By Joe Conway
View captions or download photos
This article and video are part of a series on missionaries featured during the 2013 North American Missions Emphasis.
There are more affluent places in the United States than San
Francisco, but not many. Living in that environment can numb people to need.
Ben Pilgreen knows God is in the perspective-changing business.
Pilgreen and his team,
including wife, Shauna, launched Epic Church in the fine arts district of San
Francisco two years ago. He led Epic’s first international missions experience
in summer 2012, to Uganda.
“Our trip to Uganda was
incredible,” says Pilgreen, pastor of Epic in the Bay City. “People throw the
term ‘life-changing’ around, but it truly was life changing for some of our
people. The team of 14 was so impressed we are already scheduled to return next
year.” Pilgreen is a North American Mission Board church planter, and a 2013
Week of Prayer missionary.
“We have several members who
have been sponsoring children through our partner church there, and we were
able to visit in their homes,” says Pilgreen. “That truly brought it to reality
for our people. It was eye opening to see the conditions the children live in,
particularly compared to San Francisco. Then to see those people, living in
what we would consider tough, even impossible, situations, exhibiting true joy.
Epic works in partnership
with United Christian Centre in Kampala, Uganda, a 20-year-old congregation
that supports an orphanage, among other ministries. Pilgreen says the integrity
of the church leadership giving guidance to 2,000 members and multiple
ministries spoke to his members.
“Spending time with the kids
and their families was the best. We were able to take the kids to an amusement
park one day. That was a great day,” says Pilgreen.
Recognizing Acts 1:8 as a comprehensive
command, Epic simultaneously engages, not only around the world, but also
across the street. One of their longest-standing relationships is with “A
Woman’s Place.” The transitional residence takes in battered women. Recently, six
partner churches brought 70 volunteers for Epic’s “Hope for the City.”
“Teams went in and totally
redesigned rooms to make them brighter and give them a happier feel,” says
Pilgreen. “Then the teams hit the neighborhoods and local parks cleaning and
doing whatever was needed. The Department of Public Works was incredibly
appreciative. They see us as good neighbors and that helps us in the community.
“Our volunteers also helped
us host ‘City Impact,’ events for children with games and interaction. That was
a meaningful time for us and another great opportunity where people recognized
us as contributing to the community.”
Another challenging aspect
of doing church in a place like San Francisco is that you encounter issues most
churches don’t have to consider. Pilgreen relies on God’s wisdom and the counsel
of godly Christians to help him navigate.
From the complex to the
simple, Pilgreen points to one family in the church who came to Epic after
receiving an invitation flier handed out by volunteers. It was for Epic’s
inaugural preview service.
“Volunteers handed out invitations,”
says Pilgreen. “Anna picked one up and came. Eventually she came to faith and
brought her family to Epic. Her husband came to faith, too. She told us Epic
helped save her life and her marriage.
“You don’t know how a simple
act, as simple as handing someone a piece of paper, can affect someone’s life.
Our partners and volunteers are vital to us. You have to sow a lot of seeds.”
Looking to the future, Epic
will hire its first Epic Kids director in 2013. The leadership continues to
write the church’s entire small-group curriculum.
“We publish it in book
form,” says Pilgreen. “We realized early on that our members trust us, but they
don’t know any ‘names’ in Christian publishing.
“We are at three services
and about 260 on Sunday. We have 13 Epic Groups now. We are looking to expand
into the north, east and south parts of the city,” says Pilgreen of Epic’s
parents to Elijah, 9, Sam, 7, and Asher, 5, are adopting a daughter from
India. “It’s another
adventure – why not?” asked Pilgreen.
And if helping a
thriving church plant and raising four children wasn’t enough, Shauna released
her first book last year—The Same Page,
co-authored with Courtney Bullard—and began writing for NAMB pastors’ wives
The annual Week of Prayer for North American Missions, March
3-10, 2013, and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®, provide
support for Pilgreen and other missionaries like him who serve on behalf of
Southern Baptists in North America. With a goal of $70 million, this year’s
offering theme is “Whatever It Takes – Reaching the One.”
“This offering allows us to move forward with the ministry
initiatives we believe God is calling us to engage in on a weekly basis,” says
Pilgreen. “It allows us to pursue opportunities we believe will make a real
difference in our church and in our city.”
Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.
Learn more about Be and Shauna Pilgreen
Epic Church website
Send North America : San Francisco
Date Created: 2/18/2013 5:43:27 AM
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®© Copyright 2014 North American Mission Board, SBC