After 47 years with CE National, Ed Lewis is retiring in September 2020.
For those who know Ed, the word “retiring” doesn’t seem to fit. The man who has more energy than a dozen teenagers and more enthusiasm than a cheerleading squad can’t possibly sit on the porch and watch grass grow.
So, a more accurate way to put this is that Ed, turning 74 in July, will be retiring from his full-time position in September. He has been president of CE National; his new title is president emeritus, and he will continue to serve CE in a part-time role.
Still, it is a milestone.
“It’s hard to retire from a calling,” Ed says. “God called me to try to be a catalyst for people living on mission. And that’s what God wants me to do.”
His new part-time role at CE will involve this very thing: being an encouragement to people for living on mission. He will continue to spend time at Urban Hope in Philadelphia and do training for Operation Barnabas. He will not do as much administrative work, which will allow free time in his schedule.
Jeff Bogue, the new president of CE National, says: “I’m thrilled Ed is staying on! He’ll continue to train people in evangelism and serve as a catalyst, helping people live on mission and continuing to build relationships with our churches and ministry partners!” (Bogue is also senior pastor of Grace Church of Greater Akron, Ohio.)
Bogue has known Ed for 27 years and worked alongside him in several of CE’s ministries, including 25 years at Momentum Youth Conference (formerly Brethren National Youth Conference). Although Ed says he doesn’t necessarily have the gift of evangelism, Bogue explains what is obvious to everyone else:
“Ed loves Christ and loves people, and he is one of the greatest evangelists I’ve ever known. He has a deep passion for the lost and a deep passion to help other people develop a deep passion for the lost, so when he is able to give his life to that, it energizes him and brings him great joy!”
That “deep passion” is what has driven Ed to give his life to the ministry of CE National. Helping people—especially young people—have ministry experiences and opportunities to share their faith has been a cornerstone of his work. His leadership through such ministries as Operation Barnabas, Momentum, The National Institute, TIME (Training in Ministry Experience), Urban Hope, and Euro Missions Institute has impacted thousands. Plus, these experiences have been a turning point for many as they influenced young people to enter Christian career work. And those already serving have benefit- ted from CE’s discipleship and training programs.
Dave and Sherilyn Rank have a long history with Ed. He was Sherilyn’s youth pastor at Winona Lake, Ind., Grace Brethren Church in the early 1970s, and Dave became acquainted with him at youth conference and later through other CE programs. Both serve on CE’s staff: Dave as senior coordinator of Momentum and Sherilyn as coordinator of Operation Barnabas. They agree that Ed’s influence has been far-reaching.
“The ministries he has initiated through CE National have equipped many of our present-day leaders in the fellowship,” says Dave.
Sherilyn adds, “He has started several ministries that have made a big impact on the fellowship. Operation Barnabas is a great example of that—it has trained more than 2,000 students down through the years and encouraged those students’ home churches as well as the churches they visited.”
Jeff Bogue explains it this way: “In sports, you talk about a coaching tree. The head football coach develops assistants under him who end up becoming head football coaches themselves. This is one measurement of success. When you look at Ed’s coaching tree, you see tons of leaders who have developed healthy strong churches and healthy Christ-oriented ministries.”
Ed’s friendliness and genuine love for people have made him one of the most well-known figures in the Charis Fellowship (Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches). Yet many people know Ed only through “segments” of his ministry. They may have gone to college with him, had him as youth pastor, met him at youth conference, ministered with him on Operation Barnabas, or met him at Urban Hope. But it’s interesting to put all those pieces together and see how God led in Ed’s journey.
That journey started with his parents, Ed (Senior) and Ruth. When you ask Ed who influenced him most, he mentions his parents first, as “godly examples. My dad accepted the Lord when he was 21. He was from an inner-city home in Philadelphia. He had nothing to do with God. He was from a home that never had followed the Lord.”
All that changed when Ed’s oldest sister, Margaret, was born with a hip socket problem. “She was handicapped, and they had a baby, and they felt like they ought to learn about God,” Ed continues. (She has been in a wheelchair all of her life.)
They went to a Grace Brethren church that was in Philadelphia, and that’s where they heard the gospel. Dad accepted the Lord. He had dropped out of high school, then went back to high school, went to Philadelphia School of the Bible [and] went to the First Brethren Church there.”
The pastor encouraged Ed’s father to go to Grace Seminary to prepare for ministry. So, the Lewis family, which now included another sister, Nancy (Zellner), moved to Winona Lake for seminary.
“I almost never made it,” continues Ed, “because my mother contracted typhoid fever when Dad was in seminary. Her temperature reached 106, and the doctors had given up on her. There was an all-night prayer meeting, and her temperature came back to normal by morning. Nurses she had were Dorothy Goodman and Dorothy Beaver, who became missionaries in Africa.”
Ed was born in Clay City, Ind., during his father’s first pastorate. Through the years, Ed, Sr. led other churches in Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida. “I thank the Lord for growing up within the Charis Fellowship/Grace Brethren Fellowship. I feel like I’m one that followed the normal path. I went to youth conference…I went to Grace College (BME 69), I went to Grace Seminary (MDiv 73), I went on short- term missions programs.”
Ed was a music major and his talent led to opportunities for him to serve in Africa and travel with college music groups. “I got to know our churches and our people, and it was only natural for me to be able to feel very comfortable with the people out there,” he says. During seminary, he was youth pastor at Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church, where he is still a member. He says that his days there, working with Pastor Charles Ashman, were a great influence on him. He’s remembered for his style of leadership that combined fun activities with opportunities for planning and leadership.
“I wanted to focus on what young people could do,” he recalls. “We would have ministry experiences. This is where a lot of churches…are missing a golden opportunity. Where are they [youth] ever going to learn if we have no place for them in our church program? I want to see churches do more to get young people out of their comfort zones and take them in ministry experiences.”
A year before Ed graduated, CE National asked if he would join their staff as director of youth ministry. To do that, he would have to cut back on seminary classes. He said no because he was afraid he would never finish seminary. So the job was offered to someone else.
As Ed approached seminary graduation, he didn’t know what he was going to do afterward. Then something occurred that he says, “changed the trajectory of my life.” John Mayes, then pastor of Community Grace Brethren Church in Whittier, Calif., asked Ed to consider a staff position at the church. Ed went, candidated, and felt that it went well. He asked if he should call back, but John told him, “Don’t do anything. We’ll just put it all in a letter.”
Ed waited almost three weeks—but no letter came. In the meantime, the person who had taken the youth ministry job at CE National quit. Ed was offered the job again—by then-CE Director Howard Mayes—John Mayes’ younger brother.
Meanwhile, John Mayes called Ed to ask what he decided about the job in Whittier, to which Ed replied, “I never got a letter.” Somehow the letter had gotten lost in the mail. In the meantime, Ed took the job at CE National and began in September 1973.
Howard Mayes finishes the story. “My brother forgave me for ‘spoiling’ his plans for Ed as a Californian and whole-heartedly supported Ed’s new ministry,” he remembers.
“For Grace Brethren, the rest, as they say, is history.”
It was during this time as Ed finished seminary and began full-time work, that he knew he was entering it as a single person. “I always thought I would be married,” he notes. He dated, but there was never that “one” girl that he fell in love with. “I realized that I have the gift of singleness. There is a role for both married and single people. If I’m going to be single, I’m going to be single to serve.” With that mindset, he has worked and traveled without hesitation.
Once Ed began his work at CE, his creativity and passion for evangelism and discipleship took shape through various outlets. Operation Barnabas started in 1974 and continues today as a summer training program for high school students. Momentum (formerly Brethren National Youth Conference) has grown substantially under Ed’s leadership. When he came in 1973, there were around 300 attendees; today, attendance runs around 2,300.
“My push has always been to see people go into Christian career work,” he says. “We’ve always called for commitments for the Lord at youth conference and… for Christian career commitments.” That “push” led CE to initiate several training experiences: TIME, EMI (Euro Missions Institute), Latin American Missions Institute, and Safari of Hope in Africa.
Ed was concerned that the follow-up afterward, especially with missions, wasn’t happening.
Grace Brethren International Missions (now Encompass World Partners) invited him to work part-time as director of candidate personnel. From 1982-1988, Ed held his full-time job at CE, plus put in part-time hours at GBIM—helping people go through the candidate process and on to the mission field. During those six years, 103 missionaries went to the field.
In 1985, Ed became executive director of CE National, and working for two organizations became too much. In Ed’s last year with GBIM, Tom Julien came on as director, and with his leadership, Ed was able to pull back from the two jobs and work only for CE.
The next few years brought much growth and in 1998, the addition of two major programs. That year, CE began to partner with Grace College in the National Institute for the Development of Ministries to Youth. The program offers hands-on training in youth ministry leading to a bachelor’s degree.
Ed adds, “That year was also the beginning of the Urban Hope Training Center program in Philadelphia…to train present and future Christian workers. The Third Brethren Church donated its facilities for this ministry. The church had decided to close their doors since the neighborhood had changed, and few church people were from that community anymore. They gave us the keys to their facilities. We have a Studies in Urban Ministry major at Grace College as well, that coordinates with the Urban Hope locations.” [Now also in Los Angeles.]
As Ed passes the leadership of CE on to Bogue, he’s thankful that they share the same passion for developing leaders in the fellowship and for declaring God’s power “to the next generation” (Ps. 71:18b).
That “next generation” has always been on Ed’s mind. It has de- fined his ministry and made his calling so valuable.
“Ed’s contributions to our fellowship are seen not only in innovations in outreach projects and discipleship processes but most of all in the lives of the thousands he has touched through his long and faithful tenure,” says Howard Mayes, who preceded Ed as executive director at CE. “We know Ed as a man of great vision, but also a man of great skill in translating vision to reality.”
And the man who is following him, Jeff Bogue, agrees. “Ed has been a fixture, not only at CE National and the Charis Fellowship but actually in the kingdom of God,” stresses Jeff. “His work and the investment of his life have had ramifications around the world, and God has used him in extraordinary ways. Tens of thousands of people have come to know Christ under Ed’s ministry, or as a result of it, and thousands of people are led every week in churches and ministries by men and women that he has trained up to serve Christ.” — by Judy Daniels