Subject: Epps’ article for 02.09.07

Father David Epps's picture

It is 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning and I am in Champaign-Urbana, Ill., where it is currently seven degrees below zero with a wind chill factor of minus 22 degrees.

I don’t think I have ever been in a colder place. I once stood atop a glacier in Canada and drank water that was taken from the interior of the glacier that was 900 years old, but it wasn’t this cold.

As I was driving in from the airport in Bloomington last night, the windows iced over as I was driving. It was a clear night with no precipitation but, from somewhere, the ice came. My bishop, John Holloway, accompanying me on this trip, said that it doesn’t get too cold for him. He has met his match in the frigid Illinois winter weather.

We are here to meet and worship with a handful of people and to plant a church. Actually, this will be my fifth meeting in Champaign County to establish what is now Christ the King mission, a pioneer work in the Eastern Province of our denomination.

When we first began Christ the King Church in Sharpsburg, Ga., in September 1996, we believed that we would assist in the establishment of several churches over the years. We met for a few weeks in my home in Sharpsburg, and then met for over six years in the chapel of a funeral home in Peachtree City. Then, in November 2002, we returned to Sharpsburg to occupy our new sanctuary.

During that time, we assisted in the planting of St. Matthew’s in Hogansville, where we also began in a home. Later, Church of the Holy Cross, of Fayetteville, which spent significant time meeting in a living room, was birthed. Now, both congregations, small but growing, have their own rented spaced where they can minister seven days a week.

The reason that we are in Illinois doing the same thing is because there is a need and we know of no one else to do it. The idea of the Illinois church was born when a church of our denomination, which was established in this area, decided to leave our communion.

Two ladies, who had connections with our congregation in Georgia and who had been part of the Illinois church did not want to leave our denomination. So, we decided to be certain that they received spiritual “covering” and nourishment. Soon, I discovered that there was a third person and, upon my first visit to Champaign County, we discovered that there were two more.

It may defy logic to launch a mission several hundred miles away for the sake of five people, but all that I can say about that is that we knew we should do it. “Can’t those people attend church somewhere else?” one might legitimately ask.

The answer to that would be, “Yes, they could.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to encourage them to join an existing congregation?”

Again the answer would be “Yes it would.”

However, I learned a long time ago, that there are times when following the will of God simply defies logic. In 1996, I left an established position in a great church to become a pioneer pastor for the first time. I was 45 years old, had been married 25 years and, finally, had achieved a measure of success and financial security. I had seen our church grow from 76 members to over 600 and had seen attendance rise from 75 to, at times, over 500 (not often, mind you, but there were those times).

In August of 1996, I left it to begin a church that would start out with 11 people plus members of my own family. It would have been easier and more financially beneficial to stay where I was. It would have even been logical. But, I believe that I was hearing and following the will of God.

I would never have experienced the great adventure I have discovered had I listened to logic and, truthfully, I’m not sure my former church would have accomplished all that it has in the last several years had I remained its senior pastor.

So, here I am in Illinois looking forward to a meeting tonight in the Senator’s Inn and Pub in Savoy, Ill., a few miles south of Champaign-Urbana. After meeting in a home for three months, we moved into the Inn.

The beautiful brick building was built in 1915 and is the former mansion of Senator Henry M. Dunlap. Today, it is an elegant bed and breakfast facility. There’s some history here.

The original house on this property, owned by Matthias Dunlap was said to have been visited by Abraham Lincoln and was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad for fleeing slaves. At one time, the current 25-room house was the largest in the community. Tonight, it will also be the gathering place of Christ the King Church.

The last time we met, we had 11 people in the service. In my younger days, I would have issued a press release announcing that we had grown by over 500 percent in just five months!

The truth is that we began with two and last time we had 11. Fortunately, I’ve outgrown the need to impress others with meaningless statistics and now am just grateful that “where two or three are gathered in His name” the Lord is in their midst.

Tonight we will gather to sing, to pray, to read scriptures, to minister to each other and to receive Holy Communion. Bishop Holloway will preach and serve the bread and wine to this tiny flock and, tomorrow, we will fly back to Georgia.

Someday, there will be another pastor and they will have their own building. For now, however, and for the foreseeable future, the miles and the temperature — and logic — will be given no consideration as God begins a work among his precious people in Champaign County, Ill.

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