After our first church plant information meeting in mid April, it became clear that though there were people interested in seeing a new church plant in Libertyville, both the time was not right for an SBC plant in this community, because of recent events with an SBC church folding in the community, and there were not enough people who had an unflinching, earnest, burden to see a church planted at this time. The dynamic and critical mass was not present. Though discouraging as this was, it caused me to take seriously the counsel that many had given. What was that counsel? It was that, perhaps, I should not attempt to study a PhD and plant a church at the same time. That’s pretty wise counsel, wouldn’t you say?
In one lunch conversation with a mentor, my friend asked me, “Which do you really desire to do right now? If you had to pick one, which would it be? PhD or church planting?” The answer was difficult to admit, but it was pretty clear, PhD studies would win the day. I probably couldn’t drop the responsibility of leading a church to study a PhD. It would be wiser to study first and plant second.
The Lord had already opened the way for studying a PhD at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with Dr. Doug Sweeney in the Church History department. Whereas, it appeared that the door was closed for planting a church in Libertyville at this time.
So Kendall and I started earnestly praying about how I would go about studying my PhD at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School while also providing for our family at the same time. Then one afternoon as I was running errands for my family, Todd Wilson from Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park called me. By this time, Todd and I had gotten lunch a few times, and he had been a great encouragement to me both pastorally and academically. Todd, perhaps not even knowing what was going on in my mind and heart, asked me to pray about serving at Calvary Memorial Church while I study my PhD.
Todd and another pastor at Calvary Memorial, Gerald Hiestand, are founders of the Center for Pastor Theologians. CPT is an organization that’s mission is to reclaim the office of the pastor as the pastor-theologian.
Here’s how they put it on their website:
“CPT is an evangelical organization dedicated to assisting pastor-theologians in producing and studying biblical and theological scholarship for the ecclesial renewal of theology, and the theological renewal of the church. At present, the primary mission emphasis of CPT is the CPT Fellowships, made up of a broadly diverse and select group of pastor-theologians. Each Fellowship gathers annually for a three-day theological symposium where Fellows collaborate together on various theological projects (both personal and corporate).”
Pastors, who hold a PhD, are qualified to apply to join one of the fellowships that CPT offers. Together these fellowships write and discuss on theological topics that require the studied eye of academicians and pastors working together.
If you’re reading this, and you know me, you’re saying to yourself, “Sounds like a great fit for Joey.”
As Todd described to me the particular needs that the Church and CPT knew it would have beginning this Summer, we both agreed that I had the skill set, experience, and also burden for these needs. I might indeed be a fit for these two ministries. So during the month of May and the first week of June I started a candidacy process with the staff and the elders of the Church.
I’m really pleased and excited to share with you that beginning Monday I will serve as the Pastor of Middle School Discipleship and Communications at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park. Even now, Kendall and I are reeling with the surreal sensation of this news.
The last two years have met us with many challenges. Yet, as a family we’ve grown closer to one another and to the Lord as we have walked through those challenges. I’m very thankful for my loving, supportive wife who has encouraged me all the way through this process. Kendall is an amazing woman.
I’m also very thankful for all of you who have read, prayed, encouraged, and given to help us in our current work of ministry. All this has not been in vain.
Both Kendall and I know that this story is not finished. We just have a sense of certainty to what the next steps of our lives in Chicagoland will look like. It will look like moving into a very densely populated, urban context — filled with busy people with busy lives. Oak Park is very close to the city. In this context we’ll drop and shine the precious light of the gospel. We’ll do so alongside our other friends who are experienced and seasoned veterans in these trenches.
I sense that this will be a rewarding time of continual training in pastoral ministry, along with more clarity to what my calling is as a pastor. We look forward to calling Calvary Memorial Church and Oak Park home for the next season of time while I study a PhD. I look forward to the mentoring and shepherding that I will sit under during this time. It will be a very sweet time for our family.
Besides getting moved to Oak Park and starting a new pastoral role, I’m doing an independent study on Jonathan Edwards with my PhD supervisor, Dr. Doug Sweeney. Just the other day, I registered for my Fall classes and already am excited about studying with Kevin Vanhoozer, Don Carson, and others.
In August, our family has the pleasure of traveling to Whidbey Island, off the coast of Washington State, where I have been invited to preach all week for a 4th-6th grade boys summer camp. It’s going to be a fun family trip for Kendall, I, and our kiddos, so we’re really looking forward to that time of ministry with our friends at Lakeside Bible Camp. And we can’t wait to spend time with my good friend Daniel Jensen, who is the camp director, and meet his wife.
Chloe and Asher are currently involved in a Summer reading program at the public library. I’m actually writing this update in the Batavia Library. Both Asher and Adalie have June birthdays, so we’re hoping to have a wonderful celebration for them before we move. Adalie is starting to talk like a chatterbox now that she is almost two. Chloe asked for a phone the other day. Kendall and I said no, and we will be saying so for a very long time. When she gets one, she’ll probably be the last earthling to have a flip-phone. And, Kendall, well, did I mention we’re moving? So, she’s on Etsy, Pinterest, and Redfin, thinking through repurposing ideas, mortgage calculations, elementary schools, and possible living scenarios. I’m right there next to her, amazed by her brilliance.
Please pray that this Summer we’ll get relocated and settled in a new home with a new church family. Please pray that this will begin a new sweet season of ministry for our family.
We really appreciate all those who have partnered with us. You’ve helped in immense ways — not just our family but Redeemer Fellowship’s family and God’s family as well. This chronicle of the Cochrans4Chicago has not come to a close. We’ll continue to share and tell of God’s work.
If you wish to mail in an Electronic Funds Transfer request, you may do so. Fill out the form below and mail it to the address for NAMB below. When you fill out the form indicate my name JOEY COCHRAN and Account 10138 on the form.
Here is a helpful document about giving online with the North American Mission Board.
If you wish to send a monthly check, you may still do so. Please be sure to memo JOEY COCHRAN ACCT 10138 on your check.
Mail your check to:
The Cochran Family