Secondly, churches that respond well to heartache pursue God’s fresh vision for their ministry. During my Bible college years I preached at a small rural church in Kentucky called the Turkeyfoot Christian Church. The Turkeyfoot community was named for a nearby creek with a three-pronged fork that resembled a turkey’s foot. Another church down the road was called Skullbuster because tall men would hit their heads on the low hanging entrance to the sanctuary. Rural churches tend to have very practical names.
By the time I started preaching at Turkeyfoot, the church was known as a “weekend ministry.” The families that attended couldn’t afford a full-time preacher anymore, so they hired me to visit people on Saturday and preach twice on Sunday. I served at Turkeyfoot for almost three years and had a blast! We had hunting beagles in worship, snakes and mice in the baptistery, and hogs that frequently wandered into the church yard to root up the sod. One of the shut-ins I visited every Sunday afternoon was a World War I veteran who wiped tobacco juice drool off of his mouth before shaking my hand. I used to take my future wife Jane to his house and smiled at her when he held out his hand to shake hers. The church family fed me, invited me to their family gatherings, and gave me pies and cakes to take back to school. They listened to my mediocre preaching and extended grace when I made mistakes.
Given a choice, I am sure the Turkeyfoot Church would have preferred a full-time minister so they would have someone around to help lead during the week. Years later the membership grew enough to hire a young preacher on a full-time basis, which was a blessing. In the time I served I never heard anyone complain about how things used to be, or worry about what might happen in the future. Instead, the good people of Turkeyfoot believed God was calling them to use their weekend ministry status to love and train young preachers attending Bible college. I am still eternally grateful for their attitude.
This is how the church recovers from its circumstances and lifts up the name of Christ. She finds grace to leave the past behind and trusts God with tomorrow. Like a faithful bride she “leaves and cleaves.” And though she sometimes bears horrific scars, she glows knowing she has not been, nor will she ever be forsaken.