Category Archives: Leadership Development

General Assembly Networking Lunches offer connection, equipping

 

Networking Lunches at the EPC 42nd General Assembly provide opportunity for GA participants to connect with others with similar ministry interests. Networking Lunches are held on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, June 22-24, from 12:00-1:15 p.m. at Ward Church in Northville, Mich. For more information about each lunch, see www.epc.org/ga2022networkinglunches.

Wednesday, June 22

  • Building Retirement Savings and Tax-Exempt Housing Expense Withdrawal (hosted by Bart Francescone, Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.).
  • Christians Need to be Evangelized, Too (hosted by Cameron Shaffer and the Westminster Society).
  • Church Planters and Friends (hosted by Rodger Woodworth and the EPC Church Planting Team).
  • Developing Six Key Relationships to Avoid Burnout (hosted by Jay Fowler and Clark Tanner of PastorServe).
  • Empowering Leaders to Spark Disciple-Making Movements (hosted by Marcos Ortega and The Antioch Room).
  • Guarding Your Soul While Caring for the Soul of Others (hosted by Jan McCormack, Associate Professor and Chair of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Programs at Denver Seminary).
  • Offering Grace and Truth: The Transgender Experience (hosted by Scott Kingry, Program Director for Where Grace Abounds).
  • Strengthening Our Leadership Relationships (hosted by Roy Yanke, Executive Director of PIR Ministries).
  • The Evangelistic Challenge to the Pro-Life Church (hosted by Deborah Hollifield, Executive Director of Presbyterians Protecting Life).
  • The Opportunity to Recharge a Church During a Pastoral Transition (hosted by Bob Stauffer and the EPC Church Heath Team).
  • Women’s Connection Lunch (hosted by Rachel White and the Ward Church Women’s Ministry).
  • World Outreach Master Plan (hosted by Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach).

Thursday, June 23

  • Female Teaching Elders and Ordination Candidates (hosted by Carolyn Poteet and the Presbytery of the Alleghenies).
  • How to Flourish in the Grind of Ministry—Caring for Your Soul (hosted by Jay Fowler and Clark Tanner of PastorServe).
  • International Theological Education Network (hosted by Bruce Anderson, Director of the International Theological Education Network of EPC World Outreach).
  • Reaching the Next Generation Next Door to Your Church (hosted by Jen Burkholder, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Coalition for Christian Outreach).
  • Re-Equip: Your Church as Seminary (hosted by Scott Manor, President of Knox Theological Seminary).
  • Revelation 7:9 (hosted by Rufus Smith and the EPC Revelation 7:9 Task Force).
  • Spiritual Friendship: A Practice of Vocational Resilience and Resistance (hosted by Brandon Addison, Denver City Network Leader for the Made to Flourish Network).
  • The Opportunity to Recharge a Church During a Pastoral Transition (hosted by Bob Stauffer and the EPC Church Heath Team).
  • What Does Your Personal Well-being Look Like? (hosted by Bart Francescone, Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.).
  • World Outreach Engage 2025 (hosted by EPC World Outreach).

Friday, June 24

  • B.O.O.M.: Boomers Out On Mission (hosted by Ken Priddy and the GO Center of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic).
  • Building Retirement Savings and Tax-Exempt Housing Expense Withdrawal (hosted by Bart Francescone, Executive Director of EPC Benefit Resources, Inc.)
  • Creative Outreach with Your Community and Beyond (hosted by Michelle Munger and the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic).
  • Discipling Through Deconstruction (hosted by Nicole Unice and the Ward Church Women’s Ministry).
  • Executive Pastors and Church Administrators (hosted by Patrick Coelho, CFO for the EPC Office if the General Assembly).
  • Faith and Work Ministry at Your Church (hosted by Brandon Addison, Denver city leader for the Made to Flourish Network, and Case Thorp, Orlando city leader for the Made to Flourish Network).
  • Sharing the Gospel in Times of Tumult: Ancient Wisdom for New Challenges (hosted by Joey Sherrard and the Westminster Society).
  • The Essential Role of the Smaller Church (hosted by Roy Yanke and Ed McCallum of the EPC Smaller Church Network).

For more information about the 42nd General Assembly, including online registration, schedule, and more, see www.epc.org/ga2022.

2022 Leadership Institute features Ed Stetzer, Vincent Bacote, Andrew Brunson, practical training workshops

 

Ed Stetzer, Vincent Bacote, and Andrew Brunson highlight the slate of keynote speakers for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s seventh annual Leadership Institute. The Institute is a strategic component of the EPC’s 42nd General Assembly, to be held June 21-24 at Ward Church in Northville, Mich.

Bacote, Professor of Theology and Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., will address “Pursuit of Public Fidelity” on Tuesday, June 21. Bacote will be joined by Sandy Willson, Pastor Emeritus of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

Bacote and Willson will consider whether Christians have (or need) permission to engage the public square, and what it means to reflect Christlikeness in public practice. In addition, they will discuss the tension between allegiance to a nation and/or a political party and ultimate allegiance to Christ.

The Tuesday afternoon keynote speaker is Ed Stetzer, Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, where he also serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center. He holds two earned master’s degrees and two doctorates, has trained pastors and church planters on six continents, and has written hundreds of articles and 12 books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by, and writes for news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. He also is the Founding Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum used by more than 1.7 million individuals each week.

Wednesday plenary co-speakers are Andrew Brunson and Brad Strait. Their three-part presentation is titled “Persecution: Building Effective Biblical Leadership through Global Movement Wisdom.” The three sessions are titled “Situational Awareness: Is Persecution Coming for the American Church?” “Effective Shepherding: How Can We Help God’s People Through Tough Times?” and “Panel Discussion: Real Lessons from Real Persecution.”

Brunson was detained in a Turkish prison for two years on charges of terrorism before being convicted and subsequently released on the equivalent of time served in October 2018. Strait, Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., served as Moderator of the EPC’s 41st General Assembly.

The panel discussion will include Erick Schenkel, Executive Director of Cru’s The JESUS Film Project; Setan Lee, an EPC Teaching Elder who survived the “killing fields” genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot in the 1970s; and Clay Jones, Director of Second Glance Ministries and former Executive Administrator of The Power Team.

Effective Biblical Leadership

In addition to the plenary sessions, five ministry-specific leadership development gatherings will be available on Tuesday, June 21.

  • Chaplains Workshop, featuring Jan McCormack, Chair of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Programs at Denver Seminary, and Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser. McCormack will lead sessions on “The Role of Spirituality and Religion in Crisis and Disasters,” “Religious Accommodations is the Boss’ Decision,” and “Moral Injury Affects Everyone.”
  • Church Health / Church Planting, led by Stetzer, Jimmy Scroggins, and Todd Thomas. Scroggins serves as Lead Pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla, and the developer of the Three Circles personal evangelism resource. Thomas serves as Campus Pastor of Family Church Sherbrooke in Lake Worth, Fla.
  • Trafficking In Our Backyards: A Survivor-led Conversation on Domestic Sex Trafficking, led by Bonnie Gatchell, Executive Director of Route One Ministry.
  • Understanding Evangelism: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Reflections on Evangelism in the Reformed Tradition. The Westminster Society’s annual workshop features sessions on “Evangelism in Colonial Presbyterianism,” “Evangelism and Mission in the Old and New Testaments,” “Evangelism in the Established Scottish Kirk and the Dissenting Irish Church,” and “The Art of Manfishing.” The workshop is led by EPC Teaching Elders Don Fortson, Zach Hopkins, Scott Redd, Scott Sealy, and Aaron White.
  • World Outreach Master Plan discussion, led by Rick Dietzman, Chairman of the EPC World Outreach Committee; Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach; and Jason Dunn, Associate Director of EPC World Outreach.

Each of these workshops is open to anyone attending the 42nd General Assembly.

See www.epc.org/ga2022leadershipinstitute for more information on the Leadership Institute, including full seminar descriptions, times, and speaker bios.

See www.epc.org/ga2022 for more information about the 42nd General Assembly, including a full schedule, links to online registration, and more.

Ohio EPC church to host nation’s largest disability ministry conference

 

Bay Presbyterian Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, will host Inclusion Fusion Live (IFL2022) on Friday and Saturday, April 29-30. IFL2022, the largest annual disability ministry conference in the country, is hosted by Key Ministry in collaboration with the Tim Tebow Foundation.

Topics of this year’s conference include:

  • Supporting outreach and reintegration into church of persons impacted by disability after the pandemic.
  • Finding, empowering, and resourcing individuals with disabilities and families impacted by disability to launch and lead ministry.
  • Growing mental health ministry.
  • Innovative disability ministry strategies.
  • Impacts of trauma upon disability.

IFL2022 is designed for pastors, leadership teams, care teams, and children’s/student ministry leaders. Cost is $99 per person, and EPC members are eligible for a $22 discount by using the code EPC22 at registration.

“If your church has a disability ministry—or you are praying about starting one—this event should be on your annual calendar,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “My dear friend Beth Golik leads the Special Needs Ministry at Bay Pres, and also is on staff with Key Ministry. This conference will be a blessing to many people.”

For more information about the event, see www.keyministry.org/ifl2022.

42nd General Assembly registration open

 

Online registration for the 42nd General Assembly is now open. The Assembly meets June 21-24 at Ward Church in Northville, Mich. The theme of this year’s annual meeting is “Recharge,” based on Acts 1:8. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The annual Leadership Institute will feature five plenary speakers and five ministry-specific leadership development gatherings, each of which is open to all General Assembly attendees:

  • Chaplains Workshop, featuring Jan McCormack, Chair of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Programs at Denver Seminary, and Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser. McCormack will lead sessions on “The Role of Spirituality and Religion in Crisis and Disasters,” “Religious Accommodation is the Boss’ Decision,” and “Moral Injury Affects Everyone.”
  • Church Health and Church Planting, led by Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College; Jimmy Scroggins, Lead Pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Todd Thomas, Campus Pastor of Family Church Sherbrooke in Lake Worth, Fla.
  • Trafficking In Our Backyards, led by Bonnie Gatchell, Executive Director of Route One Ministries in Boston, Mass.
  • Understanding Evangelism: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Reflections on Evangelism in the Reformed Tradition, hosted by the Westminster Society. Topics include Evangelism in Colonial Presbyterianism, Evangelism and Mission in the Old and New Testaments, Evangelism in the Established Scottish Kirk and the Dissenting Irish Church, and The Art of Manfishing.
  • World Outreach Revised Master Plan, led by Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach.

The Tuesday morning plenary session, “Pursuit of Public Fidelity,” will be led by Vincent Bacote and Sandy Willson. Their discussion will consider not only whether Christians have (or need) permission to engage the public square, but also what it means to reflect Christlikeness in public practice, as well as what to make of the typically slow rate of social change and the tension between relative allegiance to a nation and/or a political party and ultimate allegiance to Christ.

Bacote serves as Professor of Theology and Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. Willson is Pastor Emeritus of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

The Tuesday afternoon keynote speaker is Ed Stetzer, Dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College, where he also serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center.

The Wednesday afternoon plenary speakers are Andrew Brunson and Brad Strait. Their presentation, “Persecution: Building Effective Biblical Leadership through Global Movement Wisdom,” includes a panel discussion on “Real Lessons from Real Persecution” with Erick Schenkel, Setan Lee, and Clay Jones.

Brunson and his wife, Norine, were involved in starting churches, training, aid to refugees, and a house of prayer in Turkey for 23 years until being falsely accused of terrorism in October 2016. He remained imprisoned for two years. Their current ministry—WaveStarters—was birthed as Andrew’s prayer in 2007 to “draw me so close to your heart that you will be able to trust me with the authority to start waves.” WaveStarters is focused on the Muslim world, the persecuted church, and preparing the next generation to stand in difficult times.

Brad Strait, Moderator of the EPC’s 41st General Assembly, serves as Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo.

Schenkel serves with Cru as Executive Director of The JESUS Film Project. Lee is an EPC Teaching Elder who survived the “killing fields” genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot in the 1970s. Jones leads Second Glance Ministries, which focuses on sexual abuse, sexual trafficking, and pornography issues.

The first of five business sessions convenes on Wednesday afternoon, June 22, at 4:00 p.m. (Eastern). Business sessions continue on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.; and Friday at 11:00 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Worship service speakers include:

  • Julie Hawkins, Nest Steps Pastor for Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor, Wash.
  • Scott McKee, Senior Pastor of Ward Church.
  • Terence Gray, Assistant Pastor at Ward Church.
  • Marcelo Robles, Senior Pastor of La Misión Church in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Brad Strait, Moderator of the 41st General Assembly.

Other gatherings include a wide variety of Networking Lunches each day, as well as World Outreach, women’s ministry, and ministry wives.

For complete information, see www.epc.org/ga2022.

Collaboration Team seeks to grow inter-department discussion, ministry efforts

 

Led by Michael Davis, the EPC’s Chief Collaboration Officer, representatives from a variety of EPC ministries and committees met via video conference on February 10 to cultivate and enhance ministry efforts. The goal of the monthly meetings is to enhance alignment between the Office of the General Assembly, EPC World Outreach, the Next Generation Ministries Council, the Revelation 7:9 Task Force, and other permanent and interim committees of the denomination.

“God has always made sure that we had a redemptive plan, not just for the here-and-now, but for the generations to come,” Davis said. “In our mission, vision, and every component in which we do our ministry, it’s not just to think about what we are doing now but how it will affect generations down the road.”

He emphasized that the next generation of leaders in the EPC—whether they serve in the local church, on the mission field, or in denominational staff roles—are affected “by what we do now. We are not just seeking to be effective and efficient in aligning the strategic priorities for strategy’s sake. We want to align so we look like a puzzle that’s all together and not separated into our parts.”

Davis also noted the strategic priorities of Multiplication (church planting), Transformation (church health), Global Movement, and Effective Biblical Leadership “are not just a good idea. We are setting the landscape and the trajectory to teach our children, and hopefully their children’s children, how to effectively win people for the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The group discussed ways to identify and enhance alignment, as well as some tactics for collaborating across the various committees and ministry areas.

Joining Davis were Gabriel de Guia, Executive Director of EPC World Outreach; Jason Dunn, Associate Director of World Outreach; Greg Aydt, Chairman of the Next Generation Ministries Council; Andrew Smith, Co-Chairman of the Revelation 7:9 Task Force; Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk; Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk; Brian Smith, EPC Director of Communications and Digital Strategies; and Vanessa Mullendore, Strategic Priorities Administrative Assistant.

Heartland Seminary’s innovations benefit students and EPC congregations

 

TE Kent Mathews serves as President and Academic Dean for Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry in Kansas City. The school is a commended resource of the EPC Ministerial Vocation Committee.

“Why is it,” Kent Mathews keeps asking, “that preaching is the only class in which seminary students are required to practice what they’re learning?” An EPC Teaching Elder who serves as President and Academic Dean of Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry in Kansas City, Mathews asks a long list of other questions related to seminary education in the 21st century:

  • Why are academics so often separated from application?
  • Does someone learn to become an evangelist simply by reading books and listening to lectures—shouldn’t he or she be required to actually “do” evangelism, or apologetics, or pastoral care?
  • Why don’t seminaries attempt to make traditionally academic subjects like theology or church history more practical?
  • Why are students not asked to reflect on how what they study might apply to their daily lives or their current ministries?
  • Why aren’t students required to identify and meet weekly with a mentor—someone who is resourced by the seminary to invest his or her life in the life of the student and whose purpose is to discuss the student’s failures and successes; patterns, processes, and learned behaviors; attitudes and approaches to ministry? In short, to take the student under his or her wing and impart the things that seminary doesn’t address?
  • Why is so little of what future pastors actually do in day-to-day ministry taught—or even talked about—in seminary courses?
  • Why is seminary education so expensive?

Mathews knows students are asking them too, along with this one: How will I pay off my exhorbitant student debt why working in my modestly paid pastoral position?

“According to a ten-year-old study, seminarians were asked if they could change anything about their seminary experience,” Mathews noted. “The top three answers were to reduce the cost of tuition, allow me to practice what I’m learning or make seminary courses more hands-on practical, and provide a mentor to invest in my personal development.”

Mathews explained that those answers are the basis for Heartland Seminary’s Master of Divinity program.

“Heartland is the first accredited MDiv program to make all three of these things non-negotiables,” he said, adding that the program meets all of the EPC’s educational ordination requirements for Teaching Elders and was recently recognized as a “Commended Resource” by the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee.

“The MVC was very excited to commend Heartland as a resource for the EPC,” said Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk. Iaumurri serves as the Office of the General Assembly’s staff resource for the MVC. “As seminary education continues to evolve to meet the needs of the next generation, Heartland offers students a unique avenue for ministry preparation that will surely benefit the EPC and its churches.”

Heartland is firmly committed to conservative biblical scholarship, Reformed theology, and the Westminster Confession. Tuition for the 72-credit Master of Divinity degree is $500 per course.

“Typical seminaries charge between $1,500-$2,000 per course,” Mathews said, adding that each Heartland class is completely accessible online and incorporates a close mentor relationship for every student.

Heartland also maintains an in-person Master of Arts in Applied Theology program in the Kansas City area that has been pioneering its program since 2000.

“The plea for practical training has been proven in our program,” Mathews said. “Our second-most popular course is Cultural Analysis and Engagement, where we talk about the major issues that are currently polarizing both culture and the church. We discuss how to understand both sides and how to engage positively in the discussion and affect change.”

The most popular course? “How to Not Only Study the Bible, but Actually Apply It in Your Life.”

Mathews said the curriculum is also non-traditional in that “up to half of the books students are required to read are books that the student identifies for himself or herself—as long as they are approved by the professor—which allows each student to focus on areas of particular interest to him or her within the scope of the course curriculum.”

He added that assignments in all courses are geared toward application.

“For example, students read top-level, highly regarded texts on each of the three broad periods of church history, then are required to write research papers on the 25 most important people, events, and developments in each period and how they should affect both daily Christian living and effective pastoral ministry,” he said.

Julien de Leiris and Paulo Barros are “textbook examples” of the effectiveness of Heartland’s innovative approach. De Leiris has just begun his MDiv studies while Barros completed his this past summer. Both men are on staff at Colonial Presbyterian Church EPC in Kansas City, which hosts the in-person Heartland classes.

Paulo Barros

Barros, who serves as Colonial’s Director of Worship and Arts, has been a worship leader for more than half his life—the last 21 as a fulltime vocation. At 57 years of age, he was the oldest student in the program.

“I hadn’t been in school for a long time and it was tough,” he admitted. “But I always wanted to learn how to pastor others. I needed that knowledge and felt drawn to it, so this was part of my dream to be a better worship leader. When you work with vocal leaders and musicians, you develop relationships, you shepherd them. I can do that much better now.”

De Leiris, Colonial’s Executive Director of Ministry and Programs, also leads Called to Serve, a ministry intending to do no less than “energize and revitalize the Reformed Church that is slowly dying in France.”

Julien de Leiris

Two years ago, after two decades as CEO of major public works projects for the city of Leon (the second largest city in France), de Leiris felt God calling him “to serve Him, not just faithfully but fully.” To the consternation of his non-Christian extended family, he resigned his job and moved his wife and children across the Atlantic and half of the United States to be obedient to that call.

Called to Serve will bring French youth leaders to study a variety of successful churches in the Kansas City area for several months before returning to apply their newly acquired skills and knowledge in local French Reformed Churches,” De Leiris explained. “The FRC funds one-year of sabbatical for every pastor after his or her fifteenth year in ministry. We are developing a practical continuing education program for them over here as well.”

“Just like Paulo and Julien,” Mathews said, “all of our students gain invaluable skills and insights that will bless both them and their ministries. But the benefits to the EPC go further. EPC churches will be able to call new pastors who won’t make all of their initial mistakes at the expense of their first churches.”

Mathews emphasized that Heartland MDiv graduates “have acquired more than just information from their education. Churches will also be able to call pastors who don’t have five to ten to twenty years of student debt to pay off. And the denomination will begin to develop a growing subculture of ministerial leadership development—one that believes the current generation of pastors should be involved in the discipleship of the next generation of pastors.”

For more information about the Heartland Seminary and School of Ministry, see www.hsmkc.org.

by Craig Bird
EPConnection correspondent

EPC launches “In All Things” podcast

 

The EPC has launched a new podcast, “In All Things,” hosted by Stated Clerk Dean Weaver. In each week’s 30-minute episode, Weaver and his guests discuss topics related to the EPC and the greater Church. In the first episode, three members of the EPC’s National Leadership Team (NLT) discussed the group’s scope and function. NLT Chairman Glenn Meyers; Brad Strait, Moderator of the 41st General Assembly; and Rosemary Lukens, Moderator-elect of the 41tst General Assembly), also provided an overview of the EPC’s four strategic priorities.

“I am very excited to talk to leaders throughout the EPC and tell our story in this long-form podcast format,” Weaver said. “We call this series, ‘In All Things’ because as the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1, all things were created through and for our Lord Jesus—He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. So we plan to discuss ‘all things’ as they relate to the EPC. The Office of the General Assembly exists to serve our churches, and we are offering this podcast as a way for people to hopefully better understand some of the ways we do that.”

Guests in future episodes include leadership staff at the Office of the General Assembly, committee chairmen, EPC authors, and many more.

Episode 1 is available below, and also can be downloaded on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Podbean, Spotify, and others. Search “In All Things” on any of these services.

The audio recordings also are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/inallthings.

Church Planters Retreat offers fellowship, equipping, connection, refreshment

 

With 9,500-foot Cheyenne Mountain as backdrop, more than 80 EPC church planters and others gathered at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo., the week of October 18 for the annual Church Planters Retreat.

The theme for the three-day gathering was “Resilience” and featured guest speakers Becky Lanha and Thurman Williams, worship led by Adrianna Christmas, and couples’ coaching sessions led by Cron and Elizabeth Gibson. In addition, participants enjoyed plenty of free time to relax, fellowship with one another, connect over shared experiences, and enjoy the fall colors and striking mountain vistas.

Pete Roman Jr. and his wife, Renee, attended from Saint George, S.C., where he is planting The Village Church of Saint George.

“This week has been fantastic,” he said. “To be able to be around other church planters and encourage one another—to hear the struggles that are going on and the praises and encouraging things that are happening—it’s a huge blessing to be a part of it.”

He noted the similarity in church planting to the eight years they served as missionaries in Bulgaria.

“Nobody really understands missionaries except for other missionaries,” Roman said. “You could be at churches explaining who you were and where your heart is, but unless they had been on the mission field themselves, they just wouldn’t fully get it. This has been the same experience. Being able to be together here and be fed and worship with other people who ‘get’ you is a huge thing.”

In plenary equipping sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, Thurman spoke on “The Fuel for Resiliency: The Power of Weakness,” and “Advancing the Gospel Through Adversity.” Lanha addressed “Evangelism: The Art of Making Friends” and “The Beauty and Pain of Perseverance.” Thurman serves as church panting pastor of New City West End (PCA) in St. Louis, Mo., and Director of Homiletics at Covenant Theological Seminary. Lanha is the church planting pastor of Goodland Church (ECO) in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Friendship and evangelism go hand-in-hand

On Tuesday afternoon, Lanha said friendship is the key to evangelism.

Becky Lanha

“We have made telling our friends about Jesus into a very pressure-filled, event-driven thing,” she told the attendees. “But evangelism is an overflow of the heart, and it starts with friendship.”

She explained that evangelism and friendship go “hand-in-hand,” noting the five thresholds of evangelism described in the book I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taught Us About Their Path to Jesus.

“The first threshold is that a person once trusted a Christian—let that sink in,” she said. “So how do we build trust with people? We need to know how to make friends.”

She then outlined five ways to help make friends: Become the mayor of Starbucks, go beyond speed dating, remember what it was like to get your learner’s permit, be Ted Lasso, and unmute yourself from Zoom.

Describing how a daily customer who “lingered longer” received an honorary mayoral title at his local coffee shop, Lanha asked how someone gets elected mayor.

“Becoming a mayor is letting yourself show up, be present, and be fully aware in a place,” she said. “In the early church, they walked into villages and towns with an expectation. They knew that if they were sent there, God was already at work there. So the first step in making friends is to be the mayor. And not only do they get to know you, you get to know them.”

To “go beyond speed dating,” Lanha noted that “we know a little bit about a lot of people, and we let a lot of people know a little bit about us. The safe part, the good part. Instead, we need to open ourselves us to depth to relationships. It’s risky because people hurt people, and it takes a lot of trust in Jesus. Most of us—and most of the world—are struggling with a loneliness epidemic. And it has gospel ramifications.”

Lanha’s fourth method for developing friendships is to remember the excitement of having a learner’s permit.

“You wanted to drive everywhere, any time, with anyone. Remember? And when you only have a learner’s permit, you have to drive with someone else,” she said. “The gospel stories are full of this. Jesus brought people with Him on the greatest journey ever. Invite people along for your ride.”

To be Ted Lasso, Lanha recommended building community through friendships.

“Ted Lasso has a million one-liners, but my favorite is the scene in the first season when two people who know him but don’t know each other come into the room. Lasso said, ‘Congratulations you just met an awesome person!’”

The point, Lanha said, is that Lasso shares his friendships—he doesn’t hog them.

Greg Austen, Assistant Pastor of Church Planting for Ashland Church in Voorhees, N.J., partakes in communion served at the Church Planters Retreat on October 20.

“Not only do people need a friend, they need a place to belong—a community that knows and loves them. Our churches aim to be that, so a step in building friendships is building community.”

She explained the importance of “unmuting yourself from Zoom” was “to be open to letting who you really are come to the table. When we let others know who we really are, we invite others to let us know who they really are.”

She concluded by re-emphasizing that friendship is the “first step” in evangelism.

“There is so much hurt,” she said. “People can come near to Jesus because we have extended the hand of friendship. There is something very, very compelling about friendship. Non-Christians smell it out when it’s only about getting them into your church.”

‘The invitation is to experience suffering’

Speaking from Romans 5:1-11 on Wednesday afternoon, she reminded the attendees that the word “suffering” in verse 3 is a picture of the overall afflictions of life.

“Paul was not caught off guard by this idea of suffering. After all, he was the one who persecuted those who claimed to follow Christ. It was his job, so he knew what he was getting into. But we in the church have created the message that Christ is going to make your life better. We may not do it out loud, but we believe that narrative. But it’s clear here that the invitation is to die and to experience suffering.”

She added that Paul rejoiced in his sufferings because “it’s part of the deal—it’s what he signed up for. We need to normalize suffering in the Christian faith. If you’re suffering, you’re doing it right!”

In describing Paul’s progression of suffering producing endurance producing character producing hope, Lanha noted that the hope is “the assured finish line.”

“We will stand in the glory of God restored to relationship 100 percent. It’s certain,” she said. “Jesus walked the road we walk. His obedience to the Father brought suffering. But here’s the thing: In that obedience, Jesus demonstrated complete and total confidence that God will be faithful to His promises.”

In a similar vein, on Wednesday afternoon Williams told the attendees that adversity is the instrument of the gospel’s advancement. He spoke from Philippians 1:12-14 in his session, “Advancing the Gospel Though Adversity.”

Thurman Williams

“When I first read this passage, I thought that advancing through adversity meant that the gospel is so powerful that God is able to advance the gospel even in the midst of adversity, even in spite of adversity,” Williams said. “But that’s not what Paul is saying here. What Paul is saying is that his adversity is not a hindrance but is the very means of advancement. That is what God uses to advance the gospel.”

Williams explained that in verse 12, Paul says the whole Imperial Guard heard the gospel because he had been imprisoned in Rome.

“How else could he share the gospel with the entire Imperial Guard of the Emperor?” Williams asked. “Through his adversity, he was able to share the gospel with people he never would have been able to.”

He encouraged the church planters to look for opportunities to “enter into the pain” in their communities and find opportunities where God can use adversity.

Fellowship dinners in the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain provided striking views of Colorado Springs and opportunity for connection and relaxation.

“The ultimate instrument of the advance is the cross itself—Jesus becoming a curse for us,” Williams declared. “The impact of the cross of Jesus Christ on unbelievers is that everyone who calls on His name will be saved. The impact on believers is that they will be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. So this passage calls us to enter into adversity and see the gospel advance through it, not in just spite of it or in the midst of it, but because of it.”

In addition to the equipping sessions and couples’ coaching sessions, attendees enjoyed morning yoga with Jessie Steadman, whose husband, Brian, is Pastor of Resurrection Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and evening fellowship meals at a large home in the foothills of Cheyenne Mountain.

“I am thrilled that we can resource this event for our church planters,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “In so many cases, these brothers and sisters are doing an incredibly difficult work in a culture that sees their efforts as increasingly irrelevant. Yet they are standing firm on their calling and persevering through the adversity that they understand is the very thing God will use to help them reach their communities for Christ.”

The retreat is an annual resource for EPC church planters, hosted by the Church Planting Team. For more information on EPC church planting, see www.epc.org/churchplanting.

Worship is a key component of the Church Planters Retreat.

Noted leadership author Tod Bolsinger headlines annual Executive Pastor/Church Administrator gathering

 

Tod Bolsinger, Senior Congregational Strategist at Fuller Theological Seminary and author of Tempered Resilience and Canoeing the Mountains, explains the Adaptive Change Process to attendees of the first of two Executive Pastor/Church Administrator gatherings on October 21 in Denver, Colo.

At the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator workshops, noted church leadership expert and author Tod Bolsinger discussed the topic “From Surviving to Thriving: How Not to Waste a Crisis.” The event was held October 21-22 in Denver, Colo.

Bolsinger drew from his books Tempered Resilience and Canoeing the Mountains as he described the challenges of being a ministry leader over the past 20 months, noting that 2020 was like 1918, 1929, and 1968 all at the same time.

“We had a health crisis, an economic crisis, and a cultural crisis,” he said. “I don’t know anyone in ministry who isn’t exhausted.”

Bolsinger told the 20 attendees that in Crossing the Unknown Sea, author David Whyte said the antidote to exhaustion is not rest, but “wholeheartedness.”

“Many of us are doing our best, but we have fallen into half-heartedness,” Bolsinger said. “We didn’t go into ministry because we wanted to follow state or local ordinances, or whatever the shifting opinions are. We got into this because we love God and love people, and want to connect people to the God we love. We didn’t go into ministry to be in a place of conflict.”

Bolsinger outlined five steps for not simply surviving a crisis, but thriving within it:

  1. Identify adaptive challenges
  2. Refuel on trust
  3. Focus on the pain points of those you serve
  4. Find yourself a few Sacagaweas
  5. Try some aligned things

Regarding the idea of identifying adaptive challenges, he explained that a crisis has two phases: acute and adaptive.

“The goal of the acute phase is to stabilize, protect, and buy time,” he said. “Think of a medical triage situation, like a hospital emergency room.”

In the adaptive phase of a crisis, leaders should address root issues that they may not have had the will to confront before the crisis.

“You thrive in the acute stage through relationships,” he said. “You survive in the adaptive phase by learning to face losses and addressing the underlying issues that keep you from moving forward. An expert can solve technical problems, and those solutions serve a really important purpose. However, adaptive challenges require people to make a shift in values, expectations, attitudes, or habits.”

Concerning trust, Bolsinger noted that people don’t resist change, they resist loss.

“When trust is gone, the journey is over,” he emphasized. “We need to continually grow our trust account and wisely invest it in what will truly transform. People won’t judge us on intentions; they judge us on impact.”

In focusing on the pain points, Bolsinger described a fundraising effort among a group of potential donors for Fuller Theological Seminary, which he serves as Vice President and Chief of Leadership Formation.

“They told me that nobody cares if your institution—which of course in our case here is our church—stays alive. They only care if your institution cares about them,” he said. “You have to go out and talk to people and know their pain and how you can help with their problem. Nothing will change the more we focus internally. The way to move forward is to ask how we can meet the pain points.”

In explaining the need to “find yourself a few Sacagaweas,” Bolsinger related the story of Sacagawea, the Native American teenaged nursing mother who helped lead the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery across the Rocky Mountains.

“She had no voice, no privilege, no power whatsoever, but she became the key to their being able to continue,” he said. Among other contributions, Sacagawea interpreted for a meeting with a tribe they encountered—and discovered that the chief was her brother. Bolsinger emphasized that the episode was critical to the survival and ultimate success of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

“We need to find some Sacagaweas who can interpret a culture that may be foreign to the one we know.”

In trying “some aligned things,” Bolsinger emphasized the importance of prototypes that align with existing core values.

“Try some experiments that are safe, modest, and aligned,” he said. “Don’t launch the ‘first annual’ thing, just do a one-off thing. And afterward, don’t ask, ‘Did it work?’ Ask ‘What did we learn?’ It’s not failure if we are learning.”

Bolsinger earned MDiv and PhD degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. Prior to being named Vice President at Fuller in 2014, he served as Associate Pastor and Senior Pastor in two Presbyterian churches in California. He is author of Tempered Resilience: How Leaders Are Formed in the Crucible of Change; Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory; Leadership for a Time of Pandemic: Practicing Resilience; and It Takes a Church to Raise a Christian.

The gathering, now in its eighth year, is a two-day event for EPC executive pastors and directors, church administrators, and others in senior operational leadership positions.

Twenty EPC church leaders attended the workshop. In addition to discussing recent challenges and opportunities in their ministry settings—particularly related to changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic—participants shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration and operations, technology systems, personnel, vision and strategy, finance, and more.

“There are a lot of conferences out there that you can go to and get something out of,” said attendee Mark Eshoff, Executive Minister for Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, Calif. “But the things we talk about here are the things I work with every day. Minute-for-minute this is absolutely the best use of my time.”

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable, which also features Bolsinger and has the same format as the October 22-22 event, takes place November 11-12 in Orlando. For more information or to register, see www.epc.org/xpadmingathering.

Next Generation Ministries Council hosts leadership summit for EPC ministry leaders

 

Collaboration, encouragement, fellowship, and worship were on the agenda for more than 30 EPC children’s ministry, student ministry, and family ministry leaders on October 6-7 in Orlando. The workers from local churches in all 14 Presbyteries met for the inaugural Next Generation Ministries Leadership Summit, hosted by the Next Generation Ministries Council (NGMC).

The focus of the two-day “think tank” was to consider best approaches for ministry to children, students, and families, as well as discuss a variety of challenges facing age-group ministry in the current cultural landscape.

Jen Burkholder

“While the good news of Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the Church needs to think hard about how we can best reach and disciple the young generations of our communities with the gospel in an ever-shifting culture,” said Jen Burkholder, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Coalition for Christian Outreach and a member of the NGMC. “We cannot wait any longer to figure out how to equip them for leadership in our denomination and world.”

Among the topics that launched robust discussion among participants were practices, identity, diversity, and networking. Following a presentation on each issue, participants engaged in small group discussion to both foster dialogue and help build community among ministry peers.

Enid Flores, NGMC member and Ruling Elder for Iglesia Presbiteriana Westminster in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, led the discussion on diversity.

“When we work with relationships, we get to know our neighbors,” she said. “When we get to know our neighbors, we get the opportunity to have discipleship. And with that, we get a deeper friendship. And at the end, we love our neighbors as He loves us.”

As each table presented highlights of their group discussion, a theme emerged of the desire for broader diversity in the church.

“We talked about how to have the conversation in our church if they don’t want to embrace diversity—even if it’s an age diversity and not a racial one,” said Blaise Shields, Pastor for Youth & Families at St. Andrew EPC in Auburn, Ind. “It makes sense to me that someone who visits the church would feel more at home if they see someone in leadership who looks like them—whatever that may look like.”

Connected to reach the world for Christ’

As part of the discussion on networking, NGMC Chairman Greg Aydt said the Council’s goal is for a stronger level of collaboration among Next Generation Ministry leaders, both within and across Presbyteries.

Greg Aydt

“We are all connected to reach the world for Christ,” said Aydt, who serves as Pastor of Youth Ministry for Advent Presbyterian Church in Cordova, Tenn. “We have a strong belief in the wisdom of the collective—of the group. It’s Trinitiarian in a way. There’s power in that fellowship.”

He said the Council hopes to help foster creation of ministry peer networks all across the EPC.

“Our desire is that no NextGen worker is on an island. Networking has a bunch of strengths—resourcing, collaboration, mutual edification,” Aydt said. “We are thrilled to have denominational leaders who are invested in Next Generation ministry and want to see it prosper.”

Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk, said the Council’s work to connect Next Generation Ministry leaders to each other and also the larger vision of the EPC was already bearing fruit for the Kingdom. Weaver spoke to the gathering on Wednesday afternoon via video conference.

“I have no doubt the God will continue to bless the vision and energy these leaders have for reaching young people in their communities,” Weaver said. “They are natives to the culture that the people they are trying to reach are in, so they are in a unique position that not all of us can be as effective in.”

Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk, noted that the passion for evangelism and outreach among the attendees “signals that both the present and the future of EPC leadership looks promising.”

“These folks are at the tip of the spear in evangelism in their churches and other ministry contexts,” Iamurri said. “Listening to these folks describe how they are reaching their students for Christ is incredibly encouraging.”

Aydt noted that “the next generation is going to reform the Church; whether or not they are formed in the likeness of Christ is up to people like those in the room.”

41st General Assembly recordings available

 

Video recordings of the 41st General Assembly are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/ga2021recordings. Included are the Leadership Institute plenary sessions, worship service messages, committee verbal reports, dinner programs, and more.

The videos feature Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Miss.; D.A. Carson, Emeritus Professor of New Testament for Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill..; George Robertson, Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.; Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Church in Memphis, Tenn.; Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk; Glenn Meyers, Moderator of the 40th General Assembly; and more.

In addition, audio recordings of the Leadership Institute seminars “Chaplains Workshop,” “Creating Church Planting Networks and Partnerships,” and “The Israel of God” are available. These also are available in podcast form on the EPC’s podcast channel at www.podcast.epc.org as well as Spotify and iTunes—search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church.”

Audio recordings of numerous Networking Lunches will be available soon.

#epc2021ga

2021 Leadership Institute: Chaplains Workshop

 

In the 2021 Chaplains Workshop, Mark Ingles encouraged the Chaplains to remember their calling in settings that are often difficult.

“It’s hard to be a Chaplain,” Ingles said. “Every Chaplain who is doing their ‘ministry of presence’ is on the front lines, regardless of your military rank or where you fit in the hierarchy of your civilian institution or organization. You may get the idea—or actually be told—that you are only there to fulfill an organizational responsibility. But always remember, the people you minister to and support know your value. As does God, who is ultimately who we serve.”

Ingles also led the Chaplains in round-table discussions of how COVID-19 has impacted their ministries over the past 15 months.

“We were all impacted in one form or another,” Ingles said.

Ingles is the EPC Chaplain Endorser and is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of the West.

The Chaplains Workshop is part of the Leadership Institute, an equipping component of the annual General Assembly Meeting.

#epc2021ga

2021 Leadership Institute: The Israel of God

 

In the 2021 Leadership Institute seminar The Israel of God, Mike Kuhn examined an array of passages from both the Old and New Testaments in light of the question, “how we should understand ‘Israel’ biblically?” He also considered three implications regarding the current state of Israel:

First, the identity boundaries of Israel were never ethnic but covenantal.

“The sign of the covenant was the identity marker,” he said.

Second, the Old Testament anticipates what the New Testament teaches—an expansion of those boundaries in terms of both land and people.

Third, all nations are included in the Israel of God—people—and the promised land is a renewal of all creation.

“Jesus, in word and action, gave sufficient indication that the true people of God are those people who believe the testimony about Him and join themselves to him to become one with Him,” Kuhn said. “Jesus is the spiritual progenitor of a new people, a new nation consisting of both Jews and Gentiles.”

Kuhn emphasized that this new nation is the inclusive and expansive continuation of Old Testament Israel.

“The difference is that now the anointed prophet, priest, and king has appeared—God’s eternal purpose for His people is fulfilled in Christ,” he said. “To use the language of Hebrews, the shadow has now given way to the reality. In Christ, God’s purposes are not merely proclaimed, but achieved. Christ is the Israel of God.”

Kuhn serves as Missional Theology Specialist for EPC World Outreach’s International Theological Education Network (ITEN). For more than 28 years, he lived in three different Arab countries: Morocco, Egypt, and Lebanon, where he served as Professor of Biblical Theology and Discipleship at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut from 2012-2018.

The Leadership Institute is an equipping component of the annual General Assembly meeting.

#epc2021ga

Revised Procedure Manual for Ministerial and Candidates Committees now available

 

The revised, second edition of the Procedure Manual for Ministerial and Candidates Committees is now available for download in PDF format. The Manual was developed by the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee as a resource for EPC Presbyteries, churches, and ministerial candidates. The second edition includes amendments and legislative actions approved through the 38th General Assembly.

The manual can be downloaded at no cost from the EPC website at www.epc.org/downloads/#training and from the EPC Resources online store at www.epcresources.org.

“The Procedure Manual puts in one place the constitutional requirements from the Book of Order, practices required by our Acts of Assembly, and other helpful material,” said Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk. “It also contains sections that will have great value to search committees, Sessions, and Candidates Under Care.”

New to the second edition is “From Candidacy to Call: an Overview of the Ordination Process.” The section provides a high-level overview of the process of the pastoral call, including steps and milestones for candidates, search committees, and Presbytery Ministerial and Candidates committees.

Another change from previous editions is that forms, checklists, and other resources designed to be used by Presbyteries and churches are not included in the second edition, but rather provided as links to downloadable forms on the EPC website.

“Many of these forms are updated—sometimes multiple times—between printings of the Manual,” Iamurri explained. “These forms have been available on the EPC website all along. With this edition we included an Appendix that includes a clickable link for each form, which will always be the most current version.”

Church Revitalization Workshop session 7 recording, other resources now available

 

The recording of the final session of the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop is now available. “How our identity in Christ, leading change, and overcoming barriers can lead to revitalization” was hosted by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo. Panelists were:

Recordings of the entire seven-part workshop are available on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop, as well as resources for church and personal revitalization recommended by each of the facilitators. In addition, written summaries of each month’s session are available in Spanish.

Audio podcast versions are available on the EPC’s podcast channel at podcast.epc.org, as well as Spotify and iTunes (search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church”).

Church Revitalization Workshop concludes May 26

 

The EPC’s seven-part virtual Church Revitalization Workshop concludes on Wednesday, May 26, with a discussion of how the believer’s identity in Christ, leading change, and overcoming barriers can lead to revitalization in the local church. Previous installments of the monthly series focused on the revitalization of the Session, the revitalization of the pastor, and revitalizing the congregation through evangelism.

Facilitators of the workshop include Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

The workshop will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern) and is open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders. For more information, recordings of previous sessions, or to register for the final installment, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop.

Second Presbyterian Church offers localized theological education through Memphis City Seminary

 

Carl Ellis, Provost’s Professor of Theology and Culture at Reformed Theological Seminary, teaches Minority Church History for Memphis City Seminary in February 2021 at Second Presbyterian Church.

Starting a new seminary during a pandemic would not appear to be a wise thing to do. But when the purpose and strategy of Memphis City Seminary (MCS) are taken into consideration, it makes total sense. A ministry of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, MCS launched in February 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across the United States.

The organizers weren’t sure of the seminary’s immediate future at the time, recalled Taylor Tollison, MCS Director of Operations, who also serves as Domestic Outreach Coordinator for Second Presbyterian Church. Yet in looking back, he said the school’s flexible, local-oriented model—plus low tuition cost of $100 per credit hour—turned out to be “a great approach” during a time of restrictions on travel and in-person gatherings.

He explained that from the beginning, the seminary was designed to provide not only flexibility in academic preparation for ministry, but also a focus on “place-based” education. That means that MCS, training students for ministry in the urban landscape of Memphis, would ensure its students would gain an understanding of how their biblical and theological studies would be applied in their local context. Specifically, recent U.S. Census data shows that the Memphis metro area of more than 5 million is nearly 48 percent African American and only 43 percent non-Hispanic white.

Taylor Tollison

“MCS offers a distinct curriculum that is designed to prepare pastors for the Memphis context and the surrounding region,” Tollison said. “We want to learn from those voices in theological education that are often underrepresented by offering specific courses and requiring specialized reading.”

Tollison noted that a key value of MCS is that the seminary views its students as more than just “academic thinkers.”

“Our hope is that our students will receive a holistic and comprehensive theological education that equips them in four key areas: knowledge, character, skills and vision,” he said. “Our aim is not merely to transfer information to the mind, but to take part in the full-orbed formation of Christian leaders. We believe the demands of gospel ministry require the whole person to be equipped—not merely the mind.”

George Robertson

George Robertson, Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church and MCS Academic Dean, said the school’s faculty are “pastoral scholars” who integrate education with practical ministry.

“We are making our experience and the best of biblical and theological scholarship available and affordable to Christ-centered leaders in Memphis,” he said.

Brian Lewis, Second Presbyterian Church’s Director of Domestic Outreach, serves as MSC’s Executive Director. He said the seminary is “well on its way” to providing affordable, high-level education for ministers who do not want to leave Memphis to receive their theological education.

Brian Lewis

“We are attracting bivocational workers and many people of color,” Lewis said. “We strive to be very multi-cultural, which mirrors our Memphis culture. We believe we will also steadily attract students regionally and nationally, because Memphis has world-wide appeal.”

Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Memphis and a member of MCS’ Board, said that he often promotes the seminary’s “affordability, accessibility, and action-oriented training for gospel ministry in churches, non-profits, and the marketplace.”

Tollison said MCS is officially “authorized” by the State of Tennessee—which legitimatizes it as a school of higher learning—and is pursing official accreditation through the Association for Biblical Higher Education and the Association of Reformed Theological Seminaries. He hopes MSC will receive full accreditation in three to five years.

The groundwork for MSC started in 2006 when Second Presbyterian Church began to envision what an urban seminary for Memphis might look like, with the ultimate goal to offer an entire Master of Divinity degree locally. From 2006 to 2009, a venue for offering seminary education was through the Memphis Center for Urban Studies initiative. In 2009, Second Presbyterian Church began hosting a Reformed Theological Seminary extension site.

Limitations Lead to Vision

For the next 10 years, Lewis and his wife, Joanne, directed the RTS extension. Students could begin their seminary degree in Memphis, but were only eligible for a Certificate of Biblical Studies (CBS) upon the completion of 29 hours. After 29 hours students could complete an MA degree online, or for other degrees were required to transfer to a degree-granting seminary location to complete their coursework.

To bridge this gap in local seminary education, MCS was launched in November 2019 as a degree-granting seminary for both Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and Master of Divinity degrees. Twenty degree-seeking RTS students joined 30 other students to bring the initial enrollment to 50.

Spring 2021 enrollment has grown to 60 students—35 men and 25 women—with 16 of those being minority students. Local churches represented by MCS students include Downtown Church, Fellowship Memphis, First Evangelical Church, Hope Church, Second Presbyterian Church, and The Avenue Community Church.

“One of the things I love most about my job,” said Joanne Lewis, MCS Director of Enrollment, “is to see students in our classroom who have dreamed, prayed, and waited for an opportunity to pursue their theological education but until now were unable to do so.”

Braden Tyler

Braden Tyler, a teacher and soccer coach at a private Christian school in inner-city Memphis, is one of those students.

“I am 31 years old and have wanted to do seminary ever since becoming a believer [while] in college,” Tyler said. “However, college debt, getting married, and having children kept me from pursuing this. All the seminaries that I wanted to attend were too expensive and not located in the city of Memphis. I could do online seminary, but it would be too expensive for me and it would be a lonely road.”

He noted that relocating to an in-resident seminary would require quitting his job, moving to a new city, and having his wife get a job in order for him to be a full-time student.

“Unsatisfactory options like this kept putting seminary on the back burner,” Tyler said. “Then along came MCS—an affordable, flexible, and local seminary that could give me the high quality, biblical education that I wanted. I could keep my job and keep my family in our city. Christians shouldn’t have to pay thousands upon thousands of dollars and have to leave the context of their city in order to get a seminary degree. I have talked to many people and it seems that seminaries like this could be the future for the church.”

He said that after he receives a degree from MSC, his goal is to continue his education by pursuing a PhD to teach in a seminary or become a pastor.

Denny Catalano

Denny Catalano, director of Campus Outreach in Memphis, said MSC is “a great complement” to his work.

“I chose Memphis City Seminary because I wanted to grow in my knowledge of God, in my character, and in my skills to more effectively reach the lost and shepherd my team,” he said. “We serve a very broad ethnic and cultural demographic, so I was looking for something that would give me a broad and thorough understanding of God and how He has worked throughout history among all nations. I count it a great privilege to be able to learn from some of the best scholars out there while being able to collaborate and learn alongside people ministering in a broad array of contexts.”

Bradley Morrow, Second Presbyterian Church’s Recreation Coordinator, said MSC makes a seminary education financially possible for him.

Bradley Morrow

“MCS has allowed me to gain a sound theological education that is affordable and allows me to work a full-time job where I am able to apply what I am learning in class to my ministry in the city,” he said. “MCS is equipping me to read, study, and teach the Scriptures in a way that reveals Jesus and proclaims the gospel as good news to every ZIP code in the city.”

Tyler agreed, adding that is it is a “big advantage” taking seminary classes alongside people from the city where you live.

“This is very unifying for a city and for churches,” Tyler said. “The next spiritual leaders of the community are people who have been trained in the same seminary and are friends with each other. This seminary can provide classes that fit the needs of Memphis and can better train leaders to impact this city.”

For more information on Memphis City Seminary, see www.memphiscityseminary.org

by Tim Yarbrough
EPConnection correspondent

Session 6 recording of Church Revitalization Workshop now available

 

The recording of the sixth monthly session of the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop is now available. “The Revitalization of the Congregation, Part 2: Revitalization Through Worship” was hosted by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo. Panelists were:

The recording also is posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop, and on the EPC YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Audio podcast versions of each session of the workshop are available on the EPC’s podcast channel at podcast.epc.org, as well as Spotify and iTunes (search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church”).

Revitalization through worship the topic of April 28 Church Revitalization Workshop

 

The EPC’s 2020-2021 virtual Church Revitalization Workshop continues on Wednesday, April 28, with a discussion of how to utilize worship as an engine for church revitalization. Previous installments of the monthly series focused on the revitalization of the Session, the revitalization of the pastor, and ways to revitalize the congregation through evangelism.

Facilitators of the workshop include John Mabray, Associate Pastor for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroe, La.; Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

The workshop will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern). There is no cost to register, and the workshops are open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders. For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop.

VitalChurch offers Transitional Pastor training event

 

VitalChurch Ministry, a commended resource of the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation Committee, is holding an online training event designed to equip transitional pastors, denominational leaders, and anyone else interested in helping churches in transition or crisis. The four-day training is scheduled for May 24-27, with each day’s presentation taking place from 12:00-4:00 p.m. (Eastern) via Zoom.

Participants will discover strategies to diagnose real problems, facilitate change, resolve conflict, manage destructive powerbrokers, and deal with the idols at the root of many congregational issues. A flexible and workable model of church governance, the use of transition teams, and a proven method for strategic planning highlight the topics to be addressed. Other features include:

  • The why and how of VitalChurch’s intentional transitional pastor ministry, based on more than 25 years of experience serving churches.
  • The opportunity for participants to self-assess their transitional ministry potential and learn the qualities of a successful intentional transitional pastor.
  • An electronic and hard copy Interim Pastor Training Manual that provides detailed information on all topics covered in the training.
  • A “check list” for a transitional pastor’s first 90 days in a church.
  • Four days of learning, growing, and reflecting through a combination of formal information sessions, individual and small-group exercises, and whole group. discussion designed to both deepen and broaden the understanding of transitional ministry in the church.
  • Networking opportunities with like-minded pastors and professionals, as well as with VitalChurch’s speakers who have decades of experience in transitional ministry.

“When it comes to evaluating and training Transitional Pastors, VitalChurch is one of our valuable resource partners,” said Jerry Iamurri, EPC Assistant Stated Clerk. “The experience and expertise they bring to the table has helped a number of our congregations when they were between pastors. Anyone interested in what transitional pastorates are all about will benefit from this training.”

The cost is $599 (through April 12), and $699 beginning April 13. Those who register by May 10 are guaranteed to receive an Interim Pastor Training Manual by mail prior to the event.

Featured presenters are Dave Miles, VitalChurch Founding Partner and Interim Pastor Team Leader; Tom Wilkens, VitalChurch People Development Leader; Gregg Caruso, VitalChurch Diagnostic Team Leader; and Wade Thompson, VitalChurch UK Executive Director. Guest Presenters include Keith Webb, President of Creative Results Management and author of The COACH Model for Christian Leaders; and Jeff Arthurs, Professor of Preaching and Communication at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

For more information and to register, see www.vitalchurchministry.org/2021-training.

For additional Transitional Pastor, Church Revitalization, Pastoral Care, and other resources of the Ministerial Vocation Committee, see www.epc.org/ministerialvocation/mvcresources.

Session 5 recording of Church Revitalization Workshop now available

 

The recording of “The Revitalization of the Congregation, Part 1” of the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop is now available. The workshop is being held via video conference on the fourth Wednesday of each month through May 2021.

The presentation was hosted by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo. Panelists were:

The recording also is posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop, where registration for future installments of the workshop is available, and on the EPC YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Audio podcast versions of each session of the workshop are available on the EPC’s podcast channel at podcast.epc.org, as well as Spotify and iTunes (search for “Evangelical Presbyterian Church”).

March 24 Church Revitalization Workshop addresses congregational vitality

 

The EPC’s 2020-2021 virtual Church Revitalization Workshop continues on Wednesday, March 24, with a discussion of how to develop and maintain the vitality of the congregation. Previous installments of the monthly series focused on the revitalization of the Session and the revitalization of the pastor.

Facilitators of the workshop include John Mabray, Associate Pastor for Covenant Presbyterian Church in Monroe, La.; Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas; Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo.; and Mike Wright, Pastor of Littleton Christian Church in Littleton, Colo.

The workshop will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. (Eastern). There is no cost to register, and the workshops are open to both Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders. For more information and to register, see www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop.

March Jeremiah Journal outlines 2021 Leadership Institute adjustments

 

In the March 2021 edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah describes some additional scheduling changes for the upcoming 41st General Assembly since last month’s edition in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s Assembly is scheduled for June 22-25, 2021, at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Each month’s update also is posted to EPConnection and the EPC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.

For a transcript of this month’s edition in printable pdf format, click here.

Revised Leadership Training Guide now available

 

The revised edition of the EPC Leadership Training Guide is now available for purchase at www.epcresources.org/products/leadership-training-guide. Subtitled “A Resource for Pastors, Elders, and Church Leaders of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church,” the guide was developed by the EPC’s Ministerial Vocation and Theology committees, and produced by the Office of the General Assembly.

Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said the fully updated, second edition of the Leadership Training Guide is “an invaluable resource for congregations seeking to train current and next-generation leaders to serve in a variety of roles in the church. It presents this important material in a succinct, practical, and winsome style. In addition, the fresh new look is a welcome improvement over the previous edition, which makes the content even more accessible.”

The 230-page, spiral-bound book is designed to assist churches in leadership development and includes instructions on how to use the material to prepare ministers, Ruling Elders, and deacons for their ordination vows. The 15 chapters are Early Church History, Reformed Church History, Reading the Bible, Theology, Anthropology, Christology, Soteriology, The Holy Spirit, Ecclesiology and the Sacraments, Eschatology, The Purpose for Which God Created the World, Church Government, The Officers of the Church, The Life and Character of the Officer, and Leading Healthy Churches. Each chapter concludes with practical leadership applications and questions for review and discussion. Also included are the EPC ordination vows and an Emotional/Spiritual Health Inventory.

The cost per book is $12.69 plus shipping.

Session 4 recording of Church Revitalization Workshop now available

 

The recording of “The Revitalization of the Session, Part 2” of the 2020-2021 Church Revitalization Workshop is now available. The workshop is being held via video conference on the fourth Wednesday of each month through May 2021.

The presentation was hosted by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo. Panelists were:

The video recording also is posted on the EPC website at www.epc.org/churchrevitalizationworkshop, where registration for future installments of the workshop is available, and on the EPC YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/EPChurch80. Audio podcasts of each workshop session are available on the EPC podcast channel and iTunes.