Center Point mourns the loss of staff, but remains hopeful and cheerful
By MARK MAYNARD, Kentucky today
LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) – The Center Point Church family is heartbroken, and for good reason. It has been an unthinkable week with the deaths of two team leaders – Senior Pastor Tim Parsons and Executive Director Chuck Vellios – just days apart.
The church mourns the loss of two outstanding spiritual leaders, men who impacted countless lives for the kingdom, men who well led and trained hundreds of disciples for Jesus Christ, men who put the gospel at the forefront of their lives and led many of these members to a profession of faith.
And now they’re gone, both dying of symptoms related to COVID. It was an overwhelming time for the church whose focus was on how these men lived and the impact they had on so many people.
It’s a searing loss that won’t heal quickly, but they have hope and joy for the days to come because of Jesus Christ, Associate Pastor Graham Withers said.
“There is a realism that we have in grief,” he said. “We don’t want people to act like it’s okay. But we don’t cry like those who have no hope. We have hope that Jesus wrapped his arms around Tim and Chuck, we have hope that we will see them again one day, and we have hope that God has not forgotten or forsaken us.
“One thing Tim always said when he preached was that this is the church of God. It was never built on one man. Tim was a very gifted man by God, but he was more than that. He was available and obedient to what God was doing through him. He had the Holy Ghost and so did we. We will not be distracted from the mission.
The celebratory service for Parsons, a beloved pastor, on Monday was uplifting and encouraging. The news came the same day after the service that Vellios, another beloved staff member, had passed away. His celebration of life service will be at church on Wednesday.
Parsons was one of four church planting pastors celebrating its 16e birthday this month. He was a beloved spiritual leader who shared the gospel with countless thousands of people and whose mission in life was to make disciples for Jesus Christ.
“He was a highly regarded pastor for good reasons,” Withers said. “He liked people. I heard so many stories from people as they walked through the door how welcome they felt.
The senior pastor, who was 59, was often the first person to meet visitors at the gate. He was eager to organize “coffee tours” with everyone who walked through the doors of the church, Withers said. It was not uncommon to find his truck parked at the Panera Bread located near the church. He was often there to share Jesus or train someone because that’s what he did best and that’s what he loved.
“It was his place out of the office,” Withers said. “I could go anytime and would be surprised if I didn’t see someone from our church doing some type of ministry. He saw these coffee tours as a great evangelistic opportunity, ”Withers said. “He liked to do that. It helped people feel connected to him.
Withers said some of the Panera staff even reached out to Parsons’ family to let them know how much she will miss him.
The service of life celebration for Parsons on Monday was exactly what the pastor would have wanted because it ultimately gave God the glory and shared hope in Christ, Withers said. “He loved people, the Bible, family, and the gospel. He was truly someone who deserves to be honored, but he wouldn’t want it to be because of him.
Withers said the best way for the church to honor the life of Parsons and Vellios would be to continue the mission they established as leaders of Center Point.
“Our mission as a church is to bring everyone we meet closer to being a disciple of Jesus Christ,” he said. “As much as Tim believed in this mission, our mission has not changed. We are in mourning and we are not going to go beyond our mourning. It will take that right balance. How to cry well? We need to grieve in a healthy way. We don’t try to bury it or ignore it, but at some point we have to come out of mourning and be on a mission at the same time. The church does not press the panic button.
Church leaders – elders and staff – also did not panic. The staff have been authorized by the management to carry out the daily work. Everyone takes on some of the responsibilities, said Withers, who has worked at Center Point since 2011. He was a sophomore at the University of Kentucky when he joined and became a staff member in 2015.
“I started being trained by Tim as a junior (in college) and really since,” Withers said. “He helped me grow spiritually, invested me and equipped me for the ministry. He was my pastor, my boss, but also a dear friend. It will have a lasting impact on my life.
Vellios, who was 63, has been instrumental in the ministry from the start when they met at the Regal Movie Theater in 2005. He led small groups and provided valuable organizational skills to the team while investing in people. In his professional life he was in business at Nestlé and brought many of these skills to the church.
“He’s really helped us think about the strategy of how we do things,” Withers said. “Chuck is one of the most loyal and godly men I have ever met. He and his wife, Barbara, have been part of our church from the start.
Vellios had to leave the state for a while, but returned to Lexington after retiring and “picked up where he left off,” Withers said.
Vellios and his wife were among the first small group leaders in the church and they came into contact not only with the staff but also with the people of the church. “They’ve invested in the lives of young people in very impactful ways,” Withers said.
The losses of these two church leaders will leave a void and the mourning will take some time, Withers said.
“We are full of hope but in mourning. People in the church take it pretty hard, ”he said. “He was our pastor, our friend and the spiritual father of many people. He left a legacy. We are trying to help our people understand that it is okay to cry and cry. We can cry and cry and have hope at the same time. The picture that Scripture paints on us is what it is like to suffer. We do not cry with those who have no hope.