Pastor Dan

CUMMINGS, DANIEL SCOTT; age 48; died February 5, 2009, of complications from cancer. Dan was born September 16, 1960, in Athens, GA, to Bradley and Patricia Cummings and was the older of two children. Dan was a minister of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and faithfully served Five Points Community Church as its senior pastor since 1997. He had previously pastored in Hudsonville, MI, for ten years. Dan is survived by his wife, Lonette; a daughter, Sara; and two sons, Benjamin and Bradan; he is further survived by his father, Bradley; brother, Peter; and grandmother, Esther Bouman. Viewing will be held on Sunday, February 8, 2009, at Five Points Community Church, 2 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. The Funeral Service will be held 11 a.m. Monday at Five Points Community Church, 3411 E. Walton Blvd., Auburn Hills, MI 48326 248-373-1381. Funeral arrangements entrusted to Pixley Funeral Home-Davis Chapel, 3530 Auburn Road in Auburn Hills. Memorials may be made to Five Points Community Church: Dan Cummings Memorial Fund.

Time: February 4, 2009. Noel posts a blog entry asking for our responses on prayer. I post the following:

The church I attended as a kid got a very strongly Calvinist pastor when I was in high school (very long story there). He basically believed that humans don’t have free will at all. One of the things I remember him saying was that he was struggling with understanding the purpose of prayer–that if God already knows our needs (and, for that matter, has ordained what we’re going to ask for), why bother asking for it at all? We’d get it either way.

Of course, on the other extreme are the Charismatics who believe that you’re not saved if you don’t speak in tongues. So there you have it: under- and over-spiritualization from someone who has some minor scars from denominational backlash.

Time: May 1997. A Sunday. I show up at church after a friend’s pool party. I am 15 years old. I show up in the church’s library wearing ratty shorts and a t-shirt, carrying a yellow balloon. I am told that Pastor Norton has just announced his upcoming resignation. July 27 is his last day. I listen to The Newsboys’ “When You Called My Name” on repeat.

Time: September 28, 1997. I write the following in my diary:

We had our first (and possibly last) pastoral candidate speak to us today in church. His name is Rev. Dan Cummings, and he’s pretty interesting. He’s got the cutest little kids! I want to know his opinion on Contemporary Christian Music. And I can’t stop thinking of his old church who will probably become pastorless if we decide to take him. Man, I miss the Nortons so much.

Time: October 19, 1997. Dan Cummings is nearly unanimously voted in as pastor. I am one of the few who voted against him. This decision was likely motivated mostly by the lack of cute sons my age.

Time: November 12, 1998. My parents announce their decision to leave Five Points. They will hand in the letter of resignation in the next few weeks, and our last Sunday there will be the last service of December.

Over the course of the previous year, many changes had come to Five Points. To the outside eye, these changes were good. The church was growing. We moved services from the sanctuary to the gym to accomodate everyone. But at the same time, the church was splitting more than the standard losses that naturally come when a new pastor comes in. Literally half the church left. And not just people who had been coming for Pastor Norton’s preaching and disliked Pastor Cummings’ sermons. These were people who had grown up in the church, who had been plugged into the church, who, like my family, were active in church ministry and leadership roles.

To me, a teenager, the biggest thing I noticed was the change in theology. Pastor Dan was a hardcore Calvinist. He quoted Jonathan Edwards as much as he quoted the Bible. He preached once, as a decade later I commented on Noel’s blog, that he struggled with understanding the need for prayer because of his understanding of the sovereignty of God. Why pray when God knows all our needs and will provide regardless? He also preached that Jesus died to save the elect.

What really got to me, though, was when one of the people running the youth ministry led us through a series on TULIP–the five points of Calvinism. And he told us that this was where Five Points got its name. Which, to be blatently honest, was a lie. Five Points got its name because of the way five particular borders of land met together. I remembered learning that in my church membership class, some five years before that. And this wasn’t some outsider teaching this. The guy leading the youth group at the time was one of us. He had grown up in the church. His parents were pretty deep into the church leadership. And, as may be apparent, they were supporters of Pastor Dan.

There were other things going on, of course. I’m sure I don’t know all of them. But on December 27, we attended Five Points for the last time. I was 16 years old and bitter for leaving what was functionally the only church I had known.

Time: March 14, 1999. I write the following in my diary:

We went to Marimont today. […] The sermon was okay, but I think [Pastor Elliott] agrees with Pastor Dan’s preachings–Mom and Dad say he quoted from “the church down the street”–both Marimont and Five Points are on Walton–and used a Dan-formula for joy. I heard the “church-down-the-street” line,but didn’t recognize it as a Dan-ism, partly because I didn’t realize they were both on Walton, and partly because I never paid attention to the sermons at Five Points. Oh, and another thing–he mentioned Jonathan Edwards. Not a quote, but he mentioned Jonathan Edwards.

Time: June 1999. We return to Marimont after looking around some more and eventually settle there. I am introduced to Word of Life and eventually go on a missions trip with them. At some point, Mom speculates that God may have used the experience to get a lot of us who were deeply entrenched in Five Points to leave and go be salt and light in other areas of the community. I realize that I am strengthened by being forced to question my theology. What is Calvinism? Or Armenianism? What is the role of baptism, or prayer?

Time: October 15, 2003. I am doing a Bible study with my InterVarsity staff worker at Grand Valley. I write the following in my diary:

I came to the realization that I haven’t forgiven Pastor Dan for what happened to Five Points. Jessica and I have been going through a Bible Study on Martin Luther and yesterday in our one-on-one we talked about predestination. Which, of course, is a sensitive issue–kind of like a scar that never healed. And Jessica brought up the whole forgiveness issue. I honestly thought that I was over it, but I found myself crying.

We decide to go through a study on Jonathan Edwards next.

Time: April 27, 2008. Pastor Dan announces to Five Points that he has incurable cancer. He tells the church that he prays “that we not waste my cancer” as a chance to reflect God’s glory. My parents inform me that Pastor Elliott, pastor at Marimont, is likewise suffering from cancer. He asks for prayers for healing. Pastor Elliott recovers.

Thursday, February 5, 2009. Pastor Dan passes away.

Time: This morning. Get up. Put on Calvinism shirt, rather distinctly by choice. This morning, Noel is preaching on prayer. The band opens with “Be Thou My Vision” and “Come Thou Fount,” two of my favorite hymns, and closes with, among other songs, “Where I’ll Be” (first line: “When I go, don’t cry for me; in my Father’s arms I’ll be”) and “I’ll Fly Away.” I spend most of the worship time in tears.

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12 comments on “Pastor Dan
  1. Nance says:

    Wow. Were your parents wise. Wish I had wisdom to leave Five Points after meeting Dan. A lot of covered serious sin at Five Points. God has removed each of these men one-by-one. Man may hide sin, but nothing is hidden from God.

  2. xfirefly18x says:

    Im curious…

    Nance,
    Are you honestly going to sit there and accuse Dan & others…teaching calvinism of a sinful deed so great that God has to “remove” them one-by-one? If truly you call yourself a christian how can you sit there right after a fellow believer(whether they believe predestination or not) passed away and say such a horrible thing?

  3. Lisa says:

    xfirefly18x, to be fair to Nance, there were other problems at Five Points. I wrote about Calvinism because as a teenager, that was the biggest thing I noticed, but there were some serious leadership issues as well. Like I said, literally half the church–including a lot who were deeply entrenched in leadership roles–left within a year or two of his pastorship. You expect some changes in the congregational makeup when a new pastor comes in, but I suspect that, if Calvinism was the biggest issue, a lot more people would have stayed.

  4. firefly says:

    He had previously pastored in Hudsonville, MI, for ten years.

    I have to admit, this made me chuckle.

    “The Puritans didn’t die out, they just moved to Hudsonville.” Professor Ihrman

  5. Lisa says:

    Ha! I had forgotten about that!

    The prof I had for Early American Lit–not Ihrman; I don’t remember his name–talked about going to a Grand Rapids-area church one Easter Sunday and hearing a pastor who preached out of Jonathan Edwards. I can’t remember if I confirmed it or not, but I’m pretty sure it was Pastor Dan.

  6. Nance says:

    xfirefly

    Issue was not theology. I am reformed. Issue was covered sin by leadership. Think Dan’s illness was direct result of this cover-up. All but one elder involved in this cover-up is now no longer at Five Points. Expect to see last man removed soon too.

  7. sunshine says:

    As a child at Hudsonville Baptist Church, (aka Grace Community Church) I too was brought up under Pastor Dan’s teaching. He was also my middle school teacher and as that goes, I not only heard his sermons on Sunday morning, I would then get him another hour in Sunday school. I remember his teachings well, as well as our youth group retreats that both him and his wife ran. I would call him one of the most influential people on my religious path as person.

    That said, I didn’t always agree with everything he said, but he always encouraged me to read the Bible myself. As far as teachers go, he simply was the best. Pastor Steve, who took over for Pastor Dan, is not in the same boat. A nice guy sure, but he pales in comparison to Pastor Dan, it’s probably not fair to even compare the two. Steve just is a step down.

    But back to the point I was trying to make, I think – after reading all your comments, you guys are nuts. You are the reason so many people are turned off from organized religion. You bicker as a Church, then you bicker some more with each other. Then you say a very serious disease like Cancer was placed on Dan because of sin?

    Give me a break, are you so sinless that you can cast a stone? And as for Dan splitting your Church, that’s ridiculous too. At Grace we grew from 400 to 2400 under his leadership, along with Pastor Garys incredible music program. Gary left, the Church basically split in a “flavor of the month” kind of way, and Dan was instrumental in the churches survival. He was a real rock.

    So I don’t really think the problem was with Dan, instead it was with you and your parents and your apparent “bleeding hearts.” Give me a break, this is the real world sister.

    What you need to do is get over yourself. And I mean that in the most “christian” way.

    A lot of people at Grace had issues with Dan, but they were always the shallow minded in my opinion. They found reasons not to like him, they didn’t think he was “overly friendly”, but I always thought “how friendly would you be to someone who was a constant pain the arse?”

    Dan was a great man, the fact that people like Nance say they are “reformed” sums up her view. Get a life sister.

    God Bless

  8. Lisa says:

    Sunshine, I have to admit, it’s funny. I never thought this little blog post would be so divisive. Honestly, I didn’t even think about the fact that it would pop up on, say, Google, where people looking for funeral info would see it. This blog doesn’t exactly get a lot of hits, so I really expected that the only people who would read this post are people who know me already. So, first, please look at the post itself as a flashback–an insight into the theological perspectives of a person you’ve never met. You lack that context. I suppose I should have provided it, but in all fairness, I didn’t think I would need to.

    So–Dan. Let me state this right out: I’m not questioning his salvation. In fact, I’d be seriously shocked if he’s not in Heaven. I do have several major issues with his theology, but on the other hand, I don’t exactly think that taking the incorrect stance on predestination is going to make or break a person’s salvation.

    I should also clarify the cancer comment. I can’t speak for Nance, but personally, I have no idea if his cancer was God’s judgment. That’s God’s business. (I’ll comment on some of Nance’s justifications for her belief in a minute.) But if some of my comments in the post itself were taken as a belief in divine retribution, well, I had no intention of going there at all. My plan was actually to expand on some thoughts on the theology of prayer. Was Pastor Elliott spared because he asked for healing? Did Pastor Dan pass away because he didn’t specifically? That’s still a blog post that I may or may not actually write.

    As for his impact on Five Points, well, Dan was a human, and as such, he would be the first to confess his sinful nature. He was also a leader, which means that any sins he committed had a broader (or at least more visible) impact than the average churchgoer. And my understanding is that Dan did, in fact, commit some sins in his role of leading the church. They weren’t of such a nature that Dan needed to be removed from leadership (or at least, that’s not the path that was taken), but they were of the sort that many members of the church LEADERSHIP felt it necessary to leave.

    These were not “flavor of the week” issues. You expect some turnover in church membership when new leadership enters. It’s natural. But take my parents, for example. Dad helped run the sound booth. Mom sang in the choir, then the praise team (I joined her up there when I was a bit older). Mom taught Sunday School and ran VBS for the fourth graders. Mom was a deaconess. Dad was a deacon. We were active in serving the church, and remain active in serving our respective churches. We also stuck with Five Points for a year after Dan became pastor, and left in as graceful a manner as possible. (I suspect this blog post ten years after the fact is raising more controversy than our actual departure.) The thing is, a lot of the people who left were just like Mom and Dad. Deacons and deaconesses. Sunday school teachers. People who served in the church on a regular basis. Heck, some of the founders of the church left, and traditionally they’ve put such an investment into the building itself that they’re the hardest to pull away. These were not the “shallow minded.” I’ve no doubt that some such people were among those who left, but a critical mass of those who did were not such people. Call me shallow-minded as much as you want–I freely admit, I was a pretty immature 16-year-old–but please find it possible that my parents spent a good amount of time prayerfully considering whether or not leaving actually *was* the wisest course of action.

    Basically, I guess I’m simply asking you to consider that the situation at Hudsonville and the situation at Five Points were likely very different. If you consider my post and comments as a trivialization of the grief of those who mourn, I ask your forgiveness for my thoughtlessness. I certainly didn’t mean it that way.

  9. Nance says:

    Interesting to read these comments.

    Does “numbers” suggest what is right? Guess Joel Osteen is teaching truth then, huh? Do not think even Dan would agree to “numbers” proof.

    My experiences are difference between Image and Reality. Do people Live what their Image is? Many actors have a public image that is exactly opposite of their private life. Public officials “say anything” to get elected and then proceed to vote contrary policies. How many times are we shocked to learn about a secret side of a respected person of the community?

    Of course everyone sins, but leadership is held to higher standards since they are what the congregation and people outside the church look to for an example of Christian behavior. Dan placed many people in disfellowship, lied about them, discredited them, in Hudsonville, and Five Points–innocent people (elders went back to these people to reconcile with them after Dan left). This was a blatant abuse of his position and power.

    Those who call themselves Christians must hold leadership accountable, be aware that there are many who know how to spiritually manipulate, and realize that all are capable of committing *any* sin. Wisdom is gained through such knowledge.

  10. savedbygrace says:

    I knew Pastor Dan from Hudsonville and attended Grace for about 5 years, While we were attending my husband and were both saved through Dans teachings, he was not a perfect man and I tried not make it my business to delve into all the stuff going on after his resignation. I know that he was the instrument God used to save us. Did he have a “secret life”? Probably, I bet it was Sin, and I am glad i don’t have any secret sins. I will always have the greatest respect for this man. Please be careful not to bear false witness. If I die of cancer, a car accident or lightning, I die a sinner. the same as Dan and yourself. but because I am now saved I will rise again Sinless. In his resignation letter to Grace he told the congregation to “look to Christ, Look to Christ, Look to Christ”. Grace Comm. did that ~very respectfully I might add after he left. I still have the sermons on tape of the words he spoke that changed our life, his “image” to us is a sinner saved by grace.

  11. Nathan says:

    @Nance
    I know this is coming a bit late on the pipeline, but I just came across this. What sin/sins are you referring to Nance? You keep bringing up in this post/replys that “serious sin” was covered up, but to what are you referring? I come from a church that did something similar with a Pastor who had relations with his daughters and that is where my mind goes when you say “covered up”. That is why I would like you to clarify what what was covered up.

  12. Gabe Capen says:

    I was only a young child when Pastor Dan came to Five Points. I can’t remember it.
    But it is almost incalculable what a difference he made for our church. Our church was sorta weak theolobj ally and didn’t know too well what it believed. Dan helped us tremendously. He came in, presented the truth even if it was hard to hear, and began setting our theology in order. God has DEFINITELY used him to change my life. We love you and miss you Pastor! We’ll chill in Heaven, swimming in the ocean of God’s love together, ok?

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