Early in the twentieth century, Nora Hunter, founder of our original Christian Women’s Connection (CWC) summarily concluded “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.”
That statement summarizes Church of God Reformation Movement history as I see it. We succeeded in coming together as a fast growing reformation movement, following early years of “flying ministry” and become established local congregations. In 1953 Harold Phillips reported on our being something like third fastest growing church body in the nation. Since then, we have spent much of our history trying to hang together, which we achieved with considerable success. Having said that, we have not yet succeeded at working together; we struggle with our early biases as we continue to pursue the ideal of being God’s people on mission in ministry (service).
We were right, but we were wrong when beginning. Our “anti-biases” thwarted our progress but we continue trying to organize even as Theologian-Historian C.E. Brown said was proper. Functioning as God’s people on mission in ministry deserves our very best but we have too often merely self-indulged ourselves in debating issues of holiness, unity, core values, Christ being our message, and a host of “good” issues that perhaps fell short of that more important issue. How we cooperate together is vitally important because that is our organized team effort that fulfills or fails the mission God left us!
I find Bill K’s diagnosis apt when he writes in his coming publication: “No Church can be properly organized, or do evangelism, missions, and effective ministry without the Holy Spirit operating within the life of the believers making up the Church” (The Holy Spirit, Orasis, 2014; cf A Biblical Model For Restoration (Orasis, 2014). I am led to conclude that we too often indulge ourselves in “Reformation/church” issues” when we should be submitting ourselves to the reenergizing and enabling of God’s Holy Spirit in a movement-wide revival that could unite us most effectively and efficiently in achieving God’s goals suggested in Matthew 28:19-20, John 3:16 and elsewhere.
However, I suggest that in our struggle to mature as a Movement, good things are happening in places large and small and the following gives the gist of just one good story among many.
A certain Thomas Willard went from Indiana to the northeast area of Michigan’s lower penin-sula—low population center. Following a 1931 revival at Kittle School, a nucleus contacted J. E. Kolar, a Hungarian immigrant who had moved into nearby Alpena in 1925 to manage a leather factory.
I met Kolar in 1952 and learned how he came to America as a nine-year-old and became a Church of God preacher. I never heard how he found the Church of God but I know that he conducted a second schoolhouse revival in 1932. That summer of 1932, Marvin Coffman became first resident pastor of this church in the north woods—Mio.
Local historians report that volunteers cut timber and erected the first church building in 1932-1933. A decade later—1942--the men raised their small building, set it on a basement foundation, and enlarged it. In 1948, they purchased a house and relocated it to the church property, refurbished as a parsonage. The Miller and Galbraith families contributed heavily to this early development
The Millers donated the property where the church rested for many years, and they nurtured their children in their faith. Son Bill and I met met later in far away San Antonio, TX, becoming fast friends across more than half a century of ministry--two young Michiganians far from home).
By 1975, the late Robert Bills became God’s instrument for a new church building on CR-608, between Mio and Fairview--not exactly metro Detroit! Completion of a new parsonage resulted through cooperating with the Mio/Fairview Building Trades Class. Growth continued for another decade under excellent leadership by Michael and Beverly Smith--now in Sioux Falls, SD.
This resulted in completion of their 1984 Building Campaign and their 1989 refurbishing of their sanctuary while adding a classroom-office complex. In 1990, the Reverend Doctor William H Jones became pastor in Mio, relocating from his rural Sears Church and moving deeper “into the north woods” into a county numbering some 7-8,000 souls. Yet, this church that grew from nothing now thrives beyond two hundred. Jones served until 2001.
His leadership paved the way for a future Family Life Center. The growing church, solidly established, called an Associate Pastor/Youth Pastor. He served 1998-2004 and the team enjoyed an excellent ministry in Mio, until the Church of God of Michigan challenged Dr. Jones to lead the State Ministry of the Lansing Service Center in 2001. Jones became State Minister in Michigan and this thriving church in an unincorporated community of 2,000 called Michael Stadelmayer in 2003.
The church next called a new youth pastor who served until 2012. Meantime, the church occupied its new Family Life Center in ‘06 and in 2012 completed its new commercial kitchen in the Family Life Center. But when the Youth Pastor resigned, they determined not to hire another associate. They stepped outside their box, reorganized their work—differently, perhaps better.
They hired additional part-time staff and spread responsibilities of the associate pastor among a series of Directors, Worship & Media, Youth, Children, and Connections. They also upgraded audio and video equipment to enable high quality messaging for broadcasting. But something else was also happening!
I’m not privy to all the details, but Pastor Mike, this city boy from Kalamazoo, pastoring in West Lafayette, IN prior to Mio, looked beyond ministering to Mio every Sunday. He saw drive-in members, which eventually led to a satellite group in Ogemaw, which has now relocated into the larger community of West Branch in the Michigan thumb, under capable local administration.
Further away, the older, well established congregation that Kolar launched in Alpena in 1925 had fallen on hard times. But “someone envisioned” an organized entity called Tri-point Ministries and now Pastor Mike is Senior Pastor of Tri-Point Ministries. With campuses in Mio, Alpena, and West Branch he faithfully preaches from Mio. Tri-Point forms a multi-site concept of One Church serving from multiple campuses in Mio, Alpena, and West Branch, in addition to whatever other broadcasting the church does.
Stadelmayer, whose parents emigrated from the Church of God in East Germany following WWII, offers comforting word: “While God's Word remains the same, the methods that we use to share the gospel allow us to move into the social media age and get information and share God's Message to people via email, text, Facebook, our church website, Youtube and Twitter.”
I see Mike via the ether waves daily and to any who read this and think the Church of God has lost its way and wanders without vision--think again. Just remember the Rooster that strutted into the hen house one day carrying a large Goose egg. He announced “Girls, I’m not complaining; I just want to show you what some others are doing.”
From Warner’s World,
I am walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com,
reminding all of us that it is important how we work together because that measures our response to God’s call to help heal this hurting world!