Thoughts from the Pastor

July 2017

There is no way we can describe who we are in a few sentences, but I will fill you in on a few basics. My name is Mike Grant. I grew up as a pastor’s kid and graduated from Perry High School in Lake County. I attended Otterbein College and Asbury Theological Seminary. In my last semester at Asbury, I started dating a wonderful young lady from Corning, New York named Holly McFall. I spent two years as the Associate Pastor of North Canton Faith UMC, and continued to date Holly long distance.
In 1993, Holly and I became engaged and I was appointed to Amboy church in Conneaut, Ohio. Holly and I got married in 1994. Holly spent the next several years commuting to Cleveland where she received a Law Degree from Cleveland Marshall School of Law. She worked as an Assistant Prosecutor for Ashtabula County in the Civil Division. We do not have any children, though we did extend our family by adding two English Springer Spaniels, Abigail and Victoria. Our lives revolve around our service to the Lord and His
people. We ministered for 8 years in Conneaut. In 2001, we were called to serve the Damascus United Methodist Church. Holly continued to work in Ashtabula for the next two years, but chose to quit because of the long commute. We served for 6 years in Damascus and loved the church and the community. It was a rural community located between Salam and Alliance and during our time there we were blessed to see countless instances of God’s grace and faithfulness.
In 2007 we were called to serve the Poland United Methodist Church. Poland is an affluent community just south of Youngstown. We have served here for 10 years, and have had a chance to see God work in a lot of wonderful ways through mission, sports, studies, and the Chinese Ministry. Holly had a chance to work for both Mahoning County and Stark County in the Child Support and Enforcement area. Holly is not practicing law right now, but she maintains her license and is open to working if the Lord opens the right door. We had to say goodbye to Abigail and Victoria and we said hello to Winston, our current Springer Spaniel. He is a rescue and a great companion. If you like dogs, I hope you will get a chance to meet him.
This brings us to the present time. Holly and I look forward to getting to know each of you and being a part of your life in faith. I am not gifted at learning names, and I find the older I get, the harder this is for me, so I ask in advance for your patience and grace. I want you to know that I am not coming to Shreve with an agenda or with plans to make big changes. The Shreve church is a loving congregation that is doing significant ministry and impacting lives for Christ. I hope to spend the first few months getting to know you and learning about this unique congregation and its people. It is my hope that as we get to know one another and trust is established, that we can build on the wonderful work you already are doing to grow the Kingdom. I want to be open to your concerns and guided by your needs and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Please be in prayer for your church and its leaders during this time of transition.
I thank God for the leadership and ministry of Pastor Bill and Robin. I cannot express what a blessing Pastor Bill has been to me. He is a man of deep faith and his love for you is evident. Please keep the Lawson’s in your prayers as they transition into the blessed realm of retirement in Kentucky. Also, know that we have been praying for you since January. We look forward to serving you and Christ with our lives and hearts.
May God richly bless you this July.
Rev. Mike and Holly Grant


April 2017

Many of you are familiar with Skye Jethani, pastor and internationally-known speaker and author. In his book The Divine Commodity, Skye shares a story from a trip he took to India with his father. While walking the streets of New Delhi, a little boy approached them. He was “skinny as a rail, and naked but tattered blue shorts. His legs were stiff and contorted, like a wire hanger twisted upon itself.” Because of his condition, the little boy could only waddle along on his calloused knees. He made his way toward Skye and his father and cried out, “One rupee, please! One rupee!”

Skye describes what happened when his father finally responded to the persistent begging: “’What do you want?’ ‘One rupee, sir,’ the boy said while motioning his hand to his mouth and bowing his head in deference. My father laughed. ‘How about I give you five rupees?’ he said. The boy’s submissive countenance suddenly became defiant. He retracted his hand and sneered at us. He thought my father was joking, having a laugh at his expense. After all, no one would willingly give up five rupees. The boy started shuffling away, mumbling curses under his breath. My father reached into his pocket. Hearing the coins jingle, the boy stopped and looked back over his shoulder. My father was holding out a five-rupee coin. He approached the stunned boy and placed the coin into his hand. The boy didn’t move or say a word. He just stared at the coin in his hand. We passed him and proceeded to cross the street. A moment later the shouting resumed, except this time the boy was yelling, ‘Thank you! Thank you, sir! Bless you!’ He raced after us once again—but not for more money but to touch my father’s feet . . . This, I imagine, is how God sees us—as miserable creatures in desperate need of His help. But rather than asking for what we truly need, rather than desiring what He is able and willing to give, we settle for lesser things.”

Isn’t that what we do with Good Friday and Easter? I don’t mean to say that we think of Good Friday or Easter as “lesser things.” To all of us who call ourselves Christians, both Good Friday and Easter are high and holy days in which we rejoice. Indeed, what happened on those days is at the core of our faith. But do we over-simplify and minimize what Good Friday and Easter mean for us? It’s wonderful when we recognize that Good Friday was the day Jesus died to pay for our sins, and now we can ask Him to forgive our sins. And it’s wonderful when we celebrate Easter as the day Jesus rose from the dead, and by faith in Him we look forward to our own resurrection to eternal life. But there’s much more to the cross and empty tomb than being forgiven and looking forward to Heaven. In light of Jesus saying, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily…” there’s the matter of daily surrender to the Lordship of Christ. And in light of this proclamation in Ephesians 2:6: “…God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms…” (as in, God already considers us resurrected people!), there’s the matter of daily opportunities to experience His resurrection power.

May you DAILY LIVE Good Friday and Easter.

Don’t settle for less!
Pastor Bill

December/January 2017

As you know by now, Robin and I are set to enter retirement at the end of June. It is my joy to introduce to you the pastor who will be replacing me starting with the next annual conference year: Rev. Michael Grant, who is in his tenth year serving the Poland United Methodist Church in the Mahoning Valley District, will be moving here with his wife Holly. Mike received his BA from Otterbein College and his M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary, while Holly received her BA from Houghton College and her law degree from Cleveland State. Mike has been pastoring now for twenty-five years.

At the end of the worship service last Sunday, after the formal announcement was made, I confessed that, up until a short time ago, I had some anxiety about who would be appointed here after me. That’s because I wanted you to have an excellent, godly pastor. I wanted you to have the best pastor possible! Well, I’ve been praying about this for quite some time, as I know many of you have. Our Staff-Parish Relations Committee has been working hard, as have our bishop and cabinet (the ten district superintendents). I believe they have come up with a great choice. Mike and Holly are Christ-loving people and people-loving people with a passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They stand firmly on God’ s W ord and are focused on the Great Commission.

Here are a few clips from Mike’s statement of “Ministry Passions and Focus”: “I always seek to preach sermons that draw out the meaning of Scripture and have an action point to take home. Nearly every week, I give people a chance to commit their life to Christ or to recommit their life to Him . . . I believe strongly that people grow

deeper in their walk of faith through small group ministries . . . It is always my hope that every member and friend of the church will have a living and active faith in Jesus Christ, will be growing through personal devotions of prayer, study, and worship. It is also my hope that they will have a ministry where they can serve, will be giving sacrificially, and will be sharing their faith with family and friends. I seek to encourage this through preaching, teaching, and personal example . . . I have a deep heart for missions. In each church setting I have been very active in organizing work mission teams of youth and adults. Our trips have often included other churches and have a strong focus on being the hands and feet of Christ . . . I have led 24 trips over the years. I also have a heart for international missions. In the last few years, I have had a chance to serve on two mission trips to Sierra Leone in Africa . . .”

Robin and I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon visiting with Mike and Holly this past week, showing them around the church, the parsonage, and this part of Wayne County. I can tell you that they are excited to be moving here, anxious to live and serve among you. Please join me in praying for them and, when the time comes, welcoming them warmly!

God bless, Pastor Bill


December/January 2017

I was shocked when I read the news: “When it comes to dental hygiene, most Americans are slackers: 1 in 2 don’t brush twice a day, and 3 in 4 don’t replace their bristles every three months, no matter how many times they’re warned of the risks (which include cavities and gum disease).” Toothbrush designers Simon Enever and Bill May are passionate about addressing this problem and have come up with a cool, new toothbrush called Quip that, selling for an “affordable” $25+, they are sure will entice consumers to take better care of their teeth. At the same time, Enever is already working on his next design challenge: getting you to floss!

Reading all this in the latest issue of Time got me to thinking about the place of—or lack of—discipline in our personal lives, especially in light of the present and coming holidays. Since we just celebrated Thanksgiving, we’re all asking one another, “How was your Thanksgiving?” “Oh, it was great.” “Did you eat too much?” “Yeah (ha, ha, ha).” When Christmas comes around, most of us will probably eat too much again, won’t we? Shortly after that is New Year’s, which carries with it that invisible line separating abandon from discipline. That is, it’s OK to keep “pigging out” through New Year’s Day, but as we enter the new year we carry the conviction that it’s time once again to enact some discipline, to get in shape, to start making wise use of the new opportunity marked by our calendars.

Personal discipline is easier to strive for when we have others encouraging us along the way, whether it’s the physical discipline of exercising and eating right or the spiritual discipline of praying, getting into God’s Word and walking close to the Lord. The early Christians were good at encouraging one another, as were the early Methodists. Those early Methodists organized themselves into “classes,” which were weekly small group meetings, described this way by church historian Dr. Kenneth Kinghorn: “Class meeting activities included singing, prayer, and the sharing of spiritual struggles and victories. The leader would first speak about his or her spiritual state. Then, in turn, he or she would ask each class member questions about his or her spiritual life. In these groups the members shared their hopes, fears, temptations, failures, and victories. The members responded by praying, admonishing, clarifying, and encouraging. John Wesley observed that the members of the Methodist classes ‘began to bear each other’s burdens and naturally to care for each other.’ Members learned to share freely, without embarrassment or concern about gossip.”

We all need this kind of fellowship and accountability. This is a big part of what it means to love one another. And this can happen for you in a Sunday School class or small group. If you’re not already involved in a Sunday School class or small group fellowship, entering the new year is a great time to give it a try!

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Pastor Bill

May 2016

“Conference” is a word we use a lot in United Methodism. So much so that it can be quite confusing to the average person what we mean by the different ways we apply the term. For starters, we have all these conferences: General Conference, Jurisdictional Conference, Annual Conference, District Conference, Charge Conference and Church Conference! Then we need to keep in mind the three basic definitions of “conference” we get from Webster: 1) “the act of conferring or consulting together”; 2) “a formal meeting of a number of people for consultation or discussion”; 3) “an association of religious bodies, schools, athletic teams, etc., for some common purpose.” The second and third definitions most apply to us, since all our conferences involve formal meetings, and they are also associations. This combination of definitions is probably most confusing when we bring up the subject of annual
conference. You’ll hear pastors and delegates say, “I’m going to Annual Conference, June 13-16, at Lakeside, Ohio.” But our annual conference, called East Ohio Annual Conference, is also a geographical region roughly half the size of the state of Ohio. So
it’s both an annual meeting and a region. 
How about the other kinds of conference? Every four years the church has one large General Conference attended by delegates from all over the world who are elected at the Annual Conferences. The General Conference is the main lawmaking body of our church. Jurisdictional Conferences also meet every four years, in five regions (we are in the North Central Jurisdiction). The main task of each Jurisdictional Conference is to elect and appoint bishops. Each Annual Conference is divided into districts, and each district meets annually in District Conference to worship and deal with the business of that particular district (we are in the Canal

District of the East Ohio Annual Conference). A church or group of churches led by a pastor is known as a “charge,” and each charge is also required to meet annually with the district superintendent. Charge conferences can be designated by the district superintendent to be “church” conferences, which means every church member has a voice and vote. That’s the way it has been for us in recent years, and I personally think it’s a very good thing. If you have been carefully reading what I’ve written so far, you are either fascinated or you have developed a headache; but hang on, I’m leading into a prayer request…………….Our General Conference, which you’ll remember meets every four years, is meeting May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon. Please pray for the 864 delegates who will be coming together from around the globe. Pray that they will be faithful to God’s will and that they will converse, deliberate and vote with godly wisdom. As you can imagine, there will be—as there always is—pressure to change church law to line up with changes in our culture’s norms. But—as always—we are not called to follow the culture; we are called to lead it!


Pastor Bill

November 2015

According to a Quinnipiac poll released in mid-October, 53% of Ohioans support the legalization of marijuana for personal use and 90% of Ohioans support marijuana for medicinal purposes. Sometimes you wonder how much these polls reflect reality, but even if this one is off quite a bit, it has become clear that a lot of people in Ohio basically think that marijuana use is OK. How have we come to such a place?

The answer to that question would answer the question of why we are faced with so much of the other craziness we’re faced with in our society. You may have heard in recent news about Col. Sean Killeen, the commanding officer of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, who has come under fire from a group called Military Religious Freedom Foundation. This group has taken issue with a sign on base property that reads, “God bless the military, their families, and the civilians who work with them.” According to a breaking news piece passed on to me by John Mess, MRFF is demanding that if the sign stays, the names of Satan, Allah, Odin and others need to be added to the display of blessing. Yes, there are people who actually think that makes sense! MRFF is citing as their rationale the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” If there is anybody out there who can explain to me how the Establishment Clause prohibits a “God bless the military…” sign, I’m ready to listen. Yes, there are many who would say that our current understanding of the Establishment Clause says we can’t have Christian displays on government land, but therein lies the problem. Our current understanding is clearly a misreading of the original document and a misunderstanding of why the Founding Fathers included the Establishment Clause. It was included to keep government off the backs of American citizens pursuing religious liberty. It’s plain to see, unless you can’t plainly see.

And that’s the answer to all such craziness surrounding us these days. The primary reason that common sense is no so common, that rational thinking has largely been thrown out the window, that ungodliness is accepted and even celebrated as good and right. . . I know the reason, not because I’m particularly smart, but because I find the answer in God’s Word. The reason is spiritual darkness. “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21). When we walk away from the Light, things get dark. It’s as simple as that.

Surrounded by darkness, what should our response be? Not to gripe and complain and wallow in frustration, for Jesus told His disciples: “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). 1 John 5:4 says: “…for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” So let’s stand in the Light, pray for the Light, and be the Light to those around us. Oh, and don’t forget to vote as people of the Light!

God bless!

 Pastor Bill

September 2015

When you think of the book of Daniel in the Bible, what is the first thing that comes to mind? My guess is either the story of Daniel in the lions’ den or the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. But there’s so much more to Daniel than that. You may remember that Daniel, along with many other Israelites, was captured by the Babylonians and taken off to live in their land and be immersed in their culture. That is, he was intentionally immersed in their culture to prepare him for service to the king of Babylon. He was trained for three years in the language and literature of the Babylonians, and was even renamed Belteshazzar in honor of a Babylonian god. How’s that for being swallowed up by a pagan society?

But as you read the book of Daniel you discover that Daniel was not, in fact, swallowed up by that pagan society. Indeed, not only did he survive in that place, he thrived in that place! He thrived in a way that brought glory to God. He was a light in a dark place and did his part to be what Jesus would call “the salt of the earth.” So maybe if we take a closer look at Daniel’s life we can pick up some cues on how to thrive in a culture where God’s Word is rejected by so many and Jesus is more a swear word than a Savior.

Make no mistake, Daniel stood firmly for what he believed. He refused to defile himself with the “unclean” food of the Babylonians, and he refused to pray to the king the way everybody else did. At the same time, however, Daniel lived his life with grace, humility and integrity. When the royal official assigned to feed Daniel the Babylonian food feared the king’s wrath if he didn’t carry out his assignment, Daniel said (in essence), “Let’s work this out in a way so that you come out looking good.” When they insisted that Daniel attend “Babylonian School,” not only did he submit, he apparently graduated in the top of his class. When other royal officials, jealous of Daniel, tried to get him in trouble with the king, in the words of Daniel 6:4: “…[they] tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 

Daniel could have proclaimed, “You Babylonians aren’t going to push me around!” Or, “Ha! Those gods you worship are worthless. Let me straighten you out on that subject.” Or, from his place of power, he could have worked to undermine the Babylonian government. But he served them faithfully. He lived his life with grace, humility and integrity. He did that without compromising his faith or his stand for the one true God. The result? Empires were shaken and both the king of Babylon and the king of Persia came to give unprecedented glory to “the God of Daniel” (Daniel 2:47; 6:25-27) 

O Lord, help us live like Daniel. Make us thrive like Daniel!

Pastor Bill


November 2014

I think that most people who say they enjoy fall actually mean early fall—when the weather turns from hot to more comfortable, the leaves begin to take on beautiful autumn colors, when apple cider and other seasonal treats start showing up, and it’s football season!

Not so many people enjoy late fall, which runs right up to the fourth week in December. Oooh, that’s winter! So it’s normal for our perspective to change as fall progresses. Instead of life springing forth, we see life disappearing, as fallen leaves crumble, once-verdant trees and fields turn bare, and crisp air is replaced by the bitterly cold. It’s easy to see more death than life. Perspective. Perspective isn’t everything, but it’s something that matters. Proverbs 29:18 talks about perspective. Although, ironically, it can be a bit tricky to get the right perspective on Proverbs 29:18 itself— especially the first part. In the King James it says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…,” which has often been cited to encourage churches to adopt a vision statement. In the NIV it says,

“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint,” which, frankly, is a bit puzzling all by itself. Personally, I think Eugene Peterson’s The Message translation is the best in this instance: “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble

all over themselves…”

Sometimes in our lives we find ourselves in that late fall perspective, seeing more death than life. Too often we can’t see what God is doing, and we wind up stumbling all over ourselves. But we can’t let perspective fool us. Not seeing what God is doing doesn’t mean God is not doing what He needs to do. Always God is at work for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Though we may be plagued by seasons of doubt, taking a good look around, once again we can see the hand of God who is in control. Nicolaus Copernicus, the famous 16th century astronomer said, “Who could live in close contact with the most consummate order and divine wisdom and not feel drawn to the loftiest aspirations? Who could not adore the Architect of these things?” And Werner von Braun, 20th century rocket engineer and space architect said, “Above everything is the glory of God, who created the universe, which man and science discover and research day after day in profound adoration.” Hebrews 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” That’s not meant as a word of condemnation upon those who struggle with doubts; it’s meant as a word of invitation for all of us to reach beyond what we can see and grasp the hand of God!

Walking with you in faith,

Pastor Bill

October 2014

Wayne and Holmes counties are blessed with many wonderful churches, and from time to time some of our churches come together for special worship, mission or service events. But there’s so much more we could do as the Body of Christ united. That’s why I’m excited to tell you about something called LifeFest. Actually, let me borrow a few lines from event coordinator, Shea Stitzlein: “The first annual LifeFest will be held Sunday, October 5 at 5:00 P.M. at the Wooster High School Performing Arts Center. LifeFest is a non-profit fundraising event that will combine music, testimonies, speakers, child care information, raffle drawings, and other opportunities for churches and organizations to reach out to the community while raising funds and awareness for the Pregnancy Care Center of Wayne County…. As the Body of Christ, our hearts are growing strong with the fight to educate men and women, and to help to end abortion. We believe that all life, inside or outside the womb, is a blessing from God. We would like to fight to protect it. Our primary goal with this event is to unite the Body of Christ in support and celebration of the unborn.”

So, LifeFest will kick off with a free concert, along with refreshments, a bake sale and raffle. Music will include the Representatives Quartet and worship teams from Church of the Open Door, Chestnut Ridge Mennonite and Faith Harvest. A freewill offering will be taken. If you would like to bless the Pregnancy Care Center with a material donation, you are invited to bring an unwrapped “baby shower gift.” This is a great opportunity to supply mothers and fathers with simple material needs. Also, donations of baked goods or raffle items are most welcome. (Raffle ideas: electronics, housewares, gift baskets, gift cards, gift certificates for services.) If you would like to make a donation, please contact Shea Stitzlein at 330-749-9360 or

Other wonderful opportunities: Don’t forget Harvest Praise, Saturday, October 4 at the Visocky Farm. If you’ve been there, I know you’ll want to go back—if you haven’t been there, you’ll be surprised what you’ve been missing! Early Morning Prayer—since the newsletter reaches more people than the Sunday bulletin, you may not have heard that the church is open Wednesday mornings, 5:00-6:00 A.M. for prayer. Stop in for a few minutes or the whole hour. Pray by yourself or with friends. Enjoy this quality time with the Lord!

God bless your October!

Pastor Bill


September 2014

Maybe you’ve heard of the Pareto principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, or the “law of the vital few.” The principle was named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population, then observed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas, then…well, ever since, experts in many disciplines have observed how the 80-20 rule works in their various fields. There are business experts who claim that 80% of a company’s profits come from 20% of its customers, and 80% of a company’s complaints come from 20% of its customers. There are occupational safety experts who assume that 20% of the hazards in a workplace will account for 80% of the injuries, so efficient accident prevention involves identifying that 20% of the 80%-of-the injury-causing hazards. There are experts in the field of criminology who say that 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals. On and on it goes. (The above information gleaned from Wikipedia.)

From time to time I hear the 80-20 rule applied to the life of the church. You can pick this up from various commentators from a wide variety of denominations. The argument is that essentially 80% of the work in the church is done by 20% of the people. Which means, then, that 80% of the people in the church aren’t doing a whole lot. No doubt there are many churches where the 80-20 rule does apply, and no doubt there are churches where the spread is more like 90-10 or 95-5! 
Not so at Shreve United Methodist Church. Our Staff-Parish Relations Committee ran into an interesting challenge this year as they began working on the volunteer and staff appreciation dinner scheduled for October 18. It’s easy to list the staff because there aren’t that many of us; but compiling a list of volunteers is another matter. The fact is, MOST of our congregation volunteers to serve the Lord through the ministry of the church. That’s a big praise and a testimony to the love so
many of you have for Jesus.
Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources has written, “Many people in churches

today have an ‘entitlement’ philosophy instead of a ‘servant’ philosophy.” While he makes a good point, I thank the Lord for the great number of you who operate with the servant philosophy, remembering the words of our Lord Jesus when He said: “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43- 45).

Thank you for serving!

Pastor Bill

August 2014

Last week I thought a lot about spiritual gifts. It was during our “Mission in Our Own Backyard” (M.I.O.O.B.) project. It was a joy to see many people sharing many talents to bless others with repair, renovation and cleanup. I like to participate in these mission work projects not only because they give us the opportunity to help one another, but also because I always learn things. I’m far from an expert when it comes to building skills, but I get smarter with each event. 
Now about spiritual gifts. We tend to think of spiritual gifts as abilities with spiritual-sounding names: faith, healing, prophecy, discernment of spirits, etc. It’s not as easy to claim spiritual giftedness with chores such as painting, cleaning windows, cutting firewood, installing wiring, or hanging drywall. But, actually, it’s no stretch to see spiritual giftedness in such activities. I have Scripture to back me up on this idea. In Romans 1:11-12, Paul says to the Romans: “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” See, the spiritual gift he was looking for was mutual encouragement. 
That’s what I saw last week. We took advantage of the opportunity to mutually encourage one another. It wasn’t just about doing jobs for other people to make them feel better; it wasn’t just about the jobs being so much easier because there were many of us working alongside each other (“Many hands make light work.”) Something truly spiritual was happening. Didn’t we find many reasons to give God the glory? Didn’t we grow closer to the Lord as we grew closer to one another? Even as our bodies grew tired with the labor, were we not renewed spiritually? 
It wasn’t that we were engaged in heady theological discussions. Jesus was present in the ordinary conversation, sometimes in the smallest remarks and gestures. Jesus was present even when there wasn’t conversation. We sought to honor Him by loving one another, and He showed up. Good stuff! I want more of that, don’t you? When we encourage one another we reflect the image of God in us, because the God who calls us to encourage one another is very much in the encouragement business Himself: “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).


I bless you with that word!

Pastor Bill


July 2014

Have you heard of MTD? At this year’s East Ohio Annual Conference, Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean, who has written extensively on youth and the church, discussed at length the concept of “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” or MTD for short. Far from being a mouthful of meaningless syllables, MTD is something you should know about and pray about.

According to Wikipedia, moralistic therapeutic deism is a term that was first introduced by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton in their 2005 book

Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers

. These researchers interviewed over 3,000 teenagers about their religious beliefs and summed up the teens’ beliefs as: (1) A god exits who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth; (2) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions; (3) The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself; (4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem; and (5) Good people go to heaven when they die. 

The authors say the system is moralistic because it “is about inculcating a moralistic approach to life. It teaches that central to living a good and happy life is being a good, moral person.” The authors describe the system as being “about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherent” as opposed to being about things like “repentance from sin…of living as a servant of a sovereign divine…of building character through suffering…” and further as “belief in a particular kind of God: one who exists, created the world, and defines our general moral order, but not one who is particularly personally involved in one’s affairs – especially affairs in which one would prefer not to have God involved” (deism). The authors believe that “a significant part of Christianity in the US is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition, but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity’s misbegotten step cousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”

Piggybacking on the findings, Kenda Creasy Dean writes, “The problem does not seem to be that churches are teaching youth people badly, but that we are doing an exceedingly good job of teaching youth

what we really believe 

(emphasis mine); namely, that Christianity is not a big deal, that God requires little, and the church is a helpful social institution filled with nice people…”

There’s too much truth here! Our prayer work is cut out for us. We have much soul-searching and repenting to do. As we celebrate the birth of our nation this month, let us seek the Lord earnestly on behalf of our nation! 


Counting on God’s mercy and grace,

Pastor Bill 


June 2014

I’ve read several different versions of this story, and though the details vary slightly, the essential facts remain the same. Years ago, Ira and Ann Yates were struggling in Pecos County, Texas to make a living on their sheep ranch. They weren’t able to make enough to pay the mortgage and taxes, so they were in danger of losing the place. There was little money available for even the essentials such as food and clothing for the family.

Day after day, as he grazed his sheep over those rolling West Texas hills, Mr. Yates was no doubt greatly troubled about how he would pay his bills. Then in 1926 a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told him there might be oil on his land. Thinking he had nothing to lose, he signed a contract and they started drilling. At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve that immediately began bringing in thousands of barrels a day. Many of the early wells on what became known as the Yates Oil Field were phenomenally productive; the first five wells, by spring 1927, together produced an average of 9,009 barrels per day. The Yates oil field is still producing enormous quantities of oil to



When Ira Yates purchased his land, he owned it all, including the oil and mineral rights. Yet for the longest time he lived in poverty. The problem? He didn’t know the oil was there, even though he owned it.

In a similar way, many Christians live in spiritual poverty. We have full rights to Pentecost, but fail to take advantage of it. Pentecost, meaning fiftieth in the Greek language, was a great festival in ancient Israel. It was during that festival that God poured out His Holy Spirit on the believers gathered in the upper room for prayer. The resurrection of Jesus had already changed their

perspective. they saw Jesus differently now; and they saw themselves differently. But they needed more than a new perspective. They needed new power

, and that’s what God brought them at Pentecost: new power for witnessing, new power for serving, new power for living.

That same power is available to us, because that same Holy Spirit is available to us. “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit”- Romans 8:3-4. We like to say that Easter is not just about a day, because resurrection living is for every day. Likewise, Pentecost is not just about a day, because the Holy Spirit living is for every day.


Praise God for Pentecost!

Pastor Bill