Clergy Corner, June 15, 2018

Clergy Corner, June 15, 2018

CHAMPAIGN — When it comes to retirement, the chief concern of Happy and Dianne Leman isn't their bank account. It's what God wants.

"We're not actually sure God believes in retirement," Dianne said with a chuckle.

Instead of kicking back after 40 years leading Vineyard Church of Central Illinois, the church they started together, the couple is transitioning to new roles as "founding pastors."

"Our ability now is way beyond what we had when we were young," said Happy, who turned 70 this week. "We can see things; we can give wisdom. We do the big picture; we dream; we think; we say, 'Where is this church going to go? How can we keep it going for generation after generation?'"

The ministry they say now serves 3,000 members with sites in Urbana, Bloomington, Mahomet and Sullivan — as well as an online presence — began with a Bible study in the Lemans' family room.

"My life dream was never to start a church," Happy said. "All of sudden by accident I have people coming, and the Lord said, 'You've got to take care of them.' Little by little we drifted into it. God had a bigger plan than we did."

The plan involved more than they thought possible. The Lemans learned they could not conceive children. When pregnancy and their first child did come along, the doctor called it a "miracle," and it sparked growth in the new faith community.

"It catapulted us into a brand new life," Dianne said. "A life we hadn't planned on, but a life that we kept saying 'yes' to. That little Bible study exploded into what we now know as the Vineyard Church of Central Illinois."

Happy wrote in a recent letter to the church that Vineyard's daily oversight has already changed hands. Four now take on the title of senior executive pastor — Jim Plank, Putty Putman and Mike and Julie Yoder (the Lemans' daughter) — and oversee a 25-pastor team.

"We have one quirk that has helped us," Happy said. "We stay humble and we try to always say 'yes' to what the Spirit's saying to us."

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