The Rev. Michael Pitts, senior pastor of the 4,000-member Cornerstone Church in Maumee, writes his books in longhand on legal pads.
No one goes through life without facing a crisis or two, said the Rev. Michael Pitts, and such trials may even turn out to be blessings.
“I've lived long enough not to judge my storms until they're over,” Mr. Pitts said in a recent interview. “And the things that come into your life that may look like they've come in to harm you ultimately could serve to help you.”
The pastor of the 4,000-member Cornerstone Church in Maumee said two well-publicized crises that he endured over the last several years inspired him to write two new books.
Help! I Think God Is Trying To Kill Me: Surrender or Suffer, was published last month by the national Christian publisher Whitaker House, and Don't Curse Your Crisis: A Faith that Can't be Tested Is a Faith that Can't Be Trusted, will be released Friday by the Insight Publishing Group.
“I think your messages are always born from experience and what you've learned in life,” Mr. Pitts said at his church office. “I started writing Don't Curse Your Crisis because I wanted to journalize my thoughts and get my feelings out.”
By going through crises, he said, he has gained the real-life experience that enables him to write, preach, and counsel others about trials and tribulation not just in principle, but with genuine feeling and pathos.
“Whatever the emotions are, I think it's about being honest,” Mr. Pitts said. “It's not about hiding behind a mask of pseudo-spirituality and pseudo-religiosity that makes one look through life with a blank stare as if we're a one-dimensional person never able to experience a full range of emotions. A person that can't truly feel hurt and anger and frustration is the same person that cannot truly feel joy and freedom and love, because all of our emotions spring from the same well. You shut one down, you're going to shut the rest of them down.”
The 38-year-old minister was charged in 1997 with 11 counts of public indecency, all of which were dismissed, but he was given a 60-day jail sentence on two criminal trespassing convictions. In September, 2000, Mr. Pitts pleaded no contest to a charge of driving while intoxicated and was sentenced to three days in a DWI program for first-time offenders. He later said from the pulpit that he “had a little wine with dinner” with friends to celebrate his birthday and the completion of a book on Christian terminology.
“You would never wish for a crisis and you would never pray for a crisis to come,” Mr. Pitts said. “But you can't get through life without pain and you can't get through life without difficulty.”
Like Joseph in the biblical book of Genesis, the pastor of the thriving nondenominational church that he founded in 1986 said that attacks intended to destroy him have only made him stronger.
“You don't know what's stable until instability hits,” Mr. Pitts said, showing his knack for turning phrases. “You don't know what foundation is strong until you have shaking. ... It also does things like it lets you know who's really on your side.
“The crisis does for you what you would do for yourself, which is purify relationships. It reveals the intent. There are people that are for you that you'd never know are for you until crisis hits. They rise up and become players on the center stage of that situation. And there are other people that you think are close to you, they're your buds, but when crisis shows up, you realize they had their own interests or another agenda. So when you come out on the other side you know who's with you.”
Joseph, who was sold into bondage by his brothers, rose to a position of authority in Egypt and eventually helped his siblings and his nation survive a time of severe famine. “You intended to harm me,” Joseph told his brothers, “but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Similarly, Mr. Pitts said, “there are people in this city who have harmed me who I have been in position later on to help. And I think maybe the fact that they harmed me made me helping them a greater witness to the love of God.”
It's common for people to want God to punish their foes, but Jesus commanded his followers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Mr. Pitts said.
Uncommon people, those who yield to God's will, can have peace “even if God says to you, `How are you going to respond if I decide to bless your enemies?'” he said. “You leave it in God's hands because my desire would not be for these people to be harmed. My desire would be for them to find Christ, to find joy, to be free.”
He also said people who seek to harm the Lord's servants and who make themselves into enemies of God are “on dangerous ground” because the Bible says in Psalm 105 “Do not touch my anointed; do my prophets no harm.”
“I don't talk a lot about that because that sounds maybe self-serving, egocentric, or something,” Mr. Pitts said. “I just release people and say, `They're in God's hands. They're released from my judgment. They're not a blip on my radar screen.'”
In the interview and in Help! I Think God Is Trying To Kill Me, Mr. Pitts said his nature is to be a fighter.
“If I believe in something, I usually plant my feet in the ground and fight, `come hell or high water,'” he wrote. “If an enemy's trying to take over my boat, I'll sink it with him and me in it before I'll let him have it.”
It was a struggle, he said, when God called him to a time of peace, which he said is part of the maturing process.
“Young people fight. Young lions roar and do battle,” he wrote. “Those who have some time and experience behind them, though, stop looking for fights and start looking for peace.”
Don't Curse Your Crisis is a book that will appeal to people who are going through struggles, he said, but Help! I Think God Is Trying To Kill Me is a book with a broader potential audience.
Whitaker House, one of the leading Christian publishing firms, proposed the book concept to the Maumee pastor.
“Most people that serve God and love God still feel the angst and the pressure of conforming to the will of God,” he said, “and the will of God sometimes seems like it's killing you. It's like you're dying to self, being crucified in the flesh.”
The charismatic pastor, who also is the overseer of a network of eight autonomous churches around the country, has written a total of eight books, but Help! I Think God Is Trying To Kill Me is his first for a national publisher. Whitaker House flew Mr. Pitts to Anaheim, Calif., for a book signing at the national convention of the Christian Booksellers Association.
The pastor writes all his books - and sermon notes - in longhand on legal pads. “I'm notorious for them because I'm not a great typist. My whole life is filled with all of these pads,” he said, reaching down and pulling a stack from a desk drawer.
Mr. Pitts, a native of Lima, Ohio, has been married to his wife, Kathi, for 16 years and the couple have two children, Stephen Michael, 12, and Meredith, 15.
He said he never studies the market to see what kind of book the public or publishers are looking for. He only writes when he feels inspired.
“Jesus said that when the kingdom of God is preached it's like a great net that's cast out and draws in all manner of fish,” he said. “So I've always used that in my preaching and in my writing. If I preach something that is kingdom-worthy, then it will reach all kinds of people. If you get to targeting too much, and churches and writers do that, then you have to fish with bait and you only catch one kind of fish. And I don't feel like that's what we're supposed to do.”
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