- The gospel is: you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe yet you can be more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope at the same time because Jesus Christ lived and died in your place." Tim Kller on the
Part four The training and experience of some seventeen years I was bringing to FBC to use
for the glory of the Lord, to build His (Christ) church, to win folks to the Lord.
One of the first sermons I preached at FBC was "God’s Victory Gardens." Mrs. Elizabeth Dennison really loved that message. God will give us victory in our church if we allow the Lord to guide us, and we are obedient to His will.
I was wondering why people were not coming to church. Why after twenty-five years the attendance was as low as it was? Those in the church in those first few months were good people. We had some good folks who loved the Lord, and I think they were wanting to see people saved and the church to grow. We had some talented couples in the church, too. I don’t know that I saw any major concerns with the people when I first came. I believed they were going to be ready for leadership and some direction that would bring about growth.
Any action that I took was with the belief that those in the church were ready to work and accomplish our objectives. Naturally you are going to use ideas that you have been trained to do. I thought we were doing rather well in our approach to ministry.
This church was your normal small town church, good people, who had come to this church for some time, and had several pastors. As is in these small churches, the pastors had to work in a secular job to make a living. The pastors loved the Lord and mostly their training was self taught. The orginial pastor said, "I just use the Bible, and preach fifteen minutes." And that is what he did. As a footnote, he was present at the churches 50th anniversary. That does say something about his love for the Lord.
I would think that the folks believed "What are we doing wrong? We love our little church family, and we are happy with how things are going." I think. They were happy with a fifteen minute sermon, lots of singing and good fellowship! Come to church on Sunday and go home until the next week.
I love keeping records about results. (I left all my records there when I left the church). There were few recorded records, except the ones that Ethel York had. I do think there were over fifty plus members. But most never came in the last ten years.
Then I came. Change, as I knew, was not easy and most of the time not wanted. "Let us alone, we are doing just fine, stay out of our lives." We have a small group in a small town and that is the way we like it. But I have contended that these folks were a product of the leadership that was in the church. The church body does not go any further than its leadership.
When we arrived in Altoona, Marvin Mann was in the church, he had been a pastor. He was asked to pastor the church before I came, but he didn’t want to. But when I came, he stayed and we asked him to be the associate pastor, and teach the Adult class. He went to college at Baptist Bible Seminary in Springfield. Much like Bible Baptist Seminary in Arlington. So generally we were of the same mind set. All was well those first two years. Because I was a Hylesite in my approach and preaching. Marvin really supported us, and he helped the people in the church to learn how to take care of the pastor.
Naturally, we wanted to see people saved, and baptized and see the church grow, spiritually and in attendance. You would have thought that the best way to have people come to church was through the Bus Ministry. FBC in Hammond was bringing in 10,000 on the buses. Chicago had 1 million people too. We didn’t have a bus or van. And I thought that we needed trained workers and teachers to see us do a good job.
By this time of our ministry I was not excited about promotional programs just to get people to come to church once. I thought the best way was through the preaching, not a lot of promotions. Yet we did have some in those early years.
What I believed we needed to do to have a good ministry, was at first not well received in those first few months. (I have addressed that issue in another post). Once those issues were confronted and changed, and the first group of people left the church, we began to see the church body come together.
We were only in the first phase of ministry at FBC. What I was doing and thinking was a result of Seminary in Arlington, and Hyles. And for awhile we really were doing quite well.
What I failed to understand was the folks in Altoona, Kansas were not ready for change. They were not used to strong leadership. And I changed all that. I was looking for change. They were just happy to be in a church service.
Like many churches that are small, you have the core group who stay no matter what happens, and then you have others who will come and leave. You always have a group of folks who like to control and rule. Always.
I had the mentality that Christians lived a certain way. Like your typical fundamental independent Baptist preacher, I couldn’t preach a sermon that did not address some sin that I believed needed to be corrected. Much of the preaching was not Bible but what I believed the people should be doing and living and acting.
I wanted to be in charge. I wanted to control the whole program of the church. I wanted growth, and to see people saved. But I also realized that this was Altoona, Kansas a small town. I knew that was not going to happen overnight, if ever.
I thought if I preached hard enough, long enough, and planned enough, we would see a great church for the Lord. I began to put out a nice church paper weekly. I started recording my messages each week. I tried to visit the folks regularly. And I wanted to try to get the church building up to par as to its appearance. I invited some missionaries to come and share their love for the Lord. I had some good groups of singers from some good colleges to come. This was really quite good. We were rolling I believed. We had a yearly revival. We had VBS for the kids.
I believe I am correct, we had at least one new person to come to our Sunday Morning service for the next two years. Several people were saved and baptized and joined the church. Our attendance was growing on Sunday morning.
But in those early days, well years, I was rather, straight forward in my approach. I am told I didn’t have a lot of charm. I spoke sometimes loud, and talked before I thought. I made decisions based upon what I believed was right, even if it made some people mad.
One of many examples: I was asked by a couple if I would pray at the Senior High Prom. I said I couldn’t, and that our children would not be allowed to go. That was not well received, as you can imagine. Then there was the Hyles dress code and long hair code. That really was a problem for years. But we had some great lovely people who were patient with me over the years. They loved Charity I guess, and didn’t want to lose her friendship. But I thought all this was normal for fundamental preachers.
The members really took good care of us. There was no question that they loved us. Even in those first few years. They were willing to try anything I would suggest.
At the very start, I had to work at another job. I started working at Hillcrest Nursing Home, in Fredonia, and for the next ten years I enjoyed working there. I went through three administrators and about 100 employees, and hundreds of wonderful senior citizens, that I dearly loved. And even a few employees came to church. Regina Nobert, one of the sweetest members we had, came and was saved.
I guess I could go on and on, telling some great blessings from the Lord, and some of the dumb things I tried, and the love the folks gave Charity and me and the kids, but I will close this out for a while.
I would like to thank those beginning years members: Mrs. Elizabeth Dennison, Wilford and Ethel York, Bernard and Doris Morton, Mrs. Bernice Fail, Allen and Toni Barnhart, Marvin and Phyllis Mann, Allen and Cec Nunnenkamp, Jim and Marilyn Farmer, Alana Douglas, Christy Heaton, Mike and Nancy Nunnenkamp, Pete and Mabel Lour, Lucille Morgan, Donna Cornwell., Royce and Loretta Lockhart, David and Pam Lockhart, Joe and Sue Costen, From March 1980 to about July 1982.
Drafted by Charles E. Whisnant October 5th 2006 Posted October 6th 2006 Checked by Charity Whisnant