The Power of Many in ONE
Pastors from seven Elmhurst churches will gather in worship Sunday to remind everyone to work together for the greater good; the whole community is invited.
ONE Worship's two-page mission statement opens with a reference to Ephesians 4:3-6: "The ONE people have ONE faith, ONE Lord, ONE God, ONE baptism, and ONE hope." It concludes by stating, "We refuse to live in isolation or competition."
That is the premise—and the promise—of seven Elmhurst pastors who meet monthly for prayer, encouragement and the sharing of ideas.
Pastor Phil Miller of First Baptist Church of Elmhurst, is credited as the "moving force" behind ONE Worship.
"We bring our diversity under the unity of God's work in Christ," he said "I simply invite any pastor who agrees with this premise to join us."
And this Sunday, at 10 a.m., the seven churches will sponsor the second annual ONE Worship service at the Addison Street parking lot, on Addison between First and Second streets. An estimated 1,600 people are expected to attend.
Participating will be First Baptist/ELMchurch, Pathway Community Church, Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, West Suburban Community Church, Grace Bible Church, Bethel Assembly of God and Faith Evangelical United Methodist Church, but the entire community is invited.
"We wanted it to be public—not to be showy but to be a public testimony," Pastor Tim Bowman of Grace Bible Church said.
The expense for the event, including the cost for 1,600 chairs, portable toilets and literature, is being shouldered equally between the seven churches; they will not be collecting an offering at the event. Guest speaker Michael Quicke, a professor of homiletics (the study of how to best share the word of God) will deliver the sermon.
"We are very fortunate that Dr. Quicke is available to us," Bowman said.
Each of the seven pastors will be involved in the service in some capacity, but it's not about them.
"It's about the team," said Pastor Armand Madlangbayan of Bethel Assembly of God. "It's not about which style of music is used or who's preaching."
Pastor Jim Lennon of the West Suburban Community Church, echoed his sentiments.
"The ONE Worship event was designed with the intent of helping our congregations experience the same unity and shared ministry that we pastors were experiencing together," he said.
Some of the pastors have been meeting regularly with one another for years.
"I've been pastoring [in Elmhurst] for 10 years and have known Phil Miller of First Baptist and John Lennon of West Suburban the entire time I've been here," Bowman said. "We've been friends since the beginning."
But others involved are new kids on the block. Madlangbayan, for example, has only been in Elmhurst for four months. And Pastor Jason Turner of Faith Evangelical United Methodist has been at his post for only a year.
"Pastor Miller came over and sat and talked with me for a few hours and shared his burden for ONE Worship," Madlangbayan said. "I was so impressed by the spirit of the whole thing, I told him, 'I'm in.' "
Turner said he's been part of other clergy cluster groups at other pastorates, but none of them compares to what he's experienced since joining this group for monthly prayer and sharing.
"There is a spiritual chemistry between us," Turner said. "We even have a traveling trophy that the person with the best ministry story gets to keep until the next meeting."
The trophy, a Christmas tree-top angel, is a gentle reminder to keep it light when dealing with the many pressures of ministry.
The pastors' time together in prayer and in sharing their individual and corporate needs has empowered them to impact Elmhurst and help each other out in many ways.
Portland is a good case study for what is happening in Elmhurst, said Pastor Gregg DeMey of Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church. Some of the churches in Portland came together, privately and in a public worship service, and offered up a group of volunteers to help the city with its needs.
"The mayor of Portland was skeptical at first, but he was eventually won over because they put the people first," DeMey said. "And that is what we are trying to accomplish in Elmhurst."
The seven Elmhurst pastors started talking about what they could accomplish together that they couldn't do alone.
Sharefest and Feed My Starving Children are both initiatives of the ONE Worship team.
"The Sharefest event was a great success last year," Bowman said. "We went around Elmhurst and helped people who had service needs, like cleaning their basement or fixing their fences."
And Feed My Starving Children, a food packaging event, will be held Oct. 8 at Elmhurst Christian Reformed. The goal is to send 150,000 care packages to children in Africa.
The pastors also support each other's niche ministries, Bowman said.
For example, Grace Bible has a Keenagers program, which provides an afternoon of lunch and socialization to about 150 senior citizens on the second Tuesday of each month. And West Suburban offers a recovery program for those struggling with addiction.
"I send people I know who could benefit from the recovery program to West Sub, and Jim [Lennon] does the same for me with my Keenagers program," Bowman said.
Turner volunteered at Lennon's Vacation Bible School this year.
"I felt honored that Jim would trust me like that," Turner said.
And, they have even traded pulpits for a day.
"Jim and I switched," Bowman said. "He preached for me and I preached for him."
Pastor Miller, the "elder statesmen" of the group, said he hopes the ONE Worship service on Sunday will remind everyone to work together through compassionate service for the community and the world.
"It's time for there to be a big C of Jesus Christ in Elmhurst," Madlangbayan said. "We all have to put our pretenses aside and put our agendas in our pocket."