Wednesday, May 26, 2010


When I first came to Lewis and Clark Bible Church the building and yards were in a pretty sad state. The parsonage had been used and abused--with little upkeep and no improvements done--for many years. There was cat urine stains in the ceiling, worn carpet in the rooms, and holes in the walls. The parsonage bedroom had a unique 1970s decor--red felt patterned wallpaper and thick pile hot pink carpeting. Needless to say, there was much need for improvements. The church building also had its problems. The upstairs bathrooms were not finished and were not usable. Lights hung from the ceiling in the play room. The kitchen was not finished--there were unfinished projects everywhere. The yards were none better. The front parking lot was a gravel/grass/muddle puddle mix. There were a few rhododendrons and roses in the front yard--but most of it was unkempt. Curiously, there was a big mound of dirt in the front yard, not far south of the mailboxes.

I asked about that mound of dirt. I asked Jim, Vic, and Larry Peterson about that dirt pile (Jim and Vic were our two Deacons at the time, Larry was one of the trustees). One of them told me it covered buried treasure. It would be some time before I found out what was really buried there.

There were also some buried secrets in the past of the church. It didn’t take much investigation on my part to find out about them. There had been a major church split back in the early 1980s. It had been one of those tragic church situations that you hear about from time to time. Issues with the Pastor had led to a vote of confidence. The church was evenly divided as to what to do. The situation was not well resolved. Many ended up leaving. Bitterness and hard feelings continued on. In my early days as Pastor I would often run into people who had once gone to Lewis and Clark Bible Church, but had since left. They had moved onto other churches in the community (or, in some cases, had stopped going to church altogether). Their fond memories of the church were clouded by the bitter wars that had ended in division and loss. I met regularly with the church treasurer, Harriet Pollard, she refrained from saying too much about those days, except to say to me that I would not have believed some of the things that had gone on.

How do you build on that? How can a church be rescued from a terrible reputation? That was the task to which God had called me. It would not have happened apart from the prayers of two men. They had witnessed the destruction, they turned to God for help in the rebuilding. Jim continually reminded me during those early days that it was going to take some time. We were determined. Oftentimes there were only a couple of us at prayer meeting--we prayed. Church services were not particularly well attended--we preached the Word. Our first month’s budget was only $600--we trusted God to provide. We believed that in order for the church to succeed it would need to focus on Christ and the preaching of His Word. We committed doing that. We brought a new “Bible-oriented” approach to the ministry. That led to the institution of an “elder-led” form of church government (the church had been congregational rule). We, Jim and Vic and I, determined to submit our decisions to the Lord and to His Word. Many tough decisions were made that way. God honored that.

There were some at the time who were afraid to attend quarterly meetings. They had experienced some real “Donnybrooks” in the past. Our meetings were not like that. We almost always had unanimous consent to any votes that were taken--a condition that exists to this day. We have held to the belief that it is Christ who builds His church. It is left to us then to believe in His ability to do that and our willingness to follow His instructions. Such an approach has served us well over the years. We continue to believe and affirm that the church is to be founded on the principles of God’s Word--and God will take care of the rest. If that means numerical growth--so be it. But the church must be careful to avoid man-centered approaches to doing that which God alone is capable of doing--”Building HIS Church.”

What about that mound of dirt? Some months after I arrived, Larry Peterson and I started work on some improvements to the landscaping in the front of the church. Larry borrowed a tractor from the dairy to do some excavating. We moved a lot of dirt around and we tackled that mound of dirt. What treasure would we find? Some buried Pastors from previous church wars? As he began to dig he hit something solid. I grabbed a shovel to uncover whatever it was. It was the buried pieces of the sidewalk from the old church building. Instead of disposing of them elsewhere, they had been piled up in the front yard and covered over with dirt. We found a better place to dispose of them.

God alone can deal with our past. Any church is made up of imperfect people and is therefore imperfect itself--but Our Lord is perfect. Buried secrets in our past are “open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13). But the God who knows us, loves us. He has proven His love in the willing sacrifice of His own Son for our sins (1 John 3:16). He died to save us--to forgive us, transform us, and bring us safely home to heaven one day. Where there is pain, bitterness, and loss--He is able to bring comfort, restoration, and joy. He gives “a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting, so that they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3). The transformation of His people and His church is all to the praise of the glory of His grace! Praise the Lord!

Pastor Jerry

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