Category Archives: EPC Authors

16 months post-prison: an interview with Andrew Brunson

 
AndrewBrunson

Andrew Brunson

In October 2016, Andrew Brunson was arrested by Turkish authorities—along with tens of thousands of Turkish military personnel, civil servants, educators, journalists, and dissidents following a failed coup. Brunson, an EPC pastor of a small Protestant church in Izmir, became a pawn in a geopolitical chess game. He spent two years in a Turkish prison before he was released in October 2018.

After his release, Brunson became the focus of worldwide media attention. He was honored at the White House and invited to the United Nations when President Donald Trump delivered a speech on religious freedom. Brunson has written a book about his ordeal, God’s Hostage, (Baker Books) that was published in late 2019. In this interview conducted by EPConnection correspondent Peter Larson, Brunson reflects on his life and ministry in the 16 months since leaving Turkey.

First of all, how are you and Norine doing?

AndrewBrunsonB

Andrew and Norine Brunson participate in a question-and-answer session at the 39th General Assembly, held June 2019 at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in suburban Denver.

To be free is just amazing. It’s the small things that I missed while I was in prison—just normal life. Things like having breakfast with my wife or being able to sit on a park bench. It’s been good to see my children. My first grandchild was just born, and my son just graduated from basic training in the Army. It was a miracle just to be there for that!

Have you been able to heal since your time in prison?

Actually, a lot of the healing took place while I was in prison, when I was able to surrender fully to that. I went through a period when I had a lot of nightmares. I had a psychiatrist examine me who has worked with the U.S. State Department on a lot of trauma cases. He said I had Post Traumatic Stress, but not a disorder. Writing the book was cathartic, going through the pain and hardship again. There was a healing process in that.

In your book you are very honest about the faith struggles you experienced in prison. It was really a “dark night of the soul.”

The missionary biographies that I had read did not prepare me for the experience of imprisonment. Many of them are triumphalist and focus mainly on victory. Prison was a lot tougher than I expected. It really broke me. I prayed, “Lord, if I get out of this I pledge to be very open about this.” The encouragement I want to give people is to keep going in spite of your discouragement and trust in the Lord.

AndrewBrunsonC

At the invitation of North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis (left), Brunson delivered the opening prayer for the United States Senate in Washington, D.C., on October 15, 2019.

You grew up in Black Mountain, N.C. Are you living there now?

Actually, I’ve been traveling a lot this year. We’ve been in Kansas City, but most of the time we’ve been living out of suitcases. Because of our high profile, we cannot do the kind of work we used to do. We cannot establish ourselves in a Muslim country and do church-planting work. So, in this season the Lord is going to use us in a different way.

One thing we want is some continuity in our lives. We want to have a home base we can work out of and establish a normal life.

What is the focus of your ministry now?

Our focus is still on the Muslim world and we have a number of trips ahead related to that. In the old Ottoman Empire—the Balkans, North Africa, and the Middle East. Our desire is to see church planting in those places. We want to help the next generation to go into those places and equip local believers. For example, in March we’re going to be at a meeting in the Middle East with Muslim-background believes from many countries. Out of that we may be able to visit some of those places to train leaders, but we cannot live there long-term; they would probably kick us out or attack us.

AndrewBrunsonLeavingPrison

Upon Andrew’s release from prison in October 2018, he returned to his apartment in Izmir for a few hours before leaving the country.

How is your church in Izmir doing?

There’s really been a change in Turkey right now, a lot of oppression and missionaries being kicked out. But also, there is a growing interest in Christianity. People are coming to our church and asking questions. We are handing out 1,500 New Testaments every month. Younger people are being turned off by Islam. A lot of people are saying, “I don’t know what I believe anymore, but I don’t want to be a Muslim!”

Why do you think this change is happening?

Before I went to prison, I felt the Lord was telling me to prepare for the harvest. When I was in prison, I felt that assignment had been cancelled. Then, I began to realize that my imprisonment was an assignment from God. I was like a magnet that was drawing prayers to that part of the world.

So you are feeling hopeful about the church in Turkey?

What we need is a wave of the Holy Spirit to sweep through Turkey and the Middle East. In Iran, this has been happening for years—ever since the Islamic revolution. Any place where there are Iranians, they are coming to faith. I believe God is setting things in place for that to also happen in Turkey. In two of our locations in Turkey, they are maxing the building out.

What are some of your other ministry goals right now?

We are feeling a real burden to strengthen the next generation of Christians in the United States. There is increasing hostility in our nation to the Christian faith, and we are really not prepared for this. So when we have the opportunity to speak at colleges or conferences, we want them to be ready to stand firm, because it will be costly to be a Christian.

You are also engaged in ministry to the persecuted church, is that correct?

Yes, we want to highlight the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world. Some of them are historically Christian groups that have been decimated. Some of these churches have not done a lot of evangelism; they are just trying to survive. This summer, we will be doing something with Open Doors. We have also worked with Voice of the Martyrs and groups like that. Recently, an Egyptian brother asked us to help him minister to Arab communities in Spain. There are so many opportunities and doors God has opened to us.

After your release from prison, the EPC launched a financial support fund to help with your transition back to the United States. How did that bless you?

The churches of the EPC contributed more than $150,000 to help us, and it came in very quickly. Jeff Jeremiah led that and there was a tremendous outpouring. We are so grateful for that. It helped us during the transition so I didn’t have to go out and raise support.

For 23 years you were an unknown missionary serving in Turkey. Now, your name is known worldwide. How does that feel?

I believe the Lord has kept us hidden this past year to a high degree. We were at the White House and the United Nations, but the rest of the time we were hidden away. We don’t feel like celebrities at all. It’s more that when we meet people who prayed for us, we are deeply grateful. Obviously, the Lord was using that prayer to sustain me, but He was doing so much more than that. I believe there will be a massive movement of God in the Muslim world. I think God is setting things in place for that.

If churches or individuals want to be involved in your ministry, how can they help?

We are setting up a 501(c)(3) non-profit for our ministry. People can contact me at andrewnorine@yahoo.com if they’d like to know more.

Andrew, thank you for taking time to update all of us on what you are doing. May God richly bless you, your family, and your future ministry!

Thank you very much.

by Peter Larson
EPConnection correspondent
Larson serves pastor of Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Lebanon, Ohio

EPC pastor pens book on financial obedience

 

DavidSwansonEconomyOfGodDavid Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, has published his fifth book, The Economy of God: Discovering the Joy of Financial Obedience. The book is a compilation of a 12-week sermon series on money and generosity.

As Swanson states in the book’s introduction, “in Scripture, God has an entire economy that He wants us to observe—a way of working and producing—a way of earning, spending, saving, and giving.”

He also notes that in his 27 years as a pastor, “I have seen time and again how money can be the source of pain, strife, discontent, and division … but it does not have to. Money, when rightly and biblically understood, can be an absolute source of joy and delight.”

The book is available in paperback and Amazon Kindle formats at https://smile.amazon.com/Economy-God-Discovering-Financial-Obedience/dp/1793135614/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1550520951&sr=1-1

You can support the ministries of the EPC by purchasing Swanson’s book (and other items) through the “smile.amazon” program at Amazon.com. When you login to your Amazon account (or set up a new account), use smile.amazon.com and select “Evangelical Presbyterian Church” as your preferred charitable organization. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of purchase price to the EPC.

Divided We Fall: new Luder Whitlock book addresses Christian disunity

 
LuderWhitlock

Luder Whitlock

What can we do to foster unity and deeper community in a world where so many relationships are fractured and fractious? Luder Whitlock, minister at-large for First Presbyterian Church of Orlando and a member of the EPC National Leadership Team, addresses this question in Divided We Fall: Overcoming a History of Christian Disunity. The book was released in May by P&R Publishing and available from a variety of booksellers.

In the book, Whitlock explores God’s desire for unity in the church, overviews the history of global Christianity with an eye on its schisms and agreements, and points readers toward the necessity of God-honoring fellowship. In the closing chapters, he tackles some challenges and concerns, as well as provides practical steps for increasing trust and developing understanding—particularly within the church.

DividedWeFallAmong the many Christian leaders writing endorsements of the book are Jeff Jeremiah, Leith Anderson, Tim Keller, Mark Noll, and Carmen Fowler LaBerge.

“(Whitlock) makes a simple argument,” said Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, “that it’s time for evangelicals Christians to focus more closely on what they hold in common, especially in the face of increasing cultural opposition to the gospel.”

Divided We Fall explains how we got to where we are—with an amazing mix of tears, anger, and hope,” said Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals.

“At a time when Christian leaders are almost obsessed about the culture,” said Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, “this book rightly argues that we will shape the broader society only to the degree that we make the Christian church what it should be.”

“Biblically rooted, historically informed, and pastorally helpful, this book gracefully fulfills its purpose of strengthening unity and community in Christ’s church,” said Noll, Research Professor of History for Regent University in Vancouver, British Columbia, and plenary speaker for the third annual Leadership Institute at the 37th General Assembly in June.

LaBerge, President of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, said the book is “a must-read for all those interested in the church’s bearing a unified witness to the world.”

Others endorsing the book include David Swanson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, and Don Sweeting, President of Colorado Christian University.

Whitlock served as president of Reformed Theological Seminary from 1978-2001, and currently is executive director of the CNL Charitable Foundation and the JMS Foundation. He also served as Executive Director of The New Geneva Study Bible and a major revision, published as The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible. He and his wife, Mary Lou, have three children and eleven grandchildren.

EPC history published in honor of denomination’s 35th anniversary

 

LibertyInNonEssentialsIn celebration of the 35th anniversary of its founding in 1981, the EPC is releasing Liberty in Non-Essentials: The Story of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. The book was written by EPC teaching elder Don Fortson, Professor of Church History and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C.

Featuring a foreword by Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah, the 275-page book includes chapters on Presbyterian history in North America; Bart Hess and Andy Jumper (key architects of the EPC); early General Assembly meetings; the denomination’s evangelical heritage, Reformed roots, and missional focus; explosive growth in the last 10 years, and more. Also included are 20 pages of full-color photos, 14 maps that illustrate presbytery development through the years, and a detailed index.

“I am thrilled that we are able to make this history of the EPC available at this year’s Assembly,” Jeremiah said. “We are celebrating 35 years as a family of churches at the same time that Ward Church—our GA host whose pastor in 1981, Bart Hess, was instrumental in our founding—is celebrating 60 years of ministry.”

Fortson spent four years researching and writing the volume.

“It has been an immense blessing to review, absorb, wonder, and write about all the Lord has done in our midst,” Fortson said.

Jeremiah said the book is timely and important because for many in the EPC, the names of EPC leaders in the 1980s and 1990s are just that—names.

“We praise God for the significant leadership they brought to creating a new denomination, and the entire EPC should know about them, what they did, and how they did it,” Jeremiah noted. “More than 400 churches have joined the EPC since 2007 and may not know the stories behind these dedicated servants. And for those churches God will send our way in the future, this will be a great resource for answering the question, ‘Who is the EPC?’”

Liberty in Non-Essentials will be available at the General Assembly book table in the displays area. Following the Assembly, it will be available at www.epcresources.org.

EPC pastor awarded Christianity Today 2016 Book of the Year

 

ZachEswineZack Eswine, Pastor of Riverside Church in Webster Groves, Mo., received Christianity Today’s “2016 Book of the Year” award in the category of The Church/Pastoral Leadership for his volume The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus. The awards were announced in the January/February 2016 edition of the magazine.

Eswine, author of five other books, is Moderator of the Mid-America Presbytery and also serves as Adjunct Professor of Applied Theology and Director of the Homiletics Program at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.

The Imperfect Pastor book coverChristianity Today’s 2016 Book Awards are the publication’s picks for the books most likely to shape evangelical life, thought, and culture.

“We recognize Christian writers for painstaking research and trenchant analysis, for dazzling prose and arresting imagery,” said Matt Reynolds, CT Associate Editor for Books.

Renowned theologian Cornelius Plantinga Jr. described The Imperfect Pastor as “so gritty, liberating, godly, and honest that it was hard to put down. Drawing from Scripture, theology, and close observation of life, Eswine describes the life of ministry in a way that unshackles the minister from impossible demands—and all the dread, depression, and burnout that accompanies them. For the minister, this book is full of mercy and encouragement. For everyone else, it reminds us of a glad irony: God chooses to do imperfect ministry through imperfect persons rather than personally doing it perfectly.”

Click here for more information about the Christianity Today 2016 Book Awards.

 

Praying for Prodigals webinar on December 9 to feature EPC pastor

 
Dr. James Banks

Dr. James Banks

Dr. James Banks, Pastor of Peace Church in Durham, N.C., and his wife, Cari, will be the featured guests on a free RBC Ministries webinar “Praying for Prodigals” on Tuesday, December 9, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. EST.

The webinar will explore both healthy and unhealthy methods that parents, grandparents, and other family members respond regarding a child on the run. Topics of discussion include:

  • Praying faithfully for your children, regardless of the outcome
  • Praying even when you don’t see anything good happening
  • Understanding the true purpose of prayer for the one who prays
  • Discovering that you are not alone and how to build alliances with other parents praying for prodigals
  • Praying even when you feel like a failure as a parent and all the emotions that go along with that

In addition to serving as Pastor, Banks is a part-time seminary professor and author of three books: Praying the Prayers of the Bible, Prayers for Prodogals: 90 Days of Prayer for your Child, and The Lost Art of Praying Together: Rekindling Passion for Prayer.

Click here to register for the free webinar.

EPC Author

 

Retired pastor Malcolm G. Brown has published Forever Faith and The Adventure of the Christian Life.  Both are available on Amazon.com.  The paperback edition Forever Faith costs $8.06 (kindle $4.99).  The Adventure of the Christian Life is $8.06 (paperback).

Free Copy of Advent Devotional Guide

 

Rick Marcy, pastor of Faith EPC in Crivitz, WI has written an Advent devotional guide that he wants to make available as his gift to the EPC.  The guide features a daily Scripture reading, brief thought and a prayer.  There is a journal page provided for writing your thoughts for the day. Rick says, “This devotional is great for family or personal devotions.”  It’s formatted so that the cover can feature your church if you choose to give it to your church family.  Rick adds, “I pray it will help you keep Christmas centered on the wonder of Jesus, God with us then and with us today.”  The Advent devotional can be down loaded from www.crivitzfaith.org.

EPC Authors Leesa Donner and Dru Johnson

 

We’re pleased to publicize the works of two EPC authors, Leesa Donner and Dru Johnson.

Free at Last by Leesa Donner

EPC-Authors-Leesa-Donner-and-Dru-JohnsonIn her new study Free at Last: A Life-Changing Journey through the Gospel of Luke, Leesa K. Donner presents a Bible study for today’s woman. “Veteran Bible study students are aware that today’s Bible studies often fall into two categories: one that requires a lot of homework for serious Bible students, and one for those too busy and need something lighter,” Leesa says. “This study endeavors to strike a healthy balance between these two bookends…”

Leesa, a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary and member of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland leads women through the book of Luke with scholarly insight and emotional depth, guiding their spiritual growth with thoughtfulness and care. “When you’re standing in the hall of a hospital and your mother is in the room dying, or your son has a life-threatening illness, you need good theology,” she says. “What you believe about God comes to bare in these challenging circumstances.”

Fourth’s Senior Pastor Rob Norris commends Free at Last: “It is a work that has already produced spiritual fruit in the lives of many who have used it at Fourth Church.”

More information about the book can be found at the website: www.FreeAtLastbiblestudy.com. The Bible study / workbook is 426 pages in length and costs $38.95 (softcover) or $9.99 (ebook). It is also available at www.amazon.com ($29.79, $9.99) and www.barnesandnoble.com ($29.79. $8.49).

Biblical Knowing by Dru Johnson

EPC-Authors-Leesa-Donner-and-Dru-Johnson-2Dru Johnson, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at The King’s College, New York, New York has authored Biblical Knowing: A Scriptural Epistemology of Error. Dru, a member of Mid-America Presbytery, describes his book as “a work of biblical theology on the topic of knowledge.”

Besides presenting a comprehensive Scriptural epistemology, Biblical Knowing also engages contemporary academic views of knowledge and recent philosophical methods. In addition, it explores what proper knowing looks like in the task of theology itself, in the teaching and preaching of the church, and in the context of counseling.

More information about Biblical Knowing can be found at www.wipfandstock.com/store/Biblical_Knowing_A_Scriptural_Epistemology_of_Error where it is sold for $23.20. It is available on www.amazon.com for $26.10.

Everlasting Life – How God Answers Our Questions about Grief, Loss and the Promise of Heaven

 

David Swanson, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, FL has written Everlasting Life-How God Answers Our Questions about Grief, Loss, and the Promise of Heaven.  It has just been released by the Baker Publishing Group.  David says, “I’m very hopeful for its impact and use in the church in bringing hope and encouragement as we face death.”  It is available for $13.99 at Baker, $11.20 at Amazon.  For more information about “Everlasting Life,” go to http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/everlasting-life/336760.

Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being

 

ZSensing-Jesus-Life-and-Ministry-as-a-Human-Beingack Eswine, lead pastor at Riverside Church-St. Louis, MO has authored Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as Human Being. It’s a book that speaks directly and openly into the challenges and temptations those engaged in Christian ministry confront, and has received very favorable reviews.

At one point, Zack was on the fast track to influence and success as a pastor, teacher and writer. Then “life” started to happen to him. In Sensing Jesus he shares with disarming honesty his own failures, burnout and pain, and how he’s responded to and learned from those experiences across his twenty plus years of ministry. The subtitle, Life and Ministry as a Human Being is intentional, as Zack notes, “I have to take into account my humanity as I learn to do ministry.” One important learning: Zack offers a definition of “greatness” that is very different from what we may think greatness is when we say, “I want to do something great for Jesus.” Another is the way we are mentored, which is not only what we are taught but the way we are taught.

A 20 minute interview about the book with Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds can be viewed by clicking here.

Sensing Jesus has been described as ”a fresh and biblically faithful approach to the care of souls, including your own.” It can be purchased at Amazon.com (read the editorial reviews!) for $13.18. Zack’s book, Preaching to a Post-Everything World was Preaching Today’s “Book of the Year” in 2009. Endorsed by Tim Keller, it is available at Amazon.com for $15.69.

“Learning to be You” Published

 

Learning-to-be-You-Published-1Baker Books has released “Learning to be You” written by David Swanson (photo right), senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, FLLearning-to-be-You-Published-2It’s a look at the struggle followers of Christ face as they learn to live out of their true identity in Christ instead of the false identity they lean towards, either out of sin or the relentless false message of our fallen world.  Learning to live in truth and authenticity begins with knowing the God who made us; and the more we know God, the more we will truly know ourselves.  A study guide and sermon notes are also available so that it can be used as part of an education or preaching ministry.  “Learning to be You” is available at amazon.com.

Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s pastor goes digital with books, sermons

 

BROOKSVILLE — Much of the world has gone digital, and Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church and its pastor have done likewise.

Two years ago, Faith Evangelical began publishing some of Everhard’s books in traditional paperback. The cost of producing books that way became limiting, so embracing the success of digital publication seemed like a great idea.

“That clued us in that we were going to miss an opportunity if we didn’t learn how to do digital publishing soon,” Matthew Everhard said. “We realized that we could do it faster, more effective and far cheaper to the church without any overhead costs.”

Read the complete story at http://www.tampabay.com/news/religion/faith-evangelical-presbyterian-churchs-pastor-goes-digital-with-books/1249123