It was my privilege to serve as the presiding officer for the Great Plains Conference (GPC) on Saturday, September 7, 2019. This was the 85thannual conference gathering of the GPC.
The conference was hosted at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Amarillo, Texas.
Bishop Scott Hampton’s State of the Conference report was full of ‘heart,’ well-crafted, and provided an update on where they are at as a conference. I thought you may enjoy reading it. Scott graciously gave his consent to my sharing it with you:
“The State of the Great Plains Conference is the story of us; the churches and ministers that make up this part of the IPHC family. It’s a great joy for Heather and me (and our kids) to serve you. I honor my wife and kids for their love and support for me and this conference.
When they can be on the road with me, my family greatly enjoys our time spent with you in worship and in fellowship. There is a certain determination in people who live in this geographical area of the country that is present in you. We are continually amazed at the resolve and strength that you show in difficult seasons of ministry. Be assured that the Lord has worked in wonderful ways through you to see that lives are transformed here in the United States and around the world.
For the last 10 months, the members of the new Conference Executive Council: Assistant Superintendent/Evangelism Director Patrick Estrada; Discipleship Ministries Director Jake Bunn; World Missions Director Hector Chavez; and Secretary/Treasurer Chelsea Bunn have served you with fresh vision for their responsibilities, and we’ve seen great progress through their efforts. I believe the Lord knew what He was doing when He selected this team to serve you. This team has come together with a strong sense of unity since its formation, and we work well together. I have been so blessed to be surrounded by such a strong team that is committed to seeing Great Plains grow.
I am grateful to this team and to many of you that reached out to us when my father passed away in March. I was humbled by all of you that traveled great distances to attend his funeral.
I want to also give a special thanks to Assistant Superintendent Patrick Estrada for being on the road with me so often. It’s exciting to see the fruit that is being produced for the kingdom through this team. Please remember, we take our commission of “equipping for the harvest” seriously. We are here to serve you!
The Great Plains Conference currently has a total of 114 ministers credentialed at some level – 40 Local Church Ministers, 35 Licensed Ministers, and 39 Ordained Ministers. This year we found ourselves in the unfortunate position to have to remove credentials from some people for not tithing or reporting. It’s our hope that this trend will not continue in the future as a healthy culture of proper tithing and reporting is our goal.
Our Intercession Director, Debbie Estrada, continues to do a great job connecting our churches to a single unified prayer network within the conference. If your church does not have a prayer leader connected to this network, please connect with Debbie. This prayer network is a part of the pastoral care arm of the conference for our ministers. Any need brought to us can receive conference-wide prayer coverage within a matter of minutes. Under the administration of Esther Guenther, our School of Ministry continues to function well, and we are exploring new ways to expand its influence. I am pleased to report to you that since we last met, we did achieve the goal of establishing the INCAM, Hispanic School of Ministry program, in Albuquerque with good participation.
Leadership Development must become one of our top priorities of the conference moving forward. We need to produce leaders at a rapid rate to improve the effectiveness of our churches, prepare our existing churches for leadership transitions, and to have a pool of church planters ready to reach the harvest. Our desire for leadership development will be evident beginning in our Spring 2020 regional meetings.
You are still a strong base of 28 churches and ministry points that are working to fulfill the Great Commission. Unfortunately, two churches have closed in 2019, but we are happy to report to that the Lord has used both of those situations to bless ministry moving forward either with rental income being generated or use of the facility by another one of our existing churches in the same community. We are excited to present to you our newest team member in Talon Romero. Talon has joined us as our Multimedia Coordinator and is in charge of our social media and website. He is also responsible for the new PDF format of the reports and the screen graphics for this meeting. Talon brings great expertise to the conference and is available as a resource to our churches who need assistance in multimedia.
We must realize that there is also still a tremendous job to be done in our geographical area of West Texas, New Mexico, the Oklahoma Panhandle, and Southwestern Kansas. We must continue to expand our territory and become more aggressive in our church revitalization and church planting efforts.
We are realigning our priorities and budget to support these efforts by investing more in our church revitalization coaching group. We have the fruit from this first group to examine now and the three churches and one ministry point that made the strongest commitment to the coaching group have all grown. I would like to honor Patrick Estrada from the 3 and the 30, Mathias Estrada from Elevate Church; Mike Carlisle from Full Armor Fellowship; and Cory Barnett from Family Destiny for their dedication to reaching the lost by consistently participating in this coaching group. Beginning in 2020, Great Plains is planning to provide these coaching sessions at no charge for conference churches that 1) commit to participation and 2) are in good standing in their tithe. Please consider joining this coaching group. We believe it can be the catalyst for seeing strong churches grow, some even to the point of becoming multi-site churches and planting daughter churches.
We also continue to build stronger relationships with the other conferences that we share the State of Texas with believing that as we find creative ways to join together, the Lord will help us all expand.
There are many other things that I could share with you regarding the health of our finances and the success stories I could share from Evangelism, World Missions, and Discipleship Ministries but I will submit the time and effort of that to our very capable Conference Executive Council. Please be attentive to their reports.
I would like to spend the rest of my time sharing some thoughts with you.
With the introduction of a denomination-wide focus in ARISE 2033, we must now align ourselves properly to pursue it. In his new book, “New Thinking, New Future” ministry, and business consultant Sam Chand retell the story of the 1936 United States Olympic eight-man rowing team. This group of college students from the University of Washington arrived in Berlin, Germany, to represent the United States in the Olympics despite not having the long list of credentials that many of their opponents would have. This team of the sons of shipyard workers, loggers, and farmers had already beaten other college teams that had bankers, lawyers, businessmen, and senators in their heritage. They were gritty and determined. Now they faced Hitler’s Nazi elite who held home-court advantage in the Berlin Olympic Games. The odds were stacked against the U.S. team as the German team drew the preferable inside lane, and they were assigned the outside lane that exposed them to a strong headwind that would make their task even harder. The Germans were the heavy favorites and even Hitler himself showed up for the race. The race began as predicted with the German team in the lead and the U.S. team struggling behind. Then, in one of the most stunning upsets in Olympic history, the United States came from out of nowhere to edge out the Germans at the finish line. In the book, “The Boys in the Boat” author Daniel James Brown states, “Against the backdrop of the Great Depression, they reaffirmed the American notion that merit, in the end, outweighs birthright. They reminded the country of what can be done when quite literally everyone pulls together.”
This story reminds me of a biblical account in Nehemiah 3 where we read that, just like this 1936 Olympic rowing team, a group of unqualified and unlikely people overcame enormous opposition and finished an impossible task because they did it together.
In this chapter we see:
- High Priests rebuilding a portion of the wall
- Men from Jericho who didn’t live in Jerusalem rebuilding a portion of the wall
- Governors of the region rebuilding a portion of the wall
- Goldsmiths rebuilding a portion of the wall
- Perfumers rebuilding a portion of the wall
- A district leader and his daughters rebuilding a portion of the wall
The lesson to be learned for us from both of these accounts is that we can accomplish the vision of ARISE 2033 if we will ARISE TOGETHER. We will find our strength in unity! We must all have a mindset that says I don’t succeed until we all succeed. A call for churches to help coach and resource each other. A conviction that would drive us to pray for each other. A commitment to work towards this Arise 2033 vision together that would inspire multiple churches in a region to pull their resources together in support of a new church plant. A community where workers would be sent from one church to another to strengthen a ministry in need. I believe there is no limit to what the Lord would do with us if we would all get in the boat together and begin to row in the same rhythm towards the vision of Arise 2033.
It’s my prayer that the Great Plains Conference would not only ARISE but that we would ARISE TOGETHER! I will conclude this State of the Conference with the same words I used from last year because they still communicate what I believe the Lord would have us say. We rejoice in all that the Lord has done in Great Plains, but we also realize that the vision in front of us inspires us to more. You are incredible people and, as the Word says about Stephen in the book of Acts, you are a people, “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Continue to love your neighbors as yourself.
Continue to reach the lost. Continue to go and make disciples. The communities that we are currently in and the new territories that we will take need you to continue the work of the ministry. Let us celebrate where we are but also look forward to ARISE 2033 with great expectation of where the Lord will take us in the future as we ARISE TOGETHER!”
Rev. Chelsea Bunn, GPC secretary/treasurer, presented the conference with a few ‘snapshots’ that summarize the conference’s efforts to grow in financial health in her detailed financial report. These snapshots included the introduction of Quarterly Giving Reports, an annual financial review, and budget-based operations. Chelsea’s attention to detail and her transparency will serve the conference well. She concluded her report with the following paragraph:
“-Upside Down vs. Right Side up: $20,000+ Excess–At the end of the day, this is where we end up. And I hope it speaks volumes to you. You can go study the numbers below for yourself, but it comes down to this: We were able to operate this year as a conference with over $20,000 left after expenses. God has overwhelmed us with His provision. I believe that is what comes when (1) We stay faithful in our tithing to Him and (2) When our goals and vision are led by Him. I believe we have bright days ahead if we continue to walk as He has called us. I believe we have exciting moments to share in together as we chase after God led goals and Arise 2033.”
It was an honor as the presiding officer to recognize the following conference attendees and guests:
- Rev. Jake Bunn, member of the general Men’s Ministries Board
- Rev. Luis Avila, general director of Hispanic Ministries and INCaM. Rev. Avila did a super job in his presentation to the conference on Hispanic Ministries and INCaM in the IPHC.
On Friday evening, the conference hosted its annual Global Outreach banquet. We were honored to have former conference superintendent, Bishop Gary Burd, current director of the General M25 Ministries and his 50CC Diaper Run riders present. I am grateful for GPC’s commitment to the evangelization of our church globally.
Scott and Heather are great leaders. I was privileged to serve with Scott when we were both a part of Discipleship Ministries. Scott’s testimony will bring tears to your eyes. It has been a joy to see Scott develop and mature into the leader that he is today.
Scott and Heather are also new grandparents. We pray God’s richest blessings over Kinsley, their first granddaughter who was born on Friday afternoon.
It is always a privilege to serve this part of our faith family.