The first Sunday of June is always a very special day for Dana and me. June 1, 1997, was the day the Cornerstone Baptist Church was born. It was us and one old couple up in their 70s that just a few weeks before had been commissioned by our home church to start the new work.
Most new churches, sadly, do not make it. Just in my area I have seen at least 50 startups fail over the past 22 years. Of those that do make it, very few retain the founding pastor for more than a few years. So for God to have allowed me more than two decades thus far thrills me beyond measure.
My church has been so good to me. They allow me to maintain a fairly full schedule of revival and evangelistic meetings, youth rallies and marriage conferences. They take very good care of us. They have been loving and kind to my wife and my children.
But 22 years in one place does not just produce "Hallmark moments"; it also produces a great many "Twilight Zone moments."
In our original building, an abandoned former fish camp, we had more renovation work to do than you could imagine. One project we undertook was the building and installation of a steeple. We used the large back room as our construction site and labored over it for days. Just as we were finishing it, my dear wife came in, took one look at it and its 48-inch base, then looked at the 36-inch door it had to go through and said, "How do you intend to get it outside?"
Nope. We genius men had not even considered that.
Then there was the time she, in 6-inch high heels, went running through the parking lot to apprehend a woman who had walked in off the street, picked up the mission's change jug and bolted with it. Dana is not one to mess with.
On one particular church workday, we had one group working on the roof and other groups working inside. One inside group was trying to remove the hard-mounted fire extinguisher system that had been part of the fish camp kitchen. Tapping it "gently" with a hammer to try to loosen the top holding bracket, we heard a "BOOM!" as the top of the extinguisher exploded. It actually shot through the roof, the same roof the other crew was standing on to work.
A few seconds later, as the haze cleared, we saw bright sunlight streaming into the building through the large new hole in the roof. And then the light was blocked out as a face from on the roof looked down inside to see what had happened; but all we saw was two brown eyes blinking out from a face that looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy covered in new, fresh flour
We had vandalism occurring in the men's restroom. Petty stuff like all of the toilet paper rolls being unwrapped and stuffed into toilets, air fresheners being thrown away, marks being made on the wall. And so, silently, our staff went into Sherlock Holmes mode. We keep an attendance list of every service. So each service that damage occurred, we made a list of everyone who was there. And after a few months, we had our suspects dead to rights. Two boys, thick as thieves, were the only ones there each and every time.
And so the very next service they were there, I slipped up beside them with a pleasant look on my face and whispered (not at all pleasantly) "No more damage in the restroom. Ever. Understand?" Their eyes got as wide as saucers ... and we never had any more damage in the restroom. Elementary, my dear Watson.
We once had a lady blow up at us over ... wait for it ... Kool-Aid. Some of our ladies dared to pour her pitcher out after it had sat in the refrigerator for more than six months and was growing unidentifiable new species of creatures down in its murky red depths.
We once accidentally set the entire front lawn on fire. We also, in the early days where every penny had to be stretched as if it were a full dollar, painted two dead decorative trees with green spray paint so we would not have to replace them. No one noticed for two solid years.
My favorite may just be the incomprehensibly troublesome lady in year two or three that left our church and vowed never to return. She went to another nearby church, and all of us honestly breathed a sigh of relief. And then a few weeks later she called and asked to come back. Dana and I went to pick her up, and she said, "If that man from your church had not come by to tell me how much you missed me and begged me to come back to Cornerstone, I would have stayed gone!" I was flabbergasted. I asked who he was, and when she told me I nearly wrecked the car.
He was actually a deacon at the church she had left us for.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2know firstname.lastname@example.org.