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At the Other Mars Hill Church, New Co-Pastors Hope to Build a Faithful Future

When she was first interviewed at Mars Hill, Eiland said, she was asked to describe a leader who had inspired her to walk with Jesus. The first person who came to mind was her grandmother, who taught her how to pray, how to love the Bible and how to have a faith that was not just in her head or her heart but was lived out in her day-to-day life.

Character matters,” she said. “People are watching you. Not just who you are at church or on a platform on Sunday morning, but who you are to your neighbor, who you are to the construction person working on your yard, who you are to the person at the grocery store. All of that matters.”

Eiland was quick to admit she remains a work in progress and has much to learn. But the importance of striving to live out her faith remains at the top of her mind. What good will her ministry be, she said, if it doesn’t shape her into the person God wants her to be?

Two thousand miles away, in Pasadena, California, Inés Velásquez-McBryde and Bobby Harrison, co-pastors of The Church We Hope For, a multiethnic start-up congregation, are also charting a way forward as leaders during the pandemic.

The church began as a house church in January 2020, paused during the early months of the pandemic, then rebooted on as an online community when it became clear the pandemic would not end any time soon.

Velásquez-McBryde described the church as a healing place for people who have been hurt by the church in the past but who still hope to find the kind of beloved community found in the Bible. On a recent Sunday, she greeted worshipers by name as they joined the Sunday Zoom call, chatting with them while waiting for the service to begin and reminding folks not to spill coffee on their living room rugs at home.

“We’re going to miss this one day, you know, when we are in person again,” she said.

Harrison also chimed in, recalling the potluck after a recent in-person gathering. The two pastors, who are longtime friends, lead the Zoom meetings together and take turns preaching week by week. They hope their shared leadership reinforces the message they preach.

“We aim to be an embodied witness of the good news — that men and women can serve side by side and worship side by side and lead side by side,” he said.

The co-pastors said their ministry partnership has been a blessing during COVID, which has made the hard work of starting a new congregation even more challenging. Leading a new church during COVID as a solo pastor would have been daunting, they said.


Co-pastoring can be a healthy model for church leaders but also for the congregation, said Juliet Liu, co-lead pastor of Life on the Vine Church in Long Grove, Illinois, which has had co-pastors for most of its history. A shared leadership model shows that in the kingdom of God, power is meant to be used for the benefit of all, she said. “When we are entrusted with power and authority, it’s not so one person can keep it for themselves,” she said. “It’s actually shared so that it can be exercised on behalf of everyone.”

Liu said it is also crucial for co-pastors to have a strong friendship and trust. Otherwise, their partnership can lead to conflict.

Velásquez-McBryde likes to use the term “re-creating” when talking about the mission of the church, pointing back to the story of the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis. In the garden, she said, there was “harmony, not hierarchy,” and the idea of a hierarchy comes after the fall. Addressing those power inequalities is important — not just between men and women but also between people from different ethnic backgrounds.

Otherwise, she said, all you have is “presence without power.”

This article originally appeared here.