Paul Hirschy believes the best way to solve a problem is to be a big part of the solution. That’s one reason he was so heavily involved in student government during his years as both an HC undergraduate and seminary student, including serving as student-body president and as a residence-hall leader.
“Student involvement is very important,” Paul says. “Students get more out of their college experiences, they make the campus a better place and, if they devote time to the issues, they won’t have any reasons to complain when decisions affecting them are made.”
Paul is bringing that proactive approach to his new role as bishop. Last summer, he became the first UB bishop elected after the Church’s recent restructuring. Under the new plan, Paul is responsible for the 250 churches in this country, while Church contingents in 13 foreign countries will have their own individual leadership.
Paul was the youngest of six siblings growing up on a farm near Monroe, Indiana. By the spring of his senior year in high school, Paul had been accepted into college and planned to study business administration. But during special services at his church that spring, he decided to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by a visiting minister, who as God would have it, was Paul’s uncle, Chester Hirschy. Paul accepted the challenge to enter full-time Christian service and quickly applied to HC.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1968, Paul entered the HC Seminary. The summer of 1969 was an especially important time for Paul. That’s when he and Barb (Newton,’71) were married (They now have three children: Jason, Heather ’99, and Amber, an HC freshman.), and he began a nine-year stint as pastor of the Park UB Church in Bluffton, Indiana. He completed a Master of Divinity at HC in 1972.
In 1978, Paul became manager of the UB publishing house, and in 1981, he was elected to the first of five terms as UB denominational director of Church
Paul’s personal theme is “Miraculous Expectations,” which he draws from Ephesians 3:20-21: “He is able to do immeasurably more than we are able to ask or imagine.”
With the denomination’s continuing Healthy Churches effort, Paul wants to see churches grow. “We’re basically at the national average—85 percent of our churches have plateaued or are declining. We need to help those churches catch a new vision and start growing.
“Many of our churches don’t have the expectation of seeing God marvelously change unbelievers into believers,” Paul continues. “I want to make that a passion. I want to track the conversion growth rate in our churches—the number of new people who are new converts, rather than just transfers from other churches.”
In today’s society, conversion often requires “spiritual CPR,” Paul says. “If you start talking to someone about your faith, but you don’t have some kind of relationship, they probably won’t give you much time. Our people need to understand that you build relationships with people, and then you have opportunities to plant and reap.”
Healthy churches also require quality pastors to lead the way. “Laypersons can do a lot, but they want good pastoral leaders to help set the agenda and add enthusiasm and direction,” Paul says. “A number of our ministers will be retiring in the next few years, and we need good replacements.”
(That’s where HC’s Graduate School of Christian Ministries comes in, he adds.)
“I also want to encourage our healthy churches in the area of multiplication,” Paul says. “Healthy churches multiply themselves. It could mean starting another service to reach new people, or it could mean starting a new ministry—a youth center or some other community outreach.”
Paul also encourages churches to be evaluated with the Natural Church Development Survey and pastors to receive the Healthy Church training. He adds that some churches may need to update their facilities if they want to attract a new generation of families.
And, of course, Paul places a lot of emphasis on prayer: “I really want to model the importance of prayer and build it into our church fabric and structure.”
Paul knows it won’t happen overnight, but he has “miraculous expectations. When we have 100 churches healthy, growing, and doing something significant, the statistics will start turning around, finances will go up, and the worship attendance will go up,” he says.
One place Paul has already witnessed great strides forward is at his alma mater. “There have been great improvements to the actual physical campus, and the student body has grown significantly,” Paul says. “While both of those things are very important, I think there’s also been an increased emphasis on the spiritual atmosphere, and I’m very thrilled about that.”Discover what Huntington University can do for you.
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