FINDLAY-- College football fans can get intense about rivalries, and in northwest Ohio, the annual Michigan-Ohio State game is serious. The Rev. L.D. Roessler of Blanchard Avenue Pentecostal Church of God is usually more focused on the Christian cross than football goalposts, but he follows Ohio State.
On Sunday at 10:30 a.m., he'll bring the two together when his church at 1701 Blanchard Ave. holds a “Beat Michigan Week” service—and he hopes to take that serious mood down a couple of notches. His guest speaker is Stanley Jackson, a former Ohio State quarterback who played with the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl in 1997.
“We're having fun with this because we've got several people in our church that are Michigan fans,” Pastor Roessler said. “We'll let the poor Michigan fans come to church and we'll love them the way they are.” He laughed.
His two daughters attended Ohio State, and he has been a loyal fan for many years.
He came up with the “Beat Michigan Week” theme because he wanted a diversion from “all the heaviness that we've been going through as a nation, all the division and all the mess we've got going right now,” he said. “I wanted to kind of lighten it up in the community a little bit” after the government shutdown and other issues, so he looked for images of “Beat Michigan Week” on Google and found a church sign that said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, then beat Michigan.” “I thought, man, how cool is that,” and he planned his service. “I know it's kind of a secular approach, but definitely the motive behind it is to reach people for Jesus.”
Pastor Roessler will move between the sacred and the secular in the service. “The worship part will be Jesus oriented. and it will be all about worship, and we'll have fun in the interludes.” So on Sunday in his church of over 100 members, expect the pentecostals to do what they do. “We kind of rock the house in the morning,” Pastor Roessler said, including “speaking in other tongues. We believe that and we practice that in our church.” But also look for football spirit.
Pastor Roessler has had other lighthearted services, such as pajama pants Sundays and Super Bowl Sunday. This Sunday, he encourages congregants to wear football jerseys of their favorite teams—not limited to Ohio State and Michigan.
Two weeks after the “Beat Michigan Week” service, Pastor Roessler will travel to Cuba. “This is my first trip ever there,” he said. “Given the situation, it may be a one-time opportunity.”
Pastor Roessler will go to Cuba with the Rev. Peter Doseck of Only Believe Ministries Christian Center in Botkins, Ohio. “I don't know what to expect,” Pastor Roessler said. Cuban authorities “are allowing us to come in knowing that we're coming to preach the gospel.”
Pastor Roessler and Pastor Doseck have done other global ministry travel, including to Honduras and the Philippines. “One of the things that you find yourself asking, because other places of the world are not like here,” Pastor Roessler said, concerns the strength of the message. “Is what I preach today going to be sufficient enough that if they are put in a position where they may be tortured for their faith, is what I'm giving them sufficient enough to give hope when they've got their life on the line? A lot of times we don't think about that here, but in other countries it's different. You preach here with the hope that what I preach is going to better somebody's life, is going to help them take a step up.”
“I enjoy traveling to other nations of the world, but really my heart is in home mission right here,” Pastor Roessler said, “and so that's one reason why our church likes to be connected in our community.”
Pastor Roessler's church, along with the larger Findlay community, has also helped after tornadoes hit the central U.S., sending semi trucks full of supplies to Joplin, Mo., and Oklahoma City. “Findlay is an amazing little town,” Pastor Roessler said. “We ended up sending four semis to Joplin after that tornado, and it was just amazing how that came together.… I think we sent close to 900,000 serving trays to Joplin. They are still serving people that are rebuilding Joplin. When we sent things to Oklahoma City, we dropped off a shipment to those [in Joplin] on the way.”
After all that work, a football rivalry might be a needed diversion. Will the Michigan Wolverines play along for the Nov. 30 game?