Rev. Michael Eberly, Senior Pastor
My faith journey:
My life before meeting Jesus was one desperate attempt after another to find respect and acceptance. I was an accomplished tennis player and athlete, but never considered myself a “winner.” I thought there were mostly “losers” in the world and felt the constant pressure to prove that I was a “winner.” Through all this misery, I never sought after God. Yet by God’s amazing grace, He drew me through my own pride! One day, I was approached by a senior and told to decline an invitation to attend a teammate’s small group Bible study. I didn’t take kindly to this directive, so when asked if I was interested I said yes just to assert myself! The door to my heart had been opened just enough. As I began learning of and listening to the Jesus of the Bible, I loved Him, and was challenged by Him. After six months of regular attendance at this same small group, I asked Jesus to forgive me and lead my life. Since coming to faith, I’ve lived on the truth that I’m accepted unconditionally through Jesus Christ and that I don’t have to perform to be accepted. This truth has helped me to freely accept others, no matter if the world labels them “winners” or “losers.”
Marriage and the call to be a pastor:
I began recognizing God’s calling to pastor about a year after coming to faith in Christ. As I was reading John 5, the Spirit impressed upon my heart the need to tell people that eternal life was not something to be earned (which I had previously assumed), but that it could be granted in a moment of decision, crossing over from death to life (John 5:24). I began leading small group studies and taking on more shepherding responsibilities. It was at this time I met my future bride, Susan. I was drawn to Susan’s prayer life and deeply admired her relationship with God. We soon began dating and talked of marriage by the year’s end. After college, God called me into seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Susan (then fiancée), who had been looking for work in her specialized field, landed a job just four miles from Trinity’s campus! By faith, we understood this to be a confirmation of our marriage plans and my call to the ministry. Moreover, God has continually confirmed this calling in our lives through a granting us passion for Him and His Church, provision for our family, and fruitfulness in our ministry. As for God’s blessing in our marriage, within the first five years He sent us four children! Our three girls, Shanice, Carmeanna, and Amanda, came to us first through adoption (they’re African-American and we’re Caucasian) and our son, Jason, came to us biologically.
New Community Church years and my heart for Reconciliation Ministry
Taking my very young family to Richton Park, IL, I partnered with Pastor Darwin Rodgers and his family to start a new church. God laid it upon us and the people of New Community Church in Dolton, IL (formerly Lorimer Baptist Church), to spread the message of reconciliation to a racially diverse community through a racially diverse team From 1998-2011, God established a wonderful congregation that settled in Park Forest, IL.
First Baptist Lansing
As I begin 2012 here at First Baptist, I’m overjoyed at the honor to serve in Lansing, IL. My heart is for the Good News of Jesus to bring new life to all across our diverse southern suburbs and Northwest Indiana. I believe that as people come to Christ, they are to be one in Christ as the Spirit of unity empowers. Ephesians 4:3-5 says, we are to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Kandi Elliott, Director of Children’s Ministries
Mrs. Kandi Elliott serves as Director of Children’s Ministries, overseeing all ministries for kids ages 3 years – 5th grade. Raised in a preacher’s home, she has been involved in ministry since childhood. “My earliest recollection of serving in the church is folding bulletins on a Saturday night at the tender age of 5”! And that was just the beginning. “Serving God through the local church is just a natural part of my life thanks to my parent’s upbringing.” She brings that same background to her own family, who faithfully serve alongside her. Kandi’s passion is to see kids grow in their faith, equipping them to be more like Jesus at home, school and play. She strives to help others catch the vision of Changing The World One Child At A Time. “The key is to love kids like Jesus loves them. When you love kids like that, the rest comes naturally.”