City boy becomes Florence pastor
Mitchel Diemer doesn’t just want to stand behind the pulpit on Sunday mornings. He wants to be there for his congregation, no matter what.
“I believe I’m here to re-energize the church in Florence,” he said. “This church has suffered from just having a preacher, not a pastor. I preach, but I’m not there to preach. I’m there for people. I’m there to teach. I’m there to invest time in people and, when you start doing that, you see energy — and the church definitely has some energy.”
Diemer preached his first sermon at Florence Christian Church on March 18, 2012. He said the church was small when started — around 20 people attended — but said he now preaches to nearly 40 people each Sunday. Diemer spends ample time preparing for his sermon each week, but said he views his post as something much bigger — living life with the people of Florence and touching their needs to the best of his ability. He bases this philosophy on 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
“If you have faith, if you have hope, if you have love, life is so much better,” he said. “That’s what Jesus did when he was on earth. He really brought hope to the hopeless. He restored people’s faith and he showed this unconditional love. It makes so much sense to me. I look at the world today and I see a lot of people who don’t have those three things. There are a lot of hopeless people out there — people that don’t have hope for a better tomorrow, don’t have hope for anything and they drown themselves in other things that don’t matter. It’s the basic problem: They put their hope in other things or a person who is fallible and then they get crushed. If you’re missing faith, hope and love, I think you’re missing something really important.”
Diemer said he never thought he’d be a pastor in a small, rural church. After graduating from Manhattan Christian College in 2006, he sent out 32 resumes to potential employers — but didn’t receive a single response. Finally, after working at the Wichita airport for a year, he accepted a position as a youth pastor at Westlink Christian Church but soon found out it wasn’t an ideal position for him.
“I was so intent on becoming a pastor that it didn’t matter what the situation was. I jumped in there, thinking I was going to be the youth pastor. But the pastor there changed his expectations weekly. If I had just sat down and really evaluated the situation, I probably would not have gone there. I had all the education, but I didn’t have the one-on-one people experience that I needed.”
Diemer stayed in the position for a year and then became a bank teller at Fidelity Bank for four years.
“I learned to deal with all different kind of people from different backgrounds,” he said. “Some of my closest friends were Lebanese. I learned a lot of skills from my teller window. I dealt with people who had a lot of money, who invited me to go golfing at their country club, and people who were in poverty. It was an eye-opening experience and a great time of learning.”
During that time, he also became a youth pastor at Gracepoint Community Church, where he was able to test out newfound skills. While he enjoyed his time there, he knew his call was to be a full-time minister and started looking for a position within the Wichita area, explaining that he wanted to still be close to family. He started by looking on the alumni page on the Manhattan Christian College website, where they have posts of different job opportunities — and that’s when he found the vacancy at Florence Christian Church.
“I knew about Florence,” he said. “I’ve driven through Florence on my way to Manhattan. I knew it was a small town, a declining small town – and I saw that the Christian church had a position open for a while. I called, because they didn’t have an email address. But they called me and invited me to preach one Sunday in March and I’ve been there ever since. I was in the right place at the right time.”
During the past year, Diemer said he has seen more people attending church — and has even seen some people coming back to the church. He said the church has started ministries for men and youth, due to the demand.
“It’s been exciting,” he said. “I didn’t know this could happen in a small town.”
Diemer said he is still adjusting to country life, but said it’s easy to do in Florence, where the people are nice, and Wichita is only a 45-minute drive away.
“I’m still not buying cowboy boots, I’m definitely city,” he said. “I love soccer. I talk about soccer and they just look at me funny. But I’m learning about cattle since this is a big cattle area. I told one of my people: ‘You’re not going to get my hand to check how a calf is doing inside of its mother.’ But it’s still about fellowshipping with people, caring about what they care about and living life with them. Now, there’s not a Starbucks. I have to drive to Wichita for that, but there’s other options like Zimmermans — and it’s $2 cheaper.”
Diemer is looking forward to start work on his doctorate. In the fall, he will attend George Fox Evangelical Seminary, where he will study Semiotics and Future Studies online. In his program, he will be able to do research on what it means to do ministry in the 21st century. Diemer said the program won’t take time away for his duties in the Florence church.
“It’s like my lab,” he said. “That’s what I told everyone at my church. They’re like my guinea pigs.”