Zach Eikenberry, Elder Candidate
Zach Eikenberry Autobiography
For as far back as I can remember, I recall going to church and praying with my family. Being raised in an Old Order Brethren Church (German Baptists), I was also part of a community that distinguished itself in its cultural behaviors. This was especially noticeable in the way my extended family members dressed - bonnets, beards, handmade dresses, and simple clothing. To the casual observer, we were kind of like Amish, but we drove cars and had electricity.
Coming from a world that showed its faith outwardly, I recall thinking that the true Christian believers in the world would be obvious. I remember judging people from a young age whether or not they were “good guys” or “bad guys.” Certainly, as all young boys believe, I was one of the good guys.
When I was 7 years old or so, I began to pray every night before I went to bed that “Jesus would come into my heart.” I remember my mom telling me, “If you ask him, then he answer. He is standing at the door of your heart and knocking.”
My immediate family had left the German Baptist Church when I was young to attend a Southern Baptist Church in the big city of Frankfort, Indiana. This was crazy to go the city on a regular basis, being a farm boy who dreamed of big, green John Deere tractors.
On one Sunday morning, at this Southern Baptist Church, I went forward during the alter call. I felt compelled to do it right, and make sure - once and for all - that I was on of the good guys. I finally did it.
For the next 7 years or so, my life virtually revolved around the small baptist church. My dad became one of two deacons (equivalent of elders), and I often enjoyed memorizing Bible verses and invited strangers to vacation bible school.
When I was in 8th grade, my dad called out the pastor for insurance fraud. The church split. Things got ugly. The pastor condemned my family openly from the pulpit. It’s only the second time I’ve seen my dad cry in my life to this day.
So I rebelled. I didn’t care anything more about church, faith, other people, et al. I found a way to hack AOL free cd’s and became addicted to internet pornography. I snuck out with friends to vandalized the local town, party, and generally lead a double life.
In fact, my family joined a local, conservative Regular Baptist Church during this time. I went on a summer missions trip to Mexico with the other high schoolers. As true to my nature, I snuck out late in a city in Mexico. (Stupid crazy, right?) I was spent the night dancing and hanging driving around with drunk drivers. As I snuck back into the house around 5AM I walked by the missionaries who were hosting us, praying on their knees by their bed. They did this every morning for over 40 years.
No, I didn’t get caught. But I did realize that I needed to decide on this Christianity thing - I either needed to be “in” or “out.” I knew I could decide, but living a double life only hurt myself and others. I decided to be “in.” That’s when my faith became a reality again.
Next season of impact were my years in college, at Purdue. I was studying philosophy, religion, history, and economics. In these liberal arts programs, I was exposed to numerous world-views, religions, and truth claims. In short, I loved it.
Coming from a view different faith perspectives growing up, I love learning about numerous other opportunities for truth; because I am deeply committed to pursuing what is actually, in all reality, true. Truth is my ultimate aim in life.
I had a wide diversity of experiences in college. I spent time at Roman Catholic mass, Friday Islamic prayers, and in Mormon tabernacles. I read ferociously. I was mentored by a Catholic theologian out of Notre Dame and an associate professor out of Baptist Bible College (now Clark Summit University).
Meanwhile, my younger brother, who was studying to be in full time ministry gave me a call one evening. He said, “Did you know the whole point of the Bible is the Gospel?”
“Nah,” I said, “the Bible is too complex. The Gospel is for unbelievers. Once they convert, it’s their study of the Scriptures that make them sanctified. The Bible is everything we need for life and godliness.”
“No, I disagree.” my brother said. “The Gospel is actually for believers. Read the first chapter of all of Paul’s letters. The introductions are the most important parts.”
So, I did. Over the course of some time, I came to realize and accept two fundamental beliefs; that the Gospel is the center of reality, and that salvation is fully an act of God towards men. I would consider myself a recovering Bible-centered believer, as I center my life around the historical events of the Gospel.
After college, I hire myself and began a journey in trying to understand the marketplace. This is why many call me an entrepreneur; a label I would not wish upon my worst enemies. In those early years, I experienced the death of two friends. At their funerals, I recall the power of the Gospel compelling my forward.
For if the resurrection is not true, then what do we have? What is the good news if all we proclaim is death and sacrifice?
I began getting involved in ministry shortly thereafter. My entire aim was to discover and study the Gospel. In fact, a pastor at a church in Indianapolis took me to lunch to challenge me on my hypothesis.
“Surely, young professionals need to hear more than the Gospel every week. I highly recommend you study a book of the Bible.”
“Ok, you may be right. “ I said. “However, if you are wrong, then young professionals would miss out on the most important thing they could ever know or experience. If I am wrong, they will miss out on 3 months of exegesis.” Within a year, we had 80 young professionals showing up weekly to a study on the Gospel; focusing on proclaiming the Gospel events and implications to ourselves.
In 2010, without knowing a soul in town, I moved my business to Greenville. I visited numerous churches in town for almost 2 years. However, I landed at Fellowship Greenville (formerly Southside Fellowship). There, again, I met with some folks and started a study focusing on proclaiming the Gospel to ourselves. It grew into numerous opportunities, including the founding of Gospel on Tap, Hymns and Hops, and other local ministries.
In 2014, I finally married by dream girl, Jenny - who has taken my last name. And as we started our marriage, we looked into our place in the Greenville community. Seemingly out of the blue, Heather and David Strader reached out to me for they were random friends from our time at Purdue together. They moved to Greenville as part of a church plant. They said Jenny and I should check it out; and we did. Our first Sunday was the very first Sunday of East North Church’s official launch.
Looking back over the last 3 years, Jenny and I are blown away by our time at East North Church. Every week, and throughout every week, we get to hang out and worship with our best friends. We are raising our two little girls, Sophia and Adelaide, among other Gospel believers and proclaimers.
I get to be myself, for better or worse, around others who show me the same grace that God has shown them. We don’t have to live a double life anymore. There is nothing more freeing than being who God has called you to be; and we believe that is the case at East North Church.
Besides some of the original founders, you will not find anyone more committed and passionate about the mission and calling of East North Church.
So a little over a year ago, Todd approached me about becoming an elder. I’ll admit, I was caught off guard. I immediately recalled watching my father and my original church torn apart by poor leadership. I was (and still am) caught in a moment of trepidation. Becoming an elder is a high calling with consequences and impact, and it is not something to pursue without examination and prayer.
My wife and I have begun the journey toward answering a call to be an elder (pastor) in Christ’s church. Of course, I am happy to offer my talents and experiences in building an organization. In my life, I have started numerous companies. Currently, I run growing, innovative public school with two campuses in the Upstate. I spend time traveling and speaking to the need and approaches of public education reform. These challenges have created numerous scars from experiences in how to - and how not to - lead in building something from nothing. To date, I have served and offered these experiences on the Advisory Board.
I am candidating for elder confirmation in order to serve East North Church with my leadership experiences, my passion for the centrality of the Gospel, and the movement toward church planting throughout our world.
I, my wife, and my two young daughters love East North Church. We pray the Lord continues to bless our church, its mission, and its calling to Discover, Demonstrate, and Declare the Gospel.