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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!
Dr. Rick Grace
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.
First Christian Church, Decatur, IL
DHF Board Member
WHY I SAID “YES” TO THE DHF BOARD
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
A FEELING OF STABILITY ( Audio)
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.
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!
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.
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.