Pastor’s Ponderings July 2024

To the church of God as found at Marion Salem Church, called to be saints together with those in every place who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: You are miracles of God’s grace and mercy!

You would not have guessed it with how much I utilize Facebook for ministry now, however many years ago I greatly resisted joining Facebook. I honestly did not see the point of it 14 years ago. Yet, many of the students in my youth ministry at the time were begging for me to join and getting on Facebook enabled me to reach out to new students and opportunities. Since then, I have found Facebook to be a great way of networking with other pastors and ministry colleagues as well as keeping in touch with extended family.

Early on while starting to use Facebook I saw it as more of a ministry tool than as a personal outlet. So as friends started have birthdays and Facebook would remind me, I realized that it was an opportunity for ministry. Why just say “Happy Birthday!” when I could also share a Bible verse as well. Thus began a long tradition for me of sharing a verse on Facebook when I shared birthday greetings. The passage was an opportunity to encourage someone to open a Bible and read because I would only leave the reference. For years I shared the same verse, John 3:30. It was the theme verse for my youth group as a teenager. After starting seminary I realized that I should share other passages, so each year at my birthday I look for a new passage.

As time has gone on, I added to this by using a card ministry as well for members of the congregation I serve. This actually happened by accident. The congregation I served at the time was doing some cleaning and we found hundreds of old birthday and anniversary cards. Instead of letting them go to waste, I utilized the church database and started sending out cards—including the Bible verse. Why else would the church office need your birthdates and anniversary than to send you greetings? It’s been a fruitful ministry as a means of touching base with members. I’ve seen “long lost members” return to worship. Who doesn’t love to receive good mail?

So as we enter July it is time for a new Bible verse. As I was reading my devotions a few weeks ago, this passage came off the page: Philippians 3:13-14 (again I’ll encourage you to look it up). This past year has been one of major accomplishment for me personally. I have finally been ordained as an Elder, something I have spent the last 16 years working towards. However, I do not consider this an arrival or destination. Far from it! I am working diligently in ministry just as much now as I did before. However, as the passage says “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” — that speaks to me! I hope it encourages everyone in this coming year too. Forget about the bumps and curves of our history, there is a prize before us in Christ that we get to keep working towards. No arriving in this life. That’s not a bad thing-it’s a purpose to live for until eternity.


Pastor’s Ponderings-June

To the church of God as found at Marion Salem Church, called to be saints together with those in every place who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: You are miracles of God’s grace and mercy!

The Allegheny West annual conference concluded on Saturday, May 24th. It was once again a true blessing and breath of fresh air to be at a Global Methodist conference. Previously, I felt like I was looking behind my back and I had to keep my radar up for those who were unfriendly towards conservative / traditional viewpoints. Being on the Mt. Vernon Nazarene University Campus was freeing! The level of mutual support and love that was expressed by each person I met was incredible.

One of the hardest things about leaving the United Methodist Church is the relationships that were broken. There are people that I greatly miss, some I agree with theologically and they are not able to leave, others I disagree with, yet we were friends. So when I arrived at annual conference it was good to see several folks whom I had not seen since the last conference met in March and others who I had not seen in more than a year. One of our conference teachers this year was Dr. Bill Arnold, one of my seminary professors. He was actually the first person on campus that I told about the triplets when the doctors said, “Tell no one,” and Emily and I said, “We’ll ask everyone to pray!” Dr. Arnold is a blessing to know and I am thankful he has been able to join the Global Methodist movement. Dr. Arnold recently lost his mother so his family could use prayer support.

Dr. Steve Seamands, another one of my seminary professors, was also supposed to join us for conference as a teacher. Unfortunately the week before conference his wife unexpectedly passed. He and family definitely need our prayers. I hope to be able to catch up with him at another opportunity in the future.

Another friend that was at conference and a great encouragement to me is Dr. Tom Tumblin, you might recall his brother, Bruce Tumblin, filled in for me back at the end of April. Dr. Tumblin spent about an hour with me again this conference as we caught up on happenings and he also continues to pour encouragement and learning into my life.

I am incredibly blessed to have known these men. Yet, I also got to see friends from seminary who pastor in Pennsylvania. It is wonderful to get to work along side them in the same conference now. I also had the joy of seeing old friends from where I have served previously. Finally, this annual conference provided a greater opportunity to meet new people than before because we shared 3 meals together each day and had margins in the schedule to chat. The conference secretary, Linda, was a charming pastor from Pennsylvania with wit and humor that made even the most mundane announcements instant “core memories” for years to come. I got to eat breakfast with her and her husband on Saturday, as well as worship with them that day.

The point is this—it is a new day! There was not a single contentious moment at conference. No disruptive protests. No heretical “teaching.” No distracting items of business or meaningless virtue signaling. It was the wider Church gathered as the body of Christ, celebrating the ordination of those who have dedicated their lives to Christ and a time of worship and filling that is more akin to revival than business. Get ready Salem – the best is yet to come!





Pastor’s Ponderings May 2024

To the church of God as found at Marion Salem Church, called to be saints together with those in every place who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: You are miracles of God’s grace and mercy!

I’ve had some conversations lately that greatly encouraged me as it concerns a deep spiritual desire that seems to be bubbling up in our congregation. These conversations have centered around the topic of Communion. What’s so encouraging about this is that there are folks here at Marion Salem that want to make Communion more available. This comes in a couple of ways. The first is making certain that we are appropriately extending the Table of the Lord to our shut-ins. The second is offering Communion at gatherings besides Morning Worship. The only hard thing about either of these is already behind us, the desire within the congregation to celebrate the Sacrament. So, let’s talk about how to accomplish both.

It is the historic practice of the Church that ordained Elders are responsible for overseeing the sacramental life of the church and presiding at the Table. This does not exclude the laity from assisting in service, and those who are willing have served in worship regularly here at Salem Church for years. When we talk about extending the Table we are essentially saying that on Sunday mornings, when the Table is put back in order after we partake in worship, it is appropriate for lay folks to come forward at the end of the service and take bread and cup to those who were unable to attend the service. I recall reading this was done even in ancient times. Those little cups of juice can make it awkward to drive to someone’s house. There are solutions both with prefilled-sealed cups and mobile kits. In either case, those elements are blessed with the others during worship and taken along with relating the Word shared that morning. If you’re interested, please see me and we’ll get this started.

The other means of increasing our participation in the Sacrament is having Communion during small group meetings or at other gatherings. Again, this is easily accomplished yet there is a right order. First, the pastor has to be involved (no worries if this slipped by in the past). The usual manner this is accomplished is that I would attend and participate, either for the entire meeting or simply to offer Communion at the time appropriate. If I’m unavailable or it is best for the small group that I not attend, I would simply meet with the leader of the group and we’d prepare the elements for Communion together before hand. It only requires a little planning ahead, just reach out about two-weeks before hand and we can make sure this happens.

The Protestant Reformers looked towards two things as the sign of the Church: The Word of God being rightly taught and the Sacraments rightly administered. It is a joy to serve where there are those who are just as concerned with the latter as to the former because as a pastor I dedicated my life to such service. So if you’re a small group leader who wants to incorporate communion in an upcoming meeting, let me know. If you are interested in helping serve our shut-ins, let me know. And if you have been unable to receive communion for any reason, please reach out to me or the office so that we can ensure you have the opportunity to receive the gift of grace that Christ offers us in the Bread and Cup, His Body and Blood.


Pastor’s Ponderings April 2024

To the church of God as found at Marion Salem Church, called to be saints together with those in every place who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: You are miracles of God’s grace and mercy!

Historically, once a year Methodist congregations would gather together with their Presiding Elder and discuss the business of the congregation. They would look back at the steps forward in faith, mourn those who had passed, and look toward the future with the election of leadership and setting of priorities for the coming year. Often this Charge Conference season was in the Fall and it presented an annual check-up on the state of the congregation. Over the years, fewer people have participated in this work and it has become less of a worship service and celebration and more of a perfunctory administrative task.

Years ago I met a congregation that created layers of engagement to facilitate greater participation and life among the membership. Church conference continued as usual (though more people started coming), they regularly reported actions taken by the leadership to the membership (we’ve started this), and in the Spring they created a second check-in opportunity.

In April, the Ad Council is going to host a potluck on April 28th
to have an opportunity to share with the congregation the many things that are happening
—some behind the scenes, and others that are front and center.

The hope is that this 6-month cycle will help increase communication, build trust, and help us focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ. During the meeting the various leadership committees of Marion Salem will share what is happening and how the congregation can participate. There will also be a time for questions and answers, and hopefully sharing from the congregation about dreams for the future.

My prayer is that you will make this a priority to attend, after worship on Sunday, April 28. Come ready to hear about many exciting things that are happening, get informed about serious matters that we face ahead of us, then share your hopes and dreams as we join together to discern all that Christ has in store for us.



Pastor’s Ponderings March 2024

To the church of God as found at Marion Salem Church, called to be saints together with those in every place who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: You are miracles of God’s grace and mercy!

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent Word. What more can He say than to you He hath said, to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

The B-I-B-L-E, Yes! That the book for me.
I stand alone on the Word of God, The B-I-B-L-E.

I hope you recall these songs, their emphasis on Scripture. John Wesley owned many books, he wrote several, republished many so they were accessible for his followers and encouraged people to be widely read—yet he also said he was a “man of one book.” Was this a contradiction? No. Wesley’s foundation was Scripture. He constantly pointed back to the Bible and compared things with it. Several of the works he republished he edited because he felt they lacked Scriptural basis. Likewise he left for us the legacy in the Articles of Relgion the following: “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.” We look to the Bible to be our source and foundation of faith.

So with this emphasis on Scripture: How ofter do we come back to Scripture with our questions? Our hopes? When do we sit with God’s Word and read it like a letter from a loved one? Do we wrestle with it? Memorize passages? Do you find yourself soaking in the Word of God? How’s your diet when it comes to intake of Scripture?

I’ve noticed that the Bible Readers in the sanctuary are being utilized and I’m thankful for that. As discussions around Scripture have been occurring in the past two months, we’ve recognized that we need to encourage Scripture reading even more, especially for young people. So Bibles are being purchased to give our youth and children here at Salem Church. As they receive those, they’ll be encouraged to bring them with them to church. Let’s join together with our youngest disciples and attach ourselves to the Word of God more.



Pastor’s Ponderings February 2024

To the church of God as found at Marion Salem Church, called to be saints together with those in every place who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: You are miracles of God’s grace and mercy!

I was encouraged on January 21st to have 6 youth and 3 adults join me for our first youth group meeting. They had great discussion around 1 Timothy 4:12, where Paul writes encouraging Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because of his age. Instead, Timothy is charged to set the example for the church. This is something that I think the youth group can do for Marion Salem Church too and told them this.

Their group will continue meeting on Sunday evenings provided that we have adult chaperones to help. The chaperones are not responsible for teaching or leading discussion—the teaching is from RightNow Media videos, and the youth will lead their own discussions. If you are able to help, please see me as soon as possible!

Because of the timing of Easter this year (March 31) we have an early Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday on February 14th. We’ll be observing Ash Wednesday with a Soup Supper at 5:30 pm and a worship service at 7pm. All will have an opportunity to receive ashes and communion at the service. The Lenten Sermon Series will be “Gloves Off.” The focus of this series is spiritual warfare as Jesus taught in Luke chapters 16-18. We’ll be able to put this to great practice during Lent with the “Our Easter Hearts” campaign, where we’ll be praying specifically for people who are unchurched, dechurched, and/or unsaved. Keep Wednesday, March 20th at 7pm on your calendar as we’ll join together that evening to pray over all the names we have collected as a congregation during Lent in preparation for Holy Week services.

The final thing I want to raise up to you this month is the beginning of a semi-weekly pastor’s study on Wednesday evenings. We’re going to dive into the Word together reviewing questions of basic Christian faith. All are invited to attend this study, we’ll pace ourselves and keep sessions to an hour. Keep an eye on the bulletin for week-to-week schedule changes.