At the national EFCA blog on January 14, 2020 Eddie Cole was profiled by EFCA President Kevin Kompelien. This post explores what is said and shares some insight on Eddie Cole as well. The national EFCA is fortunate to have in their Minneapolis office a man who was affectionately called, “Bishop Eddie” in the Eastern District.
“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”
“The role of the pastor is to embody the gospel. And of course to get it embodied, which you can only do with individuals, not in the abstract.”
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.
Ephesians 4:2 NLT
Eddie Cole being prayed for at Salem Church in Staten Island, New York.
In writing a blog about the EFCA I spend a lot of time studying and following individual EFCA district offices. For example in studying the social media of the North Central District of Minnesota I noticed the EFCA’s Brian Farone efforts to address racial injustice. So for Martin Luther King day I decided to write about it, which you can read in, “On Martin Luther King Day Being Thankful for the Efforts by EFCA North Central District Superintendent Brian Farone in Addressing Racial Injustice.” However, sometimes I pay close attention to the EFCA districts that I forget to check the national EFCA out of Minneapolis for news and developments. In checking the national EFCA blog I see that I have some work to do and analysis to provide.
The National EFCA Profiles Eddie Cole
Eddie Cole used to the Eastern District Superintendent that was based out of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Camp Hill is just outside Harrisburg. which is Pennsylvania’s capitol. He transitioned into a new role of Executive Vice President of National Ministries and is now based out of Minneapolis. From my understanding he works underKevin Kompelien who leads the EFCA. On the national blog on January 14, 2020 Eddie Cole was profiled in a write up by the EFCA President. The article is done well and is quite respectful. Early in the article Kompelien describes his excitement in working with Eddie Cole and Eddie’s decision making process to uproot and take a more national level position. “I was actually on the phone with Eddie about a different matter when I told him, after explaining the new role we were creating, “If you didn’t already have a job, I’d hire you.” It got really quiet on the other end of the phone, then Eddie said, “Jessica and I have been praying about what’s next for us. It may well be here (with the Eastern District), what I’m doing now; it may be something else. We’re just sensing God may have something new for us.” In November, Eddie began his role at the EFCA national office as executive vice president of national ministries. I’m so excited to work with Eddie as he brings his Christ-like leadership and dedication for disciplemaking to the EFCA. Eddie has a unique ability to 1) work with people, 2) establish clarity on what needs to be accomplished and 3) move vision forward to get things done, all of which, I think, will serve him greatly in this role.”
At one point Eddie then describes his past history in ministry with his wife Jessica. “Jessica and I have had a vast array of ministry experiences. We’ve done itinerant evangelism, youth ministry, various kinds of mission efforts, conferences and retreats, as well as pastoral ministry. We’ve served in a variety of contexts—serving in a smaller, rural church setting, on staff at a couple of mega-church ministries in medium-sized towns and led a wonderful, historic EFCA church for 13 years in New York City.To add a little more to how God has prepared us, we have experience with both church planting and revitalization. Although we’ve never been church “planters,” we’ve helped plant multiple churches and led a revitalization effort at a 99-year-old ethnic Norwegian church that became a ministry where more than 30 nationalities were represented every Sunday. And, as a district superintendent, I was able to oversee the re-launching of our district’s church multiplication team.”
I would encourage you to read the entire article in, “Getting to Know Eddie Cole.”
The Pastoral Nature of Eddie and Some Personal Experience
The first time I interacted with Eddie Cole was when this blog wrote about a dark situation in a rogue EFCA church in Elverson, Pennsylvania. The story is that of Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church. What happened is that the son of the senior pastor had allegedly raped his wife while intoxicated and abused her while claiming he had a sleeping disorder. He also allegedly loaded a gun and pointed it at her at least twice if I remember correctly. Knowing she could be dead in time she filed for divorce and her father-in-law Steve Estes guided a church through an act of church discipline and had his former daughter-in-law excommunicated. It is a horrific story. You can read the original posts in, “Steve Estes and Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania: A Painful Story of Domestic Abuse, Inappropriate Church Discipline, and Failed EFCA Polity” and “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 story in Elverson highlighted many of the issues evangelicalism struggles with today. Those issues are nepotism, cronyism, domestic abuse, financial issues, questionable church discipline and in the case of the EFCA the limits and problems of congregationalism. Eddie as the Eastern District Superintendent worked hard on the situation and did a solid job in the course of time. His humility, love and grace came through as I interacted with people who were affected by the story.
The first time I met Eddie was when he was traveling on the East Coast and he stopped to preach at Bill Kynes Cornerstone in Annandale, Virginia here in the D.C. suburbs. Eddie wanted to meet me and I shook his hand and we spoke for a couple of minutes. In the course of time I interacted a few more times with Eddie. Some of that during dark times and others when I was traveling and writing. On the night that my Mom died in California on April 1, 2017 I remember sitting in my old room that I grew up in and crying. In the middle of that I received an extremely warm text message from Eddie letting me know that he was praying for me, and expressing his deepest condolences at hearing about my Mom’s death. I was taken back by how pastoral Eddie can be. Once when I was driving through Pennsylvania I stopped at Community Evangelical Free Church in Harrisburg and heard Eddie preach. He smiled and said that it was good to see me and wanted to talk and inquired about how I was doing. The one story this blog told which Eddie and I disagreed is that of the Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown. You can read that in, “The Autocratic Reign of Todd Nathan and the Troubling Story of the Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown, New Jersey.” Disagreements will happen in life and sometimes individuals look at things differently. The other day I wrote a blog post that explained why if one is to reject God the problem of evil is the reason to do so. You can read that in, “Why the Problem of Evil is the Best Reason for Rejecting God.” Eddie a couple of months back discussed his take on the problem of evil in a phone call and how he has struggled with that issue himself. He presented a few ideas which were quite interesting.
Here is what I can say about Eddie Cole in writing about the EFCA and interacting with him a few times. Eddie has a heavy East Tennessee accent. He knocks himself down and plays it as a hillbilly accent. But what comes across over and over is his sincerity, warmth, grace and kindness. Eddie is very pastoral and in interacting with people from Staten Island, New York I heard stories about his pastoral leadership. One of the most amazing stories heard involved how Eddie visited one of his congregants in the hospital to pray with a new born child. Eddie as the Senior Pastor of Salem Church at the time braved a blizzard that was descending on New York City just to minister to people he loved. And if my memory serves me correct that happened on the second day of his job at Salem Church. Eddie is a person that is loved by many. I had a couple of EFCA pastors who told me how much they respect Eddie Cole. His informal name in the Eastern District by pastors was, “Bishop Eddie.” Wouldn’t that be something if Kevin Kompelien called him “Bishop Eddie” in the national office? Or if Glen Schrieber, Bob Rowley, Jon Payne or Steve Highfil or other EFCA personalities called him up on the phone and said, “Hey Bishop Eddie got a question for you….”
One other point to make about Eddie Cole is that he is quite transparent. This blog writes about some dark stories inside evangelicalism. Over and over I hear about the problems from people inside a number of churches and ministries. One of the concerns I have in writing a blog which tends to be dark is that I also don’t want to be jaded by the material I work with. And that is part of the reason why I have to step back and do posts like this one today. I am grateful that Eddie Cole is a pastor and I am happy for him and his wife Jessica as they settle into this new role in Minneapolis. It was explained to me that Eddie is the real deal when it comes to ministry. I don’t like to repeat that often however I also have to acknowledge what I hear from an established source who has known him for years. And what was said holds up in context of many of the stories this blog has heard. As I get to the end of this post let me just say that I have a lot of respect for Eddie and this blog wishes him well. It will cheer and support him and no doubt I am sure our paths will cross again. After all evangelicalism is small. The last time I saw Eddie was when I was traveling in the New York area. I happened to show up on the same day he was at Salem Church. I spoke with him briefly and then watched people pray for him and I again observed that Eddie is loved by a number of people in the EFCA. While Eddie Cole is a kind and loving man; Kevin Kompelien no doubt understands and knows this from what I have read an studied. But from an outsider perspective if Kevin Kompelien does not hopefully this post will reinforce the view of Eddie’s grace, warmth and love inside the EFCA. The EFCA is fortunate to have him hard at work.
Blog Articles Written About Eddie Cole at The Wondering Eagle
This blog has written a number of articles about Eddie Cole and I just want to insert them below, especially if people want to learn more about the new Executive Vice President of National Ministries.
- “Eddie Cole Leaves the Eastern District Superintendent Role and Accepts VP of EFCA Reach National in Minneapolis. Meanwhile the District Leadership is Split Between Tony Balsamo and Cedrick Brown as Clause B Takes Effect” That post overlooks the changes inside the Eastern District and Eddie Cole moving on into a new role inside the national EFCA. .
- “An Open Letter to Eddie Cole (Transitioning Eastern District Superintendent of the EFCA and Wishing Him Well)” This is an open letter wishing the Eastern District Superintendent at the time well as he prepared to move on.
- “EFCA’s Eastern District Superintendent Eddie Cole on Normalizing Failure.” This deals with Eddie’s thoughts on failure and evangelical culture.
- “Eddie Cole From the EFCA’s Eastern District on Both Following Jesus and the Movement of Jesus” I watched a clip from a sermon Eddie gave and thought it should be shared in a quick post.
- “Some Thoughts on Eddie Cole’s Article in Christianity Today on Sharing the Gospel with those Who Do Not Think of Death or Eternity.” This article looks at what Eddie Cole wrote for Christianity Today about death.
- “A Sample Statement for Greg Strand and Eddie Cole on Steve Estes Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania.” This post deals with a way the EFCA leadership both Eddie Cole as the Eastern District Superintendent and Greg Strand in Minneapolis should release a statement to the community of Elverson regarding a rogue EFCA church.
- “An Open Letter to Eddie Cole (Eastern District Superintendent of the EFCA)” This is an open letter reflecting on Eddie’s leadership in the Community Evangelical Free Church story in Elverson, Pennsylvania.
- “Eastern District Superintendent Eddie Cole Interviews EFCA President Kevin Kompelien.” This was an interview of EFCA President Kevin Kompelien by Eddie Cole. This was on the webpage for Salem Church in Staten Island. After I published the video the national EFCA removed the video. You will see that discussed in the comments.
- “Jessica Cole on the Vital Role Women Play in the Church (EFCA Eastern District Conference)” This post deals with Eddie’s wife Jessica Cole and looked at the role of women in the evangelical church.