10/36 Initiative Church Updates

Journey of Faith Community is growing! They now have 2 groups meeting and their Facebook page is getting lots of weekly responses. They are currently in the process of waiting for other spaces for groups to open up, as well as preparing for their first Celebration event in January.

Harbor Dinner Church is making great strides forward as well. This week they served dinner to 65 people. They are encouraged that even some of their attendees are actually helping them with serving, setting up and taking down and partnering together. Those who come are really open to God working in their lives and 12 have been baptized.

Conference Worship Team Heading to Kenya

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Pastor David Turner of Hillsdale Free Methodist is leading a worship team who will be serving at an upcoming spiritual life conference for missionaries at Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya. This conference draws upwards of 500 missionaries from Kenya and Tanzania for a week of training, teaching, worship, and spiritual formation. The keynote speakers for this conference are Jill and Stuart Briscoe from Telling the Truth Ministries.

The conference team includes Joan and Austin Foster (Coldwater FMC), Zack Harmon (Grand River Community), Chris Kaufman (Canton - New Hope), and David and Elizabeth Turner (Hillsdale FMC). Please keep the team in you prayers during their trip which takes place November 21st through December 2nd, and pray especially that the Lord would use them to effectively lead the conference in worship.

New Conference Office & New Staff

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Earlier this year, the Conference Executive Team brought a proposal to the Conference Leadership Board to consider leasing the former Family Life Radio station building located just west of Spring Arbor on I-94.  This facility has been for sale and vacant for four years.   The proposal contained a rationale for the need of new space as well as a financial due diligence analysis.  During our fall meeting, the CLB toured the building and examined the proposal in detail.  Subsequently, the CLB unanimously authorized Mark Dowley to execute the lease which we have recently signed.  We expect to take possession of the facility sometime after the first of the year.  

WHY NEW SPACE?

Our staff team has grown. Since making our strategic hire last year with the addition of Assistant Superintendent Michael Forney the need for more space has been evident. 

Our staff team is changing. The reality is that our conference has changed dramatically since we created the Conference Administrator position almost a decade ago. Mark’s departure gives us the ability to realign our Conference staff team according to new realities and our current priorities.   We believe that it makes sense to redesign his position to that of a Conference business team consisting of part-time personnel. 

Our current office space is inadequate. We have virtually no collaborative/creative space for our current staff team to work. This creates built-in inefficiencies in our daily operations. We are also not able to have an office “work room” in order to produce and assemble larger scale projects.  

WHY THIS SPACE?

The size of the facility is adequate. It will offer needed space for the new part-time business team we are hiring to replace Conference Administrator Mark Dowley. We will have space for a conference room for committee meetings, work room for projects and collaborative/creative space for our staff team.   

The value of the facility is a bargain. Leased office space in the Jackson area averages $12 per square foot. The lease we have negotiated on this building is $5.46 per square foot. This makes this lease an exceptional value for us. Not only are our square foot costs much lower, but we also benefit from the additional space we need. In addition, we have negotiated an option to purchase this building with a fixed sale price. If we were to exercise our option our square foot cost would drop down to $2.36 per square foot making the long-term impact of owning this facility advantageous to our operations budget by driving down costs. In the short run, we will expend funds from our current cash reserves in order to get the building “move in ready”.  Despite these initial costs, our long-term operational costs will be reduced in the days ahead.

The condition of the facility is very good. We have had the building professionally inspected and it is in great condition.  

The location of the facility is excellent. This building is conveniently located just west of Spring Arbor on the I-94 corridor at Exit #127. I-94 serves as a major artery of the Conference. It also gives our Conference more visibility and establishes our commitment to be in the geographic center of the SMC.  

QUICK FAQ's

Does this align with our Mission as a Conference?

The mission of the SMC is to multiply disciples, leaders, groups and churches.  To accomplish this mission, we must have all of the tools at our disposal which we need in order to fulfill our mission of serving, resourcing and multiplying leaders and churches. Adequate and functional office space can’t be underestimated concerning its impact on our mission.  

How will this impact our current commitments to our 10/36 Multiplication Initiative?

This lease will not impact our current commitments toward multiplication!  Our Conference has “two buckets” of money.  The first “bucket” is our Conference operations budget which includes our current cash reserves.  The costs associated with this lease will be paid for out of this “bucket”.  Any giving that we have or will receive for the 10/36 Multiplication initiative funds goes into an entirely different “bucket” that cannot be used for Conference operations.  

Won’t this move cost the Conference churches more money to support Conference operations?  

None of the short term costs to move in are coming from local church “ministry share” giving to the Conference. The initial move in costs are coming from cash reserves from the sale of previous assets in the past few years. Our due diligence report indicates that ongoing maintenance & operational costs to this new building are budget neutral for our Conference operations budget.  We have forecast that in the long-run, we will drive down our operations portion of our Conference budget.  

Do we have a part-time business team in place for this transition?

Craig Simonds is a consecrated deacon and lay leader from our Dearborn Church.  Craig has accepted the Part-time Business Manager position.  In addition, Anna Goodsell, wife of ordained elder Gary Goodsell of our Kalamazoo Church, has accepted the position as our Conference bookkeeper.  Both Craig and Anna are being trained by Mark Dowley so as to provide a seamless transition and to ensure that the historical and institutional knowledge is not lost in this transition.  Both will begin their new duties after the first of the year.  An additional part-time business team person will be added once the “operational gaps” become clearer to us after the first of the year. 

Journey of Faith Community Begins

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Journey of Faith Community is on the move and is excited to see God answering your prayers for the 10/36 initiative. God is opening doors for Journey of Faith Community to begin their first groups. In just the last week, the door has opened for them to start multiple groups at the Lincoln Senior center, one for just seniors and several for adults of all ages. They’ve also received the go-ahead to start groups at the public library which will be open to families. As the number of groups increase, we look forward to their first monthly celebration service in January. This will be held in a local elementary school.

You can learn more about Journey of Faith on Facebook or their webpage. You can also give financially to Journey of Faith here.

Kalamazoo Free Methodist Church Relaunch

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God greatly blessed the relaunch at Kalamazoo Free Methodist Church. With over 150 in attendance (double the average attendance over the past two months) there was a highly energized atmosphere filling the church. The many new faces were a result of personal invitations, Facebook advertising, mailing campaign and yard signs throughout the community. Despite the monsoon-like weather conditions, people kept coming in and the umbrella brigade were kept very busy! The renovations to the church provided a welcoming atmosphere from the new Holy Grounds Café in the foyer to the completely renovated Kid’s Kingdom to the renovated sanctuary with new lighting, larger platform and new décor. Three individuals accepted Christ as their Lord during the service and nine people signed up for the next membership class coming up in three weeks! Please pray for KFM as they continue to move forward with the Recalibrate efforts.

-Craig Watson

Ignite Intensives

Thanks for joining us this past Monday for our Ignite Intensive! Over 20 churches and 100 people were present between our two sites to learn about leading change in the local church. If you missed the event, you can stream it right from our Facebook page in two parts.

As we look forward to our All Day Ignite Intensive on November 11th, we suggest that you read the book Growing Young by Kara Powell as this will prepare you for the event. We get asked all the time how to grow younger in our churches and we know how crucial of a conversation this is as many churches today die as their congregations grow older.

George and Sheila Houston Appointed to Stone Haven

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Pastors George and Sheila Houston have been appointed to Stone Haven! The Houston's have served over the years at Living Hope Christian Fellowship, a Free Methodist church in Renton, WA. Their work there was so tangible that even the mayor had to note their departure in a newsletter saying, "George and Sheila were leaders in our community; genuinely interested in breaking down barriers, creating partnerships, and finding new ways to work together. They were proactive, caring, and the embodiment of inclusion. I wish them the best in their next chapter and will always remember the contributions they made to our city. We’re a better city and a better community because of the commitment they made."

Watch Superintendent Rhodes' video announcement to Stone Haven about the Houston's appointment.

1208 Greenwood Buys their Building

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1208 GREENWOOD BUYS THEIR BUILDING
As August came to a close, 1208 Greenwood Free Methodist entered into a deal to buy their building, which was originally bought by the conference many years ago when Communidad Agua Viva was looking for a place to call home. They are excited to continue to do ministry in their direct neighborhood as several have moved into the houses surrounding the church over the years.

Women in Ministry MEG Sub-Team

During this past Annual Conference, our Ministerial Education and Guidance Board reported on a significant initiative regarding Women in Ministry. An important element of this initiative had to do with the creation of a MEG subteam chaired by an ordained women who would provide advocacy for other women elders in our conference who feel marginalized by complementarian theology and/or institutional bias. During our most recent MEG Board meeting, ordained elder Heather Castle was chosen to give leadership to this important component of our MEG Board. The Southern Michigan Conference is firmly committed to shifting to a culture whereby we fully embrace, adopt and enact our egalitarian understanding of Scripture at all levels of congregational life.

New Lead Pastor at Dearborn Free Methodist

Executive Pastor Erick Ewaskowitz will succeed Dustin Weber to become the next Lead Pastor at Dearborn. The video-recorded announcement from Superintendent Bruce Rhodes (see below) announcing the impending change was made this past Sunday. We are grateful for the excellent leadership that God has provided for the Dearborn church. Please join us in prayer for the Weber’s, the Ewaskowitz’s and the Dearborn church during these days of transition.

Mission Igniter Executive Director Named

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Pastor Dustin Weber has been appointed to the Executive Director position of Mission Igniter which is the church multiplication incubator for the Southern Michigan Conference. Dustin’s experience in the mission field combined with his effective pastoral leadership at the Dearborn Church has uniquely positioned him for this strategic role. His appointment will begin on October 1st of this year. With many new opportunities for multiplication which have occurred since Annual Conference, we are grateful to be able to place this leader into position now to keep our current momentum.  

Battle Creek Freedom Forum

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Forced labor and sex trafficking are forms of modern-day slavery. People are treated as objects to be bought, sold, used, and abused rather than as beloved children of God. The traffickers and clients are both part of the problem. When we purchase products produced by forced labor, or turn a blind eye to what is happening around us, then we become part of the problem, too.

Human trafficking is a global issue. Anywhere between 21 million and 46 million people are trafficked worldwide in this $150 billion industry. 25% of those trafficked arechildren. It takes place in every country on every continent, including the United States. According to the Polaris Project, the most reported cases in the U.S. are in California, Texas, Florida, Ohio, New York, Georgia, and Michigan.

We live in a wounded and broken world that needs healing. As followers of Jesus we are on a mission with God. This mission is holistic. It’s about partnering with God in establishing shalom (freedom, peace, flourishing, hope, joy) in our neighborhoods, our cities, our world. This work is centered on Jesus and is empowered by the Holy Spirit. As the Body of Christ, we can cooperate in the work of healing the wounded and restoring that which is broken. 

View and distribute the brochure here and RSVP for this event on September 16th at Cornerstone Community Church by calling 269.979.5478 or by emailing sparklesforever@comcast.net.

SPEAKERS

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Ildikó Kóber

Ildikó Kóber is the coordinator of the Set Free Movement in Hungary. She connects agencies involved in the fight against human trafficking, provides training for at- risk populations, raises awareness among faith-based groups, and runs a life skills program for prevention and rehabilitation. 

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The Winckles

Larry and Katie Winckles have served as Free Methodist missionaries in Budapest, Hungary since 2000. Larry is the Europe Area Administrator for Free Methodist World Missions and can provide an overview of the Europe-wide situation. Katie is a member of the Budapest Mission Team and has valuable insight into the brokenness of European society. 

Congratulations Dependent Scholarship Recipients!

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Five students have been approved to each receive the full $900.00 SMC Ministerial Dependent Scholarship for the fall semester at Spring Arbor University.  These students are children of pastors who serve in the Southern Michigan Conference.  It has been a pleasure to receive their grade reports and to see how well each of them is doing academically.  

The scholarship aid is made possible by participation of our SMC churches in giving to the “Ministerial Dependent Scholarship Program” through a monthly assessment on their invoice from the Conference.

Congratulations to these five students receiving scholarships!

  • Timothy Babcock (Sr.)
  • Jonah Engle (Soph.)
  • Natalie Forney (Jr.)
  • Hannah Glei (Soph.)
  • Rebecca Glei (Sr.)

A Letter from Superintendent Rhodes on Charlottesville

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Dear Friends in Christ:

In recent days, white supremacism as expressed in the sin of racism has once again raised its ugly head in America causing racial tension, violence and death.  I wish to be clear that we reject all forms of racism as being antithetical to the Gospel of Christ.  

First and foremost, we follow Jesus who taught us to love our neighbors.  In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus clearly implied that our neighbor represents people that are dissimilar to us.  Throughout the Gospels, Jesus fleshed out what love really looked like when he reached out to people of all races and ethnic backgrounds and invited them into His Kingdom.  Certainly, anyone who claims to love and follow Jesus must do what he did.  Followers of Jesus must be the most loving people in the world.  And out of the strength of that love, we must repudiate hatred and bigotry in all of its forms as a matter of Christian conscience.  

In addition to love, the gospel of Jesus is also a gospel of truth. When existing systems and structures discriminate, marginalize and treat people unjustly, we must not only stand with those negatively impacted but we must advocate for them and work together in order to bring justice.  If the church ever loses it concern and voice for justice we will set ourselves adrift from the transformative power of the Gospel.  

Despite all that Jesus clearly taught on the matter, it is clear that the early church needed the ongoing leadership and revelation of the Spirit in order to fully come to terms with their own racial preferences and to be delivered from them.  The Apostle Peter is probably one of the best examples of this truth, where in Acts chapter 10 he entered into the house of a “Gentile” (something that was against Jewish custom) and was astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon non-Jewish people just as it was the Jews on the day of Pentecost.  This paradigm shift in the heart of Peter led to the continual growth of the church.  As Peter came to terms with his own racial bias he said: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”  Acts 10:34

The mostly white congregations and leaders that comprise the Southern Michigan Conference need to remain open to the on-going paradigm shifts that the Holy Spirit wishes to reveal to us about race issues in America. 

  • That happens when we acknowledge the clear sin of racism and begin to recognize how it is empowered in the systems and structures of our own society.
  • It happens when we open our own hearts to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.
  • It happens when we intentionally build bridges of relationships with people of various races and ethnic groups.  

We urge all of those who claim to be Free Methodist Christ followers to fully live out these powerful truths so that as our own hearts are liberated we can bear witness to the liberating message of love and truth for others who are hated and discriminated against in our world today.

Whatever race or ethnicity you identify yourself with, the Free Methodist Church values, welcomes and embraces you.   We are grieved by the cancer of white supremacy which was heinously on display in Charlottesville.  We stand in solidarity together as we affirm the rights and dignity of all people regardless of race, creed, ethnicity or gender.  We reaffirm the roots that are central to our history as a Christian movement.  These abolitionist roots recognize and affirm that all people are equally valuable and possess intrinsic worth because they are created in the image of God. 

As such, we are privileged to join together alongside of you in the mission of Jesus as we seek to reach and welcome all people into the Jesus community. This community will be finally and fully realized in its rich diversity when we worship Jesus saying:  

You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign upon the earth.  Rev. 5:9,10

We long for the day when the divisions and hostility of this fallen world will give way to a united diversity of people under the leadership of a Good and Great God.  Hallelujah!  Until that time, let us seek to be people who have been fully liberated by love and fully transformed by truth so that we can liberate others.  

Come Lord Jesus!

Bruce D. Rhodes
Conference Superintendent