History and Vision
Most people who walk through our doors wonder what the name epikos means. Simply put, epikos is the Greek word for epic.
- noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style;
- resembling or suggesting such poetry;
- heroic; majestic; impressively great;
- of unusually great size or extent.
There are a few reasons why this name is fitting for our church. The primary reason is that an epic, by definition is a narrative based upon a central character or hero…in our case, JESUS! The second reason is that an epic is a longer poetic composition. Everyone’s walk with Christ truly is poetry (“For we are God's masterpiece.” Eph 2:10, NLT). It’s our hope and prayer that God will be the composer of this transformational community. The final reason is that “epic” is often used to refer to something significant or big. We are trusting God to do something big in us and through us. We pray that Milwaukee will be impacted in a HUGE way.
Danny Parmelee, the founder and Lead Pastor of epikos, made a faith commitment to Christ while a freshman at the University of WI-Oshkosh. Rescued from a life of self- indulgence and destruction, he sought God’s will for his life. While part of a campus ministry, he saw many people like himself come to faith and become transformed by the power of the gospel. While he was encouraged by God’s movement on campus, he quickly realized that by contrast, many churches in America were failing to reach his generation. His passion to see people reached for Christ in conjunction with his awareness of the dire need for relevant churches sparked a call to full time ministry and specifically church leadership. He switched his major to Religious Studies and prayed for God’s direction in his life. God stirred in him a dream to launch a church that would transform lives, neighborhoods, even a city. He met his wife Emili during this time and the summer after graduating from college they got married and moved to St. Paul, MN where Danny earned his Masters of Divinity from Bethel Theological Seminary. Their shared vision of a church that would transform lives started to take form. Through time and prayer, they began to see who they needed to reach and even how it might happen. The only question was where?
While looking at opportunistic cities in the Midwest, Milwaukee caught Danny and Emili’s attention almost immediately. Danny’s parents, grandparents, even great grandparents all grew up on the eastside of Milwaukee, so he was familiar with the area because of summers and holidays spent with family there. They also had friends who had or were attending UWM. But more important than a personal connection to the area, a survey of the land uncovered the enormous need for a new church. Research by Dave Olson revealed that in Milwaukee County alone over 722,000 people, or approximately 80%, didn’t go to church on a weekly basis. In addition to this, the population density of the area in contrast with the number of churches was sadly disproportional. While many cities across the country needed new churches, the Parmelee’s sensed God’s nudge to move to Milwaukee’s eastside to begin the process of launching a church.
Danny and Emili settled into Milwaukee in January 2004. They found a perfect two- bedroom flat just off of Brady Street with a big living room. Danny camped out at coffee shops, bookshops … anywhere people were, so that he could strike up conversations and cast the vision for a new church in the area. It wasn’t long before he had enough guys to hold a small bible study in the Parmelee living room. By spring, word began to spread and another small group was started. By Fall 2004, about 40 people were interested in taking this gathering of people to the next level. They began looking for places to gather together for corporate worship. This was a difficult task and most people were not interested in leasing the space, and those that were interested wanted a substantial amount of money. Then, one day while biking through the neighborhoods of the eastside, Danny spotted a beautiful church building, Westminster Presbyterian Church, on the corner of Farwell and Belleview. After some inquiry and discussions with the church staff, they agreed to let epikos use their building to meet on Saturday nights.
Time was spent in the fall and winter of 2004 to prepare to “open the doors” to the public. Teams were formed and tasks and responsibilities divided to prepare for this big event. With a limited budget they photocopied some invitations and passed them out to people in the neighborhood. Saturday evening, January 8th, 2005 marked the first corporate worship service at Westminster. Since relationships and fellowship were at the heart of this ministry, a free full nacho bar was set up following the service.
The Story Continues
Epikos continued to grow. As we were running out of space we multiplied our worship services to include am and pm options. In the summer of 2009 we purchased the building. We felt God's hand of provision through that process and all worked hard to help transform the building into as much usable space as possible. There seemed to be a constant stream of new faces coming through the doors each week. Some people experienced significant life transformation, while others faded off, never to be heard from again. Babies were born and marriages commenced while at the same time, relationships were broken and tragedy took lives. Through all of it, small groups remained a central focus of the vision, “To make more and better disciples.” Epikos has been blessed by God with many amazing people. God continues to weave our individual stories into His magnificent story. Twists and turns, triumphs and disappointments are expected; but we eagerly await the next chapters to be written.
On the Horizon
It’s a defining moment for our church! We recently purchased the historic and iconic Paradise Theater in West Allis. This has been an answer to prayer as we've been trusting God to multiply epikos from one location on the eastside to an additional location west. Located at the intersection of Greenfield Ave and National Ave thousands of people pass by it on foot and by car everyday. God continues to open the doors for us to convert this gorgeous theater with over 1,100 seats into an amazing worship auditorium, and utilize the ample surrounding space for children's ministry, classrooms, offices, and a fully operational cafe. We are designing the remodel and restoration of this facility, exploring options of how to run worship services at both east and west sites, deciding how to organize staff and leaders, discerning how to run and maximize use of the cafe space, and much more. You can keep up with the renovation at www.RestoreParadise.com Maybe God is calling you to be part of this church in West Allis!
Our mission and purpose is not new or creative. Jesus commanded his dedicated followers to "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all I have commanded." Those twelve followed his command and revolutionized the world. We want to continue Jesus' command by "making disciples." A disciple is one who has accepted Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross, and who is committed to living out what Jesus taught and exemplified.
We believe that the process of discipleship happens best through relationships. We offer small groups, mid-sized groups, and large groups to provide an environment where relationships and resources are designed to foster true discipleship. With this structure we believe it is possible as a church to "Grow Big, but Stay Small." By that we mean that our church can continue to grow numerically while not forsaking relational intimacy and depth in discipleship. It's our desire to continue to grow and multiply what God has done in us and through us.