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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Doubt is Essential to Faith

The following blog is from a very special guest blogger, my 16-year-old daughter, Abigail Mullis.  Abigail shared this very honest and thought provoking message on Youth Sunday, and I share it with you today.  Do you ever doubt?  Read what Abigail has to say about faith and doubt.  Click Here to Watch Abigail's Message on YouTube

  This is your fair warning. First of all, this is a very scattered message if you can even call it that. I like to think of this more as a look into the teenage mind, or at least this teenage mind, that's what I’m calling it. Secondly, today I am going to be completely honest with you. I’m the kind of person who loves to sugar coat things, but recently I’ve felt like what I need is to be the complete opposite. So that's the warning. I’m not gonna go crazy, it's still me, but sometimes it is the most helpful to look at things from an … overwhelmingly… honest point of view. So here we go, and please bear with me.

Today, I want to focus on doubt. It's something I’ve experienced a lot. I have thousands of questions and very, very few answers. I want to read you something word for word that I wrote a while ago: “people often call this phase of life “typical teenage questioning” it’s just a phase. I hope so. Or they try to explain it away, but once it gets difficult it always falls on the flimsy shoulders of “Ask God when you get there. I guess we’ll never know. God works in mysterious ways.” I hate these phrases.” I still agree with that statement that I made over a year ago. At some points I’ve just decided that God isn’t real. Other times I’ve decided to put it away and stop wondering at all. Maybe it would be easier if I tried not to think about it. Doubt is a big struggle in my faith. So first of all, why do we have doubt at all? Here comes my first piece of brutal honesty. 

The Bible is literally insane. It starts out with an all powerful, all knowing God who has just … always been there? He created everything out of nothing. Weird. It ends with a magical man god who dies a brutal death and then rises from the dead, as not just a ghost, but a holy ghost. Then he goes up to heaven to sit at the right hand of his father, who is also him, but at the same time he is down here with us but in like air form. If you believe in this ghost guy then when you die you live in paradise, and if you don’t believe in him, when you die, you live in a fiery pit. Please don’t accuse me of blasphemy. I promise this all has a point. Do you realize how ridiculous that story sounded? But you know what else sounds ridiculous? Every other story of creation ever. Even the Big Bang is straight up bonkers. There was just space (which first of all how did space even get there in the first place?) and then boom there was literally the entire universe. It's all crazy. We are just a bunch of crazy humans trying to navigate a crazy existence. My favorite thing to say is “everything you can believe is crazy. It just depends what kind of crazy you believe in.” Even [Paul] admitted that. 2nd Corinthians 5:13 says “If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us.” I guess that kind of sums it up, huh. 

We all experience doubt. God asks us to believe in a crazy story. Of course we will be skeptical. I’ve been reading Jerimiah lately. So far, I’ve seen that Jeremiah was going through a bit of a difficult time. That’s nowhere near an exaggeration. Jeremiah 20:18 says “Why was I ever born? My entire life has been filled with trouble, sorrow, and shame.” That's definitely pretty hefty. In my notes beside that verse I wrote “Even Jeremiah had doubts. He questioned his purpose and miserable life.  He would have been better dead, but God used him. Even a prophet questioned.” That’s a pretty comforting thought to me. Maybe it's terrible, but my favorite quotes from the Bible always seem to be the depressing ones. I think it's because those are the quotes that show us humanity the most. For example, Ecclesiastes 1:8 (another depressing one) “Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.” I think this sums up doubt pretty beautifully. Everyone has experienced it. We will all continue to experience it. Why? Because we are humans. Because we will never be satisfied with not knowing.

 So, why did God give humans skeptical minds? Isn’t that why so many people turn away from him? Why would God do it? I’m not sure, and we will never know for sure. After all, even if we did, we wouldn’t be satisfied with the answer. But here’s a little hypothesis of my own. If you were forced to love someone, would you really love them? If you had never known any different, and you never questioned your love for that person or even thought about questioning your love, would you really love them? If there was no other option, if it was just a fact of life, would it really be love? Why did God put the apple in the garden? Why would he give the potential for something so awful to happen? Why didn’t he just not give humans the option to sin? I don’t know, but I’ve always thought that the apple was there because if it wasn’t, and if there was no other option, then Adam and Eve wouldn’t have really loved God. Love is a choice.

Romans 4:13-15 says “Clearly, God’s promise to the whole Earth and Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God's promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)” What’s important in Adam and Eve’s story was not the law they were breaking. It was their decision to not love and obey God. It was the idea that they could have faith and trust what God said about the apple, or they could disobey him and eat the apple. They could love God, or they could simply not. And if there is no law to break then what would show their faith? Adam and Eve had free will through the apple. 

Free will is tricky and that is what has always played on my doubt. It's so confusing to me because how can God be all knowing and still give me the option to choose him? Doesn’t he already know what I will do? When he creates someone does he not see their whole life? Does he not see that he is creating this person, and in the end they will go to hell because he knows exactly what will happen? How is that free will? I don’t know. God himself is incredibly confusing to me. Jeremiah 23:23-24 says “Am I a God who is only close at hand? Says the Lord. No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and the earth? Says the Lord.”  He is everything and nothing. Past and present and future. Kind and understanding, but still vengeful and angry. I mean after all, the whole book of Jeremiah is about God putting the Jewish people through horrendous things because they broke his laws. Then later, Jesus comes in, and as I cited earlier from Romans, he says that the laws aren’t really what matter. It’s all very confusing to me. I hope I’m not making you dizzy. 

A couple months ago, Amy asked us who Jesus was to us. This question comes from Luke 9:20 when Jesus asks his disciples “ ‘But who do you say I am?’.” This was a great question. It’s so great that I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I started to wonder, if someone asked me why I believe in God, despite all the crazy stories in that Bible, what would I say? Would it be, I just always have? Would it be, that’s what is expected of me? Would it be, I’ve never thought of another option, or I never stopped and questioned it? Doubt is the apple in our garden. You can’t love God without having a reason. You can’t find a reason, without searching for an answer. You can't search for an answer if you don't have a doubt. Believing isn’t seeing, but believing certainly isn’t blind. It is calculated. It is a risk, and I wouldn’t take a risk if I didn’t have a reason. Why do I believe in God if I doubt him so much? I have seen his love. I have seen it in places you wouldn’t stop to think about. It is a different kind of love. God didn’t come down and give me a hug, but every friend I’ve ever had was there for a reason. Every bit of love I’ve felt was there for a reason. My existence is unexplainable and it has been filled with an unexplainable love. That’s what I choose to believe in. It's crazy, but so is everything else.

Here is the last piece of scripture I will leave with you, not to make you feel all better, but to keep you thinking about this important aspect of faith. Luke 22:66-70 says “At daybreak all the elders of the people assembled, including the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. Jesus was led before this high council, and they said ‘Tell us, are you the messiah?’ But he replied, ‘If I tell you, you won’t believe me. And if I ask you a question, you won’t answer. But from now on the Son Of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand.’ They all shouted, ‘So you are claiming to be the Son Of God?’ And he replied, ‘You say that I am.’ ”  

I don’t know a lot of things, but I hate to let questions fall on flimsy shoulders, so I will try to put all of these doubts on something a little more solid. Maybe it’s not the best answer, and I know it certainly won’t satisfy me, but it's what I have to offer. Doubt doesn’t make us bad people. I think it makes us better. It makes us question who God is to us and why we want a relationship with him at all. Doubt makes us question our faith, but in the end, it will be the thing that strengthens it. Don’t blindly believe, always question. Search for answers and when you don’t find them, question why they aren’t there. Why do you believe in God? Why have you doubted him? What makes you CHOOSE to love him? 

So, thank you for bearing with me, and I hope you got as much out of this as I got writing it!

Click Here to Watch Abigail's Message on YouTube

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Bible is God's Word. Amen!

Over the next couple months, I’m going to preach about the basics of what it means to be a Christian—and specifically, I’m gonna focus on the beliefs of Christians from a Methodist perspective.  We are a Methodist Church, after all.  Pleasant Grove began as a Methodist congregation over 170 years ago.  Before there was even a building, Christians were gathering under the Pleasant Grove of trees on this property to study God’s Word and worship Jesus Christ.  There were Baptists meeting in the area too.  In fact, the Baptists at Grove Level and the Methodist of Pleasant Grove worked together to establish Pleasant Grove Elementary School.  The Methodists and Baptist appreciated each other and cooperated on many projects, but they recognized there was a difference between Methodists and Baptists. Though both believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, there is a need for two distinct denominations.  The spiritual ancestors who established our church were Methodists and we are Methodists.

Methodists believe the Bible is God’s Word.  If you believe that, say “Amen.”  Amen!

2 Timothy 3:14-17
14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Paul wrote these words to Timothy near the end of Paul’s life.  Timothy was a young Christian leader and Paul was his spiritual mentor.  By the time Paul wrote these words, Christianity had grown and spread across a vast empire.  What started out as the beliefs of a relatively small group of Jews in Palestine had spread south to Egypt, East to Parthia, north to Turkey, and West to Greece and Rome.  It was a religion rooted firmly in the traditions and Scriptures of Jewish faith, but it was also the fastest growing religion of non-Jews. Such diversity and rapid growth brought the danger of bad teachings—sometimes the results of inexperienced and uninformed teachers and sometimes cause by false teachers who hoped to use the new religion for their own personal gain.

Paul wrote to his young apprentice, Timothy, to warn him.  In 2 Timothy 3:1, Paul said, “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times.”  He goes on to warn him about the evil attitudes of people creeping into the world and even false teachers corrupting the Church of Jesus Christ.  And Paul tells Timothy, to remain true to the Scriptures.

Today, we also must guard ourselves and the Church from going astray.  We must stay true to the Word of God that has been handed down to us.

The Bible
The Bible is the Word of God.  Paul says all Scripture is inspired by God.  The Greek word Paul used is theopneustos, which means “God-breathed.”  In other words, God breathed life and spirit and wisdom into the Holy Scriptures.

The breathe of God is sacred and powerful.  It breathes life into existence.  You may recall from Genesis 1, that God spoke the world into existence.  He said, "Let there be light..." and there was light.  He spoke and the sun, moon, and star came into existence.  And in the story in Genesis 2:7, God brought Adam to life by breathing into his nostrils.  In the same way, the words of Scripture are inspired by the breath of God.  Scripture is God’s words speaking to us, bringing truth and life when we have faith to hear. 

Originally, when Paul wrote this to Timothy, they only had the Jewish Bible—what we call the Old Testament.  It wasn’t until later that Christians came to include a few more writings from Christian sources into the authoritative collection of Holy, God-inspired Scripture.  The four Gospels, the letters of Paul, Peter, James, and John were accepted as God-breathed and authoritative, along with Revelation.  Thus, we now have the 66 books of the Holy Bible, which Methodists accept as the Old and New Testaments--the inspired Word of God.

The United Methodist official Book of Discipline says, “Scripture is the primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine. Through Scripture the living Christ meets us in the experience of redeeming grace…  Our standards affirm the Bible as the source of all that is “necessary” and “sufficient” unto salvation (Articles of Religion) and “is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice” (Confession of Faith).” [i]

So, we believe that both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are the inspired Word of God that contain everything necessary and sufficient for our salvation.  This is a sacred book that God preserved for us and uses to speak to us and lead us into truth and salvation through Jesus Christ.  The Bible is the final word for everything we do as a Church and as Christians.

No book has changed the world so much as the Christian Bible.  The very act of reading and writing has been propelled by the Bible.  The ancient Hebrews lived in a time when only a tiny minority of people in the world could read and write.  Yet because the Hebrews revered the written word of God and wanted everyone to be able to read it, it was a priority for them to teach their children to read and write.  Scribes were employed to copy Scripture from decaying manuscripts to the Word could be preserved.  Later in the 15th century, the printing press was invented so make affordable copies of the Bible available to everyone.  The Bible propelled the printing process that makes all kinds of books available to us today. And study and learning have been valued by Christians through the century because we want people to be able to read and understand God's Word.  So education has become the expectation of the modern world.

The Word of God has shaped our modern world.  It has instilled Christian ideals in everyone--even those who are not Christians.  The idea that sacrificial love is a virtue and that people should love their enemies and pay for those who curse them came from Christ and were preserved in the Word.  The idea in the Word of God that all people are created in the image of God has led us to a revolutionary view that we are all equal.  Women and men should be treated as equals and no race should be mistreated or enslaved.  These values came through the Word of God and have changed our world.

We Must Read the Bible with Wisdom and Humility
God gave us the Bible, but God also gave us a brain.  One of the things I love about Methodist Christians is we are encouraged to use our God-given intelligence to understand Scripture.  When we read a Scripture that really challenges us, we ask questions.  “What is this really saying?”  It can be tempting to just accept the passage at face value.  However, Methodists refuse to be lazy about the Bible.  We realize these Scriptures are over 2,000 years old.  They were written to a specific audience on specific occasions.  The poetic Psalms are a different genre than the history books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles.  Thus, different genres must be read and understood differently.  The letters of Paul were written to specific groups of people to address very specific problems.  So, we must take these things into account.  We don’t just read the Bible uncritically.

Furthermore, the Bible is not a weapon we use to prove we are right and everyone else is wrong.  At its core, the 2 Timothy 3:16 says the Holy Bible is “useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”  It's so much more comfortable to avoid looking at our own problems by pointing fingers at everyone else.  And that's what we often want to use the Bible for.  However, Jesus said, "First remove the log from your own eye, then you can see clearly to remove the speck of dust from your neighbor's eye."  We must allow the Bible to convict us first and foremost.

So you see, we must be willing to humble ourselves before the Word of God.  The natural, rebellious state of the human heart always wants to justify itself.  We will either look for a verse in the Bible to prove we are right or we will disregard the Bible and say it’s outdated and no longer relevant to our modern lives.  The Methodist way must be the middle way. It takes Scripture seriously, because it is the Holy Word of God. however, taking the Bible seriously also means studying it and delving into it to really understand critically what God is saying to us today.  Taking it seriously also means humbling ourselves before God and obeying His Word, even when it runs counter to the mainstream opinions of our culture.

It was Scripture that led Martin Luther King, Jr. to fight for civil rights even though it went against popular opinion.  He was arrested, beaten, and ultimately killed for his work.  King would not turn away from the Word of God.  This is just one example from 2,000 years of Christian history.

People are prone to be ignorant and what society finds acceptable changes all the time.  God’s people shouldn't follow the edicts of society.  We build our lives upon the solid rock of God’s Holy Word. 

I want to close today with a challenge.  I challenge you to read your Bible everyday.  You need a challenge to get you started.  So I want to be specific.  There are 12 weeks between today and Easter.  I challenge you to read the Book of Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew.  That’s 50 chapters in Genesis plus 28 chapters in Matthew.  That equals 78 chapters in 84 days between now and Easter.  (That leaves a few skip days.)  Read Genesis and Matthew and listen for God’s Word to you.  Listen and ask the questions:  "What do I need to change?  What do I need to do?"

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

2023 State of the Communion Address

It is our tradition at Pleasant Grove at the beginning of each new year, to have a State of the Communion Address where we look back at the accomplishments of the previous year and look forward to some goals and initiatives for the coming year. Before we get into those details, let us hear God’s Word.

Exodus 18:14-26
When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses replied, “Because the people come to me to get a ruling from God. 16 When a dispute arises, they come to me, and I am the one who settles the case between the quarreling parties. I inform the people of God’s decrees and give them his instructions.”

17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him. 20 Teach them God’s decrees, and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives. 21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions. 25 He chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 26 These men were always available to solve the people’s common disputes. They brought the major cases to Moses, but they took care of the smaller matters themselves.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
Moses had a heavy burden—to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land.  These were a people who had lived as subjects and slaves of the Egyptian empire for 400 years.  They had always had slave masters to tell them exactly what to do.  And if they stepped out of line, there was surely a whip ready to snap them back into line.  Now they were a free people, but they had still to learn how to live as free people.

Moses’ Father-in-law, Jethro, saw how hard Moses was working and knew this was too much for one man to bear.  His wise advice was that he should delegate the administrative tasks to capable leaders among the people.  Moses should concentrate on being “the people’s representative before God” and teaching “them God’s decrees” and showing “them how to conduct their lives.
But Jethro advised Moses to delegate the day to day tasks of managing the community to capable and honest community leaders.

The Methodist Way
This is wise biblical advice for any church or large organization.  This is the model that built the Methodist Church.  It’s where we get our name:  Methodist—because we follow a methodical process for governing the church and doing Christ's work.

Rather than one person making all the decisions—whether it be the pastor or someone—the work of the church is divided up among various committees.
We have a Trustees Committee to oversee and make decisions about the property of the church.  We have a Finance Committee to oversee finances.  There is the HR Committee (Human Resources, usually called SPRC) that oversees the paid staff of the church.  The Nominations Committee recommends people for the various jobs in the church and all the committees and ministries report to the Church Council, who is the main decision making body of the church that oversees everything.

Sometime people complain that we have too many committees.  I understand.  no one likes sitting in a boring committee meeting.  However, have you ever thought of the alternative?  The alternative is to give just one person or maybe a small handful of people all the power to make decisions.  That may be easier, but it can also be very dangerous.  Some churches have succeeded that way, but the overwhelming majority get into serious trouble when they invest that much power in the pastor or a small board of directors.  Power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately.

Using various committees as we do give everyone a say in what happens in the church and maintains proper checks and balances.  Plus, it is actually a method of discipleship.  It may be more pleasant to confine your interaction in church to just sitting in a pew singing pretty hymns and listening to sermons.  But actually doing the business of the church making important (and sometimes even uncomfortable) decisions is a much better way to grow closer to Christ as you oversee the work of His Church.

Some Highlights from 2023

Let’s take a minute to remember some of the things we did last year as a church.

In February, Coach Matt Land was our guest speaker for Souper Bowl Sunday.  It was well attended and included many people who would not regularly attend a church service.  They came to here a football hero speak, but he spoke about the Greatest Hero--Jesus Christ--and the good news that we can be saved from our sins if we repent and put our faith in Jesus.

In February, we also resumed our Valentines Sweetheart Banquet, which we discontinued during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It was great to resume this activity.  And I want you to notice that even though it has been nearly 3 years since the onset of the pandemic, we are still recovering from the negative effects it had on our church's ministries.  

In March we had our first ever Car Show/Cruise-in.  our main parking lot was full of classic cars and visitors roaming the lot to see them all.  And our members were out there mid=gling and our showing Jesus' hospitality.  And again, this was a victory because it was originally scheduled for 2020 and had to be canceled for COVID-19.  SO just having the event meant were we getting thing going again.

Children’s ministry has struggled since the pandemic began.  Of course, we had to cancel many of the usual events because it wasn't safe for kids to gather together.  However, the biggest obstacle has been the loss of so many regular volunteers who are now out of the habit of helping with children's ministry.  Even so, we did have some things to celebrate in 2022.  

We had our first Community Easter Egg Hunt since

COVID began with about 40 people attending.  We also resumed VBS for the first time since COVID began--with about 30-40 kids attending each night.  And we also resumed a Walk-thru Trunk or Treat that well attended and appreciated by around 500 people from our community.  We started Trunk or Treat over 10 years ago and we managed to continue it through the pandemic, but we had done it as a drive-thru event in 2020 and 2021.  In 2022, we resumed the walk-thru method.  Another victory for the return to normalcy.

Our Youth Group for middle and high school students is going strong on the wise, and capable leadership of Amy Harris.  They met weekly on Wednesday nights and had some extra meetings on Sunday evenings as well.  They took several trips including the summer extreme beach trip, a Halloween trip to Hell's Gate Christian Haunted House, Six Flags, as well as others.  Furthermore, they volunteered to help clean up a church members yard, and served as volunteers at the Miracle Field of Whitfield County to help disabled people play baseball.

The Girl Scout troop that has met at Pleasant Grove for numerous years, offered to build a community raised bed garden for our church.  With the help of several church volunteers, they installed 6 raised beds and we had a garden this season!

The Boy Scouts program exploded with over 40 boys attending.  This year, they outgrew the Scout Hut on our property and started also meeting weekly in the Promise Building.  A big thank you to Frank Fetzer and the many volunteers that help run the Boy Scouts program at Pleasant Grove.

On Wednesday nights, we had a first century Roman soldier visit and teach about what life was like for soldiers in Judea when Jesus carried out his earthly ministry.  We also watched seasons one and two of the Chosen Series, about the ministry of Jesus and the Disciples.  (We started Season Three this past week.)

We also had a number of leaders from our community share about their faith in Jesus and how it guides them to serve the Lord in our community in a variety of ways such as teaching, government, business, social work.  Speakers included Senator Chuck Payne, Kelsey Ikerd, Jason Denson, Sherry Dickson, and others.

In July, we had an important Town Hall Meeting to consider developments in the United Methodist denomination and how these may affect our congregation relationship with the UMC.  An anonymous survey indicated the congregation overwhelmingly wishes to pursue disaffiliation from the UMC.  According, our church council voted to request a Church Conference by the District Superintendent to vote on disaffiliation under provisions in the Book of Discipline.   We also created to teams to help, one to handle the work of disaffiliation (the D-Team) and another team to study future affilation options if we disaffiliate (the A-Team).

In November, we had Homecoming and Revival services lead by Tom Atkins.  It was an important time of healing and revival as we drew closer to God.

Becky Haley led our church to collect 148 boxes for Operation Christmas Child--the most we've ever collected since we started participating a decade ago.

In 2022, our music minister, David Crawford, created and directed an original production with volunteers from our congregation acting out the Christmas story with music by our chancel choir.  It was a beautiful presentation that involved so many people.  Then, we ended the year with 68 people attending our Christmas Eve service.  It was such a special time for our church family.

Sack lunches have been packed throughout the pandemic and continue to be an important part of Pleasant Grove's ministries.  In 2022, 17 faithful volunteers met and packed 65 sack packs a week for around 36 weeks, totaling around 2,340 sack lunches to help needy children at Pleasant Grove Elementary School. Plus, another 40 sack packs were packed per month to help at risk children visiting White's Pediatrics, bring the total to around 2,700 sack lunches. This was over 9,000 pounds of food!  In addition, we gave supplies to the nurse at Pleasant Grove Elementary, along with other essential help.

Through our Operation Mercy Drops grant program, Pleasant Grove awarded 12 grants totaling $12,000.  There were 6 hardship awards to help people in need, 2 merit awards to honor people who are doing admirable things in our community, and 4 service awards to help special community organizations continue their good work to help people in our community.  

Looking Forward to 2023

I believe God has great things in store for our church in the coming year.  We are privileged to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus Christ to our community.  I want to mention a few things that we can expect for 2023.

One Morning Worship Service
First of all, we will combine our two morning worship services back into one starting next Sunday.  We will continue to have our live, online service at 10:55 AM but we will only have one in-person service, which will be at 10:55 AM.  I believe this will bring more unity to our congregation, as we all meet together again in one service for worship.

Easter Program
Second, we will have an Easter Cantata patterned after the Christmas cantata which was so successful.  Families from our congregation will tell the Easter story from Scripture in cooperation with the beautiful music of our choir.  

Children's Ministry
Third and very important, we will focus on children’s ministries in 2023.  I am excited about the idea David and Amy Crawford have to start a puppet ministry.  They had so much fun using puppets for our summer VBS, they took the initiative to build a set in a class upstairs above our fellowship hall that they plan to use regularly during the children's church time to have a puppet program for kids.

But we must also do more to invite more families with kids into our church for regular meetings.  The HR team is already considering how to get some training for our church about how to revamp and invigorate our children’s program and bring in more families and kids.  This is critical to our calling from Christ to make disciples.  We have an important opportunity with children that we cannot pass up.  We have to do better than we've been doing.  

We are also going to need more volunteers to help with children in the puppet ministry, in Sunday school, on Wednesday nights, and in children’s church.  Could you help?

We believe our church wants to vote about disaffiliation from the United Methodist Church over issues related to Scripture and human sexuality.  We have been working through that process and will continue to work through it in 2023.  Unfortunately, the out going Bishop of the North Georgia Conference announced a "pause" on December 28th (a few days before she left our conference to be reappoint Bishop of the Virginia Conference).  This "edict" has disrupted our disaffiliation process (along with hundreds of other faithful congregations across our conference).  We are in communication with other churches and conference leaders to decide what will be our response.  We hope that the conference will be open to cooperate with churches who are faithfully following the process that was approved by General Conference and our own annual conference and conference board of trustees.  We will do whatever we can to ensure that our congregation has a fair chance to voice your desires to either remain in the UMC or to disaffiliate from the denomination.

I am calling on everyone in our congregation to join with hundreds of other faithful Methodists across our state who are praying and fasting to prepare for the difficult road ahead.  I invite you to choose one day each week to pray and fast from sundown to sundown.  For example, I am taking Tuesdays, to pray and fast.  I will eat dinner Tuesday before 6 PM and then only have water, juice, or coffee until Wednesday night at 6 PM.  During the fast, you are asked to pray that our hearts will be right with God, our attitude and motives will be pure, and that the conference will cooperate with churches discerning a path forward that leads them away from the UMC, and that God will make a way for His Methodist people to walk faithfully with Him--whether inside or outside the UMC.

Pray for New Church Leaders

Finally, I call on you to pray for all the church leaders from our congregation who have been elected to serve in 2023.  Here are the names of those who have been elected:  


Chairperson of the Church Council – Tom Dickson

Vice Chairperson – Mike Wilson

Secretary – Amy Harris

Treasurer – Jeff McDonald

Finance Chairperson – Kevin Roberts

HR (SPRC) Chairperson – Elaine McDonald 

Board of Trustees Chairperson – Marcus Blalock

Pastor – Rev. Chris Mullis

Lay Leader – Jason Denson

Assistant Lay Leader – Bill Caylor

Lay Delegate to Annual Conference – Mike Wilson 

Marketing Specialist – Donna Phillips

Youth Ministers – Amy Harris

Music Minister – David Crawford 

Children’s Minister – Tiffany Tankersley

Sunday School Superintendent – Debra Sloan

Church Council Members at Large: Harry Kelly, Dianne Caylor, and Mara Cobble


Lay Delegate to Annual Conference – Mike Wilson

Lay Leader – Jason Denson

John Denson, Elaine McDonald (Chair), Jason Childers, Jimmy Brooker, Danny Cobble, and Diane O’Brien


Pastor – Rev. Chris Mullis (Chair)

Lay Leader – Jason Denson

Scott Ward, Bill Caylor, Sherry Dickson, Sallie Thomas, Amy Crawford, and Angel Kirk


Maribeth Reno, Jean Coker, Marcus Blalock (Chair), Becky Haley, Jon Adams, Lori Roberts, Mike Kirk, Kyle Marlow, and Scott Denson


Chairman – Kevin Roberts

Lay Member to Annual Conference – Mike Wilson

Chairman of Church Council – Tom Dickson

Human Resources Chair – Elaine McDonald

Lay Leader – Jason Denson

Chairman of Trustees – Marcus Blalock

Treasurers – Jeff McDonald, Donna Phillips

Financial Secretaries – Jean Coker, Teresa Marlow, & Debra Sloan

Finance Committee Members at Large:  Becky Ward, Bob Brooker, and Steven Weed

Operation Mercy Drops Committee

Mike Wilson, Salena Weed (Chair), Kelly Scruggs, and Andrea Adams


Vice Treasurer – Donna Phillips

Altar Guild – Kaye Fetzer

Church Historian – Rita Wagers

Librarian – Becky Ward

Nursery Coordinator – Laurie Wilson                    

Coordinator of Ushers – Mike Marlow

Sunday School Secretaries – Ron Phillips, Johnny Denson

Coordinator of Special Events – Marie Jordan, Angel Kirk, and Debra Sloan

Coordinator of Family Night Suppers – Angela Kirk

Prayer Coordinator – Sherry Dickson

Alternate Lay Delegate to Annual Conference – Laurie Wilson

Memorial Garden Committee – Elaine McDonald, Kaye Denson, and Jimmy Brooker

Coordinator of Scouting Ministries – Frank Fetzer

Affiliation Study Team (The A Team)

Debra Sloan, Elaine McDonald, Harold Brooker, Kay Denson, Kevin Roberts, Kyle Marlow, Mike Wilson, Salena Weed (Recorder), and Tom Dickson (Chair)

Disaffiliation Study Team (The D Team)

Bill Caylor (Chair), Jason Denson, Marcus Blalock, Maribeth Reno, and Rita Wagers