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!