Brick Lane Community Church Joins The Gospel Coalition, and Challenging a Misleading Statement from Steve Estes Church

Brick Lane Community Church has exited the EFCA. Its statement in the local Elverson, Pennsylvania press was deceitful. It stated that they had to vote to separate from the EFCA and then align with the The Gospel Coalition. This post at The Wondering Eagle pushes back against that corrupt statement. After all in Eddie Cole’s Eastern District there are 15 EFCA churches involved in The Gospel Coalition. Plus it was learned that the most prolific pastors are Bill Kynes and Benjamin Vrbicek. The Wondering Eagle would like to ask, can Merle and Dave Stoltzfus and Steve Estes be honest? 

“Falsehood is a perennial spring.”

Edmund Burke 

“Lying is a sin destructive to society; for there is no trade where there is no trust, and there is no trust where there is no truth.”

Wellins Calcott

There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,

Proverbs 6:16 – 17 ESV 

A statement in the local Elverson press. 

There are some new developments with Brick Lane Community Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. Let’s look at what has changed. 

 

Brick Lane Joins The Gospel Coalition and a Question to be Asked

Recently Brick Lane Community Church broke away from the EFCA. This church was formerly known as Community Evangelical Free Church. Steve Estes had practiced church discipline on an alleged rape victim. In addition to the rape allegations the senior pastor’s son had also allegedly pointed a loaded gun at his wife at the time. She knows that she could be dead. The alleged domestic abuse led to a divorce which followed a church discipline situation and excommunication service that divided the church and the community of Elverson, Pennsylvania. You can read the original post in, “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polityand “Hurit’s Public Excommunication While Alleged Criminal Activity by Brock Estes is Withheld from the Congregation: Appeals for Help Fall on Deaf Ears to Steve Musser of the Eastern District and National Evangelical Free Church of America.” 

The above statement at the intro to this article was published in the local Elverson media. The key sentence for me in that press release as I interpret it is the following. “Because of changes in policy and doctrine, the church voted to disassociate with the Evangelical Free Church of America and align with The Gospel Coalition.” From my perspective here is the question that needs to be asked. Can an EFCA church be affiliated with The Gospel Coalition? 

 

A Look at Other EFCA Churches in Eddie Cole’s Eastern District who are Affiliated with The Gospel Coalition 

According to Steve Estes church they give the impression that you can not be affiliated with The Gospel Coalition if you are also a member of the EFCA.  They imply that to join The Gospel Coalition you have to leave the organization. That statement up above is very misleading. An EFCA church can be a part of The Gospel Coalition. Let’s take a step back and look at Eddie Cole’s district overall and see how many churches are connected with The Gospel Coalition. When I study the district there are a total of 15 churches affiliated with The Gospel Coalition. This is a list of all those churches and their senior pastor. 

 

  1. Penninsula Community Church in Selbyville, Delaware as led by Robert Odom.
  2. Rock Creek Community Church in Derwood, Maryland as led by Jeff Martin.
  3. Sparta Evangelical Free in Sparta, New Jersey as led by Doug Thuen.
  4. River Vale Community Church in River Vale, New Jersey as led by Kevin Hanley.
  5. Cornerstone Church in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey as led by Jeff Kliewer
  6. Joy Community Fellowship Church in Haden Heights, New Jersey as led by Mark Savidge
  7. Totenville Evangelical Free in Staten Island, New York as led by George Ippolito.
  8. Bethel Evangelical Free in Staten Island, New York as led by Paul Robbins.
  9. Calvary Chapel Evangelical Free in Valley View, Pennsylvania as led by Jesse Benack
  10. Fellowship Bible Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as led by Mike Jarrell
  11. Crossway Church in Mohnton, Pennsylvania as led by Dean Linsky
  12. Community Evangelical Free Church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as led by Jason Abbott and Benjamin Vrbicek who co-pastor together. 
  13. Fellowship Church in Dallas, Pennsylvania as led by Marc Ramirez.
  14. Cornerstone Church in Annandale, Virginia as led by Bill Kynes.  
  15. Redemption Hill Church in Washington, D.C. as led by Bill Riedel

Some but not all the above churches inform people on their websites about their involvement in The Gospel Coalition. River Vale Community Church in New Jersey actually does that which you can see here. I have written about a couple of these churches in the passage of time as situations or stories developed. For example Marc Razmirz’s Fellowship Church was incredibly aggressive on social media. To my knowledge it is the first EFCA church where the entire staff blocked me on Twitter. But Marc Ramirez is also into 9 Marks which I have written about quite a bit here at The Wondering Eagle, and 9 Marks is very authoritarian. You can read more in “The Juvenile Behavior of Marc Ramirez, Tim Sheare, Karl Dyrli and Fellowship Church in Dallas, Pennsylvania on Twitter” and “Wanted: Information on Marc Ramirez’s Fellowship Church in Dallas, Pennsylvania.” I have also explored Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill in Washington, D.C. as its the only Acts 29 church of the Eastern District of the EFCA. To read more about it you can do so in, “Acts 29 Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill in Washington, D.C.; How Healthy is It?” Then I posed the question as to where does Bill Riedel stand on the issue of military chaplains. Do they reject para-church ministries like some Neo-Calvinists do? For more you can read, “D.C. Redemption Hill’s Ties to Remnant Church in Richmond. Does Acts 29/EFCA Pastor Bill Riedel Also Reject Military Chaplains? Finally How Would the EFCA Chaplaincy React to the EFCA Planting Acts 29 Churches That Do Not Believe Chaplains Should Exist?” The chaplaincy question arose out of a situation from an Acts 29 church in Richmond, Virginia which is known as Remnant which derailed a member of the military from becoming a military chaplain. He was forced to leave Acts 29 and be sponsored by another Baptist denomination. You can read that story in, “The Disturbing and Cult-Like Behavior of Acts 29 Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia is Adversely Affecting Lives.” That Acts 29 church is led by a leader of the Acts 29 network in the northeast and oversees close to 80 churches from Virginia to Maine, to include Redemption Hill.

 

The Prolific Work of Bill Kynes and Benjamin Vrbicek at The Gospel Coalition Website 

In researching those 15 EFCA churches I decided to do a deep dive and find out which churches in the Eastern District are most prolific in writing for The Gospel Coalition. Now please note I focused on The Gospel Coalition because of what Brick Lane Community Church said in its statement as to why it broke away from the EFCA. So as such I did not focus on Desiring God, The Sojourn Network, 9 Marks, or For the Church. There are many accomplished people who have published at those websites. For example Jesse Benack of Calvary Chapel Evangelical Free in Valley View, Pennsylvania writes at For the Church. So this is not to diminish his talents in that writing.  So I ran all 15 senior pastors from those churches above in The Gospel Coalition website. I discovered that Bill Kynes from Cornerstone Church in Annandale, Virginia in the D.C. suburbs published the most articles, and that was followed by Benjamin Vrbicek who co-pastors Community Evangelical Free in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  So let’s look at both talented pastors in a biographical sense as well as what they have written. 

Bill Kynes

Bill Kynes is the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free here in the Washington, D.C. area. Bill grew up in Tampa, Florida and attended H.B. Plant High School where he played football and was recognized for being one of the top high school and scholar athletes. At the University of Florida he majored in philosophy and played quarterback for the Gators. You can see his stats in the 1975 and 1976 season in this page here.  Bill was later inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame. After Florida Bill attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar where he earned a a M.A. in theology. Through hard work he earned a Masters of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School outside Chicago. Then he returned to England to study New Testement at Cambridge where he picked up his Ph.D. 

Bill started teaching at Cornerstone in 1986, and in 1997 until 1999 he served as an adjunct professor in New Testament for Trinity’s extension program in Washington, D.C. Bill is active in the Eastern District of the EFCA. I wrote about the Eastern District in “Analysis of the Eastern District of the Evangelical Free Church of America” and “Analyzing the Growth of Reformed Theology/Neo-Calvinism in the Evangelical Free Church of America: The Eastern District.” Along with Greg Strand he edited,Evangelical Convictionswhich was published in 2011. Again with Greg in 2014 he edited,Gospel Truths: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada.Then in 2015 he published “7 Pressing Questions – Addressing Critical Challenges to the Christian Faith.”  Bill has also published in several journals to include The Journal of Theological Studies, Trinity Journal, and The Journal of Evangelical Theological Society.  In addition the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone serves as a Senior Fellow at the C.S. Lewis institute as well as the board of Trinity. Finally Bill is married and a the father of four sons and due to his love to football also helps coach quarterbacks in the athletic program at Annandale High School

When it comes to The Gospel Coalition Bill serves on the council. As I said above Bill has published six articles and they include the following:

  1. Unity When Possible, Fidelity When Necessary.” That article deals with the EFCA Statement of Faith which was revised in 2008. I believe Bill worked on the statement with Greg Strand. 
  2. Why I Am a ‘baptist’ (with a small ‘b’)” This deals with the issue of baptism and with believers baptism while also receiving people who were baptized as infants. 
  3. Slavery and Homosexuality: Hasn’t the Church Changed Its Mind Before?” In that article Bill tackles the issue of homosexuality in the context of slavery and how the church has gotten it wrong before. It’s a very contested issue after all the Southern Baptists were founded on the belief that slavery is Biblical in 1845. I actually wrote about the history of the Southern Baptists and racism in, “An Open Letter to Russell Moore.”
  4. The One Thing Good Pastors Must Be Competent to Do” deals with the role pastors should play in a congregation and how they should preach Christ, model the Gospel and make it central into their life. 
  5. 3 Reasons I’d (Still) Let My Sons Play Tackle Football” is a fun article by the senior pastor of Cornerstone church that is influenced by his love for football. That article is a response to the issue of CTE which is a brain disease that came from the brain being hit. It was the subject of a movie starring Will Smith a couple of years back called Concussion. I wrote about that movie in an old post called, “Movies & Theology: Concussion – When Religion Acts Like the NFL…and (Spiritually) Kills….” 
  6. How Coaching Football Made Me a Better Pastor.”  Again, this article also reveals Bill’s love for football. In it Bill writes about how coaching local high school football helps him to be a pastor. 
  7. Practical Help for Angry People.” This is a video discussion on The Gospel Coalition website about dealing with anger. 

Benjamin Vrbicek

Benjamin Vrbicek co-pastors Community Evangelical Free in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. According to Linkedin Benjamin is from Missouri and attended high school at Jefferson City. Upon graduation he attended the University of Missouri at Columbia and earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. While at Missouri he was on the track and field team and also on the Big 12 commissioners honor roll. Benjamin was one of the seniors who won the Tom Botts award for his ethics, integrity, leadership, and character. The award was named after legendary Missouri field and track coach Tom Botts. Upon completion Benjamin started working for Engineering Fire Protection in St. Louis, Missouri as an engineer. He also attended Covenant Theological Seminary which is also based in St. Louis. There, he earned a Masters of Divinity upon graduation in 2011.  While he was based in St. Louis Benjamin was involved in Salem Evangelical Free. You can read this compassionate letter that was written to his old church on his blog. The first church Benjamin worked for is New Life Bible Fellowship in Tuscon, Arizona from June 2011 until March 2014 as the Associate Pastor of Teaching and Connection. You can actually hear him preach at New Life in April 23, 2017 here. In 2014 Benjamin relocated to the capitol of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg and became one of the Teaching Pastors of Community Evangelical Free. 

Benjamin has published several books. That includes, “Each Part Working Properly: Membership at Community Free Church” in 2015 and “God’s Joy Project: A Short Introduction to Reformed Theology & A Discussion Guide to Tony Reinke’s Book The Joy Project” in 2017. Then there is also “More People to Love: How the Bible Starts in a Garden and Ends in a City and What that Means for You” which I have heard good things about. That has been co-written with Jason Abbott who also teaches at Community Evangelical Free in Harrisburg. Currently Benjamin is working on a book that is aimed to help pastors find jobs and is scheduled to be released later in 2018. Plus he is also writing a book about pornography, you can read more about it here.   Benjamin also blogs frequently at Fan and Flame and you can see his Amazon page here. Benjamin is the second most productive pastor who writes at The Gospel Coalition after Bill Kynes. Let’s look at those articles. 

  1. Can You Really Become Unoffendable?” is a book review by Benjamin of a work written by Brant Hansen. This book looks at not being offended and also looks at anger.  
  2. Encouraging the Not-Yet-Married” is a book review of Marshall Segal. Marshall Segal writes for Desiring God. Benjamin writes about the younger single and also reflects on how he was influenced by Josh Harris years ago. I have actually wrote several responses to various Marshall Segal articles. The last one was before the Sutherland Springs Massacre in Texas, when Marshall Segal wrote about how God brings about pain. My question for Marshall is if God brings about pain, was the gunman in the church doing the Lord’s will? You can find that in the directory filed away under Desiring God. 
  3. Pastor, Strive to Learn Their Names” is another article where Benjamin about a pastor should know the names of the members of his congregation, and how he learns. You will have to read the article to understand and after reading it over this evening I was struck how the techniques used could work in multiple settings, from the sanctuary hall, to the boardroom of a company. 
  4. When Ministry Success Becomes an Idol is an article that looks at the topic of ministry becoming an idol. He goes on about how important it is to finish strong and how in the end people will hear “well done my good and faithful servant.” I actually wrote a response to Benjamin’s article nearly four years ago which can be read in, “Some Thoughts on Ministry Success Being an Idol.” 
  5. 5 Strategies for Shortening Your Sermons” is an article by a pastor for other pastors on how to shorten sermons. Benjamin offers practical advice on how to strengthen talks by shortening them. In the end of the article the pastor from Community Evangelical Free in Harrisburg reminds people that you congregation will thank you for cutting down the sermon. That’s true, I like short and sweet. 🙂  
  6. Burning Hearts” is a book review that Benjamin did. Burning Hearts was written by Josh Moody and Robin Weekes and deals with preaching to ones affections. This is a book for preachers by preachers, and Benjamin writes an affirming review. This is how Benjamin closes out the article. As I said at the start, I want my “nudges” to count. But this should be true to some degree of all who follow Christ, whether they preach in the formal sense or not. All Christians are saved by God to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Nevertheless, for those of us called to “proclaim” from a pulpit, Burning Hearts is a great tool to stir our affections so that we can help stir the affections of others.”

 

While The Gospel Coalition Has Problems, in this Post the Bigger Question is can Steve Estes or Merle and David Stoltzfus Tell the Truth? Is that Possible? 

The Gospel Coalition has deep systemic and systematic problems. All I have to do is point to the statement D.A. Carson issued in conjunction with Justin Taylor and Kevin DeYoung that attacked someone who was raped in Sovereign Grace at the age of 13. That was done in the defense of the embattled C.J. Mahaney. If you want to read more about the history of that you can do so in, ” From D.A. Carson to Steve Estes the Following Question Must be Asked: Is the Evangelical Free Church of America a Safe Place for Sexual Assault Victims?” And yet that is not the main issue in this post that is being written about today. 

That statement by Brick Lane Community Church about leaving the EFCA is deeply deceitful. The EFCA did not change its doctrine in the way that Brick Lane claims, nor do you you have to leave the EFCA to align with The Gospel Coalition.  And yet from the beginning of the Community Evangelical Free saga in Elverson, this church has been nothing but deceitful. It was deceitful about Hurit’s church discipline process. It was deceitful about protecting Steve Estes’s son Brock. When the EFCA put together a fact finding committee to find out what happened and look into the situation it met with Steve Estes and questioned the church leadership about the situation.  Then the EFCA met with others in the community to find out what happened. When the EFCA learned about the alleged gun incident with Brock they were shocked, and they also realized that  Steve Estes church tried to mislead the EFCA. One of my sources explained to me the shock that came over Eddie Cole’s face when he learned about the alleged gun incident with Brock. And that deceit is not just in the church but also in how the Stolztfus allegedly conducts business. You can read more about that in, “Is Stoltzfus Enterprises Cutting Corners in Pennsylvania? Construction Issues in Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, and Summerfield.” Over and over again that is the pattern of the late Community Evangelical Free in Elverson. It honestly begs the question…does Merle Stoltzfus, Dave Stoltzfus and Steve Estes know what honesty is? Can they define honesty? Can they describe it? They obviously can’t practice it. I regularly hear about how corrupt and deceitful Merle and Steve Estes can be. I remember when I sat through a service there and interacted with Steve before I started to write about this church. Steve was very manipulative. And that deceit followed this church on the way out of the EFCA. The irony of this church is that for what is believed about scripture in the end I wonder if Merle, Dave or Steve Estes ever read Proverbs 6:16-17? My next article about Brick Lane Community Church is going to explore why this church is far more dangerous now outside the EFCA then when it was on the inside. Why? There will be no accountability. So that is it for the day to Bill Kynes and Benjamin Vrbicek congratulations on your work. Sometimes I never know what I am going to find when I research and write. That was a surprise for me. That’s it for the day Elverson, know that I love you. 

6 thoughts on “Brick Lane Community Church Joins The Gospel Coalition, and Challenging a Misleading Statement from Steve Estes Church

  1. For whatever reason, it seems like Christians of the evangelical bent frequently want to frame disputes and differences as a doctrinal issue. I think this is because people feel it puts a positive spin (“we’re defending Biblical truth!”) on what is typically a negative situation (“we just can’t resolve our conflicts”).

    I was part of a church that split in the early 1990’s. That split was all about division in the church over the new pastor’s personality, but those who left decided to frame it as a doctrinal difference. They seized on one isolated thing the pastor had said and then made it all about a doctrinal dispute. That was a real stretch, and I think it was done merely to cast the conflict in such a light that they could claim to be the “true” faithful. They should have been honest and simply acknowledged that they didn’t like the pastor’s personality or his ministry approach.

    I’ve also seen a pastor leave a church stating he had doctrinal differences with the denomination’s statement of faith. That was in fact true, but he had been okay serving within the denomination for quite a few years (it was a rather minor doctrinal point), and the departure came right after a difference arose between the pastor and the church board. I thought the pastor was in the right, but it was interesting that he framed his departure as a doctrinal issue rather than a conflict with the leadership, probably so that it could be positively framed during his transition to a new church in a different denomination.

    This case here with Brick Lane seems to be following that practice of putting a doctrinal spin on a conflict situation that really had little to do with doctrine, so it is not particularly surprising.

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  2. My next article about Brick Lane Community Church is going to explore why this church is far more dangerous now outside the EFCA then when it was on the inside. Why? There will be no accountability.

    FEATURE, NOT BUG.

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