Sunday morning, October 11, I had the privilege of representing our district team at Nehemiah Church in Avon. Pastor Ben and Tiffany Thomas first planted Nehemiah Church in their home. A few years later they merged with an existing Wesleyan congregation (originally planted by Pastor Bern and Kathy Lytle) and Nehemiah Church continued its ministry in this new location.
I brought the morning message and then hosted Pastor Ben and Tiffany for lunch. The church has faced some challenges, even before Covid-19, and Pastor Ben now serves as bi-vocational pastor while employed full-time as a hospice chaplain. Join me in praying for the Thomas family and Nehemiah Church.
Board meetings filled the agenda last week. Tuesday, I joined President Colleen Derr and her team at Wesley Seminary for the annual fall meeting of the Advisory Board. These are exciting days of progress for Wesley Seminary with record enrollment of 524 in the summer semester including 45 students in the new Spanish language pilot project. We are blessed to have Wesley Seminary in our backyard and I encourage every pastor to take advantage of the high quality and low cost programs they provide.
Thursday and Friday, I joined President David Wright and the Indiana Wesleyan University Board of Trustees online for our annual fall meeting. Dr. Wright and his team at IWU have done a remarkable job responding to the challenges of the pandemic. Pray for Dr. Wright and our university as they navigate the increasing complexities of Christian higher education.
In addition to board meetings, I was grateful for the opportunity to catch up with pastors for coaching conversations. Rev. Paul VanCise (Bryant Wesleyan Church) and I met on Wednesday morning. Pastor Paul’s summer included a well-planned sabbatical and the celebration of his daughter’s wedding. Rev. Lyle Breeding (Bluffton Sonlight) and I met for lunch and an update on the ministry. Pastor Lyle was encouraged by the way their congregation has held together through the pandemic. Rev. Neftali and Grace Lopez met with me on Sunday afternoon for our coaching conversation. Pastor Lopez leads our Carmel Amistad congregation and shared encouraging news about new attenders. He is leading the congregation in an early morning online prayer service that has been going for 168 consecutive days.
Wednesday afternoon, I was able to check in on Pastor Allen and Cheryl Laws at Warren Wesleyan Church. Cheryl had a significant surgery last month and is now recovering at home. Pastor Allen continues to provide key leadership to the community food bank in Warren. He was able to take time to give me a tour of their facility and well-run operation that serves more than 60 families each week.
The full District Board of Ministerial Development met on Friday and Saturday under the leadership of Dr. David Smith, chair, and Rev. Carla Working, vice-chair and secretary. This team meets with licensed ministers who are in their final years of preparation for ordination. I was able to join the team for the Saturday interviews. We have a wonderful team of volunteers from each of our three regions who invest in our ministerial students. These final interviews reveal the return on that investment as these women and men share what they’ve learned on this journey.
The 12 candidates we interviewed this year ranged in age from their 20s to their 60s. Some have been life-long Wesleyans and others have more recently found their home in our denominational family. Are there individuals in your congregation that God may be calling? Rev. Carla Working is available in our office to help them take their first steps toward ministerial credentialing with The Wesleyan Church.
Another highlight of the week was meeting with prospective church planters who are prayerfully considering two new projects with us in 2021. There are still 3 million or more Hoosiers to be reached with the Gospel. Pray that God will send workers into His harvest field as He has faithfully done in the past. It was 125 years ago this fall that Rev. and Mrs. Charles Billheimer led a tent revival on the south side of Marion. From that tent meeting was born the congregation first known as the South Marion Wesleyan Methodist Church. Today, we celebrate the legacy of that church planter and the first members of what is now College Wesleyan Church.
Congratulations to Dr. Steve DeNeff and the members of College Wesleyan Church on the occasion of their 125th Anniversary! Pastor Steve DeNeff and his team led the church in a wonderful anniversary celebration concluding this past Sunday with an inspiring look at their history and the opportunities before them. You can find the link to that service and Dr. DeNeff’s message here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPEdOiiytZU&feature=youtu.be
Our newest church plant is CrossRoads Church in Union City led by Rev. John and Beth Hannan. Yesterday, on their third Sunday of public worship, they celebrated four baptisms. We join them in praising the Lord for these lives that are #MadeNew
Pastor Ben Jones and the team at Beaver Creek Wesleyan Church in North Liberty are also praising the Lord for a family of three who were baptized this past weekend. This would be exciting for any congregation but it is a special blessing for this church that had no one baptized last conference year. Pastor Ben is doing a wonderful job leading the turnaround at Beaver Creek.
We have had several pastors sidelined by illness over the past few months. While we understand the physical reality, there is also a sense of spiritual warfare as our pastors are leading congregations through this pandemic. Prayers are requested for Rev. Ervin Webster (Warren Park St. Stephens Wesleyan Church) who was hospitalized over the weekend. His wife, Karen, confirmed today that he has been released to recover at home. We are continuing to pray for Rev. Mark Atkinson (Gas City Eastview) and Mrs. Cheryl Laws (Rev. Allen Law’s wife) as they each trust the Lord for a full recovery.
Keep on making a difference in the cause that counts for eternity!
Your servant in Christ,
Crossroads District Superintendent