Category Archives: Leadership Development

2018 Leadership Institute: The Reformation of Preaching

 

GA2018LI-ReformationPreachingIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar The Reformation of Preaching, David Swanson reminded attendees that they all have been impacted at some point by the public proclamation of God’s Word.

“To understand that at some point we will be the preacher that someone else describes in a setting similar to this is both daunting and a responsibility that I don’t want,” he said. “But God is Word and when we speak His Word in the context of its truth and our diligent study, His Spirit flows through us. Therefore, I should have an expectation that God is going to work in the lives of those who hear His Word.”

Swanson is Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida.

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2018 Leadership Institute: The Gospel in Dark Places: Ministry to Exploited and Trafficked Women

 

GA2018LI-ExploitedTraffickedIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar The Gospel in Dark Places: Ministry to Exploited and Trafficked Women, Bonnie Gatchell offered some practical ways to minister to women involved in human trafficking.

“There are silent victims all around us who need to see what it is to have heathier marriages than what they may have known, to demonstrate healthier ways of conflict resolution, and to have healthier relationships with our employees and employers.”

She also encouraged pastors to preach sermons about biblical women.

“We can preach countless women in the Bible,” she said. “If I’m a female but only hear about Moses, Joseph, David, and Paul but never hear about Deborah, Esther, Ruth, or Rahab, it tells me I’m a lesser gender and makes me a vulnerable person.”

Trafficking survivor Tricia Grant shared her story with the session attendees, noting that “the people who trafficked me are still advertising for exotic dancers.”

Gatchell is an ordained Teaching Elder and the Founder and Director of Route One Ministry, a Boston-based program that reaches women exploited by entering strip clubs. Grant is a survivor of sex trafficking who now educates youth and adults in large group and one-on-one settings.

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2018 Leadership Institute: Building Blocks of a Missional Church

 

GA2018LI-BuildingBlocksMissionalChurch.jpgIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar Building Blocks of a Missional Church, Randy H described the value telling stories as a method of mentoring.

“In the Bible, mentoring is throughout the narrative, but it’s a bunch of stories like spaghetti on the wall. It’s all over the place” he said. “So there’s not necessarily a formula, it can be messy, and it’s not about me telling my story. It’s a door to building relationships.”

He added that he often tells Muslim that he works with that he’s been married for 26 years, “and I ask them to ask me how I’ve done it. When they do, it lets me tell them of God’s commands regarding marriage.”

He followed the example with five key questions that can be asked to help pull listeners into a spiritual story:

  1. What was interesting to you in this story?
  2. This is God’s great story; He is the main actor. So what did you learn about Him?
  3. What so we learn about humans? How do we respond or not respond to God?
  4. What is our response to God?
  5. Who might we tell this to?

Randy H is a global worker serving through EPC World Outreach and serves in a location that is undisclosed for security reasons.

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2018 Leadership Institute: The Beauty of Reformed Worship

 

GA2018LI-ReformedWorshipIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar The Beauty of Reformed Worship, Speaker Zach Hopkins explained the biblical basis of worship as our response to God’s covenant with mankind.

“Christian worship is covenental worship,” Hopkins said. “We are gathered together because of God’s gracious condescension toward us. We would have no knowledge of God—and no participation with Him in any way—apart from his willing condescension toward us. That’s ‘covenant.’”

Hopkins serves as Pastor of Edgington Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Taylor Ridge, Ill.

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2018 Leadership Institute: Religious Support and Free Exercise

 

GA2018LI-ReligiousSupportIn the 2018 Leadership Institute seminar Religious Support and Free Exercise, Daniel Blomberg discussed some of the legal challenges faced by chaplains, ministers, and churches in the current cultural climate.

“There are a lot of folks who want to bang the drum about the culture wars,” he said, “and one side of the conversation is that there are people who know that if they can make you afraid you will give up and not fight. But it’s important to remember that if you don’t protect those religious beliefs you don’t have—or may even abhor—you can’t stand for religious liberty as a whole. So there are debates, but if we have the right understanding of religious liberty, we can turn down the temperature.”

Blomberg’s seminar was part of the annual EPC Chaplain’s Workshop. He is Senior Counsel for Becket Law in Washington, D.C., a leading religious liberty law firm.

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GA Women’s Resources activities feature discipleship, connection opportunities

 
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Speakers for the Women’s Resource Council gatherings include (from left), Sharon Beekmann, Mary Brown, Lana Roberts, Jacqueline Smith, Brent Stenberg, Leila Todd, and Karen Walls. 

The EPC Women’s Resource Council is hosting a variety of gatherings at the 38th General Assembly, June 19-22 at Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.

“Connecting with the Marginalized” is the theme for the annual “TESS Talks” dinner on Wednesday, June 20. Speakers are Sharon Beekmann, Women’s Resource Council Chair; Jacqueline Smith, wife of Hope Church Senior Pastor Rufus Smith; and Karen Walls, Director of Hope Church’s Special Needs Ministry. Beekmann will discuss sexual abuse and harassment; Smith will examine Impacting Public Schools for Christ; and Walls’ topic is “Welcoming and Including People with Disabilities into the Family of God.” Each speaker’s 10-minute presentation will be followed by a 20-minute round-table discussion.

Modeled after the popular “Ted Talks,” TESS (Teaching, Encouragement, and Spiritual Sustenance) Talks offer practical discussions on topics of interest for women across the EPC.

“TESS Talks provide sisters in Christ the opportunity to consider and discuss topics that are relevant to churches today,” Beekmann said. “Plus, we have fun!”

Networking Lunches offer opportunities for fellowship and enrichment around a variety of relevant topics.

In “Connecting with God for Life” on Wednesday, Sharon Henderson will discuss growing in Christ as well as in spiritual disciplines. She is the wife of David Henderson, Pastor of Covenant EPC in West Lafayette, Ind.

On Thursday, Lana Roberts will host the annual lunch gathering for women Teaching Elders and candidates to connect, encourage, and pray for one another. Roberts has served on the pastoral staff of First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif., for more than 10 years and is a member of the EPC Women’s Resource Council.

Also on Thursday, Brent Stenberg and Leila Todd of the Christian Psychological Center in Memphis will host a Networking Lunch for ministry spouses. In their topic, “Opportunities and Challenges,” Stenberg and Todd will focus on the unique challenges ministry spouses face, and on building resilience in order to thrive in the midst of the God-given opportunities and stressors of ministry life. All ministry spouses—male or female—are invited to attend.

On Thursday evening, the Women’s Ministry Dinner will feature Mary Brown as she discusses “Disciple Making: One Woman at a Time.” She will explore Jesus’ method of making disciples, including practical steps in disciple-making that beginners and mature Christians alike can use. Brown leads the Soul Healing Ministry, Women’s Ministry, support groups, and discipleship groups for Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City and is a member of the EPC Women’s Resource Council.

“Mary’s passion for making disciples is contagious,” Beekmann said. “She will inspire us to proclaim the gospel and bring people into the body of Christ.”

For more information about the 38th General Assembly, including registration, daily schedules, and more, see www.epc.org/ga2018. For details about the ministries of the EPC Women’s Resource Council, see www.epc.org.org/thewell including an informational video featuring Mary Brown offering helpful tips and encouragement on mentoring new disciples of Christ.

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Rwandan genocide survivor, racial reconciliation expert, special needs ministry leader to keynote 2018 Leadership Institute

 
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Immaculée Ilibagiza, Greg Thompson, Jennifer Ross

Immaculée Ilibagiza, Greg Thompson, and Jennifer Ross are the keynote speakers for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church’s fourth annual Leadership Institute. The Institute is a strategic component of the EPC’s 38th General Assembly, to be held June 19-22 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn.

The theme for the annual meeting—Forward!—reinforces awareness on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. that God is doing something bigger in Memphis and beyond than what He is doing in and through the EPC. Keeping with that concept, the plenary speakers will take an intentional look from contexts outside the EPC at deep hurts that can help attendees minister the gospel more effectively in our culture.

Ilibagiza is a survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in which more than 1 million people were massacred in ethnic violence following the assassination of the country’s president. Regarded as one of world’s leading speakers on faith, hope, and forgiveness, she has shared her inspirational story with world leaders, school children, multinational corporations, churches, and at events and conferences around the world.

Thompson serves as Director of Research and Strategy for Clayborn Reborn, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reintroduce the historic Clayborn Temple in downtown Memphis to the city, and to engage a national audience. One of the country’s most significant church buildings, Clayborn Temple was the home of the EPC’s Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis from its opening in 1893 until 1949, and later became a landmark in the Civil Rights movement.

Ross is the Director of Matthew’s Ministry, the Special Needs Ministry of the Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City (a multi-campus United Methodist congregation), and serves as Education Chairperson for the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City. She will provide relevant data and biblical applications on the topic “Holding a Banquet and Welcoming All of God’s Children,” exploring why churches should offer programs for individuals with special needs.

Each plenary session will include a moderated time for questions and answers.

In addition to the plenary speakers, 14 seminars are available on Tuesday, June 19:

  1. The Beauty of Reformed Worship.
    Led by Zach Hopkins, Pastor of Edgington EPC in Taylor Ridge, Ill.
  2. Being a Public, Media-Friendly Evangelical in the Trump Era.
    Led by Carmen LaBerge, President of Reformation Press (formerly Presbyterian Lay Committee).
  3. Building Blocks of a Missional Church.
    Led by Randy H, EPC World Outreach Global Worker who serves in an unpublished location.
  4. Discerning the Spirits.
    Led by Sharon Beekmann, Chair of the EPC Women’s Resource Council and author of Rescued and Redeemed: How to Discern Demons from the Divine.
  5. Discipleship in Student Ministry.
    Led by Meg DeHaven, Director of Children and Youth for Bethany EPC in Havertown, Pa., and Mike DeHaven, Assistant Director of Youth for Bethany EPC.
  6. Embracing God’s Cities: Bus Tour of Memphis.
    Led by Larry Lloyd, President of the Memphis Leadership Foundation, and Eli Morris, Senior Associate Pastor of Hope Church in Memphis.
  7. The Gospel in Dark Places: Ministry to Exploited and Trafficked Women.
    Led by Bonnie Gatchell, Director of Route One Ministry in Boston, Mass., and Tricia Grant, educator, speaker, and trafficking survivor.
  8. The Lord’s Supper in the Reformed Tradition.
    Led by Stephen Hess, Pastor of Highview EPC in Dousman, Wis.
  9. Making Disciples Who Make Disciples.
    Led by Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker EPC in Parker, Colo.
  10. The Means of Grace in the Scriptures Proclaimed.
    Led by JT Holderman, Pastor of Bellevue Presbyterian Church in Gap, Pa.
  11. The Reformation of Preaching.
    Led by David Swanson, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.
  12. Religious Support and Protecting Free Exercise.
    Led by Daniel Blomberg, Senior Counsel for Becket Law in Washington, D.C.
  13. Planting Multi-Ethnic Churches.
    Led by Léonce Crump, Pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta, Ga., and Richard Rieves, Pastor of Downtown Church in Memphis.
  14. Putting Baptism to Use.
    Led by Mike Glodo, Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Dean of the Chapel for Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Fla.

Click here for more information on the Leadership Institute, including full seminar descriptions, times, and speaker bios.

Click here for more information about the 38th General Assembly, including links to online registration, discounted hotel rates, and more.

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April Jeremiah Journal reports work of MVC and presbytery Ministerial Committees

 

In the April edition of The Jeremiah Journal, EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah reports on how the work of the Ministerial Vocation Committee and presbytery Ministerial Committees helps fulfill the EPC’s strategic initiative of creating and sustaining a culture of leadership development. This includes the pastoral search and candidate care processes, Mentored Apprenticeship Program, a recommendation to expand the role of Commissioned Pastor, and more.

The Jeremiah Journal is a monthly video blog hosted on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/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.

38th General Assembly registration open

 

GA2018BannerOnline registration for the 38th General Assembly is now open. The Assembly meets June 19–22 at Hope Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn. The theme of this year’s annual meeting is “Forward: Engage, Empower, Embrace,” based on Philippians 3:13–14.

The annual Leadership Institute on Tuesday has 14 seminars this year to help provide resources for building a leadership development culture. Topics include:

  • Being a Public, Media-Friendly Evangelical in the Trump Era
  • Building Blocks of a Missional Church
  • Discerning the Spirits
  • Discipleship in Student Ministry
  • Making Disciples Who Make Disciples
  • Planting Multi-Ethnic Churches
  • Putting Baptism to Use
  • Religious Support and Protecting Free Enterprise
  • The Beauty of Reformed Worship
  • The Gospel in Dark Places: Ministry to Exploited and Trafficked Women
  • The Lord’s Supper in the Reformed Tradition
  • The Means of Grace in the Scriptures Proclaimed
  • The Reformation of Preaching
  • The Life and Legacy of MLK in Memphis (special bus tour of MLK-related sites)

The theme reinforces our awareness on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that something bigger is happening in Memphis and beyond in our culture in 2018 than just what God is doing in and through the EPC. Our Leadership Institute plenary speakers on Wednesday—Immaculée Ilibagiza, Greg Thompson, and Jennifer Ross—will take an intentional look at deep hurts beyond our denomination to help us minister the gospel effectively in our culture.

Ilibagiza is a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and is regarded as one of world’s leading speakers on faith, hope, and forgiveness. Her book Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust has sold more than two million copies and has been translated into 17 languages.

Thompson is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and currently serves as Director of Research and Strategy at Clayborn Reborn, a historic Civil Rights site in Memphis. He is active in national conversations surrounding race and equity in America, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia where he wrote his dissertation on Martin Luther King Jr.

Ross has served as Director of Matthew’s Ministry, the Special Needs Ministry of the Church of the Resurrection (United Methodist) in Kansas City, for 15 years. She also serves as Education Chairperson for the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City and serves on the board of Inclusion Connections—a regional non-profit organization serving the special needs community. She has degree in special education and 30 years of experience working with individuals with special needs in schools, state facilities, colleges, and churches.

The first of five business sessions convenes on Wednesday afternoon, June 20, at 4:00 p.m. Business sessions continue on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; and Friday at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. (if needed).

Worship service speakers include:

  • Rufus Smith, Senior Pastor of Hope Church (Thursday at 8:30 a.m.)
  • Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary (Thursday at 7:30 p.m.); and
  • Dean Weaver, EPC Moderator (Friday at 8:30 a.m.).

A special event this year is a Wednesday evening program featured renowned comedian Michael Jr. He has appeared on The Tonight Show, Comedy Central, Jimmy Kimmel Live, CNN, ComedyTV, as well as in the most prestigious comedy clubs in the country, including The Improv, The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store, and others. He also is well-known for bringing his family friendly comedy to Christian and church audiences.

Numerous other gatherings are available that cover a wide variety of ministry interests, including Networking Lunches, World Outreach, Women’s Ministry, and more.

For complete information, see www.epc.org/ga2018.

Seminary programs benefit EPC students preparing for ministry

 

Partnerships between the EPC and two evangelical seminaries offer significant financial savings for those pursuing formal theological education.

MAPThe EPC’s Mentored Apprenticeship Program (MAP), de­vel­oped in collaboration with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, makes eight specific ministry courses available online at half the normal cost of tuition. These courses—dis­cipleship, ethics, leadership, pastoral care/counseling, ministry as mission, apologetics, preaching, and evangelism—may be taken while at­tending any other seminary and are all transferrable according to Association of Theo­logical Schools (ATS) rules.

The EPC’s new requirements for ordination to the office of Teaching Elder, approved by the 36th General Assembly in response to changing trends in theological education nationwide now require the completion of these eight courses.

RTSIn addition to MAP courses through Gordon-Conwell, the Andrew Jumper Scholarship is available for EPC-affiliated students at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS). The scholarship is a full-tuition award for an incoming, residential Master of Divinity (MDiv) student at any RTS campus, and is named for the EPC “Founding Father” and longtime pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Mo.

Candidates for the Jumper Scholarship should be members in good standing of an EPC church, under care of an EPC presbytery, and must demonstrate future commitment to the EPC. The deadline for application is March 15 for entry into the MDiv program in the following summer or fall.

Brian Gault, RTS Director of Financial Aid, said the scholarship exists because of the generosity of donors who care for the preparation of future pastors in the EPC, adding that additional donations to the scholarship fund directly support students.

“As the fund grows, we can support more students,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if future EPC ministers never had to pay for tuition to attend RTS?”

Kent Mathews, Pastor of the EPC’s Grace Community Fellowship in Ottawa, Kan., serves as the Director of MAP. He noted that the online MAP courses not only involve the same types of readings, videos, and assignments encountered in a traditional seminary course, they also involve a mentored relationship with a local pastor or other ministry leader, as well as in-the-field ministry project for each course.

“Research demonstrates that the top three things seminary students currently wish of their education are reduced tuition, a relation­ship with a mentor, and the opportunity to gain practical experience in the subjects they are studying” he said.

“The MAP course projects help students gain that practical ministry experience in their local context, and because they are offered at half the normal cost of tuition, it is literally like receiving a $7500 scholarship.”

Mathews added that a student completing at least six of the eight MAP courses will earn a Certificate of Completion from Gordon-Conwell. He emphasized that a student does not need to be a pursuing a master’s degree—or even have a bachelor’s degree—to take the courses, making it an ideal training vehicle for even non-ordained church or parachurch staff who want to improve their skills and knowledge.

Gordon-Conwell operates campuses in Hamilton, Mass; Boston, Mass.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Jacksonville, Fla. (Registration for MAP courses is through the Charlotte campus.) For more information, contact Mathews at kentmathews@sbcglobal.net or 785-418-1635.

Reformed Theological Seminary offers the MDiv degree at its campuses in Jackson, Miss., Orlando, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; Washington, D.C.; Dallas, Texas; and Houston, Texas. For more information about the Jumper Scholarship, contact Gault at bgault@rts.edu.

Church Planters Retreat offers refresh and recharge

 
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Attendees of the EPC Church Planters Retreat enjoyed breakout sessions on a variety of topics, including fundraising, self-care, worship, and more.

As one of the EPC’s four strategic initiatives, church planting is a priority in the EPC. A significant aspect of supporting church planting is supporting and ministering to church planters. A key strategy in supporting EPC church planters is the annual Church Planters Retreat.

This year’s retreat was held October 25-27 at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo. Nearly 50 EPC church planters, their spouses, and members of the Church Planting Team (CPT) joined presbytery leaders and others for three days of training and renewal that included peer networking, breakout and mentoring sessions, fellowship, prayer, and more.

Tom Ricks, CPT chair, explained that “church planting nuts-and-bolts” training sessions focused on topics such as fundraising, worship, self-care, and preaching in a start-up situation.

“Church planting is one of the hardest and loneliest endeavors of which I have ever been a part,” said James Daniels, pastor of Chelsea Presbyterian Church in suburban Birmingham, Ala. The church plant is not yet holding formal worship services, but is in the formation stage of hosting social events such as prayer breakfasts to build a local core group.

“The retreat came at a critical time in the process, and offered a beautiful balance of information and transformation,” Daniels added. “I’m entering back into my local community renewed and inspired for the days ahead.”

“This retreat was absolutely necessary,” said Brian Roskin, pastor of River City Church in St. Charles, Mo. “The topics were thoughtful and relevant for my current situation. I was able to connect with others doing the same thing, creating a network for me.”

Breakout sessions for spouses were led by Patty Robinson, wife of Shawn Robinson, founding pastor of Clayton Community Church in Clayton, Calif., and a CPT member. Her topic, “Engaging, Equipping, and Encouraging,” addressed how to navigate the call to be a church planter’s wife—including managing expectations and boundaries.

“Taking care of your relationship with God, knowing how and when to invest in the (church) plant, and protecting your marriage and family is what make the journey unique,” she said.

Another component of support for EPC church planters is a Church Planters’ Cohort, now in the planning phase with a launch goal of January 2018.

“The cohort will meet bi-monthly via FaceTime,” Ricks noted, “and cover topics essential to the first two years of church planting.” He added that “covenant triads” will provide opportunity for church planters to check in, support, and pray for each other.

Cohort leader Bart Garrett, pastor of Christ Church East Bay in Berkeley, Calif., reported that eleven church planters expressed interest during the retreat in this continuing training/support effort.

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, noted that the retreat could not happen without local church giving to Per Member Asking, since food and lodging are funded in the EPC budget.

“Commissioners to the 2017 General Assembly in Sacramento approved funding church planting—as well as the other strategic initiatives of church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement—in the EPC budget, so every church that participates in Per Member Asking is investing in EPC church planting.”

Ricks noted that many EPC presbyteries pay travel expenses for church planters and their spouses, “so they can attend virtually cost-free.”

“The Church Planting Team and I are grateful for the opportunity to help invest in and grow the next generation of EPC church planters,” Ricks said. “We’ve seen many churches come along side us as ‘Parents, Partners, and Patrons’ of church planting. Thank you to everyone who supports church planting. If you’re not yet involved but interested in learning more, let me know!”

Ricks can be contacted at tom@greentreechurch.com or 314-909-9197, ext. 1007.

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EPC church planters and their spouses at the 2017 Church Planters Retreat in Colorado Springs, Colo.

 

Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable features church leadership expert Mike Bonem

 

XPRoundtableAt the first of two EPC Executive Pastor/Church Administrator Roundtable workshops held this fall, noted church leadership coach and consultant Mike Bonem discussed the joys and challenges of the “second chair” role. He defined a Second Chair Leader as “a person in a subordinate role whose influence with others adds value throughout the organization.”

Bonem earned an MBA from Harvard University, is a longtime business executive, and later served 11 years as Executive Pastor for a large church in Houston, Texas. He is author of Leading from the Second Chair, Thriving in the Second Chair, In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leadership, and Leading Congregational Change.

The roundtable, now in its fifth year, is a two-day workshop for EPC executive pastors, church administrators, and others in senior ministry (but second-chair) leadership positions.

Phil VanValkenburg, EPC Chief Operating Officer, hosts the roundtable each year.

“We want our church leaders to know that they have peers who face many of the same issues as they do in their ministries,” VanValkenburg said. “As we continue to focus on effective biblical leadership as one of our strategic initiatives, by being ‘better together’ we glean from each other’s experience and each of their churches gets great benefit.”

Twenty EPC church leaders participated in the workshop October 26-27 in Denver, Colorado. Participants discussed their specific ministry victories and challenges, shared best practices on a variety of topics related to church administration, and networked on such issues as technology systems, personnel, vision and strategy, finance, and many others.

The workshop is a resource of the Office of the General Assembly. The second roundtable takes place November 16-17 in Orlando.

37th GA summary: Commissioners approve budget, funding Strategic Initiatives, Position Paper on Human Sexuality, new presbyteries

 

2017GAbannerRegOnlineCommissioners to the EPC’s 37th General Assembly approved a variety of business items, including funding the four strategic initiatives from the EPC operating budget, adopting the Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality as the Position Paper on Human Sexuality, creating two new presbyteries, and more.

The strategic initiatives of church planting, church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement have been funded through undesignated cash reserves since their inception in 2014. The decision funds the strategic initiatives through the EPC operating budget for the first time.

The total approved July 2017–June 2018 (fiscal year, or FY18) budget for EPC operating expenses is $2,310,583. This amount includes $268,000 in direct funding of the four strategic initiatives, with $135,000 allocated for Church Revitalization; $120,000 for Church Planting; $8,000 for Effective Biblical Leadership; and $5,000 for Global Movement. In addition, 20 percent of Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions to the EPC support Global Movement in the form of funding the overall ministry of World Outreach.

The Assembly also approved a variety of Special Projects for FY18, which are funded outside of per-member-asking (PMA) but would be fully funded if each EPC church contributed an additional $6.83 per member above the PMA target of $23 per member.

The Position Paper on Human Sexuality replaces the Position Paper on Homosexuality and Position Paper on the Sanctity of Marriage. The 35th General Assembly, meeting in Orlando in 2015, approved the formation of an interim committee to edit the homosexuality paper, which had been adopted in 1986 and revised in 1994 and 2014. While the EPC’s position on the issue had not changed, the 2015 Assembly recommended that language in the paper be updated to reflect how that position is expressed in response to changing cultural trends.

The new Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest and Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest will be formed from the existing Presbytery of the Pacific, effective January 1, 2018. The Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest will include Alaska, Oregon, Washington, the portions of Idaho and Montana west of the 114th meridian, and the portion of California north of a line 10 miles south of state highway 299. The Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest includes the entire states of Hawaii and Nevada; the portion of Arizona west of the 114th meridian; and the portion of California south of a line 10 miles south of state highway 299.

Using the most recent reporting numbers for the Presbytery of the Pacific, the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest will have 39 churches and approximately 7,000 members, while the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest will include 30 churches and approximately 10,800 members.

Commissioners also approved two additional presbytery related items: adjusting the boundary between the current presbyteries of the Pacific and West to fall on the 114th meridian, and changing the name of the Presbytery of Florida to the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean.

Transitional Pastor call approved

In other business, commissioners approved a new ordained call of Transitional Pastor; welcomed 16 new churches to the EPC since last year’s Assembly; and elected Dean Weaver, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Alleghenies as Moderator and Tom Werner, Ruling Elder from Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo., as Moderator-Elect.

The Transitional Pastor call was a recommendation from the Ministerial Vocation Committee, which believed the term “transitional” not only better defined the task, but also further established the role as a call from the Session of a church. The provisions state that a Transitional Pastor:

  • Is called by the Session to serve a congregation while it is seeking a pastor;
  • Intentionally leads the congregation toward greater health and readiness for their next pastor;
  • Will ordinarily be appointed by the presbytery to moderate the Session during his or her time of service;
  • Would retain membership in his or her home presbytery, if different from that in which the call is located; and
  • Is introduced to the receiving presbytery and enrolled as a corresponding member (voice but no vote) upon approval of the Ministerial Committee.

Commissioners also approved four additional recommendations from the Ministerial Vocation Committee to amend the Book of Government. These actions:

  1. Adjust the wording in two sections related to the term of service for an out-of-bounds call to reflect that such term is renewable for up to three years;
  2. Allow a presbytery to authorize its Ministerial Committee to serve as a judicial or administrative commission, or be appointed as an ongoing administrative commission;
  3. Add the Transitional Pastor as a recognized pastoral relationship for Teaching Elders in a congregational setting; and
  4. Clarify that a Session may call a Teaching Elder as Assistant Pastor or Transitional Pastor, and is authorized to invite a Teaching Elder as Stated Supply Pastor or Occasional Supply Pastor—all of which must be approved by the presbytery since they involve a Teaching Elder.

Pastoral Letter committee reports progress

In addition to business recommendations voted on by commissioners, the EPC’s interim and permanent committees and boards presented reports to the Assembly on their work over the past year.

The Interim Committee on Pastoral Letter was appointed following the 36th General Assembly in response to that Assembly adopting the then-Preliminary Position Paper on Human Sexuality. In his report as committee chair, Sandy Willson said the committee has divided the task into ten preliminary chapters, with each having a three-part format: biblical and theological framework, cultural issues and objections, and pastoral application. The Committee hosted Network Lunches on Thursday and Friday designed to garner input and feedback from commissioners on the topic. Willson, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South, recently retired as Senior Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tenn.

Every EPC church a “Parent, Partner, or Patron” of church planting

Tom Ricks, Chair of the Church Planting Team, reported more than 37 active church plants in the EPC.

He also noted that since the Church Planting Team trains, nurtures, and equips all EPC church planters, and helps congregations, networks, and presbyteries get the right church planters in the right places, the goal is to provide resources and support above and beyond a church’s regular ministries and operations. Ricks emphasized that this is best accomplished when each EPC congregation becomes a “Parent, Partner, or Patron” of at least one church plant.

Additional activities over the past year reported by the Church Planting Team in its printed report included:

  • Holding an annual church planters’ retreat, with Ricks requesting that presbyteries help defray travel costs for attendees.
  • Adding three new members to the Church Planting Team leadership team: Rufus Smith, Pastor of Hope Church in Memphis, Tenn.; Richard Rieves, Pastor of Downtown Church in Memphis, Tenn.; and John Bueno, EPC Home Missionary.
  • Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tenn., and Cherry Hills Community Church in Denver, Colo., launching church planting initiatives in their communities.
  • The Gulf Coast Church Planting Network launching their first church plant in New Orleans, La.

Ricks, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Mid-America, is Pastor of Greentree Community Church in St. Louis, Mo.

Mentored Apprenticeship Program announced

As part of the Interim Committee on Ministerial Education’s report, Kent Mathews introduced the Mentored Apprenticeship Program. The program was designed to help meet the EPC’s new educational requirements for ordination to the office of Teaching Elder, approved by the 36th General Assembly. These requirements—approved in response to changing trends in theological education nationwide—stipulate 66 credit-hours of required seminary coursework, including 42 hours of Bible, theology, and church history. The remaining 24 hours include the ministry- and skill-based disciplines of discipleship, ethics, leadership, pastoral care/counseling, ministry as mission, apologetics, preaching, and evangelism.

In partnership with Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, eight courses have been developed to address these areas and are available online at half the normal Gordon Conwell tuition cost. Five courses will be available during GCTC’s fall semester, with the remaining three scheduled to be available in 2018.

Mathews emphasized that students at any seminary accredited by the Association for Theological Schools are eligible to take the MAP courses for credit, and a student completing six of the eight courses will earn a Certificate of Completion from Gordon Conwell. He noted that a bachelor’s degree is not required for the Certificate Program, so it is ideal for a non-ordained church or parachurch staff member who want to improve their skills and knowledge.

In addition to the coursework, students complete a hands-on project, supervised by a mentor with whom the student regularly meets.

Click here for more information on the Mentored Apprenticeship Program.

Mathews is Pastor of the EPC’s Grace Community Fellowship in Ottawa, Kan., and serves as Director of the Mentored Apprenticeship Program. In his role with MAP, he is the grading instructor and professor of record at GCTS.

NLT celebrates stewardship, church planting rate

In the National Leadership Team report, chair Mike Moses emphasized that the EPC is a missional denomination that serves the ministry of its member churches and presbyteries, and not a top-down hierarchy “that everything is trying to feed.”

“In everything we do, we are attempting to resist a top-down approach,” Moses said, “but instead be a national leadership that serves and resources and champions what the Holy Spirit of God is doing in our churches and presbyteries.”

As an example, he discussed the relocation of the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) to Orlando, Fla., which was completed in 2016. Specifically, he noted that even while the EPC was growing, OGA operations have been streamlined from 20 full-time-equivalent employees in past years to a current level of 17.

“I think that speaks to the priority of our executive leadership of being good stewards of the funds that are entrusted to them through per-member-asking so that as much of it as possible goes to advance our shared mission and vision.”

As another example of using PMA to resource ministry locally, Moses shared some statistics related to church planting.

“In 2010, when Jeff Jeremiah appointed a Church Planting Team led by Tom Ricks, 2.1 percent of our churches were church plants,” he said. “That is an anemic church planting rate—half of what experts say is a healthy church planting denomination.”

As Ricks had reported earlier, Moses noted that 4.3 percent of EPC churches were church plants in 2016, and since January 2017 the rate has grown from 4.3 percent to 6.2 percent.

“We are now more than a healthy church-planting denomination, we are an exemplary church-planting denomination—and we thank the Lord for that by His grace.”

He emphasized that none of those new congregations were planted by the Office of the General Assembly.

“That came come from culture change of us together saying that this is important—this is a priority—and then our ability to just resource and fan into flame what God is birthing in our churches and presbyteries.”

Moses, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, serves as Pastor of Lake Forest Church in Charlotte, N.C.

Stated Clerk report emphasizes connectionalism

In the Stated Clerk’s report, Jeff Jeremiah emphasizing the relational emphasis of being in the EPC.

“It’s an expression of who we are,” Jeremiah said. “It’s an expression of our connectionalism. We aren’t in connection just because it’s convenient, or a good idea, or tradition. We’re committed to connectionalism because its biblical.”

He emphasized the quality of this connectionalism by referencing some of the “one anothers” of the New Testament. “Welcome one another, accept one another, be kind to one another, instruct one another, be subject to one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, build up one another, encourage one another, hold one another accountable, and of course, love one another.”

Jeremiah also reported that giving to the EPC budget has improved over the past two years, from 61 percent of the PMA goal in 2015 to 68 percent in 2016.

Additional information in the Stated Clerk’s printed report included an explanation of his roles in both promoting and protecting the EPC; a breakdown of how the EPC’s Office of the General Assembly budget is funded and how those funds are used; a discussion of staff transition at the national level of the EPC; and a directory of churches received, dissolved, or dismissed in the period May 28, 2016, through May 22, 2017.

Church revitalization expands through GO Center

In a video report to the Assembly, Ken Priddy described the work of the EPC’s GO Center, which develops materials and conducts training for church revitalization. Priddy, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, is Director of the GO Center. He said the GO Center continues to recruit Vision Team coaches and Presbytery Coordinators for each of the EPC’s 13 presbyteries, noting that 13 Presbytery Coordinators are currently in training and represent 10 presbyteries.

Priddy explained that a congregation’s Vision Team leads the revitalization efforts for the church, and Vision Team Coaches work with them, while Presbytery Coordinators are the link between the presbytery and the GO Center.

He said with the three “layers” of Vision Team, Vision Team Coach, and Presbytery Coordinators, the GO Center is now able to provide “a much broader, much deeper ministry to the churches, the pastors, the leaders, the congregations that we’re endeavoring to serve.”

Priddy reported that since the 2016 General Assembly, the GO Center has presented 40 on-site training events. In addition, 19 pastors and leaders currently are active in online training through “GO Clusters,” 40 pastors and leaders have completed training through the GO Clusters, and 21 pastors have expressed interest in a new “X52” online training vehicle, which Priddy said focuses on developing Great Commission skills among pastors.

He also noted that in the past few years, more than 170 EPC churches have engaged the ministry of the GO Center.

Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization

The annual Bart Hess Award for church growth and revitalization was presented to Closer to God Church in Kearny, N.J., for their work in community outreach. In addition to local evangelism, members of the congregation provide professional courses, medical care, legal assistance, and counselling for immigrant families in the community; minister to the poor through a food bank; support presbytery mission projects; and help plant new churches in the Newark, N.J., area. Valdir Reis is the Pastor of the multi-ethnic, Portuguese-speaking church.

World Outreach plans student outreach event

Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach (WO), reported that in the past 12 months the World Outreach Committee focused on the areas of mobilization, the Engage 2025 initiative, the International Theological Education Network (ITEN), and personnel.

“The work of World Outreach Committee has been to position World Outreach to aid our churches so that we aren’t left on the bench and are active participants in God’s rescue mission,” he said.

One effort to aid EPC congregations with outreach training is a youth conference scheduled for June 26-29, 2018, in Detroit, Mich. The event will include an opportunity for ministry to Muslims in the area. Linton noted that space is limited to 100 high school students, and internships are available for college students. As details are finalized, information will be available at www.epcwo.org.

“It’s going to be a life-changing experience for these students,” Linton said, “and it’s part of our efforts to work at a grass-roots level with our congregations and the youth in our congregations so that we become an incubator for missions passion, and passion for the Lord Jesus and His Kingdom.”

He also reported that summer internships for college students are available through several of WO’s partner agencies.

Linton concluded his report by telling commissioners that growth of WO global workers overseas plateaued in 2016, following many years of steady growth. He said that while the three missionaries who were appointed on Thursday evening were cause for celebration, “in the past year we had as many missionaries leave World Outreach as join World Outreach.”

He asked the Assembly to commit to pray for 11 missionaries to be appointed at the 2018 General Assembly.

“We need 11 new appointees commissioned next year just to meet the recruitment needs for our current teams who have established tenuous toeholds in some of crucial areas. We have folks who have made heroic efforts, but we need those reinforcements.”

Ed McCallum honored for 20 years of service

On Friday of the Assembly, Ed McCallum was recognized for his 20 years of service as Assistant Stated Clerk. McCallum began a new role as Associate for Site and Program Development with the International Theological Education Network of EPC’s World Outreach following the Assembly.

New committee and board members elected

In addition to the election of Weaver as Moderator and Werner as Moderator-elect, the Assembly elected the following individuals to fill vacancies on the EPC’s permanent committees and boards as others complete their terms of service:

Benefit Resources, Inc., Board of Directors: RE Robert Draughon, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Kim Ray, Presbytery of the Pacific; TE Ronald Horgan, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Erik Ohman, Presbytery of the Midwest; Randy Shaneyfelt, Presbytery of the Great Plains.

Committee on Chaplains Work and Care: TE David Snyder, Presbytery of the Midwest; TE Karen Bolte*, Presbytery of the Pacific; TE Ted Tromble*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes.

Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization: TE Jeff Moore*, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes.

EPC Foundation Board: RE Bobby Cobbs, Presbytery of the Pacific; RE Ted Hailes, Presbytery of the Central South.

Committee on Fraternal Relations: RE Gwynn Blair*, Presbytery of Florida; RE Peter Pugliese*, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Committee on Ministerial Vocation: RE Neal McAtee, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Frank Rotella, Presbytery of the East; TE Brad Strait*, Presbytery of the West; RE Phil Stump*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic.

National Leadership Team: RE Chris Danusiar, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Nancy Duff, Presbytery of the Pacific; RE Leigh Swanson*, Presbytery of Florida; RE Glen Meyers, Presbytery of the Alleghenies.

Permanent Judicial Commission: RE Yvonne Chapman, Presbytery of the Central South; RE Ken Roberts, Presbytery of the West; RE David Tyra*, Presbytery of the Pacific.

Presbytery Review Committee: TE Helen Franssell*, Presbytery of the East; RE Diane Manon*, Presbytery of the Midwest.

Committee on Theology: TE Zach Hopkins, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; RE Fred Flinn, Presbytery of the Central South.

Women’s Resource Council: TE Sharon Beekman, Presbytery of the West; TE Mary Brown, Presbytery of the Great Plains; Elizabeth Parker, Presbytery of the Gulf South; Kathy Mercy, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Lana Roberts, Presbytery of the Pacific; Jessi Schatzle, Presbytery of the Central South.

World Outreach Committee: RE David Miller, Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; TE Kevin Cauley*, Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; TE Brad Buescher*, Presbytery of the Great Plains.

(TE denotes Teaching Elder. RE denotes Ruling Elder. * denotes second term.)

Omnibus consent motion items

At each year’s Assembly, a number of recommendations from various Standing Committees are entered into a single Omnibus Consent Motion that commissioners vote on. These recommendations do not need discussion or debate, either because they are routine procedures or already received unanimous consent. Eight recommendations were referred to the 37th General Assembly’s Omnibus Consent motion, which commissioners unanimously approved without discussion. Those items were:

From the Standing Committee on Administration:

  • That Communication 17-02 from the presbytery of the West regarding the change of their boundary with the Presbytery of the Pacific be received as information.
  • That Recommendation #3, “that the Assembly provide the EPC Foundation with ten minutes at each General Assembly meeting where a church can provide a testimonial for the substantial financial value gained by working through the Foundation” be adopted.
  • That Recommendation #6, “That the Assembly ‘highly encourage’ each Presbytery to create time on their meeting agenda at least once (or more) per year for EPC Foundation updates, new ideas, plus Q&A. It would also be a time for the church leaders attending to schedule and or meet on specific issues with members of the EPCF board” be adopted.

From the combined Standing Committee on Christian Education and Communications and Student & College Ministries:

  • That Recommendation #42, “that the Assembly postpone the effective date of the ‘Next Generation Ministry Council’ as a Permanent Committee until July 1, 2018, allowing adequate time for consultation of the joint Student & College Ministries/Christian Education & Communications Committees with the National Leadership Team as required by the action of the 36th GA” be approved.

From the Standing Committee on Fraternal Relations:

  • That Recommendation #7, “that the Assembly approve the EPC entering into a fraternal relationship with the Evangelical and Reformed Presbyterian Church of Peru for the purpose of developing equipping materials (theological and practical) and church revitalization materials for leaders in the Peruvian Church” be adopted.

From the Standing Committee on World Outreach:

  • That Recommendation #4 from the Foundation Board, “that the Assembly explore the feasibility of the Foundation working closely with World Outreach assisting in fund raising for missions and help in general financial issues” be adopted

Other recommendations:

  • That the Assembly receive the written reports of the Standing Committee on World Outreach and the Standing Committee on Church Planting and Revitalization, neither of which had recommendations coming to the floor.
  • That the Minutes of the Permanent Committees on Ministerial Vocation, Chaplains Work and Care, Student and College Ministries / Christian Education and Communications (meeting jointly), Fraternal Relations, Administration (National Leadership), Board of Directors of the EPC Corporation, Women’s Resource Council, and World Outreach be approved with minor corrections.

#epc2017ga

With additional reporting by Michael Herrin, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Gulf South.

ICME report to General Assembly highlights Mentored Apprenticeship Program

 
GA2017ICMEReport

Kent Mathews (left), Director of the EPC’s Mentored Apprenticeship Program, describes highlights of the program while Fred Lian, chair of the Interim Committee on Ministerial Education, looks on.

In its report to the 37th General Assembly, the Interim Committee on Ministerial Education (ICME) presented details of the Mentored Apprenticeship Program (MAP). The program involves the eight ministry based courses now required for ordination in the EPC, and is designed to pro­vide future EPC pastors with practical, applied ministry education that is not only denomina­tion­ally aligned but also less expensive than traditional seminary classes.

Kent Mathews, Pastor of the EPC’s Grace Community Fellowship in Ottawa, Kan., is a member of ICME and serves as the Director of MAP. He noted how common it is for pastors to feel that their seminary training did not adequately prepare them for ministry.

“We’re trying to better prepare people for ministry by providing better vehicles for training and by reducing the cost,” he said, emphasizing that most of the innovation in seminary education over the past 30 years has involved only format changes, such as online classes or reduced hours for a degree. By contrast, the eight MAP courses involve practical application of the subject being studied. In addition, they involve the oversight or “mentorship” of a local pastor or other EPC ministry leader.

“Why is it that only preaching requires a stu­dent to practice what he is studying?” Mathews asked the Assembly. “Shouldn’t a student taking evangelism or discipleship be required to actually practice those skills as well?”

The Mentored Apprenticeship Program was created to help meet the EPC’s new educational requirements for ordination to the office of Teaching Elder, approved by the 36th General Assembly. These requirements—approved in response to changing trends in theological education nationwide—stipulate 66 credit-hours of required seminary coursework, including 42 hours of Bible, theology, and church history. The remaining 24 hours include the ministry- and skill-based disciplines of discipleship, ethics, leadership, pastoral care/counseling, ministry as mission, apologetics, preaching, and evangelism.

In partnership with Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS), the eight MAP courses have been developed to address these areas and are available online at half the normal tuition cost. Five courses will be available during GCTC’s fall semester, with the remaining three scheduled to be available in 2018.

Mathews noted that in addition to course readings, videos, and assignments that students might expect in a traditional seminary course, students also undertake an in-the-field ministry project for each course, helping them gain valuable ministry experience in their local context.

He also emphasized that any student at a seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) may take one or more of the MAP courses, and according to ATS rules, expect that his or her seminary will receive them in transfer credit. In addition, a student completing six or more of the eight courses will earn a Certificate of Completion from GCTS.

Mathews emphasized that an individual does not be a pursuing a master’s degree—or even have a bachelor’s degree—to participate in the Certificate Program, making it an ideal training vehicle for any non-ordained church or parachurch staff member who want to improve their skills and knowledge.

“Everybody benefits from this program,” Mathews told the Assembly, highlighting five specific groups:

  1. Current EPC seminary students. He explained that the average cost of a three-hour seminary course is approximately $1500 per course, but the eight MAP courses cost half that—saving up to $6,000 off the cost of an average seminary education. “Do you think students would be interested in that? You bet they would!” He added that a student who takes the six elective field education credits associated with MAP courses could save an additional $1500.
  2. Future EPC Pastors. “They are not just reading about things in a book and writing papers about it; they are being mentored by somebody who cares about them and implementing what they are learning as they are learning it.”
  3. EPC churches. A congregation will be able to call a pastor “who has actually practiced these eight subjects in the field while they have studied them.”
  4. The EPC as a whole. “We will increasingly become a denomination whose ethos and passion is discipling the next generation of pastors.”
  5. Pastor-Mentors. Mathews reported that the program’s beta tester mentors “have loved” being able to talk about subjects they studied 20 to 30 years ago—but haven’t formally studied since—with an intelligent, articulate student. “It gave them a chance to reflect and process again, and wasn’t just a book on a shelf.”

Click here to watch Mathews’ presentation to the Assembly.

Click here for a printable flier about MAP in pdf format. The flier explains the new EPC educational requirements; highlights the Project and Pastor-Mentor aspects of the program; lists the benefits of the MAP for students, churches, the EPC, and more; and provides information for Certificate, Doctor of Ministry, and post-Master of Divinity students.

Click here for more information or to register through Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.

#epc2017ga

Changing the funding recommendation: an explanation

 
JeffJeremiah

Jeff Jeremiah

by Jeff Jeremiah
EPC Stated Clerk

On April 24, the National Leadership Team (NLT) reported to you the following recommendation:

The administration and strategic initiatives of the General Assembly ought to be supported by the giving of EPC churches. The expected giving amount from each church should be either $23 per member or one percent of that church’s annual budget. Following fiscal year 2020, the expectation is that all giving should be at the 1 percent level.

On May 23, the NLT announced this change to the recommendation:

The administration and strategic initiatives of the General Assembly ought to be supported by the giving of EPC churches.

Since May 23, many people have asked members of the NLT and me, “What happened?” The short answer is that the NLT asked, listened, and responded to you.

The feedback we received focused on two elements of the April 24 recommendation. The first was reaction to the word “Expected.” There was resistance by too many who took the word “expected” to mean “requirement” or “mandatory requirement.” We also heard, “By doing this, the NLT is moving the EPC to become a ‘top-down, bureaucratic denomination no different from the PC(USA).” The NLT was stunned. Their knee-jerk reaction was to delete “expected.”

There also was resistance to “one percent.” This came from our historically high-supporting Per Member Asking churches.

Per Member Asking (PMA) is the primary way our churches fund the budget of the national level of the EPC. For some of these churches, moving from PMA to one percent meant they would have to increase their giving. Those churches know how much they give, and they are aware of churches who are every bit as capable of giving but do not. They are justifiably frustrated with this situation. They have no interest in increasing their financial support until under-supporting churches step up. The NLT had no interest in antagonizing the churches who have faithfully invested in the EPC for years.

A secondary concern was this: A number of churches expressed support for the move to one percent of their budget because it would decrease their giving to the EPC. For the NLT, this was not the motivation we were looking for as we seek to fund a mission- and vision-driven denomination!

Based on these responses we received, the NLT pulled “expected” and “one percent” from the recommendation, leaving only the strategic initiatives portion of the original recommendation in the proposal. This begs the question, “Where did ‘expected’ and ‘one percent’ come from?” The short answer is that the NLT asked, listened, and responded.

At the end of 2015, support for Per Member Asking was at 61 percent of the goal. Two groups were mostly responsible for this shortfall. The first was a number of recent arrivals to the EPC who had to pay large ransoms in order to come to us. They were not yet in a position to support the EPC. The second group was comprised of some churches who have been in the EPC for a long time. They simply choose not to give, or give very little.

In January 2016, the NLT directed me to engage in what we called a “Listening Tour.” I’d talk with EPC church leaders about how they felt about their relationship with the EPC, let them know that the EPC is becoming a mission- and vision-driven denomination, and asked about their level of financial support to EPC. In April, the NLT received my partial report, and decided they needed more feedback than what I can glean from my one-on-one meetings. They decided to hold focus group meetings at our 2016 General Assembly, which were led by a communications consultant.

As a result of those focus group meetings, we found out there was strong support for funding the strategic initiatives—church planting, church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement—in the EPC budget. And there were two surprises.

First, we were told that “voluntary” giving to PMA is problematic. The word offered to replace it was “expected”—giving to the EPC should be “expected.”

Second, “PMA” itself is problematic. It’s not a good way to measure a church’s capacity to give. In its place was proposed one percent of a church’s budget.

The NLT received these results in August and asked, “Is this accurate?” We decided to survey the lead pastors of our 600 churches, as we wanted feedback from each church. The results of the survey:

  • Put the strategic initiatives in the EPC budget
  • “Voluntary” giving to the EPC is “problematic,” and “expected” was offered in its place.
  • “PMA” is “problematic,” and “one percent” was offered in its place.

The NLT asked, listened to what you said, and was confident that the original recommendation is what you wanted. We found out differently between April 24 and May 23.

Upon reflection, I realized this mistake. We did not serve you well in that we should have reported to you the results of the focus groups and survey in late October or early November. We could have done this and we didn’t.

In keeping with our “Generation to Generation” General Assembly theme, and paraphrasing Scott Griffin’s sermon in the Moderator’s Service of Communion and Prayer on June 23: I’m a Boomer. Reaching out to Builders: I apologize for that mistake. The buck stops here. Reaching out to the GenXers: I am not the “savvy guy” in this. Reaching out to the Millenials: The National Leadership TEAM will do better in the future.

Let me finish with good news.

Earlier, I reported that 2015 PMA was 61 percent of the goal. Simply by asking what you think about a mission- and vision-driven denomination and listening to what you’ve said, look at what has happened: 2016 Per Member Asking came in at 68 percent of the goal.

We still have work to do. I believe that an acceptable minimum level of support is 80 percent. We’ll keep working on this until you tell us otherwise.

Thank you, and God bless you!

#epc2017ga

Strategic Initiatives inclusion in EPC budget, special projects approved

 

Commissioners to the 37th General Assembly approved funding the strategic initiatives of church planting, church revitalization, effective biblical leadership, and global movement into the fiscal year 2018 budget for the EPC Office of the General Assembly. This marks the first year in which the strategic initiatives will be funded through the EPC operating budget. Since their inception in 2014, the initiatives have been funded through undesignated cash reserves.

The total approved July 2017–June 2018 (fiscal year, or FY18) budget for EPC operating expenses is $2,310,583. This amount includes $268,000 in direct funding of the four strategic initiatives, with $135,000 allocated for Church Revitalization; $120,000 for Church Planting; $8,000 for Effective Biblical Leadership; and $5,000 for Global Movement. In addition, 20 percent of Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions to the EPC support Global Movement in the form of funding the overall ministry of World Outreach.

The FY18 budget also includes $1,412,580 for personnel, including staff salaries and benefits, travel, and expenses; and $630,003 for general administration.

The 2017-18 budget represents an increase of $246,350 over the 2016 budget, made possible by some lower costs of operating in Orlando plus projected 5% growth in PMA contributions. Due to a migration from a calendar-year budget to a fiscal-year budget in January 2017, the 2016 budget was the most recent 12-month reporting period.

In addition, the Assembly approved Special Projects requests from the various ministries of the EPC totaling $771,500. These projects are funded from designated giving and are separate from the operating budget.

#epc2017ga