GraceConnect eNews, No. 105, Week of June 22, 2015


The eNewsletter for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches

Taking Risk in Ministry

This week's post comes from Phil Sparlingpastor of Auburn Grace Church, a Grace Brethren congregation in Auburn, Calif. He will speak Friday morning at this year's Flinch Conference on “The Risky Business of Re-envisioning a Church.”

I remember my first Easter as pastor in Auburn, Calif. I was excited and had some grand ideas for our congregation. We all needed a successful something. After all the negative events of recent months, our church needed a real positive. So six or seven weeks prior to the holiday, I announced a planning meeting to brainstorm about how we could make Easter really impactful for our community. I invited everyone back that Sunday afternoon to put our heads together and pray for a God-sized Easter Sunday.

About 25 people showed up, which was about one-fourth of our congregation, so I was excited. We spent the hour sharing ideas regarding themes, skits, food, mailers, decorations, etc. Before we prayed together I asked one final question: How many people should we pray and ask the Lord to bring on Easter? I wanted to set a God-sized attendance goal. I already had a number in mind, but I let the group discuss this. Someone said we should ask God for 150; someone else said 200, which was the number I had in my mind. Then our volunteer worship leader boldly proclaimed that 300 should be our goal. I shuttered, but many others agreed with him and before I knew it, we were set on asking God for the miracle of 300.

I remember staying awake on Easter eve that year and praying that God would perform a real miracle. “Please Lord, don’t let your people down. They are stepping out in faith and asking You for a real miracle.” I felt asking God to triple our normal Sunday attendance was mind-blowing and such a risk of faith. I was proud of our people for wanting to take such a risk in the name of the Lord, but 300… really?!?! What if only half of that number showed up? It would be another negative episode for our already downtrodden body of believers.

This last Easter Sunday was my 20th as pastor in Auburn. It was a wonderful Sunday filled with music, drama, and the Word. But this year there was no numerical goal. In fact, we haven’t set numerical goals for many years. I discovered long ago that real risk in ministry has nothing to do with how many people show up on Sunday or how much comes in the offering baskets. Real ministry risk is much harder and runs much deeper than these things. Dare I say our congregation can try gathering a crowd or give weekly gospel invitations without really risking much at all?

Real risk taking in ministry includes three elements; three elements which have nothing to do with goal setting or asking the Lord to answer ‘God-sized’ attendance prayers. These three elements are often shied away from by ministry leaders. I was unwilling to face these risks for the first five years as pastor in Auburn. But God wanted more from me and from our congregation. Discovering what He wanted, then having the courage to follow it through was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken as a leader, and our congregation has ever taken as a family of believers. But it’s more exciting now than any goal achieved in those early years.

This year at Flinch Conference, I’ve been asked to share a TED-type talk and briefly describe these three key elements for taking risk in ministry. I hope to see you there.  -- by Phil Sparling

This post was first published on the
Flinch Conference blog -- check it out for more great articles by speakers at this year's conference! And don't forget to check out the conference website to make plans to attend. The conference is July 23-26 at the Newark, N.J., International Airport Marriott.


Every praise is to our God! Operation Barnabas is in the house! #WLGBC #OB2015 #graceconnectsus

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Flinch Conference is the adult conference of the fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. But did you know that the fellowship hosts a conference for youth, too? This year's Momentum conference, held this July 14- 19, will host several dynamic speakers on and off the stage, including many Power Trax Seminar  Here are just a few topics:

Daring to Risk!, by today's featured pastor, Phil Sparling
Knowing and Discerning God’s Will, by Grace Community's
Dan Cosentino
LGBT and the Church, by Matt Simon of Western Reserve Grace Church
Evangelism Might Not Be What You Think,  by CE National's
Ed Short
What do I do with my doubts?, Tim Wright of Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church
From Spooky to Powerful: A Practical Look at the Holy Spirit, 
Scott Feather of Gateway Church

Visit for more information. 


Check out some updates by Grace Brethren people out in the ministry field this summer:

Operation Barnabas, currently underway in Ohio and Indiana.
Haiti Team from Grace Church, Bath Campus, Akron, Ohio (Jeff Bogue, senior pastor) returns to the U.S.
>>Encompass missionary 
Patty Morris in Villeurbanne, France.

Don't forget to pray for each of these ministries, along with many others who are ministering and learning in various capacities this summer in our churches.


Events in the FGBC

June 15-July 27, 2015 – Operation Barnabas, Winona Lake, Ind. (CEN)
June 21-27, 2015  Great Canadian Adventure, Toronto, Ontario (GBC)
June 21-27, 2015 – Encounter Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga. (EWP)
June 23-July 7, 2015 – City Life Tours East Coast & West Coast (CEN)
July 14-19, 2015 – Momentum Youth Conference, Marion, Ind. (CEN) 
July 23, 2015 – Women's Celebration at Flinch Conference, Newark, NJ (WGUSA)
July 23-26, 2015 – Flinch Conference (national conference), Newark, N.J. (FGBC) 
August 10-14, 2015 – Encounter SoCal Santa Ana, Calif. (EWP) 
August 28-29, 2015  WLS: Biblical Foundations of Leadership, Winona Lake, Ind.   (WGUSA)
September 21-23, 2015 – Northwest Focus Retreat (FGBC) 
September 25-26, 2015  Revive '15 Fellowship Forum, Indianapolis, Ind.  (WGUSA)
October 5-7, 2015 – Central Focus Retreat (FGBC) 
October 19-21, 2015 – East Focus Retreat (FGBC) 
October 30-31, 2015  WLS: Principles of Effective Bible Study, Columbus, Ohio  (WGUSA)
November 2-6, 2015 – International Charis Gathering (Charis)
November 13-14, 2015  WLS: Women & Scripture, Elizabethtown, Pa.  (WGUSA)
January 15-16, 2016 – WLS: Women & Scripture, Ocala, Fla.  (WGUSA)

CEN – CE National
EWP – Encompass World Partners
FGBC – Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
GBC – Grace Brethren Canada
WGUSA – Women of Grace USA

Send events for the calendar to
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