General Assembly
of the Church of God
in Michigan

"equipping local congregations
to extend the Kingdom of God"

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 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 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.