• Elizabeth Whitworth



This message showed up in Ron’s inbox a few days ago.

Ron, the sacrificial spirit dominating the Epikos family is amazing and impressive. Thanks to the Lord for that. Maybe since your coffers are not conference chained, you have more freedom to choose.”

It refers to the work that Epikos Church in Vancouver, Washington, has done to support a school and orphanage in a village in western Uganda since the church launched in 2008.

The people of Epikos have sent nearly $300,000 to build and staff an orphanage; provide thousands of new, Christian books; place new shoes on hundreds of kids’ and adults’ feet; build a church, dorm, and dining hall; and feed 300 children every school day. Read more

Why does Epikos do this? They have a Book-of-Acts Culture, which includes compassion for the “least of these”. And how does Epikos do this? They have Goldilocks Freedom. It’s the “just right” amount of freedom — not so much that it leads to chaos, and not so little that it results in suffocation.

A Book-of-Acts Culture and Goldilocks Freedom, combined with a Pivotal Design Team, are the bedrock principles of the Pivotal Design church model, which results in prevailing churches.


In addition to compassion for the “least of these”, it’s easy to see a Book-of-Acts Culture at work at Epikos. Everything is done with the Next Person in mind— that person who is far from God, that person who won’t go to heaven unless something changes. At Epikos, joy, fun, and laughter are normal, while they also share each other’s burdens and suffering. When an Epikosian experiences illness or the death of a loved one, the Meals Ministry springs into action. When someone has to go to family court, she doesn’t go alone. When someone ends up in jail or rehab, he gets letters from his Epikos family.


From the beginning, the Epikos leadership has been strategically assembled. A Pivotal Design team includes a leader of leaders and at least two others who have the gift of leadership and a specialty, such as preaching, teaching, or strategic planning.

The Epikos staff is diverse in education, gender, experience, age, and giftedness. But we share a heart for people and the Great Commission, and we enjoy synergy and a healthy team culture. Ron and I got Epikos going at the beginning, and we still serve on staff. Sam McKee (teaching pastor and relational architect) joined us a few months later after serving as a denominational pastor. Then we added Steve Hotra, a worship pastor from a non-denominational background, and Christy Davidson, a children’s ministry pastor with experience in and outside of the denomination.

More recently, Christina Rafano has joined the staff as our youth leader. She was raised in a Catholic home but didn’t go to church or read the Bible. She came to love the Bible and embrace our distinctive doctrines in an Epic Questions class at Epikos. A few years ago, Michelle Doyle received a postcard from Epikos and decided to check out the newest “wacko” church in the community. She later was baptized, attended two rounds of Epikos’ Restoration-U discipleship program, and has just joined our staff as the director of communications and logistics. Both Christina and Michelle sense a growing call to ministry while maintaining a missionary presence in the marketplace.

That brings us to Mike Larson, whom we told you about last month. He pastored in the denomination for over ten years, but he left last spring when he came to the realization that he lacked the freedom necessary to truly lead a church in the direction that God was calling. This month, Mike joins the Epikos staff as a full-time pastor. Epikos is staffing for growth.


That email that Ron received about Uganda says it: Maybe since your coffers are not conference chained, you have more freedom to choose. We chose Ntandi, Uganda. We opt to continue to concentrate our overseas missions in that one place. We decide how much we will invest in what projects. The impact is cumulative and powerful. We owe this impact to generous church members, wise leaders, and Goldilocks Freedom. That’s true for all of our budget decisions.

Just-right Freedom is also what makes it possible for us to staff for growth. Not only do we have the flexibility to add staff when we need it, we don’t have to worry about our pastors being called away to another church.

When you bring together these principles — Goldilocks Freedom, Pivotal Design Team, and Book-of-Acts Culture — a church prevails. Epikos is prevailing, and we know that we owe it to these principles, God’s blessing, and generous supporters like you.

So I have a question for you: How would you like to be involved? In what way is God prompting you to help start a prevailing church either in your city or wherever God moves next? What is your next move?

Start the conversation by contacting us, and together we’ll explore where God is leading!



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PO Box 873520
Vancouver WA 98687