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.