On Wednesday, I had the privilege of preaching the funeral service for Florene Wheeler, a faithful prayer warrior and friend who passed away at the age of 97. It was a very sad occasion, but it was also a joy to spend the day with people I love deeply. You see, Florene was a near lifetime member of Pisgah Baptist Church in Pisgah, Alabama. In February, 1994 Becky and I moved to Pisgah as 23 year old newlyweds, and I began serving as the pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church.
I have often said that I do not know much now, but I did not know anything then! Becky and I moved into the pastorium just behind the church building here and began our life and ministry together. In the afternoons we would take walks around this beautiful community, and very often would come home to a sack of fresh garden vegetables on our front porch. Pisgah High School is only two blocks away and we spent many evenings at various Eagle sporting events. I can remember Vacation Bible School with kids running all over the church grounds. I remember Andrea Wheeler, the first person who was saved and baptized under my ministry as a pastor.
This is the pulpit from which I preached my first sermon as a pastor and many sermons thereafter. However, it is the people who were in those pews that I treasure most. Whenever I look at this picture, I can see friends for life in those pews. I see Derrick & Florene Wheeler, Ollie & Betty Turner, Delton & Jean Traylor, “Coach” & Elizabeth Cooley, Jerry & Carolyn Jeffrey, Bill & June Corbin, Jack & Jewel Brewster, and a host of others. I can see the “Wheeler girls” up on that stage singing. I can see people being saved and baptized in that very room.
The precious people at Pisgah Baptist Church loved me and were patient with me. They loved the Word of God and came hungry for it every service. They didn’t just see themselves as my ministry, but rather they saw me as their ministry. They urged me to stay in seminary classes and even helped to pay for my ministry training knowing that I likely would not stay there very many years. They prayed for me. On a handful of occasions, they cried with me. They loved my wife, and let her settle into the role of a pastor’s wife with no pressure to do everything in the church. I absolutely could not have asked for a better first church to pastor.
On Wednesday as I drove up to Pisgah, all of these memories came flooding back. As a walked into the building, it was like home as always. After a few hours of countless tears, hugs, and a funeral, I pulled out of the parking lot to head back to Huntsville. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I thanked the Lord for this precious church and all that it has meant to me. Everything I do for the Lord today is very much because of their influence in my life. They have truly meant more to me than I could ever mean to them. This is why, no matter where I go or what I do for the Lord the rest of my life, part of my heart will always be at Pisgah.