I want to express my appreciation to Bishop Dale Adams for his understanding that I was not able to fulfill my duty of presiding at the River of Life Annual Conference. I was recovering from the flu and pneumonia. Many thanks to Bishop Preston Mathena who stepped in on short notice. Below is his report:
What a great privilege I was given to serve, for the second time, as the presiding officer for the River of Life annual conference session, March 30, 2019. The event was hosted at Bethel Life Worship Center in Greenville, Pennsylvania. The event was well attended, with approximately 75 ministerial, lay delegates, and visitors. The session was refreshing, with a sense of God’s presence and anointing throughout the entire morning.
- The conference opened with a time of praise and worship led by Greg Terry.
- I followed with a devotional on the significance of The Lord’s Supper, climaxing with a time of communion together.
- Next, the departmental directors gave encouraging reports from each department:
- James Fleck promoted continuing education. Each minister present was encouraged to continue to invest in their personal development and invest in the opportunities afforded by the ongoing conference training resources, Foundations for Emerging Leaders (FEL), and the ongoing conference training through Advantage College. Church Revitalization and Multiplication Training through EVUSA/Josh Hannah was also introduced on March 6, 2018, and was met with positive results.
- Pastor Kent Bell gave the financial and missions report. Pastor Kent encouraged the delegation to celebrate the abundant blessings of God through their faithful giving. Churches are being supported, ministers are being trained, and ministries are being birthed to reach the lost through the financial resources of River of Life Ministries. I would like to highlight and give thanks for the Lord’s provision.
- Church tithes are up (YTD) 24.4%
- Clergy tithes are up (YTD) 13.5%
- Operating account has increased by 12.5%
- GO offering—River of Life has increased the GO offering for the third consecutive year–giving $27,600 in 2018 and setting a goal of $32,000 for 2019. Overall mission giving continues to grow at a steady pace.
- Cash assets exceed $200,000
- The Conference continues to invest in Project Restore, a home for survivors of human trafficking and sexual abuse
- The Conference continues to support church planting efforts in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, with $500 monthly as well as ongoing missions ministries in Tanzania and Ecuador
- Jessica Dahlstrom, the Women’s Ministries director, showed a video clip of the movie Unplanned and appealed to the church to get involved. “There is not an easy answer to this topic for the church, but we must engage and support wounded women.” She challenged the ladies to engage as the body of Christ so that they might be able to promote awareness and healing in this area of social concern.
- Holly Terry, assistant superintendent, and Discipleship Ministries director, showed a promotional video for summer camps coalescing around the theme, “Glow – Ready… Set… Glow,” and encouraged churches not only to send their children but to be sensitive to the need to scholarship children when possible. A schedule was put in place for many activities planned through Discipleship Ministries.
- Pastor Andy Laddusaw is the conference Evangelism director. This young man is a born leader with a heart for church planting. He gave a positive report stating that the conference has embraced the Arise 2033 challenge. He focused on the needs of networking and encouraged the use of social media to help develop core groups. River of Life pastors have identified seven cities where they think the conference should focus on church planting.
- I then delivered the challenge, “We Prayerfully Value Justice.” It was well received.
- I was honored to participate in the licensing of three candidates: Marty & Cindy Rall – (Local Church Minister’s License) and Rev. Robert Kostelnik (Minister’s License)
- Bishop Dale Adams’ State of the Conference was brief but challenging, giving vision, direction and well-defined goals for the conference as they move forward, embracing the ARISE 2033 objective. Bishop Adams challenged the conference that we’re not to see ourselves as we are, but we are to see ourselves as God sees us, understanding where we’re going. Our prayer and focus must be on new church plants and partnerships, and I challenge our conference to be the first to reach the 2033 challenge of doubling the number of congregations in the next 14 years.
I could not help but sense that, though River of Life is a small conference, they are functioning with a spirit of excellence and with the mindset of a much larger conference. It is obvious that River of Life has been blessed with great leadership.
At the close of the conference, the Bethel Life congregation hosted a wonderful lunch. What a great day!
Four things continue to impress me about this conference:
- I love their sense of camaraderie among their constituency – you could tell they enjoy fellowship with one another.
- They have gifted leadership who honor each other.
- They have a defined vision, established in 2010 that was revisited in Bishop Adams’ State of the Conference that has set a clear pathway moving forward.
- Bethel Life Worship Center is a church that could be a model for any conference in our movement. My heart was touched by the genuine love and compassion reflected in the ministry life of the congregation:
- Loving Hands – a dynamic ministry to children with special needs and their families
- Rescue & Restoration – ministry to the broken, abused and wounded
- Recovery – ministry to those dealing with addiction
- The leadership of this church has helped to produce unity among the ecumenical community, partnering in an outreach center and coffeehouse
I was truly blessed to minister at Shepherd of the Valley Church in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, with Pastor Chuck Dahlstrom and his lovely wife, Jessica. They have four beautiful little girls, ranging in age from 4 to 14. I was impressed with their spirit and passion for ministry. God is anointing them as they lead this church in revitalization. There was a wonderful move of God’s Spirit throughout the service.
I want to express my appreciation to Bishop Dale Adams and first lady, Debi, for their leadership. Their investment is bringing life to this conference. It is obvious they love their people. I always enjoy great fellowship with them. I also appreciate the wonderful hospitality of Pastor Kent Bell and his lovely wife Denise during my time in Greenville. I, too, thank Bishop Beacham and Bishop McGhee for allowing me the privilege of presiding over this conference.
May God’s presence continue to lead this conference to a new level.
K. Preston Mathena, Superintendent