July Youth Update

Time!  It moves so fast!  We have already held three of our summer events and they have been GREAT!  Our Camp Fire @ the Adams was extremely successful and we actually surprised Corey Forester with a Graduation Party – a beautiful night with lots of people.  THANK YOU Adams for hosting this popular event. Our second event was the Mt. Haley-Meridian CHOG Softball game and we had a fabulous night.  AGAIN, lots of people & participation with a good time had by all.  It was just old-fashioned FUN!  We ended up postponing the “Scavenger Hunt” because we didn’t have enough for at least three teams, but we will be revisiting that in the future. Last Saturday was the major God-Sighting as 28 of us traveled to Ludington State Park on Lake Michigan for a day @ the beach.  It rained most of the way across the state, then with about 10 miles to our destination the skies cleared and we had a beautiful sunny day.  Although it was a little bit windy, we managed to have our cookout, played in the water and on the sand, climbed some dunes and I think most of us got TOO much sun.  Great day together in the Kingdom of God!

Connie and I (plus Pastor David) had a wonderful time at the Global Gathering in Anderson, Indiana as we enjoyed the services with speakers from around the world and it was especially special to meet Sudipta Nanda, a pastor from northern India who oversees over 700 congregations.  What an opportunity and privilege for our church to be able to join two other churches and sponsor him for the Global Gathering.  I would encourage you to check out the Mt. Haley web page and read Pastor David’s reports on the Gathering (here, here, and here).  It was truly a BLESSING to have the opportunity to attend and participate in the Global Gathering.

Connie and I have another opportunity this month also.  We will be departing for Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on Sunday, July 7, to attend the Leadership Summit and work as pastoral & adult leaders for a gathering of youth from all over the United States.  As well as hearing outstanding speakers, we will be doing Tornado Disaster Relief work, visiting the OKC Bombing Museum & Memorial plus many other activities.  This is part of Connie’s job as Michigan State Director of Youth and my role as chairman of the Michigan Student Leadership Institute.  We will be returning to Michigan by Tuesday, July 16.

Our next activity is the Mt. Haley CHOG day at a game for the Great Lakes Loons on Thursday, July 25.  Tickets are $9 each and it is DOLLAR night.

Our BIG event is for the youth & their families (anyone in the church) if they would like to attend.  On Saturday, August 3rd, we will be traveling to Michigan Adventure in Muskegon, Michigan. If we have over 25 people, we will have the group rate of $24 per person.  There will be a sign up for this and we will be promoting all this month.  Also, St. Louis Camp Meeting of the CHOG begins on August 1st and continues on through the next week.

At every summer event and on Sunday mornings at 10:00 AM in the high school class we are having devotions and lessons on the “Parables of Jesus.”  We encourage you to check out the parables and the message Jesus has for you every Sunday morning.

photo by NewSpring Church
photo by NewSpring Church

Another significant opportunity this summer is a service of Baptism on Sunday, August 18, 2013.  Baptism is an important step of obedience in a believer’s life, as an acknowledgment of the salvation experience already accomplished and a personal public testimony of your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Savior.  Pastor David or I would love to have the privilege and honor of baptizing you in the morning worship service on that Sunday.  If you are thinking of being baptized or have definitely decided, please contact me about our service.  We will try to answer all questions, concerns and thoughts.

Looking ahead to August our youth ministry will be going to Mio for a tubing/canoeing/camping weekend on August 23-25.  We will be staying at the Adams’ cabin, spending the day on the AuSable and attending church in Mio.  We had a wonderful time last year and looking forward to another good time.

Parents and Church, your prayers, support and encouragement are greatly appreciated and we look forward every week to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our students through interaction, study, fellowship and relationship.  Thank you for sharing your son or daughter.

We encourage everyone to come and be a part of our weekly Mt. Haley Worship every week at 11:00 AM and hope to see your kids the Sunday morning meetings and the summer activities.

Love God, Love People


Pastor Jerry

The Necessity of Gathering

At last week’s Global Gathering, a powerful thought captured my attention:  as people of faith, we need each other to survive.

Sudipta and his family
Sudipta and his family

Pastor Jerry, Connie, and I had the privilege of meeting Sudipta Nanda, the church leader from northern India whose attendance at the Global Gathering our congregation helped to support.  We met Brother Sudipta along with the pastors of our sister churches, Rev. Shannon New Spangler (Harvest Point Church of God, Lordstown, Ohio) and Rev. Jonathan Frymire (Orchard View Church of God, Grand Rapids, Michigan).  Sudipta is a warm and compassionate man with a strong heart for Jesus Christ.  He and his young family are committed to sharing the gospel among the millions of people in northern India.  His presentation showed us many of the challenges he faces:  other religions that are firmly entrenched in his region, social and community problems that oppress individuals and families, and physical needs that face everyone on a daily basis.  As pastor of a congregation and overseer of over 700 others, Sudipta has a tremendous amount of work.

And yet, on many occasions, he expressed his gratitude to us for helping him to come to Anderson.  This experience of gathering with other believers from around the world was a powerful, meaningful experience for Sudipta.

Personally speaking, this Global Gathering served an important purpose for me, as well.  I was refreshed and renewed through rekindling relationships with some very dear friends of mine, including the two pastors mentioned above.  We have always taken the opportunity to spend time together at this annual convention.  Often, we have stayed up late into the night talking about important issues of life and ministry – and, to be very honest, simply having a lot of fun together, too.

But this year, I came away with another impression.  I can imagine how vital it was for Sudipta to come to this Global Gathering; his ministry will surely benefit from his experiences.  For me, I am learning that this kind of connection is indispensible; I would not be who I am today if I did not meet regularly with these important individuals who can speak truth and joy into my life.  Going to Anderson is an annual spiritual pilgrimage, not for the location but for those whom I meet there.

Do you have meaningful relationships like these in your life?  Are there people who help you make sense of life and without whom you would feel lost?  How often do you get to see them, to be refreshed by them, and to be spiritual refreshment in their lives?

Are you fortunate enough to worship in the same congregation with any of those individuals?  How important it is for the saints of God to come together each week for refreshment, nurture, and companionship!

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25 NIV)

Global Gathering

During the last week of June, the Church of God came together for a “Global Gathering” in which delegates from 63 countries came to Anderson, Indiana, for a week of worship, celebration, prayer, fellowship, and encouragement.  I was blessed to attend the majority of this gathering, and I’d like to share with you some highlights from the week.

  • The major theme of the Global Gathering was “Standing Together” – a testament to our convictions about Christian unity.  Regardless of our nationalities, ethnicities, and languages, we practiced loving, accepting, and encouraging each other because of our common faith in Jesus Christ.  This too was an important theme through the week:  that Jesus Christ is at the center of who we are as the people of God.  Perhaps the most moving experience of this truth was at the opening worship service, in which all the delegates from around the world entered the convention hall behind their respective nations’ flags, accompanied by a sustained standing ovation by everyone else.
  • Each day, we all came together for three worship services – morning, afternoon, and evening – and each service had a preacher from a different part of the world.  We heard the Word of God preached by individuals from Russia, Zambia, Brazil, Jamaica, Australia, Ghana, India, Paraguay, and the United States.  The diversity of life experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives on life was amazing!  And there are some fantastic preachers in our movement around the world! (Remember, you can watch the services online at www.chog.org/gg-media.)
  • All week long, we gave offerings out of love and thankfulness to our Lord.  Now, in the past, the offerings for the North American Convention have gone to cover the costs of the convention itself, or to support other components of the Church of God structure.  Not so this year.  All of the offerings – every dollar and penny – were given directly to an organization called Water4 (www.water4.org).
    • water4This not-for-profit has the goal of eliminating the current world water crisis.  (There are millions of people on the planet who cannot just turn the faucet and get clean drinking water; instead, many must drink from unsanitary, infested pools located sometimes miles from home.)  Water4 exists to train, equip, and support local individuals as they learn to dig freshwater pressure wells in their own communities using simple, cost-effective materials.  From beginning to end, one well costs just $1,000 through this organization.
    • The goal at the Global Gathering was for us to raise $100,000 for Water4.  An anonymous donor made a challenge:  up to this amount, he or she would donate $4 for every $1 that we gave.  This encouraged us to give even more, and by the end of the week, we had given over $106,000 – meaning that the total donation to Water4 from our group was over half a million dollars.  This will sponsor 500 new freshwater wells throughout the world.  Thanks be to God!

This Global Gathering was a tremendous experience.  I am already looking forward to next year, even though it will be back to our regular North American Convention!

You know, you can come along too, even for just a weekend or for part of the week.  This is our convention!

–Pastor David

The Importance of Connecting

photo by lumaxart

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the 126th annual North American Convention of the Church of God.  This week spent with friends, family, and colleagues reminded me of an important truth:  we need to be connected to each other to fulfill God’s plan for the church.

As Church of God people, we place a high premium on a theological principle called “unity.”  This doesn’t mean “hanging out with people who are like us” or even “accepting people who are different from us.”  It doesn’t have to do with worship styles, Bible translations, labels on church buildings, or anything of that sort.  Instead, unity has a great deal to do with our need to be connected to each other in order to accomplish God’s will for us.

In John 17:20-21, Jesus prayed for those who would believe in him in the future – even including us.  He specifically prayed that we might all be one to illustrate the unity between Jesus and God the Father.  And the purpose of that unity is so that the world might believe in the entire sweep of salvation history, culminating in the redemption made possible through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Our unity – or lack thereof – has tremendous implications!

Last week’s convention in Anderson reminded me that we at Mt. Haley are not lone rangers; we are not isolated; we do not carry alone the torch of Christianity in general (or of the Church of God in particular).  What’s more, I was reminded through a series of meaningful conversations that God calls not just individuals but also groups into his service.  For instance, Abram was called to follow God into unknown territory in Genesis 12:1-3 – but his call extended to include his yet-unborn descendants, the Israelites.  The boy Samuel was called by God (in 1 Samuel 3) to be a prophet, but he would also anoint the first two kings of Israel, namely, Saul and David.  Even the early disciples were called individually to follow Jesus as a group, and these twelve disciples were the kernel through which the early church began to grow in the book of Acts.

I am still processing the concept of God calling groups of people into his service, but I believe there is something useful to be gained by studying this idea.  We as a congregation, we as Mt. Haley Church of God have been called together by God – for what purpose? to what end? for whose glory?  How can we encourage one another and spur each other on to become more like Christ?  What difference will we, as a group, make for the kingdom of God in our local community and around the world?  How does God desire to make himself known to the world through our expressions of unity with each other and other believers?

I know at least one thing is true:  we need to be connected to each other to fulfill God’s plan for the church.  Let’s practice this Christ-centered unity together!

–Pastor David

June Youth Update

Summer is here! With the warm weather we have been having, it seems like we are several weeks into it, but school doesn’t end for another week.  The month of May was very exciting as we attended the Michigan State Youth Convention.  The music was good, the speaker outstanding and what a great time our group had together.  A highlight for the weekend was Mt. Haley winning the Volleyball Tournament and bringing home a huge trophy for our ministry plus unique trophies for each participant.  We had a great time traveling with the Meridian Church of God youth group and most importantly our group grew stronger in our own relationships.  Most important though was the renewed commitments to Christ and the desire to walk in His ways. Everyone was extremely blessed in the services, communion, and our conversations with each other.  We hope to share about the weekend on Sunday morning, June 10th.

The 360 Evangelism strategy was a key component in our May youth meetings leading up to SYC. The students have selected three people they are praying for six days a week and looking for opportunities to share Christ.  In the context of these lessons, they learned the process of writing their own personal testimony and learned a method for sharing the gospel with a friend.  We are working very hard to not only live and talk the fulfilling consistent Christian life, but trying to equip them to share their testimony and the gospel to others.  This is all in the process of “Loving God, Loving Others.”

Summer brings a completely different schedule & agenda.  We will NOT be meeting regularly on Sunday night, but will have various nights of prayer, devotion, and recreation.  Our June dates are:

  • Friday, June 8 Celebration Campfire – at the home of Lawrence and Jo Adams – to celebrate the end of school.
  • Tuesday, June 12 – Banana Split night at the Texan
  • Monday-Thursday, June 18-21 – Helping with Vacation Bible School at Mt. Haley
  • Saturday, June 30 – Lake City Adventure with Nancy Farison and her summer campsite.

During July, we will be attending the Loons Game with the church, having a camping & canoe trip to Mio, a church softball game (hopefully with Meridian CHOG) and a scavenger hunt.  Our BIG weekend we are preparing for is a mission trip to Chicago on the weekend of August 24-26.  We are also looking forward to our NEW sixth graders starting in September on the first Sunday after Labor Day.  We didn’t have any seniors this year but will be adding several new sixth graders to our ministry in the fall.  Praise God!

Connie and I will be traveling in June to Indiana to attend Anderson Camp Meeting and hopefully the birth of our 7th grandchild.  My son’s wife is due on June 21 and we hope this all happens during our time in Indiana.  He lives about 20 minutes from Anderson in Indianapolis.  Thank you also for the prayers for my parents.  My dad has progressive bone cancer and will be undergoing treatments at the Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis for the next 7-8 months.  Because of the nature of the treatments and the distance from their home in northern Indiana, they will be living there in an apartment.  We will also be traveling to Denver, Colorado for the International Youth Convention the first week of July.  Keep us in your prayers.

Summer is going to be exciting this year.  Thank you for keeping our students in your prayers.

Blessings, Pastor Jerry

North American Convention

This week, I had the privilege of attending the 125th North American Convention of the Church of God in Anderson, Indiana. You might usually refer to this event as “campmeeting,” although it seems most attendees these days stay in hotel rooms rather than in campers (and certainly not in tents). As usual, this was a good time for folks in the Church of God to reconnect with each other, to share ideas for ministry, and to worship God together. I’d like to share a few things with you that stood out to me from this year’s convention:

The identity of the Church of God. For many years, the Church of God as a movement/denomination has been struggling with the question of its identity. Who are we? What do we stand for? What can we contribute to the world of Christian faith? Now it finally seems that some important voices are beginning to clarify these questions.

  • First, our General Director, Dr. Ron Duncan, gave an excellent annual report to the General Assembly (pastors and lay leaders from our congregations). In this report, Dr. Duncan clarified what we believe and what makes us distinct from other Christian groups, and he explained what we have accomplished and where we are going as a movement. If you’d like to see this report, please let me know – I have a copy in my study.
  • Second, a new book entitled “Signals at the Crossroads” has been published. This book combines Dr. Gil Stafford’s two previous “Crossroads” books and includes new material that he was writing at the time of his death in 2008. I’ll be reading this book this summer, and I’d be glad to let you take a glance at it if you like.
  • Third, I’ve been invited to participate in the Strategic Planning Conference of the Church of God, which will be held in Nashville, TN in September this year. While the agenda of this conference has yet to be released, the meetings promise to give our leaders even more clarity and direction to the Church of God for the coming years. More details will come later!

Changes to the North American Convention. Attendance at campmeeting has been declining for many years, and as a result of this and several other factors, the General Assembly has appointed a task force to study several options for consideration. The main ideas are that the convention (a) may be held less frequently, perhaps every other year, and (b) may be held in locations other than Anderson. No decisions have been made yet; the General Assembly will hear suggestions at the 2012 campmeeting and may make a decision at that point. In any case, the 2013 campmeeting has already been repurposed and renamed as a “Global Gathering” of the Church of God; church leaders from around the world will come to Anderson for a week of worship and fellowship. The earliest we would see a significant change to the North American Convention would be in 2014.

Interest in in-depth Bible study. This year, I helped to lead a pair of conferences entitled “Difficult Texts of the Bible.” Last year, we held one similarly titled conference, and fifty people attended; this year, thirty-five people came to each conference. These were very strongly attended, and we had excellent conversations! The conferences focused on wrestling with difficult passages of scripture – passages that are hard to understand, challenging to accept, or apparently contradictory with other parts of the Bible. This year, we studied Ecclesiastes 7:15-18, which calls us to be righteous, but not too righteous; in the second conference, we studied Mark 10:1-12, which is often interpreted to say “divorce is sinful” but really says much more than this. The strong response to these conferences is important to me because it shows that people in the Church of God are hungry for in-depth Bible study. Are you? If you’d like to know more about these conferences, please ask me!

If you are curious about anything else that took place during the North American Convention this year, please let me know. I’d be glad to talk about it with you!

–Pastor David