Seeing the "For Sale" sign on the building sure makes our decisions real, doesn't it? For those who were not here, or those who are new, I'd like to explain the background and events that have led us to this point. We have experienced steady growth for the last couple of years here in Verdun.
- 30 in 2003
- 50 in 2004
- 70 in 2005
- 85 in 2006
Our auditorium and classroom spaces are almost full so we decided to renovate the outside of the building and expand for more classes downstairs and a bigger fellowship hall and later expand the auditorium. We paid most of the renovation work off and had secured a loan of $200,000 to do the expansion work. After drawing up plans for the work, our architect informed us that the city required that we build two complete stories and the costs would be over $400,000. Roger and I brought this information to the congregation several weeks ago and proposed two options:
- We keep this building as is and use it as a base to start another congregation in the West Island. This would then be the main task of the Verdun Church - to grow to capacity and launch other groups.
- Sell this property and purchase another building that would allow us to grow bigger as a group. This would mean that we would stay together and put off for the future the starting of new groups.
There was good discussion at the meeting and it was clear that the desire of the majority (90%) was to stay together and move somewhere else. After receiving the comments sheet, the service ministry team voted to sell the property and begin searching for a new building. This week the church hired a real estate agent and officially listed 503 - 5thAve for sale.
At the congregational meeting I was asked what I thought about all of this and aside from saying I favored the 1stoption (planting a new church) I didn't say much because I wanted the church to choose and speak its mind - and not to be influenced by what I thought. You see, a leader can't lead where the followers refuse to go, so I wanted to see where you wanted to go. But, now that the discussion is over and the choice made - I do have some feedback to give you as one of the founders and leaders of this congregation. Feedback as to the meaning of what you have chosen, and other choices you'll need to make.
What the Choice Means
What we choose in life often indicates where we are at in our development and what we really want. For example:
- A student chooses to study and prep for tests rather than watch TV is a sign of maturity and responsibility. He wants success.
- A young couple decide to marry - a sign of mutual love and commitment. They want a new life, a family.
Our choice of remaining together and purchasing another property to do so indicated that we chose safety over risk. Most of the comments described how good it felt to be together, how comfortable it was. We did not want to lose this or risk the pain of being apart. I'm not saying that playing it safe, being prudent, avoiding risk is a bad thing - it can be an important virtue in helping us not fall into dangerous situations.
However, I cannot help but noting that the decision to stay together and all the arguments for it were all focused on ourselves, and not on the lost or the Kingdom of God. We said that to remove 20-30 of us to start another church would mean too great a hardship on the 40-50 who remained here, and yet Jesus sent only 12 out to start the church. Is God not able to do with 20-30 what He did with 12?
In my heart, I think we missed an opportunity to see God work in us and through us because we would have become weaker instead of stronger and would have had to rely on Him more, and on ourselves less. As for the choice of the safer way, please realize that the safer way doesn't necessarily mean that this will be the EASIER WAY:
Selling this building, moving, buying, relocating, adapting to a new place won't be easy! And in the end, for the gospel to spread, we will have to plant new churches somewhere. Why? - Because that's what God designed the New Testament church to do - multiply itself. If it doesn't, it dies spiritually because it isn't fulfilling its spiritual vocation as the church. How else do you think we can fulfill Christ's command in Matthew 28 to make disciples of all nations? How else is Daniel's prophecy in Daniel 2:35-45 where the kingdom fills the earth, fulfilled other than the church covering the earth?
What's interesting about our choice and reason for it is that in 2003 in California in a congregation of over 500 the very same reasons were given for not starting new congregations. Let's not divide the church they said. Let's stay together to enjoy our fellowship, they said. The church of Christ has been in Montreal since 1907 and has not yet in 100 years successfully planted a church from an existing congregation. All the churches were planted from people coming from elsewhere. I believe that our generation should be the one to break that cycle and give an example to the next generation of how this is done. Sooner or later we will have to plant another church. We have chosen to do it later - let's make sure that it's not too much later when the one's from this generation who know how to do it are all gone.
Another observation I'd like to make, this time from the Bible and not from our recent decision, is this...
God Works With Our Choices
Considering what I've already said, this is a relief isn't it? We have many examples of God working with the various choices made by His servants - even if they weren't His first choice: Moses refused to speak to Pharaoh even if God sent Him so God provided Aaron his brother to be the spokesman (Exodus 4:14). The Jews chose to have a king lead them instead of the system that God had in place and so God appointed kings for them - Saul, David and Solomon (and through David and Solomon produced beautiful Old Testament literature) (I Samuel 8-ff).
o Paul and Barnabas were teamed together by God for mission work to the Gentiles (Acts 13:1-3) but they quarreled and chose to split up - however God provided new partners (Silas and Mark) for them to each successfully continue their ministry (Acts 15:36-41).
God works with our choices so long as we are willing to serve Him. Sometimes it's hard to know what God's first choice is but if we continue seeking His will and faithfully serving Him - he can make our choice succeed and glorify Himself with it. Because I have confidence in God I can sincerely say that even though your choice was not my first choice, I will do whatever I can to make it succeed to God's glory.
Now That We've Made This Choice, Let's All Be Prepared To Do What It Will Take To Succeed
Choosing is actually the easy part, the hard part is following through to make our choice a reality / success. For example it's Easy to choose to be a doctor, Study is long and hard, Easy to fall in love, Making the relationship work is demanding, Easy to choose to become a disciple of Jesus, Carrying the cross is often another matter, Easy to choose to stay together, sell and move to a nicer, larger facility. But actually succeeding at this will require three things from every person here:
1. Success will require increased giving
Bigger and better place will require bigger and better budget. Expect our budget to grow from $1,000 per week to $1,500 per week to accommodate what we will do. We can begin to achieve this by regularly making our present budget of $1,000 per week. I don't doubt that we can do this if each person who receives a salary or a pension in this church does the following:
- Give the first portion of your income to the Lord - whether it's 1% or 20%.
- Do this every week, not just when you feel like it, not just when you're here.
- Ask the Lord to show you how you can increase your giving not your wealth. He gives us wealth for giving, not so we can just spend it on ourselves.
Now if each person does this, not just the 60-70% of the church that usually gives, but everybody gives this way our giving will increase.
2. Productive service
More space, more people, more work. More work will require those who are ready to serve! Right now we have about 50% of members involved in ministry to a greater or lesser degree. If we are to succeed in building a strong, devoted, congregation of 150 in another location, we will need:
Those who do not serve at all to begin producing fruit at some basic level. Remember, if all you do is come to church, you're not serving, we're serving you.
Those who do serve at a minimal level need to step up to a more productive level. If you lead a prayer once a month or bring food once in awhile for the pantry, you need to ask God, or Roger or I how you can be more productive. Trust me, we will find somewhere for you to be productive.
Those of you who are already very busy in ministry need to learn how to recruit others, train others, delegate to others so that more people can be brought into ministry. You know how to minister, you are already busy, you must begin coaching others and teaching them what you know.
I know for example that when we move it will require many people to figure out the logistics of getting us to our new place - there's a big job waiting tomorrow for someone here today - if you're ready for it. I will consider my ministry here a success if the church can work and serve successfully whether Roger and I are here or not. That each of you would feel that you are responsible for the ministry here - not just the preachers, their families, and a few members.
3. A stronger faith
Whatever happens with selling this building and getting another - it will be a challenge of faith because this is how God works! If we would have chosen to stay here and send off a group to start another congregation - it would have been a challenge of faith because this is how God works!!
We chose this way to proceed and I'm not sure how it will all work out in the end and where we'll all be but one thing I know for sure - it will be a challenge of faith because God works everything in our lives in order to build our faith!!! Now I want us to understand correctly how this works: It's not that we need a stronger faith to succeed. NO.
We will succeed if we realize that what God will do during this period of change is build a stronger faith in us! If we know this going in we will recognize that when all of this is over we won't just have a bigger building - we should have a bigger faith in God. If we do, then all of the change, work, and challenges will be worth it. Let's remember then to meet every challenge with faith, not doubt or fear, for with God - everything is possible for him that believes (Mark 9:23).
In closing let me say that we all have choices to make every day. And when these come:
- Let's try to seek His purpose and will and not just our own.
- Let's give thanks and recognize that our God can work all choices out for good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
- Let's be ready at all times to grow in faith knowing that when we are challenged to do so, God is giving us an opportunity to know Him and His Son more perfectly and providing us with a glimpse of the eternal life He has given us in Christ Jesus.
One last thing about choices: If you have not chosen to become a Christian yet I encourage you to repent of your sins, confess Christ, and be baptized in His name! This will be the best choice you will ever make in this life and the one to come.