Interview on January 21, 2016, with FEA President Sidney Grant, HSBC President Daniel Stetler and HS Bible Church Pastor Rodney Loper
What are the benefits of the interaction of the three ministries in Hobe Sound?
Sidney Grant: We have the spiritual benefit—Hobe Sound is an oasis for spirituality. I believe God has placed these ministries here with that dynamic in mind. I see that benefit of spirituality for FEA maintenance, FEA personnel, but most of all for our missionaries who go from here all over the world. This is a place they can come and find spiritual renewal and rest. Secondly, the resources at Hobe Sound are second to none. I believe God has given us this place so we can have resources to advance His kingdom around the world. Another benefit is what I would call a ministerial benefit, because there is a tremendous amount of ministry that goes out from this place. Pretty much all of our FEA employees were students from Hobe Sound Bible College and members of the church.
Those three aspects are very important: the spiritual, the resources, as well as the ministerial. We work together, and they help us get the Word of God out to lost people and to advance His kingdom around the world.
Daniel Stetler: One of the original benefits was a very practical one. You couldn’t justify building a big tabernacle, a dining hall, dormitories, and other things necessary for camp meeting and only use them twelve days out of the year. But when Bro. French and Bro. Herron got their heads together and began to think, “We can use these buildings throughout the year for a school, and the students can move out of the dorm come camp time, and the guests can move in, and can use the cafeteria when they come,” all of a sudden we’re getting a lot more mileage out of the money people give to the work of God. That’s been one of the genius dimensions of Hobe Sound Ministries. When you bring the church in, which happened in the ‘80s, then you’re using the facilities literally year around. That inner working that maximizes every building built, every dollar given, is a tremendous blessing.
Rodney Loper: As a result of sharing facilities, we can come alongside each other and help with the maintenance of those facilities. The upkeep and upgrades we do enhances all three of us: for camp meeting, for college classes, and for church and Sunday school classes. Even greater than that is the shared personnel. Each of us use people within the various organizations for teaching, for ministry related things. My staff teaches for the college. Some of them do graphics work for FEA Ministries. Because of that we’re able to attract high quality people. You come to Hobe Sound, you can teach in the college. You come to Hobe Sound, we’ll use you in the church setting. You come to Hobe Sound, there are mission trip possibilities where we can send you to a field and you can be an expert in training our leaders. Dr. McElwain is a case in point of going to the mission field and sharing his expertise there. Those two things are essential, and what a blessing they are.
The spiritual side of things is important, too. When things are going well for the church spiritually, it helps the college, and it helps FEA. When things are going well for the college, it helps the church services. Camp meeting is a tremendous blessing in the life of our church. So there’s a spiritual benefit we would lack if we weren’t pulling the wagon together.
How is Hobe Sound Ministries structured?
Grant: Hobe Sound Ministries started off with a vision to evangelize people and to have a place where God’s people could come and be revived. It’s very difficult for one entity to see that happening. The three ministries evolved with the focus first on evangelism/revival/renewal, but then what are you going to do with people who are coming and getting help and wanting more? So education came into place. Of course Dr. Herron was the man who was tapped to take care of that element of the ministries. So I see the purpose of Hobe Sound Ministries is to make sure the people who come here get spiritual help, whether a deeper walk with God or to be saved. Then those people need to be educated, developed, and discipled for greater ministry. Then you need to bring them together in a composite setting where they can worship together and be edified.
Hobe Sound Ministries exists to ensure the body of Christ gets the element of spiritual help—evangelized, saved, sanctified; and then that element of growth, of development; and then fellowship—not only the spiritual worship setting of fellowship but also the sense of community, the campus. These three ministries depict this beautiful picture of reaching the lost, developing people to become effective leaders, and bringing them together to worship and to support one another in the ministry.
Stetler: Again I’m going to be very practical, but there’s an inner-connectedness in terms of our structure as far as our boards are concerned. Both Pastor Loper and President Grant serve on the college board. I serve on FEA’s board. Pastor Loper does, too. And the same is true with the church board. So there is an interconnectedness which is vital. That keeps us all abreast of what we’re doing. That’s a very important link.
And then of course there is the interconnectedness of usage. A lot of people do not realize that FEA owns the vast majority of the property here. Only in more recent years did the school purchase fourteen acres—actually, I think there was an exchange that was worked out—and we had some land of our own. The church owns a couple of structures and the property out in the middle of the state. But really this is all built around a hub of property owned by FEA. Our men’s dorm sits on FEA property. One of the church parsonages sits on FEA property. The church itself sits on FEA property. Our music building is on FEA property.
FEA could never bear the full weight of things like insurance and maintenance without the help of the other organizations. The church uses the cafeteria for fellowship time. The school uses the cafeteria every day of the week during the school year. The music hall is used throughout the week for music and on weekends and Wednesday nights the church uses it. So the structure is comingled until nobody could get by without everybody else. It’s all tied together practically.
Loper: The connectedness of the ministries is about community and shared usage. In that arena, we’re inseparable. We’re also inseparable in philosophy. We’re pulling in the same direction. We have the same values. If you were to compare the core values of the college, FEA, and the church, you would see that many of those are reflected. It is not even intentionally—when we come up with what we value, all three of us value the same thing. That’s a testimony to the founders of Hobe Sound. They envisioned a place where missionaries would go forth. They envisioned a place where retired missionaries and Christian workers could come to an affordable campus and spend their retirement years. They envisioned a place where we could educate our young people and send them out into the great harvest field.
As a result of those visions, the need arose for a church to exist. The church is kind of the last rung in the ladder so to speak. It has created an atmosphere where leaders from those organizations can come and receive spiritual help. They’re a part of the church, part of the voting members of the church. So you have this great inner working. If you tried to separate those things out, it would become an untenable situation that would implode.
Hobe Sound Ministries, the three organizations, are a cradle-to-the-grave ministry. Families move here because of a great campus and a great academy. They are a part of our church. Babies eventually come. Last year I dedicated sixteen babies. You see them as they grow and go into the PreK program. They go through our academy, through the high school, into college. Some of those kids go right into missions and become missionaries. Then on the back side, you have missionaries coming home from the field, retired ministers coming down to live in a mild climate, and you have this beautiful picture of what I think every church ought to look like—from little infants to retirees and a beautiful spiritual environment for families to be nurtured and brought up in. Hobe Sound Ministries is an exciting place, the only place in our movement that exists like this. It’s a great model for families and ministries to thrive in.
It sounds beautiful. So what are some of the challenges?
Stetler: It’s dreadfully expensive to operate a college, even though our faculty and staff receive low wages. There is not a far-flung base like there would be in a denomination. Sometimes that could be a challenge. The church on many occasions has stepped forward to say, “We want to help.” They offer us the opportunity monthly to take offerings in the church and share needs. Last year $32,000 came through the church. That really doesn’t reflect the entire amount of the giving of the church. Hobe Sound Bible Church is the biggest single supporter of Hobe Sound Bible College that there could possibly be. Then we have a lot of things we write off for one organization or the other. A lot of our housing for our faculty and staff comes on FEA campus. Sometimes when we’re really stressed, it puts pressure on FEA. So the money side can be a pressure point.
Yet it can also be an enormous blessing when God sends something that’s just unusual, extraordinary. It’s a boost to everybody to feel like God is answering prayer. That happened just this Christmas season when a man sent a substantial check. I know it was an encouragement to everybody at FEA and the church to know God was supplying needs. Sometimes these guys have to carry us unfortunately. I feel like sometimes maybe we’re the biggest burden.
Grant: While that is true, the challenge of, using President Stetler’s statement, “carrying them” is a blessing because that’s what a community is for, particularly within the Christian community. Yes, it is stressful at times, particularly when bills have to be paid and the funds are not there. But looking beyond that point of managing the resources, one of the greatest blessings in life, in any context but in this context for sure, is we can step up. God has placed us here on earth and at Hobe Sound Ministries to be a mutual blessing to one another. So when there is a struggle, if FEA has the resources to step up to the plate to help the other ministries, that is what we are here for. We are not going to take these resources to heaven, we are going to take people. Therefore, if we can’t look beyond the stress of the moment and the challenges, then what are we here for? What are we doing? It is to use what God has given us for the bigger picture, His kingdom, and in this setting, Hobe Sound Ministries. So the stress can turn into blessing if we look at it from a kingdom perspective. I hope FEA will continue being there for these other ministries. That’s my personal interest. That is what we need to be doing, to step up to the plate, to be a blessing in spite of the stress and the challenges that we face on a daily basis.
Loper: The challenges before us really come from our strengths. When you start looking at the interconnectivity and the shared resources of the facilities and personnel, while they are strengths, they create stress points. We talk about finances. When you combine the finances of Hobe Sound Ministries together—President Grant’s budget, President Stetler’s budget, and the church’s budget—we by far are the largest organization financially in our movement. So when one of the other organizations is going through a difficult time, we can become protective of our financial resources. That sometimes can create stress points. Or when another organization is in a down time, we have to rally alongside and help bolster them.
But as President Grant said, those are also times of great benefit for us because we are bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ, Galatians tells us. That is a blessing. When it comes to personnel, it can be a point of disagreement on the way that works out. If one organization expects “x” out of an employee, and he’s working at a different place, too, on campus, those things can create rubs as well.
All three of us have a tremendous relationship of working together. We have conflicts, but we have made it a point to work through those things. So we have open dialogue. If I have a problem with the college, I call President Stetler, and we talk about it. We disagree, but we know when we walk out of those meetings that we’re friends and we’re co-laborers. I know he’s going to be pulling for me. And I’m pulling for him. The same is true with President Grant. We have decided that, even though there are disagreements and approaches may be different, we are going to support one another.
You cannot come to Hobe Sound Ministries and sit in any of these three positions and be about your kingdom. If you’re building your kingdom, and it’s all about what you can do for yourself, you’re going to fail in Hobe Sound. Hobe Sound Ministries is a whole lot bigger than me. It is a whole lot bigger than President Stetler or President Grant. It is about God’s kingdom going forward. I know all three of us are not interested in our own kingdoms. We are not interested in our names being on a marque somewhere. We are interested in God’s kingdom being advanced. And we are going to link arms and run forward. We may stumble, we may disagree, but our arms are going to remain linked together to see God’s kingdom and Hobe Sound advance.
Grant: Another element that challenges us in these ministries is communication beyond Hobe Sound. How do we communicate so people out there understand who we are? We have been working on a public relations statement that would combine the three ministries. We try to communicate that, and we have failed. I have. A pastor said to me onetime that they had some folks from the college at a church, and he had hoped to hear more about Hobe Sound. We just don’t think that way because it is who we are. Individually we go out on deputation or on PR for the school. But it would be helpful if we would come up with some statement.
I get excited, I tell people, “Don’t talk to me about any of them negatively.” There’s a challenge that people don’t understand us. How are we going to market that as a composite, as one, as we go out from here? Sometimes we get this PR one here and one there. We need to somehow work together to make sure we have a statement that would gel and communicate the Hobe Sound Ministries together.
Loper: We do have a mechanism in place to help with potential conflict, and that is Hobe Sound Ministries Council. The council meets often. It is each of the three leaders and a board-appointed representative from each of our organizations. That committee doesn’t have any power in and of itself. It only has power given to it by the boards. But that committee runs things that we share. For example our telephone and IT infrastructure and our insurance would be under the jurisdiction of that committee. Our Concert Series and Singing Christmas Tree would be under the jurisdiction of that committee. We meet on a regular basis to talk about these key components, and we make decisions together. That council has been a great asset to helping overcome potential difficulties that may arise.
What is each of your visions for Hobe Sound Ministries?
Grant: I am in transition myself. But just recently I’ve been working on some strategic analysis of FEA to figure out where we are going. Even this morning I was thinking about that and praying. We do a lot of stuff. You get very engaged and busy. But yesterday something really hit me. This approach came to my mind that I call the “funnel approach.” The entry point is huge—there is a lot of stuff that could go in there. But then there is a little spot that comes out on the end. We pour a lot of stuff into this funnel effect, so to speak. I’m asking myself the question, “At the end of the day, what is going to come out of the other end?”
Our movement needs help. I believe Hobe Sound has been placed in God’s kingdom for “such a time as this” to see God’s kingdom go forward in such a way that together we work towards one end. That end from my perspective is to see the Hobe Sound Ministries engage in developing leaders to develop churches globally. At the end of the day, that’s the only thing we are going to take to heaven—people who are born again and have become part of the bride of Christ. That’s my personal vision. So whatever future involvement I may have, wherever that may be, that is my passion—to see all of the resources we have here at Hobe Sound be used to develop young men and women, leaders, to go out and expand the church of Christ around the world. And of course here within the US, because the Bible college needs students, and they are going to come from churches. If we don’t help plant churches and pastor churches, there is no tomorrow. That is my passion, my goal. Whatever I can do to contribute to that is what I want to do to see God’s kingdom go forward through building His kingdom and preparing the bride of Christ.
Stetler: I don’t think anyone can argue with the fact that in the days of transition when the merger was happening and the holiness movement was in upheaval, Hobe Sound was an epicenter, a magnet for people who believed in conservative holiness. The Sea Breeze Camp Meeting was an opportunity for that to be proclaimed. The Bible college was an opportunity for young people to be trained in that context. And even then, though the church wasn’t actually officially formed, it was still functioning on a regular basis. At that point Hobe Sound became the center—along with institutions like the IH Convention and the Wesleyan Educators Association—of the conservative holiness movement.
That has changed across the years. Movements have taken shape, and camp meetings have grown up. But Sea Breeze Camp Meeting is still a powerful influence across the movement. Often people don’t realize what a profound impact Hobe Sound Bible Church has through live streaming. This man preaches to more people every Sunday morning than anybody else in the conservative holiness movement. Hobe Sound Bible Church is the largest church. Now people will say, “Well, you’ve got a lot of reasons for that.” That is true, but the fact remains Hobe Sound Bible Church is the largest church in our movement.
My vision for Hobe Sound Bible College is that we will never drift into being merely an intellectual institution. I want us to keep our feet on the ground. I want our minds to be solidly prepared. I feel like I can say with all honesty that Hobe Sound is equipped today with the finest staff we have ever had in the history of the institution. Our young people are going out trained and equipped to serve God. But I want to keep our feet on the ground. I’m not interested in us just being an ivory tower institution. I’ve talked to these men about that. The camp meeting, the influence of the church and live streaming, even the cultural influence of the Concert Series—those things bring a model to the movement that can make a difference. As God helps us to love each other and work together and build and strengthen these ministries from within, I believe that is happening. I really do believe that is happening. God has brought somebody alongside the college to help us with our infrastructure—a foundation that is not in any way connected to the holiness movement. But they have given us sizable gifts to help with infrastructure. Right now we’re planning with the church, and I don’t want to get ahead of Pastor Loper’s thoughts there, but I feel like we are building for the future. We are looking to tomorrow. And when the dust settles, I believe Hobe Sound Bible College and Hobe Sound Bible Church and FEA Ministries can be a solid anchor point for people. When the storms are blowing out there and people are changing directions, by the grace of God we can provide some sane, sensible balance and some tide posts that will make a difference for the future of our movement. I have great aspirations to see that happen from the earliest years of PreK to college. I feel like God is giving us an opportunity. FEA is at the forefront of missions. Hobe Sound Bible Church is influencing. I have no fear of saying to people, “Go online. You can see what we get at Hobe Sound.” I have no fear, because I feel like we are preserving an anchor point that our movement can benefit from.
Loper: I agree with both of their visions. When we talk about vision, it is easy for us to talk about the big picture of Hobe Sound. I agree with that, and we need to. But it’s also important to focus on the individual aspects. President Grant mentioned planting churches throughout the world, a global vision—that’s appropriate for FEA. President Stetler talked about training minds but also preparing hearts—that’s a beautiful vision for the college. My specific vision for the church is to have a body of believers who are biblically based. In a world that is changing, in a world where truths are being challenged on every front, I want a congregation who I have confidence in that when decisions are to be made, they go to the Word of God and ask what the Word of God has to say about these matters. I want a congregation that has a biblical worldview in a world that’s filled with chaos. I believe that as the church deepens in that realm, it will enhance what FEA is doing. It will enhance what the college is doing.
I have four pillars that guide my life as an individual, that guide my life as a pastor. First of all, I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. That will drive every decision I make, every decision we make as a ministry. All three of us believe in that, and our organizations do as well.
I believe salvation by grace through faith is available to all people. That is a compelling vision for FEA to go out into the world. We are not just holding our candles under a bushel. We are letting them shine. We are preparing minds to go out and win the lost.
I believe in the doctrine of holiness. It is not up for sale. It is not up for debate. It is a key tenant of who we are. Again that marks us as organizations. We are heading in that direction. We preach it, we sing it, we proclaim it. We are a holiness people and unashamedly so.
The last pillar of my life is I believe in holy careful living. I don’t believe we go to the Word of God and look for loopholes to get around what the Word is teaching. We look for application points. When you combine those four pillars with where we are headed as an organization, they help keep us grounded. They help keep us moored. But they also give us a trajectory to point to the future—this is where we’re heading. The future is bright. God is working at Hobe Sound.
We are just ready now to begin talking about a comprehensive remodel of the CEC/tabernacle complex. We were handed a beautiful, beautiful resource from the previous generation, the great leaders of the past—G. R. French and H. Robb French and the leaders of the college and the pastoral leaders. They handed us this beautiful facility. Now it is our generation’s time to take that facility to the next level. We are working with a build/design firm right now, strategically planning how this is going to happen. And we’re doing it in conjunction with the college and FEA. We can go into the tabernacle and chop it up and make it into a church sanctuary that seats what we need, but then we marginalize Sea Breeze Camp Meeting. We’re not into that. We are into pulling together and looking at it through the eyes of Hobe Sound Ministries. The education wing of the facility is going to be available to the college to use for their classrooms. We want them to be state of the art classrooms, not only for the college, but also for our Sunday school classes. All of those are components that we’re working through, not just to enhance the church, but to also come alongside the vision of these men and their organizations so we can see God’s kingdom advance further in Hobe Sound.
Patrick Davis: Hallelujah! Praise God! Gentlemen, there is a spirit of unity brewing in this place. It is overflowing, and it is absolutely beautiful. It is attractive. And I credit you with that.
Loper: There is unity, and it is purposeful unity.
Stetler: It is constantly challenged.
Grant: It is intentional.
Stetler: We are going to constantly have to be on our guard.
Loper: We have decided before we meet that we are going to be unified.
Grant: There is no place like Hobe Sound community. Tim Boyd was at CIU working on a doctorate. They asked him to find a paradigm that would bring a sense of Biblical community together. He began to talk to his professor about Hobe Sound. And he said, “You’ve got it.” He’s never heard of a place like Hobe Sound.