161 East Harper Avenue, Maryville, TN  865-984-0116

Our Elders

Grace is led by a plurality of elders who are considered to be true equals. Each elder is a pastor with varied shepherding responsibilities within the body. The elders direct the affairs of the church through prayer, study and teaching of the Word, and careful communication with the congregation.

Chris Riser


Riser Family

Chris came to GCC in 2004 after graduating from the Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA with an M.Div and a master’s degree in Biblical Counseling (MABC). Before attending seminary Chris was involved in youth work for fifteen years, nine of which he served as pastor to Jr. and Sr. High youth at Cape Bible Chapel in Cape Girardeau, MO.

Chris is married to Alisa (since 1989) and has four children, a son, Josiah, who was born in 1995 and three daughters, Johanna (2003), Maria (2006), and Salena (2008). Maria and Salena are biological sisters who were adopted from Haiti in 2010. The Riser household has been immeasurably enriched (and dramatically enlivened) by the privilege of sharing God’s goodness and grace with these precious little ones. They are a constant reminder of God’s unmerited favor and boundless love in choosing to adopt us into His family through the sacrifice of His own precious Son.

Chris’ great passion is to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to be a godly husband and father, and to shepherd the local body of believers at Grace with passion, grace, and truth. To this end he is committed like Ezra to “study the law of the Lord, to practice, it, and to teach His statures and ordinances …” (Ezra 7:10a&b). It must be noted that although this is my passion, it is not always my practice and I am overwhelmed by the grace of God in continuing to love me, nurture me, and forgive me (“If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord who could stand, but there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared”) – Psalm 130:3-4).

Chris’ one hobby is working with teens, helping to prepare these vital members of the church for a lifetime of faithful, evangelistic service to the body of Christ. As a side benefit he also gets to plan all the stuff he likes to do like rock climbing, skiing, playing ultimate Frisbee, and going door to door witnessing!

Chris’ life verse is Hebrews 12:1-4:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;”

His favorite quote (currently) is: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

Andy Smith

Smith Family

Andy and his wife Margaret have attended Grace Community Church since 2001 when they moved to Maryville from Florida (having grown up in upstate New York). Andy has been privileged to serve as an elder since 2003. He is also a Family Physician working with a group of Christian physicians at Trinity Medical Associates. Another GCC member, Tom Webb, serves as a Christian counselor for their practice.

Margaret and Andy recently celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary. The Lord is good! The Lord has blessed them with seven (now grown) children, and they are looking forward to grandchildren.  Margaret also works part time as a receptionist at Andy’s medical practice now that her years of home-schooling are completed.

I cannot end this description without noting (to quote a character from the classic book, Cry the Beloved Country), that the bottom line is “I am a sinful man who the Lord has chosen to use.” It is completely by His grace that we stand. A much-loved verse that encourages our hearts while giving credit where it should be is Jude 24-25:

24: Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Ron O’Dell

O’Dell Family

Ron and his wife, Rachel, have had the privilege of being involved at Grace Community Church since 2000. The Lord has blessed them with three children, Brittany, Madelyn, and Ronnie, who bring much joy and laughter to their household.

Ron has served as an elder since May of 2008 and has enjoyed overseeing the Children’s Ministry. The vision for Grace Community Church’s as well as Ron’s personal passion for his own family is:

To glorify God and His Son, Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit in teaching our children the whole counsel of God so they may grow with confidence in the knowledge of the truth of God’s Word.

The Lord has enabled Ron to work as a flooring installer for over eighteen years. He enjoys reading (especially church history), escaping to the mountains, and spending time with his family.

Paul Edmiston

Edmiston family

Edmiston Family

Paul and his family started attending Grace Community Church full-time in 2007. He became an elder in 2008 and had previously been an elder and associate pastor at Sharon Baptist Church in Savannah, TN from 1996-2002. Paul and his wife Kay have been married since 1976 and have been blessed with seven children. Enoch is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and is currently serving as a captain in the U.S. Air Force. Ethan graduated from the University of Tennessee and is married to Katie, also a graduate of UT. Caleb and Acacia are also recent graduates of the University of Tennessee. Sarah is currently attending Maryville College, Isaac is a sophomore at Maryville High School, and Aaron is in the 4th grade.

Paul graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1975 with a degree in forestry. After working for 10 years managing Timberlands for a pulp and paper company, he started his own business supplying timber products. Kay graduated from the University of Tennessee with an Elementary Education and taught Kindergarten until her last child was born. Since retiring as a school teacher, she has devoted her life to providing a Christ centered home for her family.

Paul has been involved in Bible teaching since he surrendered his life to the Lord at the age of 25. He has had a desire to help believers truly understand what it means to be a Christian and to understand the revealed truth of God’s word. A favorite passage in understanding the Christian life is Romans 12:1-2:

I urge you therefore by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Paul’s goal is to be like the Apostle Paul and to be able to say that “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” Philippians 3:8. And to be able to instill in his family and others this desire to live for God and give Him Glory.

James Menard

Menard Family

James and wife Laura have been attending Grace since 2008.  James has recently become an elder in 2013 after serving as a deacon for a couple of years. They were married in 1996 and have been abundantly blessed with four children, Trey, Brooklyn, Morgan, and Ava.

James has had the privilege of being a general contractor for several years, and enjoys this as a hobby as well. The whole family enjoys ministering to children and families through the foster program since 2006. James and Laura also love the opportunity to minister to young adults as they transition out of youth into the college, career, and marriage time of life.

They have considered it a great privilege to personally grow from the sound teaching at Grace, and to teach others to do the same, by striving to obey the command in Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

One of many favorite passages that has, and continues to influence James’ life due to the constant reminder for moment by moment dependency on Christ is:

Proverbs 3:5-7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
 Do not be wise in your own eyes;  Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.