Last November we celebrated our 30/60 anniversary; 60 years as a church and 30 years on Webb Road. It was a time to celebrate our past and the right time to ask ourselves, “Where do we go from here?” I wanted to ask the Lord for his vision for our church and ask him what he wanted Eastminster to look like. I did not want to undertake this important task alone, so I assembled a team that would pray and seek the Lord’s will and help discern a vision for our future.
The team was made up of Kat Anderson, Wayne Becker, Denny Bender, Courtney Browning, Dick Gorham, Kathy Hammar, Joni Harrelson, Brooke Howell, Matt Jaderston, Susan Lear, Ben Marquez, Jane Silver, Mary Stephens and myself.
This team was everything I hoped it would be. We earnestly prayed and sought the Lord. We trusted each other and valued the input each person shared. Everyone was respectful of the other, no agendas were pushed, and we moved forward in agreement on all the work we had done.
We started last March. We reviewed the history of the church and the mandates of Scripture. We studied the demographics and psychographics of East Wichita, and listened for what the Spirit had to say to us. Our prayer was constantly this: “Lord, we only want what you want, we do not want it if you are not in it.”
The first thing we did was establish our foundation. This was something that was not up for negotiation. In fact, it would inform everything else we did. Our foundations were the authority of Scripture, our Reformed Theology and our government of being ruled by a plurality of elders.
We also studied the demographics of East Wichita by drawing a five-mile radius around the church. The largest population group by raw numbers and percentage compared to national averages were people under 14 years old. This demographic needs to be a focus of ministry because it presents the greatest opportunity in our unique location.
We also learned that half of the people in East Wichita are unchurched. Yet, when we read the psychographics, the most common answer people gave concerning their lives was, “I have a great life.” But half didn’t know Jesus. Our answer to this is there is a fuller life in Christ. Whatever vision we landed on, we had to speak to this culture because this is the unique location where God has placed us.
We also articulated the church’s values and the values that would guide future decisions. The values had to be true of us, but also aspirational, meaning, these values were generally true of us, but we wanted to grow in them and use them to guide how we would conduct ourselves. These values are:
GOD ABOVE ALL
We are mindful of God’s glory in all we do and every decision we make.
As demonstrated by
• Excellent worship where God is exalted
• Asking of ourselves – would this glorify God?
Scripture: Isaiah 45:5, Ephesians 4:6, Romans 12: 1
TEACHING FOR TRANSFORMATION
We preach, teach and model the gospel of Jesus Christ for transformation of the heart and renewal of the mind
As demonstrated by
• Proclaiming the Word of God revealed in Holy Scripture, from a Reformed understanding
• Being discipled through time in the Word in authentic relationship with other believers
• Seeking to live a life filled and in fellowship with the Holy Spirit
• Teaching that does not merely provide head knowledge but equips us to live what we learn
• Transformative, lifelong learning at all ages
Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16, Colossians 3:16, Romans 12:2,
1 Corinthians 8:1b, James 1:22
HIGH GRACE HIGH TRUTH
We speak the truth to one another in grace.
As demonstrated by
• In our communication and actions with each other we will speak the truth and do so full of the grace and love of Christ
• In our communication with the world, we will not shy away from the truth of Scripture but will be marked by compassion and love.
Scripture: John 1:14, Ephesians 4:15
GENERATION TO GENERATION
We value intergenerational relationships and an intergenerational church
As demonstrated by
• Equipping parents to make the home the center of discipleship
• Encouraging our youth to participate in the full life of the church
• Mentoring younger generations to walk with Christ in all of life
Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Psalm 145:4, 1 Timothy 5:2
We will be wise with human and material resources and abundantly generous with our time, talent and treasures
As demonstrated by
• Giving ourselves away for the sake of the gospel
• Compassion toward the poor, oppressed and struggling
• A faith-inspired sacrificial generosity that permeates all we do as we give with joyful hearts
• Using our resources consistent with biblical wisdom
Scripture: Matthew 6:19-21, Luke 6:37-38, Luke 19:26, Matthew 25:23, Luke 16:10
WE ALL GO
We are representatives of Christ wherever we go, demonstrating his love and ready to share the message of his hope
As demonstrated by
• Giving, sending and going to take this gospel to the ends of the earth, especially in those places where we are uniquely called
Scripture: Acts 1:8, John 4:35
Could we come up with other values? Yes. But we restricted ourselves to six.
Our Disciple-Making Strategy
We also developed a strategy for how we would make disciples. It’s important for a new person to know how to connect with the church and for the church to know how we plan on making disciples. It should be simple enough for us to draw it on a napkin. Such a strategy is needed because
• In most churches, 50% of worshippers do nothing other than worship
• The two greatest barriers to involvement are, “I don’t know how” and “No one invited me.” Clear strategy removes these barriers.
• Simplicity with strategy helps us screen out good programs that are an enemy to great programs
Worship The main thing we do is worship. We have three worship venues which are all important to us. Since worship is the “main thing,” it needs to be done with excellence at all of our venues. We also believe it is possible to be one church and worship at three different times and in different styles. The important thing is that we see ourselves as one church bound together by a common faith and vision.
Grow We also believe that people grow in their faith as they interact with God’s Word in authentic community with other believers. We believe this best happens in groups, whether they meet as mid-week Bible studies, or as Sunday School classes or in small groups located in homes. Our goal is to grow people in grow groups.
Serve We also want people to serve in their area of gifting. As Christians we are most satisfied and fulfilled in the Christian life when we feel like we are doing something God designed us to do. So, we want everyone to serve the Kingdom of God in their way, either within the church or outside its walls, so that the kingdom of God is built up and expanded.
GO The word “Go” captures our efforts to take the gospel to the nations he sends us and being representatives of the gospel wherever we are.
The Marks of Discipleship
Eastminster is a church. The church is made of people, but we are not gathered as a church for no particular reason. As a pastor/shepherd of the church, it is my job to shape people into authentic followers of Jesus Christ. I cannot force any of you into this, but I can make sure I teach you God’s Word, and raise up others who can lead you in the ways of Christ. Towards this end, there are certain marks that I think characterize a follower of Christ. These are internal questions that a disciple can ask of himself/herself, or that a church can ask of its people; and if these things are happening in his/her life they will be well on their way to being a disciple of Jesus. These marks of a disciple are:
I revel in the Father’s grace
I connect daily with Jesus in Word and Prayer
I respond to the Spirit as He leads
I do life with others who point me to Jesus
I desire Jesus more than sin
I pursue justice and show mercy and walk humbly
I am investing in someone far from God
These marks are what we believe a growing disciple of Jesus does on a regular basis. The questions help us know if we are successful at discipleship. These things are also what we want our ministries/groups to encourage in our people.
We believe these marks are important because every ministry and all teaching content should be designed to help shape outcomes in the lives of our people. Marks validate true mission success, not just attendance. They are the “quality control” in the church. They push us to think beyond information transfer as the goal of our teaching. And they help guide us in shaping ministry environments for better results.
We can’t measure true spirituality, but if we are doing the marks, I am confident people are growing in their relationship with Christ and are truly becoming a disciple.
With our new vision, we are launching a new mission statement. Our former one was fine, it reflected what every church should be doing, but a mission statement really ought to be the marching orders for every person in the church and address the unique situation a local church finds itself in. Our new mission statement is:
To encourage people to enjoy the fullness of knowing, loving and becoming like Jesus.
This is something everyone in our church can do. It becomes our marching orders every week. It also addresses our unique situation because when we did our demographic studies, we discovered that half of East Wichita is unchurched, yet the psychographics revealed that the most common statement that East Wichitans said about their lives was, “I have a great life.” But there is a greater life, a fuller life in Christ. This is what our church has to offer the people in our part of the city and our new mission statement reflects this.
Vision answers the question of what we see for the future of Eastminster. Part of our future is predictable if we stay on the present course. Two-thirds of our members are over 65, so if we project the church 15 years into the future, it does not look good. That means we need to become younger and that is more than wishful thinking. The younger generation is drawn to authenticity and warmth. We can be that. They don’t like a lot of meetings and complicated decision making structures, so we can work on governing in a more efficient and less cumbersome manner. We also need to work at incorporating our young people into the full life of the church and connect them with older generations. This can be as simple as saying hi to people younger than you or making time to get to know them.
Along with getting younger, we have a vision for our future where God is leading us to do some things that really matter. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are created for good works which God purposed beforehand for us to do.
I believe God gives birth to churches for a reason. I believe he planted Eastminster to impact the city and the nations. As part of this purpose, our vision team concluded that there are “territories” that God has shown us and we are to take them for the gospel and his glory. These territories include:
• Our families We see our families following Christ. We also believe the home is the primary place of discipleship for the next generation.
• Our neighborhoods Often, there are clusters of Eastminster members in particular neighborhoods throughout Wichita. We want to be intentional about mobilizing these groups so our neighbors are served and come to Christ. We also believe prayer walking is a key component of this.
• A school close to the church (yet to be chosen) where the families and students in the school experience the help of the church and the witness of the gospel.
• A neighborhood in need We will partner with an urban church to redeem the neighborhood. Currently we have identified the neighborhood served by Iasis Christian Center, near 11th and Minnesota.
• A church plant in the Balkans We are joining with other churches in our presbytery to see, by 2025, a growing, multiplying, evangelical church among a Balkan people group where there is none now. (Some details witheld for online security. For more specific information contact the missions office.)
• A church in Puerto Rico We want to partner with an EPC church in Puerto Rico to rebuild the church and its neighborhood that is still in disrepair following Hurricane Maria.
We believe this is what God wants Eastminster to do in the next five to seven years. But repentance has to precede any of it. The Spirit’s power is preceded by prayer and repentance. In fact, as we worked for the last 10 months on our vision, the team kept coming back to the theme of repentance. This is why we have called the church to a season of repentance and fasting. It’s meant to orient our lives in a new direction where we whole-heartedly will follow Christ and experience his power working through us.
The energy of the church needs focus. I believe our vision, our mission statement, and our marks help us do that. They point us in a direction where we grow in our relationship with Christ and make a difference in our world.
This is the future the Session, the staff and I are leading the church into. It’s a future full of promise and a vision that we are confident comes from the Lord.
Eastminster's New Logo
Along with a new mission and vision for the church comes a new visual identity. As we pour our energy into following the Lord's vision and strive to see a vibrant, multigenerational church emerge, we want our branding - our visual identity - to represent the direction we're headed. This new identity has strong ties to the past while also propelling us into the future.