In December of 2000 Tori and I started our adventure at the Floyd Church of God in Midland, MI, and shortly thereafter I met Rev. James Shanks. Pastor Shanks had been the pastor of the Floyd Church for many years, but had retired a few years earlier. There was another pastor in between our two ministries so thankfully I did not have to follow him in Ministry (he was a really hard act to follow). He was a true Shepherd who had a heart for the people that he served. While serving the Floyd Community he had become the pastor to the whole area. Even people who didn’t attend church at Floyd called him their pastor. His impact on that community is still being felt today, as is his impact on me.
Because of his tenure at Floyd we did many funerals together. Pastor Shanks was always very respectful of my ministry, and tried his best to point those who still considered him to be their pastor, to me. It didn’t work….but he tried….and honestly I didn’t mind. He was a great example to me of what investing your life in a community can do. His quiet demeanor, and love for people were a tremendous witness to me of the importance of the pastor’s role as Shepherd and not just Leader. Pastor Shanks lead the church through relationships that he had built over time. My continuing prayer is that God will grant me the patience and passion for the sheep that I see in Pastor Shanks, and that I too will be able to earn the right to lead because the people I am leading see the love of Christ in me.
The Pastor that I want to “appreciate” today was also the pastor of the Otsego Church of God, but that was long before I knew him. Rev. Gerrald Nevitt and his wife JoRene, had a profound influence on my life before I ever knew them. JoRene taught my wife piano lessons and also got her started singing in the church. This led to her joining the Michigan State Youth Choir of the church of God (now the Michigan Singers) which eventually led to our first meeting, and the beginning of our journey as husband and wife.
Pastor Nevitt later served as the Executive Secretary of the Church of God in Michigan, and in that capacity made himself available to me on many occasions, even when I wasn’t serving in Michigan, so that I could ask questions, about God’s future for me in ministry. Through his influence God led me to my first Full time Congregation in Defiance OH. Their pulpit committee called him to ask about several candidates, and then they asked if there was anyone else that they might consider. The previous day Pastor Nevitt was paired with my dad at a golf scramble (completely random ;-) and so had talked with him about what was happening in our lives. As a result he mentioned my name and I received a call. What he didn’t know at the time is that I had been praying earnestly that God would point us in the right direction. I was serving bi vocationally, and something had to give. I was planning to either leave the ministry and go full time in systems support, or to leave systems support for full time ministry. I had prayed the Sunday before that God would either open a door to ministry or release me from my call. I was working so many hours that the church I was serving wasn’t getting what they needed, but they were unable to support a full time salary at the time. I knew that God had clearly called me to ministry but didn’t know where to go next. Pastor Nevitt’s recommendation was a direct answer to my prayers.
His faithful service to the church and willingness to help shape the lives of pastors like myself has been a very valuable resource to the Kingdom of God.
Another pastor who had a great impact on my life was Rev. Timothy Foreman, who pastored the Otsego Church of God, where my wife Tori grew up. Pastor Tim had the challenge of doing our pre-marital counseling as we were preparing to get married at the ripe old ages of 18 and 19. I’m sure that he had some reservations about our youth, and whether we were actually ready to begin our lives together, but he was willing to listen and spent time with us until he was satisfied that we were prepared. He spoke to us on our wedding day about the cord of three strands from Ecclesiastes, and gave us a knot to hang on our wall to remember that God needed to be that third strand in our marriage to hold us together. That knot was on the wall of our bedroom until just a few years ago (it didn’t fair well during one of our many moves) and reminded us if his words and the 28time that he invested in us.
Pastor Tim was also the supervising pastor for my internship and was kind enough to allow me to gain some very practical experience at his church during one of the last summers that I was in school. I’m sure that it took more of his time than he would have liked, but he patiently walked me through the ins and outs of everyday ministry, and even allowed me to preach from his pulpit.
Just a few years ago he was also part of a surprise 25th anniversary Vow renewal ceremony for Tori and I, and once again was there to encourage us and celebrate all that God was doing in and through our lives. Pastor Tim is a mentor and a friend, and I am truly thankful for his influence in my life.