Our Leaders

A quick note on church leadership

The New Testament clearly identifies two offices in Christ’s Church: bishops and deacons (1 Tim 3:1-13). The term “elder” (presbyter in the Greek) is just another name for the office of bishop (Titus 1:5-9). The bishops/elders/presbyters lead the Church – as a group of presbyters. Thus, the form of church government to which we ascribe is called Presbyterian. These officers, elders and deacons, are gifts to the Church identified by Christ and recognized and called by the congregation. The elders lead as a governing board called the Session. They are also responsible for teaching, counseling and discipling the congregation while the deacons minister to the physical needs of the people.

At Providence, all of our elders have been examined and ordained to the Gospel ministry. Each must be “apt to teach.” All of our elders are authorized to administer the sacraments.  While we recognize there are multiple giftings in the office of elder, each of our elders has the same authority. They are thus accountable to one another. This church is not a “one man show.” We believe and practice what is known as a plurality and parity of elders. Thus, while we have one elder who teaches most of the time (and therefore is often referred to as the pastor or teaching elder because he is the elder who especially labors in preaching and teaching), he is just one of the elders who serve our church. Our elders strive to be in one accord on decisions, maintaining peace and purity in the church. Lastly, Providence Church is a member congregation of the Covenant Presbyterian Church (CPC) denomination.

James McDonald, Teaching Elder

James McDonald, husband to Stacy, father of ten (three married), and grandfather of two, serves as pastor of Providence Church. A graduate of the University of Idaho (BSME), James is on a lifelong quest to complete his Master of Divinity and is currently enrolled at The North American Reformed Seminary. A man who has worn many hats, James has served as a design engineer, operations planner, global marketing director, and a publisher, but his true love is preaching God’s Word and ministering to God’s people. He enjoys strong coffee and what some consider to be odd food – from anything Cajun to shark, crawfish, sushi, elk, ostrich, the list goes on and on. Thankfully, his wife Stacy is a wonderful cook, who could make card board taste like bruschetta.

James and his family moved to Central Illinois in 2006 from Southeast Texas, where he served as pastor of Crown and Covenant Presbyterian Church. The McDonald family lives on two acres of heaven in the middle of nowhere Illinois, where they spend their spare time raising a few chickens, adventuring in the woods and corn fields, and reading good books.

Bryan Evans, Elder

Bryan Evans serves as an elder at Providence. He is blessed to have Kimberly as his wife, and to be the father of six sons and two daughters. Bryan also serves as the CFO for a national Christian health care sharing ministry. Bryan’s giftings are teaching, counseling, and hospitality. His interests include theology, early American history, and marksmanship. The Evans family hosts a very popular rifle match on their property south of Hopedale each year. One of his favorite quotes is, “Aim small, miss small.”


Daniel Ryken, Deacon

Daniel Ryken, husband to Sheri and father to 4 daughters and 3 sons.  He served 8 years in the Army including Operations Desert Storm, Desert Shield, and peace keeping in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  After tours of duty in Panama and Maryland, he moved his family back to North Eastern Illinois, where both he and Sheri grew up. In 2007, Daniel felt the Lord’s calling to move his family to some acreage in south of Pekin.  The family joined Providence Church, where Daniel serves as a deacon.  Life is full with his employment for a computer security company and working alongside his family raising chickens, enjoying God’s creation, chopping wood, and learning to live a slower country life.

Bob Sanford, Deacon

Bob Sanford, husband to Katherine and father of 14 (11 adopted from all parts of the globe), serves as deacon of Providence Church in Morton. A graduate of Randolph Macon College with a BA in Religious Studies, Bob has always been involved in ministry. Since 1988, he has worked for a large insurance company based in Bloomington, IL where he has held the positions of underwriter, supervisor, staff assistant and business analyst. He enjoys tending his land and his children’s hearts, and over the past ten years has become an adoption advocate and consultant supporting adoptive parents.

Originally from Virginia, Bob and his family reside on six-acres outside of Downs. All enjoy a good game of softball or Ultimate Frisbee, taking walks, playing games, camping (two very large tents!), Church, family worship, listening to good books read by Dad, and pizza with a DVD. His oldest sons are currently serving in the US Military.