The Donelson Fellowship celebrated its 60th birthday today and we had a great celebration at our church. Since I’ve been there for 36 years, it was hard not to reminisce. Rather than sharing stories about the founding or the growth of our church, I decided to share two stories of church life, illustrating the poignancy and the humor of it all.
Here’s the poignant story: Several years ago a woman visited our church with two children. Several of our evangelistic teams made contact with her and her youngsters. One Sunday night at the close of a worship service I gave the invitation to receive Christ, and she came to the altar and was wonderfully converted. She came to Christ with tears and great sincerity. Two days later, she went to retrieve her son’s bicycle at the house of her estranged husband, and he came onto the porch and shot her to death. On Friday I conducted her funeral. I’ve often marveled at how something so wonderful and something so terrible could have occurred within the space of five days.
On the opposite extreme, here’s a story we’ve laughed about in our family for years. One day when my daughter, Hannah, was in high school, she said, “Dad, my friend Courtney and I have a term paper due tomorrow and we’re going to stay up all night and work on it. Do you think we could use your office at church?”
I said, “Sure. The building will be locked up and you’ll be safe, but, you know, a church can be a creepy place at night.”
“Oh, we’ll be fine,” she said.
Well, at 2 o’clock in the morning I was jolted away by the telephone. The girls were screaming in terror. I finally understood they were saying: “Dad! We’ve found a body in the church! There’s a dead body the church!”
It took me an awful moment to figure it out, but I realized I had forgotten to tell them there was a funeral the next morning and deceased gentleman was lying in state in an open coffin in the chapel. The girls had wandered through the creepy building at 2 a.m., spooked by the vacant sounds of a church building at night and looking for something to play music on. When they switched on the lights, there he was! I can’t remember what happened to the term paper, but it didn’t get written that night.
Well, that’s church life. At any moment it can swing from the poignant to the comical—and that’s the way life is. I love it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Somehow amid all our drama, the Lord does His work and gives us some tears and laughter along the way.