David Nichols passed away peacefully in the presence of his family on November 10, 2023. David Lawrence Nichols was born to the late Lawrence and Athalie Nichols on November 7, 1947. He joined two sisters, Dianne and Judy. His childhood was spent on a dairy farm near Walworth, WI where he attended a one-room rural schoolhouse and was related to half of his classmates. One of the beauties of his schooling was the opportunity to progress at his own pace, moving ahead in subjects with older students and not having to rigidly follow his age- grade curriculum. In 7th grade, David and his family moved from Wisconsin to Neosho, MO to farm in a warmer climate. It was a shock to attend 8 th grade and high school in much larger schools where he excelled academically. He played on the tennis team, continued to help on the family farm, and worked at the IGA grocery store part-time.
David realized that his family would not be able to afford college tuition and fees, so he researched colleges with the most generous student aid, the number one of which was Harvard. His father was injured on the farm during his senior year, so David had to run the farm while attending high school and working part-time. He applied late for Harvard, never had the customary alumni interview, and yet was accepted and given a full scholarship. The family joke was that he fulfilled Harvard’s quota for Missouri residents, dairy farm boys who attended one-room schoolhouses, and applicants who carried heavy outside duties while maintaining high grades. Had he not been accepted to Harvard, he would have attended the local Crowder Junior College.
David’s parents worried that he would feel like the ultimate outsider at Harvard and suggested he reconsider his college choice. Just the opposite happened—David never felt more at home. Not everyone at Harvard went to prep school, and his roommates and friends represented a wide range of backgrounds. During his freshman year, he became actively involved in Campus Crusade for Christ. By sophomore year, the group fell apart and he became a reluctant atheist. By senior year, his faith was reborn and he considered ministry as a career option. During his senior year, he married Joyce Carr, a high school classmate from Neosho.
His work-study job at Harvard was managing the school’s pool hall, a natural fit because he perfected his pool skills during high school. He also became an avid bridge player, sometimes skipping classes. Despite these diversions, he graduated with honors in 1969, majoring in Social Relations (interdisciplinary social sciences).
After graduation, David and his then wife traveled the Midwest with a Christian musical group called The Good News Circle. He enrolled at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL and served as youth pastor at several churches. He earned a Master of Divinity and was a Presidential Scholar. During this time, Joshua David was born in 1978 and Amanda Jo was born in 1980. He was ordained to Christian Ministry, and that was one of only two times in his life that he witnessed his father’s tears. His first full-time pastorate was at the First Baptist Church of Westchester, IL. When his first marriage ended, the President of Northern Seminary offered him a job which he gladly took. He spent 12 years at Northern in a variety of positions including recruitment, business management and fundraising. During his Northern Seminary years, David married Linnea Berg.
While working at the Seminary, David frequently provided pulpit supply and interim ministry to local churches. He returned as interim pastor to First Baptist Church of Westchester and led the congregation to a win-win dissolution when it became apparent that the church was not going to survive. Proceeds were divided among five American Baptist ministries, including funds to Judson College in Elgin, IL to launch an architecture degree program. Years later, his daughter Amanda completed the architecture program at Judson.
When David served as a consultant to the Moraine Valley Community Church in Palos Hills, IL, the church was in need of an interim pastor. At the same time, David felt God calling him back to pastoral ministry. A series of events which he and Linnea called, “God’s will for dummies,” made it clear that he was to become pastor of that church. He served seven years there and the church experienced a period of growth and excitement. After seven years, he sensed that it was time for him to leave for a new pastorate.
A short time later, the search committee of First Baptist Church of Royal Oak, MI called to interview him on the phone. After an hour’s conversation, there was silence. Finally, the search chair said that David had so accurately understood and described their situation that they were stunned. By this time Josh and Amanda were well launched in adulthood, and David and Linnea moved to Royal Oak. The church had an amazing physical facility and a dwindling congregation lacking young families. After several years, Genesis the Church, which was full of young singles and families, approached First Baptist about sharing the facility. They had been renting space in a local school for Sunday services. Eventually, First Baptist merged with Genesis the Church, and Genesis continues to thrive today. The family joked that David was the Dr. Kevorkian of churches since two of his churches dissolved or merged, but he posed the question, “What would most benefit the Kingdom of God? Staying open until the last person dies, or selling or merging the church and using the proceeds to do greater good in the world?”
Moving to Sawyer to assume the Berg family home after the death of Linnea’s parents was an easy decision. The first grandchild was born in the Chicago area and Sawyer was much closer than Detroit. Immediately upon arrival, David became Interim Pastor of Harbert Community Church—which turned out to be a fantastic way to meet people and become embedded in a great faith community. Not long after Rev. Jay Fast became Harbert Church’s pastor, David served as Interim Pastor of the Covenant Church in Cheboygan, MI. He formed strong bonds with parishioners who invited him for dinners and social events since he was living alone in a rented house while Linnea stayed in Sawyer for work.
For seven years, David served as Pastor of First Baptist Church of Kalamazoo. When winter conditions suggested the hourlong drive home was inadvisable, various parishioners provided room and board, yet another opportunity to form strong friendships. Working with another local pastor and several nonprofit organizations, David helped form KNAC, Kalamazoo Nonprofit Advocacy Center, which took over the church facility, including a four-story educational wing, to be used by local nonprofits and small businesses. The genius of giving the building to KNAC included greater likelihood to secure funding for capital projects, which would help maintain the beautiful historic church and provide affordable, collaborative workspace for nonprofits, artists, and start-ups. The First Baptist congregation was able to pay modest rent to KNAC and not have the burden of maintaining the oldest public building in Kalamazoo (1855).
In the latter half of his life, David authored 6 books targeting laypersons. Some were written to be used in Genesis the Church’s small groups, and others for broader audiences. He had the common touch in communicating theological concepts in understandable terms. Facebook comments during the last few months of David’s life indicated that he touched many peoples’ lives for good. He was a feminist who encouraged women in ministry. He was a “pastor’s pastor” who mentored younger pastors. He was a calming, caring presence during crises. He was masterly in conducting weddings and funerals. People felt like they could tell him anything and he wouldn’t judge them or offer trite “answers.” He was a good storyteller and preacher, and always strove to find ways to make Bible stories relevant to contemporary, everyday lives.
David is survived by his wife, Linnea Berg, son Joshua (Priscilla), daughter Amanda Macarrao (Nunu), grandchildren David and Emilia Nichols and Tegan and Tristan Macarrao, sisters Dianne Hummel and Judy Day, and a host of cousins. A memorial service will be held in the spring of 2024.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial gifts be given to Kihavo Ministries, a faith-based educational ministry run by David’s daughter and son-in- law in Mozambique, Africa where children are tutored and women are empowered through education and job skills. David played an immeasurable role in the startup and growth of Kihavo Ministries. Visit www.kihavo.org for more information or to donate online. Checks should be made out to “James 1:27” (memo line: Kihavo) and mailed to PO Box 197, Harbert, MI 49115. Online condolences accepted at www.PikeFH.com.
Arrangements are entrusted to Pike Funeral and Cremation Services, The Boyd Chapel, 9191 Red Arrow Hwy, Bridgman.