Horizons Stretched at Orlando Convention

(May 28, 2009) If Wednesday at the FCA Convention focused on nearby stresses, Thursday was the day for facing global needs.

Rob Morris, president and founder of an organization that fights child-sex trafficking, shocked the convention with the reality of 27 million slaves in our world today. “Two children are sold every minute into the sex industry,” he declared—an industry that now rakes in $32 billion a year.

“I hate the default mentality that says, ‘Well, it will never end,’” Morris continued. “William Wilberforce in the early 19th century wouldn’t give up until the trans-Atlantic slave trade was banished. We can do the same. That’s part of what the Lord’s Prayer—‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’—is about.”

Morris’s organization is called Love146 (www.love146.org), named after his first research trip to a Southeast Asian capital confronted him with brothels where young girls were displayed behind a glass window and identified for customers only by numbers pinned to their dresses. One girl, No. 146, especially caught his attention by the flicker of hope still in her eyes.

“In our ministry, we’re seeing that more and more churches are awakening to justice issues—despite the recession,” Morris said. “They are reading Micah 5:8 again and determining to take action.”

In the convention’s evening missionary service, Ron Frances of YWAM highlighted the challenge of what he called“unengaged unreached people groups”—some 639 of them across the world. These are populations that have no functioning church—and no mission group trying to establish one. He handed out materials to guide FCA churches in making the connection.

“In order to thrive, we as Christians have to give away what we’ve received,” Francis said. “We have to walk in humility with other mission leaders, who may not be North American. We have to intentionally mobilize.

“And we can do it. After all, there are 600 charismatic / Pentecostal churches in the world for every unreached people group. It’s time to step up.”

Between the plenary sessions was another hour of workshops, two concurrent luncheons (for men, for women), and the annual business meeting. Board selections emerged as follows:

Retiring from the board, mainly due to term limits: Mark Brattrud, Rich Doebler, Tom Flaherty, Dan Hammer, Harry Schmidt

Continuing on the board: Floyd Nicholson (New City, N.Y.), special missions representative Rich Collingridge

Elected to the board: David Carlson (Moreno Valley, Calif.), Dan Eide (Arlington, Wash.), Carl Johnson (New City, N.Y.),John Sprecher (Rockford, Ill.), Carol Warner (St. Paul, Minn.).

(The board subsequently chose Eide to be president, Sprecher to be vice-president, Warner to be secretary, and Nicholson to be treasurer.)

The rest of the board’s 21 member positions are to be filled within 60 days by regional representatives, using the following allocations based on number of churches:

Northeast (NY), 3 seats
Lower Midwest (IL), 2 seats
Central Midwest (WI), 2 seats
Upper Midwest (MN), 2 seats
Northwest (WA): 3 seats
Southwest (CA): 2 seats

In other business:

–A budget similar to last year’s was approved.

–The Heritage Committee has added a sixth member: John Lucas III (Calgary, Alberta).

–Funds raised over the past year for church planting will now be disbursed to four start-up efforts underway in suburban Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Phoenix.

–The governance and operation of Fellowship Press is moving to a new model, with just six board members (three American, three Canadian) and direct line-item funding from the two national budgets, instead of relying on voluntary subsidies from assorted local churches. The national boards will appoint the Fellowship Press board members.

–A new standing Convention Committee has been formed to organize U.S. conventions in the future (replacing regional committees that change from venue to venue). Members of the new committee include Jim Hilbur, Harry Schmidt, Carol Warner, and two others to be named later.

–An American study of Canada’s recently installed structure, which utilizes national elders, is underway. A two-page assessment of this, written by Dan Hammer, will be attached to the minutes, and the U.S. regions should give careful review to this. The topic will come to the convention floor in 2010.

–During the open-comment period, former national coordinator Bob Forseth expressed his concern about ongoing loss of FCA member churches—why do they disconnect from the Fellowship? Various reasons and remedies were then discussed.

–Paul Vallee (Red Deer, Alberta) issued a warm invitation for the next convention, a joint effort of the two countries, to be held in his city April 20-22, 2010.

FCA Pastors Encouraged to Thrive in Adversity

The national recession formed the backdrop for at least two headline messages Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at the FCA U.S. convention in Orlando.

President Mark Brattrud opened the day with a fervent but thorough exegesis of Romans 8:12-30. “This passage tells us we are part of two creations,” he said, “and we’re caught in between. No wonder the word groan comes up three times” (Romans 8: 22, 23, 26). “Living in our time is like going through the end stage of a pregnancy. It’s not fun—and we can only make it as we allow the Holy Spirit to produce three things in our spiritual lives.”

Brattrud, pastor of Valley Christian Assembly, Palm Desert, California, then proceeded to talk about (1) a passion and love for God–v. 28b; (2) a sense of purpose based on calling—vs. 28c-29; (3) prayer in the Spirit (v. 26). He asked his audience to “pray—a lot—in tongues as well as English. It is time for us to stop hiding this beautiful gift as we go through difficulty,” he admonished.

The day’s second main speaker was Garth Heckman, 44, who gave an intensely personal account of his past year battling colon cancer while trying to continue planting a new church outside Minneapolis. “I’d been raised with great self-confidence, believing I could do anything,” he said. “My track record in youth ministry was strong. We launched Harmony Church in 2006 with great enthusiasm. “But this past year, I’ve had to get honest. I’ve had to say, ‘You know what—I can’t do this.’ Without the anointing of the Holy Spirit, there will be no thriving.”

Heckman, son of U.S. national coordinator Warren Heckman, has now finished a grueling chemotherapy regimen and is doing well. He thanked the Fellowship for its prayers and financial gifts to help with uninsured medical bills.

The evening speaker, urban church planter Chilly Chilton, said, “Things aren’t going real well for my city of Detroit these days, as you know. The car industry is reeling, and unemployment may hit 20 percent by year end. But where would Jesus be right now in America?

“I believe he’d be in Detroit. That’s why we’re talking about starting a second church in Midtown, near the campus of Wayne State University. Are we crazy? Yes, but God’s purpose will take you anywhere.”

Five daytime workshops included:

1. A sobering look at what can erode the ministry marriage, led by Tim and Linda Buttrey (Restoration Resources, Beavercreek, Ohio)

2. A session on reaching and connecting women, led by Terry Hammer (director of women’s ministries at Sonrise Chapel, Everett, Wash.)

3. “Reaching Today’s Kids,” led by Ben Murray (children’s pastor at Trinity Assembly of God, Mt. Morris, Mich.)

4. A session on balancing the demands of ministry and family, led by veteran missionary Jodi Collingridge Bunn

5. “Male Servant Leadership Modeling,” led by Ervin Virola, a nationally recognized specialist in men’s ministry who is part of Gracepoint Gospel Fellowship in New City, New York.

Gary Zarlengo Opens Orlando Convention

“What voice is loudest inside your heart and mind?” asked Gary Zarlengo, banquet speaker at the FCA’s opening session Tuesday night at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport Hotel. “We pastors get inundated with voices 24/7. Sometimes it’s a matter of our own voices talking to us hours on end. But the most important for us to hear is the voice of the Lord.”

Taking his text from Psalm 29:3-9 (“The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic….”) the senior pastor of Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle on Long Island, New York, urged his audience of fellow pastors and missionaries to meditate on the Word of God “so you’ll know what He sounds like.” God’s voice is a voice of purpose, bringing clarity to the times when we ask, “Why is this event going on in my life or my church?”

In his closing moments, Zarlengo advised, “Don’t listen to the voice of comparison—how you stack up against other preachers on television, for example. Instead, listen to God’s voice of destiny. He designed you to be a unique vessel for Him.

“We all need to remember that we’re not in the ministry to make a name. We’re in the ministry to bear a Name—the Name of Jesus.”

Prior to Zarlengo’s message, an extended time of worship was led by Scott Fowler, also from the Smithtown church.

Jerry and Connie Sherstad, whose FCA ministry in New Jersey, Illinois, and elsewhere has covered 46 years, were honored by the Heritage Committee. The Sherstads now serve at Faith Bible Church in Waupun, Wisconsin.

Rev. Jack Whitesell Suddenly Promoted

Jack Whitesell, long-time FCA pastor, professor and church growth advocate, died suddenly of a heart attack on May 1st, 2009 at the age of 82.

Jack’s ministry across the Fellowship spanned both American and Canadian churches as well as many other groups. A native of Alberta, he was the first dean of Chicago Bible College in the early 1950’s. He pastored such urban congregations as Beulah Gospel Temple in Chicago and Bethel Temple in San Francisco. He earned a B.Div. degree at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and an M.A. from the University of California, Berkeley. Starting in 1979, Jack traveled extensively consulting with churches and fellowships in the area of church growth.

In 2001 his wife, Olive preceded him in death. They were the parents of three daughters: Ruth Wessels, Rebecca Zvirbulis, and Karen Mingione.

A memorial service will be held on Monday evening, June 8, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. at Bethel Christian Church in San Francisco (www.bethelsf.org), where Rev. Whitesell served as senior pastor from 1964 to 1979.

A Great Man Lived Among Us

by Glen Forsberg.

Jack Whitesell was a man much appreciated among Canadian pastors and churches of many denominations. My earliest recollections of him were during my childhood. Both Jack and his beloved wife, Olive, had roots near my hometown.

Jack spoke several times in my childhood church and taught in the Bible college I attended. His biblical insight was inspiring to me, even as a young person. I recall his brief foray into biblical archaeology, a subject that fascinates me.

The leadership of the last three churches I have pastored have all benefited from numerous consultations with him on church growth. Jack was animated in his handling of these sessions. The possibilities he envisioned for God’s church brought new vision to us leaders. His love for God, the church, and his “outbound” philosophy translated into fresh anointing and action among our leaders and members.

Jack never had time for retirement. I recall him saying, “As long as God’s call is upon you and the church is moving forward, you are good to serve until you are 80 years old.” It is obvious that he practised his own preaching. I can say without reservation that we are richer today because Jack came to our town.

Farewell, Jack! We love you and thank God for you. The dream you shared is still alive!

Glen Forsberg is Chairman of FCA Canada and Senior Pastor of McMurray Gospel Assembly in Fort McMurray, Alberta.