In March of 2020, just days before the COVID pandemic started shutting down much of the country, Pastor Mike Leydet was preparing for his new role as pastor at Tustin’s First Baptist Church.
After spending about 20 years in youth ministry in southern Indiana, Mike and his family made the move to the Tustin area in 2020. And they now call it home.
With Easter just around the corner, Mike looks forward to preaching the good word about his favorite holiday. While he grew up in the church, his faith has only become stronger as the years have gone by.
But there’s more to Pastor Mike than just his role at the church.
A lover of the outdoors, he enjoys fishing, and hiking, and playing sports with his kids. A self-proclaimed “thrift-store junkie,” Mike loves searching for obscure vinyl records to add to his collection. And he loves to cook – as his wife, Renee, says, “He’s hit his limit” on the number of grills and smokers he can have.
We caught up with Pastor Mike recently to learn a little bit more about him, his family, his church family, and to get his thoughts on what the Easter season is all about. We learned that Paster Mike Leydet is much more than just another face in the crowd.
Marion Press: Where were you born and raised?
Mike: I was actually born and raised in a small town in southern Indiana, called Vincennes. That’s where we’ve been pretty well our whole life, until we [moved up here]. I was born and raised there – we lived in Oklahoma and Texas for a few years when I was little, but other than that, that’s where we always were. That’s where my wife’s from as well.
MP: What kept you busy growing up?
Mike: Anything that had me outside. Lots of fishing, just running around. I wasn’t in little league or any of that, but it was a lot of buddies getting together and playing baseball, or going fishing, or hiking – just about anything outside. I’ve always been a history buff, and I like to read as well. Vincennes was also the Indiana territory capital, when it was the Indiana Territory [Indiana, Illinois, Michigan]. I don’t know if I was a history buff because I was there, or if I was just lucky to be there because I was a history buff, but it worked out well.
MP: Has faith always been a big part of your life?
Mike: Yeah. My joke was that growing up I was always in the church: If the church doors were open, we were there, and sometimes mom and dad unlocked them!
We were always there: Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday evening… my parents were always involved in church, so it was always a big part of our lives, and that was really our social circle was people from church. If we were doing something with another family, it was a family that we went to church with.
For me, personally, it took a long time for my faith to become personal. I was raised in the church, and I could play the game really well, but I really didn’t know what I was doing. I knew all the Sunday school answers and all that, but I really didn’t make my faith mine, and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ until I was 20. It was a long time coming. I’m glad that I was raised in church: it laid a foundation that I’ve built upon now – it just took me a while to get there.
MP: What do you enjoy the most about being a part of this community, up here in Osceola County, Michigan?
Mike: For me, I like rural ministry. I have no desire to be in a big city whatsoever. Vincennes – the town I grew up in – was like 20,000 [people]. After that, every church I’ve served in has been a small church; what you would call a rural church – out in the country, or in a very small town, much like Tustin is. So I like the rural ministry. It’s a little slower pace, you get to know the people better. One of the things I really like here in Tustin, is that we’ve got three churches here in Tustin, and some others in the Pine River area, and we work together to do things. It’s nice to have that. We do that baccalaureate service for the Pine River seniors, and I think there are five churches that come together to make that happen. We do a joint Vacation Bible School – the three churches come together, and we do bible school together, and we serve together. For me, the collaboration from the churches have been great, and the people are just wonderful. I like being able to know the people. And of course, if you want to be somewhere where you can be outside, this is the place to be. I had no idea how beautiful this was up here, so it was a rather pleasant surprise when we came to visit. The pines, and the rolling hills. It’s just gorgeous up here, and we love it.
MP: With Easter just around the corner, what does Easter mean to you?
Mike: As I get older, Easter means so much more to me. Growing up, I knew the importance of Easter: I knew what Easter was; I know why we celebrated Easter, and the resurrection. I knew those stories. But once my relationship with Christ became personal, and I was personally affected by the fact that he resurrected, it meant more. Here is sit, in my 40s, and Easter just means so much more… because of what Christ did. My old pastor used to say that he used to love Christmas when he was younger, but now that he was getting closer to retirement age, Easter was his favorite holiday. As he got older, it meant a lot more to him. For me, Easter is the greatest day, ever. When Jesus resurrected, it was the greatest day in human history. When he gave himself on the cross, to forgive us, and three days later he conquered death and hell so that we could share in that victory. There is no better day than that. We say that the gospel is the good news; it’s the best news. The fact that we are loved by God – the creator of the universe – enough for him to send his son… and not just to send his son to be here with us, which would have been wonderful enough in and of itself, but to pay a price that we couldn’t. And then to conquer death, to conquer hell. That death is no longer victorious, and that I get to share in that victory; when my time on this earth comes to an end, I get to spend eternity with him, in his glory. Just because he loves us. It doesn’t get any better than that.
MP: Outside of church, what keeps Pastor Mike busy?
Mike: I’m married to my wife Renee; we’ll be married 22 years here in June. I have a daughter, Hope, who’s a senior here at Pine River. So right now, we’re rather busy with graduation plans and all that fun stuff. My son, Daniel, is a junior there at Pine River. He plays soccer and baseball, so that keeps us pretty busy as well. That keeps us hopping.
I’m a thrift store junkie. I cannot pass a secondhand store, or a yard sale, so it’s coming into my time here as the weather gets warmer. I collect vinyl records; that’s something I love, just digging through bins of records to see if I can find some obscure record that I’ve been trying to find. Being outside, I like to fish, all that good stuff. And we’re sports fans, all the way around: we like baseball, and football. I love to cook too; spend some time in the kitchen. I love to smoke meat – I’ve got more grills and smokers than anyone really should. “I’ve hit my limit,” is what my wife tells me!
MP: What’s the best advice that you’ve been given?
Mike: The best advice that I think we were ever given – this is my wife and I both – and I think it applies to more than to just the situation that was at hand. Our kids are 13 months apart; they’re very close, and we were serving at a little church as a youth pastor then. My wife was a stay-at-home-mom with the kids. Two kids that age were somewhat stressful. And one of the ol’ gals at church noticed that, and told my wife, she said, “Remember Hunny, the days are long, but the years are short.”
Which I think was the best parenting advice I’ve ever had – especially as we’re getting close; we have a senior and a junior – but just for life in general. So often we get bogged down with the day-to-day stress, that we miss the big picture, because we’re so focused in on the here and now. The days are long, and stress is going to come, and things are going to just suck at some point. But just live your life. Enjoy your life. I think we, so often, that we plan for the future so much that we miss the here and now. And that’s such a travesty.
MP: When are your service times at Tustin First Baptist? What can people expect?
Mike: We meet Sunday school at 9:30, and we have worship service at 11. We’re pretty laid back and casual. Come get a cup of coffee and come worship with us. I might not look like your typical pastor, with my long hair and big beard and whatnot… but we preach the word, and we will not compromise on that. It’s a loving family up here at Tustin First Baptist, and we’d love to have anyone that wants to join us.