By Robert Lucke
Rowlie Hutton and Jack Rampelberg have been co-ministers at the Fifth Avenue Christian Church for several years. This Sunday will be Rampelberg's last Sunday on the church payroll. He is quick to say that he is not retiring and will be staying in the community. He is just trying some different ministries at this time of his life.
Hutton and Rampelberg sat down this week and talked about their ministry in Havre together.
"Both of us have unique roles in the church," Hutton said. "Sometimes I was the sixth man and sometimes it was Jack."
Hutton was quoting Tom Heinsohn of the Boston Celtics, who said, "The sixth man has to be so stable a player that he can instantly pick up a tempo or reverse it. He has to be able to go in and have immediate impact. The sixth man has to have the unique ability to be in a ball game while he is sitting on the bench."
Each men had a very different role as they built their new church. Both admit the job would have been very different had they not been in Havre together.
"I was the builder," said Rampelberg. "Our positions were delineated by the need we had. I had spent six years designing the building program and we knew that the same guy could not build the church as did the preaching. That was Rowlie's job. We needed the church to grow while we were building. Rowlie did that."
Neither had a cross word during the years they have worked together. And they know why. Both said it was because their love of the church was more important than any one thing that happened to either of them.
It was easier for Rampelberg to be the builder. He had headed the building program for the parsonage, done two church building programs elsewhere and was instrumental in the Northern Montana Hospital building program.
It was easy for Hutton to continue to build the congregation while his partner built the new building.
"I am the vision caster," Hutton said, smiling. "Think of me as the point guard for a basketball team. That is my job here."
To continue to build their congregation was very important to both men. They already had signs that the church would continue to grow. They had moved Easter services to the high school and Christmas Eve services continued to get larger and larger.
"Once we got into this new building we had to sell to our congregation the fact that we could not go back to a single service on Sunday morning," Hutton said. "We would never have been able to do that if it hadn't been for Jack taking care of the nuts and bolts."
One of Rampelberg's gifts is the ability to read his congregation. In fact he and Hutton have had the congregation vote on whether they should stay at the Havre church each year. Then they seeks out those who might have voted no and attempt to mend fences.
"We check our wives first," Hutton said, laughing. "If it wasn't them who voted no, then we look at the rest of the congregation."
Both men have very different talents, which mesh together like a dream team. That is what makes their relationship so unique.
Part of the reason Rampelberg is changing his personal ministry is their success at Fifth Avenue Christian. In the old building they were averaging about 200 a Sunday. While they were building, that increased to 300 and a couple of Sundays ago they hit 445. There is not enough time for the two of them to shepherd all those people on an individual basis.
"Every Sunday we see from 10 to 12 new people," Rampelberg said.
"Most are young people not going to other churches. They had gone to Sunday School when they were young, then turned away from the church. Then they got married and had children and needed to go back to church."
Rampelberg and Hutton's concern has been how to teach their congregation to continue to grow as Christians.
"What kind of a lifestyle would these new Christians have in four years' time?" Rampelberg asked. "I want to develop with the congregation a curriculum to move them through steps. People are coming in so fast and we feel so inadequate."
Hence, Rampleberg's new mission. That is to minister to the Fifth Avenue Christian congregation in small groups. And to teach them all to be fishers of men throughout the community.
Meantime, Hutton will keep the home fires burning.
"On Sunday morning, every Lord's Day we will provide fresh bread and the Holy Spirit will provide that growth that we need," Hutton said.
"One of the things that helps me is that Jack is always thinking about the next hill," Hutton added. "And right now that new hill is small-group ministry."