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How Dave Guiles Led Encompass into the Future

Adapted from the Charis Fellowship article, A Product of Our Movement

Dave Guiles spent the first half of his career as a missionary to Argentina, and the second half leading Encompass World Partners as its executive director. In July 2023, he will step down from his current role to serve the Charis Alliance in new ways.

Dave’s roots trace back to the original families who started the Third Brethren Church in Philadelphia in the early 1900s. When Dave was seven years old his father left a secure bank job, became a pastor, and planted a church. Dave was the only teenager in their church, but his dad intentionally gave him opportunities to develop his ministry skills. Dave became involved with Momentum Ministry Partners and committed his life to Christ at their 1976 youth conference.

After high school, Dave entered Grace College intending to become a music teacher, but soon shifted his focus to becoming a pastor. Grace is also where he met his future wife, Sue. In 1982 Dave received his bachelor’s degree, married Sue, and enrolled in Grace Seminary. The next five years were jam-packed as they had twin boys in 1984, Dave served on the pastoral staff at Warsaw Community Grace Brethren Church, and they had another son in 1987.

Although he intended to become a pastor, Dave’s plans changed when speakers like Tom Julien and Roger Peugh opened his eyes to the world’s needs during seminary chapels. So Dave and Sue went with good friends Steve and Wilma Bailey to meet with Jack Zelasko, director of Encompass World Partners (known then as the Foreign Missionary Society of the Grace Brethren Church). Dave said, “For some reason Mr. Zelasko only talked about Argentina. The four of us thought, Why not?’”

The two couples completed their language studies, and then in 1988, the Guiles and Baileys moved their total of six children to Argentina—a country they had never even visited before. In those days, sending organizations didn’t offer nearly as much cross-cultural training as Encompass does now, so everything felt overwhelming. Dave quickly realized that the strategies for evangelism, discipleship, and church planting they’d learned in the US weren’t designed for a cross-cultural context. Their model relied on the skills of highly trained leaders, which was hard to reproduce overseas. That led Dave to search the scriptures and conclude that Jesus needed to be the foundation of their efforts, and that they needed to simplify their strategies to be more reproducible. Encompass still employs these strategies today.

Dave eventually became Encompass’s Latin America coordinator, and when the Encompass board of directors begandiscussing in 1998 who could take Tom Julien’s place as director, they pursued Dave. In late 1999, the Guiles family relocated to the US and Dave began serving as Encompass’s youngest executive director.

As executive director, Dave faced a different set of challenges than he did on the mission field, but he quickly realized that Encompass as an organization was also facing a different set of challenges. Encompass had always been an effective sending agency, but by the time it turned 100 years old in April 2000, some of its strategies had become outdated in today’s post-Christian world. 

Dave said, “Along with our leadership team, I began to ask, ‘What’s next?’ I certainly didn’t want us to become irrelevant.” He continued, “I came to see myself as a hinge between what the amazing people did before me and what amazing people would do after me.” So after investing ten years in stabilizing, strengthening, and creating platforms for the future, Dave challenged the board in 2010 to embrace a series of significant changes. 

  • One of the most visible changes was a rebrand. At that time, Encompass was known as “Grace Brethren International Missions,” but Dave said, “While continuing to embrace our heritage and values, we needed a name that created bridges instead of barriers.” 
  • Another significant change was the relocation of our headquarters from Winona Lake, Indiana, to Atlanta, Georgia. He said. “We were recruiting missionaries to work in major cities, while our leadership team lived and worked in a small town.” When one disgruntled retired missionary pointed out how Winona Lake was peaceful, comfortable, and safe, Dave replied, “That’s why it’s no longer the best place for us. We need to lead by example.”
  • In a third significant change, Dave leveraged the tools of globalization to reorganize Encompass’s global workers based on their missions. Like most other mission agencies, Encompass formerly grouped its teams by location, but Dave reorganized them into groups based on their shared passions and goals. He says, “That helps promote the kind of creativity and momentum we need to meet the challenges of missions in today’s globalized world.” Today Encompass is organized around five missional networks: Church Planting, Church Equipping, Integrated Ministries, Crisis Response, and Mobilization Services.

In addition to leading major changes at Encompass, Dave played a significant part in creating the global Charis Alliance. The Charis Alliance is a network of churches from 24 countries that share common ancestry and beliefs. Tom Julien planted its seeds in 1994 when he envisioned bringing identity, focus, and cooperation to our church plants, and Dave says, “I’ve had the honor of helping Tom’s dream become a reality.” 

Some time ago, Dave announced that he planned to pass the baton of Encompass leadership to the next generation in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed those plans, but he spent the first six months of 2023 coaching Mike Yoder on becoming Encompass’s next Executive Director as of July 1, 2023. (They knew each other from when Dave had served as Mike’s youth pastor!) 

What’s next for Dave? Starting in August, he and Sue will take a four-month sabbatical to rest, recuperate, and visit family. Dave also plans to finish authoring his new book on interdependency. Later in 2023, Dave will begin serving as Coordinator of the Charis Alliance on an expanded basis while also serving as Encompass’s Director of Missional Partnerships. We are so thankful for Dave’s visionary leadership these past 24 years, and are excited to see how God continues using him in these new roles!


Jesus, use Dave to help Mike and Encompass continue to succeed. Give Dave wisdom for guiding the Charis Alliance into deeper interdependency. Provide Dave with the financial support needed to effectively serve in his new roles.