A few years ago my wife and I had the opportunity to participate in the wedding of a couple who had accepted Christ in our small group. My wife was the wedding coordinator and I was the presiding minister – I guess we come as a package deal. The wedding was at Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in Chesterfield. It didn’t make much sense for us to drive two vehicles, so I came to the wedding 3 hours early with Heather. I’ve always been the curious type, so I decided to explore the building while I waited for the ceremony. After walking down a long dank hall, I came into a small room with a high cathedral ceiling. Its walls were made of large wooden beams, and the clouded stained glass windows were adorned by ancient tapestry that told the story of the bible. It was the church’s 1st sanctuary – built many years before. The room was wrought with church history. I walked back through the hall and came into another room. This space was twice as large and noticeably newer then the first, but still smelled like my great grandmothers house. It was constructed with beautiful stained glass windows that refracted blue and red light across the stone walls and the padded wooden pews. Once again, I ventured down a much newer hall made from drywall and decorated with modern art. I came into a new ‘contemporary’ worship center. There was a coffee bar with high tables and a kiosk for new guest to receive church information and join active ministries of the church. There was a helpful library where members could read new books like “Crazy Love” and “The Reason for God”. As I continued to snoop, a church custodian walked by and asked if I was lost – I nervously smiled and said I was ‘just looking’. I began to make my way back from the contemporary side of the building to the traditional side, and that’s when I saw his face: there in the foyer was a painting of the church planter who had begun this work, Salmon Giddings.
Salmon’s face was pale and his hair shaped like a modern day foehawk. At the age of 34, he journeyed 4 months on horseback from Connecticut to Saint Louis as a missionary. In April of 1816, he preached his first message in a log cabin and ordained two men to be ruling elders of the church. In the fall of that same year, there were only 10 members… half of which were from the same family. But before his death in 1828, God used Salmon Giddings to plant 12 churches in 12 short years; 6 of those churches existing in Missouri and 6 in Illinois. As I stared at his dark determined eyes, a profound question came to my mind. If Salmon would have been standing there, this is what I would have asked him: Did you ever imagine that God would accomplish this through your obedience? Did you picture the lives that would change over 200 years of history? Did you dream of the city (of Saint Louis) that would be impacted for Christ through the continued evangelistic work you began? As I stood before that portrait, God revealed this to me: As a church planter, I too often struggle to see past today. With the website that needs to launch, the facility that needs to be rented, the salary I need to raise… sometimes it’s easy to be near sighted in church planting.
Church planter, this work is bigger than you. Pause and reflect upon that today. God isn’t just changing lives around you now… the prayers from your heart and the work of your hands will impact generation after generation to come. Stay focused on the task at hand , but never forget its implications for the future ahead.
Oh, and thank you Salmon Giddings.