Succession Planning
God's providence, a hard choice, a legacy honored

Final update: August, 2017

Like many churches in America, the trend at Evangel for several decades had been one of steady decline in numbers and a contraction of demographics.  In the past decade there was a notable shift from a wide age range, including families, to predominantly adults 50+ with no children at home. This decline occurred despite numerous efforts to seek the Lord’s direction in reversing the trend.

Pastor Dave Tietjen indicated to Church Council in the fall of 2015 his desire to end his tenure at Evangel by late spring 2017, but with flexibility to adjust as the Lord directs the succession process. The time-frame would allow us to be as proactive and positive as possible, with freedom to pursue a range of options.

The desire of the Council was that Evangel (in whatever form and by whatever name) should remain as a vibrant Gospel witness in the Wheaton/Winfield area. This primary objective was embraced by the church as a whole in numerous meetings ranging from small teams to the Planning Group to the entire congregation.

In the fall of 2015, Evangel began a process of succession planning. Three possible options were outlined: Renewal (pastoral search), Realignment (merger/satellite), and Retirement (sale).

The end result was the least likely of the options, the sale of the property and closing of Evangel Baptist Church. Pastor Dave spoke on the process and its result in a sermon entitled "The Honor of a Hard Choice," July 16. It reprised a sermon from his series on Ezekiel given in March (based on 1 Kings 19:19-21). The following description tells the story of arriving at that hard choice. See links to this and other material at the end of this page.


In the fall of 2015 a PLANNING GROUP was called together by Evangel Moderator Stu Johnson to work with Church Council in guiding us through the succession process. The group was expanded over time to include members of the Pastoral Search Committee and Prayer Team: 

Stephanie Bemister, Jim Erickson, Doug & Teresa Fogwell, Bill & Debby France, Larry Funck (Finance Manager)*, Alethea Funck, Angie Krc (Church Clerk)*, Linnell Laschober, Charlie Matthews (Properties Board Chair)*, Lee McCullough, Al Smith, Helen Read, Dave Sanders, Dave Tietjen (Senior Pastor, acting Worship Board chair)*, Jennie Tietjen (Community Care Board Chair)*,  and Gil Zinke (Educational Ministries Chair)* 

* Church Council member

In January, 2016 several representatives from Evangel met with Dick Louizeax of Converge MidAmerica, our district within Converge Worldwide (formerly Baptist General Conference). We discussed the three-track approach, which he agreed was reasonable and could be done concurrently rather than serially.

As it turned out, the only option that Evangel pursued on its own was the Pastoral Search. All other contacts came to us in ways that we understood to be providential. While asking the Lord to open and close doors, we may have been disappointed, but not distraught, when doors closed. We recognized God's hand of providence through every step of the process, described here in the order the options were first engaged.

REALIGNMENT (Merger, Satellite Campus)—Summer 2015 to July 2016

This option represented a partnership with an existing congregation that could benefit from our location and facilities to produce a multiplication effect.  This would have led to a merger or use of our facilities as a satellite campus, which we recognized carried risks on both sides and thus would require an extended time of careful consideration and preparation.

  • We had brief contact with two churches in the summer and fall of 2015 (the first before the formal succession process began), both outside of Wheaton. One was a multi-site church looking to possibly establish a satellite campus in the Wheaton area, the other a church currently meeting in Naperville looking at the possibility of merging with another congregation. The multi-site church decided to pursue other options, the Naperville congregation was mutually agreed to not be a good fit.
  • In October 2016 we engaged Church Building Consultants to produce a "Broker's Opinion," just so we would have an idea of the value of our property, which could be useful in discussions across all three options. Dennis Erhman of CBC, who attends College Church of Wheaton, suggested to College Church Senior Pastor Josh Moody that he contact Evangel Senior Pastor Dave Tietjen. At that time, College Church was operating a Saturday evening "South Campus" at Edison Middle School. We initially envisioned a potential merger with that group, though College Church later decided not to continue that effort.
  • After the two pastors met several times, discussion turned to a series of meetings beginning in December, 2015, leading to a more formal feasibility assessment stage in the Spring of 2016. As discussions progressed, we first responded to a questionnaire on 25 issues to help identify areas of commonality and potential conflict (these came from a consultant College Church has hired to lead its own strategic thinking). Later, we presented a list of eight criteria that we felt were critical to achieving the 75% approval needed for acceptance of a merger agreement.
  • On Monday, July 11, 2016 we received word that College Church was unable to agree on two of the criteria we proposed and it did not seem to be feasible to proceed. Therefore, the discussion was discontinued, with a sense of goodwill and assurance of God's providence in seeing this door close. In a note to the Succession Planning Group, Evangel Moderator Stu Johnson made this observation about the closure of this option:

    All three [options] have been open at the same time, with two coming to us in what we clearly sensed was God’s providence. Now, one of those has been closed.  Unless we find a big “Ah Ha!” moment of revelation into God’s purposes, we can only guess that perhaps we have served a role in helping another Kingdom church weigh the implications of its own strategic thinking.  What the investment in time and thought on our part means is less clear, but we can proceed with confidence that the Lord is leading us one step at a time.
  • Shortly after the end of discussions with College Church, we received a letter from Christ Church of Oak Brook, addressed to churches that might be interesting in becoming a satellite campus. This would have been a sale rather than merger, but after an initial leadership meeting, Christ Church determined that the costs of purchasing the property and making desired renovations to the sanctuary would be too high and the discussions ended after two weeks.

RENEWAL (Pastoral Search)—February to August 2016

This option would have required finding a pastor skilled in turn-around situations.  With a shared vision for growth and outreach, we recognize that this involves a transformation of the church in fundamental ways and we are prepared to move in that direction.

  • On February 28, 2016 the membership of Evangel approved a Resolution to engage Converge MidAmerica in an executive search process.
  • On April 3, 2016 the membership approved the formation of the PASTORAL SEARCH COMMITTEE to work with Converge MidAmerica. Chaired by Gil Zinke, other members included: Stephanie Bemister, Debby France, Lee McCullough, and Dave Sanders.
  • The Search Committee had its first meeting with Dick Louizeax of Converge MidAmerica at Evangel on Tuesday, April 27. The Committee went through preliminary analysis and planning for a candidate search.
  • At the same time, we were already engaged in discussion with College Church. When that ended, All Souls Anglican Church and Vineyard Church of DuPage made offers on the sale of the property (see RETIRE below). Even though either of those options could have been stopped had there been progress on identifying a pastoral candidate, by August 2016 the Pastoral Search process was paused. It would never resume.
  • An important side note: several years earlier, Evangel had offered Converge MidAmerica the use of its facilities to establish a church plant. There was initial enthusiasm, but no candidates were ever identified. Had that effort succeeded, it could have led to a merger or replacement.

Along with the formation of the Search Team, a PRAYER TEAM was also formed to act as intercessors for the Succession process and to encourage specific church-wide prayer efforts. The Prayer Team consisted of Bill France, Linnell Laschober and Helen Read.

  • The Prayer Team organized a prayer focus as part of our Worship Service on May 1, 2016. This time took the place of the sermon that day. In addition, the team has prepared a "story of prayer" incorporated into a number of worship services.

RETIRE (Sale of Property, closing of Evangel)—April 2016 to August 2017

While the least-favored of the three options, we recognized that should other efforts fail (or God directed us to this option sooner), the property could be sold to a like-minded congregation that was in need of facilities and shared a vision for the Wheaton-Winfield area. (Proceeds from a sale would most likely be used to continue funding missions).

  • There were informal contacts with two congregations early in the succession planning process, but both would have had problems financing a purchase, so neither developed into serious consideration.
  • In late March, 2016 we were approached by a staff member from All Souls Anglican Church in Wheaton, who had heard that we might be interested in selling the property. On April 5, 2016 a group from All Souls toured the facilities and expressed great interest should we reach the point of selling the property. They understood that we were in discussion with College Church and that a Pastoral Search was also underway, but we did engage in several informal discussions between leadership of both churches.
  • In August 2016 All Souls, knowing that talks with College Church had ended, extended a preliminary offer that began more serious discussions.
  • Shortly after All Souls made its offer, Vineyard Church of DuPage approached Evangel about the property. They had been renting from Wheaton College at the old Scripture Press building and found out that the college had decided not to continue renting that building long-term. Apparently, word of our situation was made between someone who was familiar with our situation and someone who attended Vineyard. Within two weeks we had two offers, with discussions moving ahead first with All Souls.
  • A NEGOTIATING TEAM was approved on October 30, 2016, consisting of Jim Erickson, Doug Fogwell, Debby France, Larry Funck, Stu Johnson, and Charlie Matthews. This team had to authority to engage in formal discussions with potential buyers and attorneys.
  • In October 2016, the Negotiating Team met with attorneys Ron Nyberg and Gerry Cassioppi of Momkus McCluskey Roberts LLC in Lisle, Illinois. After listening to an explanation of our situation (self-funding the sale and disbursing the proceeds to missions over a period of time) they suggested that the appropriate approach was relatively simple: change the name of the organization from Church to Foundation, adopt a replacement set of Bylaws to set up the foundation with a self-sustaining Board of Directors, and file the appropriate paperwork with the State of Illinois, IRS and other agencies. Gerry Cassioppi became the lead attorney.
  • For five months, the Team worked with All Souls, but those discussions ended in January, 2017 when All Souls indicated differences of opinion on their end (regarding the need to move) and we turned to Vineyard Church of DuPage, which responded enthusiastically that they were still very interested.
  • Discussions with Vineyard moved quickly and Evangel faced the reality of closing::
    • On Sunday, March 19, the membership of Evangel voted to accept the "Basic Terms" of an agreement to sell our property to Vineyard Church of DuPage. This allowed the attorneys to proceed with the development of the formal sale Agreement.
    • Vineyard was introduced to each of the three ministries renting Evangel's facilities: First Russian Baptist Church, EDGE Home-Schooling Co-op, and ServeCity (Sports Ministry). For the foreseeable future, all three will be able to continue use of 1900 Manchester.
    • Through the spring of 2017 Evangel dealt with issues of end-of-work pay for staff, helping people grapple with finding a new home church, effectively "passing the baton" to Vineyard, and celebrating Evangel in its final months.
    • On June 25, 2017, the Evangel membership approved the sale to Vineyard (authorization to sign the sale Agreement)
    • On July 9, 2017 the Evangel membership approved the replacement Bylaws to establish the Evangel Baptist Foundation and elected the first Board of Directors (Pamela Barden, Duarte CA; Randy Dorn (Chairman), San Antonio TX; Betty Ecklund, Broadway VA; Bill France (Secretary), Wheaton IL; Larry Funck (Treasurer), Batavia IL; Stu Johnson, Wheaton IL; Dave Tietjen, Carol Stream IL, moving to WI by September).
    • On July 23, 2017 Evangel conducted its final "Farewell Service," which included periods of remembrance, recognition of staff, the final baptismal service by Evangel, and the final communion service (see links at end of this page). The worship service was followed by a luncheon. Attendance that day included extended families and a number of Evangel family from around the country.
    • On August 3, 2017 the sale of the property to Vineyard was finalized.


Evangel Church Profile - February, 2016 - (PDF document) a comprehensive document, in three sections:

  • Part 1: A Snapshot of Evangel—purpose and mission, beliefs, governance, ministries, trends
  • Part 2: Evangel's environment—location in Chicago area, where our people come from, demographics of area communities, our unique location in a church-rich environment, religious profile of Chicago area versus the U.S.
  • Part 3: Evangel's DNA—the values that Evangel holds, comments on each (history, critique, aspirations)

The Profile was the result of extensive work by members of the Planning Group from mid-December 2015 through early February 2016. It was completed and made available in booklet form in time for the Annual Meeting on February 14, 2016.

Pastor Dave's Final Sermon, July 16, 2017 - "The Honor of a Hard Choice"

Evangel's Farewell Service, July 23, 2017