One by one, new members are discovering God’s grace and sharing it with others.
A little over a year ago, Teryl and Terry Bishop didn’t have a church home—or a pastor. But a lot can happen in a year through a gracious God, caring friends, and a conference presentation.
“Lo and behold, I’m an evangelist now,” says Teryl.
Discovering God’s grace
When Teryl and Terry moved to The Villages, Fla., in 2011, they talked about looking for a church home, but they never really got around to doing it.
Both of them had attended church when they were young—Teryl was Lutheran and Terry, Methodist—but they both stopped going as they grew older. At one point, Teryl converted to Catholicism and Terry started attending her home church with her mom again, but neither felt a strong connection.
Teryl and Terry lived across the street from Dean and Barb Kohlmetz, members at St. Mark, Leesburg, Fla. They became good friends and golfing partners, still getting together even after the Bishops moved to a different area of the city.
But the topic of church didn’t come up often. “We never talked to them about church,” says Dean, “but we knew they weren’t going.” Dean and Barb both admit they found it hard to bring up the subject naturally.
But an opportunity arose that started a chain reaction—and it’s continuing to snowball. David Rosenau, pastor at St. Mark, presented at the WELS National Conference on Lutheran Leadership in January 2020. His presentation shared his background: a narcotics detective-turned-pastor. It also highlighted his passion for his Savior and his drive to share that gospel message with people one by one.
“I felt people had to hear it, so I sent it to 10 to 15 people around here and that many people in Wisconsin as well,” says Dean. The presentation turned out to be a catalyst for discussion and gave Dean and Barb opportunities to share their faith and more about their church. The pandemic also played a part because many people weren’t attending church personally and were willing to listen to St. Mark’s services online.
Two of the people with whom the Kohlmetzes shared the video were Teryl and Terry. “[Pastor Rosenau] came across so genuine, caring, and devoted,” says Terry. “That was enough to get us to go try him out.” They began listening to Rosenau’s sermons online.
One afternoon they were driving by the church and decided to check it out. “Before we got around the parking lot, Detective Pastor was out of his office and out there greeting us,” says Terry, laughing. “He invited us in and showed us the church.” Says Teryl, “That was the real start of solidifying our desire to be members.”
They continued watching services online, and a month later Rosenau visited them at their home. Once in-person worship began, they started attending—and haven’t missed a service since. “We learn something new every week,” says Teryl. “We learn every time we see him or hear him at church, at Bible information class, and at Bible studies.”
The Bishops became members in June 2020. “It definitely has given us a sense of peace,” says Terry.
Says Teryl, “We feel very comfortable there, and we look forward to the next time we’ll be there.”
Sharing the message with others
But the Bishops aren’t just comfortable attending the church. They—along with the Kohlmetzes and other members at St. Mark—want to tell others about what they discovered.
That’s a mission that Rosenau highlights every week at church. “His theme always is to mention Jesus to your friends one by one—and it works,” says Dean. “We love every minute at our church. As you get older, it’s a lot easier to talk about that.”
“Everyone has a friend they would like to invite,” says Barb. “When they come, Pastor makes them feel comfortable so they then invite their friends.”
That’s exactly what happened with the Kohlmetzes and the Bishops. The Kohlmetzes invited the Bishops, who in turn started telling their friends and family.
“Last year has made people look at things a lot differently,” says Terry. “The whole COVID crisis has made people take a deeper look at their faith.”
And now the Bishops look for those opportunities to share the peace that they found. “When we’re talking to a new couple or friends or playing cards or doing whatever, we’ll find a way to bring the conversation around to ‘Do you have a pastor?’ and it goes from there,” says Teryl.
It started with Clif and Beverly Kittle. The Bishops shared the presentation and a link to watch services online and then invited them to come to church in person. They did.
Terry and Clif’s connection became even closer when they both were baptized this past January. When Rosenau visited the Kittles at their home, he learned that Clif had never been baptized. When Terry heard this, she shared that she wasn’t sure if she had been either and she had no one to ask. “So after a service I had the privilege to baptize both Clif and Terry—and they celebrated with a dinner out afterward. How cool is that?!” says Rosenau.
Next came Bob and Cathy Johnson. They had been attending a Catholic church but weren’t happy. During the pandemic, they were staying home because of Cathy’s aging mother, so Teryl encouraged them to start watching St. Mark’s services online. With restrictions now loosening, they asked the Bishops about attending St. Mark in person.
“So now we pick up the Johnsons too,” says Teryl. “It’s like a clown car in the church parking lot when we open up the door and six people come out of the car.” Terry adds, “I told Pastor if we bring anyone else, we’ll have to get a party bus!”
The Bishops, Kittles, and Johnsons have all been friends for years—they along with one additional couple call themselves the “Crazy 8.” Now they’re all part of a church family, one they hope to add the final couple to as well.
Teryl and Terry never thought they would share their faith like this, but God had other plans. Messages of sin and grace and love and forgiveness are just too good to keep to yourself.
Author: Julie Wietzke
Volume 108, Number 7
Issue: July 2021