Changing the Ethos of Chicago

Rev. Ron May and Justin Beach

On February 14, 2016, Justin Beach was ordained as Associate Pastor at Ethos Chicago, a unique church that meets for weekly worship at the historic Biograph Theater in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on the city’s north side.

“God has led me on a journey I never knew I would take,” Justin says. “Ten years ago I was in Chicago studying film and animation. If you would have said at that time, ‘In ten years you will be married, with three children, living in Chicago, and the pastor of a church,’ I would have laughed. Yet here I am, after a six-year journey through serving the church, attending seminary, and finally being ordained. Jesus did the miraculous work of preparing me. I am overjoyed to be serving at Ethos with such great men. God pressed on my heart to serve a church in Chicago, and receiving the call to Ethos was both affirming and encouraging.”

Some of the men who serve Ethos participated in Justin’s ordination. Assistant Pastor Daniel Svendsen let the service. Senior Pastor Ron May officiated the ordination vows. Elders Alex Schwaninger and Jeff Craven also participated, with Jeff offering the ordination prayer.

Justin’s friend, Rev. Jim Oord (Schererville URC), preached on 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13, encouraging the new pastor to center his work in the gospel by the power of Christ, for God’s glory. His four points urged Justin to delight the church, build up the church, be built up by the church, and look to Jesus.

Rev. Dan Adamson (PCA) gave charges to the new pastor and the congregation. He was Justin’s supervising pastor during Justin’s years at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, while he and his family attended Cityview Presbyterian Church in Chicago’s west loop.

laying-on-hands-menJustin’s father, Mid-America professor Dr. J. Mark Beach, and his father-in-law, Rev. Chris Moulton (Reformation Presbyterian Church of Sheboygan), participated in the laying on of hands.

“Justin has an amazing servant’s heart,” Rev. May says. “He’s a genuine pastor, who noticeably and tangibly cares for people. He also is an excellent communicator of God’s word. Of course, I’m excited for his ordination, but, frankly, he’s already been fully invested in ministry and a huge encouragement to us since his arrival in September. I appreciate Justin’s humility and teach-ability. He encourages me by his willingness to roll up his sleeves and do whatever needs to be done for the good of the church. He’s totally reliable, which take a great deal of stress off my shoulders. I also love the way he’s always smiling. I know that’s a little thing, but I believe it’s a tangible display of the way he applies the gospel to his life.”

Justin is a 2015 graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary. He sustained his ordination exam in the PCA’s Chicago Metro Presbytery on January 20, 2016. Prior to attending seminary, he worked with disadvantaged minority youth in inner-city southern Phoenix as a mentor and service project leader for New City Phoenix, a mission church of the PCA.

“It was here that my heart for seeing the hope of the gospel come into the lives of hurting people grew,” he says. “It was also here that I saw the practical ways in which the gospel plays out in loving our neighbors. I have a strong desire to see the generational and communal effects of sin be cut off from the most vulnerable among us, and only the gospel has the power to do this.”

Justin and Bonnie Beach live with their three children near the Lincoln Square neighborhood, which is about a 15-minute bike ride from the church office and event space called The Narthex and a 20-minute drive to 10:00 AM worship services at the Biograph Theater.

“People might wonder why a family of five would move to Chicago when so many young families leave the city for the suburbs,” Justin says. “People also might wonder why we would move to a city so marked by political agendas, social values, and moral ethics that are counter to our own. The answer is the gospel. The city of Chicago needs to come under the Lordship of King Jesus just as much as anywhere else. The people here want the same things as people everywhere—to be truly valued, truly loved, and truly accepted—but this is only found in our savior Jesus Christ. Jesus expressed his love for the city in the Great Commission when he commands that the church make disciples of all nations. It is precisely as city as diverse as Chicago where this is to happen. Ministry in the city also offers a unique opportunity to respond to and engage our culture’s greatest influencers with a gospel message.”

The roots of Ethos began in 2007, and the group was launched as a church plant in 2009. It became a particularized church in May of 2014.

The church’s website explains that its name means the “distinctive spirit or character of an era” and that the church is all about changing the ethos of the city through the transforming good news of Jesus Christ. “God’s challenge for His people is to embody the love, grace and truth of Jesus Christ. That means nurturing a different culture, or ethos, than that which prevails outside His church,” the site states. “It’s a radical proposition that is as countercultural today as it was 2,000 years ago, and one that is impossible to fulfill without the transcendent power of God. Fortunately, He is alive, active, and dedicated to working through churches such as Ethos to transform our world, and bring healing to broken, hurting people and communities.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 11 & 12 of the March 23, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.


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