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World Harvest Sunday September 13, 2015 Interstate Fellowship Meeting September 14, 2015 Capitol Hill Full Gospel Church Moore, OK Rev. Jim Robertson
World Missions Conference October 12-14, 2015 The Tabernacle Blackwell, OK Rev. Cliff Johnson
Interstate Fellowship Meeting November 9, 2015 Family Life Church Cyril, OK Rev. Donnie Miller
If you are planning on moving or just recently moved, please contact the offices of the Independent Assemblies so we can update your contact information. Also, keep us up to date with your current email and phone number. We want to make sure you receive your copy of the Connection Magazine and all other Independent Assemblies updates. Independent Assemblies (580) 310-0222
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SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2015
f 2 Calendar 4 Creating a Safe Place 6 World Missions Conference 7 To the Rural Church 8 IA Missionary Turned Authoress: Linda Fritch 10 Cultivating Church Health
Amendment to Independent Assemblies Bylaws at the Biennial Meeting of July 22, 2015 STATEMENT ON MARRIAGE AND SEXUALITY We believe that the term “marriage” has only one meaning and that is marriage sanctioned by God which joins one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to only occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other. We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. BOARD MEMBER VOTING The membership voted to approve Ken Anderson, Robert Johnson and Jerry Edmon to another four year term. Robert was also returned to the office of World Missions Director.
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Independent Assemblies PO Box 1546 Ada, OK 74821 (580) 310-0222 www.independentassemblies.org Produced by Layers Media, Inc. www.layersmedia.com connection • 3
Creating a Safe Place by: Mindy Wood
IA President Mickey Keith and his wife Glenda have been working with children and teens almost as long as they’ve been in ministry. From youth camp and children’s church to a private preschool, they love kids and see the value of nurturing their faith in Christ. That care and love for children also means keeping kids safe, from fire hazards to child predators. In today’s hyper-sexualized culture, the purveyance of pornography and now child pornography is an epidemic. According to enough.com, child pornography is the fastest growing business online with over 1,500 child abuse domains. Fifty-eight percent are based in America. Just the accusation of child abuse can ruin a church’s reputation and “bring a reproach on the 4 • connection
name of Christ,” said Glenda Keith. She uses Safe Place, a curriculum for churches and ministries, to prevent child abuse, neglect and other threats to children. The guidelines help churches minimize risks to children and workers with practical strategies. Guidelines include clear instruction, such as the ratio of workers to children, the do’s and don’ts of discipline, appropriate touch, preparing for trips, and safety tips for workers. “It’s really detailed,” said Keith. “Basically it prepares you ahead of time for anything that can happen, not just abuse or neglect.” Keith said the biggest mistake a pastor or church board can make is to skip their homework on potential child workers. She said because even a church janitor could have contact with kids, all church workers in their ministry are required to fill out an in depth application and consent to a background check. They are required to be members for six months, unless they have known the applicant that long outside church membership. “I have a questionnaire that is 4-5 pages long about their spiritual condition, if they’ve experienced abuse, have they ever abused anyone, been arrested for a felony, and questions about their past. If you ask all those questions, they disqualify themselves and you’ve scared them off. For $19 you can fill out a form and OSBI will send you a report on that person,” she said. The legal consequences of accidents, and especially abuse, can be costly. All states have laws charging people who do not report suspected child abuse with a misdemeanor or fines. At their church, they have a form workers are required to fill out if they suspect a child is being abused. They document the witness’ account, the parties involved, contact and follow up with the family, reporting to law enforcement and any actions taken. “It’s important to have procedures that you take and post. If you don’t do it,
you’re the one liable because you didn’t follow procedures,” she said. “You keep a paper trail,” she said. “Date it, witness it, keep it filed. If you do that, then it keeps you from being liable and from being sued. Refer the media to your attorney.” Churches face tight budgets, especially rural fellowships with little support. The updated Safe Place handbook is less than 200 pages and costs $18.99 to $24.99 depending on the seller. While the price of background checks may vary from state to state, churches can ask for a reduced fee or contact their local police or sheriff departments for existing police reports or complaints. Criminal and civil records are kept at courthouses, often published online for little or no cost to access. It costs nothing to contact personal and professional references. While the cost to implement safety procedures will vary from church to church, Keith said it’s worth it. “When you’re dealing with children, you don’t spare a little expense before you find out if you can put someone in there. It (abuse) destroys so many lives.” Sadly, even when every precaution is taken, Keith cautioned there’s no guarantee. “Things can slip through, because you can’t know what’s in a person’s heart. You’re never ready for it. It shocks you. You think you know this person, but I don’t know that you can ever see it in anybody. We can keep in touch with the Holy Spirit and pray He lets us know when someone with evil intent is around and depend on God.” For more information visit safeplacerescources.com.
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WORLD MISSIONS C O N F E R E N C E
B L A C K W E L L , O K
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To the Rural Church by: Susan Wise Bauer
Different expressions of Christianity can more faithfully embody the calling God has placed on them. These letters are patterned off the words of Jesus in Revelation 2–3. While they lack the authority of Scripture, they contain many convicting insights brought in the spirit of humility and love for the church. This letter, written by Susan Wise Bauer, is addressed to the churches that she knows best: those in rural America. I know where you live: in a nation ruled by the god of Business, where those who do not have the power to buy are shunted aside. The old and the very young are ignored. The few (who do not make up a critical mass, a niche market, a group worthy of attention) are dismissed. Instead of a business, you rural churches have been a faithful family. You have refused to be professionalized; you have rejected the model of corporate effectiveness. Like me, you have chosen to be inefficient. You have lavished love and energy on the old and sick, on the isolated, on the very young. You have patiently waited decades for fruit. You ministers who spend your lives in the service of a congregation of 30, you teachers who pour out your souls for a Bible class of 5: you have understood what it means to be children of the Father and brothers and sisters of the Son. You have also rejected those who claim to act in my name: those church-planting experts who advise that my people “target” only densely populated areas so that the largest number of people can be efficiently herded into the kingdom; the denominational leaders who have seen you as a useful training ground for inexperienced pastors who will soon move on to “better pulpits” in more worthy (and populated) places. You have endured this, and remained strong, and understood the truth: that size and efficiency are important only in the economy of hell. Remember that 20 years spent in the service of a
handful of faithful believers are as priceless to me as 20 years spent calling crowds to repentance. I will be with you in your long, quiet march toward the coming of the kingdom. But I also have something against you. Like a family, you make judgments that stand forever. Just as the child who once stole is forever branded a thief by his family, so the poor and sick and despairing have been judged shiftless, no-account, congenitally drunk. You have been unwilling to admit that my light brings change. You give food to the food pantry, but in your hearts you believe that hunger and poverty happen only to the unworthy. In my eyes, you too were naked and hungry and filthy. But you have forgotten the grace you have received, and you have chalked up your relative comfort to hard work and sterling moral character. And you have built again the walls that I once tore down. White and black and Native American, you have settled into your different rooms, content that you all live within my house. Rarely are the doors between those rooms opened; never have you mingled freely in my name. You white churches would not drive away a black worshiper from your doors, but you keep yourselves separate nonetheless; you make no effort to eat with and play with and babysit for and enjoy the fellowship of your black siblings. And you churches of color, who call my white children colorless, passionless, oppressive, cold: I call you also to repent, to put aside your resentments, both past and present. Remember that I also was beaten. And yet I forgave and gave life to those who did evil. I brought together the Jews and Greeks in uncomfortable union: they fought, and shed tears and blood, but when I looked at them I saw only my followers. I wish that the same were true of you.
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I A M i s s i o n a r y Tu r n e d A u t h o r e s s
L I N DA F R I T C H by: Mindy Wood
Ron and Linda Fritch dedicated their lives to the South African mission field for seventeen years before retiring to Oklahoma. They still minister locally when they can, but Linda is keeping busy pursuing a career as an authoress. She is an award winning writer, former newspaper reporter, and author of magazine articles. Linda has published three books this year: a book of humor, a book of sermons, and a book of heartwarming stories from her rural Oklahoma childhood during the 1950’s. “False Teeth, Fixodent, & a Funny Husband,” and “Pig Tails & Penny Loafers” are available in ebook, and “Barefoot before God” in print. Ron’s sense of humor during their 50 years of marriage proved to be amusing, not only to his wife, but recently to friends on Facebook. “Ron doesn’t answer things the way you’d expect. It’s always something different. I would write it down and then I thought maybe my Facebook people would enjoy this. Pretty soon people were saying it was really funny and that it would make a good book. At first I thought I didn’t have enough but when I got quite a
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few gathered I thought maybe I could.” Using an editor whom they knew from missions, Linda had her books edited and covers designed. Fixodent, False Teeth, & a Funny Husband was released last October. An excerpt reads: Ron is forever putting his teeth into a bowl of water in the bathroom to clean them. Fortunately for me I found a ceramic container at a garage sale called the Denture Hotel with upper and lower accommodations. I said to him, “I’ve cleaned this up for you and I want you to use it instead of a cereal bowl to clean your teeth.” So one evening I heard him rattling around in the bathroom and I said to him, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m checking my teeth into the hotel’” Linda’s own sense of humor is not lost in any of
her works, and her empathy for people at every troubled stage of life is deeply felt. In “Barefoot before God,” she opens up about a vulnerable time in her life. “This message was birthed during the time I had been stripped of all my defenses. I was living in a foreign land, ill, traumatized by culture shock and totally clueless about being a missionary. My emotional support system was 10,000 miles away and I felt completely alone. Forced into a time of intense prayer just to survive, I found God at my Burning Bush.” Each of the ten chapters tells a story followed by a sermon. The work is both creative storytelling and methodical sermon delivery. “I wondered what it would be like to do a narrative and then a sermon idea that just tells the story. I tell the story of Moses as if you’re right there. Then I work through until he comes to the burning bush because he ends up barefoot at the bush,” she said. Pig Tails & Penny Loafers offers timeless truths in a time gone-by. Growing up on an 80 acre farm, life was sweet for a young Linda. They were poor by today’s standards, but because of the richness of a warm and loving family, she said she never knew it. She writes: “My early memories were waking up to the smell of bacon and the sound of my mother in the kitchen humming a gospel tune as she made biscuits and gravy and scrambled the eggs. After breakfast, my dad and brothers went to work and I helped mother and then went outside to play. Not once did she ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She just let me grow up.” Each chapter tells a story and at the end gently offers a moral to the story without being ‘preachy.’ “I wrote, ‘she just let me grow up’ because I think we need to take the pressure of these kids and just let them grow up,” she said. Publishing has never been easier for aspiring authors with the technology of electronic and self-publishing platforms like Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. Linda said she hopes pastors will consider publishing their sermons, even if they can’t write. “If you can’t write, you can have someone transcribe the CD’s and tapes. That’s what we did when we worked for R.W. Schambach. He couldn’t write.” Perhaps the first preacher in America to publish and sell his sermons for devotions was Charles Spurgeon. “He had them handy and each week they sold them as a penny sermon. They would buy these sheets and do their devotions with them. That’s why we have them today to read because he actually wrote them out,” she said. Linda has more plans for two other books, and a third she hopes to publish in January. “Under the African Sun” is a historical novel set in the vineyards of South Africa. Her books are available through Smashwords, Amazon.com and Barnes and Nobles Nook e-readers.
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CULTIVATING CHURCH HEALTH Church health is the result of balance. Balance occurs when you have a strategy and a structure to fulfill what I believe are the five New Testament purposes for the church: worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry. If you don’t have a strategy and a structure that intentionally balances the purposes of the church, the church tends to overemphasize the purpose the pastor feels most passionate about. In evangelicalism, we tend to go to seed on one truth at a time. You attend one seminar and hear, “The key is seeker services.” You go to another and “the key is small groups” or “discipleship” or “expository preaching.” The fact is, they’re all important. When a church emphasizes any one purpose to the neglect of others, that produces imbalance—it’s unhealthy. It stunts a lot of churches. To keep things balanced, four things must happen. You’ve got to move people into membership, build them up to maturity, train them for ministry, and send them out on their mission. We use a little baseball diamond to illustrate that. We’ve got a scorecard to evaluate progress. Just like when you go to a doctor and he checks all your vital signs, the health of a church is quantifiable. For example, I can measure how many more people are involved in ministry this month than last month. How you accomplish those four objectives doesn’t matter. Some will look at the rapid growth in our church and attribute it to Saddleback’s unique style of ministry. People always overemphasize style because it’s the first thing they notice. The only important issue regarding style is that it matches the people God has called you to reach. We’ve planted twenty-six daughter churches, and we gave the pastors of those congregations total freedom in matters of worship style and the materials they use. As long as you are bringing people to Christ, into the fellowship of his family, building them up to maturity, training them for ministry, and sending them out in mission, I like the way you are doing ministry.
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by: Rick Warren
Health does not mean perfection. When a church focuses on evangelism, it brings in a lot of unhealthy people. My kids are healthy; they’re not perfect. There will never be a perfect church this side of heaven because every church is filled with pagans, carnal Christians, and immature believers along with the mature ones. I’ve read books that emphasize, “You’ve got to reinforce the purity of the church.” But Jesus said, “Let the tares and the wheat grow together, and one day I’ll sort them out.” We’re not in the sorting business. We’re in the harvesting business. We do get a lot of unhealthy people at church because society is getting sicker. But Jesus demonstrated that ministering to hurting people was more important than maintaining purity. When you fish with a big net, you catch all kinds of fish. That’s why one of the biggest programs in our church is recovery. We have five to six hundred people attend Friday night recovery meetings with you-name-it addictions. One of the most important decisions we made was not to have a counseling center. If we put a full-time therapist on our staff, the person’s schedule would fill up instantly, and 99 percent of the calls would still go unmet. We couldn’t keep up even if we had five full-time therapists. Instead, we’ve trained about fifty lay-people to do biblical counseling, along with a standard list of approved therapists we can refer to if need be. In conclusion, a far better focal point than church growth is church health. Size is not the issue. You can be big and healthy, or big and flabby. You can be small and healthy, or small and wimpy. Big isn’t better; small isn’t better. Healthy is better. So I’m interested in helping churches become balanced and healthy. If churches are healthy, growth is a natural occurrence. I don’t have to command my kids to grow. If I provide them with a healthy environment, growth is automatic.
executiveBOARD Mickey Keith
President PO Box 1546 Ada, OK 74821 (580) 310-0222 firstname.lastname@example.org www.life623.com
Dr. Ted Estes
Vice President PO Box 2248 Claremore, OK 74018 (918) 341-8344 email@example.com www.lifechangerchurch.com
Secretary/Treasurer PO Box 1120 Lexington, OK 73051 (405) 527-6030 firstname.lastname@example.org www.libertygospelok.org
Director of World Missions PO Box 978 Blackwell, OK 74631 (580) 363-2734 email@example.com www.clarionmissions.org
Board Member PO Box 862 Elgin, TX 78621 (512) 281-5316 Jedmon1234@aol.com www.fwcelgin.com
REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVES Southeast Oklahoma District Rev. Billy Hunter Antlers, OK (580) 298-2740 Southwest Oklahoma District Rev. Donnie Miller Cyril, OK (580) 464-2224 (580) 512-3657 North Texas District Rev. Marc Jones Denton, TX 75751 (903) 675-6011 Southeast Texas District Rev. Herb Hawthorne Baytown, TX (281) 723-2278 South Central Texas District Rev. Jerry Edmon Elgin, TX (512) 281-5316 Midwest Regional District Rev. Mark Maynard Granite City, IL (618) 931-4106 Arkansas Regional District Rev. Charles Kendrick Alexander, AR (501) 303-0831 Ozark Regional District Rev. Terry Fletcher Aurora, MO (417) 678-2310
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