Like many of you, I have been blessed by the ministry of the Disciple Heritage Fellowship for many years. In fact, I got involved with DHF shortly after the Des Moines General Assembly in 1985. It has been my privilege to serve on the DHF board a number of terms and am currently serving as the acting President of the board. For those of you who know me, that could be considered quite an act!

We are moving into a critical time for the ministry of DHF. Doug Harvey, who served long and faithfully as our Executive Director, is transitioning back into the pastorate, having received a call from the Harvest Church in New Hampton, IA. We pray blessing over them as Doug and Bev start a new chapter in their lives.

That also means a new chapter is beginning for DHF. We formalized at our most recent board meeting, and are now excited to share with you, that Kevin Ray has agreed to step in and serve as our Transitional Executive Director for the next year. With the blessing and support of the eldership at First Christian Church in Shelbyville, IL, Kevin will continue as their pastor and also serve DHF. He will be joined in that task by his wife, Linda. Kevin has already started to make

contacts with our support base, so don’t be surprised if you hear from him soon.

What this means for the ministry is that our Transitional Team can take the time they need to seek the Lord and help fashion a new “wineskin” for DHF. Many aspects of the old wineskin of DHF will be put to rest, including the sale of the office building in Lovington, IL. While we are not quite sure what the new wineskin will look like, I can tell you, on behalf of the board, that we are excited about the journey the Lord has for us.

We need your help, your partnership, and your financial support for this ministry. Now is not the time to pull back but to go forward so that together we can walk into the new vision God has for DHF. We are trusting Him to clarify His call for us as we seek Him and do all we can to obediently follow Him. So thank you for your partnership in this ministry in the past, for your partnership now, and for your partnership for the future of DHF. To God be the glory!

In Christ,

Dr. Rick Grace

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February 2015 Newsletter


In the summer of 1986 my wife, Leslie and I packed up our belongings. They could fit in a mid-size U-Haul trailer. We were moving from North Carolina to Oklahoma.

We were headed for a church that for some providential reason had asked me to be their pastor. I did not really know what that entailed.

I had a smattering of biblical theology under my belt, along with a few understandings of how to manage a worship service. I had a degree in business with a music minor and few courses in theology. If all else failed, Les could sing and I could play the piano. “Somehow we can make it work,” I thought.

Apart from that, I had little comprehension of how to perform the duties found on a pastoral job description. In fact, I don’t recall that I had a written job description. We weren’t that sophisticated. After all, I didn’t even know pastors made calls at hospitals. I was green indeed!

The small congregation of about 40 people was glad to have me. I was glad to be in their company. I was 28 years old without a seminary background. Leslie was pregnant with our first child and I was supposed to lead the church.

In the coming years we grew together. We grew in our relationships. We grew in numbers and I grew in my understandings of pastoral ministry.

That church, 41st Street Christian Church, Tulsa, provided me with a salary, a pulpit, and most importantly, a hands-on education in pastoral responsibilities. I attended seminary while in Tulsa. It was long-haul education; it took 6 years to complete my Master of Divinity degree while working full-time for the church.

We stopped in Nashville on our way across the country during that summer trip of 1986. Disciple Heritage Fellowship’s leaders were attending a conference together. They had invited us to join them. It was a pivotal moment in my ministry career. It was a catalytic moment provided by God.

The schedule of that conference is not indelibly imprinted on my mind. I do recall the shape of the auditorium and I know Jack Hayford of California was the focal guest speaker. However, much of that event is not gathered in my memory bank.

I do know this: the relationships Les and I formed with the folk from DHF that week have carried us through almost 30 years of ministry since then. Those relationships are the bedrock of our lives.

I’m no longer 28 years old. Les is no longer pregnant – at least if she was we would be in good biblical company!  Our children are now grown and married.

I know a little more about the skills needed to lead a church. Pastoral hospital calls are part of my regular routine. I have experienced a lot of change.

There is one constant that has not changed through the years and through the transitions I’ve experienced in ministry: relationships with the people of Disciple Heritage Fellowship.

Help us to continue to reach into the lives of pastors and congregations who might mirror the 28-year-old young man I recall from 1986.

Thousands of congregations and pastors are in need of solid, biblical relationships. They are in need of guidance, information, and most of all, company.

Pastoral ministry can be a lonely calling; and churches take on Lone Ranger-styled ministries for fear of knowing who to trust and how to proceed to the next ministry level God expects.

Your gifts to Disciple Heritage Fellowship make a difference in the lives of many people. Leslie and I include DHF in our monthly giving plans.

Join us as we strive to help the current and next generation of pastors and churches.

Wayne KENT
Pastoral Team
First Christian Church, Decatur, IL

DHF Board Member

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January 2015 Newsletter


Almost a year ago, Doug Harvey called me and asked if I would serve on the DHF board for a term of three years. I asked myself, what can a CPA and lay person bring to a board that is mostly populated by pastors? Although I am in a leadership position in my church, I am not a minister and tend to look at situations through a business perspective. I will attempt to answer this at the end of this article. But first, I will present some background information. I said “Yes” to the board position, and here’s why:

Ten years ago I joined Eastridge Park Christian Church in Mesquite, TX. At the time, the church was a Disciples of Christ Church. I researched the church’s beliefs and they were in line with the core beliefs of Christianity. Where I failed was not researching the Disciples of Christ denomination thoroughly. In 2 Peter 2:1-3 and 1Timothy 1:3-4 we are warned of false teachers and false doctrines. How could a denomination with Christ in its name be promoting false doctrine? Around six months after I joined, the truth of the denomination raised its ugly head in our church, and those of us who believed in the accuracy and authority of the Bible insisted that we sever our ties to the DOC, but did not know what was involved. Our pastor was familiar with DHF, called for help, and DHF came to our rescue. Doug traveled to our church several times during the transition and led us through the process. Our exit from the DOC was not pleasant, but it was fairly simple. If DHF had not been around to help us through the exit process, my husband and I would have left the church. Was our church the same after the exit? No, it was not. We lost many members who seemed to place denominational loyalty before the Bible. We retained many who placed the accuracy and authority of the Bible before anything else.

Over the years, we have developed a relationship with DHF and have called upon them for assistance when we needed a trusted outside voice. We were even able to host the DHF national conference in 2008.

DHF is in a time of transition right now. As a board, we have realized moving into the 21st century requires a new “wineskin” for our fellowship to be fully realized. The board is praying and listening for God’s answer about what the new wineskin will look like. Whatever the changes, building and retaining relationships with churches and pastors will remain constant.

So, why am I on the board? Each board member brings his/her own gifts to the table. I bring a different perspective to the board. I am able to testify about the role that DHF played in my church’s exit from DOC from a church member perspective. I understand the importance of our relationship with DHF and the value of DHF resources. I realize the importance of supporting DHF in these transitional times. Our elders listen to the Elder Update every month. What a blessing and wealth of information that has been! We know that we can reach out to DHF anytime a need arises.

Eastridge Park Christian Church donates to DHF every month. It is in our budget to do so. The relationship is that important! I challenge you, as a church, a family or an individual, to commit to a monetary pledge to DHF for 2015.

Edith E. Smith, CPA
DHF Board Member

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January 2015 Elder Update


During our first year of Seminary, my wife and I lived in the apartments on campus. Then we had an opportunity to move from a “Sunday only” ministry to a church with a parsonage. After we had packed and moved our belongings and ourselves to the new ministry setting, a fellow student made a comment that I didn’t expect. She said it felt like the apartment building was not as secure or stable without us in it. I’ve always been a fairly stable, conservative person, and in the midst of a Seminary with little theological stability, my evangelical faith apparently left at least one person (who strongly disagreed with my beliefs) with a sense that our presence was an anchor in the chaos.

The building and its occupants did just fine without Bev and I anchoring the place down, but I thought a lot about the comment. In the midst of students in theological confusion and quite a bit of activity unbecoming of a future pastor, just one couple who quietly stood firm in the faith added a needed sense of stability to someone caught up in the chaos.

Elders, your congregation needs you to be those anchors of stability in your church. Even when people disagree with you, they need the sense that someone stable is holding things together. When you act and speak with maturity and calm, you give your church that sense.

Sometimes elders and other leaders confuse the need for control for the need for stable leaders. Don’t make the mistake of believing you have to win every battle, answer every question and keep everybody in line. That’s not what gives a sense of confidence to others. Rather, a church’s sense of inner security is rooted in the quiet confidence of leaders who know where they stand and who refuse to get caught up in the emotions and turmoil that sometimes erupt in churches. Those leaders offer wisdom. They show grace and acceptance toward those they disagree with. They exude a peaceful spirit in chaotic situations. They focus on the deeper truths of Scripture rather than the many issues over which honest Christians disagree.

Churches who sense their eldership as a strong, stable center of mature faith will be far less prone to internal problems. When we trust our leaders, we tend to stay focused on our own piece of the church’s ministry without worrying that things are out of control in the bigger picture.

Be the mature voice of faith. As a team, give your congregation confidence that the adults are in charge.

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December 2014 Newsletter


We are closing on the end of another year, and the end of an era for DHF. Since this ministry began as Disciple Renewal back in 1985, it has been led by one of the three founders, me, Kevin Ray and Richard Bowman. The next phase of our ministry will involve other leaders, but the core of DHF will remain the same. DHF exists to encourage, strengthen and lead churches in fulfilling Christ’s mission.

The next few months will look a bit different, but our core mission remains the same.

DHF’s board has come to some conclusions as it has wrestled with how to make the transition to the next chapter of our story.

-We believe the financial crunch of the last couple of years has been a message from God to press us to create a new wineskin for the new wine of a non-denominational fellowship.
-We believe DHF should move to a bottom-up strategy rather than a top-down approach.
-We believe there is still a need for a national organization, but the focus of that organization needs to be on creating and resourcing area-based fellowships of pastors and churches.
-For the next few months, we will not attempt to fill the Executive Director position. Instead, Debbie Renfro, DHF’s office manager, will work through DHF’s board members and other volunteers to

fulfill our usual ministries and to recruit leaders for area-based fellowships.

-When finances allow, we believe there is still a need for a national leader, but in this transition time we will fulfill our mission through volunteers.

We are grateful for the example of DHF in North Carolina, a group of churches who have created a model for an area-based fellowship directly related to DHF. Our intention is to see this repeated in many parts of the country. There are serious limits to a national organization’s ability to create a sense of identity and connection that churches need. We also need face-to-face relationships that tie us to one another at the depth we need.

The decisions we are making are a move forward, not a step back. DHF needs your support more than ever as we respond to God’s vision for a new wineskin for a new era. It may be a bit chaotic as we learn a new paradigm, but the end will be a stronger, healthier and larger fellowship.

You’ve helped us create a new future several times over the last three decades. Please keep us strong for the next phase of the adventure!


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December 2014 Elder Update


When I work with elder teams, one of my concerns is that they have some form of rotation system to protect both the church and the elders.

As soon as I say this, I hear folks saying, “once an elder, always an elder.” And I agree, to a certain extent. Once someone has been ordained an elder of a congregation, that should not be repeated. But it doesn’t mean every person ever ordained to eldership should be currently serving in an official elder capacity in the congregation.

Think about it this way. If you are an elder in your church and a job change forces you to move across the country, would you just walk into a new church on Sunday morning and expect to be recognized as an elder and invited to pray at the communion table and stay for the board meeting after church? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean you are no longer an elder, it simply means that at that time in that place you are not serving in that role.

I am an ordained pastor, with all the educational credentials and an ordination certificate. I was a local pastor for 24 years before coming to DHF. But at First Christian Church in Decatur, Illinois I am not recognized as a pastor in the church. This doesn’t undo my ordination, it simply means that in this time in this setting I am not functioning in the role of pastor, though I still have the gifts and calling of a pastor.

The more seriously a church takes eldership, the more important it is that elders step away from the role at times.

First of all, it is a recognition of the biblical principle of Sabbath. In every area of life there need to be cycles of work and rest, activity and reflection. Eldership is not an exception to the Sabbath principle. No one is at their best when they are caught up in an uninterrupted stint at the same job with no opportunity to step away for a time. We lose our perspective, we get tired or bored and we get defensive about our positions. Time spent away from serving as an elder allows us to get a fresh perspective and to realize the Kingdom of God can survive without us.

Elder rotation of some sort is also a recognition that people change and circumstances change. There are times when we realize we have lost our edge and would serve better in another capacity. Even pastors occasionally recognize they need to change roles. I know of several pastors who have intentionally moved themselves into support staff positions to allow the church to seek fresh senior leadership. That takes a lot of courage and humility, but it can be a blessing for everybody.

Elder rotation also allows space for God to bring new leaders into the spiritual oversight of the church. I often hear church leaders regret the lack of young adults willing to participate in church leadership. Often those same people have been holding the same position in the church for years without helping someone else learn the ropes and work alongside them with the idea of taking over the job down the road.

There are all kinds of systems for rotating leaders, and I don’t need to explain them all. I just want to encourage you to look at your church’s eldership, including your role as an elder, and ask how you are respecting the Sabbath principle, how you are keeping yourself fresh in your service and how you are raising up a new generation of leaders for your congregation.

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Tuesday, Tuesday – November 2014

All the Duties of Your Ministry  (audio)

In Paul’s charge to Timothy in II Timothy 4, Paul tells Timothy to “discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

At ordinations and installation services, I often hear this read with an inflection that implies a concern that the pastor might not be faithful or diligent in ministry.

That is a message that some pastors need to hear, of course. Laziness can be a problem for pastors. But I think we also need to hear this charge with a different emphasis: “discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Ministry stress and imbalance often comes when we try to do everybody else’s’ ministry as well as our own. We all understand the doctrine of spiritual gifts and callings, but as pastors we are prone to feel the expectation that we should be willing and able to do all parts of ministry, and do them well.

This view is harmful to both pastor and people. It’s harmful to the pastor, forcing him to constantly do ministry that he is neither gifted for nor called to do. It’s harmful to the congregation, leaving them with the sense that they can avoid serving because “we pay the pastor to do that,” and the idea that church work is best left to the pro’s.

I am completely hopeless when faced with a room full of Jr. High students. It’s not that I don’t care about them, I just have no ability to connect with them in a classroom setting. Because I was the pastor, I’ve given in a few times to the “somebody’s gotta do it, and you’re here” motivation and taught Jr. High classes. They’ve suffered and I’ve suffered every time. I do many things well, but not this.

Early in ministry, my wife, Bev, realized she was burning out in church work. When she backed up and did an assessment, she discovered that she had taken on nine different ministry roles in the church, ranging from very minor to very major. It happened very innocently. She saw a need, and wanting to be a good pastor’s wife, she stepped in. Most of the ministries were outside her gifts and callings, and they had begun to make church life a burden rather than a joy. She stepped away from a number of the jobs she wasn’t gifted for and discovered that each one of them had someone willing and able to take it on.

I’m not a crackerjack administrator. I’d like to be. I’ve read the books, attended the conferences, made the lists and otherwise tried to overcome my weaknesses, …but I’m still a mediocre administrator in my best days, and a disaster in the bad days.

I don’t like to reveal my weaknesses in ministry, so I’ve been too slow to ask for help and too reluctant to just say “No” to requests or demands that I commit to ministry outside my gifts and calling. But I’ve learned that when I step outside doing “my” ministry, everyone loses.

If God wants it done, He has gifted somebody to do it. If it isn’t you, all you’re doing by stepping into the gap is holding back someone else’s service to God.

Of course, there are times we all need to step in during an emergency and fill the gap. When the Junior High teacher doesn’t show up and the kids are starting to gather in the Sunday School room, I will step in. But I won’t say “Yes” to taking on the next six months of teaching.

Pastors, live by the standards you raise for your congregation. Discern your gifts and callings, then focus there. Operate out of your strengths. In the process, help your people learn to operate out of their gifts and callings.

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November 2014 Newsletter


John the Baptist had the unusual task of preparing the way for someone else. His whole ministry focus was getting the people of Israel ready for the coming of their Messiah, a Messiah whose identity he did not even know until well into his ministry.

I find myself in a similar situation. I’m not trying to compare myself to John the Baptist, of course, but my main job at DHF these days is preparing the way for someone else, someone whose identity I don’t yet know. I’m trying to do my part to “prepare ye the way,” and I want to ask you to make a special effort to do your part in the next few weeks as well.

My tenure at DHF will end on December 31. My greatest concern is that my successor be the one God has called to lead us into the future. The DHF board is working hard behind the scenes to find the next leader for our fellowship. Please pray for them as they wrestle with the possibilities and seek the leading of God.

I have one overriding concern as we work toward this transition, and that concern is financial. I have hesitated to say much about this for fear of seeming to be self-serving or a whiner. But you need to know the situation in order to respond appropriately to the leading of God for DHF.

This is the bottom line: For this calendar year, my salary has only been paid up through mid-May. I am grateful that DHF has been able to keep up my health insurance payments for the year, but the DHF board is facing a really tough task. How do you invite someone to take leadership of DHF when we’re half a year behind in paying the current leader?

I firmly believe that a new leader with fresh vision and energy will quickly turn the situation around. I don’t think at all that God is done with DHF. In fact, I see incredible opportunities for expanding the fellowship in the next few months. I am sorry to miss leading us through the next wave of opportunity, but it is clear that God is calling someone else to do that.

There are two things you can do that will help us make a smooth transition.

1. If you are able to make a special gift to DHF in the closing weeks of 2014, it will help us clear the decks for our next leader.

2. It would really help our DHF board to know that you are going to faithfully support DHF throughout 2015. We need to assure our next leader that he will have the ongoing support upon which to build a greater future.

Leadership transitions are always critical times in the Kingdom of God. We need to discern the call of God for a new leader and we need to get behind the one God calls.

I invite you to stretch your support for DHF in the next few weeks, and to make a note on the reply card indicating your plan to continue your support during 2015.

God has great things in store; let’s step up by faith and “prepare the way” for our next leader.



Under the primary leadership of Gary Edens, pastor at Richlands Christian Church, and Lynn Maxwell, pastor of Pleasant Hill Christian Church, DHF in North Carolina has been organized as a regional affiliate of DHF. We have wanted to create such fellowships for many years, but haven’t had a lot of success. This time, it was the initiative and hard work of the regional group itself that pressed through.

We welcome them into the fellowship of DHF, and hope the model they have created can offer a template for more regional affiliates.

Welcome, DHF in North Carolina!

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November 2014 Elder Update

The Right Focus    (audio)

The Center for Disease Control recently released a study that said 110,000,000 Americans are infected with sexually transmitted diseases at any given time. Twenty million are newly infected each year, while some of the previously infected can be treated. The report was nearly unnoticed in the media.

At the same time, a few thousand people in West Africa have contracted the Ebola virus, and a handful of those infected have been brought to the US for treatment. The media is going wild with this story. Sales of survivalist supplies are surging, there are calls for blocking all flights from West Africa, people possibly exposed are being quarantined and experimental drugs are being fast-tracked.

Why is one epidemic virtually ignored and another given front page status for weeks on end? Ebola is a fast-moving virus with a very high mortality rate. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are usually slower to show symptoms and often don’t lead to horrible deaths (though some do). But most important, to reveal that over a quarter of the US population has an STD would force us to admit that the sexual revolution has been a disaster for our nation. Too many people, especially  those in the media elite, insist on the narrative that it has been liberating to toss aside any and all sexual boundaries.

What does this have to do with church leadership? It’s a reminder that we tend to be blind to those things that challenge us personally, but often overreact to things that are abstract to our personal lives.

In the 1960s the conservative churches tended to ignore the civil rights movement while fighting  rock and roll music and long hair and beards. Then battles raged over speaking in tongues while  the church largely ignored the fact that Christians were abandoning marriage at an alarming rate. And on and on it goes.

Today I see churches shredded by battles over musical styles while oblivious to the huge numbers of people around them trapped in addictions and lifestyles that assure lifetime poverty. Churches struggle over whether or not they can put projections screens in the sanctuary while ignoring the fact they’ve not needed to fill the baptistry for three years.

Elders, you are the spiritual leaders of the congregation. Part of that leadership is keeping the right issues on the front burner. The most important issues are usually not the hot-button issues in a congregation. Sometimes we have to deal with those lesser issues, but part of your assignment as spiritual leaders is to keep the congregation’s attention on the things that matter most in the long term.

Keep asking, “How can we bring more people to Christ?” “What will enable more Christians to grow toward maturity in the faith?” “What areas of the church need special prayer to defend from spiritual attack? What is God calling this church to do to serve our community at this time? On whom of the weak and hurting around us are we called to focus ministry?”

Elders, don’t let yourselves get distracted from the deeper issues. Keep wrestling with the most important issues, whatever else you have to do as well.

Elders, lead your church with wisdom. Keep the main thing the main thing.

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Tuesday, Tuesday – October 2014

Keep Your Head (audio)

In II Timothy 4:5, Paul exhorts Timothy to “keep your head at all times.”

This advice to a younger pastor is still important. If you want to be the spiritual leader of a church, you’ve got to be able to keep your head.

If you are easily drawn into confrontation and argument, even if you win the battle, you will lose the war to become the pastor of your people’s hearts. If you get upset and despair when setbacks come, you will get a depressed, immature congregation. If you unthinkingly rush into every new idea or program that comes down the pike, you will quickly exhaust the patience of the church. If you allow every issue in the church to become a life-and-death struggle, you will find your whole life defined by conflict, not the Gospel.

“Keep your head” emphasizes the importance of staying in control of ourselves in the stresses of ministry. The more that others are emoting, falling apart, raging and so on, the more imperative it becomes that we stay calm and act as the adult in the room. Every church has some folks who thrive on emotional excess. If they can use that to draw you into actions you later regret, they own you.

I’ve noticed that in meetings where someone starts to get too loud and belligerent the only response that has a chance of bringing things back to sanity is a calm, positive, confident reply. It doesn’t have to directly challenge them. The contrast exaggerates their loss of control and gives them a chance to respond in kind. It’s not a guarantee of a good reaction, but joining the escalation of emotion guarantees that it will keep building.

What I say next can be misunderstood, but it’s important. It is important for pastors to keep their composure in times of grief and loss. The deeper the chaos of mourning, the more we need to stay in control of ourselves. I don’t mean a pastor shouldn’t weep with those who weep, but I mean a pastor shouldn’t join in the uncontrolled expressions of emotion that sometimes emerge when there’s a major loss. In that situation, a pastor represents both the love of God who mourns with His children, but also the peace of God who, seeing the big picture, doesn’t join in the despair or hopelessness that easily follows unexpected loss.

Keeping our heads also means keeping criticism in perspective. A friend of mine recently preached a sermon that will mark a positive watershed moment in the congregation’s history. He left the sanctuary in the joyful confidence that follows when you know you’ve made a difference by a single message. After the crowd thinned, he headed to his office to put his Bible and sermon notes away. A man from the church was impatiently pacing at the office door. He proceeded to lay into the pastor for an innocuous, offhanded comment he had made setting up an illustration. The offended man mercilessly pressed his point and demanded a public apology. When he didn’t get satisfaction, he went home and got on the phone to stir up some other folks.

When some of us met with him a couple of days later, he was still reeling from the attack. Anyone with a pastoral heart is devastated by this kind of frontal assault, especially when you can’t apologize because you haven’t actually done anything wrong. I’ve spent days and weeks trying to recover from this kind of incident.

Keeping our heads can mean getting the perspective to get up and keep moving after a paralyzing blow.

Pastors, keep your heads. You need it, your people need it.

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