November 2, 2018 — by Dana Allin

Reflecting our Communities: How Can We Be Better?

I continue to be both inspired and overwhelmed by the challenges and opportunities that stand before our movement.  There are some obvious issues that include working toward the revitalization of our churches, the ability of our churches to plant vibrant churches, and of course developing a greater quantity and quality of lay and vocational leaders who will be able to lead, plant, and revitalize these congregations.  Within these broad issues are some extremely important factors that need to be present.

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November 2, 2018 — by Anna Kent

Give your MAG an ECO BOOST!

It’s been great to work with a number of our ECO presbyteries who are incorporating MAG experiences into their presbytery gatherings.  I’ve been asked by a couple of folks how to keep the momentum going, so I wanted to share a few steps. These don’t have to be done in order (except I always think prayer is the best place to start).   

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November 2, 2018 — by Jen Haddox

Global Engagement: Connecting with the Iranian Christian Movement

Arguably the fastest growing church in the world today is in Iran. On the one hand, it’s surprising that under persecution the church would be growing there. But on the other hand, isn’t the grace of Jesus found most visibly expressed among those who demonstrate Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life by their sacrificial witness? A fast growing-church needs leaders that can support, sustain, and grow this movement.  God has granted Pars Theological Centre the vision and ministry of equipping leaders for this fast-growing gospel movement in Iran. They are training hundreds of house church leaders in bible and theology, in Christian formation, and in service to their communities. This ministry of equipping leaders for ministry in difficult circumstances is inspiring and invites us to partner in support and prayer.

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October 2, 2018 — by Dana Allin

Three Questions to Help You Take Your Flourishing Next Step

If you have been reading ECO newsletters or have been at a place where one of the ECO staff has given a presentation, you have probably heard the phrase, “Flourishing Next Step.”  The concept of Flourishing Next Step is that every church and every leader will identify where and how God is calling them to grow for greater flourishing. We do not dictate what that Flourishing Next Step is, but rather give tools and resources to help discern where God is uniquely calling you and your church to grow.

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July 3, 2018 — by Dana Allin

Reflecting on ECO's Engagement on Current Issues

It seems as if there is an ever-increasing number of statements being made by organizations, denominations and associations.  I am not sure if I am simply more aware of what is happening because of the nature of my denominational role, or if there is truly is an increase in these statements. Most recently was the outcry over the policy for the separation of families at the border.  During this situation, we received a few e-mails asking or encouraging ECO to make a statement against the policy. As time passed, the policy got reversed, perhaps due to the outcry. While there are still families that need to be reunited, the immediacy that was felt to make a statement has passed.

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July 3, 2018 — by ECO NEWS

Global Missions With Your Local Community

Have you ever wanted to be involved in global missions but are unable to join an international mission trip? Are you financially and prayerfully supporting a global mission organization but do not feel connected to whom you are partnering with? Since poverty consists of broken relationships, how do we be in a righteous relationship with the “least of these”, our brothers and sisters in need around the world?

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June 5, 2018 — by Dana Allin

Connecting with the Global Church - Iranians in London

Last month, I had the privilege of traveling with The Outreach Foundation to learn about the Iranian church in London. The focus of the trip was on the diaspora church, meaning Iranians who left their home country, either voluntarily or involuntarily. We also learned about how God was working inside of the country of Iran through the underground house church movement, and in those outside of the country.

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June 5, 2018 — by Anna Kent

Podcasts to Build your Spiritual Leadership

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed by all the information available to us through various social media outlets. I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. On the one hand, I can waste precious time reading through posts of my friends. On the other hand, it keeps me up-to-date on what is going on in people’s lives who I may not talk to frequently, but still care about. It helps me to know how to be praying for folks, and for that, I am thankful.

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May 2, 2018 — by Dana Allin

What Is Your Next Flourishing Step? Part II

One of my favorite promises of hope is found in Philippians 1:6. Paul writes, I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. I often hear this passage applied to individuals - that God has done a good work in each of us and will continue His mighty work in us. While this is certainly true, the context of the passage reminds us that Paul is giving this promise to the whole church of Philippi. As I have taught and used this passage in multiple venues, I have often been struck by two important truths that come from it.

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May 2, 2018 — by Lisa Johnson

Unleashing the Laity: New Resources for Officer Training and Commissioned Lay Pastor Certification

From it’s inception, ECO set out to make one of our five shifts to be moving from “clergy centered” churches to “unleashing the laity.” If we want to unleash the laity, we realize that we must provide quality training for any and all lay leaders who are seeking to grow in their leadership skills and spiritual maturity for the sake of the Kingdom. In this way, we want to begin to shift the culture in our ECO churches away from clergy and staff monopolizing the bulk of what God calls the body of Christ to do. We have realized that there need to be several different levels of training in order to meet the needs of our leaders and our local churches.

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May 2, 2018 — by ECO NEWS

The Importance of Missional Communities

My name is Chloe and I am a part of Goodland Church, a church plant in Santa Barbara, California. I teach English and lead Young Life at Santa Barbara High School, and spend as much time as possible hanging out with my pastor, Becky, gleaning whatever I can from her about church planting.

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May 2, 2018 — by ECO NEWS

Miss Mae Returns Home, Thanks to ECO Volunteers

In March, Pastor Jack McClelland of Fredericksburg Presbyterian, an ECO Church in Fredericksburg, Ohio, volunteered with 14 other men in Port Arthur, Texas through ECO’s disaster relief partner, World Renew. Pastor McClelland recently reflected on his experience with World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS).

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April 4, 2018 — by Dana Allin

What Is Your Next Flourishing Step?

I hope and pray that you all had a wonderful Lenten season and Easter Sunday celebration of the powerful impact of the Resurrection on our lives and in our churches. One of my favorite books in the Bible is Acts, with it’s great recounting of how the resurrection changed the whole trajectory, mission, and orientation of the disciples. Acts begins in the same way that the book of Matthew ends: A commission is given to the disciples who are going to be witnesses to every region and to every person in the world.  I can imagine the disciples who heard the words of Jesus were likely excited about the possibilities, and perhaps overwhelmed at the enormity of the task. I know if I had been a disciple in that room I would have asked, “Ok Jesus, so what is the next step I need to take?”

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April 4, 2018 — by Communications Team

Church Plant Spotlight: RiverCross Church, Visalia, CA

Rev. Karl Schafer, Pastor : What is the vision for RiverCross The vision of RiverCross is to make relationships with Jesus real. We want to see everyone changed and impacted by finding or deepening their relationship with Jesus. We say that this means everyone must step into relationships with Jesus - For people just now getting to know Jesus, we hope they step into that relationship - For people who already have relationships with Jesus, we want to see them step further into those relationships.

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April 4, 2018 — by Communications Team

Kairos Moment at the Presbytery of Texas Meeting

by Rev. Susan Finck Pastor, El Calvario Presbyterian Church: There are two words for “time” in the New Testament: chronos – the time on your watch, and kairos –  when God’s time intersects the regular course of events, infused with His holiness and purposes. On behalf of all of us at ECPC Waco, we are thankful that God came near in a true ‘kairos moment’ during the Presbytery of Texas meeting this past January.

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April 4, 2018 — by Jen Haddox

Sharing in Grace and Mission

Earlier this spring I called together a group of mission leaders in Franklin, TN, to collaborate and connect about how to further strengthen ECO’s Global Engagement. At the conclusion of our two-day consultation, I was overwhelmed by how energizing and productive our time had been. We had discerned priorities and mission practices together and generated ideas for what we could do in partnership that we could not accomplish as individual congregations or organizations. The synergy was tangible! And beyond the ideas and action steps we generated, we all were energized by the relationships that had formed and deepened during our conversations over ideas and around tables at meals.

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April 4, 2018 — by Anna Kent

Healthy Leaders Lead Healthy Congregations

I remember John Ortberg making this simple, intuitive, yet very important statement at one of our first ECO gatherings.  It has stuck with me since then as I continue to repeat it time and time again when asked to speak about our covenantal accountability.  One of the major premises behind ECO’s Pastoral Covenant Groups (PCG) and Mission Affinity Groups (MAG) is the idea of promoting a sense of health among our leaders.  We encourage PCGs to consider six areas of health when they connect together: Spiritual, Relational, Emotional, Vocational, Congregational and Physical. These areas of health offer excellent points of thought and reflection for all of our leaders in ECO.

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March 6, 2018 — by Dana Allin

Being a Hero-Maker

I am just returning home from a week-long trip to Florida that served two purposes. One was to work with Mandarin Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, where Kevin Pound has been the senior pastor for 25 years. Over those years, the church has increased from an average worship attendance of less than 200 to 800 worshiping together on a Sunday. Now Kevin is preparing to retire. As a result of that impending change, the church is engaging in an intentional succession process to find a new senior pastor. I was working with the church and the PNC on that process to help determine what vision God has for them in the future, as well as helping to find the right new senior pastor to implement that vision.

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March 6, 2018 — by Lisa Johnson

Four Words That Changed My Life and Could Change Our Denomination

I was 26 years old, had just graduated from seminary, newly ordained, and in my first call as a pastor. The night before I was to preach my first sermon, I walked across the hall in our apartment building to borrow an egg from our neighbors, who were members of the church where I was serving. Dick answered the door, and as his wife went to get me an egg, he asked me how I was feeling about preaching the next day. I told him that I was a bit nervous, as the new, young pastor. Then he told me “Whenever I am overwhelmed by the size of the task in front of me, I pray four simple words: ‘Holy Spirit, take over.’ Try it tomorrow before you step into the pulpit. I think you will be amazed at what He can do.”

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March 6, 2018 — by Anna Kent

Mission Affinity Groups (MAGS): The Narrative Questions

The Narrative Questions… love ‘em, hate ‘em, don’t like ‘em, don’t get ‘em, don’t know ‘em…Over the years of ECO’s existence, I think I’ve heard it all.  I get it. The Narrative Questions on Mission and Ministry - even the name is long and a challenge! These ten questions were pulled from our Presbyterian history and are intended to invite the Session of a church to give a qualitative assessment of what God is doing in their midst and context. Those answers are then shared together in a Mission Affinity Group meeting. In a sense, the Narrative Questions provide an opportunity for an annual Examen – a way for us to be aware where God has been active and at work in the overall ministries of a church. They then provide a basis for Sessions to encourage and hold one another accountable to be flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.  

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February 7, 2018 — by -

How did an 81-year old pastor from West Texas connect with a young Korean ordination candidate from Maryland through the 2018 Gathering?

By Paul Kim, Jr.  Neelsville Presbyterian Church, Germantown, MD: Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21. Although it is not extraordinary for Christians to experience God’s provision in our daily walk with Christ Jesus, it is my joy to share my testimony with ECO sisters and brothers in Christ as I did during the East Central Presbytery meeting at the National Gathering in Houston, TX.   

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February 7, 2018 — by Dana Allin

Reflections on the National Gathering from Dana Allin

  Though several weeks have now passed, I am still so exhilarated from our National Gathering in Houston. It was a wonderful and long week, from preparing early at the venue to concluding with two days of coach training. Our fabulous staff deserves huge thanks, along with the gracious Houston churches who provided thousands of volunteer hours to make this event run smoothly. Allow me a moment to briefly reflect on three personal RENOVATE highlights that I hope we can continue to build upon in the future.

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January 3, 2018 — by Nate Dreesmann

Cleaning up, Shaping up, and Clearing up our Polity and Theology

2018 marks ECO’s sixth year of existence, now made up of more than 370 churches and church plants. ECO’s mission “to build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ” continues to inform every decision and choice that the Synod Executive Council and Synod Staff are making to support and resource ECO churches. As Dana Allin said last year, the Synod sees its role as helping catalyze flourishing in every ECO church and in every ECO leader. To that end, how ECO governs itself and what theological statements guide its leaders matters. If I could sum up this year’s Synod Business Meeting with one phrase, I would call it “Cleaning up, Shaping up, and Clearing up our Polity and Theology.”

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January 3, 2018 — by Dana Allin

Polity in Place to Help our Congregations Flourish

In ECO, we have polity in place to help our congregations flourish. One of the parts of our polity that is often overlooked, states the following regarding presbytery duties:“The presbytery has the authority and pastoral responsibility to: Promote and encourage the missional effectiveness of its congregations. Each presbytery shall develop an instrument to assist its congregations in their annual review and narrative report of their ministry and mission. These annual reports shall be reviewed and discussed by the presbytery with each congregation’s session.” (3.0103 m.)

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December 4, 2017 — by Katie Fowler

Book Review: Emboldened by Tara Beth Leach

Emboldened by Tara Beth Leach - reviewed by Katie Fowler, Pastor of Discipleship, FPC Colorado Springs: I think a lot about women in ministry. Perhaps, for the obvious reason that I am a woman in ministry. But more so, because I believe passionately in seeing women encouraged and unleashed in their Kingdom callings. When that happens, we experience all the more the wild and beautiful redemptive movement that God is bringing about through Jesus Christ--the Kingdom coming down to earth.

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December 4, 2017 — by Nate Dreesmann

God is Transforming the Muslim World, and ECO Churches can be Part of this Story

"I grew up as a Muslim and have lived in this Muslim country all of my life. One day, Jesus came to me in a dream and revealed himself as the Messiah and Lord. I was afraid because becoming a Christian would cost me everything—it would cost my relationship with my family, my job, and perhaps my life, but I knew that was what Jesus wanted from me. I was able to find a copy of the New Testament that had been passed through many different people. As I read it, I understood that Jesus loved me. I wanted to follow Him. My family has disowned me and I lost my job, but Christ is with me and I trust in him…"

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December 4, 2017 — by Dana Allin

December Newsletter | A Word From Dana Allin

Confession time. For the first few years of my pastoral ministry I did not enjoy preaching during Advent. I have always liked to preach through a book in the Bible and felt as if Advent interrupted the book I was working through with my congregation. Plus, to have to preach four weeks AND Christmas Eve on concepts all relating to the preparation for and birth of Jesus was challenging to keep fresh and new, year after year. I knew it was powerful that God became flesh in Jesus, but in my evangelical mindset, the power of the incarnation was primarily utilitarian because it was necessary for the ultimate substitutionary atonement of our sins.

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