Category Archives: Pastors

“In All Things” podcast episode 58 offers New Year challenge from Brad Strait

 

In a special New Year’s Eve episode of the EPC’s weekly podcast, “In All Things,” EPC National Leadership Team Chairman Brad Strait offers a challenge for 2023 from Psalm 46.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 52: EPC church planter Sean Boone’s journey from gang life to pastor

 

Sean Boone, Pastor of Woke Bridge Community Church in Ferguson, Mo., is the guest for episode 52 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Boone discuss his personal journey from gang life and prison to freedom in Christ, and from an independent, historically Black church to planting a Southern Baptist church, to planting Woke Bridge in the EPC. Boone explains how Woke Bridge Community Church got its name, and his vision for how the gospel can transform Ferguson and grow a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural congregation.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 51 features Marcos Ortega discussing ethnic identity, belonging, the Antioch Room

 

Marcos Ortega, Lead Pastor of Goodwill Church’s Beacon campus in Beacon, N.Y., is the guest for episode 51 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Ortega discuss his journey to the EPC from a since-rejected Dispensationalist theology, and his involvement on the ad-interim committee writing a Pastoral Letter of Racial Lament and Hope.

Ortega also describes The Antioch Room, a fellowship of EPC Teaching Elders of color designed to foster cultural and theological discussions in which ethnic minorities are the primary voice.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

World Reformed Fellowship honors Luder Whitlock

 

Rob Norris (left) presents Luder Whitlock with a momento in recognition of his instrumental role in the founding of the WRF.

The World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) honored Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, for his contributions in founding the Fellowship in 2000. Whitlock was recognized during the business session of its sixth General Assembly on October 28 at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla.

“Thank you very much for this unexpected honor, which I will treasure,” Whitlock said. “I recall that first meeting, which was significant. You are my good friends, and the Lord is using you to do great things around the world for which I am grateful.”

In presenting the resolution, WRF Board Chairman Rob Norris said Whitlock “is a man with an enormous capacity for vision. The Lord has gifted him in that way—he sees what God’s Kingdom can be like. We are the product of that vision, though we have not yet fulfilled it.”

Whitlock was instrumental in the founding of the WRF in 2000 when he hosted the organizing meeting in Orlando with leaders from the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches and the International Reformed Fellowship, which he co-founded. He was President of Reformed Theological Seminary for 23 years and has served on the EPC National Leadership Team, as well as the boards of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the World Evangelical Fellowship (North America region), Mission America, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, and Greater Europe Mission. He was the Executive Director of The New Geneva Study Bible and The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, and also served on the editorial council of Eternity Advisory board for the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible translation. He and his wife, Mary Lou, have three grown children and eleven grandchildren.

Resolution 2022-01 of The Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship
In Thanksgiving to God for the Pioneering Contribution of
Dr. Luder G. Whitlock

Whereas, the Apostle Paul instructs believers to: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10);

Whereas, Dr. Luder G. Whitlock is a beloved member of the World Reformed Fellowship, whose pioneering contribution to the formation of the World Reformed Fellowship is recognized by its members and leaders;

Whereas, Dr. Luder G. Whitlock has given testimony through his life and ministry that giving honor and thanks to God surpasses the joy afforded by simple human recognition; and

Whereas, it is appropriate to recognize and celebrate the role played by Dr. Luder G. Whitlock over two decades ago, in this city of Orlando, as the host of the organizing meeting of the World Reformed Fellowship.

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship, as follows:

  1. That Dr. Luder G. Whitlock be recognized in honor through heartfelt thanksgiving to God, the King, for his important collaboration in the life and ministry of the World Reformed Fellowship;
  2. That Dr. Luder G. Whitlock receive from this assembly a token that shall mark this, our act of thanksgiving, to God for his ministry;
  3. That the text of this motion be registered in the minutes of this First Business Session of Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship.

Orlando, Florida, USA
28th of October, 2022

The WRF has grown to comprise more than 73 denominational members in 30 countries, 54 congregational members in 26 countries, 114 organizational members in 30 countries, and 374 individual members in 53 countries.

Designed to offer a gathering point where Reformed leaders can work out mutually beneficial cooperative agreements, the WRF focuses on the contemporary needs of the international Reformed community, such as the plight of persecuted Christians, religious freedom, societal changes, incorporation of theological education, missions, publications, and the expansion of evangelical fellowship into all parts of the world.

EPC pastors hold prominent roles at World Reformed Fellowship General Assembly

 

Rob Norris (right) convenes the Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship on October 27 at First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla. Seated are (from left) Case Thorp, FPCO Senior Associate Pastor for Evangelism, and Davi Gomes, WRF International Director.

Church and denominational leaders from the EPC held leading positions at the Sixth General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) in October. The WRF meeting was held at First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla., with the theme, “The Nature and Mission of the Church.”

In noting that “the church is at the core of who we are,” Rob Norris opened the meeting on October 27. Norris is the WRF’s Chairman of the Board and serves as Teaching Pastor for the EPC’s Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Md. Norris also led the second Plenary session, “The Worship of the Church.”

“Everything that we are and everything we do as the community of Christ is designed to move towards the glory of God,” he said. “At the very center of our adoration is the blessing and the work of Jesus Christ.”

Norris added that the worship of God can only be accomplished in and through Christ.

“To approach God in any other way is unacceptable,” he emphasized. “Jesus also said the Father is seeking such to worship Him. In this worship we have direct access to the Father’s presence. Quite simply, the Father is seeking exclusive worship—that we would worship Him. He is seeking those who worship in spirit and truth. We are to be devoted to God through and through. To worship the Father in truth means according to the specifics that He revealed about Himself.”

“The Church Under Pressure from the State”

On October 28, EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver participated in a panel discussion, “The Church Under Pressure from the State.”

EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver (left) participated in a panel discussion on October 28, “The Church Under Pressure from the State.”

In response to a question about EPC Teaching Elder Andrew Brunson’s two-year imprisonment in Turkey from 2016-2018, Weaver noted the contrast between the Turkish and American governments.

“In Turkey, he experienced real persecution from the Turkish government. On the other side, the EPC—working to try to get freedom for Andrew—found a partner in the U.S. government to secure his freedom.”

Weaver noted that pressure on the church in the United States is likely different from that experienced by his fellow panelists.

“Pressure seems to be coming more from the culture than from the government,” he said, adding that societal pressures too often result in division rather than unity.

“The way the church in the U.S. is responding to pressure has been divisive, and it’s over things that aren’t even necessarily doctrinal,” Weaver said. “When the dust settles, 20 percent of the congregation is gone because you did or did not wear masks, and 20 percent of the people are new because you did or did not wear masks. People have made those decisions not on theological convictions but on political convictions.”

He also expressed concern over the church’s response to pressure, more than the pressure itself.

“Pressure is not in-and-of-itself is bad, but if we could see it as under the sovereignty of God rather than something to be avoided, then I think it should unite us. And yet in the last two years the pressure from the pandemic has divided the church.”

Weaver referenced discussions with EPC pastors over the past year to illustrate the point.

“What I have heard from a number of pastors in the EPC is that while attendance is down post-pandemic, giving is about the same. So it appears that the pressure of the pandemic maybe pruned away some who perhaps were not all that connected or invested, but those who have stayed are strong and just as —if not more—committed.”

Other panelists were John McClean, Vice Principal of Christ College in Sydney, Australia; Kin Yip Louie, Associate Professor in Theological Studies at China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong; and Sichan Siv, who escaped the “killing fields” of Cambodia’s Pol Pot regime in 1976, and later served U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2001-2006. He currently serves as a deacon at First Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas.

“Made to Flourish: Faith and Work”

Case Thorp, Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism and The Collaborative for host church FPCO and Moderator of the EPC’s 39th General Assembly, led a seminar on October 28, “Made to Flourish: Faith and Work.”

Case Thorp led a seminar, “Made to Flourish: Faith and Work” on October 28.

In describing his title, Thorp explained that The Collaborative is FPCO’s evangelism ministry.

“Note that in the name is “co-labor,” Thorp noted. “It is based on 1 Corinthians 1:9 where we are invited by God into fellowship with Christ.”

He also described how The Collaborative approaches evangelism from a relational perspective within the context of the community outside the church.

“At FPCO, we talk about living missionally in our family, neighborhood, and our vocation—and that’s the Collaborative,” Thorp said. “Our focus is discipleship of Christ-followers for their effectiveness in and through their work, and through the culture of their company. I know theology and Bible, but our people know the culture and jargon of their industries. They know where the brokenness and idols are. So we come alongside.”

“Distinguished by Christ”

David Swanson, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, concluded the Assembly with his message, “Distinguished by Christ,” on Sunday morning, October 30.

Preaching from Matthew 16:13-20, Swanson address some of the deepest questions about identity.

David Swanson, FPCO Senior Pastor, preached the conclusion of the Assembly on October 30.

“Who are we in our identity in Christ? Who are we in relationship to the Bride of Christ that God has called us to inhabit and be part of from the moment of our conversion? Who am I in relationship to all my other brothers and sisters? And then Who are we as a church in relationship to the rest of the world? How are we known? How does the world know us? And how do we know each other?”

He said all those questions are critical in the life of the church.

Referencing the Matthew 16 text, Swanson said it was time for the central issue of that day and time to be clarified: Who is Jesus? He emphasized that the question continues to be asked.

“What is staggering to me is that people today get to that place where they are trying to figure out who Jesus is, and they let ‘I’m not sure’ be their answer. They just stop searching. I mean, if there is even the most remote possibility that Jesus could actually be the incarnate Son of God and the Savior of the world don’t you think you ought to get that nailed down? Don’t you think you ought to at least explore? And as the church today, don’t you think we ought to have that question nailed down?”

Assembly Business

In Assembly business, commissioners heard a report from the Theological Commission which presented a proposed Statement on Ecclesiology. The 22-page statement encompassed 12 sections: The Trinity and the Church, The Nature of the Church, The Church and the Kingdom of God, The Church as a Covenant People, The Authority of the Church, The Liturgy of the Church, The Gifts and Ministry of the Church, The Unity of the Church, On Separation and Schism, On Church and Parachurch, The Mission of the Church, and Application of Ecclesiology.

Luder Whitlock, EPC Teaching Elder and former President of Reformed Theological Seminary, opened the WRF business session with prayer on October 28.

The Assembly also honored Luder Whitlock, Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean and former member of the EPC National Leadership Team, for his role in founding the WRF in 2000. Whitlock hosted the organizing meeting of the WRF with leaders from the World Fellowship of Reformed Churches and the International Reformed Fellowship.

The WRF is comprised of more than 73 denominational members in 30 countries, 54 congregational members in 26 countries, 114 organizational members in 30 countries, and 374 individual members in 53 countries.

Designed to offer a gathering point where Reformed leaders can work out mutually beneficial cooperative agreements, the WRF focuses on the contemporary needs of the international Reformed community, such as the plight of persecuted Christians, religious freedom, societal changes, incorporation of theological education, missions, publications, and the expansion of evangelical fellowship into all parts of the world.

The EPC is a denominational member of the World Reformed Fellowship.

Church revitalization, global ministry engagement headline “In All Things” podcast episode 50 with Doug Resler

 

Doug Resler, Senior Pastor of Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Parker, Colo., is the guest for episode 50 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Resler discuss the benefits a congregation receives when its pastor is involved in ministry beyond their local church, as well as Resler’s passion for church revitalization and the importance of that process starting with a revitalized pastor and Session. In addition, Resler describes how global engagement helps the church minister to the world that is coming to the United States in increasing numbers.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

Hurricane relief, small church ministry the topics of “In All Things” podcast episode 49 with Bill Crawford

 

Bill Crawford, Pastor of the First Presbyterian churches in Thibodaux and Houma, La., is the guest for episode 49 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Crawford describe his call to small church ministry and his 21 years in south Louisiana, including some of the challenges and opportunities for the small church.

Crawford also discusses his experience with disaster relief beginning with back-to-back hurricanes his first year in Thibodaux in 2001, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hurricane Ida in 2021, and how he brought that experience to Fort Myers, Fla., following Hurricane Ian in September 2022. Weaver also shares how listeners can contribute to relief efforts by donating to the EPC’s Emergency Relief Fund at www.epc.org/emergencyrelief.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

Smaller church and Transitional Pastor ministry the topics of “In All Things” podcast episode 48

 

Suzanne Zampella, an EPC Teaching Elder serving as the Transitional Pastor for First Presbyterian Church in Monett, Mo., is the guest for episode 48 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Zampella discuss how her sense of calling to the ministry was awakened when she was ordained as a Ruling Elder. She also talks about serving in an ECO—Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians—church, and how the role of a Transitional Pastor is as a change agent, helping a congregation know who they are and what they want to be.

Zampella also reflects on the EPC’s Small Church Summit, held October 11-13 in Orlando, and how it not only provided opportunity for pastors to build relationships with each other, but also demonstrated that the denomination values and supports pastors of smaller churches. In addition, she discusses some of the challenges and joys of serving the small church.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

Fort Myers pastors provide Hurricane Ian update, donations sought for EPC Emergency Relief Fund

 

The pastors of the two EPC churches in Fort Myers, Fla., are reporting that Hurricane Ian had a devastating impact on their congregations. The storm came ashore in southwest Florida September 28 with 150 mph winds.

“Overall, it’s just a disaster zone,” said Mike Jones, Associate Pastor of New Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers. “The further south and west the more profound the destruction. The further east, with the exception of the flooding it’s not as noticeable.”

Both Jones and Paul de Jong, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers, reported at least 25 families in their respective congregations lost everything.

“One of our members was rescued at 5:00 a.m. by Miami EMS to get him out of the attic with his wife, son, and 80-year-old mother-in-law,” Jones said, adding that the homes of at least two New Hope staff members are “a total loss.”

The EPC Domestic Emergency Relief Fund is accepting donations to assist EPC churches in these and other disaster areas with identified needs. To contribute, see www.epc.org/emergencyrelief.

“In All Things” podcast episode 47 features discussion of pastoral stressors with Annie Rose

 

Annie Rose, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes and a member of the interim committee writing a Pastor Letter of Racial Lament and Hope, is the guest for episode 47 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Rose discuss her path to ministry as the child of a Complementarian church, as well as how serving as a presbytery stated clerk provides avenues to observe pastoral stressors. Rose provides counsel for both pastors and elders based on those observations, and also talks about her involvement on the Pastoral Letter interim committee and how the group understands that love has to be the basis for biblical lament.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 46 continues rural church pastor dialogue with Kent Mathews

 

Episode 46 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” continues a discussion with Kent Mathews, President and Academic Dean of Heartland Theological Seminary in Kansas City and Director of the EPC’s Mentored Apprenticeship Program for seminary students.

This week, host Dean Weaver and Mathews discuss strategies and resources for preparing pastors to serve in small churches and rural churches, including how Commissioned Pastors and the EPC’s CEEP (Candidates Educational Equivalency Program) serve the church by offering a pathway to ordination for prospective ministers who do not have a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 45 features theological education discussion with Kent Mathews

 

Kent Mathews, President and Academic Dean of Heartland Theological Seminary in Kansas City and Director of the EPC’s Mentored Apprenticeship Program for seminary students is the guest for episode 45 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Mathews discuss the challenges and opportunities in preparing people for vocational ministry, and how Heartland Seminary and the EPC Mentored Apprenticeship Program combine rigorous academic preparation with practical, mentor-partnered application.

Mathews also describes the need to develop a pipeline of ordination candidates for ministry in rural churches—including the benefits of serving in rural communities—and how small churches can be better equipped for fostering community.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 43 features Bob Garment, EPC Chief Parliamentarian

 

Bob Garment, longtime Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean and the EPC’s new Chief Parliamentarian is the guest for episode 43 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Garment discuss his path to the EPC from his former denomination, including how a newsletter from an EPC church in Louisiana started the process.

Garment also describes how his relationship with the late Howard Shockley, longtime Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, resulted in his own service for more than 30 years as Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean, and how polity serves the mission of the church.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 42 features Luis Quiñones, pastor of first Spanish-language mainland U.S. church in Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean

 

Luis Quiñones, pastor of Iglesia Presbiteriana Evangélica Nación Santa (Holy Nation Evangelical Presbyterian Church) in Haines City, Fla., is the guest for episode 42 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Quiñones discuss his spiritual journey from Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, to serving as pastor in Philadelphia, Pa., to planting Nación Santa in Central Florida, and how prayer in an EPC Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean meeting solidified the decision to transfer the church to the EPC from its previous denomination.

Quiñones also describes the challenges of sharing a facility with another congregation, as well as how Nación Santa lives out Revelation 7:9 as a Spanish-language congregation but with multiple Latin nationalities and cultures in its membership.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 41 features regional ministry, faith-work integration with Case Thorp

 

Case Thorp, Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism for First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, Fla., (FPCO) is the guest for episode 41 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Thorp discuss his spiritual roots in evangelistic camp meetings in Georgia, FPCO’s church planting efforts and commitment to urban community outreach, and his ministry in Orlando through missions, evangelism, and leadership of The Collaborative—designed to help people bridge the secular-sacred divide by integrating their faith and their work.

Thorp also previews the World Reformed Fellowship’s sixth General Assembly, to be held October 27-30 at FPCO, and The Collaborative’s podcast, “Nuance,” launching in mid-September.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 40 features EPC church planter Michael Flake

 

Michael Flake, planting pastor of Storyhill Church in Davidson, N.C., is the guest for episode 40 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and Flake discuss his church planting DNA in the EPC. Flake recounts his childhood at then-church-plant Hope Church in Memphis, followed by involvement with during his college years with EPC church planter Mike Moses at Lake Forest Church in Huntersville, N.C., and culminating after seminary by serving as Lake Forest’s first church planting pastor at the Lake Forest Davidson campus—which localized as Storyhill Church in December 2021. He describes how the EPC’s vision of every local church being a parent, partner, or patron of church planting is embedded in Storyhill, including possibly planting churches in other college towns.

Flake also discusses how he bridges the generation gap as a 38-year-old pastor with the large Davidson College student population that attends Storyhill, and their perspective as Christians in a culture that is increasingly antagonistic toward Christianity.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

Tom Ricks named National Director of Church Planting

 

Tom Ricks

Tom Ricks, longtime Chairman of the EPC’s Church Planting Team, has been named the EPC’s National Director of Church Planting. This new role at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando will oversee the denomination’s strategic priority of Church Planting.

“I am thrilled to lead our efforts to continue to build a church planting culture in the EPC in a full-time capacity,” Ricks said. “We have made incredible progress in church planting as a denomination over the past 10 years or so. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us over the next 10 and beyond as we look to inspire every EPC church to be a parent, partner, or patron of church planting.”

A Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Mid-America, Ricks planted Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo., in 1999. He served as the congregation’s Senior Pastor until retiring from the role in early 2022. Under his leadership, Greentree planted five daughter churches: The Crossing in Columbia, Mo.; Riverside Church in Webster Groves, Mo.; City Church in St. Louis, Mo.; River City Church in St. Charles, Mo.; and Woke Bridge Community Church in Ferguson, Mo.

“Anyone who knows Tom knows his infectious passion for church planting,” said Dean Weaver, EPC Stated Clerk. “While he has led the EPC’s church planting strategy in a part-time capacity since 2011, I am very excited that he will now be able to devote his full energy to our strategic priority of church planting. Under Tom’s leadership, the EPC will be intentional about evangelism through church planting and developing a pipeline of church planters.”

Prior to planting Greentree, Ricks served in variety of pastoral roles at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis from 1990-1998, including Interim Lead Pastor. He also served as Director of Youth Ministries for Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., prior to joining the EPC.

“We have about 50 active church plants in the EPC right now—about eight percent of the total number of EPC churches,” Ricks said. “We would love to see that double in the coming years. Studies have revealed over and over that new churches have some of the highest rates of first-time salvations. Church plants also often make an impact for the gospel in their communities that outpace more established churches. The EPC is well-positioned to capitalize on this, and I am looking forward to hitting the ground running.”

“Over the past several years I have been privileged to serve on the National Church Planting Team under Tom’s leadership,” said Michael Davis, EPC’s Chief Collaborative Officer. “The Lord has blessed him with a heart for church planting in the EPC. It has been a joy to watch.”

A native of St. Louis, Ricks is a graduate of Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga., and holds Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis.

He and his wife, Cindy, have been married for 40 years and have three children and seven grandchildren. He is a spirited St. Louis Blues fan, and in his spare time enjoys golf and reading historical biographies.

“In All Things” podcast episode 36 approaches intersection of suffering and spiritual growth with Bryn MacPhail

 

Bryn MacPhail, Senior Pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk in Nassau, Bahamas, and author of Purposeful Pain: What Your Troubles Achieve, is the guest for episode 36 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things.”

This week, host Dean Weaver and MacPhail discuss how God uses suffering to make believers more like Jesus. MacPhail explains how repeated pain and suffering—unlike manual labor that develops strength and durability—results in a heavy burden that only being yoked to Christ can relieve. He also provides a list of additional resources on the topic.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

Diversity fuels mission of newly localized Tennessee church plant

 

The congregation of The Avenue Community Church in Memphis, following the service of localization held on March 20, 2022, at Highland Heights Baptist Church in Memphis.

Embracing diversity has fueled the mission and growth of The Avenue Community Church (TACC) in Memphis—leading to achieving local church status in the Presbytery of the Central South in March. Local church status means a congregation is self-governing with its own elected and installed officers, including Ruling Elders and Deacons.

“We know from Scripture that God’s true church is diverse, from every nation, tribe, tongue,” said Lead Pastor Tim Johnson. “So as the local church, we strive to be diverse as well.”

Tim Johnson

Johnson noted that TACC’s goal is to be not only multi-ethnic, but also multi-class and multi-generational.

“We have to seek to reach people from all types of backgrounds,” he said. “Our heart is to do what every other faithful church has been doing since its inception, and that is to be working for the God of the Bible reverently, passionately, and faithfully. There’s a blueprint to the church that the Lord left us and that’s what we want to fulfill. We want to witness, we want to worship, we want to edify the body until He comes back.”

TACC has been focused on the community in and around—and is named for—Summer Avenue since its launch in September 2018. Running east-west on the north side of central Memphis, Summer Avenue is one of the most diverse areas of the city. In fulfillment of Johnson’s vision for ministry in the community, TACC acquired and is renovating the old Highland Heights United Methodist Church property on Summer and hopes to hold its worship services in the historic Gothic structure within the next year or so. TACC has met at a local school for the past three and a half years.

“The new location places us right in between two communities we would love to wed and be a bridge and bring together,” Johnson said. “One has the highest dollar amount per square foot, and the other is a very multiracial, lower-middle-class. We strategically have always prayed to be on the Avenue. Now that we are officially on Summer Avenue, we can truly be The Avenue sitting right in the middle of all the intersection of all the people who are doing business on our streets.”

The Summer Avenue corridor in central Memphis is the focus of The Avenue Community Church’s ministry.

Johnson and TACC are accomplishing the work that Second Presbyterian Church of Memphis envisioned in the pre-pandemic days of 2017, according to Dan Burns, Second’s World Missions Pastor.

“We were dreaming and praying about how to help plant a diverse, multi-ethnic church in one of our ‘edge’ neighborhoods,” Burns explained. “There are many dividing lines in Memphis where economic and racial patterns tend to divide the community. We were praying about launching a church ‘on the line’ that could serve the community on both sides and draw them into a common fellowship.”

Burns said Johnson has both the vision and passion to pursue this vision.

“He sensed the Lord lead him and his core team to Summer Avenue, immediately got engaged in the community through youth work and community connections, and launched The Avenue a year later,” Burns said. “The Lord soon gave them energy, direction, and resources to launch—and they weathered the pandemic and racial tension of 2020 with gospel grace.”

And the gospel ministry of TACC will now reach literally around the world.

“I was overjoyed to see the first couple from The Avenue commissioned at the 2022 EPC General Assembly to serve as World Outreach global workers in the Middle East,” Burns said.

Johnson said the journey to local church status wasn’t as encumbering as he anticipated.

“The administrative commission from Second Presbyterian and the delegates from the Presbytery just really made it seem more relational, and that we are brothers and sisters and that we’re excited about this process,” he said. “It did not feel like an interrogation—like with the hope that you would fail—but was a discovery and birthing of a new relationship and friendship. That was quite refreshing.”

Tim Foster, Senior Pastor of Highland Heights Presbyterian Church in Memphis, prays over Tim Johnson during the service of localization held March 20, 2022.

Seeing God’s hand in the formation of TACC and its success led to a “marvelous day of God’s grace” when TACC was constituted as a local congregation, said Ken Van Kampen, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of the Central South.

“It was, in one sense, the climax and closing of one chapter and the opening of another chapter in the life of the church,” he said, explaining that the timing of TACC’s localization was evidence of God’s blessing.

“The Lord graciously upheld the congregation during COVID,” Van Kampen said. “It was during this time that the leadership of The Avenue—who were ordained and installed as the initial class of Elders and Deacons on March 20—was raised up and trained. In the midst of this it was clear that the Lord prepared the congregation for localization. It was all the power and grace of the Lord.”

Johnson said he has been humbled to see God work through TACC from the very beginning.

“We believe the nations are literally in our backyard: Black, white, Hispanic, rich, poor. We believe that God has placed us uniquely and strategically in the middle of all those people,” he said. “And we think He has placed us in the middle of all those people to preach the gospel, to preach it faithfully, and to preach it indiscriminately to whomever we encounter.”

by Tim Yarbrough
EPConnection correspondent

“In All Things” podcast episode 33 highlights innovation in local church ministry with Dave Wahlstedt

 

Episode 33 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Dave Wahlstedt, Pastor of The Table in Dallas, Texas, and author of Shift: Catalyzing Creative Change in Innovative Christian Ministry.

This week, host Dean Weaver and Wahlstedt discuss the ministry of The Table as a worshipping community—what Wahlstedt calls a “craft church” surrounded by megachurches in suburban north Dallas—and how spiritual formation became the focus of the ministry. Wahlstedt also talks about how his book is a reflection of his ministry experience, and describes ways to innovate in the local church and among its people.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 30 previews 42nd General Assembly with host pastor Scott McKee

 

Episode 30 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Scott McKee, Senior Pastor of Ward Church in Northville, Mich.

This week, host Dean Weaver and McKee discuss preparations for the denomination’s June 21-24 annual meeting including how the worship service speakers will help develop the theme of “Recharge” based on Acts 1:8. The two also discuss several business items coming before the Assembly—including McKee’s involvement in the Giving Culture Study Committee and how that group helped lay the groundwork for Recommendation 42:11 to change the funding model from Per Member Asking (PMA) to Percentage of Income (POI).

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 29 explores marketplace ministry with Florida pastor Doug Walker

 

Episode 29 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Doug Walker, Pastor of River City Church in DeBary, Fla.

This week, host Dean Weaver and Walker discuss how evangelism is a catalyst to a growing faith, as well as Walker’s journey from the financial services industry to the pastorate. In addition, Walker describes his experience integrating his faith and work in a marketplace ministry, and his expectation as a pastor that the members of the church view themselves as missionaries.

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

“In All Things” podcast episode 28 features 41st General Assembly Moderator Brad Strait

 

Episode 28 of the EPC’s podcast, “In All Things,” features Brad Strait, Lead Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood, Colo., and Moderator of the 41st General Assembly.

This week, host Dean Weaver and Strait look back on his year as Moderator of the Assembly, and peer into the future as Strait serves the next year as Chairman of the denomination’s National Leadership Team.

Strait also describes two seminars on persecution at the EPC’s Leadership Institute on June 21-22 that he is co-leading with Andrew Brunson, EPC Teaching Elder who was imprisoned in Turkey from 2016-2018. In the first, Brunson will share his experience of being persecuted for his faith and what believers in the western world can expect as hostility toward Jesus and the gospel grows. In the second, Brunson and Strait will be joined by a panel of Christian leaders who have experienced significant persecution, including EPC Teaching Elder Setan Lee, who escaped the “killing fields” genocide of the Communist Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s, and Erick Schenkel, Executive Director of Cru’s “The Jesus Film Project.”

Episodes are available on a variety of podcast platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google 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.

GA worship services focus on Assembly theme of ‘Recharge’

 

For more than 40 years, worship has been a central component of the EPC General Assembly meeting. This year’s Assembly is no exception, and the worship speakers will speak to the theme, “Recharge.” The 42nd GA will be held June 21-24 at Ward Church in Northville, Mich.

Julie Hawkins, Pastor of Next Steps at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church in Gig Harbor, Wash., will preach prior to the opening business session on Wednesday, June 22. Her message, “Powered Up by Prayer” from Acts 4:23-31, will challenge attendees to prayer that results in courageous proclamation of God’s Word. The service begins at 3:15 p.m. (Eastern).

Scott McKee, Senior Pastor of Ward Church, will preach on Wednesday evening, June 22. His message, “To a Thousand Generations,” is based on Exodus 20:45. An offering will be received for the EPC’s Care of Pastors and Spouses Fund. Proceeds will fund projects designed to help restore the emotional and spiritual health of EPC pastors. The service begins at 7:00 p.m. (Eastern).

Terence Gray, Ward Church Assistant Pastor, will deliver the message at the Morning Worship Service on Thursday, June 23. His message, “The Church: A Recharging Community,” is based on John 13:1-17. An offering will be received for the Tim Russell Memorial Scholarship Fund. Donations will assist EPC students from under-resourced communities studying at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. Russell, who served as Assistant Pastor at Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, succumbed to COVID-19 in March 2020. The service begins at 9:00 a.m. (Eastern).

Marcelo Robles will preach from Acts 1:8 in the Global Worker Commissioning Service on Thursday evening, June 23. Robles serves as Senior Pastor of La Misión Church in Buenos Aires, Argentina. An offering will be received for the EPC’s Restore Global Worker Health Fund. Proceeds will fund projects designed to help restore the emotional and spiritual health of World Outreach global workers. The service begins at 7:00 p.m. (Eastern).

Brad Strait, Moderator of the 41st General Assembly, will lead the Moderator’s Service of Communion and Prayer at 9:00 a.m. (Eastern) on Friday, June 24. His message, “Declare His Glory Among the Nations, His Marvelous Deeds Among all Peoples” focuses on 1 Chronicles 16:24. An offering will be received for the EPC’s Moderator’s Scholarship Fund. Donations provide financial assistance to offset travel costs for ministers and Ruling Elders from smaller EPC churches who otherwise may not be able to attend General Assembly.

Click here for more information about the 42nd General Assembly, including daily schedules, the Leadership Institute, GA business items, and more.

#epc2022ga

Knox Presbyterian Church ministers amidst Buffalo shooting tragedy

 

The Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, N.Y.

Five miles north of the Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, N.Y., Knox Evangelical Presbyterian Church Pastor Justin Olivetti is comforting a community jolted by the May 14 shooting that took 10 lives.

“Everyone here is a bit shaken up,” Olivetti said. “We had some members who had relatives who worked there or some other community connections to the area and the store, but none of the casualties were among them.”

Justin Olivetti

Olivetti added that the congregation prayed in the Sunday morning worship service for the families of those involved. He also attended a multi-church prayer meeting that was held on Sunday afternoon around the block from the store.

EPC Stated Clerk Dean Weaver served as Knox EPC’s Pastor from 1995-2006. He also is a former member of the Board of Directors for Urban Christian Ministries in Buffalo, which is located a few blocks from the site of the shooting.

“I am just devastated,” Weaver said. “The security guard who was killed was a friend of one of my closest friends from our years there.”

Olivetti said he and his congregation are praying for a revival and healing.

“It was definitely designed to inflame racial tensions,” he said. “So I’ve been counseling people that our job as Christ’s ambassadors is to bring His love and grace in where others bring hate.”