The Important Factors in Mission Founding

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On this Great Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I wish you all the best of the day and pray that you all are working on your transfiguration. To some this means Theosis which is a product of this great event in Christ’s life. May his light shine upon you and instill you with the Holy Spirit..

One of the great Homilies I have ever heard is from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom (Blessed Memory). One of the greatest bishops of the Church in the modern era. A true Diocesan Bishop in Great Britain and Ireland. My Priest Fr. Paul Jannakos sent us all his fine Homily on the Transfiguration. In it he ends with this:

“There are moments when we also see something that is beyond us, and how much we wish we could stay, stay forever in his blissful condition; and it is not only because we are incapable of it that we are not allowed to stay in it, but because the Lord says, you are not on the Mount of Transfiguration, you have seen Christ ready to be crucified for the life of the world – go now together with Him, go now in His name, go now , go now , and bring people to Him that they may live! (my emphasis)

Met. Anthony is referring of course to our main goal in life as an Orthodox Christian and that is to be guided by and active in supporting Christ Great Commission (Matt.28:19-20). Many of us who have been engaged in this Commandment have made it a lifelong endeavor. No bragging rights here, it’s all of the Holy Spirit which has guided me personally over the past 38 years after the founding of my principal parish of St. Luke the Evangelist, Palos Hills, IL. OCA ( Presently I have helped plant 5 churches in the past 15 years. I am attaching a piece below entitled “So you want to start a Mission?” which is a guide to the effort and expertise needed to make a mission successful and to be named a church. It is what I like to call the “St. Luke Model”.

St. Luke is 38 years old now. Its founders initially totaled 17 adult families and now only 6 are alive. The Antiochian Archdiocese in the 80’s recommended at least 25 families start a Parish. I personally have found that this is by far the best number. St. Luke is now a mid-size parish of 250 adults and children. We were instrumental in founding 3 other churches in the metro Chicagoland area. If we had kept all the members, St Luke would be the size of 800 families!

St. Luke was founded with the purpose of :

1) Worshipping exclusively in the English language – Chicagoland, even in the 8o’s, used English at best 50/50 in Liturgy.
2) Reaching out to the “mixed marriages” of couples who were for many reason not active Orthodox or in non-Orthodox churches. Today our congregation is 70% “mixed marriages.”;
3) Providing an open Christian environment for the unchurched, unsettled orthodox and newcomers; and.
4) Providing dynamic Christian education for you and adults.

I want to impress upon you that there is nothing easy about church planting. In fact St. Luke’s took every bit of 10 years to get a firm foundation and find a Parish Priest match. Our founding Bishop Boris told us he would make sure a priest was there every Sunday until we could afford one. He never wavered on that promise. Only 5 years later, a group of 30 of our members founded St. Joseph’s in the western Chicago suburbs. After Bp. Boris’ retirement we want without a Diocesan Bishop for 4 years. Then in Year 1994 our new Bishop Job brought in a new Priest, Fr. Andrew Harrison, who built our Parish into what it is today and retired as Priest Emeritus after 20 years. The basic “modus Operandi” of our parish is ministry. We have taken each person’s abilities (Gifts) and put them in charge of the various functions, giving each “ownership” in parish life. If the Priest tries to do it all himself he is doomed for failure.

I will leave you with the founding of two of the 5 Parishes that the Great Evangelist Fr. Peter Gillquist (Blessed Memory) asked me to help and watch over from their beginning. St. Peter Church , Bonita Springs -Ft.. Myers, FL. lead by Fr. Hans Jacobse started with 20 families in 2010. After 5 years moved with 40 to another location in a Business Park. In the next 5 years 2021 bought a presbyterian parish that failed for $1.9 million! Now well over 100 families with space for 300.

The parish of St. Ananias , Evansville, In. started about 2009 with only 10 families but a full time priest , Fr. Dan Hackney “a street evangelist”. Fr. Dan had no financial worries since his wife was a full time nurse. In 5 years starting with about 20 members they have grown to now 60. They just bought a Methodist Church that failed as well.

Lee KopulosSo I hope you can see that mission planting is difficult. It takes time and in smaller markets much more time. OCA Archbishop Paul (Blessed Memory) was a missionary Priest for many years in Kokomo, In. He knew there were times that a priest had to go without or needed monies to enhance his ministry and/or education. A little bit of money would be very helpful . This is the support we at STF are blessed to do and to give.

In service to Christ on this Holy Day of His Transfiguration,

Chairman Lee Kopulos of Share the Faith

So You Want to Start an Orthodox Mission Church?

Starting a Mission Church: The St. Luke Model

What to do and How to do it.

The Importance of the Core Group – Coming to Grips with the Challenge

The Model is taken from the organizational design of St. Luke Orthodox Christian Church, Palos Hills, Ill., founded in 1984. From its very beginning this group of Orthodox Christians began a Mission Church from scratch with only 17 Founders.  The number of Founders in this case was a bit small, it is recommended that 25 families is far better given the income and outreach needed for growth.  However, this group had an incredible desire to succeed no matter the challenge. The Holy Spirit was alive in them! In addition, the group had a second feature of importance – talent.   Most of them had at least 15 years of experience in Orthodoxy – teaching, singing, church board administration and finance to name a few.  And, they were very well known in their previous churches and the geographical area. Finally, there was purpose in the group.  From an evening Bible Study program came a strong need to move beyond ethnic boundaries.  In their experience, the needs of Orthodox Christians in the Chicagoland area were not being met.  A new parish dedicated to witnessing to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ transcended their thinking by offering:

  • Worship exclusively in the English language;
  • An open Christian environment for the unchurched Orthodox, unsettled Orthodox, newcomer to the church, but mostly to attract the large number of “mixed marriagesnot in the church;
  • Providing dynamic Christian education for youth and adults;
  • Becoming a resource center for Orthodox Christian literature;
  • Strengthening everyone’s relationship with our Lord and one another.

It didn’t take long for this Mission to get established and grow.  The group found a church building in close proximity to Moraine Valley Community College for worship.  Soon it grew from 17 to 42 to 92 adults in 2 years. His Grace Bishop Boris (Blessed Memory) made sure that St. Luke had a priest every Sunday for Liturgy.

This mission blossomed solidly into church status beginning in its 10th year when Fr. Andrew Harrison became rector and added a very important, the  missing link – a ministry for everyone.  Each person(s) unique talent(s) were put to work in a cohesive whole towards Jesus’ Great Commission too, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, ………………….” (Mt. 28:19-20)

If you want to start an Orthodox Mission Church you must have:

  1.  Desire
  2. Talent
  3. Experience 
  4. Be Well Known
  5. Purpose
  6. Ministry

 The St. Luke Model

This Model has been fully tested a number of times in a variety of geographical markets. It has been implemented in large metro, medium and small cities.  Currently, two Antiochian Parishes are using it:  St. Peter, Bonita Springs, FL. (Fr. Hans Jacobse) and St. Ananias Evansville, IN.  (Fr. Daniel Hackney).  They are the result of the efforts of Fr. Peter Gillquist (Blessed Memory) and me since 2011.  Both parishes have grown 10-15 fold over their beginning numbers by following the 9 Point St. Luke  Model explained below:

  • The Priest. Take care and love your assigned priest.  Make sure he has enough  income and organizational support and understands a ministry for everyone; (Share the Faith can assist in providing income while you are getting started)
  • Be hospitable in your welcoming of visitors!  Have a greeter for helping guests during worship, refreshments and follow-up after the visit.
  • The Choir. Make sure you have a choir or small group of singers who sound in harmony and give great beauty to the Divine Liturgy.  It deserves it.
  • Web-site. You must have a web-site that gives directions and hours of services.  Hopefully it will have pictures of the priest, info on Orthodoxy and an up-to-date calendar of activities.
  • Be In Community.  Be visible in the communities you serve by participating in local food programs for the poor and needy thru special events.  The Priest should be active in the local clergy association. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke: 10:27) (Also: Gal: 5:14 & Matt:25)
  • Monthly Charity Giving. Apart from your internal contributions, allocate 10% of member income for Charity. “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Mt. 10:8)
  • Bible Study. Hold a Bible Study each week open to parishioners and outsiders.
  • Personal Ministry. The Priest should know membership talents.  He would do well to assign a like ministry to each. Each person has a God-given talent that needs to be utilized and encouraged. “And He Himself some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and some teachers, + for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”  (Eph: 4:11-12)
  • Evangelism Ministry.* Witnessing for our Lord and Savior (Acts: 1:8) can be difficult for many. Not everyone can perform this task effectively. However everyone should be able to relate the essential features of Orthodox Christianity and/or provide a brochure explaining the Faith and its history.  Each mission should have purchased the display rack and pamphlets from Ancient Faith Publishing.  Each member should have the basic pamphlets:  Timeline of Church History; What on Earth is the Orthodox Church; Welcome to Your Mission Church; What Orthodox Christians Believe and a great book for seekers – Ask for the ANCIENT PATHS: Discovering What Church is Meant to Be.   

Lee Kopulos

Chairman, Share the Faith


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