For this to make any sense whatsoever, I’ve got to disclose my biases right up front. I’ve served in a handful of different denominations, and I’ve never liked district and national level church stuff. Typically I’ve felt like they just take time away from good ministry to create the illusion of some larger thing we’re all working on together that really doesn’t make much sense and accomplishes little. That’s why I balked at the idea of participating in a Healthy Church Network when I became pastor at the Lander Evangelical Free Church in 2010. I agreed to go once, and I’m glad I did, because what’s going on with the Rocky Mountain District is different than anything I’ve experienced in the past. Sometimes it’s great to be wrong.
The biggest place where I’ve benefited from being plugged into our district is in processing big ministry questions. I’m a solo pastor in a growing mid-sized church. We should have more staff, but we’ve got other financial priorities, so for the time being it’s just me. I can figure out a lot of the stuff that comes down the pike, but not all of it. There’s no substitute for working those questions through with people who know me and who’ve been where I’m at. Every HCN meeting is an investment in relationships that pay huge ministry dividends when I need good outside perspective. I’ve received that from other pastors and especially from Superintendent Greg Fell. Our church has functioned in peace and with remarkable unity for the past five years, and I feel like the district and specifically Greg have had a huge part in that. The access to wise council that comes with being a part of this district is like nothing I’ve been a part of before and it’s been invaluable.
Additionally, we’ve benefitted from relying on the district to keep up abreast of what’s going on at the national level and with church and culture in general. Greg has posed poignant questions to our elder board and helped us think through how to respond to the hard stuff.
We’ve also benefitted from partnering with other churches in ministry. After the flooding in Colorado a couple of years ago, we were able to send a team of workers to help put things back together in cooperation with sister churches there. The district has helped with church planting efforts in our remote neck of the woods, and we’ve been in a spot to help with that in the past.
Simply put: Our church is better because we’re a part of this district, and I’m a better pastor because of this district. I’m glad we have a larger group to lean on that goes out their way to serve and include us even though we’re situated at the far edge of the district. I couldn’t be happier to have been proven wrong about the value of being plugged in.
- Matthew Whitman
Pastor – Lander EFC