Pastors' Blog

By Pioneer Pastors

March 20, 2024
By Prescott Khair

Godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but the sorrow of the world produces death - 2 Corinthians 7:10

Springtime across the wider Christian world celebrates the story of past mistakes being covered over by Jesus’ blood. The sacrificial, atonement Jesus made on the cross stands as a testament to the truly amazing nature of grace. A grace that is so deep, so wide, so rich, so beautiful that it can cover every sin inside never to be seen again. There truly is something amazing about grace that is extended to sinners like you and I.

Yet, too often that aforementioned grace is negated by the one factor in this universe that can undo it. You. Me. Us. Each of us has our own secrets of sordid nature that lurk in our past. Yes, grace covers them. Grace wipes that slate clean. Jesus, himself, won’t remember those sins again (read Zechariah 3, Micah 7:19, Isaiah 43:25 as a quick refresher). But, we do. Somehow the most powerful force in the universe - the Grace of the Almighty Creator God - can be outdone by our memories. Some individuals are never able to move forward in their faith journey’s because they are trapped by their own remembrance of their sinful past.

The verse at the beginning of this blog (2 Corinthians 7:10) is a reminder that there are indeed two roads that diverge in vastly different directions. Both roads have sorrow, but one leads to life and the other to death. Theologians and Pastors, far smarter than I, have preached and written on the differences and meaning of these sorrows. I tend to view these sorrows through the lens of guilt and shame. Two approaches, two vastly different outcomes.

Therapist and researcher Brene Brown has spent a career understanding the effects of shame and guilt on human beings. In her own words, she describes the difference between shame and guilt as such:

I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful—it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.[1]

Shame is an insidious thing. It creeps into every facet of our lives seeking to destroy us from the inside out. Shame is the voice that tells us there is no coming back even when God’s grace tells us otherwise. Guilt, on the other hand, is the reminder of the wrongs we’ve done that leads us to the grace that we are gifted because of what Jesus has done.

As Brown states, the deadliness of shame is that it makes us dangerous. The stories of Peter and Judas illustrate that well. Judas’ story of betrayal ends in a scene with no hope. A man possessed by shame and seeing no way out of the mess he had made. A desperate and dangerous, making decisions that could never be undone. Shame is a dangerous thing. It makes us dangerous because it eliminates the possibility of hope and connection with God. Peter’s story, on the other hand, shows what happens when guilt makes room for grace. Peter’s guilt, make no mistake, was crushing but it wasn’t permanent. After the resurrection, by the seashore, Jesus’ gentle words of restoration, “Follow me” (John 21:19) reminded Peter that no matter the sin there was still space for connection with the Saviour.

Pioneer Memorial Church and the Andrews University Center for Faith Engagement believe strongly that each person has an opportunity for grace rather than shame. And, this season, we wanted to remind you of that. So, we got a group of students together to write a brand new, original for 2024, musical (yes, originally written songs) that will tell the story of guilt and shame. This musical is called, Through His Eyes. It will be shown at Pioneer Memorial Church on March 30 (doors open 4:30 PM) and March 31 (doors open 5:30 PM). Everyone is invited to this free event which will showcase how grace can cover our worst mistakes and give us a better future.

[1] Brown, B. (2013, January 15). Shame vs. guilt. Brené Brown.

March 6, 2024
By Glenn Russell

The Honduras Mission Trip During the New Years’ break, our eleven Pioneer Youth Mission volunteers served at the Hogar de Niños (children’s home) conducting a day camp for about 75-90 children from the Hogar and the local community. The camp, directed by Scott Schalk, provided Bible class, music, crafts, health and sports activities each day. Afternoons and evenings were spent with the children at the Hogar de Niños operated by REACH International.

Additionally the team conducted worships each evening and on Sabbaths. Thanks to generous donations to Pioneer Youth Missions we were able to provide 65 families with food for an entire month. Glenn Russell described the team’s experience:

“Pioneer Youth Missions teams have been coming to this special place in Honduras for 25 years. Our lives are blessed by the hugs, prayers, laughter and worship together with these precious children. And we are inspired by the dedicated staff at the home. It was a privilege to support and assist in their service for God.”

Glenn Russell, Pioneer Youth Missions director
Scott Schalk, Pioneer Friendship Camp director

January 24, 2024
By Prescott Khair

It’s small group season at Pioneer!

Discipleship comes in many forms across our campus and our church. One of the most common is the small group. It’s seen in Sabbath Schools, in Grow Groups and the natural connections people form around friendships and common interests. I think about how Jesus utilized the table and fellowship to craft intimate moments of discipleship with those he was closest to. Think about his feet being anointed and the aroma wafting through the house during what could be considered a small group meeting. The lesson resonates still to this day about devotion to God being the most important aspect of faith. Small groups provide the space where lessons like that can learned. They also are places of shared connection and refreshing after times of intense ministry activity or life changes. I think about our campus small groups (which are a strong part of our Grow Group program – there are 16 run by and for our students!). Among those small groups we have a special group dedicated for our returned student missionaries to reconnect and share moments of faith and difficulty from their time abroad sharing and being the gospel.

The following excerpt is written by Kelli Coffen, AU Student and Returned Missionary Teacher.

“I don’t know if there is anything more exciting than someone asking you to share pictures from a recent trip or adventure you have just returned from. The joy of getting to relive the experience and share the details and funny moments you experienced precipitates laughter and smiles from your captivated audience. 

Last week I got to experience this joy as our student missions small group kicked off and our conversation quickly turned to our time serving and the joys and sorrows that accompanied our time abroad. It can be incredibly difficult to capture the true essence of spending a semester, summer, or year as a missionary, but the comradery and understanding that only fellow missionaries can provide is such an exciting place to be. Finally feeling like you can share the intimate details and be honest about the hardships of being away from home, living in a new country, learning how to be a teacher, and just missing out on life back home. How do you convey that to someone who has never experienced it? 

Nestled around tables full of dinosaur coloring pages and snacks, these returned student missionaries began to open up when their fellow SM’s began asking questions about what they did, what it was like, and if they missed it. Soon phones came up to show pictures of beloved students or pets, well-loved living spaces, and favorite dishes they had experienced. Stories poured out from everyone as they related to each other’s experiences and affirmed the hardships and joys that they each experienced in their own ways. It was clear that connections were being made and bonds just beginning to form between these students tied together by a common experience in ministry. 

These intimate connections and personal stories may never make it to the stage of Pioneer or a vespers program, but the impact they had will be felt in the relationships formed from this mutual exchange of lived-experiences. That’s part of the beauty that comes only from small groups– individuals feel empowered to share openly and honestly in a way that church services and pews just can’t provide. There is an implied intimacy that comes with a small group where you are able to learn everyone’s names, make a personal connection, engage in a Bible study or activity together, and truly see one another for who you are. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I’ve felt so blessed to be able to begin to experience this building up in a small group and cannot wait for more individuals to be able to open their camera rolls and share their adventures to allow us to build them up and build community.” – Kelli Coffen

If you are looking to have a small group experience like the one described above, check out our Grow Groups at There you can find one around aligning with your interests and your discipleship needs in your current season of life. Or, maybe you have a passion to help others by leading one. We have a spot for new groups, too! Either way, don’t miss out on a key piece of the discipleship journey. Join a Grow Group today.

December 27, 2023
By John Glass

Usually, I never think of presents of past Christmases, but this year has been different.  

One present I’ll never forget sticks out in my mind with clarity. It’s been so long now that I no longer remember when it happened, but I’ll never forget what did happen.  

I must have been about 8 or 9 years old. That summer my parents took off for a week leaving me with one of my aunts. While I was staying with her I not only got better acquainted with her grandson, a cousin of mine, I also discovered his Lionel train set; in plain English, it was to “die for”. I came home with my heart set on getting an electric train of my own.  

I don’t remember how it was I began to pray about it, but I did. Looking back, the way I prayed was pretty unique. I didn’t really know God and what to expect from Him, but I knew an electric train set had parts, and I was afraid that God just might forget or overlook a necessary component, so I handed Him a list of parts: engine, tender, several cars, caboose, tracks, transformer and wires to connect the transformer and tracks—just to keep Him from omitting something that would make the train inoperable.

Every day I prayed that prayer. Every day I ran the list by God. Every day I hoped the train would come—complete.  

Christmas at last arrived. That morning I crawled out of bed and started downstairs. When I turned the corner and could see the living room floor I almost jumped out of my skin: there was my train going around the tracks under the tree. I let out a shriek and flew down the rest of the stairs and flopped down beside it on the floor and watched it go round and round. I must have been the most excited, happiest kid in town that day.  

Looking back at that day there are a few lessons you and I can take away. First of all, what kind of God are we praying to? I never learned how it was that my father got a train set for me (and spent half the night with a fellow down the street putting it together—you know: “some assembly required”—and playing with it). There wasn’t a single part missing. The tracks were mounted on a sheet of plywood with a tunnel on one side. I didn’t do very much that day except play with that train. I remember being amazed that God remembered every part. Now, what father would get his kid a longed-for present and overlook a few parts so it wouldn’t work? My father didn’t, but our Heavenly Father, who must have impressed him, wouldn’t do that either.  

One of these days life here as we’ve known it will be complete. We’ll get to know our Father God, and He’ll show us all that He did that we never knew, and realize just how good He really was to us through our entire life. We’ll learn what all the gifts He gave us were and the smiles He wore as He gave them to us—like the smiles we had as we watched our children open the gifts we gave them. You know, we have a wonderful God who loves us completely, and isn’t it wonderful how we can become like Him? 

November 29, 2023
By Prescott Khair

I admit, I can be a little bit like the Grinch during the Christmas season. Ok, a lot like the Grinch. While I haven’t gone as far as to take down Christmas decorations, I’ve never been known to celebrate as the decorations go up. It’s a mixture of feelings between “too soon” and “oh, here it comes, again.” I don’t know whether this comes from my love for the Thanksgiving season or the trappings of the seemingly ever increasing hustle bustle that the Christmas season represents. The joy of the holiday season often seems to be replaced with stress and a hint of dread. 

Yet, this year is different. 

Not much has changed in my life since last year. Family, work, home, and everything else have been nothing but positive in my life (very thankful for that!). The only thing that is different this year is my attitude towards the holiday. This year I’ve decided to give celebration a chance. It was an intentional choice to lean into the moment and experience of celebrating all the good and the happiness that season can represent. 


As a very goal oriented individual, celebration is not an activity in which I engage very often. Rather, I push on from one major event to the next, one project to the next, one week to the next without taking time to truly celebrate the moments of success, or the moments of joy. And, when I describe it that way, maybe the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season has less to do with the holiday and more to do with… me? 

In his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, Pastor and Author, John Mark Comer writes about our modern society’s obsession with hurry, hustle, and bustle, 

The same [slowing down] is true for joy and peace—two of the other core realities of the kingdom. Love, joy, and peace are the triumvirate at the heart of Jesus’s kingdom vision. All three are more than just emotions; they are overall conditions of the heart. They aren’t just pleasant feelings; they are the kinds of people we become through our apprenticeship to Jesus, who embodies all

three ad infinitum.

And all three are incompatible with hurry.

The Christmas season marks an amazing opportunity to remember Jesus as the source of love, joy, and peace. Celebration means a slowing down to experience the gifts that God has given us this season. Every day is a gift. Every moment is a gift. Even the days and moments that are encapsulated in tragedy and heartache. And, yes, even the moments of Christmas hustle and bustle. The gift given is that Jesus is King with a kingdom he wants to build in our hearts and in our community around us. It’s the same kingdom that he began building when he arrived on Earth as a baby in Bethlehem. And, it’s the same kingdom he represented as rode triumphantly into Jerusalem in Mark 11. 

The crowds stopped their everyday activities and took in the moment. The moment led to celebration. With years long anticipation, exhaustion, and hope all built up to this moment, the crowds shouted out, 


Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! 

Hosanna in teh highest!” 

            Mark 11:9-10 

This season Jesus is still the triumphant king entering into whatever heart, home, gathering, office building, or space given to Him. He’s the same king providing love, joy, and peace. His coming is only truly experienced when you stop and celebrate Him, even in the middle of this season’s hustle and bustle. 

So, this season celebrate the king and experience the love, joy, and peace He brings. 

November 21, 2023
By Lindsey Pratt

We know that God loves a cheerful giver. Pioneer, you gave abundantly this year. The Pathfinders collected the generous donations of food and separated them into one hundred and forty boxes. We had piles of canned fruit, green beans, pasta, stuffing, applesauce, pumpkin pie filling, and many other delicious foods to gift to those in need. On Sabbath, November 19, over one hundred of our Pathfinders, leaders and parents separated and carefully packed each of these boxes. Then they were loaded into over fifty Pioneer church member's vehicles to be delivered. Along with the boxes, each family was given a voucher from Apple Valley to receive a fresh produce box and delicious pie. Thank you for your donation of food, finances, and time in delivering this gift to our campus and community.

2nd Corinthians 9:6-8 says, “ Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” My prayer for you and your family is that our God of abundance blesses you generously this season of thankfulness.

October 17, 2023
By Dave Nowack

The Church is many things: Spirit, People, Ideas, Place. Each is interconnected with the others to create worship and fellowship. Over the last year or so, Pioneer Memorial Church experienced significant changes in People and Place. While other blogs may elaborate on the changes in People, this blog focuses on Place; This Place—Pioneer. Specifically, Renovate 2.0.

Renovate 2.0 focuses on the expansion of a full-size elevator for access to the Sanctuary by movement-challenged worshipers. Along with that major change, the Youth Chapel, the Media Team offices, and the entrance to the Church from the main parking lot were all enhanced.

The Youth Chapel created more storage space by enclosing some open alcoves and adding beautiful cabinets. The additional storage space, especially lockable space, is a wonderful expansion for Youth Ministries. The entrance to the Youth Chapel received new carpet and paint. A preparatory sink with hot and cold water is in the entrance cabinets as well. Fresh carpet, a new entrance from the Sanctuary, and a new background for the platform in the Chapel all help create a great worship space for our youth.

The Media Center offices, located above and behind the Youth Chapel, received expanded workspace with two new offices and a rearranged workspace with counter space and storage space.

The entrance from the main parking lot was updated with new carpet and paint. The most striking change in the entrance was the addition of a set of double doors set within what some have called a glass wall. It is both attractive and very practical. Lots of cold air will be kept out of the Church with that wall. The entrance continues to a set of new stairs. The stairs have been lengthened so that the steps are not so steep. Everyone is enjoying that improvement!

Faithful giving to support this project is inspiring! The amount left to finish the goal is $216,003 as of 9/30/2023. We are so close! As you have read, these improvements have made a difference already. Please consider this project completion as you prayerfully plan your charitable giving now and to the end of the year. Thank you!

October 4, 2023
By Lindsey Pratt

I love mountains. The one thing I miss since living in Michigan is mountains. They are majestic and grand; they present challenges and excitement. I feel close to God when I am breathing the fresh mountain air. When you are hiking in mountains there are these high elevation lakes. The most beautiful lakes I have ever seen just wedged between cliffs, crystal clear and freezing cold water. These lakes are stunning.

Some time ago, I was backpacking in the Sierra Nevada’s, and we hiked a few days to one of these high elevation lakes. The walls of the majestic peaks protected the lake, so no wind touched the water. The water was perfectly still reflecting all the surroundings with precision. I stepped up to the water’s edge and peered in. I saw myself in the water.  I picked up a very small pebble, and I tossed it into the middle of the lake. Immediately there were ripples that started in the middle and went all the way across in every direction. The ripples bounced off the edges and continued making more and more ripples. The effect of this tiny stone was great indeed. No more could you see the huge peaks reflected in the lake, the clouds and sky were blurred, and my reflection was almost erased.

I believe that just like this little stone, young people can have huge effects on those around them. Look at Jesus’s disciples, some may even have been as young as thirteen years old when they were called by Jesus. They were teenagers and young adults in their twenties when they were called and responded to Jesus. He picked these young men to be his leaders. Jesus called them, and so can we.

At Pioneer we have a lot of great opportunities for our youth to make a difference. We have Pathfinders, Sabbath School, Bible Studies, Mission Trips, Andrews Academy and more. These are all places where our youth can actively participate in becoming leaders for God, and continuing learning how to journey with Jesus for themselves.

Our young people have so much potential, they just need to continue to be equipped to share the Good News of Jesus. The quote in Education by Ellen White, is a continuous reminder and encouragement to us as we work with youth people.

“With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin! How soon, in place of a possession here, with its blight of sin and pain, our children might receive their inheritance where “the righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein forever.” Where “the inhabitant shall not say. I am sick.” And “the voice of weeping shall be no more heard.” Education 271.2

Remember the lake, when one pebble is thrown in it can make lots of ripples. Our young people can create similar ripples of positive change in the world when they are encouraged to recognize their worth in Christ and channel their energy and talents in reaching others for the kingdom of God.

September 13, 2023
By Prescott Khair

Off script in the middle of a worship service is usually a scary moment for a chaplain. We make plans and run sheets to ensure the media team, speakers, the worship team and all other participants are on the same page.  Yet, Tuesday morning at Week of Prayer was the type of off script moment for which chaplains and pastors alike pray. The moment was the off script that provides the “why” behind every long hour, planning meeting, and ministry function. This was the moment where God showed up to embrace his people when they reached out for Him.

We often pray for the Holy Spirit to be in our midst when we gather. It is the well-intentioned prayer that seeks God’s blessing for make the solemn gathering a sacred assembly. Yet, I’ve recently learned to pray for God to open my eyes for where He is already at work. The reality is that God has been long at work in places, in hearts, in lives, and situations long before you or I ever arrived. Like Gehazi, in 2 Kings 6, the prayer that we often need to pray is, “God open our eyes to where you are already at work.”

This Tuesday, the prayer was answered with “I’m here look around and follow my leading.”

Pioneer’s very own Pastor Taurus Montgomery, our week of prayer speaker, had been praying for his eyes to be opened and so when God said, “Look around.” Pastor Taurus did.

No pretense. No planned actions. The moment he came to the front, you could see the spiritual wrestling happening in his heart as we felt the weight of God’s presence calling to do something different. There would be no Week of Prayer sermon, only a call to repentance.

Pastor Taurus spoke and the words came out, “If you’re not living the life that you know you should, come forward to surrender to Jesus.”

The students came down. At first in small groups then, in large groups. The mass of individuals all moved by conviction that this was their moment to listen to God’s leading.

It was a beautiful sight to behold. The Center for Faith Engagement team, Pioneer Pastors, Department of Religion Professors and other spiritual leaders were called forward to lay hands on the large group in the front. And, for the next twenty minutes, we prayed. We prayed as a packed sanctuary pressed in together by the presence of God. We prayed as a group of people recognizing that when God shows up our only response is to worship. We prayed because God had reminded us, “Here I am. Open your eyes to see what I have already been doing in these students’ lives.”

God is active in places, in lives, in ministries, in plans long before you or I are ever involved. In the moment of prayer, I thought of the words of Amos in Amos 5:

21 “I hate all your show and pretense—
    the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
22 I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
    I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
23 Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
    an endless river of righteous living. (Amos 5:21-24 NLT)

God has been seeking the hearts of his people. He’s been seeking to transform lives to live out justice and righteousness. We hold worship services, we plan programs and, make no mistake, these are good things. They are the avenues and venues in which we collectively praise and worship our Creator. Yet, even these programs are worthless if hearts and lives never experience life altering transformation. God has always cared more for how people live and worship after the sacred assembly than the songs sung, or praises given during the service. Life altering transformation as described in Amos’ context was societal transformation in which the oppression was eliminated, truth was spoken openly, exploitation was condemned, and God was lifted high in every circle.

If repentance remains at the level of public proclamations and never reaches our lives – it becomes the very showy pretense and hypocritic religious festival that God detests. So, today, as God calls you to a greater sense of repentance, how are you being led to affect God-inspired difference in your community? What business practices are you being called to change? What lifestyle are you called to give up? What longstanding wrongs are you called to make right with the ones you’ve mistreated? What mighty flood of justice and endless river of righteous living is God looking to see in your life?

September 6, 2023
By Ben Martin

Each and every day decisions are made. In fact, life is a series of choices--some big, but mostly small choices that make up everything from the foods that we eat to the clothes that we wear. Some of the decisions along the way, however, are significantly larger. Some of the biggest decisions that we have in life are: who to marry, what career to pursue, where to live and choosing whether or not to believe in God. As parents it is our goal to raise children who make good decisions.

One of these decisions is, arguably, larger because it has the potential to inform all of the other decisions. This single decision will affect each of our relationships. It might also steer someone into another career choice. This truly is a huge decision, and there is a window for it. George Barna, in his research, discovered that the probability of a child making a decision to follow God drastically declines beginning at the age of 13.[1]

Unfortunately, we are not able to make choices for our children--at least not these big decisions. Honestly though, we do not want to make this choice for our children. After all, our ultimate desire for them would be that each of them has a personal relationship with God. So, in order that to happen, we need to equip our kids to make good choices on their own. We need to model good choices and, at the same time, be honest about our mistakes.

We also want our children’s decisions to be authentic, especially their choice to have a relationship with Jesus. Parents often fear that this decision, although good, may be made for the wrong reasons. We are afraid when all of their classmates are choosing to be baptized, that they are following the crowd. We are afraid to talk to them about it because they might just choose baptism to please us.

So then, how can parents facilitate this decision? Step one: share your story. Talk to your kids about your own decision to choose Jesus. Tell them about your relationship with Him. Step two: study. Let your children see you studying the Bible. Study with your children. Model to them what a healthy, growing relationship with God looks like. Step three: integrate your relationship with every aspect of your life. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 gives us a blueprint for leading our children to Jesus. It makes it clear that passing on our beliefs is something that happens all the time and everywhere. Talk to your kids about the good and the bad. Talk to them in the car and at the dinner table. Let them witness your relationship in action. Let them see how your beliefs in God impact the way that you care for the people around you.

I wish that I could tell you that if you follow these steps, it would guarantee that all of our children would only make good choices, and that each and every one of them would make a decision for a lifelong relationship with Jesus. I cannot tell you that. Life is not formulaic. Each one of us is on a journey, and we are each trying our best to raise children with the tools they need to make the right decisions, especially the greatest decision of all—Christ! There is good news, however: We are not in this alone. The God of the universe, the One who can speak things into existence, He is partnering with us. God has done and is doing everything in His power to have a saving relationship with each of our children.

[1] George Barna, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2003)pp. 34