A Long Road Home
A Church Move Turns Into Praises for God

  Amazing Grace was given notice of termination of our lease towards the beginning of this year.   We received ninety days notice to vacate and find a new place to worship.   Unplanned moves can destroy churches.   But we have done this, as a church, in the past.   This was not new territory.   Still and all, though, you can develop a fine sense of panic at the prospect.

Compare and contrast this to the fact that there was a 'buyers market' for rental properties out there.   Many properties to choose from and quite reasonable prices.   But quite reasonable to a church of 100 is beyond reach for a church of less than twenty.   And so, keeping this in mind, we went out looking for a new church home.

What does a church look like anyway?   Yes, I understand that the church is its people, not the structure.   But the average American Joe or Jill expects the building to look like something.

Does it look like a small store front in a strip mall?   Maybe it has the appearance of a warehouse fringing on an industrial zone.   It could even be that self same warehouse in a downtown development district housing mostly urban professionals cheek and jowl with a thriving arts community . . this because the former industrial district has been overrun by apartments and condos.

In each case we had to ask the question; Is this who we are?   You see, we came out of a situation in which we were told that we did not fit; either the culture of our landlords or the neighborhood.   And in retrospect this is true but very jarring.   So not only did we have to figure out a place to worship, we had to figure out who we are in order to look for a place to call home.

Having eventually visited, either in person or online, well over 150 prospective properties . . having put our plight before a team of property professionals . . having prayed incessantly that God would intervene on our behalf . . we ran across a small church for rent in Craig's List.   The price was over twice what we could afford but I determined to have a look and see what "the market" had available as a guide for subsequent searches.

My son and I met with the landlord and spent about 45 minutes looking through the facility, this on a Friday.   I thanked the gentleman for his time and told him that I would get back to him if the congregation felt that we should proceed.   But frankly there were obstacles in the way.   This 100 year old structure needed some extensive fixes to make it usable for our congregation.   These would have to be corrected before we would even consider taking possession.   This plus the price put the facility out of our reach.

The congregation agreed with my assessment on Sunday and so I continued to look for a new church home.   But God had other things in mind.   On Tuesday evening the landlord called me and said that he wanted us in his building, what needed to be done to make that happen?

How do you recognize that the finger of God is in a situation (Exodus 8:19)?   Please understand that the Egyptians needed proof beyond the abilities of their magicians to perform.   But we had been crying out to God for His help.   When our situation first emerged I told the congregation that if God wanted us to continue on as a body of believers then we would clearly recognize His help.   We would be unable to make this happen on our own, we are just too small.

My teaching in a situation such as ours has to be focused on God; if He brings us along into a new facility then we praise Him, if He shuts our small church down and sends us elsewhere then we praise Him.   The Biblical precedent (of praising God in all things) is there.   But it is also a tough pill to swallow.

And so the clock is ticking.   The search is on.   Prayers are many and impassioned.   We spent weeks looking at innumerable places.   There is hope that God will come through, and also doubt.   And we tried, for all we were worth, to trust in Him.   So how do you recognize God's working in your life?   In other words, what is your threshold?   Does it require multiple miracles, as it did with the Egyptians?   Or do you need much less?

Our threshold of recognition began with a phone call.   Mind you, there were significant problems with the structure.   The price was prohibitive.   But we realized that only God could work something out.   And we knew that our threshold would be in the details.

My next meeting with the landlord opened avenues of cooperation that allowed both parties to achieve their goals.   And God did work it out.   We spent a month cleaning, painting, etc.   We first worshiped in this new neighborhood in May.   We began a community outreach in June, and enjoyed a very exciting VBS in July.

This is a praise God moment.   Only He could have put it together.   It could not have happened any other way.

For Amazing Grace this was also a learning experience.   We had to learn to trust in Him for all aspects of life, even something as mundane as finding a new home.   That said, we have to admit that we failed at least partially.   As you 'veg out' over a situation, as you let it gnaw at you, all you really show is your lack of trust in Him.

But these can be "cling to the cross" moments if you realize soon enough where you are heading.   Consider them to be extra opportunities to come before Him in prayer and supplication.   He will answer your prayers.   And you will begin to recognize it when He crosses your threshold.

new chapel