Faces In the Crowd: Jim and Rachel Gulish

November 8, 2018

By Aaron Michell

Although Jim and Rachel Gulish haven’t lived in the Dighton area very long, they already feel right at home.
Jim, the pastor at Dighton Wesleyan Church, and his wife, Rachel, have been helping to bring people together at their church for the past few months. And in return, their church community – and the Dighton community – have helped make them feel welcome.
Jim, originally from Detroit, and Rachel, who grew up in Indiana, found each other at Indiana Wesleyan University some twenty years ago. Ever since, faith has been a huge part of their lives. After “planting” one church after another, the Gulish family has found themselves right here in the heart of Osceola County.
And while many churches have been struggling to fill their pews, the Gulish’s have overseen the Dighton Church’s growth, watching numbers grow to the point where multiple Sunday services have nearly become necessary.
But these two are more than just representatives for their church. They’re parents to Claire, Jude, Jay, and Jack. They love the outdoors: sports, hunting, fishing, and riding Harley Davidsons. And they love music – their kids are active in the church’s worship band and Jim plays guitar and sings.
We caught up with Jim and Rachel recently at their church, where we talked about music, faith, Dighton, and hunting season. We talked about a little bit of everything, and found out that these two are much more than just a couple of faces in the crowd.

Jim Gulish, the pastor at Dighton Wesleyan Church and his wife, Rachel.

Jim Gulish, the pastor at Dighton Wesleyan Church and his wife, Rachel.

Marion Press: You’re new to the area, where did you come from?
Jim: I grew up north of Detroit, and Rachel grew up in Indiana. We met down in college, at Indiana Wesleyan University. I’ve been a pastor for almost 21 years. Right out of college, we started a ministry in Dryden, which is in the thumb. And then we moved to Midland, and then moved up to Alpena and planted a church in Alpena. So, we planted a church in Alpena and raised our kids. We have four kids, and so we were there for about 14 years.
So we planted a church, went back down to Detroit and planted our second church. And that’s kind of where we came from – from that Detroit-area church planting we jumped back up north. We just missed it up here; missed being out in the country.

MP: Four kids, tell us about them.
Rachel: Our oldest, Claire, is 18. She goes to Indiana Wesleyan University. And then we have two ninth-grade boys in Cadillac: Jude and Jay. And Jack, he’s a sixth-grader and goes to Mackinaw Trail Middle School.

MP: What keeps you busy as a family?
Jim: We do some traveling. We still have a place up at Hubbard Lake, just south of Alpena. My folks live there. So we go there to visit from time to time, or to boat. We like to ride our Harley. That’s something that I love to do – it’s my therapy; it keeps me sane. Especially up here, I love it. Just driving and riding the hills in the country.
Rachel: I’m a mom stuck with three…well, four boys. And so now that my daughter’s gone at Indiana Wesleyan, all they like to do is hunt, fish, eat deer.

MP: It is that time of the year, too. Are you going to be out in the woods a little bit?
Jim: Oh yeah, definitely.

Rachel and Jim with their four children.

Rachel and Jim with their four children.

MP: So you’re new to the area, what are your first impressions of Dighton?
Jim: The first time we drove through, it was just a beautiful area: rolling farms, dairy farms, just beautiful. The country setting was one of our first impressions that we really liked. The church people are just fantastic. They know how to cook! Just a very downhome, welcoming great group of people. That’s what drew us to the church. [They’re] loving people. And that’s kind of what we were looking for – looking to minister in a church with so much potential. This church has a lot of young families; a great mix of young and old. Just great people here.

MP: And it looks like music is a big part of the church services here.
Jim: People in today’s society, they turn on the radio and they’re not listening to organ tunes; they’re not listening to hymnal type songs. People are listening to driving rock anthems; they’re listening to grungy-acoustic; they’re listening to country music. So we as a church have to adjust, absolutely.
There’s probably a half-hour worth of music, maybe less, mixed in with video – we do a lot of video here. We’ll play funny videos, mixed in with Youtube stuff, just to keep it interesting. People learn multiple different ways: visually, audibly.

MP: Outside of church, what are some of your hobbies and interests?
Jim: Hunting, riding my motorcycle. Kids sports – Jude and Jay play football and basketball for Cadillac. Being full-time family, it takes a lot of energy. Every night of the week, driving back and forth to practice, so I guess that’s a hobby.
Rachel: Pretty much if we’re not entertaining someone here, or if something’s not going on here at the church, we like to just go up to our cottage. Spend time on the lake, or in the woods. Of if there’s not a sports event, we’re home having dinner, or trying to have dinner – at least once a week! We’re just active with our church stuff: youth groups, and we just had a big harvest.
Jim: This last week we had a big harvest party here. Trunk or treat, and the whole parking lot was full of games and we had a youth party on Saturday night as well.

The Dighton Wesleyan Church.

The Dighton Wesleyan Church.

MP: And you haven’t been here long, but it seems like you’re fitting right in.
Jim: Yeah, we’re just kind of kicking things off again. It’s been since May since they’ve had a pastor here; they’ve had an interim pastor and some people filling in. So it’s been good to kind of come in and my goal and my role right now is just structures. Keeping structures together; making sure that teams are being formed. Kind of keeping this thing running like a well-oiled machine. Because it takes a lot – we’re all volunteer basis. We work mostly as volunteers – that’s a job in and of itself.
Rachel: We don’t have a youth pastor, but we have an Indiana Wesleyan graduate, Devon Ruppert. He’s a gym teacher at Pine River and he’s our youth leader. He’s leading that up and doing a good job.

MP: Jim, you’ve said that you play guitar – do you ever get up there with the worship band?
Jim: I do. I haven’t yet, just because I’m just kind of getting my feet wet here, but they want me to go up there. So I will be. I used to lead worship – I used to be a worship pastor. That was kind of in my younger years, but I still sing and play.
Rachel: And our oldest son plays drums and guitar.

MP: With the worship band?
Jim: Yep, so there’s a lot of younger people who play up there; probably half of them are teenagers. It’s cool; it’s neat to see. Our ushers – you know how they pass the plate? – we’ve got little kids doing it, and that’s what’s fun. Just trying to get the family involved in our ministry.

MP: Who have been your role models in life?
Jim: I’ve had a lot of great pastors in my life; growing up and looking at some people who I’d love to model myself after. There was a pastor of mine; I remember as a kid, looking up and going: man, I want to be like him. His name was Pastor Dave Robertson. He was just this guy who was larger than life. And then, when I went into my college years, I found other people who were pouring into me and discipling me. And then, even in ministry, as a young pastor, I had a senior pastor who was my boss, technically: His name was Dale Nash. He was this older guy who was just a kind, compassionate man. Just taught us the ropes. He was great for us.
I can’t really pin down one person, but every step of the way there’ve been mentors who I’ve attached myself to.
Rachel: I think it started with our families, who pushed us toward Christian universities; and then our youth pastors; and then our pastors in our lives who modeled for us how we’d like to raise our family.

MP: What has been some of the best advice you’ve been given? Or that you would like to offer others?
Jim: I think as pastors, there’s an old cliché: people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. And another one would be: love people before you lead them. How many clichés do you want!?

MP: No, that’s good! Funny thing about clichés is that they’re true!
Jim: They are. And they’re simple to remember. Before you ask for their hand, you need their heart – and that’s a lot of different things. A lot of things throughout the years has been leadership training and leadership. Understanding how to lead people. Even shift and change the culture here at the church, that’s really what we’re going to be looking to do: growing leaders, discipling people, and then sending them out. That’s the goal.

MP: Someone who’s never been here, what could they expect?
Jim: They can expect a welcoming atmosphere; friendly people. They can expect – the goal is for their lives to be changed when they leave this place. That’s what I would hope. And not because we’re fancy or anything like that. But my goal is that God can touch their hearts and change their lives. More than anything, I want people to leave this place completely changed, for the better.

MP: What is your favorite part of living in this area? It is – kind of – in the middle of nowhere.
Rachel: Probably that! It’s so beautiful. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Michigan. The rolling hills, and the farm. It’s gorgeous.
Jim: The nature. It’s just beautiful. The hills and the trees, and the beautiful farmland.

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