In the quiet neighborhood of Anderson Mill, John A. Eastman has faithfully led the small congregation of Grace Community Bible Church each week for 25 years. On Oct. 12, Eastman, 70, preached his final sermon before stepping down for retirement.
Grace Community isn’t a flashy church, with elaborate music and programs designed to draw in the masses. Rather, it is a teaching church that has focused simply on teaching the Bible verse by verse.
“We are a different church than most churches,” Eastman said. “There are a lot of churches that do a lot of entertainment and they are what are called seeker-friendly churches. We’re unusual in that we are a Bible teaching center. What I do is focus on teaching the verses of the books of the Bible verse by verse. I love it. I love studying.”
Eastman earned his Master’s degree in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1970. He got his first experience preaching during his last two years of seminary, when he served as a student pastor at a small country church in Paris, TX. He drove 120 miles each way every Sunday to preach to the small congregation.
“I was a city guy and did not want to be exposed to the country, but I loved it,” he said.
After graduating from seminary, Eastman served as a minister at churches in Florida, Ohio and Amarillo, where he was the pastor of Amarillo Bible Church for 13 years. In 1990, he and his wife, Barbara, brought their four children to Austin and he became the pastor at Grace Community, where he has been ever since.
Over the years, Eastman has placed a high priority on supporting both local and international missions. The church supports Hill Country Community Ministries locally and also missionaries serving in places like Indonesia and Russia.
He said he’s also enjoyed the ability to counsel people over the years and help them through everyday challenges.
“I love people,” he said. “In a smaller church like Grace, you don’t have multiple staff, so you wear many hats. People have real struggles and that can be very challenging, especially helping people to see that the Word of God does help through difficult days and situations. Just because they’re church-goers doesn’t mean they don’t have difficulties.”
Grace Community Bible Church was founded in 1974. It was started by a group of Motorola employees who moved to Austin from Arizona. They started out as a Bible study, meeting in people’s homes until their church building was built in 1985.
Eastman said he is proud to have achieved one of his major goals, which was to have the church’s building and property completely paid off by December.
“I can feel thankful to God that I’m leaving here with no debt,” he said.
Now that he is retired, Eastman said he is looking forward to having time to spend with his eight grandchildren, some of whom live nearby in Cedar Park and Leander. Eastman and his wife also live in Leander. He is also looking forward to having more time for hobbies such as reading. He will still be involved in Grace as well, serving as pastor emeritus.
Grace’s new pastor Michael McGrath officially took over on Oct. 19. A native of Nacogdoches, McGrath and his wife, April, and their three sons moved to Austin from Longview to take the pastoral position. McGrath said he is looking forward to continuing Grace’s tradition of expositional preaching as well as focusing on evangelism and outreach in the Austin area.
Eastman said he has appreciated being able to get to know the new pastor.
“It’s a very beautiful transition,” Eastman said. “I believe he’ll continue the ministry and I believe it will grow under his leadership. That’s our prayer. It’ll be a smooth transition.”
In honor of his retirement, the church will host a retirement/open house party for Eastman at Grace Community Bible Church on Saturday, Nov. 1, from 3-6 p.m. The church is located at 10511 Salt Mill Hollow in Austin.