ROCK ISLAND -- "Jesus plus nothing equals everything" is one thing Edgewood Baptist Church's new senior pastor is convinced is true.
The Rev. Brian Bill assumes his new post Monday, July 1. He and his wife, Beth Bill, and family, are moving to Moline from Pontiac, where he has served at Pontiac Bible Church for the past 14 years.
When Edgewood's deacon board chairman first telephoned him about the position, Rev. Bill told him he wasn't really interested in it. "We felt happy and fulfilled there," Rev. Bill said.
But Rev. Bill and his wife had taken a trip to Israel a year before, and while there, prayed to the Lord that "we would go anywhere and do anything You want us to," he said. "We thought that would be re-upping in Pontiac."
Yet, the more discussions he had with Edgewood leaders, "we realized God was moving us there," he said. "God made it clear, and when God makes something clear, you have to obey. The more we learned about Edgewood and the caliber of the people there, our desire to serve grew and the more God knitted our hearts together."
Getting to know the church and community will be among his first biggest challenges, he said.
"We're approaching this almost as if we're missionaries going to a new culture," Rev. Bill said. "We want to learn about what people here like to do, what their dreams and fears are, and to begin to understand the culture of the Quad-Cities. I want to see people at Edgewood live out their mission lives, live out their faith and make a difference for Christ."
Among things that attracted Rev. Bill to Edgewood is its diversity, its highly qualified, competent staff and "thirdly, how the congregation sees itself as ministers who can make a difference."
He spent three years in Mexico before answering his Pontiac call, explaining why diversity is so important to him, he said.
"On top of all that, the restaurants we've found in the Quad-Cities are amazing," Rev. Bill said.
Rev. Bill replaces the Rev. Dr. Mel Brown, who retired in December, ending a 44-year stay at Edgewood.
"I'm so moved by that kind of perseverance," Rev. Bill said. "It says a lot about pastor Brown and says a lot about Edgewood."
Rev. Bill said he wants to pick up from where Rev. Brown ended in terms of centering messages on Jesus. Rev. Bill's first eight sermons will focus on Jesus' practical parables, he said. His last sermons in Pontiac focused on Biblical benedictions.
He described his preaching style as "expository," explaining that he spends a lot of time studying passages and showing how they apply to peoples' lives.
"I want people to know Jesus and know that He loves us," Rev. Bill said. "No matter what anyone has done, there's always hope in Christ. He always gives fresh starts and new beginnings, and is the only one who can change us from the inside out."
He knows it first-hand, he said.
"As a lot of people were in high school, all I wanted was to have fun and be popular," Rev. Bill said.
Then, as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "I started partying a lot in my freshman year," he said. A girlfriend's emotional break-up sent him reeling further into a tailspin, he said.
In his sophomore year, he ended up with a Christian roommate who read his Bible every day.
"I tried to make him mad by bringing friends over to smoke and drink," Rev. Bill said. "One day he said he was going to move out because he wanted to live with a good Christian."
That comment was like a wake-up call, he said. Soon, he was reading the Bible, and "the more I read, the more I wanted to read and have it fill my heart."
On his resume, Rev. Bill credits his conversion to Christianity to his 1979 college roommate
Something else people quickly notice on his resume is his four daughters, but no sons, he said. What makes it even more funny is how he also has four sisters, and no brothers, he added.
Another thing people who know him find amusing is how he thinks the best major food group consists of Johnsonville Brats and cheese curds -- favorite leftovers from growing up in Wisconsin.
The Rev. Brian Bill Address: Pontiac, Ill., en route to Moline. Birth date: March 7, 1960. Education: University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1978-82, social work and history coursework; Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible and Theology, 1985, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago; Master of Arts degree in evangelism and missions, 1988, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Ill. Hometown: Watertown, Wis. Family: Wife, Beth, four daughters, Emily, 25, a missionary in the Dominican Republic; Lydia, 21, a student at Illinois State University. Bloomington; Becca, 18, starting college in the fall; Megan, 14, Moline High School freshmen. Favorite Scripture: Jeremiah 20:9. Experience: Associate pastor of evangelism and discipleship, Calvary Memorial Church, Oak Park, Ill., 1987-1993; executive pastor, River Valley Community Church, Rockford, Ill., 1993-1995; church planting team members, Evangelical Alliance Mission, Mexico City, Mexico, 1996-1999; senior pastor, Pontiac Bible Church, Pontiac, Ill., 1999-2013; authored booklets titled "Soul Satisfaction" and "The Only Way," and writes articles for an "Ask a Pastor" feature for believe.com. Favorite Biblical character I'd like to meet: Jeremiah. Hobbies: "Exercising, reading and writing." One thing I feel strongly about: "That people would understand how much God loves them." I wish I knew how to: "Sing."
Today is Thursday, Dec. 5, the 339th day of 2013. There are 26 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: A new passenger car has been placed on the Coal Valley railroad, and R.R. Cable is running the trains at present. 1888 -- 125 years ago: The Rev. G.W. Gue preached a convincing sermon on the need of a new First Methodist Church in Rock Island 1913 -- 100 years ago: Dr. W.S. Marquis preached his farewell sermon at Broadway Presbyterian Church to the combined congregations from First Methodist, First Baptist, United Presbyterian and South Park Presbyterian churches. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's mayor is seeking to enforce the rules governing PWA projects in the city which state that local men are to be hired for the work. 1963 -- 50 years ago: The Argus Santa Claus requests that the names of needy Rock Island boys and girls through 12 years of age be registered by parents or guardians from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 11or Dec. 14. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Alcoa and its employee union have reached tentative agreement on a 43-month labor contract covering about 7,500 workers at six plants, including 1,900 employees at Alcoa's Davenport Works, company and union officials said today.