Bud became well known as a tireless worker. His preaching was substantive and required diligent time in study. As his son Greg recently reminded me – he loved alliteration. But he always made sure his main points supported the exposition of the passage.
His personal evangelistic efforts were also constant and conspicuous because it became evident that he was leading the way in going to people’s homes and leading them to trust Christ. But as the church grew, he began to lead in building programs that focused on many hours of volunteer labor. It was often that two nights a week were designated as work nights. Many of the new members were motivated to come out to work – because they saw their pastor leading the way.
He also used a monthly church newsletter to promote and communicate the vision and plans that he was giving for building the church body and properties. In addition, he launched a radio broadcast that became well known in the community. He also wrote articles for the local newspaper and was constantly projecting a positive message for righteous living in the social life of the community. He was regarded as a strong voice for conservative and biblical principles and became widely respected in Central Illinois.
I thrived in that environment. As the youth pastor I inherited a small youth group because about ten leading high school graduates had just gone off to college. During the next four years a number of teenagers trusted Christ in the youth ministry. Because the church was attracting so many new families, I was able to bring their teens into a dynamic and growing youth ministry.
My first summer at Calvary I initiated an annual Western Camping trip that grew from 27 in 1967, to over 60 by my last summer in 1970.
I remember before leaving on that first trip Bud said to me, “What will you do if that bus breaks down?” I hadn’t thought of that yet, but said, “Be quiet. I don’t want to think about anything like that.” But the old 48 passenger International Harvester bus made it all the way to Denver and back.
We had regular youth activities that ultimately reached 75-100 teenagers most every weekend. Our campus ministry to Illinois State University grew to over 40 students attending each Sunday for a class that I taught, and to hear Pastor Weniger preach. College students were saved and discipled during those years, and the church welcomed them with open arms. Pastor Weniger was the heart and soul of all of that activity and outreach.
In the spring of 1970 Dr. Cedarholm invited Bud to give the baccalaureate address at Maranatha Baptist Bible College. I knew what this meant – the bestowal of an honorary degree – but I knew that the people of the church were clueless about such things. I called Doc Cedarholm and asked, “Are you giving Bud an honorary degree?” Cedar demurred and did not want to answer directly. I said, “Doc, the people at the church have no idea about these matters. It will be embarrassing for Bud to return and say to the church, ‘by the way over the weekend…’” Cedar cleared his throat and replied, “Well, you can tell the men at Calvary that their pastor will be honored in a significant way.”
I informed the Deacon Chairman and he made plans to make the trip to Watertown for the event. Bob Green, deacon chair, then gave a helpful announcement on Sunday morning that Pastor Weniger was now Dr. Weniger. But to the Calvary people he was always Pastor Weniger.