Disciple Heritage Fellowship exists to support the church. Specifically, we assist pastors and churches with a common heritage in the Stone-Campbell movement to fulfill Christ’s mission to make disciples. We provide encouragement to pastors and lay leaders alike as they strive to lead the congregation in which God has placed them. Sometimes they need encouragement. Other times resources or ministry support is what is called for. An important part of our work is helping to build a network of support of like-minded congregations. We are on the same team!
DHF was founded in the 1980s by three congregations: First Christian Church in Lovington, IL, First Christian Church in Decatur, IL, and First Christian Church in Panhandle, TX. DHF has recently moved under the leadership of First Christian Church in Decatur, IL. Wayne Kent is both Lead Pastor of FCC Decatur as well as Executive Director of DHF. The full staff team of FCC Decatur is available to assist congregations around the country explore new approaches to ministry.
HOW can DHF BENEFIT OUR CHURCH?
When churches consider joining or supporting the ministry of DHF, an appropriate question is “Why?” Good stewardship of time, energy, and money requires that the question be asked. The answer to that question comes in several categories.
pastoral care to pastors
All churches are part of some identifiable theological and historic stream. It helps us to make decisions about how and when to baptize, how often to take communion, how to select and develop leaders, where to find our pastors and many other questions.
In that sense, there are no truly “independent” churches. The issue is what identity we will claim. Choosing to be part of DHF, a growing fellowship of churches, gives us an identity and keeps us connected to the larger body of Christ.
This gives us a sense of strength and support. We are not alone in serving Christ. Just as the fellowship of a congregation strengthens individual Christians, so the fellowship between congregations strengthens churches.
DHF offers churches a way to say they are conservative / evangelical rooted in the Campbell-Stone tradition. We affirm the distinctives of the practice of baptism by immersion and the celebration of communion every Sunday. We believe in the authority and reliability of Scripture and that Jesus is the only means to salvation. We believe in local congregational freedom. We believe in the New Testament offices of eldership and the diaconate. We believe pastors are authorized by the call of God and the affirmation of the local church, not by a theological education and a denomination’s permission. We stress agreement in the clear essentials of the Scriptures while allowing room for individual interpretation of Scripture where essentials are not involved. We believe as did the original founders of the Campbell-Stone tradition, in a return to simple New Testament belief and practice.
pastoral care for pastors
One of the most needed but least visible ministries of DHF is that of providing pastoral care to pastors. Pastoral ministry is a stressful and demanding calling. In the midst of that calling, there are times when the pastor needs a pastor. Often there is no one in the local congregation who can be brought into the pastor’s confidence in sensitive areas, and the pastor’s spouse should not always have to be a sounding board for the pressures of ministry.
Our Church Liaison functions as a pastor to the pastors of DHF. Over the phone, through emails and face-to-face visits, he spends significant time with pastors who need someone outside the local situation who can listen, counsel and provide support. You may never know if your pastor has used DHF for pastoral needs, but you can know that your support of DHF has made that resource available when it is needed.
DHF provides a network for pastors and churches to connect for fellowship, support, study and the sharing of expertise. This network allows individuals and congregations to learn from each other and draw from each’s other’s experience, knowledge and skill sets.
Every church periodically faces a crisis situation. There are no perfect churches where crises never arise. Some crises are best dealt with internally, but some come to the point where outside intervention is necessary if there is to be any hope of a resolution.
In those situations it is important for a congregation to be able to turn to someone who shares both their trust and their core values. DHF, through the existing relationships between our leaders and congregations, is able to provide intervention services as a trusted outside resource. When appropriate, our Executive Director or Church Liaison participates in church conflict consultations, and where that involvement is not ideal, they can organize a team of other pastors who would be appropriate.
There are some things that local churches are well-equipped to provide for themselves, but there are also some resources that are best provided in the context of a fellowship of churches.
For instance, where will your church find its next pastor? To find candidates who understand your church’s heritage and who will fit your church, you need to search where such candidates exist. DHF is the source most likely to get you in touch with candidates who share the evangelical Campbell-Stone perspective. We are also connected to evangelical colleges and seminaries who share that perspective and have ministry openings listed on their websites. We can also help you navigate other pastoral search engines.
Finding missionaries to support can also be difficult for many congregations. There are so many individuals and mission groups out there that it’s hard to know where to start. DHF can provide both general guidance for mission support and a list of missionaries we know and recommend for support.