Leaders set the tone of an organization, so the experts say, and I believe them. Consequently, as the Executive Director of Open Bible East, I take my leadership role very seriously, and yet my path to leadership to some may seem unorthodox. My dad, Walt Rupli, owned and managed a bar during the 1960s, and while growing up, I spent many an hour observing my dad serve his patrons. Not only did I observe, but Dad put me to work hanging up jackets, shaking people’s hands, cleaning up dishes, and meeting whatever needs the customers might have. My father was a master at providing friendship and service to the people in his bar community, and in retrospect, I learned much about pastoring from watching him (bars have many similarities with churches except that bar “spirits” are a poor counterfeit to the Holy Spirit). Probably the greatest lesson I learned in the bar was that people are often needy and lonely, and if you can serve their need, or remove their aloneness through listening, you many times can win a friend. In the late 60s, the Hippie Movement captured the attention “of many a poor boy, and God knows I was one”. To shorten a rather messy story, my quest for peace and love took me into really dark places that I thought would bring enlightenment. Disillusionment in what I had experienced, coupled with a Jesus freak’s challenge to read the Book of John, changed my life. I really wanted to discover true peace and love, and by this time, I also knew that I needed forgiveness really bad (I told you things got messy.) Reading John’s Gospel brought the discovery that Jesus’ love for mankind took Him to the cross which took care of my “sin” problem and my peace problem by the power of His love. I got radically saved!
- Love the Lord with all of our hearts, since He is the giver of life and everything good
- Love our neighbor (our near ones in our sphere of influence)
- Love our self (since Jesus loved me enough to die for me)
- Understand that Jesus removed our sin problem on the cross (that’s His job, not ours)
- Understand that God’s people are to remove people’s aloneness problem (not good that man should be alone)
- Understand that serving people like Jesus did is our call (He said towels are better than titles)
What I enjoy about the Open Bible East leadership team is that we all have this same passion. Our roads to leadership vary, but our philosophies are similar. And in this spiritual climate, we find that people’s lives continue to be transformed as they discover Jesus’ love and everlasting peace.
The regional leadership team is led by 9 outstanding pastor coaches:
Tom Rupli – Vandalia, Ohio
Tom serves as the Regional Executive Director of Open Bible East. He has over 35 years of ministry experience. He is also the Great Lakes District and Mid-South District Directors.
Emery Barber – Brooklyn, NY
Emery Barber serves as Regional Board Member At Large with emphasis on Cultural Applications. He has 16 years of ministry experience.
Josh Ellis – Petersburg, Michigan
Josh serves as Regional Board Member At Large with emphasis on Cultural Applications. He has over 20 years of ministry experience.
Glen Gram – Kirkersville, Ohio
Glen serves as the District Director for the Mid-Ohio District of Open Bible East. He has over 14 years of ministry experience.
Josh Grimes – Brookville, Ohio
Josh serves as the Open Bible East Youth Director. He has over 23 years of ministry experience.
Gary Petersen – Dayton, Ohio
Gary serves as the Indiana-Ohio District Director of Open Bible East. He has over 34 years of ministry experience.
Lance Rhoades – Pittsburgh, PA
Lance serves as the Allegheny District Director of Open Bible East. He has over 16 years of ministry experience.
Roberto Seda – Ozone Park, NY
Roberto serves as Regional Board Member At Large with emphasis on Hispanic Ministries. He has over 37 years of ministry experience.
Richie Vedilago – Ozone Park, NY
Richie serves as the Atlantic District Director of Open Bible East. He has over 19 years of ministry experience.
George Williams – Toledo, OH
George serves as Regional Board Member At Large with emphasis on Church Planting. He has 12 years of urban ministry experience.