Friday, September 29, 2006

Please Pray for Mick Rockafellow

From Pastor Charles Ashman:

"I talked with Mick Rockafellow, pastor at Lansing (Michigan) Grace Brethren Church, this week, and discovered that he is suffering from a serious liver ailment.

"They are not sure what has caused the problem but he is scheduled to have a biopsy of the liver soon. He said it would be OK to put this much on the web as a prayer request."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

October AGBM Events Calendar

Here are the AGBM-related dates and events from the AGBM website. Log onto and click "events" and click on the event of your choice to get details.

Saturday, September 30
West Penn Golf Outing

Saturday, October 07
West Penn Women of Grace Fall Rally

Monday, October 09
Central Focus Retreat

Tuesday, October 10
NAF Examining Board

Tuesday, October 17
Heartland District Ministerium

Monday, October 23
East Focus Retreat

Friday, November 03
Grace Homecoming

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Biblical Church Membership

Craig Alan Myers of the Brethren Revival Fellowship has written a thought-provoking article on biblical church membership. Here is a bit of the introduction--to read the entire article click on

Several years ago, a nationally syndicated Christian commentator urged Christians to leave their churches. He claimed, based on a unique reading of the Book of Revelation, that the church age was over, and that Christians should make a go of their lives all on their own. Most serious Christians rightly ignored him.

Recently, however, a more prominent voice has come out with essentially the same view. George Barna, the Christian polling "guru," has written a book claiming that large numbers of American Christians are disillusioned with the church. He supports this trend and has labeled these church dropouts "revolutionaries," who are on the verge of forcing a decline of the churches in the 21st century.

Amazingly, many professing Christians see themselves as part of the universal church of Christ, but do not participate in a local body. Others openly discredit the idea of formal membership in a congregation.

However, this fails to accurately reflect on the New Testament evidence for the local congregation of assembled believers. The Bible almost universally depicts Christians as being together with others in an organized fashion.

The early church fathers and the Reformation leaders were consistent in their emphasis on the visible, organized church. The early Brethren distinguished themselves from other Pietists by adopting the Anabaptist emphasis on the church. They covenanted together tc live out their vision in an ordered community.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Seminary N.T. Prof. Blogs Regularly

Dr. Matt Harmon (pictured), the new Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace Theological Seminary, has a blog which may be of interest to pastors. Here is an excerpt--see the current entry at

Knowledge in 1 John and the Postmodern Epistemological Crisis

This semester I am taking my Greek exegesis class through 1 John. This time through the epistle one of the things that has struck me is the emphasis that John places on knowledge.

The two verbs meaning "to know" (oida and ginosko) appear a combined total of 39x. Even more striking is the variety of direct objects used with these verbs. They can be broken up into two categories.

The first is peronal objects (whether pronouns or proper nouns) that refer to God, sometimes to specific persons of the Trinity (2:3, 4, 13, 14; 3:6; 4:2).

The second group consists of abstract concepts such as truth (2:20) or God's commands (2:4). Related to this second category are examples where a verb of knowing is followed by a phrase that expresses the content of what a believer knows (2:3, 5, 29; 3:2, 5, 14, 15, 19, 24; 5:2, 13, 15, 18, 20).

Two reflections suggest themselves from this data:

1. Central to the Christian life is the "experiential" knowing of God, something not reducible to mere intellectual assent to a set of propositions.

2. Central to the Christian life is the cognitive knowing of certain propositional truths about God.

The Thoughts You Don't Preach

Danny Wright (Greenville, Ohio) has a great post on his blog today about the thoughts that run through a preacher's mind while he's preaching. Here's a sampler--catch the rest at

The Thoughts You Don't Preach...

It may surprise you to hear that other things run through a pastor's mind while he preaches. There are some who believe preaching is simply studying the text and then letting whatever "the Spirit leads" to come out of your mouth.

Many imagine this to be a more "Spirit-filled" style of preaching, yet I find the battle is not what to say, the battle is knowing what not to say. Could some of it be Spirit filled (absolutely, I believe He drove me to a text I wasn't planning on sharing yesterday morning), but much of it can come from other sources, ranging from soap boxes to attempts to humor the crowd.

Here are the ten thoughts I remember running through my mind, but not out my mouth, while preaching:

10. Hey, my tape measure! Already explained that one.

9. I know you! About a year ago, I spotted a girl from high school. She clearly recognized me too, and even waved (while I'm preaching). I wanted to stop the message and find out if she knew Christ, it didn't seem she did in high school. But I waited until after the service to talk to her and yes, God had miraculously saved her!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Paul Hutchinson to Pastor Greencastle Church

The minutes of yesterday's meeting of the Heartland District Ministerium reflect the following:

Paul Hutchinson, until recently the manager of the Herald Bookstore in Winona Lake, Indiana, is now the pastor of Living Water Community Church, the Grace Brethren church in Greencastle PA.

Two Headed for Ordination, Licensure in NCO

Todd Scoles, coordinator of the North Central Ohio district, sends along this congratulatory note:

Congratulations to Roger Tickle and Shawn Kaeser

Roger (Mt. Vernon GBC) was unanimously recommended for ordination and Shawn (Marysville GBC) was likewise recommended for licensure at their NCO District exams last Thursday, September 14. Congratulations to both men, and we pray that this will be a strong affirmation to them of the work God has prepared them to do.

Wm. Cochran Recovering from Surgery, Infection

Pastor Howard Mayes, Clinton, Maryland, has passed along the following information and prayer request:

Rev. William Cochran, a long-time member of AGBM and the Chesapeake District Ministerium, was released from the hospital in Minnesota on September 19 after suffering a gangrenous infection connected with gall stones and gall bladder removal.

Cochran has served for many years as a Hospital Chaplain with the Veterans Administration and is a member of the Grace Brethren Church of Clinton, Md. Please pray for Bill and Sharon as he faces the possibility of a long recovery period.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Curtis Miller to Pastor at Bowling Green

Curtis Miller of Winona Lake, Indiana, has accepted a call to pastor the Bowling Green, Ohio, Grace Brethren Church.

Miller and his wife, Jessica, were wheat farmers in Kansas when they sold their operation and moved to Winona Lake several years ago to enter Grace Seminary. The Millers are in the process of selling their Winona Lake home.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ajith Fernando on Sermon Preparation

More on sermon preparation--this time from Ajith Fernando.

I was once at a meeting of preachers, and they were discussing the problem of having inadequate time to prepare their sermons.

One person said that given all the things he had to do, it was impossible for him to give much time for preparation, and therefore he usually went to preach without much preparation. I was shocked by what I heard, but I did not say a word. This happened more than a year ago, and I have suffered much since then. Thoughts have been rolling over and over again in my mind as to what I should have said that day. I have finally decided to put my thoughts on paper.

We represent a great God who is over all and whose majesty is beyond all comparison. The greatest tragedy on earth is that people do not honour this great God. Our great goal in life is to bring honour to God. And we preachers have the opportunity of doing that when we preach.

To read the remainder, click on

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Preach Your Own Sermons, or Someone Else's?

FIRST-PERSON: Pastoral plagiarism

By Ray Van Neste

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)--Not long ago a pastor sent me a link for an article titled "Don't be original -- be effective!" by a pastor and author in Ohio. After reading the article, I simply sat there dumbfounded, stupefied. I felt like imitating Ezra when he said, "When I heard about this matter I tore my garment and my robe, and pulled some of the hair from my head and my beard, and sat down appalled" (Ezra 9:3).

What produced this reaction? This article is a brazen argument for pastors to quit trying to produce their own sermons and instead simply preach the material of others -- even word for word! The writer, Steve Sjogren, argues that laboring to prepare a sermon yourself is silly, stating: "stop all of this nonsense of spending 25 or 30 hours a week preparing to speak on the weekend."

As a positive example he cites Paul Cho, pastor of supposedly the largest church in the world in South Korea, who said: "Honestly, I have never given an original message in all my years of ministry here at Yoido Church. Each week, I preach word-for-word messages from either Billy Graham or W.A. Criswell from Dallas First Baptist Church. I can't afford to not have a home run each weekend when we gather. I don't trust my own ability to give completely original messages."

Sjogren argues that the desire to prepare your own sermons is the result of pride that we need to get over. In fact he ridicules those who think they are preparing good sermons themselves by asking: If they are preaching such good sermons, why are their churches still small? Sjogren's call is simply to copy the sermons of big church pastors -- they're just plagiarizing others, Sjogren says.

This is sad and disturbing. I remember hearing Adrian Rogers about 15 years ago at a Bellevue pastors' conference firmly condemn this practice. Sure, it is fitting to listen and learn from people. But skipping the hard work of study and, instead, preaching other men's labors is unacceptable.

Then, to label the effort to prepare for oneself AS the result of pride is seriously misguided and offensive. Is it not arrogant to say, "My service is so important I can't afford not to hit a homerun each weekend"? Is this not man-centered and performance-driven? This is the real problem. The assumption in the argument is that the primary goal in preaching is a great performance.

So, if you can't give a great performance, borrow someone else's.

But this is not what our people need. Performance is available in abundance. The Word of God is not so available.

This all reminds me of a favorite passage of mine, Jeremiah 23. Here God sternly rebukes prophets who claim to come to God's people with God's message, but in actuality come with their own imaginations (verse 16). God contrasts their vain talk to the power of His Word (verses 25-32). God even says: "Therefore behold, I am against the prophets," declares the LORD, "who steal My words from each other" (verse 30).

Even with differences in context, I think this is clear. Our people do not need a performance. They need to gather with their brothers and sisters to hear their own pastor, who knows and loves them, and to hear the overflow of his heart resulting from his own wrestling with the text that week. We are not to be talking heads with fine points, but messengers who, having set in the counsel of God, can come with His Word. Again, God speaks through Jeremiah:

"But who has stood in the council of the LORD,

That he should see and hear His word?

Who has given heed to His word and listened? ...

I did not send these prophets,

But they ran.

I did not speak to them,

But they prophesied.

"But if they had stood in My council,

Then they would have announced My words to My people,

And would have turned them back from their evil way

And from the evil of their deeds. (verses 18, 21-22)

Let us give up on the sham allure of performance, stop up our ears from the siren calls even from fellow pastors, resist the enticements of Vanity Fair and simply give God's Word to God's people. Then we will have the pleasure of seeing people turned from their sin (one of the true goals rather than crowd gathering). Some will be greater speakers than we are, but that is okay. Let us trust in the power of the Gospel and preach it in simplicity and purity (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
Ray Van Neste is associate professor of Christian Studies at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
The full article by Steve Sjogren can be viewed at

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pastoral Updates

This Sunday Erick Eickhoff will be concluding his ministry at the Grace Brethren Church of Portis, Kansas.

Dan Grabill is serving as the interim pastor at the Brookville (OH) Grace Brethren Church.

East Side GBC in Columbus (Chip Heim, pastor) will host Dr. Bill Edgar, department chair of apologetics at Westminster Seminary, for a seminar on apologetics and contemporary culture November 10-11, Friday 7:00-9:00 p.m. and Saturday 8:30-4:30. For more information, contact East Side at or 614-861-5810.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Greens Take a Bicycle Spill

North Central Ohio coordinator Todd Scoles notes in his latest e-newsletter that "Dan Green (GBC Columbus) and his wife Nancy took a spill on a tandem bike September 4. Both were bruised, but Dan also broke his clavicle. Surgery was performed last Friday to insert a pin. Please pray for a full recovery."

Mansfield Woodville Adds Saturday Night Service

Pastor Ron Smals of the Woodville Grace Brethren Church in Mansfield, Ohio, announces that the Woodville church began a Saturday evening service on September 9.

Pastor Smals says, "We have 25-30 missionaries from our Sunday service as the seed base for the new service. We're praying that God will use this to reach those in our neighborhood who work on Sundays or find it hard to make it to church on their only day off."

Bush Sees Possibility of Revival

From today's Washington Post:

Bush Tells Group He Sees a 'Third Awakening'

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2006; A05

President Bush said yesterday that he senses a "Third Awakening" of religious devotion in the United States that has coincided with the nation's struggle with international terrorists, a war that he depicted as "a confrontation between good and evil."

Bush told a group of conservative journalists that he notices more open expressions of faith among people he meets during his travels, and he suggested that might signal a broader revival similar to other religious movements in history. Bush noted that some of Abraham Lincoln's strongest supporters were religious people "who saw life in terms of good and evil" and who believed that slavery was evil. Many of his own supporters, he said, see the current conflict in similar terms.

"A lot of people in America see this as a confrontation between good and evil, including me," Bush said during a 1 1/2 -hour Oval Office conversation on cultural changes and a battle with terrorists that he sees lasting decades. "There was a stark change between the culture of the '50s and the '60s -- boom -- and I think there's change happening here," he added. "It seems to me that there's a Third Awakening."

The First Great Awakening refers to a wave of Christian fervor in the American colonies from about 1730 to 1760, while the Second Great Awakening is generally believed to have occurred from 1800 to 1830.

Some scholars and writers have debated for years whether a Third Awakening has been taking place, although some identify other awakenings in U.S. history. Bush aides, including Karl Rove, have read Robert William Fogel's "The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism."

Bush has been careful discussing the battle with terrorists in religious terms since he had to apologize for using the word "crusade" in 2001. He often stresses that the war is not against Islam but against those who corrupt it. In his comments yesterday, aides said Bush was not casting the war as a religious struggle but was describing American cultural changes in a time of war.

"He's drawing a parallel in terms of a resurgence, in dangerous times, of people going back to their religion," said one aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the session was not open to other journalists. "This is not 'God is on our side' or anything like that."

The White House did not release a transcript of Bush's remarks, but National Review posted highlights on its Web site.

Freeloader, Get OUT of This Church!

Wow! Take a look at what THIS church did! To read the full story click on

WINSTON-SALEM — Julie and Bob Clark were stunned to receive a letter from their church in July asking them to "participate in the life of the church" — or worship elsewhere.
"They basically called us freeloaders," says Julie.
"We were freeloaders," says Bob.
In a trend that may signal rough times for wallflower Christians, bellwether mega-church Faith Community of Winston-Salem has asked "non-participating members" to stop attending.
"No more Mr. Nice Church," says the executive pastor, newly hired from Cingular Wireless. "Bigger is not always better. Providing free services indefinitely to complacent Christians is not our mission."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Kent is Launched: Milton is Next

Tim Boal of Grace Brethren North American Missions reports today on his blog that Jonathan Herron and the Catalyst church successfully launched this past Sunday with approximately 150 in attendance.

This coming Sunday is the launch for The Village Church in Milton, Ontario, the latest effort by Grace Brethren Canada. Read about this exciting church-in-a-theater by clicking on Tim's blog here:

Friday, September 08, 2006

Upcoming September AGBM Events

For details on any event, go to the AGBM website at, click on "Events" and click on the live-link at each date.

Thursday, September 07
West Penn Ministerium

Friday, September 08
NCO Family Picnic

Friday, September 08
Northern Atlantic Fellowship Father/Daughter Weekend

Tuesday, September 12
Pastor/Wives Mini-Retreat (NAF)

Thursday, September 14
NCO License & Ordination Exams

Saturday, September 16
Heartland Women of Grace

Sunday, September 17
CE National Celebration

Monday, September 18
NAF CEN Celebration

Tuesday, September 19
Heartland Ministerium

Friday, September 22
West Penn Ministerium

Saturday, September 23
NAF Camp Conquest Golf Outing

Thursday, September 28
NCO Fall Ministerium

Saturday, September 30
West Penn Golf Outing

Learning From the Other Guys' Church Services

Do you like to watch, listen, and learn from other pastors' church services?

Pastors who preach every Sunday rarely get the opportunity to attend other churches--enter the video/audio church services available online!

One Grace Brethren pastor lists eight of his favorites that he likes to listen to during the week (hint: one is Grace Brethren). Check the list (and links) out at

Thursday, September 07, 2006

President's E-Mail Newsletter is Sent

The latest issue of "Serving One Another (JR)" from AGBM president Joel Richards should have hit your inbox today. Articles in this issue include

From the President's Desk

AGBM Proposed Bylaws Pass!

Bits & Pieces


If you did not receive it, be sure to drop an e-mail to Joel at and ask to be added to the distribution list.

Here are a few of Joel's opening paragraphs from the "president's message"

"Hello colleague. I trust you are experiencing the joy of the Lord. I am. If you might be going through a particularly tough moment try to keep you’re the eyes of your heart and mind on the one who has called you. He really is ABLE!

"We are working hard to better communicate with you and be a source of help and encouragement. If we get better at communication at large this monthly piece may seem redundant and unnecessary. I will do my best to bring you fresh information as well as point you to relevant information you may have missed. For now, if you never received this piece again I would encourage you to go the AGBM blog on a regular basis and the FGBC World Editor’s Blog as well. This of course is based on the assumption that you want to stay informed.

"Do not let it slip by you, either as a new thought or one you’ve known for some time, that we are a Fellowship. A key element in our DNA is Biblical relationships. Do whatever you need to encourage that in your district and across district lines. It is our belief that we can do more together than we can do alone. You can help me and I can help you."

Church-Planter Assessment Set For Jan. 18-20

Are you considering planting a church, or do you know someone who may feel called to church-planting?

Grace Brethren North American Missions will host its sixth church Planter Candidate Assessment Center in Pennsylvania the dates of January 18-20, 2007.

The center is a tremendous resource tool in helping potential church planters to evaluate their calling, ministry behavior, personality profile, leadership style, communication skills, and strengths and weaknesses in regard to church planting.

The overall goal is to assist each candidate to honestly evaluate gifts and abilities regarding suitability for church planting. Candidates build relationships with assessors (pastors from the region) and begin to build a network of their greatest church-planting resource, other church planters.

Those who have participated in the assessment center have benefited greatly from the process and highly recommend it to others. Many say the experience has been so positive they would not consider starting a church without the assessment.

The Northeast has a trained quality assessment team. Several resources are used during the process. A comprehensive composite rating is compiled for each candidate with helpful recommendations for practical application.

Please contact GBNAM career missionary Jim Snavely at if you are interested or want to recommend someone for this assessment.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Randy & Betty Poyner Update

The following prayer request was circulated today:

In the last three years, Randy & Betty Poyner (former Grace Brethren pastor and wife) have both had cancer. They were just getting back on their feet when Betty's cancer recurred. After a second surgery, she's recently completed radiation and is to begin chemo again soon.

Last Friday Betty fell from a ladder and shattered her right knee. She had surgery and enters rehab today for several days. Randy has a checkup in Little Rock, AR, on September 10.

Please pray ~
* that Randy's cancer is still in "profound remission"

* for the sale of their house SOON!! They just signed the papers on a smaller, maintenance-free patio home.

* for an easier-than-anticipated rehab for Betty

* that they and their family will grow in their ability to trust the Lord for each provision.

Notes of encouragement may be sent to Dr. & Mrs. Randy Poyner, 50 Bud Hollow Dr, Palm Coast, FL 32137 or e-mail

Internet Evangelism Coalition Meeting Approaches

What does the phenomenon of, and other blog sites mean for Christians?

The Internet Evangelism Coalition will hold its annual meeting on Sept. 20-21 in Chicago addressing the widely popular community websites.

As media, particularly the Internet, is becoming more popular and utilized in the Christian community and Christian versions of blog sites are popping up, the Rev. Robby Richardson, vice-chair of the Internet Evangelism Coalition, gave The Christian Post a preview answer. To read the interview, click here.