“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” -Luke 1:46-47,49
This has been my song the past week. These words more than anything else put into words the exuberance and excitement in what the Lord has done for College Street Baptist Church.
Let me share with you a story about a big little thing God had done for us: “Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!” -Psalm 34:3
How it all started.
We had a roof leak in the church. Our church building is like a lot of churches our size–a piecemeal structure added on to over the years by various contractors and volunteers. We began to notice water coming in through the seams where the sanctuary had been joined to the fellowship hall at some point in the church’s history.
We tried to patch it. We tried to patch it again. We were just delaying the inevitable. The roof was nearing 20 years of age, and it needed to be replaced. Assessments from a couple of professionals confirmed our worst fear.
The number was on the page in black in white staring us in the face. That’s how much it was going to cost to re-roof the church. Many of you may attend churches that bring in that much on a Sunday. $20,000 is close to a third of our annual budget.
It seemed impossible.
However, being the stubborn, skinflint of a pastor that I am, I insisted we weren’t going to take out a loan for the project. I’d inherited a five-year $35,000 loan when I came to CSBC, and after we got out from under that debt, I swore we’d never go back.
But how? With our little collection of families, children, widows, and students, how on earth? We couldn’t.
Giving in Faith.
Nevertheless, in May of this year we began the first step, not knowing where it would lead. We put the $20,000 figure before the church and began to encourage them to give sacrificially. We were determined not to do fundraisers in the community. Just give. Pray. Wait.
After the first month, we had collected a little over $1,000. It was…slightly disconcerting, but not surprising. Then a member of the church stepped up and gave a $2,000 matching gift. Then the Immanuel Network, a partnership of sister churches, generously gave $1,000. Then my father-in-law’s business gave (this was particularly humbling). Then other friends of the church caught wind of what was happening and gave graciously.
By the end of July, we plateaued at $11,000, and I truly believed our church had done it’s absolute best. So many members had given sacrificially. So we ended the giving campaign. We ended it–even though we were still $9,000 short.
We prayed and waited.
We were waiting on the Lord.
A Foundation for Big Small Things.
Midsummer, I searched through old text messages for information about a foundation that helped little churches like us with projects like these. At the time of the text–more than a year back–I’d proudly tossed it aside, “Ha! That’ll be the day, when I beg for money from a foundation. Especially one with such a belittling name: The Oldham Little Church Foundation.”
Famous last words.
I went to work filling out their arduous and rigorous application. Our leaders prayed step by step for the Lord to provide.
We passed the first stage.
The second stage was even more involved. I had to ask ministry partners and friends to fill out a lengthy recommendation form. We prayed some more.
Then this past Wednesday, I received an email in my inbox:
Oldham Little Church Foundation is pleased to inform you that a grant has been approved for your church…
$20,000 Like That.
They’d granted us everything we asked for. Like that, the Lord had given us–through these generous brothers and sisters at the OLCF–everything we needed. Simply because we waited.
It’s a big small thing. Some churches spend $20,000 a year on coffee. I know that. It is a small thing in the eyes of the world. It’s a big, huge, insurmountable, impossible thing for our church.
Even if the world shrugs at this small thing, we have come to experience the big truth of Luke 1:37: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Three things have been such a blessing in this process.
1. Statement of Faith
Believe it or not, we got a church statement of faith out of this whole roof campaign process. The OLCF required it as part of the grant application. Now, I’ve known we needed a statement of faith since the day I started at CSBC six years ago. Who woulda thought it would be while raising funds for a roof that we would have to assemble a team to examine and summarize our beliefs!? God has a strange sense of humor.
A special thanks to Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Kenwood Baptist Church, Kailua Baptist Church, Immanuel Baptist Church, and Grace Life Church whose statements of faith were a great help as we chose the historic confession that best fit us. We ultimately landed with a slightly modified Abstract of Principles (SBTS, 1858).
2. Partnership in the Gospel
I was so humbled and encouraged to see funds pour into our church from friends, family, and sister churches. This truly was a kingdom endeavor in so many ways. I was particularly humbled by a $500 gift that came from a pastor of another church. I know how little most pastors make. We are utterly undeserving–especially of that godly man’s gift.
If you are a sister church in the Immanuel Network, know that your giving has become tangible. The next time you come through Newberry, swing by our buidling. There will be shingles on the roof with your churches’ names on them. We praise God for you!
Thank you all for your prayers, gifts, and support. A special thanks goes out to Don Lawrimore, Catherine Johnson, and Chris DiVietro who took precious time out of their schedules to fill out recommendations for us. And thank you to the Oldham Little Church Foundation!
3. The Prayer of Widows
There is a widow from church who is bedridden in a local nursing home. When I first came to CSBC, she was at church every time the doors were open, faithfully warming her pew, waving her petite hand at my little children.
Slowly, she’s lost mobility and much of her sentience. However, when I visit her each week, she always asks how the church is doing. This summer, the roof situation filled our conversations. Her roommate, another bedridden elderly woman, was always berating me about how I was running the capital campaign: “You gotta ask them to give! They can’t give if you don’t ask!”
These two ladies had nothing to give. They couldn’t even come to church. But they prayed.
Let me tell you how special it was to be able to visit their room this past week, take their hands and say, “Sisters, the Lord has granted your prayers. $9,000 came in this week. He has provided everything we need.”
How do I even put into words what the Lord has done? I guess I’ve used quite a few. It all seems to fall so far short. I am a small, weak, faithless man in need of tangible reminders of God’s love and provision for us.
Now every time I walk out of my house toward the back of the church, I’ll look up at the roof and be reminded, “Your Father in heaven knows what you need even before you ask…Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:8,33).