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  • Mike Durbin

Pastors who have made a difference

PLYMOUTH – God called me to preach my senior year of high school. I had not been a follower of Jesus for very long, and didn’t really know anything about preaching or ministry. I needed direction and my first pastor knew it.

He met with me and several other men early on Saturday mornings to disciple us and prepare us to pursue our ministry callings.

Pastor David gave us our first opportunities to preach. I remember sitting on the front pew during the worship service getting more and more nervous as my first sermon approached. I started praying something like this: “Lord Jesus, you say in your Word that you’re coming back. Please, Jesus come back now. I can’t do this. Come back Lord, please! Save me and these people from what is about to happen.” Jesus didn’t come back, and my pastor didn’t stop working with me. His investment in a not so promising kid helped give me a foundation that I continue to build on nearly a half century later.

It was a pastor and wife who invited Shar and me into their lives during college for a premarital seminar for engaged couples. We met weekly in their home with six other couples as they poured their lives into ours. Pastor Harlan and JoAnn shared openly about the blessings and challenges of life together in the covenant of marriage. They gave of themselves to help prepare us for our journey together as a husband and wife following Christ. Their transparency spoke volumes about the joys and challenges of what it really means “that two shall become one.”

When our family served as missionaries in Brazil, a Brazilian pastor befriended me. We walked together in the early mornings before the blistering heat of the sun took over. I learned much from this dear brother about life and culture of Brazil. Shortly after preaching one Sunday, I fell to the ground in the most intense physical pain I have ever experienced. It was a difficult moment. We had no family doctor, no experience in the health care system in the city, and insufficient words in Portuguese to describe what was happening. I called Pastor Bené. He stopped everything he was doing and immediately took me to the Emergency Room. He understood my painful, broken Portuguese and helped me communicate with the doctor. I gave birth to a kidney stone - an experience I never want to repeat!

When Shar and I made the decision to start a business and minister bi-vocationally for a season, three Michigan pastors stepped into our lives to help us. It was a critical moment for us, and God used them. Pastor Larry Rednower invited us to help New Haven Baptist Church with a second campus. Pastor Irv (Salty) Saultman, a long-time contractor and bi-vocational pastor, mentored us in carpentry skills and life balance. Jim Marcus, Director of Missions for the Genesee Baptist Association, served as my ministry coach.

Serving in associational and convention life is unique in that there are seasons when it seems like I am in a different church each week. Relocating several times in the last 17 years to be closer to our ministry setting has been challenging at times. It meant finding a new church home. Pastors like Bob Galey, Ed Emmerling, and Wayne Parker have faithfully preached God’s Word every time we have been blessed to attend and we are grateful for them.

In recent years, a man we all know has made an incredible impact in my life - Pastor Tim Patterson. Serving with him has taught me much about leadership, grace, and vision. I had serious concerns about the future of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan (BSCM) before God brought Pastor Tim and Sabrina to our state. By the time he arrived, Anne Glissman and Yolanda Chapa were the only convention staff left. Our beloved Pastor Jimmy Jones, stepped into the void as Interim Executive Director and Pastor Gerald Colbert came back and forth from Georgia to serve as Interim Director of Missions. These men and women did an admirable job providing stability in what I considered a Convention in crisis.

Michigan Baptists called Pastor Tim and he has led us through a revitalization of our cooperative mission efforts. God has used him to guide us toward restored health. It hasn’t been easy or without pain. His framework through it all has been: “Give God’s people the information and trust them with the decision.” Pastor Tim and Sabrina have loved pastors and wives across our state, and they have loved Shar and me. Thank you!

Many pastors have influenced my life, but I want to close with a special thank you to Pastor (Dr.) Tony Lynn. Many of you know that Shar and I went to the same middle and high school as Tony and Jamie, but it wasn’t until the end of high school that the four of us really started doing life together. It was Tony that invited me to a church Christmas Pageant where I realized for the first time that God loved me, and it was his family that loved me to Christ. We ended up going to the same college and seminary to prepare for a lifetime of ministry. We have watched each other’s children, preached in each other’s churches, and been brothers for a lifetime. We spent a season ministering on different continents, only to end up serving Michigan Baptists together. From mischief to ministry, Tony and I have been lifelong friends. (Shar and Jamie will tell you that the mischief never stopped). Thank you, Pastor Tony!

My heart is filled with gratitude as I think back to the many pastors who have impacted my life. I appreciate each one and am thankful for their ministry in my life. You probably have a pastor in your life who has blessed your life. Take a moment this month to tell him so.



Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.


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