Wednesday, January 30, 2008

AGBM President Recovering From Surgery

AGBM president Joel Richards, pastor of the LaLoma Grace Brethren Church in Modesto, California, is recovering from throat surgery which was done this past Monday.

According to LaLoma's youth and worship pastor, Mike Saldivar, the surgery to remove a growth was successful and Richards is recovering at home. Richards has struggled this past year with the throat ailment which has hindered his vocal ability. Your prayers for his complete recovery would be appreciated.

How Not to Ride a Bicycle

Roy Halberg, pastor of Grace Fellowship, a Grace Brethren church in Alta Loma, Calif., is recovering from a bicycle mishap on Tuesday, January 29 while at the Southwest Focus Retreat at Rancho Capistrano, Calif. He and Ed Trenner, associate pastor at Grace Church, a Grace Brethren church in Orange, Calif., were taking a morning ride.

To avoid being hit by a car, the two collided. As Roy tells it, "I hit my hip, knee, and rib cage and Ed landed on his face. He had several deep lacerations on his face and had two chipped teeth repaired yesterday afternoon."

Roy has a hairline fracture on his pelvic bone but will not need additional surgery. He's anticipating being released from the hospital by Saturday afternoon. He's currently in San Dimas Community Hospital, room 420.

Ed returned to the Focus Retreat, which concluded this morning (Wednesday).

"God is good," says Roy. "It could have been a lot worse."

Click here to send Roy a note of encouragement.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Roger Mayes Convalescing at Home

Roger Mayes, pastor of Grace Community Church of Yucca Valley, California, wants to thank everyone for their prayers during his ten-day hospital stay for pneumonia.

Tests revealed a chronic infection which is on-going. The acute infection responded to high levels of antibiotics.

He is convalescing at home and will get back into the routines of ministry slowly. Thank you for your prayers.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Baptists Publish Guidebook for Pastors

Updated 'Guidebook for Pastors' published

By Tammi Reed Ledbetter

DALLAS (BP)--How do you counsel an abusive husband? Why should you re-evaluate a ministry every 18 months? Why do 60-year-old pastors tend to stop leading and start following? Should a pastor lead a split from a church? How do you find and attract good staff members? What is the most important responsibility of a pastor?

Two veteran ministers answer these and a host of other questions in a new book aimed at helping pastors at any stage of ministry, no matter the size of the church.

Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and James W. Bryant, professor of pastoral theology at Criswell College in Dallas, are co-authors of "The New Guidebook for Pastors," released by B&H Publishers of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The authors revisited the original "Guidebook for Pastors" written more than 25 years ago by W.A. Criswell, the long-tenured pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas. Brunson is a former pastor at the flagship Texas church.

The New Guidebook for Pastors frequently refers to the life messages, examples and writings of the two world-famous pastors of FBC Dallas, Criswell and George W. Truett, who "still encourage pastors today," the authors acknowledge.

Brunson and Bryant also tap 21 notable Southern Baptist pastors, seminary faculty and other contemporary leaders who offer pertinent testimonies and insight based on years of experience in ministry.

Four SBC seminaries as well as Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., have added the book as required reading for students studying pastoral ministry. The book also has garnered trans-denominational appeal at Cincinnati Christian University. One director of missions in north Texas plans to give a copy to each pastor in the local Baptist association.

The call to preach, the authors note, is a call to prepare, which is the focus of the first two chapters of The New Guidebook for Pastors.

Bryant and Brunson also warn: "If you are in the ministry and do not have a clear, unquestionable sense of God's call, even though you may not be able to explain it, then you should leave the ministry immediately. The harm you can do to people, a congregation, your family, yourself, and the kingdom is beyond description."

For pastors confident in their call, however, the authors concede, "There will be many times when the only thing that holds your hand to the plow is your call."

The chapter titled "The Pastor and His First Church" cites questions that both the pastoral candidate and pastor search committee should ask each other.

"Very few pastors stay at their first church throughout their entire pastoral career," the authors writing, adding, "Many young pastors make mistakes in their first church that would be fatal if the church were not small, loving, and forgiving.

"If a pastor wants to stay at a church, he should learn to practice servant leadership rather than raw pastoral authority, in spite of what many church growth publications suggest," Brunson and Bryant write, noting that a pastor who practices servant leadership gradually gains both pastoral authority and long tenure.

"God has used many difficult churches in the lives of pastors to teach them how to be crucified with Christ and to stay on the cross like Jesus did," the authors observe. "The default attitude for the pastor is to stay, not to leave."

Contrary to what many pastors and church members believe, the authors state that a pastor's "first and most important responsibility is to preach the Word of God" and not to cast a vision, attend the latest convention, be at every class social or make hospital visits.

The primacy of preaching is why the authors included a step-by-step process on sermon preparation. As important as preaching is, however, Brunson and Bryant recognize how other vitally important matters can consume a pastor's time. So they offer practical tips on dealing with staff, worship, technology, missions and evangelism.

Other chapters and sections of the book address such matters as:

-- proper, biblical administration of baptism and Lord's Supper, including theological and historical background for the ordinances.

-- weddings and funerals as significant avenues for ministry.

-- biblical bases of their reasoning regarding divorce and out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

-- protocol of hospital visitation.

-- grief counseling.

-- the minister's family, prayer life, finances, ethics, politics, moral issues, denominational relationships, retirement, reward, schedule and ministry burnout.

An extensive appendix offers examples of a wedding ceremony, funeral service, public gospel invitation, staff organization chart, business meeting agenda, pastor's resume, salary and benefits, and advice on journaling, filing, calendar planning and personal library.

The book notes that most pastors are terminated not because they are theologically unsound or unable to preach eloquent sermons, but because they are unable to deal appropriately with people and their problems. Therefore, Brunson and Bryant advise pastors on where to get counseling after termination.

The authors pledged to be "comprehensive and complete" while recognizing that "each chapter could be turned into a book." Noting that early books on pastoral ministry dealt with the spiritual aspects of the Christian ministry while later books shifted toward practical concerns, Bryant and Brunson see their book as balancing the two, dealing with the call to pastoral ministry before addressing numerous applications of that call.

The extensive list of topics in The New Guidebook for Pastors reflects the varied skills a minister must bring to the pastorate, raising the question of how one man can succeed on all fronts. "The pastorate is hard work, and the pastor should work hard," Brunson and Bryant write. "Done biblically, approached spiritually, pursued passionately, evaluated constantly, and studied intently, the pastorate can be the most satisfying and blessed calling any man could ever hope to pursue."

Tammi Reed Ledbetter is editor of the Texas Baptist Crossroads magazine published by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Gary Austin Health Update

Gary Austin, pastor of the Grace Brethren church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been battling colorectal cancer for the past year. Here are excerpts from his most recent update:

I've completed the eight rounds of chemotherapy [5-FU] with minimal physical effects through the whole process. I kept asking the oncologist if he was giving me a placebo - sugar water instead of the "real stuff." He insisted I was getting the "real stuff." So I guess I can be very pleased with these minimal effects.

My oncologist has said he doesn't want to see me "officially" until next July. I do see the surgeon in April for his six-month follow-up. I'll have a CT scan at that time.

On the positive side, I've been preaching each Sunday since late August 2007, except for days church was cancelled due to weather matters. Jean and I did go to Indiana over Thanksgiving last November. We've been over to Garwin, IA, with close friends Pastor Howard & June Immel a couple times, too. We share lots of things in our lives -- it's great to have friends that close, they have been a strength for us this past year.

Both Jean and I are now under IowaCare medical coverage. This is the state insurance. IowaCare has covered ALL of my cancer treatments and covers all my medications - Dilantin, as well as any cancer meds. It's been an incredible answer to prayer for us!

Physically, I'm feeling much like I was prior to starting cancer treatments - almost! Jean and I have joined the Cedar Rapids YMCA for this year - with the goal of getting out to walk as much as we can each week.

The church here has been so incredible to us through this past year - always encouraging, maintaining support, and faithful in prayer. We have much to be thankful for - and we would like to see something positive begin that can carry on.

So you can see several areas of prayer for us: Praise God for His power in healing, strength through the process, and seeing our ministry continue. Ask for healing for Jean, restoring of physical strength for us both, and for our ministry at Cedar Rapids Grace.

Who Stole My Church? -- A Review

I read a book over the weekend I sure wish BMH Books had published.

Not only do I think it will do well commercially, but I think its message can be exceedingly helpful for many of our churches.

The book’s title is Who Stole My Church? and Gordon MacDonald is the author. The subtitle is “What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century.”

I think it’s so important, in fact, that I’ve purchased a copy for every member of my church’s pastoral staff and every member of the Board of Overseers.

MacDonald, who has pastored five churches in New England, has written a fictional work that could have taken place in any Grace Brethren church. A group of people, ages upper 50s to 70s, begins meeting on Tuesday evenings to process their feelings that their church has been “hijacked.”

The description on the dustjacket explains that MacDonald has seen churches drop their long-standing programs and traditions—choir-led worship, communion tables, formal dress, and midweek prayer services—seemingly on a whim, in an effort to mobilize younger members.

As a result, there’s been some bitterness and heartbreak that sometimes chokes older members who have spent their lives building that very community, dedicating hours of service and significant amounts of money in tithes.

These “builders and boomers” feel that their churches have been hijacked from underneath them, that someone has come in and stolen what they’ve worked so hard to create.

As the Tuesday night discussions unfold, MacDonald makes a bold move. He runs into the teenage members of his church’s youth praise band in a Panera Bread and he invites them (gasp!) to meet with the Tuesday night group to exchange ideas and viewpoints.

What happens next . . . well, you really need to read the book.

These are tough, tough subjects for our churches and deep-seated feelings run strong. But there is hope, and MacDonald gives us a glimpse into at least one way to encourage free exchange and to build unity within the local church.

I rarely “push” books BMH hasn’t published. This is one worth getting.

Ralph Wiley's Influence on Youth Remembered

The Marion, Ohio, Star is currently featuring an article on the late Ralph Wiley, Grace Brethren pastor and prison chaplain, focusing on his widespread influence on young people. Here is an excerpt. To read the entire article, click on

MARION — The Rev. Ralph Wiley was a father figure to many during his years as pastor at First Church of the Brethren, then as chaplain at Marion Correctional Institution and as advisor for the Ambassadors for Christ Club, which met every Sunday night at his home east of Caledonia until the mid 1980s. The club no longer exists.

Rev. Wiley passed away in Florida on Jan. 3. No funeral service or calling hours were held as he donated his body to science. His daughter, Mary Sprague, said her father conducted his own memorial service at Thanksgiving, after being diagnosed with cancer in late summer.

Barney Young was a child when Wiley served as pastor at First Church of the Brethren in the early 1950s, and became close friends with Wiley’s son, Galen.

“He (Wiley) was probably pastor 7-10 years before he left and went to the prison,” Young said. “He baptized me before he left. There were about 30-40 in church when he came and we had about 200 when he left. He really helped our church to grow and became active in the community. He started the prison ministry and I’m not sure it was a paying job when he first went out there.”

Young said Wiley had five children of his own and a foster child, but displayed a generous heart for youth in general and their need to follow in the pathways of a Christian.

“He was such an inspiration to all of us,” he said. “His son, Galen, followed in his footsteps. Right now he is a minister in Lancaster, Pa.”

Pray for Dick McCarthy

This message came in Saturday, requesting prayer for Richard McCarthy, retired Grace Brethren pastor now living in the Columbus, Ohio, area:

We would appreciate your prayers for Dick. He is in Riverside Hospital because he had trouble breathing Thursday due to fluid in his lungs. He is scheduled to have heart catherization Monday and his cardiologist wants him to have an aortic valve replacement.

We will meet with the heart surgeon Monday after the catherization to talk about the valve replacement. This would be a "redo" heart surgery and thus a higher risk. God's wisdom is certainly needed. Thanks for praying for us.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

AGBM President Gives Updates

Here are a few updates excerpted from the most recent e-mail newsletter update from AGBM president Joel Richards of Modesto, California. If you are not receiving the e-mail updates, click on and ask to be added to the list.

This Year's Membership

After all the dust has settled and dues have been finally paid we have more than 440 members in our Association. The exciting news is that there are 28 new members who successfully completed examinations for licensure or ordination within the past year. These men have received a one-time complimentary membership for this year.

While we are moving toward the ability to pay your dues online, we are still dependent upon the districts to maintain a list of those men who are qualified in your district and to forward them to our office.

Ballots Are In and Counted

All three members who were on the ballot for re-election were confirmed by wide margins: Terry Daniels, Greg Howell, and Ralph Molyneux.

Changes in the prototype bylaws received 94% approval.

40% of members returned ballots.

Everett Church Seeks Children's Minister


Community Grace Brethren Church of Everett, PA, is seeking a pastor or lay individual to oversee the children's ministry.

This full-time position, being added to existing staff of Senior Pastor and Pastor of Youth and Parents, will involve teaching children, as well as assisting in the training of others to be involved with all children's emphasis programs, including
Vacation Bible School. This pastor or lay individual will also assist the other pastors with administrative duties and small group involvement.

A board of elders provides leadership for this growing church of approximately 260 in attendance. For more information, please email Dr. Bob Lazer at

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Evaluate Your Church's Website

From ASSIST News Service:

By Michael Ireland

WHEATON, ILLINOIS (ANS) -- Churches often find it difficult to know how to build sites that will engage with outsiders in their area. They ask: “How can our church website help us reach out into our community?”

Churches can now receive a free customized 15-page report about their websites, enabling them to develop strategies to reach outsiders in their communities.

And this year’s international web outreach focus day -- Internet Evangelism Day -- will be used by churches around the world on Sunday, April 27, 2008.

Churches can now use an online tool to evaluate their website.

A new online tool has been released by Internet Evangelism Day, which provides churches with a free 15-page evaluation report. Users assess their own website by answering 55 simple questions on the tool questionnaire.

Their customized report is immediately displayed online, ready to print or save. Its recommendations are tailored with specific practical suggestions, based on the questions that were ticked. View the design tool here:

A church site which has been prioritized for non-Christian visitors can be remarkably effective in reaching the community. "Week in, week out, more visitors turn up at our church on a Sunday because of the website, than anything else," writes one growing church in London UK.

Church leaders have welcomed this new resource:

“Most church websites are not evangelistic. The new Church Website Design Tool can help rectify this problem. This is a wonderful tool,” says Dr. Bill Gordon, Evangelism Response Center, NAMB.

"There is no silver bullet for a great ministry site. However, this checklist is an invaluable tool to identify critical areas for improvement. Every church should study this regularly and act on it!" adds Gary McClure, LifeWay Ministries.

“I am glad to commend Internet Evangelism Day,” says Dr John Stott.

This Evaluation Tool is just one of a range of pages at that help Christians learn to use the Web to reach the world.

Internet Evangelism Day also encourages churches to hold a web awareness focus day on or near 27 April 2008, to explore this huge potential. Their site offers free downloads (PowerPoint, video clips, drama scripts and handouts) so that churches can create a custom program of any length from two minutes to an hour.

Internet Evangelism Day is a project of the Internet Evangelism Coalition, a group of major ministries involved in web ministry, based at the Billy Graham Center, Wheaton. Website:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Please Pray for Pastor Roger Mayes

Word has been received that Pastor Roger Mayes of Grace Community Church, the Grace Brethren church in Yucca Valley, California, is in the critical care unit of the Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Desert being treated for pneumonia.

Roger's wife, Ruth Ann, says Roger's respiratory infections began in November and "have just gotten worse." Your prayers for Roger's treatment and quick recovery will be appreciated by the family and the Yucca Valley church.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hagerstown Grace Welcomes New Pastor

According to information received from the Grace Brethren Church in Hagerstown, Maryland, Harald Bjerga began as senior pastor at the church this past Sunday.

Pastor Harald Bjerga, wife Kim and children Sarah, Hagan, and Ellie moved to Hagerstown from Fremont, Ohio, and his first Sunday in the pulpit was January 13. Bjerga was formerly the associate pastor at Grace Community Church in Fremont.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Jason Carmean Joins Fellowship Council

From the e-mail update of the North Central Ohio district:

Jason Carmean (Lexington, Ohio, GBC) has been appointed to the FGBC Fellowship Council to complete the term of Andy Wirt (Clearview GBC). Andy stepped down to focus on the many responsibilities of leading the church plant in the New Albany (Ohio) area. Jason joins Ron Smals (Woodville GBC) from the NCO District on the Council. Fellowship Council will meet January 24-28 in Seal Beach, California.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Tribute to Ralph Wiley by Son Galen

Longtime Grace Brethren pastor and prison chaplain Ralph Wiley passed into the presence of his Lord on Thursday, January 3. Here is a tribute to Ralph by his son, Galen, who pastors the Grace Brethren church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In this photo Ralph is at left, grandson Jonathan is in the middle, and son Galen is at right.

Ralph Wiley took his final flight on Thursday, January 3, 2008. He boarded the plane at 5:18 PM and arrived safely at his destination at 5:18 PM in heaven’s terminal.

He was greeted by the Lord – and by his sweetheart of 59 years – and by a host of others welcoming him home. He had gotten his boarding pass on November 7 when the doctor told him what he called the “best news he had heard in years” – his body was full of cancer and he would probably be dead in two months. And ever since then he has been so excited that he could hardly wait. And now the wait is over – and he is home free.

In typical Ralph Wiley fashion, he planned and led his own “Living Memorial Service” on Sunday morning, November 25, at his beloved GBC in Sebring, Florida. He joked that he wanted “to hear all the good things that people had to say about him.”

The real reason was that he could never pass up an opportunity to preach – and he wanted to have one last opportunity to challenge people to love the Lord with all their hearts so they could live like trees planted by the streams of water (Psalm 1). That was a real highlight for him and his family, as all five of his children were present along with several of their spouses.

He spent his final weeks then with his daughter and husband, Mark and Ruth Chibis, in Hallandale Beach, Florida. During that time many of his children and grandchildren were able to visit and call and celebrate the impact he has had in their lives.

He also had the joy of leading a woman to the Lord one week before he died, as she wanted to talk to someone who was not afraid to die. He had willed his body to science (in the hopes that others could be helped), so there will be no further funeral or memorial service.

Ralph Wiley has had a huge impact in the life and ministry of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches since he began at the GBC in Galion, Ohio, in the early 1960s.

After serving as Protestant Chaplain at a prison in Marion, Ohio, for about 28 years, he retired early and began serving as interim pastor and wife in many churches in our Fellowship: Akron Ellet (twice) and Minerva in Ohio; Charlotte in North Carolina; Orlando, Maitland, Okeechobee, Fort Lauderdale (twice) and Sebring (twice) in Florida.

He also served with CE National for several years as a Senior Adult Coordinator. He and his wife Dorotha have also invested deeply in missions through our Grace Brethren International Missions, with special burdens for the pygmies in Africa and the church-planters in the Philippines.

His desire would be that any memorial gifts would go to GBIM, designated for the “Filipino church planters” working with Ted Ruiz (GBIM; PO Box 80065; City of Industry, CA 91716-8065).

He has also left a living legacy in the Fellowship as his son Galen Wiley is pastor at the GBC in Lancaster, PA, his granddaughter Letitia Yoder with her husband Mike is serving with Grace Brethren International Missions as a missionary in Berlin, Germany, his grandson Jonathan Wiley with his wife Kim is on the pastoral staff at the GBC in Columbus, Ohio, and his granddaughter Katrina Walker with her husband Cort was involved at the Liberty GBC in Johnson, PA, as their first pastor for several years (before Cort went to Regent University for his law degree to help defend Christian freedoms).

Ralph has impacted countless lives with his love for the Lord, his love for people, his delightful humor, and his constant challenge to believe in Jesus and follow Him. He has run the race well and has crossed the finish line. And now he is enjoying his rewards – and cheering us on to that same victory!!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hank Montoya With the Lord

The following comes to us via Doug Lee and Tom Avey:

Hank Montoya, a leader of "the Fountain" a Grace Brethren Church in Fontana, California, that recently closed and a long-time friend of folks who regularly
attend the Southwest Focus retreat, passed away Friday, December 28.

Hank worked with Doug Lee to plant a network of house churches in that area. Doug reports, "I've got some sad news. Hank Montoya, my longtime associate, passed away last Friday. You know he was struggling with ALS (Lou Gerhig's disease) and it finally took his life.

"Please pray for his grown kids (two sons and two daughters). As you would expect, he was the spiritual anchor of his family."