Pastor, 77, holding forth at Highland Park church

Bible Church of God-Seventh Day meets on Saturdays

The Rev. James Sawyer stands in front of the Bible Church of God-7th Day at 2637 S.E. Ohio. Sawyer, 77, started the church in his home in 1983 and continues as its pastor some 34 years later. (Phil Anderson/The Capital-Journal)

If you want to know why the Bible Church of God 7th Day meets on Saturdays, rather than on Sundays, when most other churches meet, look no further than the Ten Commandments.


“The fourth commandment,” says the Rev. James Sawyer, who at 77 continues to lead his small flock at the white, wooden-frame church at 2637 S.E. Ohio. “‘Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.’”

Sawyer, who started the church in his home in 1983, says he holds nothing against churches that meet on Sundays.

“You can have church any day of the week,” Sawyer said. “God just convicted me to have church on Saturdays.”

Sawyer grew up on a farm near the southeast Kansas town of Girard, where, he said, “I fed the cows, fed the chickens and slopped the hogs and pulled weeds out of the garden.”

The oldest of nine children, he came to Topeka in 1940 when he was just 18 years of age — and has been here ever since.

He and his wife, Katherine, have been married nearly 58 years and have four grown children — a son and three daughters.

Two of his daughters live in Topeka, one of whom plays piano at the church.

Sawyer worked as a supervisor at the Goodyear Tire &Rubber Co. plant in North Topeka before buying a salvage yard at S.W. 53rd and Topeka Boulevard. He later worked in the Shawnee County appraiser’s office, from which he retired in 2002.

Since that time, he has been full-time in the ministry.

Though he started the Bible Church of God 7th Day when he was gainfully employed, he said he now finds himself working harder than ever, trying to meet the needs of his church family, which he said numbers about 30 people.

“We’ve got a lot of great women in the church,” Sawyer noted. “Not too many men, though the ones we do have are outstanding.”

Sabbath school is held at 9:45 a.m. Saturdays, followed by worship at 11 a.m. Church usually dismisses by 1:30 p.m.

Sawyer said he “used to get wound up” and preach longer than he does today. After having both hips replaced, in addition to undergoing back surgery, Sawyer said he finds it harder to stand for long periods of time.

“We used to always meet on Wednesday nights,” Sawyer said. “But we don’t anymore, because I can’t drive at night.”

Sawyer said he didn’t start reading the Bible in earnest until his adult years, when he worked at Goodyear. Somewhere along the line, he said, God convicted him that he was supposed to start a church.

“Like a lot of men would do, I ran away at first — kind of like Jonah,” Sawyer said with a chuckle. “I didn’t think I was good enough to be a pastor. I didn’t think I was worthy. But this is what God wanted me to do, so I did it.”

Sawyer, who has a background in the Baptist church, had been attending a Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Topeka before he started his church.

The Seventh-day Adventist church also meets on Saturdays.

Sawyer said he kept to Saturday worship services once he started his church, which is a member of the Bible Church of God-7th Day denomination, based in Denver. The denomination has some 200 churches in the United States and around the world.

He said the denomination is based on the Word of God.

“We want the Bible and the Bible only,” he said. “That’s why we call it ‘Bible Church.’ We’re going to do what the Bible says.”

He said the church met in his home for the first year before acquiring its present building at S.E. 27th and Ohio in 1984. The building previously housed St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. The Bible Church of God purchased it for about $40,000 and had it paid off within a decade.

Nothing thrills Sawyer more, he said, than when someone gives their heart to Jesus Christ — or asks to be baptized. He said he is grateful that God is still using him to lead people to Christ.

And although he is as committed as ever to the church, Sawyer said he is hopeful God will send another minister — preferably someone a bit younger — to be his successor.

Until then, he says, he will continue to hold forth as the pastor of the church, one of several small congregations in the Highland Park neighborhood of southeast Topeka.

Contact reporter Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195 or follow live reports @Philreports on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at