Update from Board of Stewards: New Interim Pastor

Greetings Central Family,

On behalf of the Board of Stewards, it is my honor and joy to announce that Steve Schoepf has accepted the role of Intentional Interim Pastor at Central Baptist Church.

Steve and his wife Linda Schoepf (pronounced “chef”) currently reside in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Steve grew up on a farm in Iowa, and Linda grew up here in the Twin Cities. They met while they were undergraduate students at what was then Northwestern College in Roseville, MN, and recently celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary. Steve and Linda have three adult children, all married, and five grandchildren, who live in New York, Becker, MN, and Minneapolis, MN.

Steve received his Master of Divinity from Western Seminary in Portland, OR. He began his formal pastoral ministry as the sole Pastor of Storden Baptist Church in Storden MN (1982-1987). From there they traveled south, where Steve served as Senior Pastor at 12th Avenue Baptist Church in Emporia, KS (1987-1992). They returned to Minnesota where Steve was Senior Pastor at Westwood Community Church in St. Cloud for 25 years (1992-2017).

At that point in their ministry, Steve and Linda envisioned they would transition into Interim Pastoral work, believing this was the call on their lives, and they engaged in formal training with Interim Pastor Ministries. However the Lord had other plans for them at that time, and Steve has spent the last 3 years serving as Adult Ministries Director at Veritas Church in Cedar Rapids, IA, overseeing ministries for 2,000 adults.

As you all are aware, the Board has been at work for many months to find an Intentional Interim Pastor. We interviewed candidates and engaged in multiple conversations with many people as we sought the person the Lord would have to lead us through this season of change and transition. I spoke with many individuals from multiple organizations across the Twin Cities, including friends at Converge North Central, Bethel University, Elim Church, Vital Church Ministries, and others. Each of these conversations provided us with encouragement, direction, wisdom, and additional resources to pursue. None seemed to yield the person we believed was meant to serve at Central. As the end of Joel’s role as Senior Pastor on June 14th drew near, the stress the Board felt was palpable. Yet we knew the Lord was aware of our need, and continued to trust and pray that He would provide.

Imagine my surprise when, early the morning of May 21, I awoke to an email from a Pastor in Iowa. I opened it up and read it while drinking my coffee and quite frankly I was dumbfounded; I actually re-read it four times. Steve and Linda had found our church in a very roundabout way, and just happened to watch one of Joel’s recent sermons when he mentioned the Board’s ongoing search for an Intentional Interim Pastor. And so, by faith, Steve sent me an email in which he shared with me what was happening in his current ministry role, and what he and Linda believed was a call to move forward into serving in intentional interim ministry. Steve mentioned some very specific things in his email that the Board had discussed regarding our church needs and the kind of person we were praying for; things no one would have had any way of knowing.

I left the house shortly after reading Steve’s email that morning to go for a run, and I actually ran into Pastor John Anderson along the Mississippi River Road. My husband Jon and I have actually seen and talked with John many mornings along the River this Spring, which was always a great blessing and encouragement to me. On that Thursday morning in May, I distinctly remember feeling compelled to confide in John about this email, and asking him to pray for me and for us. I replied to Steve later that day, and as you might imagine many Zoom meetings, phone conversations, emails, interviews, and much prayer followed. At each step of the way, we all continued to believe the Lord was calling us to move forward. The Board was able to meet in person with Steve and Linda here in Saint Paul on June 16, and it confirmed to all that we believed God was calling us to covenant together for the coming season at Central.

I share all of this detail with you because one of my favorite parts about this whole process has been seeing the Lord provide. When Joel first shared his news with the entire Board in January, we all had lots of mixed feelings and emotions, however the call on his life to move into a new ministry role with the Center for Pastor Theologians was clear. Joel and Myndi are walking by faith into this new calling, and Central needed to move forward by faith as well. As we prayed that January day, we entrusted this transition to the Lord, who knew our needs before we expressed them. We prayed for the person the Lord was calling to Central, asking God to be working in that person’s life. In the months that followed, the Board has been diligent in doing our work necessary for this search, and yet the Lord provided the answer to us wholly apart from anything our human hands have done. The Board can take no credit for finding Steve and Linda; I wholeheartedly believe this is the work of the Holy Spirit. You would think after 53 years of life I would not still be so astounded to see the Lord move and answer prayer. But I am.

Steve has formally accepted the position and we are working out the details of the timing and logistics of his transition; we anticipate he will formally begin serving us between July 15 and August 1. Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend 90 minutes with Steve and Linda at church, giving them a tour of Central and its many nooks and crannies. Steve and Linda are preparing to put their home on the market, packing for their move, and beginning to say their farewells to beloved friends and community in Cedar Rapids. They are actively searching for a new home here in the Twin Cities. Please pray the Lord would lead and guide them through every detail, and give them His peace each step of the way.

We give thanks to God for bringing the Schoepf’s to our Central family, to whom we’ve already learned they have some previously unknown connections, and we look forward to you all getting to know them! We thank you for your prayers for us as we humbly seek to serve our church.

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 100

Yours in Christ,

Catherine Westby Chair, Board of Stewards