General Assembly
of the Church of God
in Michigan

"equipping local congregations
to extend the Kingdom of God"

March 27, 2023

Donkey Sense

It is amazing to me how fast 2023 is going. One week ago today was the beginning of spring, although no one seems to have convinced the weather of that. Yet, we are on the precipice of Holy Week, working our way to the commemoration of our Lord's great atoning sacrifice for us and His resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. There are some wonderful events and activities that our congregations engage in, many of which are built upon lifelong memories and celebrations. The first of these celebratory events is next Sunday, Palm Sunday.

Churches around the world will celebrate the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, a symbol of peace. What a powerful celebration that not everyone understood as the celebration took place. Many were waving palm branches, some were lining the road he traveled with their garments and palm branches. The shouts of praise were in the air, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest heaven!" Matthew 21:9b (NIV) While some celebrated, others in the crowd were critical, while yet others were totally bewildered as to what was happening.

The reality is that the celebration was in honor of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, coming to make the ultimate sacrifice of atonement so that all who call on His name can be redeemed. It is all about Jesus Christ, and not the palms or the cloaks on the road, even the crowds. It is all about Jesus Christ and what He had done for us all. Many years ago, I heard a profound statement by Rev. Dr. Erwin Lutzer, former Senior Pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago, and well known author and speaker. He was recounting the events of Palm Sunday, and in emphasizing what was happening, stated that the people in the crowd needed to have donkey sense. The donkey was wise enough to know that the palms, the cloaks, the celebration wasn't for him, but for who was riding on him. He was doing his appointed job of carrying the Savior of the world to Jerusalem for the greatest transforming event in history. But it was Jesus Christ and not the donkey that was the focus.

He is our focus today. We celebrate Palm Sunday, waving palms and maybe keeping some in our homes throughout the year to remind us of the Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem to go to the cross. I keep a palm branch twisted into the form of a cross on the dashboard of my vehicle as a continual reminder that it is all about Jesus Christ. I hope you, your families, and your congregations have a great celebration of our Lord's Triumphal Entry, leading into a powerfully enriching Holy Week. For me, I will do what I do all the time; I will try my best to have donkey sense and celebrate our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you richly.

Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor

March 20, 2023

A Great Day for The Church of God in Michigan

This past Saturday, I was thrilled to be a part of 350+ people gathered at South Church in Lansing for our 360 Ministry Leadership Conference. The theme: Seek and Save the Lost was a great focus for evangelism, as we worshipped, fellowshipped, and learned together. The morning began with a rousing time of worship, led by our Church Health Pastor, Rev. Jerry Lyon. His inspiring words were augmented with some powerful worship songs and a rousing video from the Exponential event which concluded two weeks ago in Orlando, FL. From that great time of worship, the attendees gathered in several areas of the facility for the first of three sessions across several tracks.

By the time the day was over, hundreds of people from dozens of our congregations, attended three sessions across the tracks, spent wonderful time in fellowship with a great meal from Chick-Fil-A, and gathered together again for an incredibly inspiring closing worship. During that closing session, many people came forward to be anointed and prayed for to be commissioned to passionately pursue evangelism. The Spirit of God was evident throughout the day, and people were excited with what God is doing in The Church of God in Michigan.

To put on this event, there is a lot of work that goes into it. Much of this was done with the direction and leadership of Rev. Jerry Lyon and the 360 Ministry Leadership Task Force. I am grateful for the efforts of this team, Rev. Jerry and Deb Lyon, Rev. April Crump, Rev. Rhyan Glezman, and Sharon Richardson. Several others helped to set up, tear down, handle registration, and facilitate the flow of people throughout the day, like Erin Glezman and son Kalin, Phil and Laurie Tripp, and Doug Bilby. We are very thankful for all who served and all who attended. Thank you to the facilitators of the sessions throughout the day. We also extend thanks to Becky Adams for her assistance in pulling together many items for the event, and we are continually grateful to South Church for extending their heart of hospitality to us each year for our 360 Ministry Leadership Conference. Their staff was very friendly, professional, and encouraging. It was truly great to connect with many people from many of our congregations across the state, as well as partners in some of the ministries that we work with like Dick Forsman from Michigan Singers, Scot Bale from Warner Camp, and Rich Fields from one of our Ministries to Haiti.

Our hope and prayer is that we will carry from 360 the knowledge gained, and match that with the fuel of the Holy Spirt in seeking and saving the lost for Jesus Christ. It was truly a great day. The only thing missing was you, if you weren't able to make this years event. Trust me, it will be well worth your time in the future. We hope you will join us as we gather again next March to grow together.

Blessings to you all,

Rev. Mark K. Richardson, State Pastor

March 13, 2023

Speaking the Truth in Love

"We are not meant to remain as children at the mercy of every chance wind of teaching and the jockeying of men who are expert in the craft presentation of lies. But we are meant to hold firmly to the truth in love..."
~ Ephesians 4:15 - J.B. Phillips translation

I have a one panel cartoon I cut out of a newspaper more than 40 years ago that still makes me laugh:

It is of Dennis the Menace and his friend Joey holding up a puppy high over their heads, looking intently. Dennis says, "My Dad can tell by looking at the bottom of their feet."

40 years later and now we can't tell anymore...or we might be in trouble.

Our Governor's new anti-discrimination laws just this week will threaten religious groups in their long held beliefs of what is male and female, and what is right and what is wrong. Our daughters and granddaughters are now competing in sports with biological males, which is an unfair advantage on the field of competition. And then they have to share locker rooms with these males!

We have a Supreme Court Justice who could not or would not answer the question, "What is a woman?" Our Assistant Secretary of Health for the United States is Admiral Rachel Levin, born a man, divorced with two kids, and in 2011 became a "woman!"

Our First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, on March 8, 2023, International Women's Day, gave the "Woman of Courage Award" to a man pretending to be a woman, Argentinian Alba Rueda.

The insidious message of all this is, "The best woman is a biological male." That is the epitome of patriarchy and misogyny! What an insult to our daughters and granddaughters!

What should the CHOG response be? Three suggestions...

Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3:18 = "We will not worship your gods or bow to your idol of gold..." What used to be considered a mental illness is now celebrated.

We must not play this dangerous game of untruths and lies. Even if we are criticized, condemned, and persecuted, we must stand up for the Truth.

This is the Way = Ephesians 4:15 = "hold firmly to the truth in love." Speak with kindness, not cruelty. Speak with honesty but not harshness. Our goal is to convert, not condemn.

Hold our leaders to the Biblical standards: encourage and support our pastors and ministry leaders in our youth programs, State ministry, Camps, and Colleges - to hold their ground Biblically and not give into the world's standards.

Church, what say you?

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

March 6, 2023

Climate Change and the Church

"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it..."
Psalm 24:1

What is "Climate Change?" It is the theory that man-made activities are a threat to Planet Earth. A more accurate term would be "Climate Crisis," since proponents predict gloom and doom for the Earth if we don't change. The blame for the Climate Crisis is use of fossil fuels (oil, gas, propane, etc.) and farming (livestock in particular) and the internal combustion engines (cars and jets). The remedy for the Climate Crisis is for a radical change of life for the masses, guided by more control by governments and elite leaders (environmental groups), more taxes for regular folks, and by eliminating and/or severely limiting the use of cars and jet travel and more reliance of the use of "green energy" (wind power, electric vehicles, and solar energy).

Couple of questions one must ask a "Climate Crisis" believer, and then a theological concern:

What is Normal for the Climate? I remember in the mid 1970's going to a conference at Calvin College to hear an expert predict we were about to enter into a new Ice Age, we are all going to freeze to death...and then in the 1980's we are all going to burn up, and then lately we all are going to drown cause the oceans will cover us all - even though one politician who preaches "the oceans will flood us unless" crisis message, has the audacity to own mansions on two different ocean beaches, that your and my tax dollars support!?!

With every new drought, flood, blizzard, is all Climate Crisis? Or maybe, it is just life?

It begs the question: "What is the normal climate, the norm, for planet Earth?"

Is it when the Earth was the hothouse jungle of dinosaur times? Back during the Ice Age when Michigan was covered with glaciers and the Great Lakes were carved out? Back when the Sarahi Desert was a grassy plain? The Romans conquered the British Isles and the Scandinavian countries of Northern Europe almost 2000 years ago and planted vineyards and wheat, because the climate was warm then. The Vikings several hundred years later settled Greenland and farmed was warmer then. It is very icy now. The Earth has gone through many cycles of hot/cold, dry/wet.

The Climate has been changing a lot since the beginning and it will until the End.

Is more government/experts controlling things going to cure the Earth? Will more taxes lower or raise temperatures or clean the water and the air? How much more, can they quantify that?

Amazing how rich experts who own multiple mansions, travel in large SUV's and fly on private jets, telling others they need to give up their internal combustion car, eat bugs rather than beef and do with less electricity because they say it will save the planet. If they really believed that message, why are they not living it?

The theological concern I have is this: it is heresy to say we humans control the Earth.

Read Psalm 24, it speaks plain and powerful who the real Controller of Planet Earth is! The Bible is clear: God created and rules over planet Earth. And God, and God alone, will bring it to an End, when He chooses. We are only temporary tenants in this world.

The Greek word from which heresy comes from is haíresis, literally, "act of choosing," derivative of haireîn "to choose." When we choose the "Climate Crisis" mindset of fear and doom and look to human sources for our world's salvation, we are supplanting the Sovereignty of God with the idol of a lesser god - "Climate Crisis."

The real climate change we need is for Christ to be proclaimed and followed as Lord of all. Real salvation if found in faith in Jesus Christ! That should be the focus of the Church...not climate disputes.

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

February 27, 2023


In my current eAction article, I encourage us to pray for Revival in our lives, our churches, our communities, and beyond. God is moving in some very amazing ways in our time. Revival seems to be spreading from the Asbury college campus to campuses, churches, and other places in amazing ways over the past couple of weeks. One very exciting example of this is the current release of the movie, Jesus Revolution. It is based on the true story of the Jesus Revolution of the late 1960's and early 1970's. It recounts how the message of Jesus Christ radically impacted the Hippie Movement. It is a powerful movie that clearly demonstrates the Lord Jesus Christ and His power to bring revival into the lives of people who are in some of their darkest and toughest places. I encourage you to see it while it is still in the theaters, and I hope you will be impacted by the number of people (especially young people) who are watching it. Revival is real, and I crave it for us. My hope and prayer for what is happening is that people's lives will be so transformed that they will be all in for Jesus Christ in how they live, love, pray, and serve. Many years ago I came across the following affirmation called, A Covenant of Faithfulness. As you can see, it was adopted from an anonymous African Pastor, but it is a powerful covenant he developed with God. I would rejoice to see us step into a covenant this powerful.

A Covenant of Fruitfulness
(Adopted from an African Pastor, name unknown)

I am part of the fellowship of the fruitful. I have the Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast, I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of His. I won't look back. Let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed vision, mundane talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lifted by prayer, and labor by power.

My call is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go 'til He comes, give 'til I drop, preach 'til all know and work 'til He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. I have been called by God. He knows my name--my banner of identification with Jesus will be clear.

With love,

By Rev. Mark Richardson, State Pastor

February 20, 2023

A 4-H Club Recommendation for Pastors

In the early part of the 20th Century, the Department of Agriculture sponsored a youth organization offering instruction in agriculture, home economics, and other fields. 4-H Clubs sprang up across the land, mostly in rural communities. The 4 Hs stood for Head, Heart, Hands, and Health. The pledge of the 4-H Club members is as follows:

I pledge
My Head to clearer thinking
My Heart to greater loyalty
My Hands to larger service
My Health to better living
For my club, my community, my country and my world.

These clubs are still in operation in many places today, more than 110 years later. In fact, Michigan State University Extension has put together a breakdown of the pledge of the 4-H Club, and ways to sign up for a 4-H Club. If you are interested, the link to this is: What does "4-H" stand for? - MSU Extension

Several years ago I created a devotional for the ministers in Western PA during our camp meeting. It was based on the concept of 4-H, using Head, Heart, Hands, Hope. With some updates and using some selected passages from 2 Timothy, chapters 3 and 4, I want to encourage you to minister with an eye, ear, and heart to what the Apostle Paul shares with his son in the faith, Timothy. Here are some suggestions to think about and pray about. Mostly, they are to encourage you to press toward the mark of the upward call of Christ Jesus regardless of what is going on around us.


But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. (2 Tim 3:1-5 NASB)

  1. Get your head around the fact that we are living out prophecy.
  2. Keep your head about you when others are losing their minds.
  3. Detox yourself from mind drainers (people who are negative about everything, and things, especially social media, political news, etc.)
  4. Pray fervently for God to impart large measures of these on you, your family, your congregation, and your community: (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, insight, guidance, direction, discernment, peace, and strength to obey all that the Lord reveals to you).


But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:13-17 NASB)

  1. Expect things to get worse not better.
  2. Keep your heart fixed in the Lord, because He is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
  3. Settle your heart in the Word of God, it will empower you to press through the challenges that we face daily.
  4. Pray a positive confession prayer to trust in the Word of God no matter the situation, trusting that it will be suitable and profitable for every circumstance and situation, to equip Gods people for every good work of service. This is a matter of heart determination.


I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Tim 4:1-5 NASB)

  1. Trust is putting running shoes on your faith. Faith is active as we step out on the call, promises, and revelation of God.
  2. Dont allow circumstances or people to deter your focus.
  3. Deal with the rough stuff that comes your way, and fulfill your calling and make your ministry shine.
  4. Pray a prayer of strength and determination to preach the Word unhindered, unaltered, unadulterated, simply, and boldly, through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Pray for your people to see what God is showing you, and pray that they will join you in fulfilling God's desires.


For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Tim 4:6-8 NASB)

  1. Remember you are polishing your testimonies (Fighting the good fight, finishing the course, and keeping the faith).
  2. Always stay focused on Christ, He Who began the work in you and is perfecting it.
  3. He is coming again, and He will bring about everything the Word of God promises that He will.
  4. Pray a positive prayer of confession that you will fight, finish, and be faithful, to receive your crown of righteousness. Pray also that you will be sold out in ministry top your congregation that each one will also live to receive that crown of righteousness.

Love and blessings to you all,

By Rev. Mark Richardson, State Pastor

February 13, 2023

Principles and Practices

4 "Haven't you read," Jesus replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'[a] 5 and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh[b]? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." ~ Matthew 19:4-6

a. Matthew 19:4 Gen. 1:27
b. Matthew 19:5 Gen. 2:24

"A principle is an understanding about how to do things; a fundamental truth about the way things ought to be. A practice, of course, is what you actually do - and ideally, as a result of a guiding principle." ~ Dr. James Emery White

If we were to go back in time more than 100 years ago in our Church of God congregations, our practices were different than today;

  • Men would not wear ties or buttons, too worldly - I once said to an older minister, "When I get to Heaven, I want to talk to the guy who invented ties!" - To which my older pastor friend said, "what makes you think he'll be in Heaven?"
  • Women would not wear jewelry or makeup - too worldly - there was a family in Cassopolis that in the 1950's when the husband contracted polio, the CHOG pastor said it was because his wife wore a plain wedding band!
  • And our church dinners would not have coffee, tea, mustard, or hot sauces - "stimulates the flesh, which is bad!!!!" Anyone remember drinking "Postum?"

We have changed our practices from what they were because we looked at biblical principles and we had reasoned discussion about our practices, much like they did in the Early Church in Acts 15.

It is one thing to change from a practice of anti-coffee to now coffee drinking is common practice in virtually every congregation of ours.

It is a whole other thing to change principles on issues today from what we held in the past.

Some among us in the Church would like to change our principles on acceptable human sexual behavior to include trans-sexuality and homosexual marriage as 'okay' practices for the Church.

It reminds me of the old Flip Wilson story of a neighbor who came over to Flip and said, "Your funny looking yellow dog just bit my dog in half! What kind of dog is that?"

Flip responded, "Well, before I cut his tail off and painted him yellow, he was an alligator!"

Moral of the story: A dog is a dog and an alligator is not a dog!

Friends, we cannot change our principles on human sexuality without throwing out the Bible and ignoring the wisdom and practice of the Church since it's beginning. We could talk about this and debate it until Jesus returns but it won't change the Biblical teachings or the historic position of the Church.

My prayer for the Church is that we would affirm this:

We believe, as Jesus declared, we are created male and female. We believe that God's ideal for marriage is that it is between a man and a woman.

That is the biblical principle and may that continue to be the practice of the Church.

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

February 6, 2023

A Devotional for a Snowy Sunday Morning

Psalm 51:7b, "Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow."

Matthew 5:6, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled."

Wisdom called for us to close services this morning. The timing and severity of the snowstorm meant that getting to church would be difficult, if not dangerous. But when the Lord disrupts our schedules almost always there is a blessing. This is no different.

When I let Wilson out this morning the beautiful white landscape muffled any noise. It was so quiet and peaceful. I found my spirit gulping in the peace of God that passes all understanding.

Life is like that. We face storms in our lives, but when the storm is over there is beauty and, most importantly, peace.

We have been reflecting on holiness in our Sunday morning worship services. As I looked out across our yard with the deep, white, unmolested snow I was reminded of Psalm 51:7, one of the great penitential psalms. David had sinned grievously by committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband murdered. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan, David repented deeply. As part of his penitential prayer, he begs God, "wash me and I will be whiter than snow."

Isn't that the desire of all who are Christ followers? We want to be pure and holy  whiter than the snow that is in the lot behind my backyard. Pure, clean, peaceful, beautiful. Thinking about being whiter than snow reminded me of the beatitude,

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled."

The good news is that Christ died so that we can be whiter than snow! Not just a relative change - being forgiven of our sins, but a real change - born again, transformed, cleansed, and freed from sin. Our hearts truly can be whiter than snow.

Have a blessed day,

By Rev. Dr. John Miller, Pastor at Oakley Community Church, Oakley, Michigan

January 30, 2023

Why I Remain Church Of God

Full disclosure, I have never known any other faith experience outside of the Church of God. To say my family history runs deep is a slight understatement. My great, great grandmother Anna Ketchum Tyler, was saved under D.S. Warner and was present at his funeral. My family has been at the Church of God in Kalamazoo, currently Grace Harbor, since it was founded in 1886. I am the first ordained minister in my family, and I love serving my church as a senior pastor.

Being Church of God was not a choice for me growing up, it was just who my family was. When friends at school asked my denomination, I would declare my church is non-denominational (which meant something different in the 90's and early 2000's than it does now). Now I refer to the Church of God as my faith tradition, rather than denomination. It was also challenging to describe this faith tradition to my husband who is Presbyterian. He didn't understand my non-liturgical church, Holy-Spirit led worship.

I am proud of the heritage to which I belong and the faith that raised me. A church that accepted I was called to ministry at age 15 and who supported that call by providing me with opportunities to live out that call - a church that has loved me so well.

It is also a church where I don't always agree with its theology. When I was interviewed at my current congregation, one of the questions I was asked was, "What do you disagree with in Church of God theology?" I answered honestly with a bit of fear that my response would be the end to the interview but I was met with the affirmation "us too."

There have been many times when I have wondered if I remain Church of God. I have wondered if there is a place for me, my understanding of the Gospel, and the power of God in the world. I have wondered if my understanding of God's expansive grace would be received by fellow pastors if they knew how expansive I believed it to extend. I have wondered if my understanding of love will be received. I have wondered if I have grown too liberal or progressive in my faith for others in our assembly to continue to welcome me.

I have also thought many times who would take me if I left. Where would I go to find another faith tradition that doesn't have membership or believes in the priesthood of all believers or who supports women in ministry or who honors holiness and unity?

I had lunch recently with a young woman who found my church online. She said she was drawn to the beliefs on the website that spoke of the unity and oneness of believers in Christ, the fact we don't have membership because we all belong to the church, and that we support women in ministry. She said our church was the first place she and her husband felt at home in worship.

After our lunch I was reminded why I remain Church of God. I don't remain Church of God because of my heritage or even my employment. I remain Church of God because of the space it creates for people who don't feel like they can find a faith home in other places. I remain Church of God because I have the privilege as a pastor to create space for people to belong in the church.

The Church of God is my home, and it is the place God has called me to help create a home of faith for others. I can't imagine doing this anywhere else. You might disagree with me and how I interpret some parts of scripture. You might disagree with some Church of God theology. What holds us together is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the grace extended to all of us. What holds us together is the unity of believers and the holy life through love we are all called to live.

I'll remain Church of God as long as I can, and I will pastor a Church of God as long as I am able to help create space for others to connect to God.

Why do you remain Church of God?

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

January 23, 2023

Pastors' Financial Peace University

Friends...THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH! (unless Pastor Mark is buying). Some might even say something is, "Too good to be true, then it must be, too good to be true!" Very often we download that complimentary ebook, just to find out that we've been led into an abyss of an inbox circus of junk mail, ... "just enter your email," they said.

Well, I'm here to assure you that the offer of going through the Pastors' Financial Peace University at NO COST to you is absolutely true. My wife, Debb, and I took advantage of this same 6 online session offer last spring. We were given access to all of FPU's tools to calculate and track our debt reduction and to see the results we wanted for gaining our financial freedom. By the end of February, or mid-March, of this year, we'll be free of all the credit debt we've been carrying. Both vehicles will be paid in full, all credit cards are currently "zero" balance and shredded, and emergency savings is consistently available for the unexpected expenses of repairs and/or replacements. Just our home mortgage will be left--but it's in the works for early payoff, too.

With such economic instability in our world today, it only makes sense to get your household in the best financial posture for whatever circumstances might arise. Often there's much financial pressure on the Pastor's home becuase there's pressure within the local church. Why not take the pressure off what you have control over? Your own household! Let me encourage you to check it out, get registered, work the system, and see what it can do for your ability to gain financial freedom, to gain peace of mind financially!

Jerry A. Lyon, Lead Pastor, New Horizons Community Church
Church Health Minister, MICOG

Pastors' Financial Peace University

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P.S. If you have a pastor friend, share this gift with them too! We want every pastor to have access to this opportunity.

January 16, 2023

Riding the Cycle of
Change in the Pastorate

"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction."

~ 2 Timothy 4:1-2

2023 is upon us, and for me, this year will mark the 15th year of pastoral service to Edgewood Church. In fact, this is the second congregation in my career where I have served 15 or more years. A few fellow pastors have asked, "How did you do this?" I have two answers:

  1. My poor pronunciation - when discouraged, I would write out my "Resume" but when I would read it the next day, it sounded to me like "Re-Zoom," and so I would stay put and do my best.
  2. I learned to "ride the cycle" of pastoral changes in the same congregation.

The congregation I started with 15 years ago is not the same as it is today. The congregation five years ago is not the same today.

Every 3-5 years, congregations change. It is inevitable. People change; they leave, they come, they experience life changes. The Leadership changes. The focus and programs and money...everything is part of a cycle of change. I have served in primarily mall town/rural pastorates which are fairly stable and resist change, but change trumps even their cultural values of "nothing should change."

The Cycle of Negative changes: People die. People take new jobs and move away. People leave for a variety of reasons, good and bad. Old programs die. Staff changes. Community changes: jobs leave, neighborhoods change, etc.

The Cycle of Positive changes: People get saved or experience spiritual renewal. New people come. New staff. New programs take off. New mission, new focus, expansion happens.

You can't stop change or fight change. It is like Michigan weather: if you don't like it, wait a couple days, it will be different soon. Learn to focus on your mission and let God worry about who is coming and who is going. Ride the Cycle, don't fight it!

"Those who follow Jesus embody fluidity, adaption, and collaboration. It's what we call the third-culture way. Adaptable to changing circumstances. To challenging cultures. To complex crises and problems. If there's one quality that matters most in the fate of the church in the twenty-first century, it is adaptability." ~ Dave Gibbons - from the book, "The Monkey and the Fish."

Look at your ministry in 3-5 year segments: what can you teach and lead this group of folks God has entrusted to you to pastor for this segment? Focus on that. Ride this cycle the best you can!

Two quotes from John Newton, author of "Amazing Grace" and a pastor from more than 200 years ago:

"God works powerfully, but for the most part gently and gradually."

"The Christian ministry is the worst of all trades, but the best of all professions."

Keep pedaling, pastor, good times are up ahead in this cycle!

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

January 9, 2023

Learn To Love Where He Set You

"Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

~ Jeremiah 29:7

The prophet Jeremiah is speaking to exiles who have been carried off from their beautiful mountain homeland of Israel to the flat desert of the Babylonians. Read and reflect on Jeremiah 29 - it still speaks today to those of us who pastor in places different from our own homelands and/or preferences.

Years and years ago I pastored in a small community and I had a friend who was a fellow pastor in that community, serving a church from a different tradition than mine. We will call him Pastor "Charlie."

Pastor Charlie grew up in a large city, a university town. He loved the arts and the theatre, he loved the museums and cultural experiences offered by that hometown. Charlie was known in that small community in which he served for never missing a chance to compare this small town to that large city. It went something like this:

  • "Hey, Charlie, want to go eat at the local caf‌é?" His response - I will never eat at these droll local places.
  • "Hey Charlie, want to go to the high school musical?" His response - I won't waste my time to patronize them.
  • "Hey Charlie, did you read in our local newspaper..." His response - never, not worth what they charge... You get the picture.

So you may not be surprised when Pastor Charlie left to go to another congregation far away, there was no tearful goodbyes or "we are going to miss you..." from his small town congregation. It was more of - "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye!"

As a side note, the pastors who followed Charlie did very well; the congregation grew and expanded. Those pastors, however, loved the community and that made a huge difference.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 observes that we must adjust to the people we are serving, so we might win a hearing and gain their trust, so that souls might be saved.

"I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."
~ 1 Corinthians 9:23

I will close with one of my favorite poets:

Is your place a small place? Tend it with care! He set you there. Is your place a large place? Guard it with care! He set you there. Whatever your place, it is Not yours alone, but His, Who set you there.
~ John Oxenham

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

January 2, 2023

Lessons From The Past For Our Future

"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel."

~ Luke 2:29-32

Simeon was an old man, whose name can be translated - "He has heard;" his story is found in Luke 2:25-35. Simeon was promised he would not die until he had met the Christ the Messiah, the hope of Israel. God fulfilled His promise to Simeon in the meeting of the baby Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Some folks would say, "Well that is a nice story from long ago - hope and fulfillment, that happened then but that doesn't happen anymore!"

Hey friends, our God still gives folks hope and He still fulfills His promise today. I know, because I have seen it first-hand.

About 25 years ago, my good friend Pastor Carl was the Chaplin for Montcalm County Jail. Carl would organize "Angel Trees" with local congregations, in which he would get names and sizes and ages of children of county jail inmates. Folks would buy and wrap presents in that child's name, which were given with a card, "From your Christian friends of Montcalm County," along with a Bible and a copy of the "The Jesus Film" for the family. We also made sure Mom's received a good present too. I was privileged to help Carl do the delivery of these presents. It was a very rewarding ministry.

Carl and I had two large vans packed to the brim with presents and we had a long list of homes and names to go to. At the last minute, my father in law, retired pastor Jim Taylor, came with the donation of a nice used bicycle. I protested, "Jim, we are already loaded up and we don't have a name for this..." But Pastor Carl said, "Throw it in, maybe God has a place for it."

We came up to an old house, and Carl asked me to dig the bike out. As I was doing that, a young boy came up, saying, "He heard me! I can't believe it!" He rode off in joy.

This kid had prayed for a bike but was told that it was "impossible request, get this out of your mind, it wasn't going to happen," but God had other plans.

Friends, we serve a God who gives us hope and who is more than able to fulfill all that we long for and all that we truly need. Jesus is our hope and He truly fulfills all we seek.

20 "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." ~ Ephesians 3:20-21

Keep hope alive and have a Merry Christmas!

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