This year, for various reasons, my wife and I really didn’t go anywhere for our vacation. We made several one and two day trips to various places around central Indiana, spent a lot of time with our grandsons, and went to two family weddings.
While we didn’t have any exotic destinations, I was glad not to have days of driving for eight or nine hours. We mainly enjoyed the break from our normal routine, and time spent with each other and our family. And, believe it or not, one of the high points of our vacation was a trip to rural Bloomfield.
It felt odd that first Sunday morning of our vacation to be here in town and not go to First Baptist Church. I try not to go to the church building on my day off every week, so I’m sure not going to go there on vacation! I’ve always told our associate pastors if they come to church on their days off and end up working, it’s their own fault. But it did seem odd to drive past the church instead of turning in. It looked like you had a good number of cars in the parking lot, though.
We were on our way to attend White River Baptist Church in rural Bloomfield, where Al Pierce is the pastor. Pastor Al is one of the many fine pastors we have met since affiliating with the Southern Baptist Convention. And we knew that our own Bill Ledgerwood had also pastored this church in years past, so we had a double motivation to go there.
The problem was, we weren’t exactly sure what road to turn on to find the church. Our “smart” phone map apps were being pretty uncooperative that morning, so my wife decided to call Donna Pierce, the pastor’s wife, whom she had met at a ladies conference. To our chagrin we learned that Donna was at home sick that morning. But as bad as she felt, she gave us directions to the church.
We arrived just as Pastor Al was finishing up teaching the adult Sunday School class, and were graciously welcomed despite our interruption. Between Sunday School and the morning worship service there was just time for a quick cup of coffee and some brief conversations. Charlene Dornick’s sister Maxine and her husband Ron also go to that church, and it was good to see them again.
The pastor’s wife is ordinarily their pianist, but since she was sick they drafted Rae Anne to play the piano, and she was glad to do so. Pastor Al was apologetic because their numbers were down a little that morning. A young lady from their church had gotten married the day before in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of their church folks who went to the wedding opted to stay the night in Louisville. But even so, you should have heard them sing! Even a few people can “Make a joyful noise to the Lord”! (Psalm 100:1)
As we sang, I remembered that young Charles Haddon Spurgeon was converted in just such a church meeting. Spurgeon went on to be used of God to bring thousands of people to faith in Jesus Christ. You never know how God might work, or what He might do or begin, even in a “small” congregation.
And then Pastor Al got up to preach. He preached a fine expository sermon on 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Pastor Al was educated at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and his dedication to faithfully proclaiming God’s Word is evident. (On their website he has a section on his philosophy of ministry. I told him I thought it was one of the best things I had ever read summarizing what Biblical ministry ought to be.)
But something unexpected happened to me as I sat and listened to the message.
My throat began to tighten and I began to silently weep as I heard Pastor Al preach the wonderful truths of the Gospel from the Bible. I felt deep joy and gratitude to God for what I was hearing. I have visited enough churches over the years to know that you don’t always hear a Bible-based sermon in church, and even when you do the Gospel isn’t always made plain.
It is possible to preach and teach from the Bible without ever mentioning the Gospel. Too many pastors simply assume that everyone in their congregation understands the Good News of Jesus. Forty years of preaching has shown me that you should never make that assumption. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “If I preached this sermon in a synagogue, would they kick me out?” If the answer is no, then you haven’t made the Gospel plain.
But I heard God’s man teach God’s Word and make the Gospel as clear as could be that Sunday morning. I thought to myself, “Here is this pastor, faithfully proclaiming this message out here in the fields surrounding Bloomfield, Indiana!” And I began to weep, and then I thought, “We need this Gospel to ring out from every hill and hollow and village and town and city in our nation!”
Oh, how I wish we could take for granted that wherever you see a church building, you could know that the Scriptures are being taught and the Good News of Jesus proclaimed! But it isn’t so. And when you find a church where this is true, and where a pastor is faithfully preaching the Gospel, it is a precious thing. It is a gift from God. If communities only knew what a gift it was, they would express gratitude to God for such churches.
After the service we had some wonderful conversations with the people there at White River Baptist Church. And I was able to communicate my gratitude to Pastor Al. At least, I tried. I was still choked up. I told him, “It is so wonderful to have brother pastors and sister churches that believe and teach and preach the same things we do!” With a mischievous grin he said, “We ought to switch pulpits sometime and not tell anybody. That would surprise ‘em!” And I said, “Well, if we did, the people of First Baptist would hear a fine sermon.”
We left that service feeling refreshed in our spirits. It was a wonderful morning! May God bless Pastor Al Pierce, his wife Donna, and the people of White River Baptist Church!
And may God increase the number of churches in our land that truly uphold the Gospel.
Soli Deo Gloria!