General Assembly
of the Church of God
in Michigan

"equipping local congregations
to extend the Kingdom of God"

May 16, 2022




Religious leaders struggle with burnout, depression and anxiety — just like the rest of America

Between dealing with the frustrations inherent to the job, the pandemic and political polarization, pastors are suffering from burnout. And some are calling it quits

By Mya Jaradat May 12, 2022, 12:00am EDT

In fall of 2021 - after more than a year of the pandemic and in the wake of a contentious presidential election - former pastor Eric Atcheson was standing in line on a Saturday morning when he realized he had to change his life.

"I was out picking up biscuits for my wife and daughter for breakfast. While I was waiting for our order to be ready, even though it was my day off, I started having a panic attack," said Atcheson who, at the time, was leading a church in Birmingham, Alabama. "That was my body trying to communicate to my soul: This is not sustainable."

That moment marked the "point of no return," he added.

Although Atcheson was already in therapy, he sought out additional help from a spiritual director and began an intense process of discernment. "It took me several months to acknowledge that, for me to be in any way or shape whole, I'd have to give up congregational ministry," he said. "When your position is giving you panic attacks, it's time to give up the job."

So, last month he stepped down, publicizing his move in a Twitter thread that garnered hundreds of likes and responses, including some from other pastors who had also resigned from their positions.

Across the nation, stories like Atcheson's are becoming more common as clergy suffer from the burnout and mental health issues they attribute to the double whammy of the pandemic and increased political polarization.

In March 2022, 42% of pastors considered resigning - up from the 29% who did the same in January 2021, according to data collected by Barna. The three biggest reasons clergy cited were "immense stress," feelings of isolation and loneliness, and "political division," according to Barna.

While some faith leaders are just thinking about leaving, others have quit or retired early. The wave of clergy departures could have a unique impact on American society: As pastors leave congregations, there are questions about who will replace them.

"I haven't lost confidence in the work Jesus does but I've lost confidence in the work that the church does," said Scott Sharman, a former pastor in Burleson, Texas, who entered early retirement in February.

"I think there will be a new model of the church in the next generation or two," he added, pointing to the rise of house churches, or small worship groups in which members share both prayer and their lives.

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May 9, 2022

The Many Flavors Of Worship

Back when I was a teenager (when the earth's crust was still cooling and dinosaurs roamed the land), my friends and I would go to a wonderful place called "Baskin & Robbins 31 Flavors" - they sold ice cream.

Now friends, ice cream is basically made of frozen cream, sweeteners and flavors. The variety of flavors are quite a few = vanilla, chocolate, fruit (strawberry, cherry, raspberry, etc.), nut flavors (pecan, peanut, walnut...), candy (M&M's, fudge, caramel...), flavors I cannot identify (Tutti- Frutti, Superman and Blue Moon); And, well we could go on and on. Turn to your neighbor right now and tell them what your favorite flavor is...

Worship is like ice cream: ideally worship is directed to God and should impact participants thru scripture, prayer, preaching, music and song. There are a variety of flavors of worship, too. Here is a sample of worship I have experienced in my journey of faith over the last 45 years:

Musically: Traditional (piano and organ), acapella (no instruments), bluegrass, black gospel - traditional and contempary, Southern Gospel, high church anthems, folk songs, high percussion with jet engine volume, great orchestras with strings, brass, winds and all. I have worshipped with white Americans, black Americans, Latino Americans, Navajo Americans, and with Haitian, Guatemalan, Belizean, and Brazil brothers and sisters in Christ.

Preaching: long sermons and short, emotional ones and reasoned lectures, shouting and spitting ones, fire and brimstone 'scare you ones,' messages on love and grace, conversational messages, funny sermons and boring messages.

So is one worship style the right one for all? For an answer, look at scripture with me:

  • Revelation 7: from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. ~ Revelation 7 - God will one day have all flavors worshipping Him in Heaven, and it will be beautiful!
  • "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings." ~ I Cor. 9:22-23

Hear me friends, we are not called to do it "only one way" - we need to think as Paul the Missionary did and think of the audience we are trying to win to Christ. Tom and Jean McCracken were great missionaries for the CHOG in Brazil; once as a Samba band was loudly playing in a street worship outreach, Tom leaned over to me and said, "This is not my music, but look at how it is drawing in the young people of the neighborhood for worship." Their work started in 1990 is now alive with new congregations, a seminary and young leaders because they adapted worship to the culture they were trying to reach.

  • 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. ~ Colossians 3:16

Don't throw out the old, or despise the new. Treasure the worship variety that Church has developed over the last 2000 years. Model and practice appreciation for the variety of flavors. Good worship will touch and move one towards Christ, regardless the style.

One more thought: you probably like the style of worship that moved you when you committed to Jesus Christ.

That is cool. Hey, let God move you in new ways and in flavors you may not have tried before. Be willing to change, like Barnabas did.

Be like Barnabas in Acts 11 - new people with new music came to the Church and some were upset by it! Barnabas was sent to investigate...

22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

May our prayer be, "Lord, let the Church worship You in beauty and in truth. Let us lift up Jesus and draw all people to Him! Let all the Church say, "Amen and amen!""

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God, Ithaca, Michigan

May 2, 2022

Be a Christian Bear!

"For this is the message that you heard
from the beginning, that we should
love one another,"

~ I John 3:11

I remember an often repeated prayer by a dear old saint, now with the Lord; Sister Donna used to pray...

"Lord, let my children and my grandchildren love You
and love each other."

That echo's the heart of most Mom's this Mother's Day. Love is often lacking in our families, in our congregations and in our hearts. Love is what we as Christians should be known for - our love for the Lord Jesus Christ and our love for each other. As Jesus said,

35"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

~ John 13:35

How can we fulfill this Mother's prayer and follow our Lord's command today, to love each other? Hey, it is hard sometimes, yes. Pride, fear, jealousy can all gum up our relationships. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ can heal, restore and build bridges where there have been barriers before. Try living in His grace today!

For help in loving each other, let us turn to one more "inspired text, from a song from the greatest music in the world, the music of the 1970's, my generation. The O'Jays, 1972 - "Love Train"

People all over the world (everybody)
Join hands (join)
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world (all the world, now)
Join hands (love ride)
Start a love train (love ride), love train

Love is an action. Love requires risk. Love is forgiving and starting over again. Love doesn't quit or give up but keeps trying. How about today mending fences, making peace and reconnecting to those you have separated yourself from?

The O'Jays sang it well - reach out your hand in fellowship, join together and start a love train.

It will do you good and it will testify about how you really love - Jesus!

Now excuse me, I'm going to my closet to dig out a polyester Leisure Suit and my platform shoes, and then I'm going to boogie and sing along with the O'Jays. Happy Mother's Day!

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God, Ithaca, Michigan

April 25, 2022

AFTERSHOCK!

AFTERSHOCK! The follow up phenomenon to an earthquake, that may or may not be the same magnitude of the original occurrence. While living a stint in SoCal in 1986, as a youth pastor right out of college, and right into a brand new marriage of one year, I had the pleasure of feeling the rolling of the earth's crust one Tuesday morning just as the sun was rising. If you've never experienced an earthquake, well, it's a strange sensation of not being able to keep your feet or your balance. What's supposed to keep one stable, begins to throw you around like a rag doll.

The quake wasn't epic on the richter scale. The aftershocks weren't very impressive either. Had we stayed in SoCal a few more years, we would've had the jolt of our lives. The San Andreas fault runs north from SoCal and connects to other fault lines, including the one that rocked San Francisco, in 1989. The succession of aftershocks in S.F. did as much damage as the original quake! ($6 billion). The initial shock of 6.9 magnitude opened the door for several more to come. A 5.2 hit 2.5 minutes after the first quake and 20 more followed of 4.0 and better. More than 300 of magnitude 2.5 were recorded in the succeeding days. We watched large sections of double decker freeway come crashing down on the traffic below. It was violent and devastating. By this time, we were living back in Portland, Oregon.

There was such an occurrence of a great shaking when Jesus gave up his spirit on the cross. The earth quaked. It caused the Roman centurion to make a statement, "this man surely was the Son of God." (Matthew 27:54) It was a moment in history that literally divided time!

The original event of an earthquake often overshadows the aftershocks that occur. Not so on this occasion. On that 3rd day, the AFTERSHOCK was epic! Matthew 28:2 says, "There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it!" It was the second shaking that gives us the hope of a life transformed. THAT WAS AN AFTERSHOCK WORTH HAVING! The violence of that event would be equal to and maybe even greater than the first!

Those who encountered him after that AFTERSHOCK would never be the same. Their whole world was and would continue to be changed. Everything they thought they knew and understood about life and how God worked was rocked! From Mary Magdalane's grief in the garden turned to great joy, to the travelers on the road to Emmaus who were despondent and disillusioned becoming energized enough to run back to Jerusalem after a long day of walking, to Jesus "appearing" to all of His forlorned disciples who were stunned and overwhelmed with sorrow now falling at his feet in worship behind locked doors, to being forgiven for denying Jesus while in His greatest time of need, to getting ready for a power packed extravaganza of Holy Spirit movement, post His ascension back to the Father, those disciples would never be the same.

I think we're seeing more aftershocks in the Church all around the world. The Lord is shaking us. Maybe it's to wake us? Maybe it's to sift us? Maybe it's to show us that He is still in charge! The earthquake of the crucifixion was devastating and powerful. The AFTERSHOCK WAS MEANT TO BE TRANSFORMATIONAL!

Carry on you disciples of Jesus. Keep seeking and encountering His Spirit. Be the bearers of the "earthquake" of the cross and the AFTERSHOCK of his resurrection!

Rev. Jerry Lyon, Church Health Minister and Pastor, New Horizons Community Church, Jackson, Michigan

April 18, 2022

Be a Christian Bear!

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you."

~ Colossians 3:13

In January - February of 2022, the Edgewood Church of God did a Bible study of Colossians. To help us in this, we used a great book I would highly recommend:

Enough, by Pastor Crystal Colp and friends - from the St. Joseph First Church of God.

In Colossians 3:13 there is this verse on "bear with each other" - a great concept we need to practice in this day and age of "Cancel Culture" and "blocking people you don't like." The idea of Colossians 3:13 is not to "give up or run out or run away when a relationship gets difficult." The challenge God is giving us in this verse is to "stick with it, work through it and to be patient with each other."

You could translate this word, "bear with" in these ways = "to persist in or endure with or to have patience with the person that you are having trouble with."

I love this verse because it illustrates a great truth of life = people are annoying! Lest you think I am being too critical, I include myself in this, too. I know, I knowsome of you find it hard to believe that I could be annoying???

Call my wife, she will straighten you out on this trait of mine.

Turn to your neighbor and say, "I have, I am and I will annoy you."

Because of this reality that we do annoy each other, we need to follow the Lord and learn to show some grace, some forgiveness and learn to bear with each other.

Think of how much we annoy the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet, yet, still He loves us!

Praise His Holy Name! Thank you, Lord!

Next time someone annoys you, turn to Matthew 18:21-35  the story of the unmerciful servant. And then pray:

"Dear Lord, may I learn to bear with and forgive others with the same grace that You have shown me!"

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God, Ithaca, Michigan

April 11, 2022

"As I have done for you,
do for others..."

~ John 13:14-15

I served for 18 years as the Pastor of the First Church of God in Greenville, Michigan. They were for the most part good years, and like most pastors, I struggled at times with discouragement and with frustrations. Thankfully, the Lord used one of those times in a powerful way in my life.

It was about 30 years ago on a hot summer Tuesday morning. I took Monday off after a busy Sunday. I had groups coming in to use our church building this day. And as I walked in that Tuesday morning, a stench filled my nose. Going into our main floor men's bathroom there was a mess on the floor by the stall. Someone had missed the stool completely. It had dried and was overwhelming. Sorry but you get the picture.

I should add at this time, due to budget constraints, we had volunteer janitorial service from members of the church family. This being a workday and they being volunteers, I didn't feel right to call anyone to leave work and come deal with this mess. I had to deal with this.

My frame of mind was not good as I set about cleaning this up. I was angrily muttering about, "This is stupid, that I, the pastor, is having to do this!" I was angry, was wallowing in self pity and had hung myself up on the cross of being a martyr.

It was there on my knees in that men's stall that the Lord brought to my mind the story of John 13. The words of Jesus seared into my situation that day:

"14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."
~ John 13:14-15

That men's bathroom became a place of worship and an altar of surrender that morning.

How could I whine and complain about cleaning up this mess, when I think of how many messes of mine the Lord Jesus has lovingly cleaned up for me?

Pastoral ministry will test you and stretch you. Pastoring will be very frustrating at times. Shepherding people can be messy.

Through it all, if we have the mind of Christ, we will see the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ for others, and especially for us, too.

By Rev. David Perry, Pastor at Edgewood Church of God, Ithaca, Michigan

April 4, 2022

Power of Being Together

The Bond of Perfectness

[adapted from a message presented at our Men's Retreat, March 26, 2022]

D.S. Warner wrote the lyrics to this heritage hymn while attending a gathering of believers at Yellow Lake in northern Indiana in the early 1890s. All these decades later, it still expresses a clear understanding of how holiness and unity are fused together in Christ, and how in Christ we are one.

Verse 1: "How sweet this bond of perfectness, the wondrous love of Jesus! A pure foretaste of heaven's bliss, O fellowship so precious!"

What binds us together? It's not our love for each other, our shared interests, our history, perspectives, or politics. What binds us together is Jesus's love for us. His love originates outside of us, and it has already united us. 1 John 3:1 - "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are!"

Verse 2: "O praise the Lord for love divine that binds us all together! A thousand cords our hearts entwine forever and forever."

When two things are tied together with a thousand cords, they become essentially the same thing. They can't be separated. As an experiment, I strapped together a couple of 2x4s with a ball of twine. It ran out after 201 revolutions around the wood, but by then the bond was pretty secure!

Verse 3: "'God over all and in us all,' through sister and through brother; no power of earth or hell, withal, can rend us from each other."

Oh, good old D.S. Warner, I was with you up until this point. Have you seen us? Have you seen humanity and the many ways we Christians have divided ourselves throughout history? In the past, we excommunicated others, burned them at the stake, went to war against them. Today we are more "enlightened," but we continue to split from other believers for all sorts of reasons:

  • because of differences in doctrine, teaching, belief, or practice
  • because others use the wrong translation of the Bible
  • because we want control, power, or money
  • because of current events, politics, or hot-button issues

The challenge to our unity in Christ is that we want to have the power to kick other people out of our club. We want to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, so we (not God) can determine what is right and wrong.

But the truth is that no power of earth or hell can rend us from each other. Read Romans 8:38-39, and keep in mind that God's love in Christ is what unites us!

We should address an elephant in the room. Christians are often divided by the color of our skin, too. This has been a problem in the Church of God for 105 years, ever since our white leaders told our Black leaders in 1917 that it would be better for everybody if they held a separate camp meeting. Separate but equal, so to speak. Ever since then, there has been the "Anderson camp meeting" and the "West Middlesex camp meeting." Two groups. White and Black. To be sure, there is some intermixing between the two. But as a white kid who grew up in Anderson, I often attended the "official" Anderson camp meeting. I don't remember even knowing that West Middlesex existed until I was around 20 years old. And in all honesty, I still need to make my first pilgrimage there.

At our 360 Ministry Leadership Conference in March, various sessions were led by African-American pastors in our movement. I heard three of them speak. First, Rev. Al Grant said, "it is hard to find anyone of significant stature in the Bible who did not have to leave something behind so that they could become or do all that God intended them to become or do."

Second, Rev. David Johnson said, "if I'm not willing to risk my social cred with people who look like me, to maintain gospel truth with people unlike me, then I forfeit my right to lead."

Third, Rev. Suhaliah Talibah said, in reference to church segregation, "it's not good for everyone to look like me; we should all look like Jesus."

All three were talking about unity in the Church of God. All three discussed the racial division among us. But the burden of addressing racial division in the Church of God should not be shouldered by our African-American brothers and sisters alone.

The good news is that Christ is not divided (1 Corinthians 1:13). No human power, no unholy power can break the love of Jesus which binds us together. We need to live out that truth.

Verse 4: "O mystery of heavens peace! O bond of heavens union! Our souls in fellowship embrace, and live in sweet communion."

Can we really have spiritual fellowship as different people? Can we really live in sweet communion if we have different opinions, beliefs, backgrounds, political affiliations, skin colors (and generational socioeconomic and political realities resulting from those skin colors)? Can God really bring peace and unity to us?

The good news is that God already has brought peace and unity to us, through the humble self-sacrifice of Jesus. We must continue to pursue that peace and unity with others. In order to do that, we must learn to imitate Jesus's self-sacrificial love. It requires listening to each other, letting go of power, lifting up the disenfranchised, changing our minds, growing together.

Chorus: "Beloved, how this perfect love unites us all in Jesus! One heart and soul and mind, we prove the union heaven gave us."

So may it be. Amen.

Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan

March 28, 2022

Power of Being Together

The Power of Being Together

I was 15 when I accepted the call to ministry and the first woman pastor, I had Kimberly Majeski who was the campus pastor at Anderson University. When I was a freshman in 2006, she invited me and my best friend to attend the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy Conference with her in San Diego. She was one of the key note speakers and she let two college freshman girls share her hotel room with her.

For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by women who were in full time ministry. Women who were senior pastors, missionaries, worship leaders, professors, denominational leaders, and women who were like me, a student exploring what it meant to be called to ministry. I remember profoundly realizing I wasn't alone.

Flash forward to 2022 and I've been a senior pastor for almost three years and most days I feel profoundly alone in ministry. Covid has brought challenges to pastoring that no one could have predicted. No amount of experience could have prepared you for the last two years of ministry.

In Grapevine, Texas in the middle of March I sat in a hotel conference room at the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy Conference, a conference I've attended six times. This time was different. This time I saw road weary colleagues. I saw women lifting their hands in praise after an exhausting two years of serving. I saw a room full of women like me and I realized I wasn't alone.

It is such a gift to worship with other women who have shared stories and experiences. We sit around the table and talk about the churches that support us in our call and the churches who rejected us because of our gender. We can joke about the number of times our outfits or hair get commented on by parishioners. We can freely share the stories of heartache that come from walking along people in ministry.

There is power in being together. I think we all know this after the last two years. But there is a unique power that comes from being together with other women in ministry. Often, I'm the only female pastor at the table at ministry events or conferences. I'm used to hearing only men speak at conventions. But at this conference I'm not the only woman, I'm surrounded by women. I get to hear God speak through women who are passionate about ministry. And I realize I'm not alone.

Thank you to Pastor Mark Richardson who empowers and supports women in ministry in Michigan. Through Pastor Mark and the state office, the registration fee was covered for any woman in pastoral leadership who wanted to attend the conference. Because of this generosity, Michigan had the largest number of Church of God women in attendance.

The Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy Conference will happen again in two years. I know I'll be there. If you are a fellow woman in ministry, I encourage you to attend as well because there is power in being together.

By Rev. Emily Clark, Pastor at Faith United Church of God, Grand Rapids, Michigan

March 21, 2022

Prayer for the Breath of God

Prayer for the Breath of God

If you have been reading the Weekly Pastoral Call articles this month, you are aware that I have been sharing some of the great hymns of the Church about the glorious power and presence of the Holy Spirit. I never cease to thank and praise God for the wonderful presence, power, and purpose of the Holy Spirit in my life and in His Church. Our lives would be without power if the Spirit of the Living God were not dwelling within us.

This beautiful and reflective hymn of seeking is a wonderful prayer to sing unto the Lord. An encouraging quote has been attributed to Augustine of Hippo for centuries; "He who sings prays twice." This song is a powerful prayer unto the Lord that the Spirit of God would breathe on us so that we would experience transformation as only God can do in us. There is no self-help book, course, or strategy we can undertake which will bring true life transformation like the breath of God. The awesome breath of God, the Holy Spirit ("pneuma in the Greek" and "ruach") does so many wonderful things in, through, and for us if we will submit to God. As He breathes on us:

  • New life that empowers us to love what God loves and do what do would do in our lives and our circumstances.
  • Our hearts can be made pure until our will becomes one with God and enables us to do what He desires with the power to endure all the things that come our way.
  • It makes holy His until every part of us glows with His holy fire divine.
  • The breath of God, the Holy Spirit seals us so that we may live with Him the perfect life for all eternity.

I keep these great hymns, and of course many praise songs, near to me and sing them often. They not only help me to pray twice, but they are a wonderful way to press into the powerful and awesome goodness of the Lord God living in me through the Holy Spirit, the Breath of God.

Blessings to you all,

Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor

March 14, 2022

Spirit Holy

The Powerful Indwelling Of The Holy Spirit

As I shared last week with the hymn, "Fire in the Soul." I am a hymn lover. I truly love the hymns that are a great part of our heritage as the Church of God. Spirit Holy is one of those hymns that really inspires me in my walk with the Lord. Charles Naylor, a servant of the church who spent many years as an invalid due to injuries sustained following a tent revival, wrote some really great ones. In conjunction with Andrew Byers, another great hymnwriter in our heritage, wrote this great one in 1918, and it has been sung in many of our churches and mass assemblies for years since. It, like too many of our heritage gems are disappearing, and we would do well to revisit them from time to time.

In this great hymn, we see the truth that the Holy Spirit doesn't just come from time to time to visit. He doesn’t just come upon us, like so many of the Old Testament leaders experienced. He comes to abide within the followers of Jesus Christ, and He resides there to bring transformation into our lives. He dwells, He inhabits, He lives within us as we seek to live for Jesus Christ. He shapes, molds, corrects, inspects, guides, comforts, counsels, and so much more in our lives as we submit to His prompting. This is a song of submission to the transforming work of the Spirit of the Living God in us, as we experience so much through Him.

  • The sweet abiding and tender love of God shed abroad within us
  • His cleansing, His garnishing grace, His soul enriching fullness within us
  • He reveals His glory, He shows us His might, He keeps us from the world’s defilement, sacred for Him as he dwells within us.

Meditate on this, and experience how great it is to be affirmed of God abiding within you. Perhaps you know the hymn. If so, let that refrain feed your soul.

Spirit Holy, Spirit Holy, all my being now possess. Fill me, rule me, work within me. Through my life, Thy will express. Amen!

May the Lord richly bless you all,

Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor

March 7, 2022

Fire in the Soul

Fire in the Soul

One of my great joys in the Church of God is the great heritage of music we have. I confess, I am a hymn lover, and there are some great hymns in our hymnals. The song shown above is one wonderful example of this. What a great song, written by D.S. Warner and Andrew Byers, and it teaches powerful doctrine about walking with the leading and power of the Holy Spirit. It is truly fire in the soul. This particular one is scanned from the 1952 Church of God Hymnal, the burgundy one for some of you who remember. Sadly it is not in the most recent Church of God Hymnal. This powerful song of truth about the Holy Spirit in our lives challenges us with some powerful questions about our indwelling Holy Spirit. Think about what it asks:

  • Is the Spirit glowing in your heart; do you feel the burning love of God in your bosom day by day?
  • Has the merit of the blood divine washed away the sinful stain; and does heavens glory in you shine as a bright and holy flame?
  • Is your hope unclouded by a fear; and in this moment do you know that the love of God is burning clear in your heart as white as snow?
  • The original verse 4 was left out of this printing, but it asks...Do you feel the mighty living power filling all thy mortal frame; and does all thy heart forever pour streams of glory to His name?

The final verse doesn't ask the powerful questions of the first four, but it offers assurance for those who walk in the Spirit. If your all is on the altar laid, guard it from each vain desire. When your soul the perfect price has paid, God will send the holy fire.

It is interesting that the Church World seems to be focused on the Holy Spirit this year, from Exponential to our own 360 Ministry Leadership Conference Event on March 19, at South Church in Lansing, to many of our churches and themes for the year. Well, the Holy Spirit has always been vital to who we are as the children of God. And our submission to His leading, transforming, and empowering presence is the key to our success as Christians and as the Church of God. I encourage you to revisit some of our classic heritage hymns. Refresh your heart by seeking a deeper walk with the Spirit of the Living God.

May the Lord richly bless you all,

Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor

February 28, 2022

Look Up

How many of you have ever taken the time to just Look up at the sky and the moon? I can recall a time when I was young, and I looked through a telescope at the moon and all its features and how astonished I was at the moon's surface. It was such an awesome site to see. Just sitting there looking at the moon, it filled me with a sense of wonder. A wonder of is there something out there that is bigger than me. Now today when I reflect on that feeling of awe and wonder I recall the words of the psalmist David and how he also marveled at God's heavenly light. Psalm 8:3-4 reads "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" See in my mind David's humbling question puts our personal awe in perspective when we learn that, after God creates His new heaven and earth, we'll no longer need the moon or the sun. Instead, just as John teaches us that God's shimmering glory will provide all the necessary light we will ever need. It is written in Revelation 21:23-25... "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. . . . There will be no night there."

Think about that today as we gather... What an amazing thought! Yet we can experience His heavenly light now-simply by seeking Christ first, who is the Light of the world. As brothers and sisters in Christ I think we need to just take the time to look up to the heavens and see the wondrous works of God. In doing so I know that we will be able to see the light that God has for all our paths. As we meet today let us always know that God is and will always be our guiding light.

Rev. Tad Mellish, Pastor, NorthernLight Church of God, Cadillac, Michigan

February 21, 2022

Pastor Search Prayer Guide

Dear Friends,

We currently have several of our congregations that are in various stages of seeking new pastoral staff members, including several Senior Pastors. The search process can be a challenging time for our congregations, and it can sometimes be lengthy and stressful. As they began their Pastoral Search Process at Farmington Hills Church of God, their Council Chair, Rod Gouker, found and tailored a 40 Day Prayer Guide for their church during this time. He made it available for us to share with you all, especially those who are in a search process. Please feel free to tailor it to your congregation and work the dates for your choice. If you arent in a search process, perhaps you will consider joining with us in praying for all of our congregations that are seeking pastoral leadership.

Blessings to you,
Rev. Mark K. Richardson

Day 1 Scripture Reading: Proverbs 3:5-6

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the church to wholeheartedly trust the Lord while searching for a pastor. Pray for the search committee to trust the Holy Spirit's leadership.

Day 2 Scripture Reading: Revelation 2:1-7

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the church to return to her first love, Jesus Christ. Pray for the church and search committee to hear the Spirit clearly throughout the pastor search process.

Day 3 Scripture Reading: Ephesians 4:1-6

Prayer Prompts: Pray for unity and peace in the church while searching for a pastor. Pray for a strong sense of unity among the search committee as they review and discuss potential pastoral candidates.

Day 4 Scripture Reading: John 15:1-8

Prayer Prompts: Pray for church members to continually abide in Christ and produce much fruit that glorifies the Father during the interim period. Pray for members of the search committee to remain close to Christ.

Day 5 Scripture Reading: John 15:9-15

Prayer Prompts: Pray for church members to abide in the love of Christ and love one another with the love of Christ. Pray for God to bond the church and future pastor together in love.

Day 6 Scripture Reading: John 15:16-17

Prayer Prompts: Pray for a season of fruitful ministry as the church prepares for her next pastor. Pray for the search committee to be blessed with answered prayers.

Day 7 Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 29:11-13

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the search committee and the church to hope in God and seek Him wholeheartedly with the realization that He is in control of the church's future.

Day 8 Scripture Reading: Psalm 139:23-24

Prayer Prompts: Pray for members of the search committee to have hearts that are pure as they work through the pastor search process. Pray for your future pastor to maintain a pure life before God.

Day 9 Scripture Reading: Ephesians 6:10-11

Prayer Prompts: Pray with the understanding that searching for a pastor is primarily a spiritual process, so spiritual warfare will be present. Pray for God's protection on the search committee and the church.

Day 10 Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 2:1-2

Prayer Prompts: Pray for your future pastor and his family to be strengthened by the grace of Jesus Christ. Pray that your future pastor will be a faithful disciple-maker.

Day 11 Scripture Reading: James 1:5-8

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the search committee to seek God's wisdom as they review resumes and prepare to contact potential pastoral candidates. Pray for church leaders to seek God's wisdom in the interim period.

Day 12 Scripture Reading: Colossians 1:9-12

Prayer Prompts: Pray for your future pastor and his family to be certain that it is God's will to transition to a new field of ministry. Pray the Father will be glorified in the pastor search process.

Day 13 Scripture Reading: Acts 2:41-42

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the church to reflect the six elements of a healthy church both in the interim period and when the new pastor is called to serve. (worship, discipleship, ministry, fellowship, evangelism, and prayer)

Day 14 Scripture Reading: Revelation 3:1-6

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the church to be filled with life through the Holy Spirit. Pray for the church to be strengthened to carry out the vision God has for her.

Day 15 Scripture Reading: John 13:34-35

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the search committee and the church to be obedient to Christ's command to love one another. Pray the church's Christ-like love will be seen by the world.

Day 16 Scripture Reading: Ephesians 3:20-21

Prayer Prompts: Pray the power of Christ would be known in and through the church and that all glory would be given to Him throughout the pastor search process.

Day 17 Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:10-12

Prayer Prompts: Pray for each member of the search committee to stay close to the Lord through hearts that are continually cleansed by Him. Pray for your next pastor to keep a clean heart before the Lord.

Day 18 Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Prayer Prompts: Pray for your future pastor to faithfully preach the Word of God. Pray the Lord gives the church a hunger for the Word of God and receptivity to the sermons that are preached by the new pastor.

Day 19 Scripture Reading: Hebrews 13:17

Prayer Prompts: Pray for your future pastor to faithfully shepherd the church and for members of the church to willingly and joyfully place themselves under his servant leadership.

Day 20 Scripture Reading: Joshua 1:9

Prayer Prompts: Pray for each member of the search committee to have an overwhelming sense of God's presence and guidance as they work through the steps of the pastor search process.

Day 21 Scripture Reading: Proverbs 2:2-6

Prayer Prompts: Pray for your future pastor to seek God's wisdom in every area of life and decision making. Pray for the search committee to be attentive to the Lord's wisdom.

Day 22 Scripture Reading: James 4:1-12

Prayer Prompts: Pray for church members to humble themselves before the Lord and seek His cleansing power in order for revival to come. Pray for the search committee to continually submit to God's will.

Day 23 Scripture Reading: John 17:20-23

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the church to be unified so that the world will be impacted with the gospel and the Father will be glorified. Pray for the search committee to be unified in their decision making.

Day 24 Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 2:15

Prayer Prompts: Pray for a pastor who is able to rightly divide the Word of God. Pray for the search committee as they listen to sermons of potential pastoral candidates.

Day 25 Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 33:3

Prayer Prompts: Pray that a burden for deep and urgent prayer permeates the church not only as you seek God's will for a pastor, but also as you seek God's vision for the church.

Day 26 Scripture Reading: 1 Timothy 3:1-7

Prayer Prompts: Pray for your next pastor to be a man who exhibits Christ-like character both publicly and privately. Pray for your future pastor's family as they transition to a new work.

Day 27 Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:12-17

Prayer Prompts: Pray for your church to grow in love toward one another. Pray for unresolved conflict to be worked out and for reconciliation among any broken relationships in the church.

Day 28 Scripture Reading: Ephesians 1:15-23

Prayer Prompts: Pray for your future pastor to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of Christ. Pray for the church to look to Christ as the Head of the body.

Day 29 Scripture Reading: Revelation 3:14-22

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the church to fight against lukewarm spirituality. Pray church members repent of a lukewarm spirituality and become filled with a zeal for Jesus and His Kingdom work.

Day 30 Scripture Reading: Hebrews 10:19-25

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the church to be committed to biblical worship. Pray for the search committee to be confident that they are following God's will as they make decisions regarding your future pastor.

Day 31 Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-4

Prayer Prompts: Pray that your future pastor shepherds the church in a biblical and Christ-exalting manner. Pray for your future pastor's walk with Christ.

Day 32 Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 5:5-7

Prayer Prompts: Pray for mutual respect and humility between the church and your future pastor. Pray for the church to follow the leadership of your future pastor.

Day 33 Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 5:8-9

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the search committee to remain humble before God and that they will not be anxious, but trust God's leadership. Pray that the church will stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

Day 34 Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:15-16

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the search committee to make wise use of their time during their meetings. Pray for the Lord to reveal His will to your future pastor.

Day 35 Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:6-9

Prayer Prompts: Pray that in times of discouragement, the search committee and the church will seek the Lord diligently and have confidence that He is at work bringing the church and future pastor together.

Day 36 Scripture Reading: Colossians 1:24-29

Prayer Prompts: Pray that when the time comes to extend a call to your next pastor, God will make it unmistakably clear to the future pastor and church. Pray for the Lord to work powerfully in the church to make disciples.

Day 37 Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the search committee to discern if potential pastoral candidates possess the biblical qualities of a servant of the Lord. Pray for the church to affirm these qualities in their future pastor.

Day 38 Scripture Reading: Galatians 6:9

Prayer Prompts: Pray for the search committee to not grow weary in their work. Pray that the search committee and the church will be able to see God's hand at work bringing you and your future pastor together.

Day 39 Scripture Reading: Philippians 2:1-11

Prayer Prompts: Pray that Christ's attitude of humility and servanthood permeates both the search committee and the church during the pastor search process.

Day 40 Scripture Reading: Matthew 28:18-20

Prayer Prompts: Pray for your church to be a Great Commission church that makes disciples. Pray that your future pastor will be a Great Commission leader.

February 14, 2022

Spiritual Direction

It was great to see many of you a couple of weeks ago at Gull Lake Retreat Center! Personally, I enjoyed seeing the snow on all the trees and hearing the crunch of it underfoot. I appreciated the conversations I had with a number of you and was honored to see how God is working in your lives.

I wanted to make you aware of an opportunity to participate in Spiritual Direction. What is Spiritual Direction, you might ask? I like to describe the process of spiritual direction using the imagery of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. As they were talking together, Jesus opened their eyes to see that He was with them. As a spiritual director, I walk with another believer, seeking together the direction and presence of Jesus in our midst. Spiritual direction provides space to reflect, ask thoughtful questions, and pay attention to the presence and activity of God in our lives. It can include times of prayer, discernment, and spiritual practices of all kinds, including slowing down, rest, and retreat.

The Church of God in Michigan's Ministry to Ministers Fund now includes monies for Spiritual Direction, so ministers can meet with a spiritual director up to once/month for 12 months at no cost to them. If you would like to explore this possibility or would like to set up an initial webex visit to see if spiritual direction would be a good fit for you, please contact me at sandykip4@yahoo.com or 605-351-7121. I especially have a heart for pastors and ministers, as I have experienced both the joys and challenges of ministry, and have found that pastors often do not have someone who will ask them, "How is it with your soul?"

I am also available to lead practical workshops and retreat sessions at your church (or with a combined group of churches) on a variety of different spiritual practices and themes such as margin, balance, praying scripture, freedom in Christ, and different ways of connecting with God. Please feel free to reach out to me about resources or to discuss possibilities.

Thank you,
Sandy Kuepfer

February 7, 2022

Healing Our Divisions

This week, I watched a nine-minute monologue by comedian Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show. In this monologue, he unpacks the recent apology by Joe Rogan related to covid-19 misinformation and the Spotify streaming platform. If you like, you can watch the monologue via this Facebook link, but fair warning: Trevor uses a fair amount of strong language, he makes some crude references, and he addresses controversial topics like vaccines, masks, and the 2020 presidential election from a point of view that may differ from your own. Here's the link: https://fb.watch/aVcuZ0sZ2_/

I would like to highlight five statements Trevor made in this monologue, because these statements contain a lot of wisdom and can be helpful in our ongoing and necessary spiritual work of healing our divisions.

  • In this society we live in these days, who says, "I'm sorry, and I made a mistake, and I don't have all the answers"? People don't say that anymore. Nobody admits to making mistakes anymore.

From politicians to pastors, from celebrities to common people, we all tend to avoid making direct apologies when we have made mistakes. We don't always own up to how we have gotten things wrong in the past. What if we imitated Zacchaeus, who openly confessed how he took advantage of other people and then did something to make it right? (Luke 19:1-10)

  • It's nice to live in a world where we can say, "I don't agree with you, but I still like you."

This is easier said than done these days. It's even harder to say, "I don't agree with you, but I'll sit down and have a meal with you." Or this: "I don't agree with you, but our children can still play together." What if we looked beyond our superficial differences and found deeper commonalities? What if we put time and energy into difficult relationships across lines of division, like Jesus did with Zacchaeus, the Syro-Phoenecian woman, the Samaritan woman, and so many others?

  • I understand the nuance of this point.

Nuance is such an important concept. We live in an age of sound bites, video clips, and short-lived social media posts. These brief interactions with others have heightened our reactiveness and have reduced our thoughtfulness. What if we slowed down and appreciated nuance and subtlety? What if we could imitate Jesus, who looked at the rich young man and loved him, even though the young man was not ready to enter the kingdom of God? (Mark 10:17-31)

  • Based on the Internet age that we live in, we [condemn] people based on the little that we see of them. We don't give them the full context. ... Everything in life needs context. The context is very important.

We know the saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." But we often practice something very different when it comes to other people. For example, here in Midland County, one of our townships (Lee Township) is coming apart at the seams because of a major disagreement about the closure of the township's transfer station (the dump). Those who are the most angry about this closure seem unable to appreciate the full context of the situation. What if we practiced the first step of Jesus's method of resolving conflicts - talking "just between the two of you" when there's a problem - instead of ignoring context and jumping to conclusions? (Matthew 18:15-20)

  • This [pandemic] has proved everybody wrong in every different way.

We love to be right. We naturally think we have the right opinions and perspectives. We like being in control of our environments. And in the past two years, all of that has been undone by the covid-19 pandemic. If nothing else, the pandemic has reminded us that we are all human, mortal, fragile. It has shown us that we are not always in control. It has opened our eyes - if we will choose to look - to the dangers of hubris and arrogance, to the fragility and inequities of our social and economic and relational systems. We still have a lot to learn as the pandemic continues to spread all over the world. What if we could read Jesus's words about the end of the age (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) with an eye toward how those words might apply to our own apocalyptic experiences in the past two years? What if we admitted that "heaven and earth [and our opinions] will pass away, but [Jesus's] words will never pass away"? (Matthew 24:35)

And what if we really believed John 3:17, that "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him"?

We might just be more interested in healing our divisions, rather than condemning those who disagree with us.

Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan

January 31, 2022

Two at a Time!

Hold to God's Unchanging Hand, by Jennie Bain Wilson

Time is filled with swift transition. Naught of earth unmoved can stand.
Build your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God's unchanging hand.
Trust in Him who will not leave you, whatsoever years may bring.
If by earthly friends forsaken, still more closely to Him cling.
Covet not this world's vain riches that so rapidly decay.
Seek to gain the heavenly treasures. They will never pass away.
When your journey is completed, if to God you have been true,
Fair and bright the home in Glory, your enraptured soul will view.
[Refrain]
Hold to His hand, God's unchanging hand. Hold to His hand, God's unchanging hand.
Build your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God's unchanging hand.

When I was installed in my first senior pastoral assignment, the late Rev. Dr. Diana Swoope, one of my pastors, accused me of knowing all 5 verses of a 4 verse hymn. One thing is true, I dearly love the hymns, and I've discovered that many of the 4 verse hymns as we see them have at least one verse that we almost never see, like Amazing Grace. That aside, I dearly love this hymn, sung more frequently in churches that are primarily African-American in congregational makeup. The author of the hymn was Jennie Bain Wilson, who spent most of her 57 years of life in a wheelchair due to a bacterial infection that damaged her spine. Like Fanny Crosby, the famed hymn-writer, she didn't let that deter her. During her lifetime she penned over 700 hymns, with the hymn above being the most recognized today.

This hymn makes a powerful point that time is moving along very quickly for everyone. To me it seems like my days go by two at a time. It seems amazing that this Weekly Pastoral Call finds us today at the last day of January 2022. One twelfth of the year is over today! It seems like 2022 just started. The reality is that the days go by as they always have, they just seem to go by quicker. We are nearly two years into the pandemic, and it seems like the two years have been compressed into one. That's what happens when your days go by two at a time!

Yet, as time transitions so quickly for us, it presents us with some great challenging questions that this wonderful hymn poses:

  • What are we building our hope on? Are they things eternal?
  • Whose hand are we holding? Is it God's unchanging hand?
  • Whom are we trusting? Is it the Lord?
  • How closely are we clinging to Him when our earthly friends forsake us?
  • Are we coveting what the world has to offer, even the church world? Or are we seeking the heavenly treasures that endure eternally?
  • Where will we be when this life ends? Will it be with the Lord eternally?

I know these are basic, Christianity 101 questions, but it is often in these basics that we fall and fail. There is a whole gospel challenge in this great hymn, but sadly, many of the hymns that sing the powerful doctrine of our great Gospel of Jesus Christ are being left behind in the swift transitions of time. Days go by two at a time, or they seem to. Yet, we need to put a pause in the swiftness of them to challenge ourselves with the sobering issues of this hymn. If not, it is so easy to get swept up in the swiftness of time's transitions, and in the day-to-day workaday church world and ministry. We can easily miss opportunities that are all around us for sharing the Gospel, and helping others to: Hold to His hand, God's unchanging hand. Hold to His hand, God's unchanging hand. Build your hopes on things eternal. Hold to God's unchanging hand. After all, our days are going by two at a time!

Blessings to you,

Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor

January 24, 2022

Steady As She Goes

Habakkuk 3:17-20 (NASB)
17 Even if the fig tree does not blossom,
And there is no fruit on the vines,
If the yield of the olive fails,
And the fields produce no food,
Even if the flock disappears from the fold,
And there are no cattle in the stalls,
18 Yet I will triumph in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19 The Lord God is my strength,
And He has made my feet like deers feet,
And has me walk on my high places.

My first pastoral assignment in Pittsburgh was a very difficult but highly instructive time for me. There were some very challenging days as I was daily learning the hard way what I didnt know about being a pastor. During a particularly challenging time, I must have been wearing the weight of it on my face and all over my countenance. One of the dear members of the church, a man named Sylvester Johnson, lovingly nicknamed "Brother Bus" said something that helped me immensely that day and beyond. He simply said, accented with his never-ending and loving smile, "Pastor, steady as she goes!" This military statement referred to instructions given aboard a submarine that might be going through enemy waters, but it was on mission and it had to continue to go ahead even in the presence of the enemy.

Folks, we are in enemy waters. We are on mission. We are going to face more and more challenges as we go forward. Yet, God is still God; He is still on the throne. We still are on the winning side. God knows how to steady us as we go forwards and face what we have to face as His called and appointed leaders. The Prophet Habakkuk prayed a powerful prayer at the end of his prophecy amid some very difficult times. The end of that prayer is above. I am particularly impacted by verse 19, "The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like deers feet, and he has me walk on my high places." Dear friends, He is the same God for us as He was for Habakkuk. He is our strength, and He will make us to have steady feet to walk even in the high places where the footing is not as good for the faithless.

I want to encourage you to keep walking with the Lord in your ministry. Steady as she goes because the Lord is on your side. He will keep you and bless the ministry into which He has placed you.

May the Lord bless and keep us all,

Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor

January 17, 2022

got faith?

You Want Us to Drink What?!

It may not be an exaggeration to say that you have probably heard the story of Jesus's first miracle a hundred times or more. The wedding at Cana. Water turned into wine. Saving the best for last. This is such a well-known story that it has been turned into a billboard: the question "Got faith?" plays on the "Got milk?" marketing trend from the 1990s, and the billboard pairs those words with the image of a faucet pouring water into a wine glass. As soon as the water reaches the glass, it has turned into wine.

Recently, I read this passage (John 2:1-11) once again with a group of friends. This time, one detail grabbed my attention which I don't think I had noticed before:

The six huge jars, right? John notes that they were "the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing." In other words, the liquid inside them was never intended to be ingested by anyone. The water was for external purposes only: washing hands, arms, perhaps faces and necks.

Can you imagine how dirty that water would have been? But Jesus tells people to drink that stuff. All grossness aside, something remarkable occured to me: Instead of using the water for an external washing, Jesus wants to use the wine for internal transformation. Instead of cleanliness in outward appearances, Jesus wants people to experience internal purification.

I shared that reflection with my friends during our time of discussion. The very next person who spoke commented on the same detail, but in a different way: she noticed that Jesus was repurposing an old Jewish religious ritual. Jesus was inviting people to let go of how those ceremonial jars had always been used. Jesus was asking people to step into the present work of what he was doing right then and there, instead of relying on traditions and rituals of the past.

That idea rang true for me, as well. Remember Jesus saying something about new wine and old wineskins?

It's interesting to me that the "Got faith?" billboard refers to this miracle, even though faith is not mentioned in John 2:1-11. Faith doesn't seem to be important in the story at all, except perhaps in Mary's response to the shortage of wine.

If we reduce a passage of scripture to a simple billboard or bumper sticker slogan, we risk missing the richness of what God is communicating to us through scripture.

Let's keep reading scripture, listening for God's voice, and discussing what we hear with each other!

Rev. Dr. David Aukerman, Pastor, Mount Haley Church of God, Midland, Michigan

January 10, 2022

An Urgent Call to Prayer

Psalm 34:18-19 (NASB)
18The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 19 The afflictions of the righteous are many, but the Lord rescues him from them all.

Many years ago a dear sister in my home church in Akron, Ohio, Sister Bernice Burke, fell down her basement stairs and broke her neck. For months she rehabbed, but never fully recovered from her injuries. Eventually she made it back to church in a wheelchair, but her faith and her testimony remained passionately strong. Her focus scripture was that listed above. Specifically she used to quote frequently, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers them out of them all." Her deliverance was made perfect when the Lord brought her home to be with Him.

Although we have hung a new calendar on our walls, or have seen it changed on our phones and tablets, we are still dealing with the challenges that 2021 and 2020 brought us with the COVID-19 and all of its variants. Regardless of your political leanings, views on vaccines, masks, booster shots, social distancing, etc., we have been impacted in incredible ways because of it. It has caused many of our congregations to be hit by illness and death. It has caused continued disruptions to services and events. It has really been hard on so many. On top of that, other illnesses have been very difficult for us, leading to several people within our state to deal with the loss of loved ones.

During December, our State Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Dr. Bill Jones, shared a tribute to two great long-term leaders in Michigan and the Church of God, Rev. Dr. Gerald Nevitt and Rev. Bill Miller. In December, we lost two other key leaders within the Church of God in Michigan. On December 22, Rev. Paul Pakizer, the Senior Pastor of the Riverside Park Church of God in Livonia, passed away from COVID-19. His Memorial Service will be on February 13. On December 27, Pamela Lynn Baker, the wife of Rev. Carl Baker, the Associate Pastor of the New Creation Church of God in Flint passed away. Her Spirit-filled Memorial service was this past Friday. These were two very dedicated and beloved servants of the Lord, both of whom made a big difference in their congregations.

I have been deeply saddened to hear today, January 9, that Rev. Jerry Webb, having just retired as the Senior Pastor of Hope Crossing Church in Sterling Heights, passed away. As I write, some of our other pastors are recovering from bouts of COVID-19, and some of the key leaders of other congregations are dealing with sickness. It is so crucial that we be a united people who are determined to cry out to the Lord for His delivering, healing power to sweep over us, on us, through us, and around us. It's well past time that we stop fussing and fighting over political positions, rhetoric, and conspiracy theories. It's time to pray, pray, pray! It's time to seek God for His help because lives depend on it. Please let us know whom we can pray for and how we can pray for you and your congregations. We will share that among us, and in one accord take it to the Lord in prayer.

May the Lord bless and keep us all,

Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor