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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November 7, 2017 — by Jen Haddox

We're In This Together | Global Engagement Pre-Conference

We live in a globalized world, where cross-cultural mission is nearer to our doorsteps than ever before, and the ends of the earth don’t seem so far away. Even so, 2 billion people in the world do not have access to the Gospel and many suffer injustices from poverty and war.  To reach this world that God loves, we must admit that as a global Church, “We’re in this together!”

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November 7, 2017 — by Anna Kent

Mission Affinity Group Update

One of the blessings of our growth in ECO comes with the multiplication of our presbyteries.  And because our presbyteries are multiplying, it means that we are living more fully into the idea of smaller, more relational presbyteries. That means that we have the opportunity to develop deeper relationships among ECO leadership and realize the blessing and benefit of COVENANTAL ACCOUNTABILITY!  

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November 7, 2017 — by Dana Allin

November Newsletter | A Word From Dana Allin

What Do We Mean by Evangelical? - Last year I was at a meeting for all of the denominational leaders who are part of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). We met right after the election. As a result, there was significant dialogue about how the words evangelical and evangelicals have had negative associations.

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September 29, 2017 — by Dana Allin

October Newsletter | A Word From Dana Allin

When discerning the types of resources that we desire to provide for our congregations (either through direct development or in partnership with others), we have used a framework in our discernment process that asks a few key questions.

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September 29, 2017 — by Jen Haddox

Mission Collaboration & Connection

Often my starting point for describing ECO Global Engagement is to point people to one of our core values, missional centrality: "We believe in living out the whole of the Great Commission – including evangelism, spiritual formation, compassion, and redemptive justice – in our communities and around the world."

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September 7, 2017 — by ECO NEWS

Continued Prayers for Peace & Protection

ECO friends, as we continue to pray for South Texas and the clean-up efforts along the Gulf Coast, we are now compelled to widen our prayers to include our sisters and brothers in the Caribbean, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and possibly other states as Hurricane Irma heads towards the East Coast. We ask everyone to pray that the storm shifts east and does not directly hit any coastline of the Eastern United States.

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August 31, 2017 — by Dana Allin

Entering into the Messiness

After the resurrection, Jesus returns to His disciples. He calms their fears and then commissions them by saying, “As the father sent me, so I am sending you”  (John 20:21). What has struck me recently about this passage is that just prior to commissioning the disciples, Jesus shows them the wounds in His hands and His side...the results of being sent into the world! Jesus was incarnated into the messiness of the world by being born in a stable, He ministered in the messiness of the world, and He died by the cruelty of the world. After all of that, Jesus says, “AS the Father sent me, so I am SENDING YOU.” We are sent into the messiness, and sometimes even the cruelty of the world, to show the tangible love and mercy of Jesus.

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August 31, 2017 — by Jen Haddox

An Invitation to Freedom Sunday – Integrating Justice into our Mission Values

In seeking to be a movement, not just a denomination, one of the core values we hold to is Missional Centrality: We believe in living out the whole of the Great Commission – including evangelism, spiritual formation, compassion, and redemptive justice both in our communities and around the world.  One of the ways our ECO churches have lived out redemptive justice is sharing in the work of the International Justice Mission. With Freedom Sunday coming September 24th, we have an opportunity to mobilize awareness and resources to support the work of International Justice Mission (IJM) as they work to redeem those trapped in slavery.  

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July 28, 2017 — by Nate Dreesmann

Ecclesiastical Support & Church Transformation

“What does the Executive Director of Ecclesiastical Support do?”  Everywhere I travel for ECO I’m asked this question.  Over the next several months my hope is to profile how ECO is helping local churches to flourish and how my position contributes to that.

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July 28, 2017 — by Dana Allin

July Newsletter | A Word From Dana Allin

It has been exciting to see that over fifty churches are officially participating in the Becoming a Flourishing Church material.  We know that some churches are using the materials with their sessions but have not officially signed up, and others will begin to use the material in the fall. A few churches are using the material with their entire congregations to help increase the strength of individual discipleship as well as to get wider input into the health of their congregations. We have even had some churches who are not in ECO indicate that they are using the material for their sessions.

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July 24, 2017 — by ECO NEWS

ECO Theological Task Force Introduces the ECO Book of Confessions

The ECO Book of Confessions is a very special collection of documents that give witness to the system of doctrine embraced by countless reformed and Presbyterian believers over many centuries. Each document has played an important part in our history as a church and continues to guide us through the present and into our future together. Upon the formation of ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians it was decided that all of the current confessions of the PC(USA) would be kept as our founding documents. Therefore the ECO Book of Confessions stands as it was at the moment in time that ECO came into existence. This was a wise and faithful decision as the vast majority of incoming members had taken vows in support of this Book of Confessions. There was also a commitment made that there would be further study and reflection upon this decision after the denomination was established.

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July 11, 2017 — by Dana Allin

Reflections from the 2017 WCRC General Council

A few weeks ago, along with Jen Haddox and John Terech, I had the privilege of representing ECO at the General Council meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) in Leipzig, Germany.  The General Council meets every 7 years and consists of delegates from 220 member churches from around the world.  ECO became a member of the WCRC in 2013 with the endorsement from the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), who were already members.

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June 2, 2017 — by Dana Allin

Raising the Bar | "Flourishing Leaders"

Many people have commented about how ECO seeks to create an environment that continues to raise the bar on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. There are many ways that this environment is encouraged within ECO congregations and presbyteries. One of the ways that I am thrilled to watch unfold among our churches is the hunger to have lay leaders flourish in their various and diverse ministries.

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May 31, 2017 — by Jen Haddox

Join us in Praying for Muslims Around the World!

When we pray, "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," in our regular weekly or daily prayers, we can easily lose sight of the radical petition we are making. We are asking for God’s sovereign love and power to come to fullness of expression right here among us. We are praying for God’s perfect love, justice, and peace to reign in our world. We are expressing a sure hope and complete trust that God is actively at work in our world through the Risen Christ to transform and renew all things.  We cannot make the Kingdom of God come by our own efforts, but Jesus invites us to pray and live into its reality in our midst.  

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