December 07, 2018
I am feeling so incredibly blessed these days! In the middle of 2017, I had a wonderful opportunity to give up my rat race of a career, working as a registered nurse, part-time at Fourth as Minister of Music, and teaching private music students, in order to join the staff here full-time as Minister of Music and Congregational Life. It was an oddly (GODLY) timed opportunity for me because I was literally training at the time for a full-time nursing job in order to make my life somewhat easier. When Mike and the personnel committee offered me this wonderful opportunity, I had to re-evaluate my plans because I got the definite impression that God was calling me into something completely different from the plan I had made for myself. God has a way of doing that!
I have loved the opportunities that my full-time ministry here at Fourth has presented to me. I have been able to use gifts that I have not used in years, and I had lost touch with the joy that I receive from working with committees such as Fellowship, New Member Engagement, Worship, Hospitality, and Digital Communications in the ongoing life of a local congregation. I have also discovered a new joy in ministry, the joy of preaching. Years ago, when asked about preaching, I always said, “That is not my gift. I prefer sharing God’s word in song.” I have been amazed to discover what a privilege it is to preach, to share in this trusted responsibility of interpreting God’s Word. It truly feels like a sacred honor, not at all the stage-frightened, tongue-tied drudgery that I had always imagined.
Ministry can be a very lonely profession. That is the reason that years ago I cut back from a full-time to a part-time position in ministry. I felt isolated and spent a lot of the time. I no longer feel that way, and much of the reason is because of this wonderful congregation that I get to serve. It is truly a rare group of people that ministers to their ministers. In my experience, that reveals the giftedness and definite call of God upon Fourth Presbyterian. The very nature of being a minster is to give freely, but the surprising and unexpected reward of being given TO in return is a true gift that mirrors the very grace of God.
You, my friends, are a called and blessed group of ministers. I am so firmly convinced that “Fourth” is a “force” that God has great plans for. My prayer for all of us, as a ministry team, is that we watch for God’s hand at work, and join as willing ministers, setting aside our own best-made plans in order to answer God’s call.
March 16, 2018
March 16, 2017
Dear Members and Friends of Fourth Presbyterian Church,
I am happy to write you with an update on the work of your Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (APNC), and to report that the process is right on track!
The members of your APNC are Connie Carson, Rob Cole, Rebecca Ellefson, Robert Farry, Jeannette Goldsmith, Lynn Mitchell, Eric Thomas, and myself. The committee has been working very hard and very well together. There is a spirit among them that is joyous, humble, fun-loving, eager and full of hope as they listen to God’s leading throughout this process. In other words, I believe the Holy Spirit is strong among them, and they are listening carefully.
By design, your APNC worked mostly without my direct involvement in the early stages. My primary contribution was to reach out to contacts in the church and the seminaries to ask for referrals to be sent to the committee. The committee has done the lion’s share of the work—reviewing 60+ Personal Information forms (PIF’s); carefully reading and seriously considering about 35-40 of those PIFs; gathering for conference calls and Skype interviews with an initial round of candidates; then follow-up interviews with a narrower pool; and more recently bringing a smaller number to Greenville for face-to-face conversations and to preach in person. I have been involved in these recent steps in Greenville and will remain involved from this point forward.
I am enthused about the very high caliber of the candidates God has brought to us through the wise discernment of Connie, Rob, Rebecca, Robert, Jeannette, Lynn, and Eric. We can all give thanks and feel honored to be represented by these faithful servants, your Associate Pastor Nominating Committee.
In Christ’s service,
Rev. Dr. Michael J. Hoyt
November 01, 2017
November 1, 2017
Dear Members and Friends of Fourth Presbyterian Church,
I am writing to give you an update on the work of our Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (APNC).
You’ll recall that on the last Sunday of August, the congregation elected an OUTSTANDING group of men and women to serve as Fourth’s APNC to search for the person God is calling to serve as Fourth’s next Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Mission. The people you elected are
You see what I mean? Those of you who know these folks will recognize this APNC as an outstanding group! But as great as they are, they know that they cannot accomplish their task without God’s help. So please pray for them and their work, and pray for them often! Pray for their prayer life, for their insights, for their energy, for their communications, for their discernment of what the Spirit is saying to the church. They are doing their work on your behalf, and they need your investment of spiritual energy through prayer!
What has happened so far?
• Your APNC’s first meeting was with Gordon Raynal, the Stated Clerk of Foothills Presbytery, who walked them through a very thorough orientation to the Presbyterian call process. We can all be thankful for the “decency and order” and wisdom of this process, and that your APNC is not walking through uncharted territory. There is clear guidance for them, each step of the way.
• Next, your APNC elected Connie Carson to serve as Chair, and Jeanette Goldsmith to serve as Secretary. Every member of the team will be deeply involved and have a role, but a big thanks to these two very capable women for stepping up to these key roles.
• The position description for our Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Mission is already well tested. This is the same position in which Jennifer Fouse-Sheorn served as Stated Supply, and in which Leslie Lang is now serving as Interim. However, the position description has to be converted into an official “Ministry Information Form” (MIF) which will be circulated within the PC(USA) call system, known as Church Leadership Connection. Lots of lingo, I know, but your APNC is getting a quick handle on things and is moving right along. The goal is to have the MIF approved by Session and Presbytery and into the system by the first of December.
What will happen next?
• Once the MIF is in the system, then the real fun begins! Candidates begin to see that Fourth Presbyterian Church is searching for an Associate Pastor, and they begin submitting their Personal Information Forms (PIF), as well as being referred through the matching process in the system and by people who know Fourth and the candidates.
• The APNC will read through these many PIFs, prayerfully listening to the Spirit’s leading, and will discern together which of these candidates they are being led to pursue. Gordon Raynal will also give guidance based on knowledge he may have through his church-wide connections.
• Given the timing of our search, we are perfectly poised to consider seminary students who will be graduating in May of 2018. Our hope would be to hold interviews throughout the Winter and Spring, and finally extend an offer to a candidate sometime in the first half of 2018. When your APNC has agreed that they have found the person they believe God is calling to serve as Fourth’s next Associate Pastor, they will ask the Session to call a congregational meeting to present this candidate for your vote.
So, as you can see, your APNC needs your prayers! They are working diligently and enthusiastically at the task to which God has called them. Your role is to pray, and to trust the process to unfold in God’s time.
By the way, I am also part of the search by virtue of my role as Pastor. I’ve been involved to offer guidance about the process as well as the nature of the position. I’ll be more involved once the APNC has narrowed the field. So I too will be praying and trusting the process, right along with you.
God has always provided for Fourth Presbyterian Church the right leaders for the time. God is at work in us and through us, and I am excited to see what God has in store for this next leg of our journey. It is an honor to be with you in this shared endeavor of mission and ministry in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Your servant in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Michael Hoyt
July 19, 2017
Repost from March 8, 2017
Dear Fourth Family,
We are writing to share with you an update on Fourth’s financial position, as well as the decisions of the Session regarding the 2017 church budget and staffing plan.
After careful study of the last 10 years of the congregation’s financial contributions, the Session has discerned the need to reduce the church budget. The new budget for 2017 (enclosed) will total $1,038,980, which is a reduction from the budget of the past several years. We encourage you to review this budget. As a congregation of just under 850 members (which means about 460 families or individuals who could contribute) this new budget still offers ample challenge.
Fourth Presbyterian Church celebrates a long history of generous giving. The faithfulness of our members has enabled God’s work to be done in countless ways through the life and ministry of the congregation. Over the years, this work has been undergirded by the service of a church staff that has varied in its size and roles. In better economic times that staff has been more robust, while in harder economic times the staffing structure has been more lean. Regardless of the size of the staff, the great strength of our congregation has been the Spirit’s work through the generous giving and loving ministry of the members of Fourth Presbyterian Church.
As you will see in the enclosed budget, in addition to reductions in spending on Building & Grounds and Financial Benevolences, the Personnel budget has been reduced. The Session has decided on a staffing strategy that we believe will provide the strongest possible leadership and support for our life and mission together.
As Senior Pastor, Dr. Mike Hoyt will continue to offer spiritual care for those who are facing personal, family, and spiritual challenges. As Mike expressed in a recent letter to the congregation, he loves pastoral ministry and looks forward to serving the Fourth family in this role. Please do not hesitate to call on your pastor to request a visit, or a prayer, or the support provided through our Congregational Care Committee.
In addition, the position of Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Mission will be expanded from parttime to full-time. Rev. Jennifer Fouse Sheorn has been serving in this role in a part-time capacity, as a “stated supply” — a temporary, annually renewable contract with the Session. In considering Fourth’s ministry needs, as well as her personal and family needs, Jennifer has discerned that serving full-time (often 60 hrs/wk) as Fourth’s Associate Pastor is not the right decision for her at this time. Jennifer will continue serving, parttime, through the end of July. In the meantime, the Session will begin the process of forming an Associate Pastor Nominating Committee (APNC) to call Fourth’s next Associate Pastor to an installed position. This will most likely require an Interim Associate Pastor to serve for a time after Jennifer concludes her ministry in July. In addition to supporting the Mission & Witness and Young Adult Committees, this full-time Associate Pastor will provide supervisory and pastoral support to the Youth Director and Fourth’s youth ministry.
Finally, we are delighted to share with you that Rev. Hank Hinnant will now be serving full time as our Minister of Music and Congregational Life. Hank will continue to provide outstanding leadership for our music ministries, and he will take on additional roles in the Congregational Life, Fellowship, and Hospitality/Ushering/Security Committees. For the past several years, Hank has been providing support, generously and voluntarily, for our growing audio-visual needs. He will now have more time to devote to this area and will be properly compensated for it. Hank will also be available to share in the pastoral visitation of members. The Session believes this staffing plan is realistic, allowing for an overall reduction of the church budget as we seek to be good stewards of our financial resources. At the same time, the plan will continue to challenge and encourage our church family to grow in the generous sharing of our time, talents, and financial gifts. Sustaining the work of a congregation like Fourth requires all of the members working together and each of us giving as much as we are able. We look forward to serving with you in the days ahead as we journey and grow together into all that Christ is calling us to be as Fourth Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Michael Hoyt
Calvin T. Vick, Jr.
Clerk of Session
July 07, 2017
Are You Invested in Religious Liberty?
July 4th, early morning. I awake fully aware that I am blessed to live in America, the land of religious liberty. In America, we are free to gather and worship God as our conscience leads. We are free to profess our belief in God as we choose and observe our religious tradition as we choose, provided we do not cause harm to others in doing so. (We may argue around the edges of this freedom about the harm principle, but the fundamental liberty is profoundly in tact.)
is a profound liberty.
(Click on the phrases above to see how we do these things at Fourth.)
But as the saying goes, “Freedom is not free!” Bronze plaques on the walls inside our sanctuary bear the names of those who served in harm’s way, some making the ultimate sacrifice, in defense of our liberties. As those who enjoy these liberties and benefit from the sacrifices of others, how are we investing in the future of our religious freedom?
The primary way we invest in the future of religious freedom is by investing our time and money in a local worshipping congregation. What is the return on this investment?
1. Religious freedom itself. Investment in a local congregation is a down payment on the future of religious freedom. Not receiving state funds means we are not beholden to the state. The continued existence of our faith community depends on our own, freely given support to sustain that community.
2. A culture of civility. Religious liberty means getting along with other people with a variety of views, opinions, backgrounds, and personalities. A local community of faith teaches us to deal with real people, face-to-face, on a regular basis. To stay together, we have to learn to treat each other with respect even when we disagree. The local church is a training ground in the civility our world desperately needs.
3. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow. Our local church keeps our every day lives connected to a bigger picture and a longer view. In our troubled times, our faith community keeps before our eyes a vision of the world grounded in the love and providence of God. By investing in the church, we demonstrate our hope that God is at work in this world and in our lives, and that nothing will separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
4. An ethic of love. As followers of Jesus Christ, we believe that to be truly human is to live a life of love for God and for our neighbor. Life is not just about accumulating all sorts of material finery and distracting ourselves with endless recreations. To be human is to be God’s noble creature, created in God’s image and endowed with responsibility for God’s world. As God so loves the world, we are called to love God in return, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our local community of faith holds this vision of human life before us.
But freedom is not free.
Ten percent (10%) of one’s livelihood is the traditional biblical proportion of giving to the faith community. However, the American average of total charitable giving (to church and others charities) is a mere 3% of gross income. Based on what I see of our houses, cars, clothes, school tuitions, and vacations, compared to what I see us giving to the church, I know there are more than a few of us who are barely eking out 1% to the church, if that.
Let me be the first to give thanks to God for those pillars among us who are sustaining the church at much higher than the average American percentage. May we all follow their lead and grow our investment in the existence of a free faith community. For many of us, to give at a higher level would require a change of lifestyle. And maybe that’s the point.
What about you? Whether because of your convictions about religious liberty in America, or because of your commitment to being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ —hopefully for both reasons—is it time for you to consider growing your investment in Fourth Presbyterian Church?
Thankful to be your pastor,
Rev. Dr. Michael J. Hoyt
June 13, 2017