General Assembly
of the Church of God
in Michigan

"equipping local congregations
to extend the Kingdom of God"

November 18, 2019

Pay The Rent

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

I was having lunch with Dave Perry and Mark Richardson a couple of weeks ago. Dave talked about a pastor’s need to "pay the rent." What he was speaking of was the things a Pastor must do if she/he is to earn the trust of their people so that the leaders and congregation will follow them into unknown territory. It means fulfilling the basic requirements or expectations of a congregation. Tod Bolsinger in his book Canoeing the Mountains, puts it this way: "Usually, before a community of faith will even consider undergoing costly change, there must be a sense that leadership is doing everything within their power and their job description to be effective as possible." (p.53). He goes on then to say that the basic competencies that a pastor must have are:

  1. Competent stewardship of Scriptures and Traditions. (p. 54). He says that we must be able to interpret scripture so that rightly and in such a way that people can apply to their lives. And, we must be able to interpret and proclaim the traditions of our "tribe."
  2. Competent stewardship of souls and community. (p. 55). We must be able to care for our people and the people of our community. The pastor must be among the people. He/she must be with them in their times of joys and sorrows applying the Word and Christ's presence to life situations.
  3. Competent stewardship of teams and tasks. (p. 56). We must be able to administrate the business and leadership of our congregation. If there is chaos in leadership administration, people will not follow us into endeavors that seem challenging or even dangerous for the congregation.

As I reflect back on my ministry these three things were the foundation of what I did as a pastor. By doing these well, my congregations trusted me to build, or to go to multiple services, or to program for those in greatest need in our community. I experienced the joy of being a pastor who's people followed him. How are you doing in these areas? What are you doing to become better in them? I would love to hear from you.

November 11, 2019

When You Fail...

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

On Saturday Oct. 19, 2019 the University of Michigan Wolverines football team played the Penn State Nittany Lions at their home stadium of Happy Valley. The crowd was roaring, they were wearing their "whiteout" outfits and the game was exciting to watch.

After following behind 21-0 in the first half, Michigan fans were despairing. But the Wolverines scored 3 touchdowns in the 2nd half – much joy and elation for the Wolverines! Then with 2:00 minutes to go in the 4th quarter on 4th and goal, Wolverine QB Shea Patterson threw the ball into the end zone to wide receiver Ronnie Bell. The ball went in and then out of Bell’s hands and the chance to tie the game ended. Penn State held on for a close win. The aftermath of the play showed Bell in tears, inconsolable on the sidelines. Both the announcers and his teammates were supportive of this young man who played his heart out for the whole game and they wouldn’t let one play define who Ronnie Bell was.

What happened following the game on line was terrible. In our day and age of the World Wide Web, social media savagely assaulted Ronnie Bell. Never mind that he had 5 receptions for 82 yards for the game or that he has been a solid consistent player in his career at Michigan. On line reactions were brutal and inexcusable. His teammates and coach thankfully came to his defense.

I as a pastor was moved by this and thought, "what would I say to this young man if I had the chance?"

  • “Hey, failure is something we all face throughout all of life..." nobody is perfect and all of us have failed on one level or another multiple times.
  • “Hey, failure is not final until we give up, because God doesn't give up on us!”

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
~Lamentations 3: 22-23 ESV

“Hey, Jesus has got you, hang on to Him..."

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives.

24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
    for the Lord holds them by the hand.
~ Psalm 37: 23-24 NLT

To all of the “Ronnie Bell’s” out there who have experienced failure…you are still loved by a Forgiving Savior! Get up and get back into the game of Life!

November 4, 2019

Lead a thriving ministry without losing your soul. - David and Caron Loveless

Why Your Dreams of the Perfect Church Must Be Shattered - David & Caron Loveless

Two years into college, I was done with the church. It was archaic and hypocritical. One Sunday, I watched as my friends were rejected and asked not to attend a service just because of their appearance. The church Id grown up in was no longer relevant to me and to a large part of the emerging culture.

So, I set out to change things. I was going to create a perfect church.

As a young college pastor, I took our team away for a retreat. And, instead of having fun and games and a bible study I made everyone endure intense talks on The Church of the Future.

In seminary, I joined a group of zealous leaders who met every Wednesday from 4:30-6:30 am for a year working on plans to start a church like few had ever seen. But when it came time to launch this special church I was told I was a little too imperfect, too much of a maverick to be a part of the initial core team.

That should have given me a heads up. But, I just moved on, redoubling my efforts to create a perfect church elsewhere.

As we planted a church in western Canada then later took over an established church in Florida, I devoted all my energy to finding the best methods and strategies to build a church that would radically transform hundreds, maybe thousands of lives for Jesus.

And every year I just knew that great church I imagined was within reach. I could see it in the distance. If we could assemble a staff that was hitting on all cylinders, or get enough money to complete the next initiative, or figure out the optimum times people would come church or land on the perfect discipleship strategy or find the right location, then wed be set.

I don't know if you've ever seen the epic movie Lawrence of Arabia. We just watched it again the other night and in one scene, Lawrence has been in the desert for days, and he runs out of water. Off in the distance, he can see an oasis and he drags himself toward it. But when he gets thereyou know what happensits a mirage.

I used to idealize certain leaders and their churches. Especially the ones I thought had it all figured out. They had growing numbers flocking to their churches and conferences, so all that they claimed, must be true. But the closer I got, everything was not as it appeared. That should have given me a clue. But I pressed on, believing my church, my leadership would be different.

When we idealize something or someone we maximize virtues and minimize flaws.

We all do it, either with our kids, a spouse, our mentors or ministry, even with ourselves. But, over time, unchecked idealization produces disillusionment and a deformed view of reality.

Whenever someone talks about the perfect way to do church, the Biblical way, we always hear about the New Testament church. That's when the church was pure and unpolluted, right?

But, the truth is, congregants of the early church were sleeping with their relatives, stealing money, harboring greed, envy, strife, lying, accusing each other of false doctrine, and leaders mishandled care for the poor. The list goes on.

Eugene Peterson said, There are no successful churches, there are instead communities of sinners gathered before God, week after week, in towns all over the world. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called a pastor.

I spent most of my life envisioning and attempting to build that elusive, perfect church. Even though I knew perfect wasnt actually attainable I was determined to get as close to it as possible. Over and over, I stressed and exhausted myself and a lot of others so desperate was I to see my dreams fulfilled.

Then I learned about wish dreams. And it rocked me.

In his book, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, and theologian who was executed for being an anti- Nazi dissident warned us about the dangers of wish dreams in the church. Here are a few excerpts:

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it.

But God's grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves

He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial

By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in Gods sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man (or woman) that fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly

He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community as if his dream binds men together

Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God, for us to be constantly taking its temperature.

As the old saying goes, Bonhoeffer was reading my mail.

My lifelong dream of the perfect church was a fantasy, a mirage. It was a well-meaning, but an utterly unrealistic picture of what a Christian community can ever actually be. And it made all the difference when I finally woke up and embraced this reality.

So, whats a leader to do who yearns to help build Christs church? Here are four things I focus on now:

God never asked us to build his church. He just called us to make disciples. He said he would build his church. We need to nail this to our podiums, stick it on our computers, and recite it at every board meeting. Count on and get comfortable with this: every model or method every church or ministry will ALWAYS have two things operating in it. Sometimes one will be more evident than the other, but over time, both will come to the surface. Instead of having expectations of the ideal, have realistic expectations. What are those? Along with beauty and goodness, there will always be some measure of brokenness and disappointment. By the very nature of its inhabitants, every time, in this life, it will fall short of the glory of God.

While learning from any leader or model of ministry, no matter how shiny and together they may appear, remember it or they are perfectly imperfect. Drop the I must make it happen mentality and adopt I get to make a unique and meaningful contribution to the greatest cause I know.

Lead a thriving ministry without losing your soul. - David and Caron Loveless

October 28, 2019

Pastoral Loneliness

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

A couple of things have come together to form the idea of this article; one, is in preparation for a series on "Fear Not..." messages on how "God is always with us" and "nothing will separate us from God" - yet in this midst of this I feel lonely. And then in talking to a young pastor friend, asking how do you deal with a congregation in which you feel disconnected and lonely in their midst?

You can "Google" a bunch of articles from famous leaders on loneliness, but here is my "expert" opinion. Understand that the word "expert" is Latin compound word, the first being "ex" meaning a has been, and the second part is "spurt" meaning "a drip under pressure." So I am indeed an expert by that definition.

Loneliness is part of leadership and ministry. No getting around it. And some ministry settings are lonelier than others. In 39 years of pastoral ministry and five congregations, there are some places that have been friendlier and more fun than others. Sad but true.

How have I dealt with loneliness in ministry?

To follow Dale Carnegies advice-to have a friend, be a friend. Go make some. Within the congregation, find a friend and develop that friendship. Friendship building is like a garden; you have to work at and in time it will bloom and produce wonderful results.

Seek pastoral friends from other groups-who understand pastoral joys and frustrations and who can be safe places to vent with. Don't be a "Lone Ranger"  attend CHOG pastoral groups and gatherings and local ministerial ones, too.

Befriend your neighbors. Go to a coffee shop and make regular friends there. Volunteer in schools, jails, hospitals, community groups and boards, etc. Great lasting friendships are formed there.

Embrace the loneliness. Ask God to redeem it and use it for good in your life. Quiet, solitude and time for reflection come in alone time. Jesus sought it out-look at the Gospel of Mark. Embrace the alone time as time with God. Seek to understand why some of our old songs speak of the joy and strength found "alone with God."

If you are really, really struggling, call us at the State Office. In the words of a great song-



"You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running to see you again,
Winter, spring, summer or fall
Hey now, all you have to do is call
And I'll be there, yes I will
You've got a friend
You've got a friend, yeah" ~You got a friend, James Taylor, 1971

We at the State Office are ready to help and encourage you-call us and we will be there! Hang in there, friends!

October 21, 2019

What Got us Here...Won't get us to where we need to go!

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

I am reading a book that Mark Richardson recommended entitled, Canoeing the Mountains, by Tod Bolsinger. The subtitle is Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. I have found it to be an amazing read. Bolsinger takes the Lewis and Clark expedition to find the Northwest passage and uses it to illustrate the Church's situation today. The theme of the book comes from the facts of history that Lewis and Clark believed they could canoe the Missouri River all the way to the Pacific Ocean. They canoed upstream hundreds of miles to find that the Missouri ended and they were confronted by mountains, the likes of which, they had never seen before. They came to the obvious conclusion that, "What got us here won't get us to where we need to go."

In many ways we in the American Church have been paddling our canoes for many years but now we have come to a culture, the likes of which, we have never seen before. It is very clear that what got the American Church to where it is today will not get us to where we need to go. For Lewis and Clark, this realization led them to understand that they needed to leave their canoes behind, find horses and mules to travel. They would have to learn how to become mountain climbers and though they did not know it they would need to make new canoes on the other side of the mountain. Bolsinger put it this way, "You let go, you learn as you go, and you keep going, no matter what."

We now live in an un-Christian and un-Churched world. Trying hard; doing what we have done in the past will not work. What works in one place will not work in another, so we must learn to be adventurers and entrepreneurs. We will not do church the same, and we will not use the same methods. The goal for Lewis and Clark was to reach the Pacific. Our goal is to make disciples and bring as many people to heaven with us as possible. Neither goal changed but the tactics changed dramatically.

How is God challenging you to "canoe your mountain"? Share them with me. I would love to write another article on how some of you are being strong and courageous to face your mountain. I am sure it will inspire others to let go, learn as they go, and keep going!

October 14, 2019

For Show or for Service?

Matthew 23: 1-12

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

It is Fall and it is football season Ya, baby!

I played football back in the day in High School for the Northview Wildcats; I was a lineman. And in the passing of time, in my mind, I am better now than I was then.

Still love to watch football but I focus on the line play for this simple but significant reason: the play of the line will determine outcome of the game.

Show me a team with a great quarterback, receivers, running backs but a lousy line and you may win a few but you won't win the big ones. Sounds like the Lions over the last few years, eh?

As my high school Coach, Mr. Anderson used to say, I can make a decent running back out of any one of you, if I have a great line. Line play in football is the difference between winning and losing.

Line play is not flashy, doesn't get headlines or a lot of attention like the other positions yet it is vital for a teams' success. The parallel of this in the church is this we need great servants for a great church.

I have noticed throughout the years some folks won't serve in the church unless they get to be in the flashy positions. Some won't step up unless the spotlight is on them. It is more about their ego than the needs of the church.

Yet sadly, in the church, you can have a great preacher, great music, etc., etc. - but if no one is willing to run a great children's ministry or greet people with enthusiasm, or make sure the facility is clean and appealing, etc., etc.... those are key ingredients that can make or break someone from coming back again.

Some questions to ask yourself when you are giving an opportunity to serve in the church =

  • Are you doing it for show or do you want to make a difference?
  • Can you do it well and enthusiastically even if no one seems to notice or care?
  • A lot can get done when you don't care who gets the credit.
  • Play for the Audience of One.

I live before the Audience of One. Before others I have nothing
to gain, nothing to lose, nothing to prove.
~ Os Guinness - "The Call"

My heroes are always the church lineman who serve in the trenches and help the church win others to Christ.

Hang in there, fellow linemen and linewomen you are loved and very much appreciated!

October 7, 2019

Protective Deeding

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

I have had the privilege over the last year to work with Church of God Ministries on Protective Deeding. A protective deed is like a last will and testament of a congregation, but it also protects a church from what is called Steeple Jacking...that is the hi-jacking of a Church Building. Let me explain both concepts.

First, last will and testament. Every Church no matter its size has a life-cycle. Actually, most churches have several, but every church does eventually come to an end. You will find none of the New Testament Churches in scripture that still exist today. In America about 1% of its churches close every year. A protective deed allows the church while it is strong to decide what will happen to its assets when it concludes its final life-cycle. Too often congregations when they are strong do not think of this, but it becomes very important when there are only a few faithful souls left in the congregation. It is much better for a Congregation to decide on the disposal of its assets when it is strong than to wait until a small handful of people who may or may not have strong ties to the Movement decide where the assets will go. It is like a last will and testament.

Second, in our world today most churches are fairly small. We have seen rogue ministers run off the few Church of God people, and take over a church to sell it, or make it the Denomination of who knows what. In my 18 years as your State Pastor, we have lost four Churches in this way. People have gotten angry with my office because we could not save their church. The truth is that with a protective deed my office could have done so, but without it, we have no legal way to intervene.

Church of God Ministries has adopted a form of protective deed for the whole nation that was developed by my office. Is your Church protected? The protective deed safe-guards your assets, while keeping the congregation in ownership and control. Pastor Richardson, our Regional Pastors, or I would be glad to explain this process to your Leadership Board... give us a call. We want you to be able to rest assured that your Kingdom investments in the Church of God continue into the future. Call my office at 800-369-5890, or email me at bill@micog.org. I would be glad talk with you further about this important issue.

September 30, 2019

Miracles

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

Pastor, why is it that we don't see miracles like we read about in the Bible? And further, why is it that you tell us of a miracle from time to time, but God did not heal my mom when she was sick?

Miracles are a mystery to us. One reason we do not see as many signs and wonders types of miracles today, is because God has given us knowledge and technology today that to society in earlier centuries was unavailable. Today people are cured by medicine, surgery, and treatments that could only be done through a miracle in earlier centuries. Today, what we see as commonplace (penicillin to treat pneumonia, or heart bypass surgery), brings miraculous results, that even decades ago would have meant death.

Throughout history people have questioned why God seems absent most of the time but then on occasions breaks into history and does something miraculous and then disappears again for some unknown reason. Is he capricious and doesn't He care? Clearly the Bible says that God loves all of us all of the time. In Romans 8 we read that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. God is always with us, he always cares for us and he also knows all about us and what we need. N.T. Wright says that sometimes God intervenes in ways that we do not expect. In those times that he does not intervene, we believe his saying no is for our good, though we may not understand. Life is a mystery, and none of us have all the answers, so our decision is between trusting God no matter what, or facing life with the belief that we are alone and simply at the mercy of circumstance.

I believe we are surrounded by miracles all of time. We may never know how many times an angel or the Holy Spirit intervened to keep us from pulling out in front of a truck or by changing our mind guiding us from a dangerous situation. So when we wonder why we see a miracle in one place but not another, we can honestly say we do not know why. But, we do know that God loves us and is always doing what is best. God is love. He is light and in him is no darkness at all. When we cannot understand, we can rest in this truth!

September 23, 2019

Faith With Its Gym Shoes On

Rev. Mark K. Richardson, Incoming State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

As pastors and ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we experience, many times over, the highs and lows of ministry and everything in between. Sadly, the lows seem to linger more in our hearts and minds. Many of us know the head-scratching, eyebrow furling, jaw tightening sensations that come over us when the people that we love and serve say and do things that cut right to our very core. Most of us, especially those who are Senior and Staff Pastors, have run into the unstated, non-agreed to, and often unrealistic expectations of our congregations. The challenges of these and the incredible workload of us who "only work one hour per week" can be overwhelming to the point that we are tempted to give up, move on, or shut down. You have probably heard or read the statistics of the number of pastors who leave the ministry each year. Guess what? Challenges, struggles, and pain are all a part of answering the call to be a Shepherd (Pastor) for the Lord Jesus Christ. It requires thick skin and a very conscious understanding that we are in the fishbowl of ministry. It also requires an awareness that regardless of what happens to and around us, little eyes and little ears are watching and listening to how we respond to those things that come our way, and it will affect their faith.

Faith, especially for the pastor and minister of Jesus Christ, is an assurance so powerful in the heart and mind that we have heard from the Lord and been called out by Him to His service for such a time and place as this. This assurance must drive us to put it into action (put faith's gym shoes on), and turn it into trust. Trust is faith with its gym shoes on! When we allow our faith to become trust in the Lord, we must answer the challenge and take the steps that faith requires, even when it looks like the ground isn't firm beneath our feet. God always firms up what's beneath our feet when we put gym shoes on our faith and turn it into trust. The Apostle Peter learned this lesson when in faith he asked Jesus to allow him to walk to Jesus on the water in the midst of a storm. As long as his eyes were on Jesus and his faith steps became trust, he walked on the water to Jesus. When he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the storm raising up around him, he began to sink. In his despair, he called out to Jesus for help, and the Lord lifted him up again. But Jesus challenged him with a key question, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:31 NRSV In my way of thinking, Jesus was asking Peter why he took the gym shoes off of his faith. Was he doubting the call out of Jesus, just because he was in a storm that suddenly got worse? Lest we become too hard on Peter though, after his sinking experience, he did walk back on the water with Jesus to the boat. He put his gym shoes back on, kept connected with Jesus, the Author and Finisher of his faith, and kept stepping.

I want to encourage you with my motto in life as a Christian and servant of the Lord. “Keep your eyes on Jesus and keep stepping, and He will enable you to walk on the storms that beat against you!” Men and women of God, Jesus called you out, and no matter what storm or challenge you face, He is with you. KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS AND KEEP STEPPING!!!

August 26, 2019

Messing Up
Numbers 32:20-23

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

20 Then Moses said to them, If you will do this-if you will arm yourselves before the Lord for battle 21 and if all of you who are armed cross over the Jordan before the Lord until he has driven his enemies out before him 22 then when the land is subdued before the Lord, you may return and be free from your obligation to the Lord and to Israel. And this land will be your possession before the Lord. 23 But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.

Why is that people who seemingly have it all together mess up? Their "mess up" may be moral, financial, professional, or interpersonal. A "mess up" is often a decision, a relationship, or an action that turns a person's world upside-down. Most of us have seen these "mess ups" played out on TV for personalities that are well known, and suffered by families, and churches in more private circumstances with devastating consequences. Persons get into dire trouble often because of one of the following three "UnS."

  1. "Unconfessed Sin." When we harbor sinful thoughts and behaviors they will undo us. The enemy of our soul will say to us that no one will ever find out, or it is private and your business alone, or it is not hurting anyone. The Bible is clear that our sin is sooner or later exposed that we do get found out. We know from experience that nothing we do is done in a vacuum. Our thoughts and actions affect loved ones, co-workers, friends and neighbors. The answer is to first quit lying to ourselves and seek forgiveness. John 1:9 says that, if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If that unconfessed sin is a deep rooted habit or addiction we need to find faith confidant who will hold us accountable in the battle to overcome that sin.
  2. "Unguarded Strength." the place that many ministers fail is in this arena. We are confident that we would never betray a spouse or our family. In that confidence which often is a form of pride we leave that area unprotected and that is just the chink in our armor that the enemy of our soul will use to destroy all that we have worked so hard to build. Proverbs 4:23 says: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. I am more vigilant with those parts of my life where I know that I am weak, but I must never let down my guard in an area of strength for that is often where the devil will try to destroy me.
  3. "Unreleased Shame." We live in a sin stained world. Many of us have been damaged by things that we have done or that were done to us and the Devil keeps us bound by the past offense. We are ashamed to think of what we did or what was done to us, so we keep it buried and suffer greatly. It may be something far in our past, but somehow that memory still haunts and even controls us. Jesus speaking with some Jews spoke of the freedom he gives and they responded in John 8:33ff, They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, 'You will be made free'?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." Shame is bondage. You serve a God who wants you to be free from the shame and guilt of you past. Shame often comes because of what others have done to us and guilt comes from what we have done, but He wants you to be free! Release the shame to Him. He knows your heart and wants to set you free indeed.

It is my prayer that your service to our Master will be joyous and fruitful. May the Lord help each of us to confess sin, guard our strengths, and release our shame so that throughout our ministry He will always be glorified.

August 19, 2019

Check your Registration

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

We are at the time of the year when checking our registration and making sure it is current is critical. For ministers it is important to go to jesusisthesubject.org, and then find chog24/7. If you have an account, you click search for your name and the program will lead you to register. If you do not have an account, you want to make one and register. This guarantees you will receive your ministerial registration card in the mail in January, and it will put you in the yearbook so others can find your information there.

You will also want to go to the same place and register your church. This also assures you that the church is under the 501(c)3 umbrella of our national office. This umbrella gives the church the privilege of giving tax credits for donations. Without this coverage, a church breaks the law to give tax credit for donations. This is important stuff that you do not want to miss.

It is possible to put a credit card number in and you will automatically register each year on the anniversary of your first registration on chog24/7.

Recently, I was at U of M hospital and I used my ordination card to get in to see a patient there as well as getting my parking free in their garage. That card can get you into jails and prisons as well as hospitals. So registration is vital to do each year. Even if you do an automatic yearly registration with with your credit card, it is good to at least once a year visit the website to make sure all your information is still current.

If you have any difficulty registering, just call our national office at (800) 848-2464 and tell the receptionist you are having difficulty getting registered and he/she will get you in touch with the correct person to help you. In Michigan, we consider your national registration a registration with us as well so there is no duplicate work to do.

Enjoy the end of your Summer!

August 12, 2019

Lima Leadership Event

Please take advantage of a Great Opportunity
Lima Leadership Event
Crossroads Church of God
Lima, Ohio
"The Missional Quest: Shifting an existing congregation in a Missional Direction"
Leader: Dr. Brad Brisco
Author of: The Missional Quest
Missional Essentials
Next Door as it is in Heaven
Rethink, and
Covocational Church Planting

About five years ago, the state ministries of Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana challenged Church of God congregations in the Midwest to flip the question from "Should we multiply" to "How will we multiply?" Its been exciting to see the conversation shift. Churches across the region hard at work installing intentional pathways for disciple making and wrestling deeply with the idea of what it might look like for their church to reproduce. Each year we partner to bring an outstanding speaker to educate and inspire our pastors and associates to move the Church to multiply disciples and congregations.

It is very rare for such a high level event to be provided at no cost to those attending but this is what we have done. We provide your lunch and you only have to get there and back. How many of us have asked ourselves how we can get the church growing and often come up empty. This conference will provide real hands-on training on to get any congregation building the Kingdom again. Join us...bring your staff...your board...your leadership team. You will be glad you did! Register by clicking here. It is important to register so that we have a lunch for you. More than 100 key leaders from our three states have already registered. Join us to learn, to implement, and get to know some of the best of the best from Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.

Encouragingly,
Dr. William Jones, State Pastor

Registration is free but you must register HERE

Event Location
Crossroads Church, 775 S. Thayer Road, Lima OH 45806

August 5, 2019

Life In-between

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

"So much of life is lived in-between, between the now and the not yet, between arriving and departing, between growing up and growing old, between questions and answers. Lord, help us not to live for the distant day when the in-between will be no more, but help us to have the courage to step into that sacred space of the in-between - knowing that this is the place where life is transformed." - Jim Branch

My mother passed away in 2017 at the age of 93. On her grave stone one reads:

Laura Million
1924-2017

Ninety Three years are covered by that dash between 1924 and 2017. Volumes of experience, joys, and sorrows are all wrapped up in that dash. Many of us live our lives waiting for the next big opportunity... our next raise... our next vacation... next Christmas, when we need to learn to live each moment rather than waiting for a future event.

I have been asked many times in this last year as your State Pastor if I was looking forward to retirement. It has been hard for me to answer because I am really too busy living today. January 1, 2020 will come. I will be retired, but until then, I am enjoying being busy serving and relating to the people of the Church of God in Michigan. I have told some that one of the reasons for my retirement is that my father had a heart attack and died at age 63 in the factory trying to get to 65 so he could fully retire. I have no desire to die trying to get somewhere. I want to live and experience all that God has for today. I am challenged by Jim Branch's quote above. I want to have the courage to step into the sacred space of the in-between. I have used Linda Ellis' poem in funerals before but I thought it fit well with what I am try to communicate. Let keep focused on working on our dash.

The Dash

by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning... to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars... the house... the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you'd like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile... remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life's actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

by Linda Ellis, Copyright © 1996-2019, thedashpoem.com

July 29, 2019

Small Is Not Bad

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

I recently received an article on Strategic Leadership verses Relational Leadership. As I read the article it became very clear that I am a relational leader. I have always been that and I will always be that. My ministry relationships have helped me to build ministries and strong churches. The article points out that one cannot build a large church using relational leadership, one must adopt strategic leadership concepts to build a large church. After spending 23 years in pastoral ministry my largest congregation grew to only about 250 people in average attendance and it was probably because of my leadership style. Was I a failure, I seldom felt like it. I usually thought my congregations were healthy, we were reaching people far from God and we were actively involved in our community.

Now I put-on my State Pastor hat and ask if 90% of Churches in America are under 250 in attendance are all of them failing? I say NO!! The issue is not so much what our size is because I believe most pastors are relational in their leadership style and will not grow huge congregations. Those who have the ability to be strategic leaders must follow that calling and build large churches, but for those who may never build a large church, please do not allow the devil to steal your joy. Build a healthy church that is reaching people who need Jesus, that is discipling people to make disciples, and that is making itself indispensable to the community in which it is placed. That is real success.

In a book written by Karl Vaters, Small Church Essentials, the author writes that there are many healthy small congregations (described as under 250). Here is some of his list (might you be one of them):

  • The Planting Church just keeps starting new congregations.
  • The Training Church just keeps sending leaders out on mission.
  • The House Church reaching people but never having a building.
  • Retirement Community Church buries 20% per year but keeps reaching out.
  • Impoverished Church made up of poor people in a poor community.
  • Persecuted Church in an area or country where faith is attacked.
  • Transitional Church where the community is socially/economically changing.
  • Niche Church that targets a specific part of a population.

I write this article today not to condone laziness, or to lift up ineffectiveness, but to say that a healthy small church that is living out the great commission and the great commandment among its constituents and community is to be honored. Just as God does not call all pastors to be mega-church pastors he does not call all churches to be large. He does call us to be effective whatever our size!

July 22, 2019

Running with the Red-Winged Blackbirds

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

Lately, I've been running a few times a week along the roads of my rural neighborhood. As a creature of habit, I find that I enjoy running the same route day after day, week after week. There is comfort in the familiar, in the known, in the routine. I relish the sights of wild egrets and domesticated dogs, and I am always surprised by the plopping sound of a turtle as it hides in the ditchwater.

But one part of my running route is a little uncomfortable: the red-winged blackbirds, whose nests are in the trees along the road. As I pass by, they chirp incessantly, probably trying to scare me away. Sometimes they even keep pace with me, flying directly over my head for a hundred feet or so until I leave their territory. (I know they are above me, but I avoid looking up at them for fear of becoming the untimely recipient of some target practice.)

Are the blackbirds yelling at me to go away? Or are they cheering me on, urging me to keep running? It kind of depends on how I interpret what they are saying.

Have you ever had a congregant bring a complaint to you just before the Sunday morning service begins? And not just any complaint, but a complaint about you or something you have said or done? It's hard not to take those kinds of complaints personally, and it's hard not to become angry or frustrated at the timing of that communication. If someone has something to say to me, I want to hear it, but Sunday morning is really not the best time! I want to be completely focused on the worship service, the presence of God, and the needs of the people - not to mention the word that God has given me to preach.

But the blackbirds chirp incessantly when we get too close to their nests, when we ruffle their feathers.

Sometimes we pastors make mistakes. Sometimes we need to be called to task for how we have harmed someone, intentionally or otherwise. Sometimes we need to repent and ask forgiveness and grow. But sometimes we get into trouble for preaching the message of Christ in ways that afflict the comfortable.

If and when that happens, your interpretation of the criticism matters. Are the blackbirds trying to shoo you away? Or could you see it as an encouragement to stay true to the course, to keep running the race, to extend love to those blackbirds, to urge them to join you along the way of Jesus?

Remember, Jesus had many occasions when the Pharisees hovered over his head and criticized him for how he preached and lived the kingdom of God. And Jesus told his disciples (Luke 10:1-12) that they would not always be accepted by the people to whom they proclaimed the gospel message.

If you have never been critiqued by your people, then maybe it's time to ruffle some feathers in the name of Jesus and for the sake of God's kingdom!

July 15, 2019

Three Epic Shifts

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

Reggie McNeal says that there are three epic shifts happening in the Church today as he speaks to a Leadership Network Conference. I found this to very interesting, I hope you will also.

A Short inspirational Video

Address your comments to Dr. Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan.

July 8, 2019

Confusing Tails with Legs

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

Here is a story attributed to Abraham Lincoln  in an argument with his opponent, Lincoln said,

"If we agree that a dogs tail is a leg, then how many legs would a dog have? His opponent said, 'Well, then, Five'. Lincoln replied, No, Four, because a leg is a leg and a tail is a tail, no matter what we say it is."

We live in a day and age where our world is calling a lot of things 'legs' that are really "tails'." How we define sexuality, gender identity, what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior, and what is right and what is wrong. It can really be confusing for those wanting to know the truth.

From a Billy Graham article in 2012, Someone has said: "A wrong deed is right if the majority of people declare it not to be wrong." Many people are now rationalizing what used to be wrong as right because science or a celebrity or an academic group has declared it to be 'okay'.

This is not a new problem  Adam and Eve faced it in the Garden, with the Serpent distorting Gods truth. Isaiah spoke of sweet appeal to make things the way we want it but he also gave a warning about doing this:

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20).

Paul talks in Romans 7:21-25 of our inner struggle to give in to evil and to live a life counter to God's purposes. Thankfully, the end of Romans chapter 7 gives us an answer to this confusion.

It is Jesus Christ! Jesus is the Truth in our confusing world. Jesus can lead us to the Truth in all of life. Jesus can because He is Truth, with a capital "T".

As I understand what Truth is in these turbulent times, I see three ways to discern the truth as a follower of Jesus:

  1. God's witness through the Holy Spirit (John 16)
  2. The witness of the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16)
  3. The witness of the Church (Acts 15:28).

And once we know the Truth, may we live it every day for all to see. May we share the conviction of Pastor Jonathan Edwards, who more than 250 years ago wrote these personal resolutions:

Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.

July 1, 2019

Credentials Review

The Rev. Dr. John F. Davey is Lead Pastor of Pennway Church of God in Lansing, Michigan.

In our world we face all kinds of people who carry various credentials. We have doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other professionals who have their credentials hanging on their walls. There are also plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, and other trades that have standards they must meet so that we can have confidence in their credentials as well. We would not want one of them to tell us that they have just decided to do this profession and really don’t need those credentials. I know that I would not have much confidence in them if they did not have those credentials and keep those credentials current. As ministers, especially in the church of God, we have at times had the response that we really don’t need the piece of paper or the credentials to do God’s work. The truth is, yes, we really do need them. God is the one who calls us, but it is a group of people that confirm our ministry and our ability to minister. People will not have confidence in our ministry if we do not have credentials. But also, we will not have the accountability that we need and the support that we need to minister if we don’t have these credentials. My hope is that we can hold high the standard of a minister in the church of God just as much as we would any of these other professions and that we would be proud to have these credentials. That means that we all must see that these credentials matter.

As the chair of Credentials Ministry, I am made aware we are held legally responsible to follow the new Credentials Manual in every detail. This is the law guiding what we do as a Credentials Ministry and directs us in who should give credentials, when these credentials might need to be taken away, how to help us designate what churches are to be credentialed as churches of God, and when action might need to be taken. If you have not read the new credentials manual, you might want to read through it, even though it is 84 pages. It will help you see how valuable our credentials as ministers in the church of God are. This is available on the State ministry web site. Let me point out a couple points in the credentials manual that are important for us all to know as ministers:

  • In section 2 it lists several statements about who credentialing is for. If you have someone who is interested in getting credentialed, they need to understand who would qualify for credentials. Sometimes we have people come to us, sometimes sent by their pastor, to be credentialed and they are not involved in vocational ministry nor are they really interested in being involved in vocational ministry. We don’t see them until they have already paid money for module one. If you can encourage them to look at section 2 before they apply that would be great.
  • In section 7.12 it states that we need to have a Periodic Ministry Update with all credentialed ministers every five years “to determine whether the sense of calling and commitment remain current, and whether there is active accountability and appropriate relationship to the standards and expectations of ministers of the church of God. It is not a performance review.” This is to help us keep the standards high, but also to help us see that we are not alone in ministry. We have other pastors that are part of our credentials. We will be scheduling these (45 minute meeting) in a central location in your part of the state for September 5 (4:00-9:00 pm.) and September 7 (8:00 am – 1:00 pm.). Please respond to Goldie and schedule your time for these.

God has called us to a very high calling and my hope is that we can encourage others to hold that high calling and give God our very best. If you have any questions, please give myself, Pastor Bill, or Goldie a call, (800) 369-5890.

Thanks! – Dr. John Davey, Credentials Chairperson.

Address your comments to Rev. Dr. John Davey, Lead Pastor of Pennway Church of God in Lansing, Michigan and Southwestern Regional Pastor for the Church of God in Michigan.

June 24, 2019

Faith in Gods Word

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

Every believer should have faith in the teachings of scripture for the follow reasons:

  • God is the author
  • God is all knowing
  • God wants to save us.

Since the fall of creation a battle has raged for the souls of women and men. That battle is being waged today in America with a very subtle attack on authority of scripture. We hear it when someone says, "the bible is ancient and they did not understand things like we do in todays more educated or enlightened world." Or, "The Bible was written by men and they, being human, made mistakes."

This kind of thought would discount the words of Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16,

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

We can have faith in scripture because God is the author.

Scripture is inspired by God. He led the writers to put his thoughts into words. I do not know how he did that, yet we have all at times been led to say something that we knew did not come from our own knowledge or wisdom, it was God inspired.

We can have faith in scripture because God is "all knowing."

If God inspired, then God had the knowledge then that we have today. Nothing new has occurred in the universe that surprised God or made him change his mind. What He said was true then would still be true today. In fact I would suggest that whatever we have learned since the first century and whatever we will learn in the future was already known by the all-knowing Father. We never learn anything that He does not already know. Since He inspired the scriptures we can trust that His Words still teaches what is wrong, corrects us and teaches us to do what is right.

We can have faith in scripture because God wants to save us.

Jesus speaking to Nicodemus the Pharisee explained to him why the Father had sent Him saying in John 3:16:

"For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him."

God's plan has never been to condemn or judge the world, but to lead the world through Jesus to a saving, fulfilling, freeing life. Misunderstanding this passage has led the church in America to be seen by many as critical and judgmental. Some have set up a hierarchy of sins with some being more terrible than others. No where do we find in scripture such a concept except maybe for the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31). Jesus came to save not condemn. His church should also do likewise. When there is sin in someone's life, love them, pray for them, walk with them; trusting that God will do his work of conviction, restoration and redemption. The Holy Spirit convicts, not us. If we stay in our lane of being the hands and feet of Jesus in this world the Holy Spirit will do his work in the hearts of those we touch.

June 17, 2019

On Nursing Homes and Little Children

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

Do you enjoy nursing home ministry? Not many do! I recall singing the old...old hymns because the people in the home knew them. I remember trying to sing some new upbeat chorus and everyone there just stared at me. I think one old man may have spit. I recall the smell, the nice nurses, and some residents who could no longer even lift up their head. I always wondered what to preach or teach since my audience usually was asleep or yelling something I could not understand. I even had a few of the lady octogenarians ask me if I were married...I was quite a looker when I was young. But confessionally; going to the nursing home was not an easy thing.

One day I asked my daughter, Jaela, if she would go with me. She was five or six years old and she loved older people, largely because she was loved on by the senior adults of my congregation. I was amazed at how the residents warmed up to her. Most of them were grand...great grand...even great great grandparents and having my daughter speak to them or let them touch her hair; even some got hugs, seemed to make their day. Jaela loved going because it was like she had a room full of grandpas and grandmas all to herself. She was a big hit and so was I for bringing her.

Do you have regular nursing home responsibilities? Do you have a few kids in the church that love older people? You might consider taking one or two and just ask them to speak with or if they are comfortable allowing these old folk to give them a hug or touch their hair. Children can bring real life to seniors who by many have been long forgotten.

I write this today because I am closer to the nursing home than I am to prom-night. I am realizing now how much life my grandchildren bring to me. Maybe it is something to think about as we puzzle over what we can do when we have a Nursing Home responsibility.

June 10, 2019

Step Up and Stay in the Box!

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

It is Spring and soon to be Summer – time for baseball! I used to play some in my youth. Played more softball than baseball. But as I get older, this is undisputable=

The older I get, the better I was–

'cause most of the witnesses can’t remember or are gone!

Baseball is about teams with nine on the field and with one at home plate with a bat.

Baseball is about a pitcher throwing the ball and the batter trying to swing and hit the ball with a bat.

Baseball is also about cool uniforms, hot dogs and arguing - lots and lots of arguing...but more about that another time.

In order to win at baseball, you have to step up to the plate with your bat into what’s called the batter’s box, face the opposing pitcher and try to get on base. You might walk, be hit and get on base, or swing and hit and get either a single, double, triple or best of all, -

Da da ta da ta DAAA! A home run!

Sometimes you strike out, sometimes you fly out but you can’t get on base if you don’t step up to the plate. The team that scores the most runs, wins.

Sometimes the pitcher throws what's called a “brushback pitch” or “chin music.” High and inside, threatening to hit you, definitely trying to intimidate you. The brushback pitch allows the pitcher to make the strike zone easier for him and harder for you the batter.

Ministry is like that. Isn't it amazing how confidence and momentum drives us. It is sad how fear and opposition can slow or even stop us.

In the last 34 years here in Michigan, I have seen many of your fellow servant leaders take “brushback pitches” from both the saints and from Satan.

Some of you have backed out of the box. Most of you are staying right in there. To all of us, I want to remind you what I think Jesus, our Manager is saying to us when we get the brushback pitch in life:

~"Step up" – stay in the box!

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 2: 7

They sing this best at West Middlesex- p. 685 “Worship the Lord Hymnal”

1. I mean to go right on until the crown is won;
I mean to fight the fight of faith till life on earth is done.
I’ll nevermore turn back, defeat I shall not know,
For God will give me victory if onward I shall go.

Refrain: I’m going on, I’m going on,
Unto the final triumph, I’m going on;
I’m going on, I’m going on,
Unto the final triumph, I’m going on.

2.Should opposition come, should foes obstruct my way,
Should persecution’s fires be lit, as in the ancient day—
With Jesus by my side, His peace within my soul,
No matter if the battle’s hot, I mean to win the goal.

To my fellow servant leaders – step up and stay in the box!

June 3, 2019

Where do we go from here? Are we ready to generously help LGBTQ people?

More than a few social issues illicit strong and opposing responses in our communities. To no surprise, Church of God congregations are experiencing the stress of our changing times as once accepted standards are now being weighed and measured. We cannot afford to compromise the Truth that is so dear to us, but the way we express it needs to be evaluated for its effectiveness. In particular, how we, the Church of God, respond to those expressing gender, identity, and sexuality preferences in conflict with Biblical orthodoxy, is crucial.

On February 12th, 2019, I attended an Indiana Ministries training event for pastors and church leaders focusing on helping Church of God congregations to more lovingly respond to and care for, those who identify as LGBTQ. The presentation was given by Ty Wyss, founder of Walls Down Ministry. He believes most conservative, evangelical, holiness, churches are unaware of the persons among them that are struggling with "same-sex attraction" (SSA), or any of a number of sexuality/gender identifications. As boundaries continue to be eroded by culture, and people increasingly embrace new identifications as normal, your church will have to be prepared to respond with a new posture that speaks to the heart and the head.

Wyss says,

"The heart of Walls Down is to help the Christian Church keep their focus on Christ's invitation of abundant life, rather than winning a culture war, a political debate, or trying to just change a person's orientation."

This ministry's efforts are in response to the bricks that have been laid in the wall of separation between the gay community and the Church. The bricks in the walls have been set by both entities, effectively limiting our Christian outreach to the very ones who need to experience the grace of the Savior. We can work towards removing those bricks that are impeding communication and blocking opportunity to share the peace and transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Wyss suggested that the Church must put away the fear of "condoning sin" and of heavily focusing on handling the theological question well. It's been believed, if we fail to condemn the sin and don't major on the theological argument, we will be condoning homosexuality. This is a falsity. What we end up doing, according to Wyss, is narrowing the conversation to the point we are no longer being heard. He suggested not leading with our theology, don't feel pressured to answer every question, and practice discernment of when a theology question isn't really theological, but rather seeking affirmation of personhood. Instead, ask questions for understanding. He stated,

"When we clear up the white noise [accusations from the enemy, fear of disappointing God, and pressure from a religious church culture], we're able to do what comes more naturally for people filled with the Holy Spirit - we meet people right where they are and love them closer to Jesus."

Wyss shared with attendees that language also plays a big part in our ability to be in relationship with those who are struggling sexually, with their gender, or spiritually. As generations go, words take on different meanings and we need to know what LGBTQ words actually mean so we can seek to be understood, and to understand. There are words to use, words to avoid, and the need to make room for new phrases. We must avoid shaming with our words. Learning language opens doors.

People take on the identity of the thing they've been shamed for the most. - Wyss

The last challenge he presented to the crowd of pastors and leaders was a question of where are we allowing LGBTQ people to engage in our churches? Are they allowed to serve? to contribute? If not in the church, then where? He suggested there are few things that inhibit the redemptive relationships that are needed to reach LGBTQ people:

  • A church culture that says that everyone who serves is a leader.
  • Most people can hide their issues, LGBTQ people are more seeable.
  • Seeing LGBTQ people as not having much to offer, until they repent.
  • Not seeing LGBTQ people as part of the body of faith until they've surrendered their sexuality.

The work of grace is as much for LGBTQ people as it is for all persons. The church's posture needs to "shift" from one of protection from, to an invitation to the journey of salvation. Included in that journey is being members of God's family through the blood of Jesus, and baptism is a normal next step, along with being discipled.

Scripture tells us the Lord offers His grace, love, and forgiveness to anyone who will receive it by faith. We need to take that posture as well. The church is at a crossroads. We can't ignore a whole community of people. We can't ignore the many who struggle with these issues and are looking for hope and help. We can't ignore that our churches will encounter those who are caught in the throws of sin, for once we ourselves were caught, too.

If you're interested in knowing more, go to www.WallsDown.org, or another affiliated ministry, www.leadthemhome.org. If there's an interest in hearing from Ty Wyss, in Michigan, please let me know at my email address: newhorizonscommunity@yahoo.com.

May 21, 2019

Keep Learning

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

I never guessed that when I entered Kindergarten at five years old at Sevastapool Elementary School in Richmond, Indiana, that I was embarking on something that would take up the rest of my life. I was hoping to get to nap time on the rug my mom gave me, not thinking of High School, College, or Graduate School. Now here I am having spent 14 years in formal education after my college degree; still realizing that there is so much I do not know, and realizing that I dare not quit learning.

What do you have to know to be effective in ministry anyway? Isn’t praying enough? Isn’t being filled with the Spirit enough? Isn't reading My Daily Bread enough? Isn’t reading the Weekly Call enough? (Oh! that hurts!). The answer is no!! We all know that our world is changing at break-neck speed. We all feel overwhelmed, confused, saddened at times about the condition of our world. I learned a lot about Theology in Seminary, and I learned about practical theology and ministry during my doctoral training.

Frankly, no one taught me about late-term abortion, or transgender identity, or for that matter racial and ethnic diversity, or social justice. We did not even have computers in college during my days there, much less the internet that introduced me to information overload. At some point I would like to adopt a form of Amish perspective that says I will not live with or look at anything past 1953. But in reality we all know we cannot live that way. God is the God of the past, present, and future. I hear him say: in Isaiah 42:9 "Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them." and in Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

We dare not quit learning from God, and about our world. He is not surprised by the conditions of our world. He is not fretting over what to do. He is constantly working to bring the helpless, the hopeless, the sick, the discouraged, the overwhelmed to his place of peace, forgiveness, grace, and wholeness. Reaching this world and proclaiming hope has changed since I began ministry in 1975. God has always provided me insights into how to touch my community, and share his love no matter how the world changed. He is still doing it. Jesus died for post-modern, post-Christian America as certainly as he did the people of Palestine, and Asia Minor in ancient days. We must keep up with how to be effective in sharing His message of hope and peace today. Do what it takes to be current and relevant to your world. Take classes, read books, go to conferences. Always be sharpening yourself so that you will be effective no matter what changes may come!

May 13, 2019

Two Hammers: The Problem With Comparisons

Mark O. Wilson is Assistant Professor of Discipleship, Multiplication and Renewal at Southern Wesleyan University

I have a sledgehammer in my shed, and I also have a small finishing hammer. They are both equally important to me.

If I had to choose between the two, I suppose I'd pick the little guy. He's been a real help to me over the years -- but I'd rather not choose at all. Both hammers are my good friends and trusted companions.

Thus, the hammers teach me a valuable lesson; bigger isn't always better! Smaller isn't always better either. The value of the tool is determined by the task ahead.

Driving stakes for a circus tent? Use the sledge! Repairing the living room coffee table? The finishing hammer will do perfectly. My wife, Cathy would not appreciate me using the sledge for that!

This brings me to an important point. Why do we compare ourselves with others? Why do we allow ourselves to feel inferior (or superior) to the people around us? We're all equally important -- though we have different roles and functions in life. We're all a part of the same toolbox! We all belong to the same garage.

It would be silly for the finishing hammer to glance furtively at the sledge and murmur, "I'm so small and insignificant! Compared to that guy, I'm just useless!" Likewise, the sledge could say, "I'm too awkward and clumsy. I wish I wasn't such a klutz and could be more graceful, like the finishing hammer."

Comparison with others is always a dead end street -- leading to inferiority or arrogance.

The importance of the hammer is determined only by the carpenter, not the hammer (or any other tool in the box!)

All the hammers -- both big and little -- are needed to build great cathedrals.

When it all is said and done, it won't matter which hammer was used for which part. Nobody will look at the majestic cathedral and say, "Wow, what a hammer!" Instead they will be inspired to glorify God and say, "What a Carpenter!"

May 6, 2019

Why Waste The Time Writing A Church Planters Blog?

Ralph Moore is thought to be responsible for planting more Churches than anyone else in the world. We are a movement of small churches, so I trust this is encouraging:

A friend asked me why I waste time writing a church planting blog. Good question, Im supposed to be retired but travel at least 13 weeks a year teaching disciplemaking and church multiplication. On top of that I try (often not successfully) to post something new and interesting each week.

The answer is that I believe in the kingdom of God. But, the most important factor is that I believe in the pastors of smaller churches. These guys are my heroesespecially bi-vocational (freelance) pastors. They pay a price that leaders of larger churches do not. And (this is the good part) they are more productive in A. Evangelism. B. Disciplemaking and C. Church planting. For me, supporting churches with fewer than 500 members is not a task, it's my life.

Smaller Churches as the Roots of the Tree

You read that right, these folks are at the root of the tree if mega-churches are the flowers at the top. It was in the early 1980s that George Barna discovered that small churches evangelize best because they are relational. They are relational because they cant afford expensive programs. Big churches think they evangelize, but often glean the results of the smaller churchespeople get saved in one place then discover another that has better childrens programs or more exciting worship you get it.

The relational nature of smaller churches more naturally (though not always) leads to pastors making disciples rather than dumping the Great Commission on a staff member (unrighteous delegation).

Smaller Churches Reproduce more Effectively

The real kick in the pants is the efficiency-vs-effectiveness quotient when it comes to measuring church size against the Great Commission. Big churches are efficient. They touch masses of people with minimal effort. Smaller churches are more demanding of leadershipyou work hard for every relationship. More than 20 percent of new churches come from churches numbering fewer than 100 in attendance. Congregations smaller than 500 people produce a whopping 60plus percent of church plants.

You read that right, more than 60 percent of churches ever planted came from a sending church numbering less than 500 people on their membership roles. This means for all the thousands of people attending megachurches, very few will ever be challenged to plant a church, even a micro-church.

My Three Goals

So, helping smaller churches A. Add members. B. Build disciplemaking continuums. C. Plant churches that will plant churches is worth living for at least I hope you think its worth it because it takes a lot of my time.

Are you shocked that so much is done by the few? Did you think it was the purview of larger congregations to get the Great Commission done? Please do share your thoughts in the comments box below if I have one regret it is that so many read this stuff while so few care to comment (yes, my friend, that was a guilt-trip).

April 29, 2019

How long is too long...How long is too short?

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

I taught a class at our 360 Ministry Leadership Conference on taking care of your Pastor. I want to delve into a portion of the conference today. Have you ever heard someone say of a pastor..."he/she stayed too long?" Have you ever heard someone say, "we need a younger pastor...we are really getting old?" As a pastor have you ever wondered when it is time to go? How do you know…what are the signs? Below are startling statistics:

  • 1500 pastors leave their assignments each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention within their local congregation.

In a 1991 Fuller survey we find:

  • 75% of pastors reported a significant stress related crisis at least once a month.
  • 40% of pastors reported a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
  • 85% of pastors reported their great problem is that they are sick and tired of dealing with problem people.

In 2006 Darin Patrick in his Mars Hill Church Survey of Literature recorded:

  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way to make a living.

How do we deal with the whole issue of Churches who want their pastor to leave and pastors who want to leave? Are there any answers?

The question many pastors ask...is it time to leave, how do I know? Let me suggest that a Pastor ought to know before his congregation. If the congregation knows before we do, we have become lazy and not kept our ear to the ground. John Maxwell's axiom is true here. "Anyone who thinks he is leading and has no one following, is simply taking a walk.” Key Question: are my people still following me? On the other hand if your average tenure as a pastor has never reached seven years, you have done the Church a disservice. Kennon Callahan in his book 12 Keys to an Effective Church states: "A pastorate of less than seven years is cost ineffective." Most pastors I know would tell you when you get to the six to ten year tenure in the church that is when some of one's most effective ministry happens! Why? You have gotten to know the community. The people of the community have gotten to know and hopefully trust you. The congregation sees that your ministry is not “fly by night,” but substantial and they will follow. Key Question: Have I stayed long enough to have built trust and cast a vision that people want to follow?

I am now nine months before my retirement as your State Pastor. I have known for almost three years this is the right time. I have had persons ask me why I am not staying longer…my health is reasonably good… the State Ministry is functioning well...! Precisely! I believe I am near completing what God wants me to do here. We need a fresh voice and and new vision. Could I stay and serve? Absolutely! Should I stay and serve? Absolutely not! There is a danger that when our mission is accomplished that we stay because everything is going well, the wheels are well oiled, now I can rest...NO! Key Question: Am I too comfortable?

The call of God is very personal. But some of the key questions above might help us to determine God’s will for our lives. Like Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, we don’t want to stay to short, nor too long, but just right. Key Question: Who can I trust to be open and honest with to help me figure out what I should do?

April 22, 2019

Church of God Convention 2019

Orlando, Florida | June 27-30

Our 2018 regional conventions theme was Receive. Hear. Embrace. This is the imago dei: Who we are created in the image of God. We want to receive, hear, and embrace all that God is, does, and gifts to us. These are personal experiences that we have authentically tasted.

Out of this grows our mission  missio dei  the communitys expression of what we have known and how we will live it out in the world. If we are the body of Christ, then we have the opportunity to GIVE LIFE in Jesus name. Can the aroma and fragrance of our very presence, speech, and action bring life? Jesus is the model and our relationship with him empowers us to experience and share. How did he breathe life? How did he speak life? How did he give life?

April 15, 2019

Why “We Need To Reach the Young People” Might Distract Your Church

by Mike Leake, Senior Pastor, 1st Baptist Church Marionville, Missouri

"If you don't reach young people your church is going to die".

I have heard that sentiment quite frequently when thought leaders (whatever those are) get together and discuss revitalization in local churches. Logically it's absolutely true. If an organization does not perpetuate it will not survive into the next generation. It is right for a church to be concerned if they only have gray heads. But there is an underlying theology within this statement which I believe will lead to death instead of life.

Peel off a layer of that onion and you see what dominates the conversation is self-preservation. It's not unnatural to not want to die. It’s quite normal to not want a beloved organization to die. In fact, God can use a drive for self-preservation for His glory. A church which realizes it is dying is far better than one living in denial. A church which says, "we'll do anything to not die" is in better shape than one which says, "we won't change even if it means death".

But a church cannot stay there. Because a church focused upon it's own survival is a church just waiting to die. The church, just like disciples, is meant to be self-denying for the sake of the kingdom. Doing things which are motivated by self-preservation are opposed to the ethics of God's kingdom. A church might even “turn around” by a good focused mission. But if the foundation is self-preservation instead of kingdom-expansion, don’t be surprised when the good news of Jesus becomes more explicitly secondary.

What about rather than saying, "your church is going to die" we say "your church is going to lose its impact on the community for the sake of Christ's kingdom"? This is getting at the real tragedy behind a church closing its doors. It's not simply that a beloved institution which once gave great memories is now terminated. The real pain is that influence for the kingdom is no longer happening in this sphere.

There does need to be a focus on reaching young people with the gospel of Jesus. (Just as there is a focus on reaching for Christ all those made in God's image). But if you start with self-preservation that focus is only going to go so far. Because what happens when you actually begin reaching "those" people and it changes the dynamic within your beloved institution? That old impulse of self-preservation is going to rear its ugly head.

The key question isn't, "do we want to reach the young people in our community". Rather, the key question is whether or not our hearts are kingdom focused instead of self-preservation focused. That will help with asking the right questions about what our Lord calls our particular local church to do well. A particular local church might not ever be the church which reaches hordes of young people. Or it might. That's up to Jesus. Our job is to be faithful with what we have been given in the place in which God has called us to serve.

Ask kingdom questions. Don't ask self-preserving questions. That changes everything.

Recommended by Rev. Jerry Lyon, Church Health Minister, Church of God in Michigan

April 8, 2019

Why We Need To Hear What People Say About Us

by Caron Loveless

When you hear the same negative comment about you from several sources, it's probably time to stop saying, they just don't get me and time to investigate why you're unable to see how others experience you. Years ago, I was leading a team in our church and things weren't progressing well. I tried all the typical team building exercises I knew to improve the connection but it seemed like people were holding back in our meetings.

Later, I discovered, part of the glitch was some in the group felt intimidated by me. Others thought I didn't value their ideas as much as my own. I was stunned. I honestly saw myself as a warm, inviting leader who gave everyone an equal opportunity to contribute.

When I thought about it, there had been other times similar remarks got back to me:

"She needs things to go her way."
"Her opinions are so strong I'm reluctant to offer mine."
"She can be intense."

My response to these comments went from, "I don't understand. I think I'm a pretty patient and inclusive leader" to "What's their problem? Don't they know it takes decisive leadership to get things done?"

Even as sharp and self-aware as we think we are, other people aren't as invested in us as we are so they can be more objective about how we're coming across. We always want to see ourselves in the best light so we internally block ourselves from believing negative feedback.

So, we resist. We think others are exaggerating or worse- that THEY are the problem. Our first reaction when someone tells us "you can be abrasive" or "you're always in a hurry" or "you always have to be right" or "you take too much credit for things" is to defend ourselves.

Most people have our best interests at heart when they tell us the truth. And we should probably trust their insights about us more than we do.

But, often, it takes a showdown or crisis to pry us open to hearing how we actually come across. It's after we've been let go from our job or lost a friend or exited a marriage that the slap stings enough to wake us up to important issues we refused to see.

No matter how long you've been at it, there's still room to grow.

And even though people love us as we are, all our relationships run smoother, with greater connection and efficiency when we are able to listen with humility to the feedback others have been trying to give us. Honest feedback is hard to hear. Especially if we're too attached to other's approval or sensitive to constructive criticism. But it's a skill that can be honed and mastered.

  • What can you do in the days ahead to cultivate better openness to the feedback of others for the sake of your marriage, family, and work relationships?
  • What would it take for you to be more open to the possibility that some part of what others are saying or have said is true about you?
  • When was the last time you invited a few trusted friends to help you gain clearer insight into areas of your behavior you've been unaware of?

I figured out that it's near impossible for me to hear unpleasant things about myself with low self-esteem and a faulty assurance of my unchangeable preciousness to God.

Some key internal assumptions I had about me had to change.

I'm learning, through Christian meditation and contemplation how to live experientially and consistently from the truth that at my core I am a fully approved child of God, enough as I am, free from shame. And it's strengthening me to hear the occasional unpleasant truth about my shadow side with much less fear and defensiveness.

The bottom line: I'm a much better leader and less shaken by helpful comments.

April 1, 2019

Missions?

Rev. Arlyn Willett, Pastor, Calvert Park Community Church of God in Burton

My wife got saved because long ago, someone came to the door and invited her to Jesus. Our church doesn't really have a door to door ministry because it does seem a little invasive. I often wonder if we get too apathetic at our church and don't even realize it.

How often do we go to a door and ask a total stranger if they are saved? Or if they want to be? (Any kind of opened door metaphorically).

I feel that my church organization, The Church of God, is a church of sound believers, who all have a great story of how they came to christ. We gather and praise the Lord, I'm not really sure though, what goes on the rest of the week. Most likely, we all head out to our normal days, finding time to do our daily devotions and saying prayers throughout the day, trying our best to stay focused on our relationship with our Lord.

I'm sure that some even get to think about the times that they went on mission trips, where they spent the whole week helping some people that were not nearly as fortunate as we are. Very nice thoughts to get them through the day.

I tried to help one of our churches by doing a fundraiser for them to help them get a new projector because the poor unfortunate church had to use an overhead projector and transparent paper to put their worship words on the wall. We did reach the monetary goal, but what a bummer that church and its 12 or so members just didn't seem to get things moving there. It's so weird, not long after they closed their doors, some other church organization moved in and next thing we know, the place is packed and there are like three school (church) buses parked there. I guess they pick up kids all over the neighborhood in them buses for free! Boy it sure is good to see that old Church of God building thrive again.

Gosh I wonder if those people from that other church of God, the ones that went on the mission trip, if they do any missions at all now that they're home? I wish our church could do a mission trip, but our people are pretty busy, much too busy really, "some of us work ya know."

I was listening to our national pastor preach once, and he said that when he moved in to Anderson, he thought he'd get acquainted with some of the other church leaders in town, so he went to several. Actually he ended up making a pretty good friendship with the Catholic priest and started having lunch once a week with him. Pastor said that he told his new friend that he liked how sacred everything seemed at the catholic church, but what he didn't really agree with, was how they had to confess everything to the priest in order to be forgiven. The priest said yeah, he's sure that going to the lord with their prayers would be just as easy but then some people just need to get it off of their chest by going to the confessional. Shoot, a lot of people come to confess, even people from your church, said the priest. My church? said the pastor. That's weird, why would they do that? The priest said that the church of God parishioners told him that they too just needed to get it off of their chest, but boy, if they confessed their sins to their Church of God people, they were afraid that they would become the subject of the new gossip, or even worse, thrown out. They felt best confessing at the Catholic church where nobody would make them feel judged.

My church has 50 to 80 regular members, and it feels victorious being as we started with 12 people. But the town that we belong to, has a population of 33,000. What can we do to build our church and God's kingdom in this community? What can we do to reach all if those people? Are we going wrong somewhere? Everyone in our church seems to be hungry for Jesus, to be praying to the Lord, yet our lives are so busy, all we can seem to do is hope things get better. What is our mission? We love our church, the building and the people, but what's next?

March 25, 2019

Seventh Circuit Court Rules the Clergy Housing Allowance Is Constitutional

To all our church partners in the Servant Solutions family,

We are grateful to share with you that late today (Friday, March 15, 2019) that we received notice from our counsel that the Ministerial Housing Allowance has been upheld to be constitutional by the Seventh District Court of Appeals.

The housing allowance benefit had earlier been declared as unconstitutional in a 7th District Court in Wisconsin when the Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged the housing allowance. Servant Solutions, as a cooperative partner in the Church Alliance, worked in the appeal process and filing of Amicus Briefs with the Court.

Jeff Jenness returned this week from meetings in Washington DC with the Church Alliance Steering Committee had this to say.

"We are very pleased with this outcome as it preserves the decades long provision in the IRS code which allows for the designation of a housing allowance as part of a minister's compensation. We're grateful to the Lord for this outcome."

More detail will follow soon in an upcoming newsletter. You can read the court decree outlining this action here.

March 18, 2019

Is What We Do Important?

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

When I was in college my first Summer job was working for a cabinet factory. I was not going to be there long enough to get into the Union, so the plant manager just put me wherever he needed. I pushed a broom my first week which gave me great respect for those who do so. It was murderous. I think the sweeping was a test to see if I would work or loaf. (There was a great temptation to lean on that broom when no one was watching.) After a week of sweeping, the boss decided that I was a worker and could be trusted without a great deal of supervision. He put me and another college student in a warehouse with a trillion cabinet doors and drawers (at least it seemed to be that many to me.) Our job was to sort, re-stack, and categorize all those doors and drawers, then when freight train loads of new material came in, organize that as well. We worked hard!

One day our boss came to our warehouse to talk with us. He said he never had had any workers like me and my college buddy. He commented on how we worked whether he was there or not, and we did not complain (at least to him). He wanted to know why? We both were Christ-followers, but we "hem-hawed" around saying that was the way we were raised...it made time go faster...then finally, my friend confessed. He said, "sir, we follow Jesus Christ and the Bible says that we really don't work for you, we work for him...we are to honor him with all we do." Oh, I wished I had said that. Recently, a similar situation occurred. Jalene and I were traveling with Dave and Jeannie Perry in a land far...far away. In a large group of strangers we were asked how long we had been married. Dave and Jeannie were celebrating their 40th anniversary and Jalene and I had just celebrated our 44th. We were by far the longest married in the group and the facilitator asked the secret to longevity. With Dave I first started thinking of funny answers (just say yes dear, whatever you want dear, it was my fault dear...) Then the warehouse came to my mind. I said, "it was because we're Christ-Followers and that makes all the difference." It changed the direction of the facilitators comments toward us; I think in a positive way.

I just got a support letter from a person I barely knew. asking for me to support his Christian Motorcycle fundraiser. In it he wrote that his wife (of many years) still talks about me leading her to Christ, she thought it was cool to have a minister back then who was a biker. He said, "isn't it ironic that she is now married to a Christian Biker?" So Bill what is your point...What we do makes a difference. The Devil and his minions would have us believe that what we do does not matter. In the three incidents above it made a difference for our Plant Manager and for the Presenter, and for this Christian woman. Let us not be afraid to speak up in the public forum about our love and devotion to Jesus Christ. He has given us Life, and Heath, and all things. Though the temptation comes to be silent, let us never be ashamed of our Savior.

March 11, 2019

Go way...like Jesus did.

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

My wife Jeannie and I have six beautiful, adorable, intelligent grandchildren and soon number seven will be here! Some of you who know me may ask, "How do you have such wonderful, beautiful, adorable, intelligent grandchildren?"

I attribute that to superior genetics. My three sons followed my example and married beautiful, adorable, intelligent women like their mother. It was the only hope our family tree had.

One of my grandsons is almost three years old, Gideon Wayne Perry. He has a pet phrase that cracks me up. Gideon loves to play and if you disturb him by saying, "Gideon, time to eat, or to sleep, or to change your diaper..." - his response is, "Go way!".

Hold that thought while we look at scripture in the Gospel of Mark.

Starting in chapter one through chapter 14, count how many times Jesus left the 12 disciples and the adoring crowd to go away and to pray. Then think about this: if Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Savior of the world, made it a priority to go way to pray alone – what does that say to you and me as church leaders?

Take your planner today and make regular plans to go way with God in prayer. To unplug and retreat from others. To pour out your heart and hurts. To be still and to listen to the Holy Spirit. To rest, relax, renew and recharge your spiritual energy.

If you are thinking about a Sabbatical or need help in planning one, contact the State office. We have information and resources to help you. If you need someone to come share with your leadership about this, we would be happy to do so.

So in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the words of my grandson, Gideon, I say to you pastors and church leaders, - "Go way!".

March 4, 2019

I Triple Dog Dare You

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

As another round of snow falls here in central Michigan, I am reminded of a much-beloved Christmas movie, a classic in its own time, "A Christmas Story." One of the iconic scenes in this film involves a series of dares between young boys, as one of them dares another to stick his tongue on a frozen flagpole. The challenges escalate from a meager "I dare you" to "I double dare you," but they reach their climax with the coup de grace of all dares, the sinister "triple dog dare."

But this article isn't about "A Christmas Story." It's about the United Methodist Church.

You are likely aware of the news from this past week's General Conference - the UMC's equivalent to our national General Assembly - where the United Methodist Church met to vote on two related issues: whether or not to allow the ordination of LGBTQ ministers and whether or not to allow ministers to perform marriages of LGBTQ individuals.

After a great deal of impassioned discussion, the UMC voted against the "One Church Plan," which would have allowed individual conferences and districts to make their own decisions on these issues, while maintaining the unity of the denomination. The UMC then voted (with a 53% majority) to approve the "Traditional Plan," which reinforces the heterosexual values approved by previous gatherings of the General Conference.

The United Methodist Church is on the verge of splitting on the issue of same-sex relationships. This certainly would be true if the "One Church Plan" had been approved, but I believe it is still true even with the passage of the "Traditional Plan." Our brothers and sisters in this group are in a really difficult position. Please pray for them, and when you rub shoulders with Methodist ministers, ask them about how they are processing this. Listen to their answers. Give them space to express themselves.

What saddens me most about this situation is how a social issue is splitting apart a Christian fellowship.

What angers me most about this situation is how one's stance on a social issue is perceived to be a determining factor regarding whether or not one is a Christian.

Your stance on same-sex relationships doesn't make you a Christian. Your stance on alcohol consumption doesn't make you a Christian. Your stance on gambling or pornography or abortion or politics or Chick-Fil-A doesn't make you a Christian.

What makes you a Christian is your living, loving, redemptive, transformative connection to Jesus Christ and, by extension, to his church.

I believe that there are honest, authentic Christians on both sides of each of the issues listed above. (Even Chick-Fil-A. And, seriously, even politics. Even abortion. Even same-sex relationships.)

If your response at this point is to say, "Yes, but...," then I ask you simply to wait. Consider those with whom you disagree on any of these important social issues. Listen to their stories. Pray with them. Worship with them. Read scripture with them. Find points of common faith with them. Serve others with them. Don't let a social issue separate you from other followers of Jesus.

I know the Church of God's stance on same-sex relationships. I attended the 360 Conference a few years ago when Ryan Carrell and Bill Jones presented opposing viewpoints on the LGBTQ issue. I was in our national General Assembly a few years ago when we (for at least the fourth time in our history) affirmed something similar to the United Methodists' "Traditional Plan." But here's something else I know:

The Church of God is not finished dealing with the LGBTQ issue. It's not going away. It will come back to our General Assembly again, perhaps in five or ten years - or maybe sooner. And we too, like our Methodist cousins, will be faced with a decision about how to proceed.

Now, we are a small tribe, and our decision will not make headlines like the UMC's decision has this week. But as people who proclaim a message of holiness *and* unity, we cannot allow the LGBTQ issue to divide us (as, I believe, it already is doing).

Prioritize unity to at least as high of a level as you prioritize holiness. Sit down with someone with whom you disagree, and really listen to them. Imitate Jesus, who hung out with (and loved) all sorts of people - and who reserved his harshest judgment for the super-religious Pharisees. Don't let the LGBTQ issue become a litmus test for whether or not a person is a Christian. Don't let the LGBTQ issue split the Church of God into two groups.

I triple dog dare you.

February 25, 2019

God says, "Just Chill...I Got This!"

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

"Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,"
"God has lost track of me.
    He doesn't care what happens to me?"
Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?
God doesn't come and go. God lasts.
    He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out."
~ Isaiah 40:27-28 The Message

A while ago, I was in one of those pastoral "Mondays" depressing blah- blues moods. As pastors and leaders, you know what I am talking about. It is the letdown after the weekend of proclaiming the Good News and sharing and leading others to the Throne of God's Grace. And then Monday hits and you whine like a fussy baby.

I was complaining to God about my fear about the future. All stressed out about what is coming up for me and my family  financially, vocationally, and health wise.

I know that there are some things I can work on and do my best in preparing for. Yet so much hangs in the balance in a future that I cannot see or control. Wow, this can really freak you out.

Then I read from Isaiah 40. Friends, let me encourage you to read the whole chapter. Read slowly. Reflectively. Read from several versions. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

The Message version kind of slapped me in the face. All this stuff I was stewing on - God knows. God cares. It is like Him saying, "Just chill...I got this."

A little while later, an inspirational meme came to me. A picture of creation with the words,

"I made all this stuff out of nothing. Trust Me...I can take care of you. ~ God"

Hey, pastors and leaders, trust Him. Praise Him. And now, go and serve Him with joy!

February 18, 2019

Don't Give Up Your Bean Field!

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

"Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. 12 But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory." ~2 Samuel 23:11-12

I sit on the Board for Helping Hands in Motion, (HHIM) which is a support ministry to indigenous National Leaders of Haiti, India, Sri Lanka, as well as some other closed countries. My friend, Pastor Dennis Huebner from the First Church of God in Elkhart, Kansas, is also the Board Chair. Denny shared these thoughts in devotions at our meeting in January 2019.

The Philistines were terrorists who bullied the Israelites. Often they would wait until harvest time and then raid and steal the harvest that the Israelites had worked so hard for. When the Philistines showed up, the people of God usually ran away. They gave up, they quit, and they lost the crop. It was a bad habit they had developed.

One guy decided he was done running. Shammah, one of David’s Mighty Men listed in 2 Samuel 23. Some would say, "It's just a bean field, it isn't much" but Shammah said nope, here I stand, not giving up, I'm not running away. I am willing to stand and fight for what is right.

Denny asked us if we are in the habit of running or taking a stand. He challenged us that often it just takes one person willing to pay the price to turn a ministry or a church or a life around. How about us - Stand or quit?

A poem from John Greenleaf Whittier entitled "Don't Quit":

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit –
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

February 11, 2019

Trust God

Rev. Dan Whiting, Executive Pastor, Clarkston Community Church in Clarkston, Michigan

Hey Lead/Senior Pastors I greet you in the name of Jesus and from the chair of an Executive Pastor for the past 15 years and for the past several years as a member on the Church Health Team. In recent articles Dr Jones has shared his wisdom on the various rewards and challenges of being a Pastor. I simply want to say to you all who prepare messages, counsel the hurting, balance the budget, clean the worship center, attend late night meetings, gracefully hear complaints and the list goes on... We love you! We know you have had many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to increase giving, attendance, and volunteers. Often you might ask God; “Why have you not increased the flock?" So, from a "Second Chair Leader" I offer you five insights or thoughts just for you today. Not necessarily from any particular author or expert on organizational leadership, but just a few of my observations.

  1. We don't operate from a position of scarcity. God has given us abundance. The world projects the opposite. It is not always about how much money the church has or how many people are sitting in the pews. It is about a big God who can and will provide if...
  2. We stay faithful to the Gospel in all things.
  3. Surround yourself with positive people and associates.
  4. Fix your thoughts on Jesus. Heb 3:1
  5. People will let you down, but Jesus won't.

My opinion is that we (me included) worry too much about what people will think, or some sort of numerical outcome of a program or event. Nope, it's about being faithful to the calling of proclaiming the Gospel. All the rest will take care of itself. Do you really believe that? This does not mean that we don’t work hard. I believe trusting God means we trust Him to give us the power, the supernatural ability to make things happen.

‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,'says the Lord Almighty. Zech 4:6. Let's redefine success shall we?

“‘Well done, my good servant!' his master replied.'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'" Luke 19:7

Be encouraged because you are making a difference. I am not a preacher and I don't claim to be a very good evangelist but I leave you with a short story that happened this week. I got a text from a guy I knew very well more than 10 years ago and a non-believer for sure. And for many reasons I won't share here, we had not talked for 10 years. I got a text from him last week that said this.

"I've had a surprising and really wonderful return to the church in the last couple of years. I appreciate you being such a kind and generous example of faith when we were spending more time together."

Stay faithful to the Gospel, trust God and the abundance will come. I believe it! Do you?

February 4, 2019

Dealing with Snarky Critical Comments

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

"All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked." ~Luke 4:22  NIV

If you read this passage in context, Jesus had come back to his hometown. Asked to read at church, He read from Isaiah 61 - a great stirring passage proclaiming the Year of the Lord's favor. It was Jesus' mission statement, his announcement for His public ministry. And all there were amazed as He spoke. It was a grand high moment of the moving of the Spirit through His people.

And yet some wags asked, "Ain't he Joseph's son?" The insinuation was that Jesus was born illegitimate. It was a snarky way to diminish Jesus in this great moment.

I have had this happen several times in ministry where God seems to be moving and great things are happening and then someone has to come along and throw doubt, criticism, and cold water on the work of the Lord. Speaking as a pastor, this is what I find so...so...so very frustrating to deal with and work through.

May I share a couple of thoughts to help you, my brothers and sisters, who have faced this or who are going to face this soon?

Don't be shocked. If it happened to Jesus, it will happen to His followers, too. As the O'Jay's sang back in 1972 - what they do, they smile in your face...

Don't give up. That is the intent of the forces which seek to distract and who ultimately want to destroy us. Don't give them that satisfaction.

Do forgive. It is part of the pattern of daily prayer Jesus taught us. Learning to forgive is vital for being a good leader.

Do know Whose you are. I am a child of God, I am chosen by the Spirit of God.

Do fulfill your mission. Continue on. Read the rest of Luke 4. Jesus did not stop or retaliate. He didn't even post on social media. He fulfilled His mission of loving, teaching, and healing. So should you, my brothers and sisters.

January 28, 2019

Weight of the World

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

Have you ever felt like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? Many of us have had that lonely feeling that if anything is going to happen here it is because of what I will produce. Some of that stress is good. It motivates us to do our best. It is also important to always remember that success in ministry does not lie solely on the shoulders of the Pastor. Lets think about our other team members...

In 1 Corinthians 3:6 Paul writes: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." We must never forget that no matter how hard we work, we are dependent on the movement of God’s Spirit to bring fruit. It is never all on us. In the end, whatever we do is for God’s glory and we must never forget that God is the key player on our team.

The next key players are our brothers and sisters in Christ. In American Christianity we have mistakenly bought into the concept that we hire the pastor to do the work of ministry. In Ephesians 4 Paul lays out the role of the Pastor saying, "The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ." The role of those gifted as Pastors/Teachers is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. If we are doing it all we will flame out in discouragement and exhaustion. When feeling alone remember there are millions of fellow Christians serving the same King!

The final key players are the other leaders around us. God has gifted and called leaders in your local church, in your community, in your state and nationally to help you succeed as well. When we think about it that way, we realize that there are resources, power, and support systems all around us.

Sometimes we feel alone because we are not willing to reach out and ask for help. Ministers are notoriously self-sufficient. That wrong thinking leaves us feeling we are alone and often overwhelmed. You have a great team around you...take advantage of those resources, and the weight of the world will lift from your shoulders.

January 22, 2019

You Could Have Been a Great Leader!

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

Several years ago I was on a sabbatical. The main focus of my Sabbatical was to make preparations for finishing well. At that time I had about eight years left before my retirement from our State Ministry and I wanted to do all I could to finish well: honoring the Lord, the Church that had put their trust in me, and finally my family.

I spent several days with Dr. Al Ells. He is a well know author and counselor to leaders. (If you have not read his book, Leaders That Last, you will want to get it!) He put me through a battery of assessments, and had me do some extensive homework. In one of our sessions, Dr. Ells said to me words I will never forget…”Bill you have been a good leader; you could have been a great leader! But you chose to do ministry alone.” I wanted to argue with him, but I knew he was correct. I always believed I could lead, learn, and succeed on my own. My pastorates were in northern Michigan where there were few other Church of God congregations, and when there were state or national meetings I thought they took too long or were too far away (often disguised as too expensive). If you were to ask me who mentored me in ministry, I would say John Maxwell through his books, conferences, and audio lessons...though I never met him personally.

I learned too late in my ministry that I really did need other people. From that point to today, I have worked more at collaborating and counseling with others rather than just depending on my own knowledge or intuition. I have found real joy and help in collaborating with others. If I were younger, I would spend more time building relationships with colleagues and coaches to lead with the help of others rather than doing it alone.

What about you? It is very easy to retreat to the ivory tower of our office and do ministry alone. For most of us it is our default position. You may be doing very well alone...I did. But it was not the best for my ministry. I want to encourage you to connect with colleagues and friends in your community and in the Church of God in Michigan. There is so much to gain listening, sharing, learning, and playing together. Our annual Ministers Retreat is next week. It provides a wonderful place to “let your hair down,” and collaborate. You can still register, call my office and Goldie will help you. If it is too late this year, look now at your calendar and make a priority for those opportunities to connect with friends and colleagues!

January 14, 2019

Handling Discouragement

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

"I really believed that I was led by God to have the Church build a new gymnasium! I can't believe that my board said no!" The subject of the last sentence could be changed to starting small groups, to serving in a local school, starting a second worship service...the list can be endless. What do you do when your board of the church says no? Every working role in life has its times of discouragement. Discouragement comes to us all, but it can feel more poignant when one believes God is leading us, and we are still turned down. Lets think for a few minutes of disappointment in Ministry...

One of the hardest things to discern is whether an idea is coming from me or from God. This is the first place to go when your plans get blocked. Spend much time in prayer, asking the Lord to help you know if the idea you feel devoted to is from Him or you. If you are convinced that the idea...plan...direction to take the church is from Him, then you go to step two.

How can I communicate differently, so that my leaders see what I do? Often an idea is dismissed because we have not communicated long enough, or clearly enough for my leaders to buy-in. This communication must answer questions beyond what we want to do. We must communicate: Why, How, Anticipated results, Challenges/Roadblocks, Benefits and Drawbacks. Leaders make their best decisions when they have all the facts and have dealt with all their questions.

The third aspect of dealing with a discouraging answer is to give it time. People often balk when they feel they are being pressured to make a decision quickly. Giving people time to think, to talk to one another, and ask their questions provides a higher likelihood that they will say yes when it comes to vote. There are decisions that need to be made immediately, but these should only be emergencies. If most of our decisions are needed in a hurry, we are not planning well.

Finally, sometimes when I, as a leader have what I want or even what God wants turned down, my leaders say no. Then, I might be wrong! This is hard to say, but it is critical to recognize that I am not the source of all wisdom, nor am I the only one to whom the Lord speaks. Many years ago I had an idea, that I was sure would be best for the church. My board said no and I could not convince them differently. In fact, they went a whole different direction. Time proved that they were right.

When discouraged about being blocked or turned down, go through the process above. Always be willing to communicate better and give plenty of time and always willing to admit that maybe I am wrong.

January 7, 2019

We do it, you help vs. You do it we help

Dr. William Jones, State Pastor, Church of God in Michigan

All of my life I have been part of congregations that needed help. From needing nursery workers to choir members, to youth leaders, the church was always looking for people to help keep the machinery of the church purring. I have seen people get so excited about a new family that visits saying something like, "We could really use that young couple in our youth ministry." or "He is a business man in town, I hope he believes in tithing." Or a tired single mom brings her two small children to the nursery, and someone in the nursery says, "If she is planning on bringing her kids, she better sign up to help in here." I confess that these are some of the most egregious things I have encountered during the past 40 years of ministry, but they do reflect a mindset in the Church that sees people as resources to use rather than souls to love.

All the churches I pastored have somehow had a similar mindset. What we were saying is "we do it...you help." We do a musical, we do a children's program, we do a youth activity...and we would love you to help. It makes the church/staff the pool of ministry ideas, and the parishioners, the human resources needed to pull off any given ministry.

I am thinking about a change in mindset. It takes reversal of attitude toward people. In my last article I wrote about the passage of scripture in Ephesians 2:10 that describes God's children as his workmanship or his masterpieces. What if we began to see every person as someone we are to help become all God wants them to be rather than someone to help us accomplish a program or ministry? What we would be saying is "you do it...we help." In this scenario we help people find their passion for ministry and equip, support, and encourage them to accomplish something great for God. You love music, let's help you develop, you care about the poor, or the mistreated, or the hurting, let's find ways to live out that concern. The list of passions can go on and on.

This attitude has more of an emphasis on sending into ministry rather than using for needs. Yes, this is risky, because if we help people fulfill their God gifted destiny, they might not stay at our church. They might serve in another venue while worshipping and being discipled by us. It comes back to a critical issue: will our church be outwardly focused or inwardly focused. We will go into all the world or stay cloistered away from the world?

Thanks for letting me think with you. I look forward to your comments to continue the conversation.