Knowing God in Times of Risk
- Monday, January 11, 2010
When we started South Hills Community Church in September, 1969, we decided we would not build a building. Instead we would put our money into missions, not real estate, and we communicated this to our people so it became one of our core values. We rented a Seventh Day Adventist Church and did very well for nearly eight years. Then the Seventh Day Adventist people gave us a firm deadline when we had to be out of their building. That meant we had to build.
So we got land, communicated the necessity to build to our people, won them over, and worked to fund our effort. It didn't take long to discover that banks didn't want to lend to us, so we decided to work with a company that would allow us to self fund our project by borrowing money from our people and paying it back over time. Everything went well until we were just $10,000 short of our goal when we ran into a problem with our funding that required us to wait six months before we could move forward. During that time California experienced the greatest building inflation in its history until then. So it was that we found out we were $100,000 short of our target, not $10,000. We had already taken great risk to decide to build, but now we faced the greatest risk our church ever faced.
A few days before we discovered this, I had a once-in-a-lifetime experience with God. On probably Tuesday of that week, I had a conversation with a friend of mine that was filled with pride and hubris. There's no other way to describe it. It may be the worst conversation I ever had. That night probably about 1:00 in the morning I woke up with my arm wrapped around my head and my circulation totally cut off. I had no feeling in my arm and could not really move it at first. At that point God spoke in my heart and asked me, "Will you stay here and serve me?" I realized how wrong my conversation had been earlier that day and I recommitted myself to stay at South Hills. So it was on the following week-end when we were on an elders and staff retreat, the chairman of our board informed us of our situation.
I still remember that moment as if it were yesterday. He said, "Fellas..." He always called us Fellas when he addressed us as a group. Then he began to cry—a successful businessman leading over a 1,000 people with a passionate and tender heart for God—began to cry as he told us that we now needed $100,000 and we were facing a deadline that demanded we begin building in the next month. He said, "There isn't that much money in the church. We've drained it all." We were not a wealthy church so there was no one who could write a check and solve our problem. It was all over. South Hills would die at eight. We were done.
It was then that God brought to mind my conversation with Him from a few nights before. I realized that God did not call me to stay at a church He intended to bury. I thought of all He had done, of the weddings I had done, of the families He had transformed, of the people who had come to Him, of the over twenty interns who had served with us, of the other staff members on our team, of the children we were touching, of the neighbors who were watching us, and none of it made sense unless God wanted us to take another risk for Him—the greatest risk any of us had ever taken—and commit to raise $100,000 cash in three weeks.
As elders and staff we fell to our knees and cried out to God, determined to trust Him, and decided to plan Celebration Sunday three weeks later. So it was that the week before Celebration Sunday the giant earth movers were out on our property preparing the pad for our building. We made the deadline because we took risk with God without knowing what the result would be. That was part of the challenge: we trusted God and He came through. Few moments in our lives will ever match that moment when God brought us to Celebration Sunday.
What do we learn from knowing God through risk?
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