Little white church. Every small rural town has one. Ours was on 3rd and Argyle. Nondescript. Simple. Easily overlooked. Just a little white church.
Last year our little white church was demolished after having been unused for a few years. I watched the Facebook live video of the demolition from my home 100 miles away, with tears running down my cheeks. We were married in that church. Our two baby girls were dedicated in that church. We worshiped in that church for 25 years or so. Our hearts were deeply embedded in the four walls of that little building. It hurt so bad to watch it being dozed, even though it was obvious the building condition had deteriorated to the point it was necessary.
I felt like the walls were surely crying out with the voices of those who loved that church. And comments on that video were similar in nature. “I attended Sunday School there”. “That was my church when I was a kid.” “I loved that church.”
If there were 50 people in attendance it was a “good Sunday”. A few faces in the crowd changed as children grew up and moved away, or as new folks would come through the doors and find a home for their souls. But the core remained. The small group of faithful members. And remarkably, the same pastor for most of the years this church was open.
For forty-two years the same man served as shepherd to the flock at this little white church. He is a gentle, humble man with a servant heart. He gave of himself to every person who walked through the doors of that church. Correction: he is a gentle, humble servant to every person in our small town. Even if they never darkened the doors of the church he pastored.
His life goal was to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to speak hope and love, grace and salvation, into hurting hearts. He did it well. It was his calling.
It was his calling, and it was never easy. He persevered by the strong arm of the Savior who lifted him up and often carried him through storms. He’s been retired for several years now, and his gentle humble servant heart remains. And his Savior is still carrying him through difficult days.
I feel certain that the demolition of the church he served for his entire working life was painful for him.
An unknowing onlooker might think it was a failed church. Just too little. It folded. Shrunk and died.
I disagree. Oh, how I disagree. Seeds were planted in that little church that have spread and grown to far reaching places as folks moved away, and children grew up to become strong servants of God in their chosen professions. Desks in the classrooms of various universities have been occupied by children that grew up listening to Pastor Dave speak truth into their hearts and minds. Those same children have gone on to be Christian teachers, Christian social workers, Christian mothers and fathers, missionaries, health care workers, on and on. Light in the darkness around them, planting more seeds that God will cause to grow. That’s how it works in God’s garden. Some plant, some water…. but God causes the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6.
Even in little white churches and tiny groups of people.
Appearances can be so deceiving. When it appears like little has been accomplished, God has been behind the scenes causing hearts to grow in His grace and love. The Word planted in hearts will remain and give direction. I often find myself recalling specific parts of Pastor Dave’s messages that I heard so many years ago, and finding hope in the words God gave him to speak. And Scripture that he opened up to my heart. One verse in particular that I recall Pastor Dave quoting through tears during a message: “Fear thou not, for I am with thee. Be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee, I will help thee. I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10 KJV
And I remember why that verse was significant to him. He was at a point during college where he just felt like giving up. Throwing in the towel. God poured hope into Dave with these words. I’m glad he didn’t give up. I’m thankful for the seeds he’s planted in hearts over the years.
I’m thankful for the little white church on 3rd and Argyle. The building is gone, but not the mission. Not the message of Christ. Not the fruit of the labor. The seeds were planted. The fruit will continue to grow and spread.