ohio, Indiana South, and the Kentucky-Tennessee districts. It was also exciting to hear from Dr. Dennis Jackson, Executive Director of Global Partners, who shared that 276 new churches were planted last year in our international fields.
Later Thursday afternoon, Seth and I met with Michael (Woody) Wood about expanding his role with our district team. As some of you will know, we’ve contracted with him over the past few years for communications services, including our website. Michael has also graciously assisted local churches who needed help moving online. We’re excited to announce that the DBA has approved bringing Michael on staff part-time while he continues to serve with the team at Tipton Trinity.
Michael is joining the team to fill the role that opened up with Hannah Searcy Brown accepting a new position with Watermark Wesleyan Church (Hamburg, NY). She’ll serve Watermark as a social media manager for an exciting new outreach campaign. Hannah was a blessing to our team and we pray God’s best for her in this new assignment.
The last meeting on Thursday was with the LBA at Hartford City Wesleyan. We’re working together on upcoming staff transitions, implementing our StratOp plan, and moving the governance into the accountable leadership model (provided for in Discipline 781). I’m blessed to serve with these committed lay leaders.
Friday morning, I caught up with Rev. Jerry and Teresa Alexander in Anderson and met relatives of theirs who are exploring ministry in The Wesleyan Church. The Alexanders serve with Circle of Hope’s Anderson campus under the leadership of Dr. Rich and Rev. Carol Schenck. It is exciting to see how God is raising up workers for His harvest!
Rev. Mark Atkinson and I met for lunch in Gas City. Pastor Mark continues his miraculous recovery and is enjoying being able to spend more time in ministry. After lunch, we met with Rev. Shawnda Dykhoff who leads the ministry at Brinker Heights Wesleyan Church. Gas City Eastview Church has been assisting with this ministry for the past few years. Pastor Shawnda and Mr. Kyle Bilbee are engaged to be married on February 27 so lots of exciting changes ahead!
The School of Theology & Ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University invites you to discover The Called Collective, an online resourcing service for high school students who are discerning a call to ministry. Students can access articles, videos, and coaching opportunities all developed by the IWU School of Theology & Ministry. If you have a student sensing a call to ministry, you can send them to the link below to access these resources and receive weekly updates:
Pastors, there is still time for you to take advantage of this special opportunity! The Crossroads District and the Thrive Initiative of The Wesleyan Church are providing a practical way to bless our pastors. You are running hard in ministry but, to sustain long-term effectiveness, you also need to rest well. Toward that end, we are making available a $475 grant towards a retreat of two nights or more. Learning resources and planning tools are provided to make this time as profitable as possible. When you complete your retreat, the Thrive Initiative has a $500 matching grant available with a second set of learning resources.
If your church also elects to participate in this initiative (i.e. paying down ministerial student loans, topping up retirement, fitness equipment), additional matching funds up to $500 are available. For the first month, this opportunity is only available to the first 100 solo or senior pastors that sign up. This opportunity will be made available to assistant pastors starting February 2, 2021.
For more details, please follow this link:
I’m always glad to hear stories of our churches working together to advance the Kingdom. Rev. Craig Thurmon (planting The Encounter Assembly and also serving as our district treasurer) and Pastor John Miller (planting Way City Church in Speedway) combined their services for the last few weeks as they find creative ways to minister in the pandemic. We are stronger together!
Keep on making a difference in the cause that counts for eternity!
Your servant in Christ,
Crossroads District Superintendent