February 5, 1984
On February 5, 1984, I began my ministry at Bethel Memorial Baptist Church. I arrived early to church that morning and had to shovel the walks as we had gotten several inches of fresh snow on the ground. I waited for the people to come and nobody came. I began to get nervous when it was ten minutes till the time Sunday School was to start and nobody was there yet. I began to pace the floor and then when we had five minutes left before Sunday School was to start the people began to walk in.
When everyone got in I counted them and we had 15 including the four in my family. (I wanted to count the bird and the dog but I hadn’t brought them.) I was totally surprised as the Sunday I preached as a candidate for Pastor, there were more people. In between Sunday School and church I ask about this. They told me that they had asked many of their family and friends to come to hear me preach so that it didn’t seem like the church was so small. This really came to me as I great shock.
After the morning service the Chairman of the Deacons took me for a ride out to his farm. He had a refrigerator in his garage that he was using to store eggs from his chickens. He told me that I could have it until I was able to get another one. That was a real blessing as my money was running out.
On the way back to the house he told me that the church wasn’t going to be able to pay me very much. He said that there was a great deal of work to do and the church wanted me to be full-time. He said all they could agree to do was pay me $150.00 a week and pay the rent and utilities. He said that some of the members might be able to share in helping with some food. He gave us eggs from his chickens, another man gave us beef from a steer that he had butchered, someone else gave us some deer meat that they had and others brought bags of can goods and such. It was scary but I learned what faith was all about in the days that followed.
On Sunday evening of my first Sunday, I arrived at church early. While I was getting things set up for our service, a man and woman walked in who I was not familiar with. He walked up to me and asked me who I was and I introduced myself to him. He proceeded to tell me that he didn’t know the church had a Pastor and that he was the Pastor who was the founder of the church. He made me feel very uncomfortable and he walked around the church acting as if he owned the place. As people began to arrive they crowded around him like he was a movie star. Throughout the entire service he kept speaking out and he seemed like he wanted to take over the service. Since he was the Pastor who founded the church, out of courtesy to him I asked if he wanted to share a word a testimony with the people. He took an entire half hour and finally I had to take the service back and it was hard to do it without offending many. Somehow I did get control of the service but he continued to speak out and disrupt the service. To be truthful I was glad to see the evening end.
When I got home that night I was distraught about had happened and I decided I was going to speak with the deacons about this matter as soon as possible. On the following day I called the Deacons and set up a meeting for the following Saturday night.
At the first Deacon meeting I discussed some general things and I also brought up what had happened in the previous Sunday night service. I told the Deacons that if I was going to be the new Pastor that some changes had to be made. I told them how it made me very uncomfortable with the way that the Pastor who founded the church acted throughout the service. They told me that they would talk with him and this and it wouldn’t happen again.
Because the house we were renting was for sale the real estate broker was showing the house every two or three days. Our lease was on a month to month lease in the event the house sold. It was getting to be a real problem and so I brought the matter up to the deacons. They suggested we bring the matter up to the church and see if they wanted to make an offer on the house and buy it for a parsonage. We made an announcement in the church for two weeks about the business meeting concerning this matter and we had the business meeting. The church voted to make an offer and check with the bank to see if we could get financing. The offer was accepted and the bank gave us financing so we bought the house.
(This is a small part of my story that I have been working on for years)