As a former church planter in NYC and current Lead Pastor of Church at the Cross in Grapevine, TX, JR Vassar is passionate about the local Church’s maturity and mission. He holds a Th.M. from Dallas Seminary. He and his wife Ginger live with their three children in Grapevine, TX. He is the author of Glory Hunger: God, the Gospel and our Quest for Something More (Crossway, 2015).
Ben Stuart has been the Executive Director for Breakaway since the summer of 2005. He grew up in Houston, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University in 1998. After graduation, Ben served as a youth pastor in Spring, Texas for five years. He then went on to receive a degree in Historical Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife, Donna, and their sweet children, Hannah, Sparrow, and Owen. Ben’s passion in life is knowing God and making Him known.
Thabiti Anyabwile Thabiti Anyabwile is one of the pastors for ARC. He has served as an elder and pastor in churches in NC, DC and the Cayman Islands.
After a few years as a practicing Muslim, Thabiti was converted under the preaching of the gospel in the Washington DC area. He and his wife, Kristie, have three children. Thabiti is the author of several books, including The Life of God in the Soul of the Church; The Gospel for Muslims; What Is a Healthy Church Member?; The Decline of African-American Theology; and The Faithful Preacher.
He blogs regularly at TheFront Porch (www.thefrontporch.org) and Pure Church (http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/)
Matt serves as Lead Pastor of Teaching at The Village Church in the Dallas Fort Worth area. He has served in that role since December 2002 and describes his tenure at The Village as a re-planting effort where he was involved in changing the theological and philosophical culture of the congregation. The church has witnessed a tremendous response growing from 160 people to over 11,000 with campuses in Flower Mound, Dallas and Denton.
Alongside his current role as lead pastor, Matt is involved in church planting efforts both locally and internationally through The Village and various strategic partnerships. Prior to accepting the pastorate at The Village, Matt had a vibrant itinerant ministry for over 10 years where he spoke to thousands of people in America and abroad about the glory of God and beauty of Jesus. His greatest joy outside of Jesus is being married to Lauren and being a dad to their three children, Audrey, Reid and Norah.
Matt serves as president of Acts 29, a worldwide church-planting organization. Over the last 10 years, Acts 29 has emerged from a small band of brothers to over 400 churches in the United States and networks of churches in multiple countries.
Matt speaks at conferences throughout the world and has written several books, including: The Explicit Gospel, Creature of the Word, To Live is Christ To Die is Gain, and most recently The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex and Redemption.
Teaching Pastor The Porch / Watermark Community Church
Jonathan “JP” Pokluda is the Young Adults Pastor of Watermark Community Church and leader of The Porch, an influential Young Adult gathering in Dallas, TX. At The Porch thousands of young adults come hear the gospel, get equipped and are unleashed for Kingdom purposes. JP came to understand the grace of the Gospel in his early twenties after being involved in different denominational churches his entire life. This ignited a desire in him to reach the twenties and thirties for Christ. JP’s passion is to share the Gospel with anyone who will listen and equip others to do the same. He also feels called to challenge Christians to multiply their faith by discipling others. JP loves his wife Monica, and together they disciple their children, Presley, Finley and Weston.
Dr. Eric Mason is the founder and lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, PA. He lives in the heart of Philadelphia with his wife Yvette and three sons, Immanuel, Nehemiah, and Ephraim. He is the founder and president of Thriving, an urban resource collaborative committed to developing leaders for ministry in an inner-city context. Dr. Mason has written two books, Manhood Restored and Beat God to the Punch, and has contributed to multiple online and print publications, including The Mission of God Study Bible and Keep Your Head Up. Dr. Mason serves on the Executive Board of the Acts 29 Network as well as on the board of Reach Life Ministries. Dr. Mason has been graced by God to preach and teach at churches and conferences in the US and abroad.
Christ has allowed Dr. Mason to serve in multiple ministry roles over the past two decades. He is also the recipient of multiple degrees, including a BS in Psychology from Bowie State University, a Master of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Doctoral degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Dr. Mason was first burdened to go into full-time vocational service after trusting Christ as an undergraduate. This calling was acknowledged under the leadership of Rev. Dr. James J. McCord at First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Landover, MD. During his years on campus he served in a variety of ministry roles and led many people to Jesus.
After moving to Dallas, Texas to attend Dallas Theological Seminary, he immediately became a member of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship under the pastoral leadership of Dr. Tony Evans, who would then become his father in the ministry. Meanwhile, Dr. Mason was hired by STEP/Bridge Builders, as a counselor and mentor to “at risk” youth in the Southern and Eastern sectors of Dallas. STEP/Bridge builders was an inner city organization based in several community centers, high schools, and projects that discipled troubled youth and former gang members. He also served in his church co-youth pastor to over 500+ youth , in addition to directing the church prison ministry, where he oversaw 17 ministers who engaged troubled youth in the DFW metroplex. Upon completing his degree at DTS, Dr. Mason was ordained in May of 2000 by the council of elders at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship, with Dr. Tony Evans at the council’s helm.
Following his ordination, Dr. Mason moved to Houston, TX. While in Houston he served functionally as the assistant pastor of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, under the leadership of Dr. D. Z. Cofield, who helped to expand Dr. Mason’s pastoral bandwidth. During his time at the church he provided counseling, led Wednesday meetings, Sunday morning worship and Sunday school, preached multiple times a year, presided over weddings, assisted the church in a transition to 70 small groups, and much more. He also served as adjunct professor at the College of Biblical Studies.
Dr. Mason then was called to serve as the Regional Director of the Urban Schools Alternative at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. Upon receiving the call to Philly, Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, AR offered to train him in leadership and church planting. After a year of sitting under the elders’ tutelage, they affirmed him through the laying on of hands, and commissioned him to the work of church planting.
After his commissioning, Dr. Mason moved with his family to Philadelphia to plant Epiphany While starting Epiphany Fellowship, Dr. Mason served for a time as an adjunct professor at Biblical Theological Seminary.
Dr. Mason considers himself a foodie and a coffee snob, and enjoys reading, writing, art, and shopping for style.
Todd Wagner is the Founding Pastor of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas. The church was established just over a decade ago by a handful of friends who were burdened to make the invisible Kingdom visible to their spiritually confused and compromised friends in this city.
Today, the Watermark body is working in Dallas and around the world serving, teaching and leading others in the adventure of following Christ.Todd and his wife Alex are busy investing in their six kids. Though he enjoys teaching at both Watermark and conferences around the country, his favorite pastime is laughing with his family and coaching sports for his kids and their friends.
Special session for women Author, Speaker, Teacher “Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds”
Jen Wilkin is a speaker, writer and teacher of women’s Bible studies in Dallas, Texas. She has organized and led studies for women in home, church, and parachurch contexts. Her passion is to see women become articulate and committed followers of Christ, with a clear understanding of why they believe what they believe, grounded in the Word of God. She is the author of “Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both our Hearts and our Minds”. You can find her at jenwilkin.net.
Shane Everett and Shane Barnard formed the duo, Shane & Shane after meeting in College Station, Texas in the late 90s. Since then the pair has logged countless hours on the road, garnered multiple Dove Awards, enjoyed numerous A-list tour slots, and sold millions of tracks. Now husbands and fathers, the two men lead worship weekly at “The Porch”, a community of about 2,000 young adults in their 20s and 30s every Tuesday night at Watermark Community Church in Dallas. In 2014 they created and launched the Linger Conference to encourage believers to spend time in worship and the Word. Currently, they are spearheading a resource to mentor and train worship leaders, called “The Worship Initiative.”
Phil Wickham is at his core a humble and sincere artist who writes songs and worships God using the medium of music. It is with that brush that he paints images of a loving and creative God across the canvases of listeners’ hearts and minds. The evidence of this gift has been apparent on all four of his critically acclaimed efforts: Phil Wickham (2006), Cannons (2007), Heaven & Earth (2009) and Response(2011).
The critically acclaimed artist released his most recent studio album Response, last year. The album hit No. 1 on the iTunes Christian/Gospel Albums Chart, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Top Christian/Gospel Albums chart, No. 4 on the Christian Soundscan Chart and peaked in the Top 25 on the iTunes overall albums chart.
Bethany grew up in a small town in Ohio and has always had a passion for music. She began playing guitar and writing songs around the same time that she came to know Jesus at age 10. After recording a CD of her songs in someone’s living room at twelve years old, the indie project made its way into the hands of record executives at Sparrow Records in Nashville, Tennessee. Bethany signed a record deal with Sparrow at age 13 and released her ﬁrst record at ﬁfteen years old. She toured and recorded for the next six years.Bethany married Shane Barnard (Shane & Shane) in March 2008. Since having their ﬁrst daughter, Lucy, Bethany has been a stay-at-home mom and has led worship for a few women’s conferences and at her home church. She released a 5-song EP entitled “To Those Who Wait” in May 2012. Shane, Bethany, and their daughters Lucy (2) and Haven (born July 2012), live in Cedar Hill, TX.