by Jeff Jeremiah
EPC Stated Clerk
Since the 2014 General Assembly, our Vision Statement has been, “To the glory of God, the EPC family aspires to embody and proclaim Jesus’ love as a global movement of congregations engaged together in God’s mission through transformation, multiplication, and effective biblical leadership.”
Four strategic opportunities are embedded in that statement: 1) global movement, 2) transformation (church revitalization), 3) multiplication (church planting), and 4) effective biblical leadership. We are finishing the year strong as we pursue these four opportunities.
Global movement includes EPC World Outreach (WO) and partnership opportunities with other denominations of the global Church. For WO, all eight of our global workers in Lebanon are working with relief groups ministering to Syrian civil war refugees. These refugees are very open to the good news of Jesus Christ, and many are coming to saving faith. To help take advantage of this open door of opportunity, the EPC has established a Syrian Refugee Relief Fund. Donations to the fund will:
- Provide the Bible (in Arabic and Kurdish) on mp3 audio players to a church-planting team on the Turkish/Syrian border;
- Send disciple makers (who are fluent in the native languages of the refugees) to work with evangelical German refugee welcome centers; and
- Help World Outreach workers in Lebanon provide physical and spiritual aid to refugees.
In addition, World Outreach hosted 31 prospective candidates and inquirers for global worker status at its annual “Encounter” event in early December.
An exciting partnership possibility has come to us from the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (NPCM). With more than 6,000 churches, the NPCM is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the Western Hemisphere. The leaders of the NPCM are aware of large Hispanic communities in the United States where there is no gospel presence, and at the same time God is raising up church planting missionaries in NPCM. Their leadership has invited us to Mexico City to discuss a potential church planting partnership.
Is it possible that the Lord is calling the EPC into partnership with the NPCM to help their missionaries plant churches in these communities in the United States? An EPC delegation led by GA Moderator Mike Moses will discuss this question in Mexico City the week of February 29.
Multiplication (church planting)
Tom Ricks, leader of the Church Planting Team, reports that we now have 30 church plants in the EPC. Two of these launched since our General Assembly in June: Grace Presbyterian in York, Pa., and Resurrection Church-Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Grace—which is taking a unique planting path—held its first worship service on October 18. Rather than a single “parent church,” a “partner church team” of three rural congregations has worked for the past year to lay the foundation for the October launch. The partner churches are Bethlehem Steltz Reformed Church in Glen Rock, Pa. (John Dorr, pastor); Guinston Presbyterian Church in Airville, Pa. (Daniel Moore, pastor); and Round Hill Presbyterian Church in Cross Roads, Pa. (pastorate vacant).
Further, a lay leadership team of Ron and Joan Webb and Kevin and Carolyn Mosser is leading the church, while pulpit supply is provided by Rob Norris (currently on sabbatical from Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md.), Aaron Anderson, and Keith Greer.
Joan Webb told me that the preaching team is working great, their regular attenders come from seventeen households, and they have new visitors every week.
Resurrection-Sheepshead Bay held its first worship service on November 22. Pastor Brian Steadman told me that they also are off to a tremendous start. He said they have had new visitors at each of their services, as those attending one week are bringing friends and family the next week. Further, he noted that a majority of their worshipers haven’t been to church in decades. As Brian put it to me, “They’re hearing the gospel and coming back to the gospel.”
The new plant is part of the multi-site Resurrection-Brooklyn church led by Matt Brown. Brian led the church’s Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief ministry from 2012-2015, and through that effort became known as “The Pastor of Disaster.” Sheepshead Bay was one of the areas hardest hit by the hurricane. For more information about the church, see www.resurrectionsheepsheadbay.org.
Transformation (church revitalization)
Members of the GO Team (Ken Priddy, Bob Stauffer, and Bill Rasch) have been extremely busy since our General Assembly in June. From July 1 to March 1, they have no less than 123 appointments with presbyteries, churches, and groups of churches to explore revitalization. By means of the “Great Commission Matrix,” the GO Team leads congregations and presbyteries to evaluate their ministries in light of the Great Commission to “make disciples.”
This ministry’s effectiveness is on display in the transformation taking place in congregations. Earlier this fall, we celebrated the turnaround that Ardara Presbyterian Church has enjoyed. You can see more at www.epcepnews.wordpress.com/2015/11/23/celebrating-gods-faithfulness-a-church-revitalization-story. We look forward to sharing other “Ardara stories” as more of our churches embrace revitalization.
Effective Biblical Leadership
In 2007, the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) became a preferred ministry partner with us. In 2015, our Next Generation ministry has moved to deepen this relationship into a thriving partnership that equips and connects EPC church with campus ministries in strategic university cities. CCO has the resources to train and deploy campus ministries and EPC has the national scope of churches to expand the ministry. For more information about CCO, see www.ccojubilee.org.
To develop this partnership, our Church Planting Team met October 26-27 with CCO leaders in Pittsburgh. Dean Weaver (a member of the EPC Committee on Administration), Bill Enns, and I also participated. We believe this partnership is consistent with our vision and can greatly enhance our church planting ministries, and we have begun the process of implementation.
Leadership Institute 2016
To be a “global movement of congregations,” leadership development is essential. We held our inaugural Leadership Institute the day before General Assembly convened. Thom Rainer was our featured plenary speaker on Tuesday morning, and four leadership tracks were held on Tuesday afternoon. Those four tracks focused on the four Strategic Initiatives. As we prepare for 2016 General Assembly, we have eleven tracks planned. Topics range from developing children and youth in biblical knowledge to helping congregations seeking a pastor with the search process. The Leadership Institute seeks to prepare every kind of ministry for greater effectiveness. More information will follow in the registration information for General Assembly.
Per Member Asking update
These exciting kingdom opportunities God has for us can only become a reality with your support. If the Lord provides you with additional funds at the end of December, will you please consider funding these?