Sunday, September 23, Sherry and I were in Chesterton for an exciting new chapter as Expansion Church officially became part of the River Church Network. Pastor Tom & Sarah Cochran have resigned from their faithful service at Expansion Church to join Rev. Jason Tash on the staff of Destiny Rescue Mission. You can read more about their journey and learn how you can support them here: https://www.tomsarahcochran.com/
As the leadership team in Chesterton considered next steps, they remained committed to the original vision of the church when it was first planted by the Gearharts: to reach people far from Christ. Pastor Tom encouraged them to consider the option of becoming a campus church of a larger thriving ministry. Pastor Matthew Trexler and the leadership at River Church were approached and prayerfully considered the challenge, even while preparing to launch a campus near Huntington University next month.
The leadership team at Expansion (a developing church) voted to request that River Church adopt them as a campus, pending DBA approval. The River Church gave their approval last Monday evening, and the DBA approved the request at our meeting on Thursday. There are logistical questions yet to be navigated but there is exciting potential as the River Church works with the committed team in Chesterton to reach the 100k unchurched people in Porter County. Pray that God will grant wisdom and unity for all of those leading in this faith venture.
Last week began at the Branch, Fairmount Wesleyan’s coffee shop, as a cohort of Region 1 leaders met to discuss the book “Gaining by Losing” (J.D. Greear) and challenge each other to become multiplying churches. One of the most challenging quotes they shared that morning came from C.S. Lewis: “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you… Only real risks tests the reality of a belief.”
The group that day included David Dignal (Edgerton), Rob Tippey (Fairmount), Tony Bye (Brookhaven), Zack Working (Huntington Hope Rising), Matthew Stewart (Sweetser), Kaleb Wakeman and Matthew Trexler (The River). Each of these leaders is committed to working with their teams to map out a multiplication strategy to be adopted by their church and presented to the DBA. In another exciting note from that meeting, Pastor Dave Dignal also reported 5 baptisms at Edgerton just the day before!
The highlight of Tuesday was joining with Dr. Ken Schenck and other faculty members of the School of Theology and Ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University to kick off a series of forums with ministry practitioners. Everyone acknowledges that the landscape of ministry is rapidly changing in our culture. These are opportunities for leaders from the field to come alongside the academics for a series of conversations about ministry practice in these changing times. I was encouraged by the strong attendance (103 students who might have been enticed by the promise of pizza) and the high level of engagement as evidenced by their questions. Next month’s speaker will be Rev. Chris Conrad, DS of the newly-merged Great Lakes District. I commend Dr. Schenck and the STM faculty for this positive initiative.
Wednesday was a prep day for our DBA meeting on Thursday. The DBA met at Trinity Wesleyan Church where Pastors Johnnie and Amanda Blair were our gracious hosts. Half of our District Board at-large membership is new this year so we took time to hear one another’s stories and to review the policy governance (Kaiser/Carver) model with which our DBA operates. In addition to approving the River/Expansion Church campus request and appointing ministerial staff requests, we approved a building loan for The Branch in Lafayette, approved the Waterline Church request to develop a campus in Pendleton, and had a helpful discussion on ways the district can assist with both church planting and campus development matching grants to help launch 100 new Kingdom communities. One of the most exciting steps we took was to approve “One MultiChurch Network” as a new church multiplication project to be led by Dr. David & Kathy Drury in Fishers. God is writing a wonderful story in their outreach to immigrants from majority Muslim countries.
Friday morning, I met with Pastor Jerry Alexander in Anderson for our annual coaching conversation. Pastor Jerry has led the church in a turnaround from 30 in attendance to averaging 57 last year. Anderson Central voted last conference year to become part of the Noblesville Lakeview campus network. That ministry is expanding and will be rolling out “Circle of Hope Wesleyan Church” as the new name for each of their locations.
Friday evening, Sherry and I hosted three of our church planting couples for an evening of fellowship and encouragement. We were honored to welcome Rev. Mike & Kim Hewitt (Muncie Rising Hope), Pastor Travis & Rochelle Jenkins (Circle City Wesleyan), and Pastor Craig and Tiffany Thurmon (The Encounter — coming soon to Indy’s east side). We are blessed with such wonderful leaders who are stepping out in faith to plant these new Kingdom communities. Thank you for each one who is supporting these pioneers with your prayers!
Rising Hope Church in Muncie held their second Sunday of public worship yesterday with 90+ in attendance. They are excited to welcome a growing group of Ball State University students who are pitching in to help get this ministry off to a strong start.
Saturday morning, I was able to attend the funeral for Mrs. Ellen Soultz, Pastor Al Soultz’s mother, at the former Main Street Wesleyan Church, before dropping in the Region 1 DBMD meeting at Brookhaven Wesleyan Church. Sherry and I drove to Chesterton on Saturday afternoon to be part of the River Church Expansion leadership connection hosted by Dr. Nathan & Michelle Hoover on Saturday evening.
We extend our sympathy and prayers to the family of Rev. James Judd, a retired ordained minister in the Crossroads District, who died September 19, 2018, at the age of 89. He pastored churches in Elwood, Frankton, Lapel, and Mechanicsburg in the Indiana Central (Crossroads) District. The funeral is Tuesday, September 25, at Memorial Wesleyan Church (2701 N Memorial Drive, New Castle) at 11 a.m., with Rev. Paul Kirk and Rev. Ernest Batman officiating. There will be an additional hour of visitation at the church preceding the funeral service.
Keep on making a difference in the cause that counts for eternity!
Your servant in Christ,
P.S. – Pastor John Miller, our church planter at Way City Church in Speedway, passed along this link for Indiana congregations who could use some extra help through a resource grant from the Lilly Foundation: https://centerforcongregations.org/faqs Way City Church just received a $6000 grant to help with marketing and children’s ministry curriculum!
Rising Hope in Muncie and Elevate
Congratulations to Rev. Michael & Kim Hewitt and the team at Rising Hope Church in Muncie on their successful launch yesterday, Sunday, September 16. The team has prayed hard and worked hard for the past year to plant the seeds of this new Kingdom community. It was exciting to worship with them and to hear their vision for a life-changing church committed to multiplying disciples and planting at least one daughter church in their first five years.
In addition to a great crowd from the community, several special guests were part of the celebration including Dr. David Wright (President of IWU) who has a tremendous heart for church planting. Jon Wiest, Multiplication Pastor at Indianapolis Trinity, and Andy Riemersma, resident pastor at Trinity and Awaken Ministry leader, were in attendance. Danielle Freed (Fishers Waterline) brought church-planters in-residence from the Waterline network to help serve and take notes.
There is much to be done to see Rising Hope Church build a strong foundation for their long-term vision but this was a wonderful day of celebration. Thank you to every church in the Crossroads District that has played a part in this first chapter of the Rising Hope story. Continue to pray, support and encourage the Hewitt’s and their team.
It was a blessing to join with students at IWU last Monday as they hosted evangelist Nicole Reyes Smithee for their annual Summit. There was a wonderful spirit of worship in the service and a heartfelt response to Nicole’s challenging message on Jacob.
Tuesday morning, I joined with Pastor Mark Atkinson and his team to bring the devotional for their staff meeting at Eastview Wesleyan Church. Then I joined our office team for staff prayer time and our weekly connection in Marion. My final meeting of the day was a coaching conversation with Pastor Tomasa Granados (Indianapolis Monte de Sion) and Christopher, her son who assists her in the ministry, at our office in Fishers. It was good to hear of a recent convert through their ministry.
Wednesday morning, I was in Fishers with the Heartland Region district superintendents. We met with Kevin Batman, our General Treasurer, to consider the potential of a shared services contract with his office. After lunch, we were joined by members of the Heartland Region Multiplication Roundtable for a planning session.
Then, on Thursday, a group of 30+ pastors met at HQ for ELEVATE, a leadership development experience hosted by Ken Murphy. There were many great takeaways from Ken’s sessions including this one: "Whatever I have today in my organization, I have either created it or allowed. As the leader, I am responsible."
Friday, I was in Delphi to connect with Pastor Dan Fisher for our annual coaching conversation. Pastor Dan also serves as Zone leader in Region 3 and is faithful in calling us to pray for revival.
On Saturday morning I was in Indianapolis to join Rev. Ervin Webster and the men of St. Stephen Wesleyan Church for their "Men’s Day" with guest speaker Rev. Fred Talley. There was a good turnout, a frank discussion time led by Rev. Talley and heartfelt worship led by Rev. Webster. Following the meeting, the ladies from the church blessed us with a wonderful meal.
Congratulations to Pastor Brad and Heidi LeRoy and the team at McCordsville Harvest Church. They hosted their 5th annual "Touch a Truck" on Saturday with another great turnout from first responders for this community connection. I was able to take a sneak peek at their remodeled worship center. It was also fun to connect with Dr. John Connor and Rev. Wayne Richards. I was admiring John’s 1948 John Deere tractor!
Pastor John and Danielle Freed lead the Waterline network with a vision to plant in dozens of rural communities. Pastor Joe and Dawn Deckard accepted the call to the first of these plants and last evening they met with potential launch team members in Pendleton. We have a building in Pendleton that they’ll be able to access next year but they found a great temporary space to meet downtown in the Studio 3 Music Academy.
One of the highlights of the coming week will be our Crossroads District Board of Administration meeting in Tipton on Thursday. Your prayers are needed and appreciated as we seek God’s wisdom to pursue the mission of reaching 3 million Hoosiers for Christ.
Just a reminder to our church planters and their spouses that they’re scheduled to join us for a fellowship supper at Gorveatte’s place on Friday evening. If you’ve not yet sent your RSVP, please connect with Seth Bye so we can plan accordingly.
Many in your church will be asking how they can respond to Hurricane Florence. World Hope is mobilizing relief efforts and you are encouraged to direct them to this website:
HURRICANE FLORENCE RELIEF
Thank you for all you do to advance the Kingdom!
Your servant in Christ,
P.S. Thank you to those who joined us in prayer this week for Pastor Tom Cochran’s father and for Dr. Ed Hoover’s surgery. We’re grateful to God for His healing touch for these men.
Sunday, September 9, I had the privilege of bringing district greetings in the three Sunday services at the River Church. Pastor Matthew and Nicole Trexler stepped out in faith 11 years ago to plant this church focused on bringing Christ to the unreached in Marion. At the time, most experts told them that Marion didn’t need another church, but Pastor Matthew grew up in Marion and knew there were thousands of people in need. Today, they know that there are 12,000 people within 5 miles of their building who have no relationship with a church and the team at River Church is willing to do whatever it takes to reach them.
God has blessed their vision and sacrifice. Last year, the River Church averaged 540 in attendance with 161 professions of faith. This year. they are launching a new campus near Huntington University and prayerfully considering other open doors for expanded impact. In addition to his leadership in the local church, Rev. Trexler serves as Assistant District Superintendent and leads StratOp consultations teams in our district.
Yesterday, Pastor Michael and Kim Hewitt led Muncie Rising Hope Church through their last preview service in preparation for their launching service this coming Sunday. They’ve done a great job of building a team and connecting with the community. If you have unchurched friends or relatives in Muncie, would you be able to encourage them to attend and pass along this link: http://risinghopechurch.com/
Last week’s schedule was shortened with Labor Day on Monday. Sherry and I were glad to have some of our family visiting with us for a quiet day at home.
Tuesday, I was back on the road for coaching conversations in Fort Wayne. Pastor Aaron Lee (LaOtto Wesleyan — soon to be Cultivate Church) met in the morning. Pastor David Dignal (Edgerton Wesleyan) and I met over lunch in New Haven. Pastor Rick Fletcher (Lifeway Church) and I met in his office that afternoon. Pastor Kyle Horton (Three Rivers Church) and I met over supper at Caliente (Cuban style) in downtown Fort Wayne. It was encouraging to hear how each of these leaders is living out their commitment to making disciples in the unique context of their congregations and communities.
I made a quick run to Indy on Wednesday morning and signed loan documents for one of our churches at the WIF office. Wednesday afternoon, I met with one of our ministerial students who exploring his call to minister to the the disabled community. My last meeting of the day was with Cam Kirvan, an IWU ministerial student who is serving as supply pastor at Countryside Wesleyan Church. Cam is an ROTC student at IWU and making plans to serve in military chaplaincy.
On Thursday, Rev. Chris Williams and I welcomed Duffy Smith, former CEO of Campbell Soup and a committed Christ-follower, who has been coaching several pastors in our district through the implementation of their Maximizing Impact consultation report. Rev. Mark Atkinson graciously hosted us at Eastview Wesleyan Church. We had a productive conversation with a group of pastors who will be part of our coaching cohort as we move forward with Maximizing Impact.
On Friday, I had a coaching conversation with Rev. Mark Schnell who is serving as pastor at Albion Wesleyan Church this year while he is also teaching and completing his doctoral dissertation in homiletics (University of Toronto). Some of you may know that Mark is the son-in-law of Rev. Art O’Dell who is going through a difficult health challenge. Mark expressed appreciation for those who have been remembering Art in their prayers.
The Executive Committee of the General Board of The Wesleyan Church was convened by Zoom on Friday by General Superintendent Dr. Wayne Schmidt. Our next General Board meeting will be in November and Dr. Schmidt reviewed several items with us in preparation for that important meeting. Please keep Dr. Schmidt in your prayers as he leads our team and carries the weight of spiritual responsibility for our denomination.
I was looking forward to hearing Pastors Amanda and Johnnie Blair preaching at the Married Couples Retreat on Friday night but the heavy rains caused the retreat team to reschedule the event for October 5-7. You can still register for this marriage enrichment event here:
Saturday evening, Dr. Norman Wilson (DBA member), Rev. Alan Downing (pastor of Frankfort First Wesleyan) and I joined with Rev. Calimerio and Maria Rodriguez (Templo de Poder) who introduced us to a prospective church planter for the Lafayette Zone. Brother Omar and Sandra, his wife, were visiting from El Salvador where they have planted a church and had an effective ministry. We had a helpful conversation about the steps our district takes including the process of applying for a religious worker’s visa. Pray that God will continue to send out workers into His Harvest!
Dr. Colleen Derr, president of Wesley Seminary, extends a special invitation to the Crossroads District to join the faculty and students of Wesley Seminary for a special event featuring Dr. Richard Foster and Nathan Foster at College Wesleyan Church, September 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. Many of you have enjoyed Dr. Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline. Don’t miss this wonderful opportunity!
Dr. Richard Schenck (pastor at Noblesville Lakeview Wesleyan) is flying home today from Bangladesh but very much appreciates the prayers on his behalf as a medical emergency had resulted in hospitalization. Rev. Carol Schenck has been keeping us updated on his treatment and recovery and expressed appreciation for our prayers
This week, I’ll be at HQ on Wednesday and Thursday for meetings with leaders from the Heartland Collective. We continue to explore ways to create value through partnering with our neighbor districts in Ohio, Kentucky-Tennessee and Indiana South. I would welcome your prayers that God would grant us wisdom and a spirit of unity as we work together to close the Gospel gap in our region.
Keep on making a difference in the cause that counts!
Your servant in Christ,
Sunday morning, September 2, I had the joy of worshiping at Lifeway Wesleyan Church in Fort Wayne. Rev. Rick Fletcher (senior pastor) along with his assistant pastors, Rev. Andy Jellison and Rev. Gary Livengood, are doing a great job of leading this multigenerational congregation. Pastor Rick is in his 21st year as the lead pastor.
Last year, Lifeway Wesleyan Church averaged 217 in worship with 29 people saved and 12 new believers baptized. On a given week, Lifeway averages 60 teens and 80 children in their midweek ministries. They are also on their way to paying off their indebtedness on their beautiful new gymnasium and Christian education wing. After the service, I enjoyed a brief meeting with the LBA and then hosted Pastor Rick and Debbie for lunch.
Last Monday, I met with Assistant DS Matthew Trexler in Marion before heading to Fishers for a meeting with Rev. Ervin Webster, pastor of St. Stephen Wesleyan Church. Tuesday, after our staff meeting at Abbey Coffee, I drove across to the west side of the state to meet with Rev. Judy Hatt, pastor of Fowler Hope Wesleyan Church. Fowler Hope Wesleyan was almost closed last year but Pastor Judy has helped the small group regroup. They have updated the facility and are reaching out to their neighbors.
Wednesday morning, I joined DS Les Crossfield (Greater Ohio), DS Aaron Sherman (KY-TN), and DS Mark Eckart (Indiana South) on a Zoom call for the Heartland Collective. We have meetings planned at HQ next week in Fishers to convene the Mission Multipliers in a roundtable event (Wednesday) and for ELEVATE, a leadership development experience, with Ken Murphy (pastor of Cypress Wesleyan) on Thursday.
I met with Rev. Eric Roemer for our annual coaching conversation at Greentown Wesleyan Church. Amanda Roemer, his wife and a former DBA member, joined us for lunch. The church is making positive strides under Eric’s leadership. One of the most noticeable changes on this visit was the paving of additional parking spaces for anticipated growth. I’m also grateful for the role that Pastor Eric has played in leadership development events for the Crossroads District.
Thursday morning, I joined Dr. Wayne Schmidt, our General Superintendent, with other district superintendents for the monthly Zoom call he hosts to update and dialogue. Thursday afternoon, Assistant DS Matthew Trexler and I made our way to Chesterton to meet with Pastor Tom Cochran and the leadership team at Expansion Church. Pray that God will grant wisdom for significant decisions that will be made in the next few weeks.
Friday and Saturday, Sherry and I were in Grand Rapids to connect with our children. Friday evening, Pastor Jon Allen and the Journey Church team hosted a wonderful wedding reception for Joel and Christie Gorveatte. It was a beautiful evening with a good turnout from the congregation, along with family and friends. Pastor Jon led in a powerful prayer of blessing for the newlyweds.
We celebrated Sherry’s birthday on Saturday and her favorite birthday gift always is to have her growing family gathered around the table together with her. It was a special surprise to have our son Josiah fly in from Florida for this special event so that we could celebrate together. Those of you with an “empty nest” know just how delightful and rare such occasions can be as our children grow older and launch out on their own. We are grateful to God for these amazing young adults who are walking with Him.
I made it back to Marion in time to join Dr. Wright and several thousand students, alumni and friends as Indiana Wesleyan University kicked off its inaugural intercollegiate football season against Taylor University. This kick-off classic was blessed with a beautiful day and an exciting, well-played game. It was inspiring to see the power of a vision that is diligently pursued. The current and former Board of Trustees members were introduced at halftime and presented with signed footballs from the team. (I’m confident that is the first and last time my name will be called out on ESPN.) Thank you to so many of you who made it to the game and showed your school spirit. Congratulations to Dr. David Wright and his team at Indiana Wesleyan University!
In other exciting news, we’re also pleased to welcome to Scott McDermid as our new lead pastor at Six Points Wesleyan Church in Sheridan. Scott is a Taylor University graduate with 17 years of ministry experience, most recently leading the contemporary worship experience at Carmel United Methodist Church. The Six Point members voted 53-1 to extend a 2-year call and the Six Points leadership team is looking forward to welcoming Scott, Nicole, his wife, and their two young sons to the congregation.
Even if you’re unable to attend the Fairmount Camp Marriage Retreat this weekend, please add this event to your prayer list. Pastors Johnnie and Amanda Blair will be leading the main sessions. Pray that God will bless their ministry and use this event to establish even stronger foundations for these marriages and their families.
Keep on making a difference in the cause that counts!
Your servant in Christ,
Crossroads District Superintendent