At its fall meeting, the Christian Education and Publication Committee (CEP) called teaching elder Dr. Stephen Estock to be the provisional coordinator of CEP, effective Jan. 1, 2013. Estock’s name will be placed before the 2013 General Assembly for its approval and concurrence with the call. Estock will replace Dr. Charles Dunahoo, who served as coordinator for 36 years.
ByFaith spoke with Estock about his preparation for the job and a few of his goals for CEP.
Tell us a little about why you want to be the CEP coordinator and how God has led you to this place at this time?
When I was ordained in 1995, I was one of those young pastors who believed functionally that making disciples according to the Great Commission hinged almost solely on preaching the Word in the context of the weekly worship service. Over years of service in the local church, I have realized that my view of discipleship was too narrow. God uses the entire life of the covenant community (e.g., the weekly worship service, small groups, “Sunday school,” outreach events, etc.) to sanctify His people, shaping them into the image of Christ and using them to influence the world for His glory.
My convictions concerning this more comprehensive view of discipleship have deepened in my current role at The Kirk of the Hills [in St. Louis, Mo.]. When I began my Ph.D. studies in 2004, I decided to pursue a degree in education so that I would be better equipped to help others in the congregation as they taught the Word in the classroom and small-group environments as well as through the sermon.
My passion for education and discipleship ministry moved me to seek election to the CEP Permanent Committee in 2006. After the General Assembly elected me to serve in that way, I began to see all of the great resources that exist in the denomination. My excitement and passion grew when the committee elected me to serve as chairman, and I was able to work more closely with Charles Dunahoo and the CEP staff to provide resources for the denomination.
When someone first mentioned to me a few years ago that I should consider applying for the position of coordinator when Charles decided to step down, I resisted. I really love the ministry of the local church, and I did not see myself as an administrator. Over the last year or so, others have challenged me to take my love for the ministry of the local church and use it to shape what I would do in the role of CEP coordinator. I eagerly desire for local church leaders to see CEP as a key resource to help them in their discipleship ministry.
Some of our readers may not know exactly what CEP does. Can you tell them, briefly, why CEP is a part of the denomination?
As I’ve announced the news to people at The Kirk, some have asked me, “What is CEP?” When I hear that, I realize that I could have been a more effective member of the Permanent Committee, which is humbling. I then tell them that the Permanent Committee on Christian Education and Publications (besides being a mouthful) was one of the original program committees when the denomination formed in 1973. CEP exists to connect and equip the members of the church, especially providing leaders in the local church with resources and training to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12).
As we look ahead, how do you see the role of CEP evolving? In the next five years, how will CEP make us a stronger denomination?
In order to keep up with the change in our culture and the ministry of the local church, CEP must move more and more into the world of electronic media. For various reasons, some of our churches will continue to need and use printed products, but more and more congregations will be using e-resources. In order to serve the church effectively, we need to learn more about and address the need.
Also, we need to keep in mind that more people (children, youth, and adults) need visual helps in order to learn. Fewer people in the Western world are strictly auditory learners, because we swim in a culture of images. In order to serve the local church, we need to stay current in understanding and addressing how people learn in today’s culture.
I eagerly desire for CEP to partner with the other committees and agencies to understand and address the needs of the local church. I must confess that in the past, I saw “Atlanta” as a group of bureaucrats who did not care about what I was doing in the local church. After serving on the Permanent Committee, I realized that my perception was unjust. At the same time, I realize that as a coordinator, I need to take the initiative to do what I can to change the perception that some in our denomination have regarding the offices in Atlanta.
Do you have a handful of short-term goals? What do you hope accomplish in, say, your first six months?
Four things come to mind based on my interaction/interview with the Search Committee and the Permanent Committee:
I want to work with the members of the Permanent Committee to emphasize our focus on and commitment to discipleship in the local church. Our message is that we want to build new structures on the solid foundation that has already been laid.
I want to update our website (I like what the AC has done with the denominational website) to help members of the local church find resources to help them in their discipleship ministry.
I want to begin a process of regular contact with leaders in the local church to understand better their needs and how CEP can connect those leaders with people and resources to help them in their ministry.
I want to schedule time with the heads of the other committees and agencies to get their input on how CEP can partner with them to serve the needs of members in the local church.