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You’ve Got Mail

Feb 12, 2024

In November, three Charis Fellowship pastors from northern Indiana collaborated on a traveling sermon series. Each pastor prepared a message from a Pauline letter, and the three pastors rotated through each other’s churches for a three-week series. Pastors Tim Sprankle (Leesburg Grace Church in Leesburg, Ind.), Jeremy Wike (Community of Hope Grace Brethren Church in Columbia City, Ind.), and Kip Cone (Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church in Winona Lake, Ind.) share about their experience below.

Genesis of the Series (Written by Tim Sprankle)
For years Jeremy, Kip, and I toyed with the idea of collaborating on a sermon series together. It finally came to fruition when Kip pulled Jeremy and me aside at the end of our quarterly Heartland Leadership Meeting in February 2023. Winona Lake Grace had a “Year through the Bible” campaign going, using a chronological Bible. Toward the end of the year, they would finally arrive at the epistles. Thus, Kip cast the vision for three sermons on three letters from Paul. Jeremy and I latched on to the idea, selected letters, and saved the dates. The three of us met a couple times before preaching to make sure we were aligned in our content, aware of our audiences, and on track for the series. For our last meeting, Winona Lake Grace’s Director of Sunday Services, Steve Divine, filmed a bumper video we showed each week at each location.

Rationale for the Series (Written by Tim Sprankle)
The medium of epistles lended itself to itinerant preaching. Paul did not always show up where he sent his letter (e.g., Philippians), but sent his letter bearer (e.g., Epaphroditus) as his proxy. Moreover, these letters knit together the early church from Jerusalem to Macedonia to Asia Minor. New Testament letters have traveled well across space and time. We figured Colossians/Philemon, Galatians, and Philippians could cover the distance between Columbia City, Winona Lake, and Leesburg. They did, indeed.

Wins for the Series (Written by Jeremy Wike)
Every local church has its distinctive personality, passions, and preaching styles. Nonetheless, there is so much we Charis Fellowship churches have in common that is largely overlooked by the average congregant. Having a different voice and a clear model achieving unity amidst diversity was a great way for our churches to appreciate a fresh angle with the mostly familiar epistles of Paul.

For the three of us pastors, it was efficient to write one sermon that we modified minimally for three weeks in a row. We were able to get a taste of each other’s contexts that we are unable to get otherwise (because we all have to be at the same place at the same time on Sunday mornings).

For our churches, each was able to have a mostly welcome change of pace. Each was able to hear words of encouragement and admonition that can be difficult for us to say to our own flock. All in all, it was the best of what “family” is supposed to be. Each of us was able to meet new members of our larger family in the Fellowship, as well as re-connect with some we hadn’t seen for some time. This was so much fun, we already have it on our preaching calendars for this fall!

Unexpected Blessing of the Series (Written by Kip Cone)
During the series, we discovered something serendipitously. The final Sunday of the rotation happened to be the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Because we had already preached our sermons on the previous two Sundays, it meant that we were all very well prepared and practiced for the last Sunday. As a result, we were all able to relax, focus on family, and really enjoy Thanksgiving (not a given when you’re a pastor). That was an unplanned blessing and another practical reason for trying something like this.

See the series introduction video and Pastor Tim explain the series in a video from Winona Lake Grace here.