Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gordon Austin Recuperating from Quadruple Bypass

By late afternoon today former GBIM missionary Gordon Austin was awake and beginning to recover from quadruple heart bypass surgery performed this morning at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The surgeon seemed satisfied that the operation went well, and a full recovery is anticipated. The family thanks all who have prayed for Gordon and encourages prayer for his continued recuperation and recovery.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gordon Austin to Have Heart Bypass Operation April 29

Gordon Austin, former Grace Brethren missionary to Argentina and employee of Grace Brethren International Missions, has learned that he will need a heart bypass operation. Here is a note from Gordon and Charlotte, who will appreciate your prayers for the days ahead:

The date for Gordon's heart by-pass operation is set for Tuesday, April 29. We will greatly appreciate your prayers for this procedure and recovery process. We are so grateful for the many we have heard from who are upholding us before the Lord. We are thankful to be in His hands.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

NCO Examines, Recommends Spoelstra and Stanley

From the latest e-mail update from North Central Ohio district coordinator Todd Scoles:

Congratulations to Sean Spoelstra (Powell) and Beau Stanley (Worthington)! Both were recommended unanimously (Sean for ordination and Beau for licensure) to their respective congregations after the NCO exams last week. Thanks to the men who came to participate and encourage in the process.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Randy Smith Recovery Update

Pastor Randy Smith (Grace Brethren Church of Sebring, Florida, continues his slow recovery from a broken ankle. Here is an e-mail he recentloy sent to his prayer supporters:

Dear Ones at Grace:

You cannot know how thankful I am to serve such a great and loving God, and to shepherd such a loving flock. What a blessing you all are to me. I am recovering but am considerably "dopier" than normal at this moment. The pain and the medication are at war with each other, each winning at intervals.

I am thankful for this whole experience. I am praying and my inner man is being renewed. I am glad my Father can make sense of my babble on pain meds.

Just know that I am at peace, contented, and even thankful for the whole experience. Our God is good, and He knows what we need. I needed this, and He and I both know it. What a mighty God we serve!

Do be in sincere prayer for the whole flock. Aaron [son, Aaron David Smith] will be casted for three months, but is not likely to need surgery on his trapezium (a small hand bone). We are "on the mend", be it ever so slow!

Blessings to all of you! Pastor Randy

Brookville, OH, Seeking Senior Pastor

Senior Pastor

Brookville, OH – Brookville Grace Brethren Church is seeking the man God has called to ministry in this local body of believers! The church has about 85-90 attendees with a membership of 120.

BGBC has a vibrant youth ministry already in place with a fulltime Youth Pastor on staff. The church also has a large number of senior saints willing and eager to offer prayer support for any ministry, and desiring a shepherd to encourage them. Young families are currently lacking in the church, though growth in that area is visible.

The church is looking for the one man whom God has prepared for this unique opportunity. The “husband of one wife,” (I Tim. 3:2), who has placed God first in his heart and has a passion for both the lost and the found (Matt. 22:37-40). One who has a desire to see genuine Christ-like growth through making / building disciples along with strong Biblical preaching (Matt. 28:19-20), and has the compassion and wisdom from our Lord to counsel troubled and hurting individuals (Col. 3:12-17).

The church is looking for a minimum of a 4-year Bible College degree, with seminary experience preferred. Positive ministry experience with leadership responsibilities inside the local church is a must.



Friday, April 18, 2008

Pray for Dan Grabill

This new prayer request for Pastor Dan Grabill of the Brookville, Ohio, Grace Brethren Church comes from fellow pastors Steve Makofka and Ned Denlinger. Dan was diagnosed with a malignant tumor about a year ago and has been undergoing chemo treatments.

I just got word that Dan Grabill has picked up a blood infection and the doctors haven't been able to find an anitbiotic that will help yet.

Could you send out a quick email to the other pastor asking them to pray for Dan?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jeffrey Brown to Pastor at Middlebranch

Middlebranch (OH) Grace Brethren Church is pleased to announce that Rev. Jeffrey Brown is their new pastor. Pastor Brown comes from the Spring Valley Grace Brethren Church (OH) where he served for seventeen years.

Rev. Brown has a great love for people and has had an extensive counseling ministry. He also has a background in working with youth. His wife Joyce and his children Christa and Craig are also supportive in the ministry. Welcome Pastor Brown!

Mike Jentes Moving West, Leaving thequest

Mike Jentes (shown here with Mindi and children) has informed his network of house churches in the Columbus, Ohio, area that he has accepted a new challenge and will be moving west. Here is an excerpt from his latest e-mail update:

I wanted to share with you the transition that is going on in our lives. You know that through the awesome support and launch of the East Side Grace Brethren Church (www.esgbc.org), we started thequest nearly eight years ago.

It has been a joy to see thequest impact many people's lives, serve our urban communities and start many house churches. Starting in the Short North and spreading all over Columbus and around the world, the light of Jesus has shone through the people and the churches connected to thequest.

At the end of January, I was offered a position with Church Multiplication Associates (CMA). CMA is the District Mission Board of the Southern California and Arizona Grace Brethren Churches, with our friend and mentor Neil Cole as executive director (www.cmaresources.org).

I've been working alongside them for a year & a half in a part-time role alongside my work with thequest. At this time, I know that God is calling me to step into that fuller role with CMA. One of the parts of that opportunity is that I would be in Long Beach, CA to fulfill the responsibilities.

To help make that happen the Los Altos Grace Brethren Church in Long Beach has invited us to come on their staff and help them too. (Phil Helfer- senior pastor, on the Fellowship Council of FGBC, and on the board with CMA - www.lagbc.org ) It is just like our God to make a win-win-win situation!

We came to the decision in the last month or so to follow God's call to serve in these roles. We are now in the process of telling others about our decision.

As far as timing is concerned, I have already stepped up my responsibilities with CMA. We are also looking at making the move to Long Beach at the end of July. There are obviously LOTS of details and things still to come together for a cross-country move. We'd covet your prayers for everything to come together for our family.

In addition, we BEG for your prayers for thequest as choices have to be made about the future. My prayer is that the best days of thequest are still ahead!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bicycle Boys Not Yet Fully Healed

Here is an item from Pastor Roy Halberg's weekly e-mail giving an update on the bicycle injuries sustained by Roy and Ed Trenner in the cycling accident at the Southwest Focus Retreat in January:

I am healing well and completed my physical therapy this week. Still have a ways to go to be walking normally without a limp

My friend, Ed Trenner, who was involved in the bike accident with me, found this last week that our accident tore lose an old hernia surgery and he had surgery yesterday to re-secure his intestines. Remember him as he recovers and heals.

Challenges Face Pastors of Smaller Churches

From the Southern Baptist News service:

By Jerry Higgins

LEWISVILLE, N.C. (BP)--A LifeWay Research study reveals that the top challenge facing small-church pastors is finding enough hours in the day to do the Lord's work.

Brad Waggoner, vice president of B&H Publishing Group and former LifeWay Christian Resources vice president over the research and ministry development division, shared the findings at "Impact 2008," a three-day conference geared to small-church pastors. Some of the best information from the study of nearly 400 small-church pastors -- defined as those who pastor churches with attendance of 100 or fewer on Sunday -- didn't come from the areas of the survey which were the "check the box" answers but from the comments section, Waggoner said.

Candid comments gleaned from the study framed Waggoner's remarks to about 110 small-church pastors gathered at Lewisville (N.C.) Baptist Church in late March.

"The 'comment section' asked them, 'What are the greatest challenges you face as a small-church pastor?' This showed the heart of the pastors and they told us what their needs are," Waggoner said, outlining the top 10 challenges reflectfound in the remarks left by pastors on the survey.

1. Time. According to Waggoner, 32 percent of the respondents said they were bivocational pastors and didn't have enough hours in the day to do what they were called to do.

"I read comment after comment which said pastors were under pressure to juggle responsibilities," Waggoner said. "The fact is they have 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They worked at their job somewhere and also dealt with the church. They were tired, drained of energy. They try to fulfill their calling and get the job done. There's no easy way to get it all done.

"All pastors fight that battle. Every leader is tired. But, at the end of the day, they trust the Lord to do the best they can with [the] energy they have and just trust Him."

2. Resistance.
Small-church pastors said their congregation doesn't want to change, which leads to stagnation. Pastors have to deal with individuals who want to usurp authority from the pastor, forgetting that it's God who controls His church.

"We have to patiently hold the standard high and teach the Word of God," Waggoner said. "It takes a while for the church to grow biblically ... and takes expositional teaching for the church to get healthy. We can't lower the standards of church. Preaching precedes change. We have to raise the bar of expectations."

3. Lack of commitment from members. Many pastors said they deal with apathy and indifference. Waggoner said it doesn't matter what the size of the church is, but small churches feel it more.

"There are no quick fixes," Waggoner said. "It can't be about the man in the pulpit. We hear so much fluff and stuff. We try to sneak up on people with discipleship. You have to start out with discipleship. We've underestimated the power of a godly man or godly woman."

4. Too few workers. If the church's philosophy is that the pastor is a hired gun, the professional, it will wear the pastor out, Waggoner said. He also said most churches do not have a strategy to equip the laity for ministry.

"You have to teach what the Bible says about the pastor's role," Waggoner said. "I think every church should have a class on teaching spiritual gifts so people ... can take the next step on finding a place in the church ministry. You have to look people in the eye. There needs to be a strategy for involvement which fits the size of your church."

5. Age of the congregation. As the church gets older, young people do not feel attracted to the church. Waggoner said there's no easy answer, but pastors have to serve whomever God brings into their midst.

"Talk to the young people," Waggoner said. "There may be things that can be done to reverse it."

6. Lack of money.
Waggoner said he had no easy answers for pastors who say they don't have resources. He did say pastors have to do a better job of teaching about the importance of tithing.

"Too often we preach [on money only] when we go into a building campaign or there's a budget shortfall," Waggoner said. "I think we should teach God's standards on biblical discipleship along the way. It should be part of disciple-making. You honor the Lord with your wealth."

7. Worldliness of the church. Waggoner said he saw in the survey something he called "cultural seepage."

"We allow the world's standards to come into the church," he said. "Sometimes we have propagated that through our arrogance. We're dictatorial, self absorbed. Often preaching becomes a performance. Preaching is not an end but a means. Have we allowed the world to permeate how we think?

"I'm grateful for the Conservative Resurgence," he said of the SBC's theological direction since 1979. "But we have been deceived to think that being conservative is being godly. We have to make sure we are walking in a way that honors God."

8. Age of the pastor. Several said they were getting too old in the survey.

9. Too few people.
In the survey, pastors said they couldn't get things done because not enough help was available.

10. Demographics.
The community around the church is changing but the church isn't growing.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Send Christian Your Input on Brethren History, Impact

As we approach the 300th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Brethren movement this summer (1708, Alexander Mack, Schwarzenau, Germany), the FGBC is being invited to join with other Brethren groups in some joint commemorative activities.

Christian Becker, pastor of our Grace Brethren church in Buena Vista, Virginia, has agreed to represent us on a joint panel with several other Brethren groups. He would welcome your ideas on how he can best answer the three questions posed by the three panels.

Please forward any of your responses to these questions or suggestions to Christian at cjbecker@embarqmail.com. If you have questions about the Encyclopedia Project, or the anniversary celebrations being held this summer in Schwarzenau, forward them to Terry White (BMH) at tdwhite@bmhbooks.com.

At the joint 2008 joint Annual Conference of The Brethren Church and the Church of the Brethren on Sunday, July 13, a panel is being planned which would involve at least one representative of each of the six Brethren bodies that comprise the Brethren Encyclopedia project.

Three panels are being planned around three questions as follows:

45 minutes beginning at 1:30 with Jeff Bach as the moderator:

How does your Brethren group embody the heritage of the Schwarzenau movement?

45 minutes beginning at 2:30 with Brian Moore as moderator:

From within your faith heritage, what do you see your Brethren body carrying into the future?

45 minutes beginning at 3:30 with Brenda Colijn as moderator:

What distinctive qualities do you bring to the Brethren witness?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Favorite Book of All Time?

Poll Asks, Name Your Favorite Book

Harris Interactive surveyed American adults to find out "What is your favorite book of all time?" The answers:

1. The Bible
2. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
3. Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien
4. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
5. The Stand, by Stephen King
6. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
8. Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown
9. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
10. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Desirable to Make One Wise: Why God Allows Evil

This devotional was submitted by James Burke, pastor of the Riner Grace Brethren Church, Riner, Virginia.

As a pastor, I am occasionally asked to explain why a loving God would allow the horrible things we each encounter in our lives. Sometimes the question cries out from genuine pain, but more often expresses a sense of skepticism. Seldom is an answer expected. This is presented as the final, unanswerable argument against the gospel.

The truth, however, is clearly found in the first three chapters of Scripture.

Genesis 1 describes how the Universe came into being. All of creation (including angels) came about by the power of the spoken word of God, all except man. In Genesis 2:7, God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Man is God’s special creation made from the earth and the breath of God. He was created in the image of God as God’s representative to all the rest of His universe. God gave to man authority over all creation and the responsibility to subdue it.

Moses then describes in chapter 2 the Garden God made for man. From a world God described as “very good” (Gen. 1:31), He collected all the best and designed a home for Man. In the midst of this perfect garden God planted two unique trees, both of which tell us something of Himself as well as of His creation man.

The first tree was the Tree of Life. Man was given full access to this tree. Man was made with the potential for immortality. From the beginning, God has made everlasting life freely available to man. We have, however, no record that Adam or Eve ever ate of this tree. God’s best gifts are often left untasted.

The second tree God placed in the heart of His garden was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This was the tree God warned Adam about. God gave him a commandment not to eat of this tree because in the day he ate of it, he would surely die. The name of this tree is intriguing: Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Not the Tree of Evil, or the Tree of Knowledge. Man already had intimate knowledge of good — he lived in a good garden with a good wife and had fellowship with the good God.

Part of being created in the image of God included a necessity of free will. God offered man a life of good, with no knowledge of evil; however, the alternative had to be available for free will to exist.

The serpent presented the fruit of this tree to Eve as something “desirable to make one wise (Gen. 3:6).” Living in perfection, Eve deliberately chose to know what life would be like in a world apart from God. She desired to know evil. Adam chose to place his love for his wife above his love for God, and ate.

The Scripture says they knew they were naked and sewed fig leaves for themselves. It is hard to imagine it was simply physical nakedness that horrified them so. After all, husbands and wives today are “naked and unashamed.” Hebrews 13:4 says “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled.” Rather it was a sudden understanding of vulnerability. They understood they had been manipulated, and they became distrustful. Adam was “afraid because he was naked,” afraid, not embarrassed or ashamed. Sin brings division and distrust into the family, community, and society.

God, rather than responding angrily to Adam’s sin, sorrowfully allowed Man to face the consequences of his choice. God’s justice demands separation from sinful man, but it is important to note that man freely chose this separation. It was to fulfill man’s wish to understand evil that God cursed the ground. Genesis 3:17 “cursed is the ground for your sake” could be better translated “for your benefit.” The attitude is not “You caused this!” but rather, “Since this is what you want....” God has given Adam and Eve what they demanded — the opportunity to see evil in the world.

Yet, as man is rebelled, God offered provision for restoration. A promise of a redeemer is in the midst of the curse:
“And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel (Gen. 3:15).”

Why is the first promise of the victorious seed of woman directed toward the serpent, rather than to Adam or Eve? It seems neither Adam nor Eve yet understood the enormity of the choice they had made. Here God is outlining the consequences of their decision, and Adam decides this is the right time to name his wife (Gen. 3:20). It seems they were listening with some anticipation to the adventures of their new life. Michelangelo got it wrong -- rather than stumbling broken-hearted from the garden, man marched arrogantly into the new world he had caused.

And still, God killed two animals and made clothes for their journey. He gave them a sacrificial system to remind them of the enormity of their sin, and the promise of a Savior. God’s love is shown to us in that while we were in the midst of sinning, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)!

Every time we experience evil, it is another reminder of the goodness of God. Truly, Christ will come
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified (Isaiah 61:3).

Randy Smith Breaks Ankle--A Prayer Request

Please pray for a complete recovery and superior medical treatment for Dr. Randy Smith (pictured), pastor of the Grace Brethren church in Sebring, Florida, who broke his ankle this past week sliding into second base during a ball game.

In an e-mail Randy said, "I am blessed. I was asking God for a 'break' but He took me a bit more literally than I expected.

"Our new building will be ready soon, finishing touches are underway as I speak. I will be out for an extended period as I get evaluated for surgery on the 15th and anticipate a long journey."

Dr. Randall Smith is a respected Bible teacher who has lived and worked in the places of the Bible for more than a quarter of his Life. Randy studied in Jerusalem and holds degrees in Near East Archaeology and a Doctorate in Comparative Religion from Conservative Theological Seminary.

He and his wife Dottie have three children and have lived in Sebring since 2002.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Do You Preach From a Manuscript?

A recent blog post from Dr. Ray Pritchard gives his insights to a practical question. Here are the first five of his 12 points. To read the entire article, click on http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/pritchard/11572558/

Do You Preach From a Manuscript?

This question arrived yesterday from a young man just starting in the ministry. I’m going to take a stab at it and then invite others to weigh in.

"Perhaps this is a question you could post on your blog. I’m a young guy just starting to preach. I’m still learning how to exactly formulate my notes and thoughts for good delivery on Sunday morning. Currently I prepare a pretty detailed outline. But I’ve benefited greatly from preachers like yourself who do an entire written manuscript. I noticed that Brian Bill seems to do this. I’m curious how this works. Do you just read the entire thing? Do you memorize it? And how do you make the reading dynamic?"

1) Like most preachers, I have changed my style more once than during my ministry. In my earliest days, I preached without notes. Later I preached using extensive notes (10-14 pages). Still later I preached from a manuscript. Later I preached using brief notes (a page or so). These days I vary what I do depending on the message, the topic and the audience.

2) Obviously there isn’t one right or wrong way. You have find what works for you.

3) That said, in today’s world I think we can safely say that the fewer notes you use, the better. That’s true for most people–not for everyone.

4) The great enemy of preaching from a manuscript is that you lose eye contact with the audience. It can sound like a lecture instead of a sermon.

5) I have utilized a complete manuscript in the pulpit mostly when I was preaching on a controversial topic and needed to choose my words carefully.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Meet You in Louisville?

Danny Wright, teaching pastor at the Grace Brethren church in Greenville, Ohio, would like to know if any others from the Fellowship are planning to attend the "Together For the Gospel" conference in Lousville, Kentucky, April 15-17.

Danny says, "I would love to know if any other Grace Brethren are going to be at 'together for the gospel' from April 15 to April 17. It would be great to possibly grab a meal together, or find a corporate time to meet, pray, discuss the issues at the conference."

If you're planning to attend the conference, you're invited to contact Danny at http://lectiocontinua.blogspot.com/2008/04/together-for-gospel.html or e-mail him at danny@greenvillegrace.org.

Gordon Austin Recuperating at Home

Thank you for praying for Gordon Austin. He returned home to Winona Lake on Tuesday, April 1, and will be returning for several more stents in a month or two. The family appreciates your prayers for his recovery.