News & Updates

Big Dividends in Japan

Posted on: October 21st, 2013

In partnership with the Rengo and Converge Worldwide, mobilizing churches in Japan is paying big dividends! Here are some of the exciting markers we are praising God for at Pinnacle:

First, we completed the first round of training with six pastors in January, 2013. This enabled final issues of contextualization to be addressed. Since then, key processes have been tested with great success in Japanese churches.

Second, the Rengo approved The Retool Kit Pathway© as an official pastoral education program for the Rengo Association of Churches, supplementing The Purpose Driven Church materials.

Third, a publisher has been contracted with for the first edition of The Retool Kit Pathway© in Japanese. Under the direction of Dr. Makoto Fukui, the tedious process of translating and testing the workbooks, coaches’ guide, PowerPoint and other tools is complete.

Fourth, last Friday and Saturday,  Dr. Fukui hosted a new class of pastors at Tamagawa Baptist Church in Tokyo. Dr. Fukui  led the first two sessions on Friday evening. Saturday morning Gary Harrison and Ray Swatkowski led the sessions via Webex video, with Pastor Kishio Hikaru (pictured right) translating in Japan.

In a follow up note, Dr. Fukui commented:  Thank you for giving your valuable time to our ministry. Whenever I attend your session, I have new findings and insights for my ministry.


What’s next? Anticipation, as Gary, Marie and Ray will be traveling to Tokyo in February to spend three days with these pastors, their wives and key leaders with a focus on Renewing Community (Retreat #2). Then they will travel to Hamamatsu to speak  for the Rengo Pastor’s Conference. Pray for these pastors as they study The Emotionally Healthy Church and complete their assignments. Pray for us as we plan and prepare for next February. Pray for the Church in Japan as they focus on ways to reach out and impact their communities for Christ.

Five Reasons for A Pastoral Sabbatical by Bob Thune

Posted on: October 2nd, 2013

Does your church understand the need for Pastoral Sabbaticals? Are you having a hard time convincing leadership that a sabbatical experience would benefit the entire church? Does your congregation understand your need to be alone with God to refresh and renew your soul?

You might be helped by this article by a young pastor about to embark on a two month sabbatical.

Did you know Pinnacle has a Sabbatical Policy PDF that you can download?  You will find it under Pastoral Renewal by going to: 


Welcoming Your New Pastor

Posted on: August 30th, 2013

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

I Timothy 5:17 NIV

There is nothing scarier than moving a family out of state or even across town. Kids need to find new friends and adjust to new schools. Checking out grocery stores and new dentists is time consuming and sometimes stressful.  Pastors and their families experience the same upheaval and uncertainty as other families when Dad accepts a new job and they move to a new city.

The Vanderbloemen Search Group is a great resource for pastors and families. You might want to check out their most recent article that offers some great ideas on welcoming a new pastor.

Whether you are the new pastor in the midst of transition or an elder preparing your congregation for your new leader, there are tips here that you can us.

Here is a link to the Vanderbloemen Search Group.

This article on Pastoral Transitions is just one of the many great articles they have available for church leadership.


Posted on: January 28th, 2013

Greeted by sub zero temperatures in St. Paul, Minnesota, six Japanese pastors were warmed in body and soul by the hospitality of Wally and Tannie Eshenauer.  Pastors Fukui, Kishio, Yamauchi, Kaneno, Arakawa and Nakahasi gathered around the Eshenauer’s table to enjoy barbequed hamburgers with the Pinnacle Ministries Staff.

Bethany Church in Roseville arranged for housing and meals for the jet lagged pastors during their four-day stay.  Grace Point Church provided a welcoming environment for training sessions and snacks for break time.

But, what were six Japanese pastors doing in the frigid Midwest? How did this all start?

Five years ago, at a breakfast in Tokyo, Gary, Ray, Cirillo Doguiles and John Mehn shared with Fukui and Sasaki their recent experience of training pastors in the Philippines. Soon, Pastor Fukui began the process of translating the training material into Japanese, wondering how God might use it in Japan.

Led by Pastor Fukui, a group of four pastors came to the states in 2009 and 2010. They met with Japanese American Pastors (JMT), Gary, and Ray in order to work on initial training and translating tasks.

In February 2011, Gary and Ray traveled to Hamamatsu, Japan for the Rengo Pastors Conference.  They spoke on major portions of the Retool Kit. Since that time, additional training has been done in Japan and some via videoconferences as the translation and contextualization has moved forward.

The translation of all materials is nearing completion.

Last week’s Summit is the next step in moving from assessment to vision and implementation. It also provided a venue for our Japanese pastors to interact with pastors from the states who have successfully moved through the Retool Kit Pathway.

We want to thank Pastor Gary Dorn, Pastor Darrel Benhardus and Pastor Roger Inouye for sharing their own experiences with the pastors. The opportunity to engage with these pastors was encouraging to our Japanese friends.

The Summit was not just about the Retool Kit. It was an opportunity for the Japanese pastors to share some of the unique struggles of the Japanese Church, which often numbers thirty or less.  Discussions about how to support the Japanese pastors in issues of marriage and family deeply moved the Pinnacle Staff.  Our Japanese brothers and sisters need our prayers.

Preparing for their return trip home, their leader, Dr. Fukui shared this verse of Scripture.  It illustrates the dependence of these men on the Spirit of God to do His work in Japan. Zechariah 4:6 “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit’ says the Lord Almighty.”

We are grateful for the open doors God gives us, and the opportunities to learn about sacrifice, commitment and faithfulness to His calling. Thank you, pastors, for modeling those qualities for us!

From Languishing to Flourishing

Posted on: January 21st, 2013


1. to become weak, feeble, enervated;  to be or live in a state of depression or decreased vitality

2. to become dispirited; to suffer neglect

In the past 15 years, the mental health community has created a new model for care. This new trend, Positive Psychology, is not as “new age” as it sounds. It challenges professionals to consider individuals with chronic depression, not from the perspective of illness but rather from a point of view created by asking this question: “How do we help this person move from languishing to flourishing?”

Instead of trying to fix people, the counselor’s job is to help identify and encourage already present strengths, positive character traits and virtues.  How does the counselor take the good that exists and use it to create a greater sense of well-being and health?  How do they encourage greater functioning and hopefulness?

Those who endorse this model of care have discovered that as they work with a patient in the area of “wellness” and encourage the strengths that presently exist, emotional pain and depression naturally decrease.

This makes me think of the Retool Kit.

Too often in our churches, we throw the baby out with the bath water.  Aware that we have lost our missional point of view, we might start to look for the “pathology” of our church.  Some have even taken drastic measures that may be unnecessary in hopes of finding a cure.

We, at Pinnacle, love looking at the local church from a wellness point of view.  Who are you?  What in your church history needs to be celebrated? How have past victories shaped your church and is there a way to capitalize on those high points?  What are the needs of your community? How can you help meet those needs and show the love of Christ? What are the strengths of your leaders? What new skills and attitudes are they ready to learn? If you have lost some of your vitality, how do you take the good that exists and profit from it so you can move on to a place of greater functioning and hopefulness?

How does your church move from languishing to flourishing?

Thrive and prosper are synonyms for flourish.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to see your church thriving and spiritually prospering? Retool Kit provides a pathway for your church to do just that. To find out more, check out the Becoming A Church of Impact Conference.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

–       2 Thessalonians 2;16, 17

(Definitions from Merriam Webster Online)

ANNOUNCING: Church of Impact Conference

Posted on: January 11th, 2013


Saturday, March 2, 2012, 9:00 – 4:00

Green lake Conference Center

What kind of impact should a local church have – among their faithful attendees, in their community, around the world? That question perplexes a lot of pastors and church leaders today! What should you be measuring? How do you know if you’re “successful”? Does it all really matter?

 If you’re not asking the right questions, it’s hard to come up with meaningful answers. Many churches today have the right intent but don’t know the steps they need to take to have meaningful ministry in the community where God has placed them.

“Becoming A Church of Impact” is a one-day conference designed to help you answer those questions, because Pinnacle Ministries is passionate that it really does matter – especially in the time and place God has given today’s church to minister.

 We will help you answer the above questions, as well as, what is YOUR church supposed to be doing? How do you get started? We’ll help provide Biblical answers and tools that you can take home and use with your leadership team right away.


Impact, Readiness, Teamwork


Community, Cause, Corporation, Systems


NT Pattern, Conflict, Reconciliation


Assessment, Planning, Evaluation

GETTING STARTED: Tools you can begin to use!

 Keynote speakers include Gary Harrison and Ray Swatkowski, co-authors of The Church Retool Kit Pathway©, who have trained pastors and leaders from across the US, the Philippines and Japan to mobilize local churches for greater effectiveness. The Green Lake Conference Center, sponsor of CECL (Center for Excellence in Church Leaders), is co-sponsoring this premiere event.

Who should participate in this practical day of training? We encourage pastors to come with their key lay leaders to interact together on these important questions and practical tools.  In fact, for registrations of three or more from the same church, we’ll discount the registration fee from $49 to $39 per person.  Onsite housing is available at a very reasonable price through the GLCC reservation desk.  (920-294-3323 – ask for the Pinnacle rate of $70/room)

 The Conference will begin at 9:00 AM and conclude at 4:00 PM.

For a full description of the Conference, click here: Church of Impact brochure

To register go to:

Questions? Contact Pinnacle Ministries:

(715) 693-6771

Rengo (Japan) Annual Meeting

Posted on: November 23rd, 2012

From John Mehn, CWW Missionary in Japan

John shared an encouraging word with Pinnacle Ministries from the site of the Rengo (Japan) Annual Meeting.  The meeting was preceded by other events, including the Church Planter’s Summit and the New Pastor’s School.  The School is a 3-year learning experience for new Pastors in the Rengo.  At the end of one of the School sessions, John encountered some of the pastors who participated and reported:   “In the new pastors’ school they used the conflict styles and did the skit on conflict of worship. I talked to several who attended and this was extremely helpful and practical for them.”

The Conflict teaching comes from Retreat 2 of The Church Retool Kit Pathway which focuses on Renewing Leadership in the local church by building healthy, biblical relationships.  The Retool Kit Pathway is in the final stages of translation and contextualization by Rengo leaders together with Pinnacle leadership Gary Harrison and Ray Swatkowski.


Caring for the (Clergy) Caregiver

Posted on: November 19th, 2012

Galatians 6:9 challenges us to, “…Let us not become weary in doing good…” If Christians fall prey to that, how much more pastors? And if pastors, then how much more those who care for and support pastors! Since a significant part of what we do involves supporting those in ministry, we find that every so often we need refreshment. So, where do we go? CareGivers Forum!

Although the name suggests a group of people who care for infirm or older adults, in reality it’s a vital group of people all committed to supporting, encouraging, restoring and renewing pastors and their families. You may have never heard of the CareGivers Forum because it’s really a “non-organization” organization. Called into being by clergy care ministries, it has no formal charter or by-laws or board, and does not possess a 501(c)3. It exists solely to provide a forum for those whose ministry it is to support pastors.

This past month most of the Pinnacle staff journeyed to Rome, GA, and the WinShape Retreat (founded by the Chick-fil-A folks) to worship, listen, learn and teach with other clergy support people. We were privileged to be taught every day by the penultimate clergy encourager, H.B. London. Many of you might remember H.B. as the founder of the pastoral support ministry of Focus on the Family, an arm of Focus that has helped literally thousands of pastors. Since CareGivers Forum (or CGF) is not a large gathering (only about 150 attenders this year), it provided a platform for interaction with H.B. on a very personal level. We were blessed as he opened his heart, challenged us, admonished us and just loved on us. I know I went away with a renewed commitment to the value of the ministry we do.

Why are we telling you about this event?  Primarily because one of the greatest blessings it brings to us is a blessing for you. At one CGF or another, we get to rub shoulders with just about everyone in the clergy care and support ministry. Have you ever had a need, and just weren’t sure who to call? Give us a jingle and we can make some well-informed recommendations. Ministries as diverse as small “mom and pop” retreat houses to therapeutic restoration centers all come to CGF, and we’ve met them all. Because small groups are an integral part of CGF, over the years we’ve listened to and prayed together with most of the people in clergy care ministries in the US. Consequently, we have a real feel for both their skill levels and their hearts.

CGF runs a directory on their website of all the organizations that have participated in the Forum over the years, and that’s a great place to start. It’s broken down by ministry types and geographical locations and will give you a feel for “what’s out there” (  Then give us a call, and we can help you “fine tune” you decision. Desiring a sabbatical and not sure where to start? Needing some alone time to reconnect with God? Need to get away, but want to take your family to a clergy-friendly place? Desire a “marriage tune-up” for you and your spouse? Perhaps you need some guidance to delve deeply into your soul and recover your passion? Or need some specific, therapeutic help to overcome a persistent struggle? All that and more can be found within the family called CareGivers.

H.B. challenged us that, “If you don’t have a dream, you don’t have a passion; if you don’t have a passion, you don’t have a vision.”  Our dream, our passion, our vision is to help pastors and their families flourish in some of the most challenging times of ministry I’ve ever seen. If we can help your passion, give us a call – we’ve been recharged, so we’re ready to help!

Getting from here to there

Posted on: November 13th, 2012


“I know what I want my church to look like; I just don’t understand what to do next.”

That’s a pretty common sentiment among pastors and church leaders today.  Much of the confusion comes from misunderstandings about things like vision, strategy, culture and structure. Trying to achieve the success of other churches without understanding the process it requires to get there further aggravates confusion.

I have worn eyeglasses since I was 3 years old and I can’t imagine life without them.  As a matter of fact, there is little I can see at all without my glasses.  My vision has always been described as “farsighted” – I can see things in the distance well, but not up close.  Many people are nearsighted: they can see things clearly up close, but objects in the distance are fuzzy or blurry.

Leaders tend to fall into one of those two categories when it comes to ministry.  Some can see what is right in front of them – today, this week, next month – but beyond that everything is a bit out of focus.  Others have the ability to see years into the future in terms of what needs to be done, but can’t see what the next step is for today, tomorrow or next week.

That is where a carefully executed vision pathway becomes an essential tool for leaders.  It is important to ensure that our leadership culture is spiritually sound, and, emotionally and relationally healthy. Any process for envisioning the future must begin there, as Samuel Chand makes clear in Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code:  “Vision and strategy usually focus on products, services and outcomes, but culture is about the people – the most valuable asset in the organization.”

Clear vision grows more productively in the environment of a healthy culture, and defines what we will become at some point in the future. Here is where we need to understand the difference between the immediate future and long-range future. What we do today, a week from now, a month from now will determine what we become three years from now.  That’s true in every area of our life, be it relationships, diet, exercise, education – you name it.  It is just as critical in the church.

If we are concerned about our physical health (and we should be), we routinely get a physical checkup to assess our current condition. Then we may discover what changes we need to make in the near future that will determine our long-range health.

Church leaders need to assure that as healthy culture is cultivated, accurate assessment is occurring that will enable us to grasp the 3-5 year vision God intends for our unique church at any given point in time.  Then we need to take action: clearly spell out the steps it will take this month, this year and next year to fulfill that vision.

Throughout the process we are cultivating and identifying emerging leaders who need to be mentored to discover what their unique role and giftedness brings to the fulfillment process.  These renewed and emerging leaders will form the core of the church’s future.  They need to be able to see the long-term vision as they plan the next steps that will lead the church forward.

Here is where structure plays a key role, but is often overlooked.  Jesus’ principle of putting new wine in new wineskins (as opposed to old wineskins) is validly applied here.  Just as culture, assessment and vision are best created in a healthy team environment, so will ministry to fulfill the vision emerge best through teams of creative and impassioned people.  New structures, based on flexible teams with healthy leaders and volunteers, need to be created.

Vision and strategy do not serve structure; rather, the systems and structures we create need to be flexible, changeable and clearly focused to carry out the strategies to fulfill the vision.

I currently wear bifocals because both my short and long-range vision requires correction to see all things clearly. And if they are not positioned well on my face, everything becomes blurry.  They have to be ‘balanced’ in the right spot or the result will be a headache and frustration.

Let’s do our best to avoid the headaches and frustration ministry can produce by investing in a pathway that will enable us to see from here to there and act accordingly!

Check out:

What if your community leader is a Shinto priest?

Posted on: October 25th, 2012

When you are doing live ,web-based video training with Pastors and leaders in Kyoto, Japan, references to time can be very confusing!  While you have the advantage of not dealing with the jet lag of travel, there is still the challenge of time lag. Such was the case Tuesday evening October 23rd, no wait, Wednesday morning October 24th – or both!  But understanding cultural differences can pose an even greater challenge.

Thanks to our skilled Pinnacle volunteer, Dan Thompson, Gary and Ray had a near flawless connection for 41/2 hours with key Rengo pastors to discuss the issues of church and community assessment, vision, and, community impact in the context of churches in Japan.  This was the fourth in a series of visits and web connections designed to contextualize and implement The Retool Kit Pathway. These sessions set the stage for a group of 8-10 Japanese pastors to come in January for 3 days of final training and planning for the future.

Using Japanese slides in the presentation, we presented and discussed key elements from Retreat 4: Renewing Vision. They presented work they had done on creating assessment tools for engaging the community and the congregation to inform the vision for ministry. Although the tools included in The Pathway are useful in US churches, Japan poses it’s own challenges.

One pastor asked: What if your community leader is a Shinto Priest?  That is a key question because interviewing community leaders to discuss ways the church can cooperate in meeting community needs is an important part of the process for developing vision for ministry.  When the Temple owns the property used by many of the local businesses, he explained, the power of the priest is very strong and a willingness to cooperate with the local “cult” church is non-existent.

How do you create a Vision Community of 15 -20 people if your congregation includes only 25 people?  And the pastor is the only recognized leader? And the people are not used to be involved in discussions regarding the direction of the church?  (Of the 66 churches in the Rengo, 60 have 30 people or less in worship).

These are just a couple of the issues that the pastors and Rengo leaders are willing to wrestle with because they are committed to Kingdom impact in their communities throughout Japan.  They have worked hard in the process of translating and contextualizing materials and processes because they believe in the power of God to transform lives.

Pray that God will bless their work and multiply their efforts in this spiritually needy country!