By Bishop J. Talmadge Gardner
It was my privilege to serve as the presiding officer for the 105th CONFERENCE SESSION of the APPALACHIAN CONFERENCE on June 20, 2015. The Conference was hosted at the Appalachian Conference Campgrounds in Dublin, Virginia.
The Saturday Conference Session was preceded by its annual Camp Meeting. Friday evening’s Camp Meeting service was also designated as the Global Outreach emphasis evening. Rev. Hans Hess, pastor of Fountain of Life PHC in Elizabeth City, North Carolina was the featured speaker. Hans preached the best or one of the best sermons on missions that I have heard to-date!
Hans graciously provided me with a summary of his sermon on missions for this report. It follows:
“Israel’s original call was to be a missionary nation. This is seen in Abram’s call in Genesis 12:1-3. In contrast to Genesis 11, where man was trying to make a name for himself, God was going to make Abram’s name great. In fact, God would make him a blessing to all nations.
This missionary call on Israel is seen in Israel’s commission to be a kingdom of priests Exodus 19:4-6. Israel was to function in a mediatorial role for all nations. They were to represent God to all nations.
Israel failed in fulfilling its calling as a missionary people. The Messiah fulfilled the role perfectly. He was the perfect, obedient Servant of Yahweh. Thus in the prophetic literature of the Hebrew Scriptures, the focus turns to the Messiah as God’s representative, or missionary, to the world- Psalm 2 (to the Messiah the nations are given as an inheritance).
Psalm 67 was probably read during the feast of Pentecost, which focused on the harvest. This psalm deals with God and the nations. God’s desire for the nations is worship. Reciprocity occurs between being blessed by God and touching the nations. It is ironic that God chose the Feast of Pentecost in Acts 2 as the opportune time to send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes so that the church may be empowered for mission.
The church, as the people of the Messiah, are now called as God’s missionaries to the world. We have been given the nations as our inheritance. We have been given the Great Commission by Jesus. We have been given the power of the Holy Spirit for missionary purposes.
This missionary “DNA” affects everything we do as a church. The local church is indelibly connected to the world outreach of the church. The missions DNA displays itself in our outreaches to our local communities as well. A church that is not on mission is dysfunctional.”
*Credit to Dr. Walt Kaiser and his article “Israel’s Missionary Call “in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 3rd Edition, eds. Ralph Winter and Steven Hawthorne (William Carey Library; Pasadena, CA 1999) 10ff.
The Appalachian Conference continues to show excellent growth. Bishop Mathena’s State of the Conference Report portrays that. Excerpts from Bishop Mathena’s report follow. I thank him for allowing me to share this with you:
“As I review this year, there are three words that come to my mind in conjunction with what is taking place in our conference. The first word is Expansion. The real life blood of our conference is the work of the ministry in the local church. This past year we had seven churches to complete new building programs. We are instructed in Isaiah 54:2 to enlarge the place of our tent.
The second word I would use to describe this year would be Development! In conference work you must be continually thinking about what is the next important step for the future.
I cannot over emphasize what is a must for this conference – the development of the next generation of pastors and leaders. I’ve said before that Maranatha College is possibly the greatest and yet most under-utilized tool we have for leadership development. The classes are excellent and taught in modules for convenience. This year has been the launch year for our satellite campuses with Maranatha. Each district, even every church, has the potential to link with Maranatha College for ongoing training. We are making plans to design another curriculum that will be geared towards the development of local leadership, with an emphasis on Christian education. I encourage every pastor to consider the value this could have for your local congregation. Even though Maranatha is not accredited, it is still certified by the State of Virginia and classes have the potential for transfer. I commend President Steve Willis and the Maranatha board for their ongoing commitment to higher education and the training and development of leaders in this conference.
You probably noticed that this year we had the largest number of ministerial and ordination candidates in quite some time, and much of that is due to the greater presence of Maranatha College.
Another great tool for ongoing development of leadership and churches is the 24 to Double program taught by Dr. Weston! We have about 12 churches that have committed to this program that are seeing amazing results. Every church has been seeing positive outcomes numerically, but also has experienced a surge in energy and finance.
Too, let me thank Pastor Tony Atkinson, who traveled with us to the districts for training this past year. He laid out a strategic plan that he has been using to build the local church. It models the 24 to D program but it streamlines and helps each church to grasp this workable concept.
So the last word I would like to use is Optimistic. Someone asked me recently if I see myself as an optimist. I see myself as a realist. I have reason to be optimistic – when I see a church we almost closed 6 years ago this past Easter weekend have a total of 2441 in service! Congratulations to Hillsville PH.
I have reason to be optimistic when I see a church like Tazewell-Cross Point where I met with the congregation of four ladies and one little girl to try and decide the future of that church, looking as though it would close. But today, under the leadership of Pastor Bernard Cornwell, the church is full and teeming with life.
I have reason to be optimistic – when I see a church like New Life Ministries that was devastated with a church split eight years ago – but today is running between 1100 and 1200 every Sunday morning and venturing on a new building program.
I have a reason to be optimistic when I see a church like Crossroads Church, after a pastoral change, in just two years pay off a major mortgage – more than double in size – build a new church in Honduras – (paying for the whole project) – this year launching a dynamic new church plant in Claypool Hill Mall, where at the opening service they had 230 people!
I have reason to be optimistic when I see a city like Christiansburg that had one PH church that for years ran between 125 to 150 people, but now has two dynamic ministries there, both located just off I-81, one on Exit 114, Victory Restoration Church, the other on Exit 118, Harbor of Hope Ministries, both positioned excellent for growth. This past Easter, Victory Restoration Church had 895 and Harbor of Hope had 823.
I have reason to be optimistic when I see a church like Radford Worship Center, one of the original five started in 1910, go through the pains of revitalization, which was a challenging season, but after committing to the 24 to Double program, they are now experiencing some of the largest numbers in the church’s history.
I have reason to be optimistic when I see a church like Winchester Word of Life, a church of about 90 members, this past year break over $1 million in mission giving, under Pastor Ron Neff.
I have a reason to be optimistic when this year, by sending out one letter to our pastors telling the major concern for the future of Emmanuel College, this conference in its generosity gave approximately $70,000 to strengthen their cause. We need our college!
It is a new day, and when we walk out of these doors, we can square our shoulders and turn our faces to heaven, not with a sense of pride, but with purpose and destiny and meet each day with great optimism. We are a place of hope, a people of promise! As I’ve said before, there’s no shortage of opportunities before us, only a shortage of time and personnel to take advantage of them all! The prospect for the future in church growth, church planting and world evangelization is limited only by our faith and ability to mobilize both human and financial resources to commit to the task. Jesus still exhorts us that the fields are white, ripe, and ready to be harvested. It’s God’s ordained opportunity for us – now!
On second thought, I guess I am an optimist – an “eternal optimist” – when it comes to His church! Jesus said, ‘I will build my church and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it!’”
Great report and well received by those in attendance.
Rev. Wanda Myers led the Conference in memorializing and honoring the life and ministry legacy of the following Conference ministers’ in the Memoirs Report:
- William P. Hill
- Otuce P. Huffman, Sr.
- Donald Linkous
Clergy Credentials were issued as follows:
Certificate of Ordination (10) –
- Gregory Scott Collins
- Michael Lee Neel
- Laykan Nicole Comer
- Arnold David Repass, Sr.
- Stephanie Reneẻ Henry
- Jerry R. Shinn
- James Kevin Hutton
- Daniel Thomas Stone
- Pamela Sue Irvine
- James Armin Wrapẻ
Minister’s License (18) –
- Dwayne Dale Addison
- Steven Ray Duncan
- Megan May Kestner
- David Houston Allen
- Jason Timothy Greene
- Gregory Lynn McClerkin
- Charles Anthony Barbettini
- Alfredo Gutierrez
- Timothy J. Meadors
- Carolyn R. Bishop
- Laura Lourdes Hernandez
- William Joseph Proffitt, III
- Mary Lorene Cook
- Wesley M. Hill
- Cathryn Young Smith
- John M. Cooper
- Joshua Lee Kestner
- Roger Andrews West
Local Church Minister’s Certificate (15) –
- Paul Arnold
- Teressa Mayo
- Chris Blackburn
- Vernon Neese
- Timothy Clyburn
- Darlene Osborne
- Bryan Cook
- Sherry Richards
- Seann Gaynor
- T. J. Stafford
- Ashley Hodge
- Joyce Thomasson
- Kenneth D. Hodge
- J.C. Thompson
- Lisa Johnson
It was an honor as the presiding officer to recognize the following Conference attendees and guests:
- Mrs. Esther Underwood, wife of beloved Bishop B. E. Underwood, 16th General Superintendent, IPHC
- Rev. Edward and Freda Wood, former Executive Director of the General Stewardship Ministries Division and General Secretary/Treasurer, GEB, GBA member and former Conference Superintendent
- Rev. Walter Lee and Ann Wood, former Conference Superintendent, GEB and GBA member
- Rev. Glennard and Dorothy Quesenberry, former Conference Superintendent and GBA member
- Rev. Ken and Juanita Kingrea, former member of the General EVUSA Division Council, former Conference Superintendent and GBA member
- Rev. Tony and Sharon Atkinson, former Conference Superintendent, Ephesians 4 Network Ministries Conference [a Conference which the Appalachian Conference birthed] and GBA member
- Rev. David and Sandy Wood, former General Christian Education Board Member
- Rev. Mike and Debie Dodson, former General Finance Committee Member
- Rev. John and Jerry Talmage, retired IPHC Missionaries to South Africa
- Rev. Carl and Barbara Early, retired IPHC Missionaries to South Africa
- Rev. Margaret Rogers, retired IPHC Missionary to Morocco
- Rev. Mauricio and Lulu Salazar, IPHC Missionaries to Paris, France
- Rev. Greg and Latoya McClerkin, IPHC Missionaries to Sudan, Africa
Preston and Kathy Mathena’s ministry vision for the Appalachian Conference being a ‘Place of Hope, People of Promise’ is coming to fruition. May the Holy Spirit continue to anoint and empower their leadership and ministry as they tend this part of His vineyard!