My early years as a minister took place in a small church in middle Tennessee. The church was in Pulaski, about an hour from Nashville. The little church met in a storefront on the highway that led to Minor Hill. Yes, it was a storefront. Used to be a convenience store. Just across the street (two-lane highway) was a bank — a round bank — where we had an adult class each Sunday morning. (Somebody had a key to one of the meeting rooms in the bank.)
This was a small church. On a "good" Sunday, we might have 75 people or so. Yet, I will always be indebted to these people. They were so patient with their young minister. When you are just starting out, everything is new. Every sermon is new. Every experience is new. Most every problem is new. Yet, these people were patient. Very patient.
Working as a minister with a church for the first time is an experience for which no one can really quite prepare you. You learn about people. You see people at their best and at their worst. You realize that some Christians are so alive to God and their lives reflect this. You see others who are — well, just there.
There are many things about Pulaski, that church, and those people that I have always remembered and probably always will:
I remember the wonderful encouragers: Dennon and Joy, J. W. and his wife, Byron and Brenda. Then there were young guys like Charlie, Jimmy, and others. We spent much time in Dennon and Joy’s home. Dennon took me around town introducing me to various people. Again and again, I was blessed by his friendship and encouragement.
I remember a woman who taught me so much about prayer: Mary Cordell, who believed that God really did hear and answer prayer. Again and again, she would tell me of what she had been praying for. I know she prayed for me regularly.
I remember walking along the town square (courthouse in the middle). This was the first time I had ever lived in a small town, and I was fascinated by its dynamics.
I remember the little house we lived in on Jefferson Street. My "office" was in our home. I recall spending much time in that house, studying, praying and trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. That was a very special place.
I remember some very tender moments. Late one night, I drove through a hard rain on Highway 31 to Columbia where one of our members, a 26-year-old woman, was dying of cancer. She died that night while I was at the hospital. I had no idea what I needed to do. I had never been present when someone died before. A nurse took me by the arm and gently said, "You probably want to take the family down to the chapel." She then proceeded to lead us all to the little chapel. (I have thanked the Lord again and again for sending this woman.)
Once in the chapel, the family wept and sat very still. The room was dark and I sensed that I just needed to read Scripture, pray, and slip out. A large Bible was already in the room. I opened it to the 23rd Psalm and then read. I then prayed.
A few days later, I stood on a hillside just outside of Pulaski and conducted my first funeral. I remember that moment so well. A few years ago, I was in Nashville for a conference and decided to go through Pulaski again. I found this same hillside, stood by the grave, and again remembered that day.
So, I am thankful to God that in his grace he allowed Charlotte and me to live in that place. I am thankful for all we learned while we were there.
What did you learn, that you have held on to, in the first place you lived as an adult?