By Kirk Bookout
“I hope you support Indiana Ministries.” I often said this to pastors. When I served in national ministries, I also encouraged support for state ministries. “Why?” he said, “What’s in it for our church?” I had yet to learn the gift of diplomatic answers. I replied by asking the pastor a question. I asked him, “Is that what you teach the people of your church about giving? Do you teach them there is no need to support ministry if you don’t get anything out of it?” I asked him, “What if they don’t like the music, or want a new ministry, or if they say they are not being fed by the preaching?” (Note the confession above about lack of diplomacy.) “Do you tell them not to give?” That sounds more like teaching consumerism and not the joy of stewardship. I could have told him the reasons he should give. There are solid reasons to support Indiana Ministries.
HELPING YOUR AREA FAMILY OF CHURCHES MAKES A DIFFERENCE
Perhaps you think your church is strong and does not need Indiana Ministries… for now. I would paraphrase Paul, “We who are strong (as people and a church) ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” (Rom 15:1-2) The very nature of the church in helping others is not dependent on what we get out of it. Your support of Indiana Ministries gives churches hope for recovery, a future, and health in their community. These are Kingdom gifts.
Your church likely supports a wide variety of ministries outside the walls of your church. You may support worldwide missions. You help them when they are in crisis and when they have issues. That helps fulfill the great commission. But we are also called to reach out locally and regionally…. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria (Ohio might be Samaria) and to the ends of the Earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Since I retired from Children of Promise, I have served in four churches as an interim pastor. All four were directly helped by state ministries. Three faced crisis issues. I personally saw the encouragement and support the Church of God state organization gave. These four churches now know there is a larger church family they can count on. You help make that possible if you support state ministries. In the four churches I know of, six pastors were helped, counseled, and encouraged by state ministries, including new pastors and past pastors.
LASTING RELATIONSHIPS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
My latest spiritual gift inventory shows that I am especially gifted at breakfast and lunch. I felt blessed to meet many pastors using those gifts. Many going through dark times shared their story. I have listened to stories of grief, attack, family crisis, health issues, questioning their call, abuse, lost hope, and more. We need relationships. Often sharing our vulnerability with those in the church is not safe. I often grieved that I left many knowing they were isolated in many ways. Once I was asked to do the funeral of the wife of a nearby Church of God minister. I hardly knew him. He told me he was alone. He said that he did not fellowship with ministers because his time was for the church. At the time when he needed friends, he had no one to call on. I consider this tragic.
As a pastor, I wanted the best for the church, and knew I must spend time with others in ministry. State meetings were a natural connecting place. State events were good, the relationships were vital. Beyond and outside of meetings relationships grew. It equipped me on many levels.
I am acquainted with devastation and pain. I am thankful that I have a core group of friends who have been there. Without those friends, I suspect one tragedy could have grown into more in my own life. Many of those friendships started at state general assemblies and other state and regional meetings. Sometimes friends had no answer. They listened and allowed me to talk and sometimes vent. I will not pretend to know all the dynamics of how this works; I just know they made a difference. Perhaps tragedy is not about you. You might be that right friend at the right time for someone who needs you in our own Church of God family. It doesn’t happen if we do not connect. I will confess often I went to state meetings without knowing or caring much about the program. (When it was great, it was serendipity and a bonus.) I went to see and have friends who knew the life of a church with the hope, blessings, and challenges of ministry.
INDIANA MINISTRIES HAS A FOCUS ON HELPING PASTORS AND CHURCHES.
How? My list would include the Annual Meeting. It is a major event and includes a celebration of the call of new ministers in the ordination service. It has speakers that are worth hearing, conferences, and once again fellowship. Much of what I learned about ministry happened in spending time with other ministers at these meetings. It is a great weekend of friends coming together and having fun (along with business and speakers that most often are great.) Don’t diminish the importance of seeing friends and having fun.
Attendance testifies that you are part of the family. It gives the opportunity to check in with each other with mutual accountability. I see it as so important that as in Interim Pastor I ask every pulpit committee to make Indiana’s annual meeting attendance part of the expectation of the call. It is a blessing to the church for a pastor to not go it alone. A ‘Lone Ranger’ approach ultimately leaves us hiding behind a mask. We need a place where we can take the masks off.
Indiana Ministries offers a variety of events including Launch 32, State Youth Convention, Leadership focus events, Mission 120, and other events which are planned considering the needs of Indiana pastors and churches.
CRISIS, COUNSELING AND LEGAL ISSUES
Indiana Ministries is uniquely in the position to know what is happening in Indiana and to be available to help. Churches have fights. (Yep, they happened in the New Testament too.) Churches and pastors need guidance. More than ever the greater church must be there to help in hard times. You do that through the work of Indiana Ministries.
I cherish the freedom and independence we have in our ministries and local churches. Just as important, I cherish the accountability we are called to have in this Church of God family. (Yes, that is in the New Testament too.) Several years ago, when I was chair of a credentials committee, we had seven ordained ministers on our approved list that no one knew. We did not know where they were and what they were doing. If they used their credentials in an inappropriate way, did we not bear some responsibility?
Could we with clear conscience say to the world, “We ordain, but we have no idea what they do, what they now believe, or where they are?” We need to be together for our own accountability. We need to be together to know each other, to better support local churches, and to protect society and the standards we live by.
Supporting the state with resources, with your time, and with your presence is a ministry of care. Indiana Ministries is not the state office. It is the people who serve there. It is the Church of God in Indiana. It is churches, lay leaders, and ministers who believe in this family of churches called The Church of God. In a unique, powerful, and God honoring way, we come together to encourage, support, heal, and build. I encourage you, please support this good work.