8 Questions with Robert Stearns

By Kyle Patterson

Congratulations on your new role as Bishop of The Tabernacle. As if you didn't have enough to do already right as Executive Director of Eagles' Wings? (kiddingly)
Hey thanks! I do have twin six year old boys (in addition to my ten year old), so I am accustomed to loving and caring for different people equally and individually, simultaneously!

Did you ever expect to be leading a local congregation when God has given you a worldwide ministry?
To be honest, the Tabernacle is not a typical local congregation. Under Bishop Tommy Reid’s amazing 52 years of leadership, we have planted well over a dozen churches and social service ministries throughout WNY. We have established a missions base and orphanage in Honduras, where I have ministered about 8 times. We have a missions base we have planted in the Phillipines, which now oversees Filipino churches literally around the world. Benny Hinn began his ministry at The Tabernacle, as did Marilyn Hickey. Pastor Aimee Reid-Sych has a major global television program, and leads worship and preaches at churches and conferences everywhere. So, the DNA of The Tabernacle is to have a vital connection to the bigger picture of what God is doing regionally and globally.  That’s why this really is a God thing and a great fit.

What are you believing God to do in this next season and this new position?
I absolutely believe this is the hardest season the Christian church in America has ever been in, as well as the most opportunity filled moment we have ever had. If the Church is to truly survive in this nation, we need to begin asking some deep questions about what it means to be a believer, how we relate to one another, how we relate to people different than us, and how we serve others with respect and dignity. I don’t believe that superficial affiliations and services will keep people “in church” anymore. We have to go deep about what it means to have a commitment to Christ and to one another.

Is Eagles' Wings a part of the Tabernacle now or vise versa, or will you manage the two separately?
Well, Eagles Wings started at the Tabernacle, with our first East Coast Conference there in 1994. That really is what gave Eagles Wings our national launch. And, over the years, we have cooperated on many things such as the missions to Honduras, regional conferences, CovNet (our Leadership Network), just to name a few. So, I believe this will continue and probably increase to some degree. But one piece of advice I received when I became the father of twins was to always make sure Daniel and Michael were both affirmed in their individual identities, and not lumped together as “the twins.” So – I think that is great advice and will carry through on several levels!

So you have brought on Pastor Jim Ruddy to manage the day to day pastoring of the Tabernacle, which is a unique approach I haven't seen in a lot of churches. Can you comment on this?
Honestly, I would love to take credit for this brilliant move, but it really was just a God thing. It was so hard for several months because I knew the Lord was leading me into this position at The Tab, but also knew that something – someone – was missing. There needed to be that pastor and administrator for the day to day realities that a church of this size faces. In reality, those things are not my gifting. I am a big picture, vision, values, structure guy. I am not great with day by day items. I try – but it is not my area of strength, which is why I thank God for Steve and Veronica Jenks, Wendy Miller and the rest of the incredible administrative team God has given me at Eagles Wings. I would be totally lost without them. So – the Lord just “appeared” this incredible ministry couple, Jim and Mari-Lee Ruddy, onto the scene, and I was like “Hey! Are you the guy who is supposed to do this?” and he said “I think so!” It really was that quick – the whole thing was clear in about 3 conversations. Which I love – when God just arranges things, rather than reviewing 30 resumes and appointing a search committee! God is the best head hunter there is! The Ruddy’s are going to be an amazing blessing to all God is doing in WNY, and again, we are blessed to have them here!

Can you tell me about your relationship with Pastor Tommy Reid, what you learned from him and how you plan to carry on his legacy?
The absolute truth is that I don’t think Pastor Reid understands how much I watched him and modeled him, especially in the first ten years of my ministry. He mentored and discipled me just by his actions and presence. I would study every word, every action, every nuance of his, because there is such grace, such depth, and such authority that he walks in. I really don’t think WNY understands the gift that he is to this region. I am hoping in this new season of his ministry that many of the churches in this area can have the privilege of having him on a Sunday. When you are with Pastor Reid, he makes you feel as though you are absolutely the most special and important person in his world at that moment. And it is not an act. He genuinely values people and the story of grace their lives are telling. I need more of that in my life, and I am trying to still learn from him.

What do you sense God is saying to the church in Buffalo during this season?
Well, you’d have to be living under a rock to not sense that unity is what God is bringing us to! The Good Friday service was epic. The quality of leadership that is across the city – Roderick Hennings, Jerry Gillis, Darius Pridgen, Pat Jones, Marty MacDonald, Daniel Nieves, Al Warner – these are amazing leaders. I have always said that Buffalo is a very “winnable” city. It is compact and accessible enough that if we genuinely partner together, we can make a difference in a profound and lasting way in this city.

Can you talk about your work in Israel, what is happening, what do Christians need to be aware of during this hour?
The current instability in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and the whole region is inconceivable. It is a boiling volcano and it makes me crazy that those of us in the West seem to not understand the ripple effect that this region has already and that it will have increasingly. Every single Christian needs to become educated and involved in this region in some way. Right now, we are focusing at Eagles Wings on praying and supporting our Christian Arab brothers and sisters who are going through serious persecution and martyrdom in that region. We have to wake up and rally around this issue. It is not going away, and it is going to impact us locally in a profound way.