How My Childhood Church Affected My Life

Eastpointe Christian Church, the church I attended from birth till high school graduation, recently celebrated their 60th anniversary. They asked me to share how the church impacted my life. Here’s what I shared with them…

1967 Baby BrianOne of my favorite memories of Eastpointe is walking into church and knowing that Bob Berridge would be sitting on the back right pew, all the way to the left, next to the aisle. He greeted me each week like I was the only person in the building that day. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one that thought that each Sunday.

What I remember most about Eastpointe isn’t the creaky folding collapsible doors between Sunday school classes, or the “clapping in church controversy of 1978,” or the years getting skunked by the Catholic Church in the Madison softball league.

But people.

I’ll never forget the time Dave Darby, Jeff Mangas and I cooked cheeseburgers in the church kitchen during Sunday School. That did not go over really well with the elders. Or the time we stumbled upon “The Songs Of Songs” during one of Bill Walker’s sermons and we howled with giddy laughter over realizing the word “breasts” was actually in the Bible. I miss those guys.

I’ll never forget Ted Gaffney “inspecting the church” every Sunday during Bill Walker’s mildly entertaining sermons. Or his son Dave allowing us to do donuts in the church parking lot after youth group one night, at the age of 15, in someone else’s station wagon. Or the time Rick Cox got baptized, and in his enthusiasm stayed under the water, but exuberantly shoved his fist in the air and gave everyone a thumbs up before coming up for air.

Bob Murphy was the best Sunday School teacher anyone could have ever wanted – smart, patient, and kind. Virgil Plymel took me and four other third grade boys on a camping trip one year, only to leave the church shortly thereafter. I’m pretty sure it was the therapy he had to pay for afterwards that caused him to switch churches. Bob took over after him, and stuck with us until we graduated to another class. Beth Clark and a host of others taught me in the early years.

My dad and Bobby Tuttle used to play tennis a lot. They “let” me chase the balls they hit over the fence at the tennis courts. I never caught on. Yes, they “let” me chase their balls each time. ☺ I always thought for all his strength and black-belt-karate-ness, he was one of the kindness men I ever met. Around that time dad started playing with the Tuttle twins, who were too competitive to let me chase balls, but were just as enjoyable because they would occasionally swear, and then apologize upon seeing me, which I thought was hysterical. My dad only yelled “Boogers.” Mark became a great youth coach later on. Tuttle became my youth pastor.

I liked Mike’s sermons because he would wear coonskin caps, call the apostles “panty-waists,” and hoist a big statue of Buddha onto the pulpit to make his points clear. All things that were strongly encouraged, I guess, in Milligan College preaching classes. But it was his friendship who set him apart as a world-class pastor and friend – blowing an evening coming over to play b-ball at my house, asking me to come with him places, and “showing up” for no reason at my school. When he married Sandy the male attendance at youth group shot up 68 percent overnight, partly because everyone had a crush on her, but mostly because Mike married out of his league.

The elders were always approachable, strong and nurturing. Bill Walker was my favorite teacher, and still is. Man, could that guy make you understand the Bible. And he was the kind of pastor everyone wishes they had. He baptized me, ordained me, and saved me from my dad when I accidentally backed the car down the driveway (so I could shoot basketball) and ran over the mailbox, perfectly timed to when Bill pulled up to our house. “You have to stay here,” I told him. “He won’t kill me if you’re here.” He kindly obliged.

The founding pastor of the church was the one that got my mom involved setting up chairs at the Whitehall High School. My dad made the decision to get involved when, not coincidentally  Bob Berridge came and visited him after church one day. And my family’s trajectory was permanently changed.

Because of the people at Eastpointe.

You changed my diapers.

You held me in the nursery.

You taught me in your classes.

And then sent me out into ministry.

And because of everything you’ve done for me, I am humbled, and grateful.

With much love and affection.

Brian Jones

How would you describe the impact the church you grew up in had on you?

Brian loves helping Christians live thoughtful, courageous lives. He's a popular blogger, author, and pastor at Christ's Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

  • Michael Harris

    Wonderfully said, Brian. Brings back quite a few memories reading this, even if we missed each other at Eastpointe by a few years. Keep up the good work at CCV – it was so awesome to see the church this past summer and to think about how far you all have come since I was out there in 2003. Keep making Eastpointe proud!

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Yeah it was a great place to grow up. Fantastic memories. Keep rocking it in High Point. Though if I see you wearing a Tar Heels or Blue Devils shirt anytime, well, let’s just say bad things will happen. :)

      • Michael Harris

        No need to worry about that – I definitely stand out down here rocking the scarlet and gray in a land of blue!

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    I wrote a little bit about my experience in my blog post this morning. My hometown church in NJ (First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Holly) had a huge impact on me. This was a place that encouraged me to dream, to think, and to lead. I’m so thankful for that experience and especially for the people who impacted me in far more ways than I could express.

  • Sean

    Wow oh wow. Thank you for sharing that. The names you dropped brought back some great memories. I was baptized in that same church by Bill Walker. Even remember the day. November 7th, 1976. I was good friends with Jeff Mangas and Bob Berridge’s son Tim. I remembered the Gaffney and the Tuttles vividly. I remember the Millers and the Simms as well. And of course I could never forget my experiences with you and your wonderful family. That same church reminds me of the great times I had at Round Lake camp each summer. Remember when we would load up on Atomic Fireballs. And this was the camp I gave a sermon. I sure miss those days. I so thank you for reminding me.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Yep.

  • Erin Pascal

    Wow! What a story. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post to us. There are a lot of beautiful memories here and it is always an amazing experience to remember all of these things. :)