Category Archives: Uncategorized

Nashville EPC church plant mobilizes for tornado relief

 
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All Souls Church in Nashville, Tenn., set up a portable kitchen in the front yard of a parishioner and fed nearly 2,500 people over four days in the wake of the March 3 tornado outbreak.

All Souls Church, an EPC church plant in Nashville, Tenn., received $5,000 from the EPC Emergency Relief Fund on March 4 for its ministry to its neighbors in the wake of a devastating tornado outbreak on March 3 that took the lives of at least 25 people. The church holds its worship services in a school near the hard-hit Germantown area of North Nashville.

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Kirk Adkisson

Kirk Adkisson, Pastor of All Souls Church, said most of the congregation escaped the worst of the destruction.

“Thankfully no one in All Souls was injured, but two households are still without power and unsure when it will return,” he said. “My home didn’t have electricity for four days, but we didn’t have any damage. But six blocks south of us is a path about three-and-a-half miles long that is devastated.”

Adkisson reported that the initial relief funds were used to feed people in the area.

“We spent four days feeding about 600 people a day,” he said. “We served breakfast tacos in the morning, then from about noon until about 5:00 when we had to stop because of darkness we would cook burgers and hot dogs.”

He said their team served meals to both local residents and relief volunteers.

“Many people were just walking around because thousands have been displaced,” he explained. “We also were feeding the volunteers who were in the area—it was amazing to watch how many volunteers are helping.”

He said the feeding station was set up in the front yard of an All Souls parishioner whose home was damaged.

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The home next door to the feeding station set up by All Souls Church was heavily damaged.

“Although this man had no power—and still doesn’t—and had some damage to his house, he allowed hundreds of local residents and volunteers working in the area to walk into his house and use his bathroom. He invited hundreds of strangers in.”

Adkisson said that they know many of the volunteers “are going to have to leave soon, but we will continue to serve the community as it recovers. We know we want to pay attention to single moms and the elderly.”

These efforts include providing tarps and grocery store gift cards to local residents.

He also said that the mayor’s office approached him about leading a longer-term effort to stem the threat of developers seeking to take advantage of residents of the historically African-American community.

“We were working in the front yard the other day and a developer approached a guy six times whose home was destroyed about buying him out,” Adkisson said. “This is happening all over North Nashville. Developers are walking up to homes and offering lowball numbers for people to sell their property.”

He noted that in many cases, the offers are attractive because insurance deductibles can be beyond the means of the homeowners.

“That includes African-American churches here,” he said. “Many were damaged, and they also have deductible costs. Many of their parishioners are struggling.”

Adkisson emphasized that the recovery is in its early stages.

“It feels as if most the moves we make at this point are reactionary,” he said. “However, we are here and all-in for the long haul. We have begun the process of planning how to love and serve over the next month, 3 months, 6 months, and even a year.”

Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk, said he was thrilled to be able to disperse relief funds within 24 hours of the storm.

“Due to the amazing generosity of EPC churches and their members following a series of disasters in recent years, we had funds available to send immediately,” Jeremiah said. “I also am thankful for our churches’ faithful support of Per Member Asking, which allows us to have the infrastructure in place to help in emergency situations when they arise. I expect that we will provide additional funds as Kirk and his congregation continue to assess the needs in their community.”

Secure online donations to the EPC Emergency Relief Fund can be made at www.epc.org/donate/emergencyrelief.

Pastoral response to the coronavirus

 
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Larry Hackman

by Larry Hackman
Executive Pastor, Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church
Gig Harbor, Washington

In AD 251, a plague struck the Roman Empire. We now believe it was measles, but then it was a devastating, mysterious illness that seemingly struck at random and ravaged the population. No one knew why or how the disease spread, so fear spread thick. It was recorded that five thousand people were dying every day just in the city of Rome.

In the modern age, disease is not so mysterious. But it’s incredible how much the human spirit remains the same. Much like thousands of years ago, the response to the threat of a pandemic is fear and isolation. We heard Sunday of those who did not attend worship for fear of being exposed to a virus, when there’s no reason to believe it’s within the general population. Costco ran out of water and toilet paper. We cannot turn on the news without hearing of the coronavirus. I am chagrined to find that Christians are among those who are falling prey to the rising panic.

But in AD 251, Christians were the one segment of the population who fared much better than any other. The average Roman, believing that the plague was the judgment of the gods, would, as Dionysius recorded, “[push] the sufferer away, and [flee] from their dearest…hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease.” Thucydides reports that many “were afraid to visit one another…they died with no one to look after them; indeed there were many houses in which all the inhabitants perished through lack of any attention.”

Christians responded differently. Trusting in God’s promises of eternal life, they turned to care for the sickest. The ironic result is that the mortality rate of Christians was significantly lower because their care for one another gave a chance for the measles sufferer to recuperate, whereas those who isolated would inevitably perish from neglect even if they survived the ravages of the disease. Because they did not fear death, the Christians lived.

Are Christians responding any differently to the news of coronavirus than the average person? If Costco is any indication, then the Christian fears death as much as anybody else does nowadays. Where is our peace? Where is our selflessness? Have we no assurance in the face of the unknown?

I am not advocating we abandon common sense. Obviously, as you see in our list of ways we are addressing the coronavirus below, we will do what we should to halt the spread of disease. But I am asking you to give yourself a gut check. If you call yourself a follower of Jesus and COVID-19 strikes fear in your heart, ask yourself why? What does that say about your perspective on life and its purpose? What does that say about where you place your hope and assurance?

For the early Christians, Jesus loomed large in their vision. They trusted that Jesus embraced them in love, even as they suffered. They loved others and embraced them in love, even as they suffered. They trusted that Jesus is King and thus no twist and turn of history was a surprise to him. They trusted that death did not have the last word because Jesus had defeated it, and that their destiny was with him eternally. If Jesus, in all his beauty, wisdom, and grace, does not capture our hearts like he did theirs, then our hearts will be captured by fear.

The annals of history show, time and again, that the way of Jesus, of self-giving and sacrifice, is not a pie-in-the-sky philosophy that has no bearing in life. It’s actually the best, most practical way to live. Society functions best when we consider the needs of others above our own; it unravels when we seek first our needs. We only need to look at the example of our early brothers and sisters to see this.

I pray that the coronavirus advances no further, but should it continue its advance will Christians differentiate ourselves from the rest of the world in our response? Will we be the voice of peace in the midst of panic? Will we be the ones who serve one another and share resources, or will we horde and isolate? Will we have hope when others despair? Our response will not only be a matter of the soul, it may very well be what makes a difference in our communities.

How we’re addressing the coronavirus outbreak

Some of you have been asking about Chapel Hill’s plans in light of the recent news about coronavirus (or COVID-19). We wanted to share with you that we are taking great care to keep our congregation safe.

We are following guidelines recommended by the State and County Health Departments here at Chapel Hill:

  • If you are sick and have experienced symptoms such as a fever, cough, or body aches in the past 48 hours, we ask that you please stay home. Take care of your health (and the health of those around you) by resting and recovering until you are symptom-free.
  • Prevention is the best medicine! Practice good personal habits, such as washing hands frequently; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; covering coughs and sneezes; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
  • We are taking extra caution and care in keeping our facilities clean and disinfected. Our building surfaces are cleaned daily and we are committed to keeping high-touch surfaces sanitized. Additionally, you will find hand sanitizing stations placed around the facilities for your use.
  • We are closely monitoring the CDC, DOH, and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department sites and will follow their lead should further steps need to be taken. The DOH has not advised taking any special precautions beyond what is normally recommended at this time.

These are a lot of common-sense measures we can take that go a long way toward preventing the spread of disease. As things develop, we’re also considering how we do things like greeting and communion in ways that don’t hinder our worship, but still keep us healthy. We’ll continue to keep you informed if there are any significant changes.

 

This article was originally posted on March 3 on the blog of Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church at www.chapelhillpc.org/chapel-hill-blog/pastoral-response-to-the-coronavirus.

Guidelines for a Coronavirus Communications Plan for churches is available at www.epc.org/files/coronaviruscommunicationsplanguidelines

2019-20 Book of Order now available

 

Book-BookOfOrder2019-20600FrontThe spiral-bound, printed edition of the 2019-20 Book of Order is now available for purchase through EPC Resources.

The cost per book is $8.80 plus shipping.

“The 2020 Book of Order has a fresh new look, and includes all the decisions ratified by the 39th General Assembly last June in Denver,” said Jerry Iamurri, Assistant Stated Clerk. “Each of our pastors and clerks of session should have this valuable reference in their libraries.”

This 252-page document is Volume 1 of the EPC Constitution and includes amendments to the Book of Order and Rules for Assembly ratified by the 39th General Assembly (2019), as well as Acts of the 39th General Assembly. The Book of Order is comprised of the Book of Government, Book of Discipline, Book of Worship, Rules for Assembly, Acts of Assembly, and Forms for Discipline.

The Constitution of the EPC consists of the Book of Order, the Westminster Confession of Faith (including the Larger and Shorter Catechisms), and the document “Essentials of Our Faith.” All these are subordinate to Scripture, which is “the supreme and final authority on all matters on which it speaks.”

Church Pivot podcast features church planting discussion with Tom Ricks

 
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Tom Ricks

The third episode of Case Thorp’s “Church Pivot” podcast features the Moderator of the 39th General Assembly talking with Tom Ricks, leader of the EPC Church Planting Team.

In their discussion, Ricks reflects on his years in church planting and explains what it takes to plant churches in a connectional denomination like the EPC in the 21st century.

Click below to listen. The 61-minute recording also is available on the EPC’s Podbean channel, or search “Evangelical Presbyterian Church” on Spotify or iTunes.


A veteran EPC church planter, Ricks serves as Lead Pastor of Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo.

Thorp is a Teaching Elder in the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean. He serves as Senior Associate Pastor of Evangelism for First Presbyterian Church in Orlando.

“Church Pivot” is a series of articles and audio podcasts in which Thorp focuses on issues of pivoting toward a robust future of ministry, spiritual growth, adult conversion, and more.

Chaplains Work and Care Committee reviews resources, interviews chaplaincy candidates

 

CWCCMeeetingFebruary2020Meeting at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando February 24-25, the EPC Chaplains Work and Care Committee (CWCC) discussed a variety of topics related to its oversight of the EPC’s chaplaincy ministry. More than 60 EPC-endorsed chaplains currently serve in a variety of military and civilian contexts.

Among other items on its agenda, the CWCC reviewed plans for this year’s Chaplains Workshop, to be held as part of the Leadership Institute at the 40th General Assembly; reviewed several resources provided for EPC chaplains in both the endorsement process and active ministry; and interviewed two candidates for EPC chaplaincy endorsement.

“Ordained, professional chaplains serve in some of the most challenging environments imaginable, such as hostile locations, palliative care for children facing serious or end-of-life conditions, and mass-casualty events,” said Mark Ingles, EPC Chaplain Endorser. “They also provide support in more joyful occasions like baptisms, worship, weddings, organizational invocations, and so much more—not to mention all the care and ministering that volunteer chaplains provide. It is truly an honor and joy to provide the avenue, guidance, support, and care to our chaplains in the field, as well as for those who are seeking to become an EPC chaplain.” Ingles is a Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the West.

Members of the CWCC are Ted Tromble (Chairman), Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Rivers and Lakes; Bruce Alexander, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the East; Karen Bolte, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Southwest; Tim Foster, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Central South; Glen Holman, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; Jennifer Prechter, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of Florida and the Caribbean; David Snyder, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic; Richard Swedberg, Ruling Elder from the Presbytery of the West; and Brad Yorton, Teaching Elder from the Presbytery of the Pacific Northwest.

For more information on EPC chaplaincy ministries, see www.epc.org/chaplaincy.

World Outreach receives $50,000 gift for Lebanon early childhood development center ministry

 

Nearly 70 at-risk children in Lebanon and their families will benefit from a $50,000 donation to the Philemon Project Grow Center, a ministry headed by a World Outreach global worker in the region. The online donation was submitted in January and is the second major gift received by World Outreach in the past six weeks.

“The Grow Center is a vibrant ministry that shares Jesus’ love with children of migrant workers and Syrian refugees, as well as other at-risk children in Lebanon,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “The Center also works to help break the cycle of disfunction by offering mentoring programs to the parents. The work they are doing is quite amazing.”

The Philemon Project was started to provide migrant workers in Beirut with high-quality, reasonably priced childcare. The organization has developed into a non-governmental organization (NGO) and is under the auspices of Resurrection Church Beirut. The Grow Center is a Christian-led early childhood development center and adult mentoring program. It welcomes underserved children and families from all ethnicities and religious backgrounds and provides a healthy place for children ages one to four to grow physically, cognitively, socially, and spiritually. The Center’s adult mentoring program helps parents develop skills to create lasting, healthy, and active relationships with their children.

For more information on giving to the EPC or EPC World Outreach, go to www.epc.org/donate or www.epcwo.org/support, respectively.

January 2020 EPC budget report: PMA contributions 2 percent above FY 2019, below FY 2020 budget projection

 

As of January 31, Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions received by the Office of the General Assembly during Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) total $1,459,172. The amount received in the first seven months of the fiscal year is $28,472 more than the $1,430,700 received during the same period in Fiscal Year 2019. The EPC’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

While PMA contributions are up about 2 percent from the previous year, year-to-date contributions are roughly 2.4 percent ($36,264) below the $1,495,436 budgeted projection to support the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

“It is very encouraging to see PMA support rebound from our lowest December PMA contribution report since 2013,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “When churches support Per Member Asking, they are saying with their financial resources that they value not only the resources provided by the national level of the church, but also—and perhaps more importantly—the connectionalism so central to who we are.”

Of the $1,459,172 received, $291,834 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $3,723,555 in designated gifts were received through January 31. This total was $270,635 (7.8 percent) higher than the $3,452,920 in designated gifts received in the same period in Fiscal Year 2019. Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s holiday offerings.

Of the total, $3,036,387 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $687,168 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

Dean Weaver featured speaker for Jubilee student conference

 
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Dean Weaver

Dean Weaver, Pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in Allison Park, Pa., and Moderator of the EPC’s 37th General Assembly, is a featured speaker for the Jubilee 2020 Conference hosted by the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO). Jubilee is CCO’s annual conference designed for college students; this year’s event is February 21-23 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. The theme for Jubilee 2020 is the biblical narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

Weaver will address the topic of redemption with “The Moment that Changed Everything” at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 22.

“The conference is a life changing and transforming experience and it is exciting to be a part of engaging 4,000 college students with the gospel,” Weaver said. “It is one of the closest things on this earth to experiencing the fullness of the Kingdom of God.”

The EPC has partnered with CCO since 2007 to help local churches engage in campus ministry in their communities. Among the EPC congregations with CCO partnership college ministries are Memorial Park Presbyterian Church; Bellefield Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh; Hope Church in Cordova, Tenn.; First Presbyterian Church in Orlando; and many others. In addition, CCO’s Partnership Coordinator for Western Pennsylvania, Jen Burkholder, currently serves as chair of the EPC’s Next Generation Ministries Council.

For more information on Jubilee, see www.jubileeconference.com.

16 months post-prison: an interview with Andrew Brunson

 
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Andrew Brunson

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

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

First of all, how are you and Norine doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the focus of your ministry now?

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

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

How is your church in Izmir doing?

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

Why do you think this change is happening?

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

So you are feeling hopeful about the church in Turkey?

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

What are some of your other ministry goals right now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you very much.

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

‘Fired Up Friday’ sparks church revitalization

 

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If you stop by Mt. Lebanon Evangelical Presbyterian Church on the first Friday of the month, you are sure to encounter a lot of commotion…and a building full of kids. Ten years ago, the church began inviting children from the community to an event called “Fired Up Friday.” For two hours, kids move freely between rooms that offer games, prizes, snacks, crafts, and laser tag. The only required activity is a Bible study.

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Ashley Gardner

Ashley Gardner, Mt. Lebanon’s Director of Children’s Ministries, started the program to help a young girl—who was new to the Pittsburgh, Pa., suburb—make friends.

“The family moved here from Minnesota,” Gardner said. “And their daughter, who was in 2nd grade, wasn’t connecting with the other children. So God put it on my heart to host a smaller, more intimate fellowship outside of our regular programming. I wanted it to be a time when the kids could study the Bible but also be able to just hang out together.”

Thirteen kids attended that first event, and Gardner sensed God calling her to continue the ministry. Soon it became a regular monthly event. The numbers grew quickly, and in two years the room where they met was beyond capacity. The activities now take place in much of the church campus and nearly 200 children attend—most of whom are not from families in the church.

“Our ministry team looked around and realized that most of these kids were coming in from the community,” Gardner said. “Less than ten percent were our church kids. About a third of them had no church background at all.”

Carolyn Poteet, Mt. Lebanon’s Lead Pastor, says the church has a long history of outward focus, and Fired Up Friday is helping take the congregation back to its roots.

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Carolyn Poteet

“This church has historically had a vision for reaching people,” Poteet said. “It was founded in 1804, and in 1929 they constructed a beautiful gothic church. The sanctuary was designed to hold 1,000 people, even though the entire population of Mt. Lebanon was around 3,000 at the time.”

The opening of the Liberty Tunnels through Mt. Washington in the mid-1920s provided easy access between Pittsburgh and the Southern Hills suburbs, which caused the population of Mt. Lebanon to explode. With this new growth the church thrived, and soon become one of the largest Presbyterian churches in the region.

But by the time Poteet came to Mt. Lebanon EPC in 2017, the congregation had been shrinking for several decades. With the new leadership came intentional efforts at revitalization. They began to pray, listen, research, and conduct interviews to determine how to better reach their community and reverse the decline. It quickly became evident that children and their families, which included the Fired Up Friday program, would be a key component of the revitalization process.

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Fired Up Friday participants enjoy volleyball in Mt. Lebanon EPC’s Fellowship Hall.

“Once we compiled all our data and prayed and listened more, it became clear which part of God’s mission He was giving to our church,” Poteet noted. “Children needed to hear about Jesus, and we were good at ministering to children. Our new focus became ‘Reaching kids and their families for Jesus.’”

Poteet participates in Fired Up Friday in the “Stump the Pastor” room, in which the children interact with her and are free to ask her anything. No questions are off limits, she said.

“My favorite moment is when a child asks when God was born,” Poteet said. “The idea of infinity blows their mind every time!”

“Some of the kids get really deep and ask great questions,” Gardner said. “One boy, who was not a member of the church, spent an entire evening in that room. Another asked for a Bible at the end of the evening and told me he couldn’t wait to start reading it.”

In January 2019, Mt. Lebanon added a “Family Fired Up Friday” on the third Friday of each month, which is open to parents as well as kids. One year after launching, adult attendance has been as high as 120.

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Matt Dolphi is one of many volunteers who make Fired Up Friday happen each month.

“As Fired Up Friday has grown, we realized that while we were reaching kids, they had a much better chance of growing in faith if we reached their parents too,” Poteet said. “This smaller outreach has given us more time to build relationships with parents. Out of these relationships we are seeing incredible spiritual growth in people who had never even owned a Bible before.”

Nicole Parker, who has four children between the ages of five and ten, has been attending Family Fired Up Friday since it started.

“It’s really nice to be able to invite friends to participate in an event that is free, faith-based, and family-oriented,” Parker said. “Even with a range in ages, everyone can find activities that they enjoy.”

Sam Kudumula and Bindu Nallepogu, another family who regularly attends Family Fired Up Friday, saw the event as an opportunity for personal evangelism. They are originally from India, and have invited their Hindu neighbors to join them on Friday nights.

“They were so interested and touched by the experience,” Nallepogu said. “We were amazed that they showed up to listen to the Bible stories and wanted to come again. Our prayer is that God would open their hearts to the truth. We want to know their needs and minister to them.”

Gardner noted that a key to the success of Fired Up Friday has been the volunteers who give their time to make the program run smoothly and share the love of Christ.

“Without them we could not do this,” she said. “They have really connected with the children and their families, and are so committed to this ministry.”

FiredUpFridayDThe church is seeing growth in other areas as a result of the Fired Up Friday program.

Gardner recently started a Bible study in her home on Monday evening with some of the mothers. She continues to think about how to build deeper relationships.

“A lot of these families are not comfortable with church and do not have good memories with church,” she said. “We’re breaking down the walls and showing them that church can be fun and can be a safe place to learn about Jesus.”

Poteet and the Mt. Lebanon staff continue to explore ways to reach the community. They are considering a “Theology on Tap” group that would meet at a local restaurant, parenting classes, and a prayer and worship time that parents could attend while their children enjoy Fired Up Friday.

“The outside world is coming to us,” Gardner emphasized. “We’re being called to leave our walls and get to know our community. God is blessing us by bringing families to us, so we’re going to swing the door wide open and welcome them.”

by Kiki Schleiff Cherry
EPConnection correspondent

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Mt. Lebanon’s Associate Pastor, Steve Aguzzi, delivers the message during “Family Club” at Mt. Lebanon’s monthly Family Fired Up Friday event.

Revitalization Matching Grants the latest ‘Two Minute Topic’

 

In the third installment of the EPC’s video series, “Two Minute Topics,” Assistant Stated Clerk Jerry Iamurri discusses Revitalization Matching Grants, by which up to $10,000 is available to help strengthen an EPC church’s health and impact for the Kingdom. Revitalization is a component of the EPC’s strategic priority of “Transformation.”

“Two Minute Topics” are short, informative videos that address questions that the Office of the General Assembly frequently receives.

The videos are available at www.epc.org/news/twominutetopics, as well on the EPC’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/EPChurch80.

Networking, sharing best practices highlight EPC pastors gathering

 

500-999Pastors2020Fifteen pastors of EPC churches with membership of 500-1000 discussed a variety of topics relevant to their ministries and settings at their annual gathering, held January 15-17 at the Office of the General Assembly in Orlando. The group meets each year for networking, fellowship, community, and sharing best practices.

Evangelism in a post-Christian culture, campus security, church planting, adult spiritual formation, worship design and staffing, self- and staff care, and a variety of other topics stimulated healthy discussion.

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Michael Flake

Michael Flake, Pastor of Lake Forest Church in Davidson, N.C., attended the meeting for the first time and said the peer group provided “a lot of encouragement.”

“We brought our questions and batted them around together,” he said. “I leave here with a lot of great ideas to be more effective in ministry.”

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Carolyn Poteet

Carolyn Poteet, Pastor of Mt. Lebanon EPC in Pittsburgh, Pa., said the gathering is a “high priority” on her annual calendar.

“I always get great advice, but more than that it’s a community that’s supportive and prayerful and intentionally seeking to help the Church flourish and to help each other flourish,” she said.

Others attending were Jeff Chandler, First Presbyterian Church in Bakersfield, Calif.; Scott Farmer, Community Presbyterian Church in Danville, Calif.; Mark Fuller, Trinity Church in Plymouth, Mich.; Bryan Gregory, Knox Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Mich.; David Henderson, Covenant Church in West Lafayette, Ind.; Rob Hock, Southport Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Ind.; Scott Koenigsaecker, Sequim Community Church in Sequim, Wash.; Peter Larson, Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Lebanon, Ohio; Tony Myers, St. Paul’s EPC in Somerset, Pa.; Doug Resler, Parker EPC in Parker, Colo.; Tom Ricks, Greentree Community Church in Kirkwood, Mo.; Jeremy Vaccaro, First Presbyterian Church in Fresno, Calif.; and Richard White, Christ Community Church in Montreat, N.C.

Monthly EPC budget report: December fiscal-year-to-date PMA contributions slightly ahead of December 2018, below 2019 projection

 

As of December 31, Per Member Asking (PMA) contributions received by the Office of the General Assembly since the July 1 start of the EPC’s fiscal year total $1,253,044. The amount is $3,764 more than the $1,249,280 received from July 1 through December 31, 2018.

While PMA contributions are up slightly in Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) compared to FY19, year-to-date contributions are $56,865 (4.3 percent) below the $1,309,909 budgeted projection to support the EPC’s Collaborative Ministries, Connectional Support, and Custodial Operations.

“PMA support is the lifeblood of the EPC as a global movement of Evangelical Presbyterian churches, and I am thankful that so many of our congregations keep PMA in their ministry budget,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “Unfortunately, December PMA support was our lowest since 2013. It’s obviously too soon to know if this is the beginning of a trend. We certainly hope not, and perhaps our churches felt the effects of the changes in tax law regarding charitable contributions which in turn could have affected their ability to contribute to PMA in December.”

Of the $1,253,044 received, $250,609 (20 percent) was contributed to EPC World Outreach.

In addition to PMA contributions, $3,261,372 in designated gifts were received in the first six months of the fiscal year. This total was $276,591 (9.3 percent) higher than the $2,984,781 in designated gifts received from July 1 through December 30, 2018. Designated gifts include support for World Outreach global workers and projects, and contributions to EPC Special Projects such as Emergency Relief, church planting and revitalization initiatives, and the EPC’s holiday offerings.

Of the total, $2,615,816 was designated for World Outreach workers and projects, and $645,556 was designated for EPC projects. These amounts only reflect gifts received and distributed by the Office of the General Assembly, and do not reflect donations given directly to WO global workers or other projects.

“We are still rejoicing over the major gifts we received in December, including $250,000 for church planting and $50,000 for one of our World Outreach global workers,” Jeremiah added. “Non-PMA gifts were very strong in the first half of the 2018-2019 fiscal year because of donations to the ‘Welcome Back, Andrew!’ Fund and in response to Hurricane Florence. Yet we are very blessed that designated giving in 2019 has exceeded that.”

World Outreach receives $50,000 gift

 

The ministry of a World Outreach global worker who serves in a secure location overseas will benefit from a $50,000 gift the EPC received in December. The donation was the second major gift of the month, following a $250,000 contribution for church planting.

“It’s such a blessing to see what happens when believers respond to our Lord’s prompting,” said Phil Linton, Director of World Outreach. “All of us in World Outreach are confident that many people will come to Christ through this very generous gift.”

Linton also noted that the gift, which was donated through the global worker’s secure online donation form at www.epcwo.org, was made prior to the announcement of the gift for church planting.

“God is obviously at work in the hearts of His people,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “It’s exciting to think about the possibilities of how God is using the EPC through the gifts of generous donors to grow God’s Kingdom.”

To make a secure online donation to the EPC or EPC World Outreach, go to www.epc.org/donate or www.epcwo.org/support, respectively.

EPC receives $250,000 donation for church planting

 

An anonymous donor has gifted the EPC a quarter of a million dollars for church planting. The Office of the General Assembly received the online donation in mid-December.

EPC Stated Clerk Jeff Jeremiah said the gift was unexpected.

“Obviously, it is extremely exciting—and humbling at the same time—to see this tangible evidence of God’s working in this fellow believer’s life,” Jeremiah said. “When Pat Coelho, our Director of Finance, called me to say we had received this gift through our online donation system, I was surprised and grateful for this affirmation of EPC church planting. When I called Tom Ricks to tell him about it, he had much the same reaction.”

Jeremiah said he did not know the donor, who has asked to remain anonymous.

Ricks, chair of the EPC Church Planting Team, said the group has already began prayerful discussions on how to best invest the funds in denominational church planting efforts.

“This generous gift is confirmation of several things,” Ricks noted. “First and foremost, the Holy Spirit’s leading one of our fellow disciples to give so generously to help create multiplying congregations. Secondly, it is a result of our entire denomination responding to Jeff’s vision for church planting. Thirdly, I believe it is our Father’s confirmation we’re going in the right direction.”

He added that the gift “is God’s challenge to us for even greater efforts and more generosity in sharing the gospel of our Lord Jesus through new EPC congregations all across our country. We’re just getting started!”

Interested in making a year-end gift to the EPC, even if it is less than $250,000? Go to www.epc.org/donate.

Colorado Springs media help EPC Chaplain Endorser spread Christmas cheer for local food bank

 

For the sixth consecutive year, EPC Chaplain Endorser Mark Ingles has leveraged his home Christmas display to benefit the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado. Local media outlets have taken notice. KOAA News5, KKTV 11 News, and Fox21 News all broadcast Ingles’ efforts, and he will appear live on Fox21’s “Living Local” program on December 26 at 9:00 a.m. MST.

To watch “Living Local” online, go to http://www.fox21news.com/live.

Ingles’ initiative to help local families through the food bank has grown significantly—in his first year of collecting non-perishable food in 2014, 165 pounds were dropped off. By 2018, the haul was nearly 1,650 pounds. His goal this year is 2,000 pounds.

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