Occasionally I will watch one of those biography shows. I remember viewing the life story of a certain female rock star. She had a series of broken relationships. She had been addicted to a number of substances. She had been in and out of rehab many times and had almost died of an overdose. At the end of the episode, as they closed with a final interview, this woman said, "I wouldn't change a thing." What? Hadn't she been watching the show? Drugs had obviously messed with her mind.
I can't say that I wouldn't change a thing about my life, if I got a do over. My wife and I often say that we do not regret our experiences among independent, fundamental baptist churches. Those experiences made us what we are today. We are happy with where we are today, even if others are not. The lessons, trials, legalisms all worked together to shape us into Christ-likeness. It forced us to form our own convictions and to be able to back them up with Scripture. It led us to where we serve God today and we are at peace with it. Praise the Lord.
I would change my educational background. I would have gone to a different college and I would have gone straight into seminary. Even as I write this, I realize God's sovereignty, for if I had done those things how would I have ever met my wife? I wouldn't trade her for all the education in the world. Nevertheless, I regret my lack of education. I was able to take a few seminary classes. I have 6 hours down and only 90 to go! However, that was a long time ago and I don't have the time or the money to pursue that M.Div now. Maybe something, sometime will change my mind.
Five years after moving back to Ohio, I decided I wanted to try again. I felt I was secure enough in my new philosophy to pastor a congregation once again. One of the major drawbacks of independent churches is, how do congregations find pastors? We have no central headquarters, no denominational hierarchy. Often churches look to the college that their previous pastor attended, providing he is leaving under pleasant circumstances. Many IFB movements (groups of churches) are built around a certain college. I didn't want to pastor a church like that. God intervened in my situation through the internet. It was definitely God, as I will make clear shortly.
In 1997 the world wide web was still in its infancy. In fact, I think I was still paying for AOL by the hour. I decided to post my resume (as meager as it was) on the web. I found a few sites that did such things. Eventually, I got a call from a man in Pennsylvania. They were looking for a pastor, and even though they were looking for somebody above 40, felt at 37 I might be a good fit. They sent me some information about the congregation and an application to fill out. I filled it out and began to wait. And wait. And wait. Finally I got a call back from the same man who proceeded to interview me on the phone. I felt we hit it off. He used the NASB when he taught Sunday School. They were also calling others who knew me, including my references. They even had 2 couples drop by and visit the merged church in Florida! They invited me to come preach for them in November, 1997. I preached from the NASB. Then they sent us home to wait some more. December, January, February...in March they called to say they would like me to come and be voted on for the office of Pastor of Community Bible Church. On the second Sunday in April of 1998 I was called as their pastor. Although I got a very high percentage, it was not unanimous. There were 4 dissenting votes, which I found out later were because of the fact I was not KJVO. Those folks eventually left the church.
Now for the rest of the story. The church had contacted an online ministry that took the information that the church submitted and matched it with resumes that preachers had submitted. Then this ministry would contact the church and send them the resume if they were interested. So we found each other over the internet. When I arrived here, I discovered that the church didn't even have a computer, much less the internet. They were still typing the weekly church bulletin on a typewriter! The first thing we did was have the church buy a computer and sign up for the internet.
The typewriter was not the only piece of antiquated equipment at the church. They had a very old copier. One day as I was using it, a smudge was on the glass, I reached for the Windex bottle that was kept on the shelf above the copier. I had done this before, but this time I realized something. It was not a Windex bottle, it was a can. A can of Windex. Are you even old enough to remember when Windex came in spray cans? I looked at the can, the only date on it was 1978! We have a candlelight service on Christmas eve. While I was gathering the candles I reached into the box and got out the matchbook they used. It was from a wedding in 1982! Man did I have my work cut out for me.
A pastor was challenging his board. He kept saying, "We need to get this church into the 20th century!" He said this repeatedly. Finally, embarrassed, a deacon said, "Pastor don't you mean the 21st century?" The pastor replied "One century at a time brother!"
They had used the same bulletin design for many years. It was a nice drawing of our building. The only problem was, that we were in the process of buying property to build a new building. So I felt it was counter-productive to have a picture of the old building on the bulletin if we were trying to focus on a new building. We didn't yet have a logo for the church, so I printed new bulletins with a color splash on the front. It was temporary, it wasn't really a design, it looked kind of like the Nike swoosh. The deacon emeritus came to see me. He was visibly upset, yet very gracious. He asked why I put a hex sign on the bulletin! I had heard of hex signs, but I didn't really know what one was, or what one looked like. He was Pennsylvania Dutch. A lot of the old timers at church were brought up that way. It has required that my family and I learn a whole new vocabulary.
We had never owned a home until we moved here. We had always lived in parsonages right next to the church. I hadn't driven to work in over a decade and walked home for lunch everyday. We bought the house next to the old church building because we knew the church was moving to a different location and we would not be living on church property again. The first day I had to drive to the new church, to go to the office, the first day I had driven to work in over 13 years, my car broke down on the way. Seriously, I had to call a tow truck.
In December of 1998 the congregation paid cash for a ten acre piece of property outside of town. It has proven to be a great location. God blessed us with a prime spot in the middle of steady growth. God is good. In April of 2001 and moved into our new multi-purpose building. Doing most of the construction ourselves, we completed the building in only seven months. The building committee said we could have completed it in six months, but I kept insisting on helping. I am like lightening with a hammer. I never strike the same place twice.
In November of 2008 we paid it off! We were debt free, for about 3 months, until we started adding on to the building. In September, 2009 we moved into our new educational wing. Anytime you are in the area, stop by and see it!
Recently, my sister said perhaps the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. She asked me why I was writing this story. I said I didn't know for sure, maybe I was worried about my legacy. She replied, "Your legacy is those three wonderful young adults you raised."
Soli Deo Gloria