Sitting in my study one day about sixteen years ago talking with Dorothy Hall as I often did. She had a story to tell. I think if she hadn’t told me the story would have died with her. She was the custodian of the church. I was the pastor. I loved to talk with her. She tended the flowers around the church, kept the place clean and kept me informed about things a young pastor needed to know. I was a newcomer. She had known most of the congregation all her life. She was a dear, loyal friend to me and to my family.
We were discussing the good work that the Lord was doing in the church. It was just a small village church with less than a hundred in attendance when we came. Good things were happening. New families were coming. We had started an evening service and we had just had a special day with over three hundred in attendance.
Dorothy and I agreed it was exciting to see health and vitality in the church. Dorothy said, “This church almost closed once. Did you know that? The trustees even came to board up the doors.”
“Why didn’t it close?” I asked.
She set on the edge of the chair across from my desk and told me the story. At the time the church was in a dismal situation. Like many other rural churches it was not growing. As transportation became more efficient people began to drive in town to larger churches that offered more programming. They couldn’t find a pastor. The consensus of the congregation was to accept the recommendation of the board that the church be closed. The grim responsibility of boarding up the building fell to the trustees.
On the appointed day they made plans to board up the church. When they arrived at the church to carry out their grim duty they were surprised by what they found. They encountered an unexpected obstacle. Standing in front of the church doors were two elderly ladies who refused to move so the men could lock the doors and board up the windows. They stood their ground and refused to move until the men promised that they would not board up the doors.
Out of respect for the ladies the trustees decided to regroup to confer. The doors were never locked. The little white village church has proclaimed the gospel to the community in unbroken faithfulness since 1857, true to all the cardinal doctrines of the faith and a few others including taking a stand against Sunday baseball and prohibiting fast driving.
(I read this in the official church minutes and resolutions one day. The issue of Christians and automobiles was a divisive topic requiring an august church council. After a solemn assembly the congregation conceded that automobiles were going to be driven and owned by some of the church members but that they should exercise great care to drive in a Christian manner. I’m glad no one has ever tried to bind me to that oath.)
I thank God for those two dear, faithful, elderly ladies and the dozens of others who have
done what needed to be done to help maintain the little lighthouse, even it didn’t seem worthwhile. Even when only a few noticed and even fewer cared. I thank God for the trustees a few years ago who personally helped pay the pastor’s salary when the offerings were not sufficient to do so.
My loyalties are to those people and to the plain truths of the Word of God. It is no secret that our loyalties are not to denominations whose doctrinal fidelity is questionable. Our loyalties are to the timeless truths of the Christian faith. This faith has been carried forward by common, everyday, saints who have kept the doors open all these years.