In Retrospect #50

Since 1965 Christ Church of Oak Brook has sought to be a community of disciples where the worship of God, the spiritual growth of people, and the service of God’s kingdom are pursued with passion and excellence.

I was the Associate Pastor of Christ Church of Oak Brook (CCOB), IL for 30 wonderful and yet very tough months – 1972-75. While at CCOB, the church grew from less than 1000 to 2300 members. It would be much easier for me to write only about the highlights, the successes, the easy times etc. I do not think this would be most helpful to you, or honest of me. When we left, I believe the senior pastor was relieved. I will do my very best to write from my heart….

Pastor Arthur DeKruyter was the founding pastor of this unique, thriving church, and a man who had the courage to significantly change his understanding of God’s desired involvement in people’s lives, and to change his approach to ministry. He wrote about these transitions in his book, Journey into Joy. It takes tremendous courage for a person who was incredibly successful in founding and leading a healthy, growing church (6 families to perhaps 4,000 people when he retired) to consider serious personal change, but he did. We were there before this transformation occurred. When I returned on a Sunday morning, perhaps 15 years later, I was welcomed with a hug and a big smile!

This was the only time our family had the privilege of living near extended family. None of us knew we would have this privilege for less than three years. Although we lived within 30 minutes of my parents, two brothers and their families – and 30 minutes from Sally Jo’s parents and her brother and family, we did not see any of them nearly as much as we thought we would. They were busy and we were busy and we just did not carve out time for each other. Again, wonderful times and some tough ones.

I did not realize some of the impact of my ministry at CCOB until we returned for the church’s 40th anniversary celebration. The church had remained focused on its mission and the congregation had grown to over 6,000.

On Saturday evening there was a dinner when we had the opportunity of seeing many people we had enjoyed during our “Oak Brook years.” During the course of the evening David Melvin, Executive Pastor of CCOB, told me I was a pivotal reason he was in the ministry. He reminded me of a conversation we had 25 years before. We had talked about the fact that he had felt he should go into the ministry for some time, but, as I remember, he had a wife and children, and no significant financial resources. I did not know his parents, but was 99% sure they had very considerable financial resources. I suggested he go to them, tell them his heart’s desire and the financial obstacle he faced – and ask if they would be willing to help. No one in his family had gone into full time Christian vocation, and he did not know how this request would be received. I gave no further thought to the conversation. And here he was, thanking me for my role in his becoming a minister.

On Sunday morning, as we walked toward the sanctuary, many of the elders were in the large foyer welcoming people to church, most often by name. One of these elders welcomed us, and asked our names. I said that I was Chuck Gieser, Associate Pastor of the church for about 3 years. His response blew me away. “You were here for only three years? What an incredible legacy you left.”

After the service a man introduced himself and said that when he was 12 he interviewed me for a school paper he was writing. After our time together he decided he would go into the ministry. I had no clue!

While at CCOB I saw excellence in ministry modeled, worked with and was mentored by incredible people, was encouraged to use my gifts/abilities in the organization and implementation of many different ministries, experienced the reality of God in life-changing ways, gained insight into my strengths and weaknesses, and decided in many areas what I would seek to do and not do, all of which helped prepare me for further ministry.

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