In the last five years, the number of churches in the Evangelical Protestant Church denomination has jumped from 183 to 560.
Most of the new EPC members are transfers, churches asking to join from other denominations. The sudden jump in numbers caused the EPC leadership to better define the denomination’s mission and look toward starting new churches.
In late June, the Rev. Mike Moses, founding pastor of Lake Forest Church in Huntersville, was elected to lead the denomination as it begins this new stage of growth.
“Our question is, ‘Can we move from transfer growth to transformational growth, planting new congregations that are contextualized to serve new populations and new communities in the United States?’” Moses said.
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Moses will serve a one-year term as moderator of the EPC, which has more than 150,000 members nationwide. He will lead the EPC governing board in vision and strategic planning while continuing to be lead pastor of Lake Forest.
Bill Enns, a retired EPC pastor who now is the associate executive at the EPC’s Office of the General Assembly, said the denomination was eager to choose a leader with Moses’ passion and vision.
“First of all, we probably don’t have a better example of how to plant a church and continue to plant churches than Mike Moses,” Enns said. “The other thing that Mike brings is not only a passion for church planting, but also a passion for the gospel.”
Moses began Lake Forest Church in 1998 with the help of Forest Hill Church in Charlotte. The church started with 42 people meeting in a skating rink in Huntersville that is now a Toyota dealership.
Two years later, Lake Forest moved to the Lake Norman YMCA, and in 2006 it opened the doors of a new church building on Gilead Road. The church now has more than 2,000 members.
In recent years, Lake Forest has started new churches in Davidson and Denver. Each new church has its own pastor and staff, but is still considered part of Lake Forest Church.
Moses laughs that he wasn’t “looking for more things to do” when he was approached about the moderator position about a year and a half ago.
But his experience fit well with EPC’s vision. Along with helping to start new churches, Moses said he coaches church planters and teaches graduate-level courses in church planting.
The EPC began forming in late 1980 when a group of Presbyterian pastors came together with concerns about increasingly liberal theology and institutional resistance to change within their denominations. They adopted the motto, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity; truth in love,” and in 1981 officially established the EPC.
The recent influx of new churches to the denomination, Enns said, is largely due to churches leaving the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination over its “pretty radical theological turns” primarily concerning the “authority of scripture and the supremacy of Jesus Christ in salvation.”
Moses said that he likes that the EPC is formed of so many different types of churches. All EPC churches adhere to the historic Christian faith represented by the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed, but their styles vary widely.
Charlotte area EPC churches include St. Giles Presbyterian, Warehouse 242, Faith Liberation Church, Threshold Church and The Village Church. One recent member is Centre Presbyterian in Mooresville, which celebrated its 250th birthday this year.
The EPC moderator job typically involves a lot of traveling and speaking to formally represent the denomination, but Moses said that’s “not really possible for me as a pastor of a growing church.”
Instead, EPC leadership has agreed that he will focus on continuing to clarify the church’s vision and executing its strategy. Moses also will work with churches and presbyteries as they implement the EPC’s church planting mission.
“I think Mike brings a pastor’s heart and a visionary’s passion to the entire denomination,” Enns said. “His role this year will be to circulate in the various presbyteries, as the affirmer of our ministries together.”
Moses said that his new role “accelerates my need to delegate” responsibility at Lake Forest, and he will be involved less in the day-to-day operations of the church.
He’ll be helping other churches start other churches, but he notes the EPC’s goal is not to increase the size of the institution.
“We see the denomination as simply a way of extending the community of people who follow Jesus together and inviting other people into God’s love by following Jesus together.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.