Mother’s Day 2020 was certainly different than most of us would have expected. Self-quarantining and social distancing guidelines meant that many families were not able to be together as they normally would. So families improvise. Some gathered outside the windows of nursing homes. Others connected online.
Churches also had to improvise. I had the joy of seeing three of our congregations innovate to provide opportunities to share the Gospel and serve people. My first stop of the morning was at Parkview Wesleyan Church in Chesterfield. Parkview’s team, led by Pastor Jeremy Armiger and Assistant Pastor Dr. Jim Lo, made a careful plan and yesterday morning moved back into worshiping in their facility.
To provide for social distancing, they offered two services (9 and 10:30) with every other row taped off. They disinfected thoroughly before each service. They provided hand sanitizer. They did not pass out items and provided a basket for people to drop in their offerings. No one shook hands but there were plenty of smiles and warm words of greeting. Dr. Jim Lo brought an encouraging message from Hannah’s faith journey in motherhood (1 Samuel 1-2).
Noblesville Circle of Hope Wesleyan Church is led by Dr. Rich and Rev. Carol Schenck. I joined them for the drive-in service they offered for this Mother’s Day. The service also included greetings and prayer in Spanish with Pastor Nicolas Zarate who leads the Gloria del Rey congregation. In addition to sharing the service through their sound system, Circle of Hope also provided a low-power FM transmission that allowed you to listen in your car. Pastor Carol brought the message from 1st Peter 2:1-10 and challenged us to be living stones that reflect Jesus. Several people responded to Pastor Carol’s invitation at the close of the service and stood beside their car for the closing prayer.
My last stop of the day was at Daybreak Community Church in Lapel. Pastor Andy Cole and his team were going to host a drive-in service but the forecast prompted them to keep their worship service online. Instead, after the online service, they honored mothers with a special gift and prayer time by driving through their parking lot.
Reopening may be one of the most challenging leadership experiences in your ministry. As you are planning, praying, and dialoguing with your leaders, may I recommend these two guiding principles:
1) Don’t hurry. Plan.
You may have already heard me say that I’d rather you open two weeks later than one week too soon. Do everything you can to get this right. Trust your community leaders. Consult with your congregation’s healthcare workers. No one ever has all the information. No human effort is ever 100 percent. You’ll never be able to keep every person perfectly safe from others, or from themselves. But you can plan your work and work your plan. Do the very best you can, in your context, with your resources. And don’t hesitate to ask for help. (Proverbs 20:18, Proverbs 21:5)
2) Don’t judge. Pray.
I am trusting that every Crossroads District church leader will make the best decision and lead the best process they can, in their context, with their resources. We will learn from each other, but please don’t judge others. Please don’t judge or criticize the pastor in your community or our district who goes slower than you do in reopening. Please don’t judge or criticize the pastor in your community or our district who goes faster than you think is wise. (Luke 6:37 and Romans 14:12-13). Your prayers will make a bigger difference than your criticisms.
Congratulations to Greentown Wesleyan Church as they celebrate 100 years since their conception in a 1920 revival meeting led by Rev. Jesse Whitecotten, assisted by Anna Linville (who became their first pastor). The revival services were held in a borrowed church building in May and lasted four weeks. Sinners were converted. Backsliders were reclaimed. Believers were sanctified holy and a church was organized on August 6, 1920. As part of the conception celebration yesterday, Pastor Eric Roemer and the team hosted a drive-in service in their parking lot that also featured a baby dedication!
The highlight of last week’s schedule was the two days I spent with our District Board of Ministerial Development (DBMD) conducting the final interviews for ordination candidates. Dr. David Smith chairs this team with grace and wisdom. We are working with Dr. Wayne Schmidt, our General Superintendent, toward an ordination service later this summer (tentatively on Saturday, August 15, 1 p.m.).
The journey to ordination in The Wesleyan Church is intense and begins with a local church discerning the calling of a woman or man and recommending them to the DBMD. Educational coursework and supervised experiences are evaluated each year, first by zone DBMD committees and then regional teams. Finally candidates come before the district board for one more conversation about theology, ministry philosophy, character, and calling. What a joy it was to see how God has been at work in forming them for life and ministry. The future of The Wesleyan Church is in good hands!
Just a gentle reminder of this week’s deadlines. Final grant requests from the district Covid-19 pandemic response for the 2020 conference year must be submitted before 5 p.m., Tuesday, May 12. The DBA will be monitoring ongoing developments but the initial round of grants was only funded in the last conference year.
May 15 is the deadline for Center for Congregation technology grants applications. Several of our churches have already received notification of their grant approvals.
Annual Service Reports (ASR) and Local Church Statistical Reports (LCSR) are also due, along with your annual ministerial staff requests. For those who are reporting online attendance, General Secretary Janelle Vernon provided the following clarification: When using the Premiere feature (Facebook and YouTube), a Peak Live/Concurrent Viewer statistic for the initial play period of the video is provided and that number may be treated as the equivalent of the same on a “Live” video for reporting on line 8 [Local Church Statistical Report]. This information provides churches an industry standard metric that will ensure consistency within TWC statistics.
May 31, Pentecost Sunday, is the Sunday that The Wesleyan Church sets aside to focus on congregations multiplying to reach new communities and people groups. Dr. Ed Love has provided a great resource website to help your congregation prepare for this emphasis. The challenge is to raise awareness and financial support for the power of local church multiplication. Here’s the link: Church Multiplication Sunday
On Sunday evening, May 31, Pentecost Sunday, Wesleyans around the world are gathering online to worship and pray for the fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit. This hour-long event begins at 7 p.m. (EST). “Wesleyans are people of prayer,” said General Superintendent Wayne Schmidt. “We live and minister daily knowing that prayer is foundational to any work of the Holy Spirit. May 31 is an important time for us to be together and continue building our Kingdom Force foundation.” Pastors can find more information at:
Keep on making a difference for eternity!
Your servant in Christ,
Crossroads District Superintendent