If you were at church this Sunday Jan. 8th, or watched the above video, you heard the announcement that I will be transitioning from my role as Lead Pastor of epikos church to Vice President of Church Planting for Converge MidAmerica. This was not an easy decision. I spent hours of prayer over many months to come to this decision.
When God called Emili and I to move to Milwaukee to plant epikos in 2004, we had no idea all that God would have in store. It has been amazing to watch so many people come to Christ and grow in their faith. God has brought such a diversity of people together to make an impact for the Gospel in our city. I have grown in my faith and been taught so much through this journey. I’m utterly thankful and humbled by the opportunity I’ve had to serve this church and city, and am going to miss you all dearly.
At the same time, I’m confident that the future of epikos is bright. God has brought together an amazing group of staff and leaders, but much more than that, this is Christ’s church and He’s the ultimate leader and sustainer of it (Matthew 16:18).
As this is fresh news to many of you, I’m sure you have questions about the present and the future of epikos. We have gathered and answered some questions that we’ve been asked already, and some we anticipated being asked.
What’s the real story? Did something bad happen? What I’ve shared is the real story. There is no cover up of moral failures, no back story of board/pastor clashes, and no spin of difficult staff issues. Serving at epikos has been a true joy. I often tell people I’ve had to pinch myself along the way because epikos has been a true dream job. The Overseers have always been supportive and encouraging, and I’d argue we have some of the best staff of any church. Throughout the years I’d get job opportunities floated my way. It was easy to turn those opportunities down as God had made it clear that I should be at epikos. But, over the last year and half, God had been preparing my heart for the possibility of being used in a different capacity. Looking back on my prayer journal, I can see some specific areas where God was already preparing me to “let go,” to trust Him in my life, and to trust Him that epikos will continue to pursue Him, even if I’m not the one leading the church. I never sent out my resume, nor was I looking for a new job. But this fall when I was asked to consider an opportunity to use my gifts and abilities to help plant multiple churches, I knew I needed to take it seriously before God in prayer. Before officially interviewing for the job, I did inform the Overseers of this possible transition. Since then, they have been praying with me and for me, praying for epikos, and beginning to work on a transition plan.
What’s next for the Parmelees? I will be staying at epikos through March 5th so that I can help with the initial part of the transition. This will give our Overseers, staff, and congregation time to ease into the transition. My family and I will be putting our house up for sale and relocating to Nashville, TN. Though we are moving, we will still be connected because my new job is with Converge. Converge is a church planting network that epikos is a part of and is a big reason why we exist today. Specifically, I will be the Vice President of Church Planting for Converge Midamerica. I will have responsibility over a 7 state area (IL, MI, IN, MO, TN, KY, and AR), with a charge to help lead a movement of hundreds of churches being planted over the next 10 years. As I recruit, train, and coach church planters, I get to not only use my gifts and abilities, but also many of the experiences that I learned while leading epikos. And yes, if you or anyone you know is interested in planting a church in one of those states, have them email me at danny@ConvergeMidAmerica.org. I’d love to connect with them!
Is there a plan to hire a new Lead Pastor? Yes. As soon as the Overseers, along with our Executive Pastor, Caleb Smith, became aware of my possible transition they began to plan for what this might look like. We have hired an organization, MultiSite Solutions, who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge with pastoral transitions, and specifically with the complexities of pastoral transition in a multi-site church. They will be helping the Overseers and Staff walk through this process and will begin by gathering information from the Board, Staff, Leaders, Volunteers, and Congregation. They won’t dictate what we have to do, but there is a great advantage of having an outside source observe and reflect back where we are as a church, where God may be leading us, and what we should consider when looking for the next Lead Pastor.
Who will run things during this transition? In short, not a lot will change behind the scenes. The Overseers will continue to submit themselves to Christ, who is the head of the church. And the staff will continue to operate within the structure that has been in place. As I mentioned before, following God away from epikos has been made easier because of the strength of our Overseers and Staff. They are a group of men and women who love the Lord their God, are passionate about the Good News of Jesus Christ, and desire to make more and better disciples. Practically, a few things will change. The Overseers have asked Pastor Caleb, our Executive Pastor, to lead a staff team who will guide epikos in ministry decisions. That team consists of Pastors Dave, Paul, Kurt, and Ryan, along with our Executive Admin, Lisa. For our staff, this is not much different, as Pastor Caleb serves as Chief of Staff. But each of these staff will have a few additional responsibilities to add, so please do keep them in your prayers as they fill the gaps.
Will I be able to give input into the new pastor selection? Yes! As I mentioned above, the Overseer Board has hired MultiSite Solutions, to help us do two things: 1) strategize the best path during the transition, and 2) take an honest look at who epikos is and where God might be taking us by gathering the input and opinions of multiple groups within the church. MultiSite Solutions will be at epikos on January 18th to spend time with the staff, and then again February 18-20 to engage with you, the congregation. We will provide more information on what this will look like at the annual Vision Meeting on January 29th at 1:30p at the West Allis Campus.
So what can I expect to change at epikos? Anytime there is change in the senior leadership, there will be change in the organization. However, so much of what makes epikos “epikos” will not change. We will continue to be a church that is centered on the gospel. We will continue to passionately preach God’s Word. We will continue to care deeply about reaching lost people. We will continue to steward the great diversity and multiculturalism that exists in epikos and Milwaukee. We will continue to focus on seeing people grow in their faith and continue the lifelong process of discipleship. We will continue to provide small groups for people to grow with God and grow with each other. We will continue to be a church that makes an impact in the community. As we move forward, understand that we have a ministry plan and a strong commitment to all three campuses. The preaching schedule for next fall is already being being prayed over and planned. The Small Groups ministry has never been stronger. Our campus pastors are strengthening our community relationships, and our student and children’s ministries are staffed with committed leaders and volunteers. The Overseers and Staff are looking ahead, and plans are in place for much of 2017. So will some things change with a new Lead Pastor? Of course! We’ve always been a church willing to change and adjust to accomplish the mission God has given us. We are certain that as we bring on a new Lead Pastor, he will bring changes to ensure we continue to reach people in the Milwaukee metro area.
How can we keep updated with the progress? If you are not already on our monthly email list, you should sign up here! Also, as I mentioned earlier, we will have our annual Vision Meeting on Sunday Jan 29th at 1:30pm at the West Allis Campus. There will also be updates in the bulletin and posted on the blog.
How can I help the Parmelees during this transition? As cliche as it may sound, we sincerely ask for you to pray for our family during this transition. There are logistical things of selling our house, finding a new home in Nashville, and actually moving. But more than those will be working through all the emotions of leaving our friends and church, and literally packing up and moving to a place where we don’t know anyone. Specifically, I ask for extra prayers for our sweet daughter, Stella, as she leaves her friends and will adjust to a new life, a new school, and new friends.
How can I help epikos during this transition? Pray and trust God for the future of the church. Pray that God would direct the process of identifying the next Lead Pastor. Stay committed to serving, giving, worshipping, and gathering in small groups. Because sometimes during transitions, the tendency is for people to step back and have a posture of “wait and see.” As a church, if collectively we instead say, “God we know you are with us, and so we are going to keep moving forward and trust you to do amazing things in us and through us,” we will see Him work.
I’m shocked/angry/mad/sad/confused/discouraged/nervous. Is that normal? If you’re feeling any of those, all of those, or switching between them, YES, that’s normal. Especially if this is unexpected fresh news, you may have a swirl of emotions. Anytime there is loss or change, people tend to experience a variety of emotions and cycle through them as they try to make sense of them and anticipate how it affects them personally.
Who do I go to if I have questions? A good place to start would be to reach out to your campus pastor: East Side, Pastor Dave (Dave@epikos.org); West Allis, Pastor Paul (Paul@epikos.org); North Side, Pastor Kurt (Kurt@epikos.org). You may also reach out to our Executive Pastor, Pastor Caleb (Caleb@epikos.org), or the Chairman of the Overseer Board, Gregg Bolt (Gregg@epikos.org). We believe transparency and open communication during this time will be really important, so don’t hesitate to reach out!