Mike K. Mizell’s journey to receive his community’s citizen of the year award this spring began one Saturday night a quarter-century ago.
He awoke from a terrifying vision: As a fly on the wall at the Great White Throne judgment, Mizell says he saw people headed to hell.
The vision left Mizell so shaken that he scrapped the sermon he’d prepared for Sunday morning at Bethel Temple in Cleburne, Texas, 25 miles south of Fort Worth. Instead, he stood before the congregation and repented of being preoccupied with increasing attendance.
“I bought into the idea that the more I could get through the door, the more chances I had of retaining some,” says Mizell, 56. When and his wife, Sheila, arrived at the revitalized Assemblies of God church 29 years ago, 30 people attended; now there are 525 regulars. Beginning that Sunday, his goal switched to expanding God’s kingdom by ministering to the needs of Cleburne, population 32,000, and beyond.
Additionally, Mizell in 2012 became North Texas District disaster response coordinator, mobilizing volunteers from AG churches following tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, explosions, and other tragedies.
In 2013, his disaster response leadership hit home. Bethel Temple ramped up its community outreach and collaborations after an F-3 tornado cut a mile-wide path through part of Cleburne, damaging 600 residences and two schools. When Mizell went to the emergency operations center, he shockingly discovered every sector represented and poised to help “except the Church.”
“It broke my heart and was indicative of what I saw on the larger scale of society — the Church wasn’t even a thought,” Mizell says. “I told our church that this must change. We should live in such a way that, if we weren’t here, the community would miss us.”
He decided that “if the Assemblies of God is going to have seat at the table and truly help people in times of crisis, I need to do the work to get the credentials,” he says. In 2015, he earned a master’s degree in emergency management from Walden University.
In 2018, Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain awarded Mizell the key to the city in a ceremony attended by former North Texas superintendent Rick DuBose, who is now U.S. AG assistant general superintendent.
When 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns hit, Cleburne’s city government asked Mizell to serve on the task force to ensure efficient, effective community response. He mobilized shutdown-idled congregants to mow yards for seniors and distribute 60,000 boxes of food weighing more than 2 million pounds to help the city’s most vulnerable. In 2021, he received the Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Mayoral Service Award for outstanding leadership and service to Cleburne, which the chamber had awarded previously only once.
A pastor at another church asked Mizell about the result of the many outreaches of Bethel Temple: With all the things you do for your community, do you ever see any fruit? Mizell told him the ministries are like casting bread upon the water.
“There are seldom immediate benefits from servant evangelism, but to me that’s the key to modern church ministry,” Mizell says. “In the end, we believe the eternal picture must be the priority rather than increasing the size of the church. That is a side benefit, but not the main goal.”
Mizell’s motivation hasn’t been to gain recognition.
“We cannot underestimate the benefit of getting involved and serving,” he says. “We must present hope to those who have no hope.”
Additionally, Mizell is sole caregiver for Sheila, who since 2012 has been partly paralyzed by multiple strokes.
Cain, the mayor, describes Mizell as “Cleburne’s pastor.”
“Any time there is a need, Mike has stepped up to fill the need,” Cain says. “During the pandemic, Mike was always there for me, encouraging, praying, listening, and offering solutions.”
Cain says city leaders came to a consensus in bestowing citizen of the year honors upon Mizell because they asked the simple question of what the community would be like if that person didn’t exist.
“I cannot imagine what Cleburne would be like without Mike,” Cain says. “His humility, servant’s heart, passion for Christ, and his love of people is extraordinary. I see Jesus when I see Mike in action.”