The Greek word “epikos” means epic. Dictionaries define epic as “pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of significant achievements or events is narrated in elevated style.”
There are a few reasons why this name is fitting for our church. The primary one is that an epic, by definition, is a narrative based upon a central character or hero. The hero in our story is Jesus. Secondly, an epic is a longer poetic composition. Everyone’s walk with Christ truly is poetry; “For we are God’s masterpiece” (Ephesians 2:10). It is our hope and prayer that God will be the composer of this transformational community. The final reason is that “epic” is often used to refer to something significant. We are trusting God to do something big in us and through us. We pray that Milwaukee will be impacted for Christ in a huge way.
Danny Parmelee, the founder and former Lead Pastor of epikos, made a faith commitment to Christ while a freshman at the University of WI-Oshkosh. Rescued from a life of self-indulgence and destruction, he sought God’s will for his life. While part of a campus ministry, he saw many people like himself come to faith and become transformed by the power of the gospel. While he was encouraged by God’s movement on campus, he realized in contrast, many churches in America were failing to reach his generation. His passion to see people reached for Christ in conjunction with his awareness of the dire need for relevant churches sparked a call to full time ministry, specifically church leadership. He changed his major to Religious Studies and prayed for God’s direction in his life. God stirred in him a call to launch a church that would transform lives, neighborhoods, even a city. He met his wife Emili, during this time and the summer after graduating from college they were married and moved to St. Paul, MN where he earned his Masters of Divinity from Bethel Theological Seminary.
Danny and Emili settled into Milwaukee in January 2004. They found a perfect two-bedroom flat just off of Brady Street with a big living room. Danny camped out at coffee shops, bookshops, basically anywhere people were, so that he could strike up conversations, talk about Jesus, and cast the vision for a new church in the area. Starting with a small group in their living room, they multiplied to four small groups. By spring, word began to spread and another small group was started. On January 8, 2005, epikos officially launched as a church. We rented Westminster Presbyterian Church on Saturday nights, eventually adding a Sunday night service as well.
In 2009, the opportunity to purchase Westminster Presbyterian Church allowed us to have morning and evening services. The staff team was growing and the church continued to reach people with the gospel. Small groups were central to keeping people connected and growing.
By 2011, space was running out. The leaders of the church explored the possibility of expanding epikos to another location. The iconic Paradise Theater in West Allis went up for sale and was a perfect fit, though it required a lot of renovation and remodeling. Epikos purchased the theater in June 2011, and went to work. June 10, 2012 was the grand opening of epikos Church–West Allis.
In 2015, epikos sensed God’s call to add a location on Milwaukee’s North Side, and on August 7, 2016 epikos Church–North Side was launched.
The Story Continues
God continues to bring amazing people to epikos. We welcome those who are broken, hurting, even far from God, with great joy, to be transformed by the grace of Christ.
Our mission and purpose is not new or creative. Jesus commanded his dedicated followers to, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all I have commanded” (Matthew 28:19–20). Those twelve followed his command and revolutionized the world. We want to continue Jesus’s command by “making disciples.” A disciple is one who has accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, and who is committed to living out what Jesus taught and exemplified.
We believe that the process of discipleship happens best through corporate worship and relationships formed in the context of small groups that study of the word of God and pray together. With this structure we believe it is possible as a church to “grow big, but stay small.” By that we mean that our church can continue to grow numerically while not forsaking relational intimacy and depth in discipleship. It’s our desire to continue to grow and multiply what God has done in us and through us.