FAITH. A short word of just five letters but one with a complex and powerful meaning.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines faith as “belief and trust in and loyalty to God; belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion; firm belief in something for which there is no proof.”

Many people would dispute that last phrase as they have seen firsthand all the evidence they need that God is guiding our lives.

Winchester Living recently sat down with four pastors — each with diverse backgrounds, beliefs and approaches to leading a congregation — to talk about what faith means to them, how they share it with others and how they believe it can play an important role in Clark County’s future.

Mike McCormick, Calvary Christian Church 

For Pittsburgh native Mike McCormick, the seeds of faith were planted very early, growing out of tragedy no 7-year-old should have to deal with.

His 4-year-old brother was diagnosed with Leukemia and, of course, that had a really big impact on the entire family. He was sick for about a year and a half before passing away.

Mike was 9.

“My mind started to think about things. About how short life was and the time we have and how fast it goes. And also things that would last for eternity. I can remember thinking I wanted to do things that matter. I wanted to do things with my life. For whatever reason, I was still here and I wanted to do things that lasted forever and made a difference in people’s lives. God took a difficult thing in my life and turned it into something positive.”

Mike, looking back now at the age of 40, knew he wanted to follow a ministry path but didn’t know where that would lead. He visited Asbury College and it became a story about love. He fell in love with the state. He fell in love with Ale-8. He fell in love with UK basketball. He fell in love with his future wife, Kristina.

He spent time in Dallas and Pittsburgh but always felt he wanted to be a lead pastor elsewhere when he saw a job posting for a church in Winchester in November 2014.

“When I was in the interview process, I came down to check out the scene and I looked into Calvary’s lobby through the door window and I saw an Ale-8 machine in the lobby and thought ‘Well, this is it. This is God’s guidance right here.’”

How do you define faith?

“The Bible defines it in Hebrews 11:1, that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Faith is trust and faith is a confidence you have in something you can’t see. … I think faith is really important because you can have faith in a lot of things, but what makes faith good or not good is not necessarily how strong it is within you but how strong the object of your faith is. …. Mostly, I think faith, in the Biblical sense, is a knowledge of who God is —when you know his character, that he’s a good God, that he’s a powerful God, that he loves you, that he’s a just God and he’ll do what’s right. When you really know who he is then he’s worthy of trust so you can kind of rest in him because of who he is.”

How do you talk to someone who is struggling with their faith?

“I will ask about their life experience because all of us have both good things and bad things that happen in our life. I think that it is the pain of the hard times that really causes us to wonder if this whole God thing is for real. Because if he is real, then why would my mother die? Why would I have cancer? Or why would I not get that job? Why is it like that?

“I really want to understand what is  causing the pain they are experiencing that is sending them a message that there is nobody out there. … There is a verse in the Bible, where God says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I really like that because God may not take the bad things away, but he always promises to be with me. He promises to give me the strength I need, and actually, the weakness or the difficulty might have been one of the best things that ever happened to me because it caused me to realize I need help and I can’t just rely on myself all the time.”

What do you think the churches can do to help lift up the Winchester community?

“My second year here I became the president of the Association of Churches for Winchester and I mainly agreed to that because I wanted all the churches in the community to know that Calvary is here to serve the community, and I wanted to force home that we wanted to be one of the best churches for the community not the best church in the community. I think that was a different mind-set. I started working with other pastors and we spoke almost a year just trying to get to know each other.”

Ultimately, they hosted a joint Thanksgiving service that reached about 1,500 people. Now, six churches are working to bring to the community Upward Basketball, a Christ-based program that teaches both skills and character to youth.

“In this one effort, we are serving the kids who the (recent Harwood Institute) report said were hopeless and needed things to do and they didn’t see a future for their community. We are breaking down the racial barriers because we’ve got churches from different racial backgrounds coming together and we’ll actually be getting our congregation in each other’s churches because we’ll be playing there and practicing there. We are breaking down the church divide. It’s a way for us to come together across denominations and to serve together for the community.”

What is one message that may sometimes get lost?

“I think there’s a challenge Jesus would give us in that we need to broaden our view of who is our neighbor, who is the person we have commonality with. They are going to be different in a lot of ways. … I think if all of us spent a little more time trying to live like Jesus, and treat people the way he did, we would have an answer to a lot of the problems we are having today.”

 

Freda Blair, Christ Temple Apostolic

For Pastor Freda Blair, Christ Temple Apostolic Church has been a part of her life for almost as long as she can remember. It was founded by her mother, Marine Brown Sharp, 32 years ago.

After her mother passed away, Freda was voted to take over in 2006, something she did with some reluctance because she had seen everything her mother went through for nearly two decades.

She couldn’t turn away from what she felt called to do.

“To be honest, I didn’t want to (take the lead) because I worked with her for 19 and a half years and saw what she went through, but I didn’t want to see her legacy die. So, with that in mind, and all the work she put in, it made me think twice and put those other thoughts behind and say whatever the will of God is, I will do it.

“Now I feel like I made the right decision. It has not been an easy place to be because I had some big shoes to fill, but with the help of God, you can do anything,” said the 53-year-old pastor with a congregation of about 80 members with big dreams. “So, with the church allowing me to come in after sitting with them as one of their members and then allowing me to grow and learn and develop some things, it has been a great experience.”

How do you define faith?

“I think about the scripture and Hebrews 11:1. It tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It brought to my mind that faith is love, hope and truth. Our mission statement is to live by faith, to be the voice of hope and to be known by love.

“With those in mind, I really believe that faith is love, hope and truth and it means we rely on God and we have to trust in him. The scripture says it is the truth that will set you free, and that’s what faith means to me.”

How do you talk to someone who is struggling with their faith?

“I try to give them examples not just in scripture but mostly examples in real life. I try to be a living example and I try to give someone an example of something I’ve been through. One of the things I think helps people more than anything is being transparent. Letting them know things happen and what I’ve gone through and giving them the actual testimony that I went through this and I didn’t think this would happen, but then I began to trust God and really know that God is the answer. He is the answer to everything.

“Being able to give someone a testimony of what God has done in your life, those are usually the eye-openers. Then bringing their memory back. Remember when God did such-and-such for you. Sometimes we forget what God has done for us, and when you bring that back to someone, their life changes because they have something to rely on.”

What do you think the churches can do to help lift up the Winchester community?

“The mor we are unified we can do more. Sometimes it seems like some of the churches want all the glory, but if we come together and let the community know we are all doing the same thing, all unified, we can provide better for the community … We are all supposed to be going to the same place.”

What is one message that may sometimes get lost?

“We should reach out in any way possible. Not just feeding the soul, but feeding the whole man. We love doing outreach programs and we had a lot of different programs at our Oliver Community Center, but have not really able to do it as much as we used to. We had a food bank, clothing bank and after-school programs. We haven’t been able to do all those things now, but those are some of the things I think are reaching the whole family. We also feed at the homeless shelter every week and jail ministry. We are trying to reach all parts of the community. We also go out to the nursing homes. We try to reach all ages and do everything we can so we can help anybody who wants help. We are reaching out, getting out of the four walls and reaching out into the community and touching lives by sometimes just talking and just being the ear to listen.”

 

Marvin King, First Baptist Church

A Houston native, Pastor Marvin King has been all over the country and spent a lot of time working in corporate America. But, King said, it became clear to him the Lord was calling him into the ministry and, ultimately, to Winchester in January 2010.

“It was very easy for us to embrace the community; the people were great. The people were very welcoming and nice, and when I looked at the city, I just saw so much potential. It wasn’t hard to embrace the community,” the 44-year-old said of taking over the congregation. “I do see lots of needs, especially in my vocational capacity, but it’s just a city that’s very easy to fall in love with.”

How do you define faith?

“I define faith as having a core set of values and, of course, mine are rooted in a Biblical narrative that actually defines and drives how I interact with God and with my fellow man, which is community. I believe faith is when we take those values and we live those out in the context of human community.

“From my perspective, my values teach me to respect each individual regardless what their personal faith and belief is and to respect our community and the fact that everyone has gifts and everyone has something to contribute. I define faith to be your belief — in action. For me, my faith drives me in a positive direction to unify people of various races, ethnicity, cultures, academic, socioeconomic backgrounds. And so my faith drives me to seek to unite community.”

How do you talk to someone who is struggling with their faith?

“I take a very unique approach. I don’t get very doctrinal or impose my faith on anyone. I really like my life to exemplify what I believe and that core belief is loving everyone. What I try to do with that person who is maybe on the fringes or on the fences of a Biblical faith, I just try to encourage them and love them where they are.

“I try to give them positive, motivational kinds of things to connect with them first. Once the connection occurs and we have a relationship, then I’ll articulate my own personal faith and how I got to where I am and try to give them something to uplift and encourage them.”

What do you think the churches can do to help lift up the Winchester community?

“I think it’s imperative that we have to leverage our resources to make a positive impact in our communities. In our Biblical narrative, what we are taught is to love our neighbors more than ourselves. So, when we talk about partnerships from a community standpoint and partnerships with other churches, if the church down the street is my neighbor, not neighbor in terms of physical address, but if they are my neighbor in terms of humanity, then it’s imperative for me to connect with them to live out our shared core common beliefs together, to agree on those things that are essential and those things that are not essential, don’t let that divide us.

“… We are greater together. One of the things that we believe is that we are many different people with various gifts but we are one body. We all have a usefulness to our community. We all have something to contribute.”

What is one message that may sometimes get lost?

“I think churches have gotten a bad rap in terms of some dogmatic views and some intolerant views. … Not every community of faith is an intolerant community or insensitive community or judgmental community. There are some people out here who are willing to engage in some very tough conversations to understand the plight of humanity and the plight of community and the plight of our culture to be able to make a difference. I think there are some faith communities that are willing to, not necessarily compromise their beliefs, but are able to figure out creative ways to live together with those beliefs.

“ … When we know each other, and have a genuine, affectionate love for one another, it just makes it easier to accept who we are as individuals. We can connect in our humanity and not really try to connect via our ideologies. I think when we begin to communicate in our humanity, I think we tap into the human creativity to be able to really promote solutions and promote ideas and create the bonds that really strengthen our community.”

 

Janice Claypoole, Ark of Mercy Church of God

To say faith and ministry run in the family for Pastor Janice Claypoole would be an understatement of, well, Biblical proportions.

Born and raised in North Winchester, Janice remembers walking to the small country church across the street from her current home on Winn Avenue. Her mother would sing a song about 99 sheep and one missing

“That burden to see people rescued and helped got in my spirit from a very young age. We had a little grocery store on the north end of town and we would feed people and so we couldn’t have anything for momma feeding everybody. So, the feeding program and the burden I have for people who are less fortunate and who are hurting, it came out of the faith of my mother.”

After spending time at another church, it was 28 years ago in July Janice knew she was needed elsewhere.

“This church was birthed from a burden, for people who are addicted and down and out. I left a church of 17 years to go to downtown Winchester where we started  beside a pool hall in a little storefront. I began to minister there and peoples’ lives were changed and people had been delivered from drugs and alcohol. I have all walks of life. Our mission was the mission of Jesus. He said, ‘I come to heal the broken hearted and to set the captive free and to reach the ones no one was reaching.’ That’s how we got started.”

Then came a second building on Broadway. They started in the current building in 2006. Today, they provide almost 200 meals a day and have a jail and prison ministry that goes to 14 different jails and prisons throughout the state. They have a drug rehab facility next door called Mercy House.

And that family tradition continues as she has a son, daughter, son-in-law and two teenage grandchildren who are preachers or pastors.

How do you define faith?

“The thing is: Faith in what? I say a faith in a living God, the one true God. And when you have faith in him, it is the lifeline to joy, and the lifeline to peace. You know no matter how dark it gets in this world, he is in control of your life and you trust him totally. Then you have that precious hope that this is not all there is. You have a faith that he is God and his word is true and when this thing is over, we don’t really die, we just move on to a higher plane with him: Heaven, eternal life. Faith is a faith in a true living God and the only way to get it is through Jesus Christ. He’s the door.”

How do you talk to someone who is struggling with their faith?

“I would just give them the word of God. He says, ‘When you seek me with your whole heart, you’ll find me.’ I can challenge a person to begin to pray and I have faith the Lord will manifest himself to them in a way they can understand. I love to be able to minister to people who feel hopeless. There’s not a person ever hopeless but they think they are, and when you find God and Jesus, you find peace. You find the fulfillment you want in life. It’s satisfying when you completely give it all to God.

“…The mission of this church is we believe the word. Jesus said, I was hungry and you didn’t feed me, naked and you didn’t clothe me, sick and in prison and you didn’t visit me, a stranger and you took me not in. Those are the things that are important to him.

It may not be important to everybody else because a lot of people don’t want the poor. They don’t want the people who have the problems. Jesus said the well do not need a physician.

I think the mission of the church is to reach the broken, to heal the hurting and the way that is done is introducing them to Jesus Christ. He is the burden-bearer, the heart-mender and the peace-giver. He is everything and more my momma taught me he is to be.”

What do you think the churches can do to help lift up the Winchester community?

“They need to get together. The pastors need to meet and talk and share and drop all the religious or spiritual divide. …We believe in prayer. We have prayed for this city. We have prayer walked the city and every entrance to this city we have put a stake in the ground with a scripture on it. We are believing this city to be touched by God. I don’t know how the unity is going to happen, or how it’s going to come together, but we’ll just leave it up to God. We have been praying for years that we come together.”

What is one message that may sometimes get lost?

“I think if we join our faith, if we join hands and our prayers together, there will be an absolute sovereign rule of God. I believe there will be a community change. Just like when you come to church and people begin to worship, it changes the atmosphere. So, when you get together and you call on God to do what he wants to do in the first place, it could change the atmosphere of this city.”