Category Archives: Church Revitalization

Jeff Jeremiah launches video series

 

With a recap of his Stated Clerk Report to the 36th General Assembly, Jeff Jeremiah launched a new video series, “The Jeremiah Journal,” in which he discusses a variety of topics relevant to the EPC.

“I wanted to do this to help our church leaders and others stay better informed about how God is working in our denomination,” Jeremiah said. “Even with as much travel as I do, with nearly 600 churches in the EPC I just can’t get to every one or see every pastor as often as I (and hopefully they) would like.”

Jeremiah hopes to record at least one video each month. The videos will be hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80 and also will be posted to EPNews and the EPC’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

2015: Finish Strong

 

JeffJeremiahby 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

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:

  1. Provide the Bible (in Arabic and Kurdish) on mp3 audio players to a church-planting team on the Turkish/Syrian border;
  2. Send disciple makers (who are fluent in the native languages of the refugees) to work with evangelical German refugee welcome centers; and
  3. 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.

MikeMoses

EPC Moderator Mike Moses will meet with leadership of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico in February about a potential church planting partnership.

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.

GraceYork

Grace Presbyterian Church in York, Pa., held its first worship services October 18, with Rob Norris bringing the message.

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.

SheepsheadBayLaunch

Resurrection-Sheepshead Bay held its first worship service on November 22.

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)

KenPriddy

Ken Priddy

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

CCO—EPC Partnership

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?

EPC Home Missionary John Bueno releases winter newsletter

 

LatinsUnited-Winter2015John Bueno, EPC Home Missionary serving with Latins United Christian Ministries (LUCM), invites you to read his Winter 2015 newsletter, in which he discusses ministry efforts in Colombia, Nicaragua, South Sudan, and Washington state. Click here to download the Winter 2015 edition in pdf format.

For more information about Latins United, contact Bueno at john.bueno@epc.org or 402-350-3815.

Celebrating God’s faithfulness: a church revitalization story

 
Ardara1-Meyers

Glenn, Heather, and Grace Meyers

“God has a future for us!”

For the members of Ardara (Pa.) Presbyterian Church, those words were hard to imagine less than a year ago.

In November 2014, church leadership was planning to spend the last of the dwindling church funds and close the church at the end of the year. Fast forward to November 2015: worship attendance has more than doubled, people are on a waiting list for the next new members class, and a budget surplus is being invested for future outreach and growth.

Glenn Meyers, Ardara ruling elder (RE) and pulpit supply, says the theme of this story is God’s faithfulness. He noted that over the past year, “Proverbs 3:5 (trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding) and 1 Peter 5:6 (humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time) have guided us.”

The catalyst for Ardara’s turnaround was a Vision Vitality workshop, part of the reception process into the Presbytery of the Alleghenies. All of the church’s REs were required to participate in this “church vitality check-up” led by the EPC GO Center’s Bob Stauffer.

The workshop helped the REs realize they were “one step above dead,” Meyers said, explaining that they likened their situation to the scene in “The Princess Bride” in which Miracle Max (played by Billy Crystal) declares that Wesley “is not totally dead, he’s mostly dead.”

The congregation’s college of elders—of which Meyers is a member—joined the Session to assess the state of the church. The combined group made a number of hard decisions, including “right-sizing” the budget and making a change in pastoral leadership. Meyers, who had grown up in the church and later attended seminary—and whose wife, Heather, was the church secretary—agreed to serve as pulpit supply.

Earlier this year, the Session (which by then included a class of new REs) began a study of the Westminster Confession of Faith. In addition, a Vision Vitality Team that included church members as well as REs began evaluating the needs in their community and developing “bridge events” to meet these needs.

A survey of residents on one street—with such simple questions such as “How can we serve you?” and “How can we help you?”—resulted in a growing number of people in the community talking about the church. More awareness of the church developed through a “Grace Harvest Festival” held at the church on October 17, in which members of the congregation provided free family activities such as pumpkin bowling, face painting, and refreshments.

The impact of these efforts is evident every Sunday.

In less than a year, worship attendance has doubled from 35-40 to 75-85—and “in the 90s on good days,” Meyers says. A new members class of eight joined the church this fall, with five more people on a waiting list to join. These new members include both extended family members and new people who had never before been to the church.

A year ago, the only services Ardara held were Sunday worship and a combined Jr. High/Sr. High meeting. In 2015, the church added a regular Bible study, a women’s fellowship group, and a biweekly elementary school gathering. A men’s retreat took place this fall.

Further evidence shows in the church’s finances, as giving is up dramatically in 2015—to the point where receipts now exceed the budget. One result of this was that the Session sent Glenn and Heather to the EPC General Assembly in Orlando.

“We knew we had a story to tell,” he said, “and we were so encouraged by stories of others in the EPC. We returned to Ardara with the message, ‘God is at work in the EPC!’”

In addition, the church is working to pay off its financial commitment to its former denomination as quickly as possible, and planning for more community outreach ministries as well as sending more REs to the 2016 General Assembly.

Ardara4-Entrance

The revitalized front entrance is a tangible sign of the church’s turnaround in 2015.

Church members like to point to another tangible sign of the church’s revitalization—the front entrance. In 2014, the porch and front door had deteriorated so badly that they were unusable; congregants entered and exited through a barely visible side door. In 2015, a memorial gift arrived that allowed for repairs. The front entrance is now a noticeable signal that Ardara is “opening its doors” to the community.

The congregation is not keeping its funds inside the church, which celebrated its 120th anniversary on October 25, 2015. A search of the records showed that the original building cost $968.27. To celebrate this anniversary, the church raised $968.27 to fund EPC church planting.

“This is a great way for us to say ‘Thank you’ to our new denomination for all they’ve done to help us,” Meyers said. “We now have organizational vitality; we want gospel vitality. We want to see people saved. We want to see conversion growth. God is doing so many good things in this church…He has a future for us!”

That may have been hard to imagine one year ago, but the leadership and members of Ardara Presbyterian Church now expect a very bright future.