One Thing I Did Right in Ministry: “I Waited on God”
I peered out the door once more to look at an empty parking lot. This time however, it was past time for the worship service to start. “Maybe people are running late,” I thought to myself. But as I continued to wait and wait, with my sermon notes in hand, I came to the disappointing conclusion that nobody was going to come. After taking a few moments to pray, I cleaned the coffee pot, turned off the lights, and locked the door behind me.
This was almost fifteen years ago, at the very beginning of Grace Bible Church of Conway, Arkansas. It has taken a lot of time to get from there to where we are now, but I am thankful that I have waited—I am thankful that I waited, not for the crowds to come, but that I have waited on God!
The verse that encouraged me to wait on God was Psalm 127:1: “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Though I was young and full of ambition, according to this verse, I had two options: I could spend a lot of time and energy in my attempt to grow a ministry in the power of the flesh, or I could wait on God to build the house. Though I knew it would be hard, I sought to follow George Muller’s well-known exhortation: “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.”
Or course, waiting on God is hard—even harder than blazing ahead. I, as do many, like to see results quickly. There is pressure from all directions to be successful—and success is so often judged by how fast one can grow a church. This may be one of the reasons churches are eager to consult marketing firms, buy into the newest church-growth technique, and spend so much energy and time convincing the saints to buy into the latest ‘vision.’ But rather than pushing ahead of God and begging man to get on board, one of the best things I did was seek to be faithful to pray and continue to wait on God to build the house.
My waiting started while in Bible college. I felt called to preach and had an insatiable desire to learn the Bible. I could not wait to start pastoring and share with others all the things I have learned. Though young, I had friends even younger who were already pastoring. Why not me, I thought. But, looking back now, I am glad that I waited. I was not ready for such a weighty responsibility. Preaching is one thing, pastoring takes a little more humility, experience and wisdom. It seemed like forever then, but now I look back and see how fast things transpired. It was not long before I was thrust into the ministry. Without seeking it, a door was opened to start a church with a few precious families in the city that I was happy to call home. Rather than moving off and likely jumping from church to church, waiting on God has proven to be the best thing for me! Now after pastoring the same church for sixteen years, I am thankful that I waited on God!
As a pastor of a small church plant, I couldn’t wait for us to have our own meeting place. In those early days, we were meeting in the living room of my little apartment. My pulpit was a flimsy music stand that would slowly compress down under the weight of my Bible. “Oh, if we only had an official meeting place, something outside of a living room, then people would take us more seriously” I thought. But, we had no money, and real estate in Conway was expensive.
And to make things worse, during this time another church was being planted in Conway—it turned out to be one of the fastest growing churches in America! Unlike us, they began with a few deep-pocketed investors and a marketing strategy to reach every single person in the Conway metro area with their message of starting a church. Rather than starting small with a few families like us, for six months they blitzed the community with advertising before opening their doors. And, when their doors did finally open on their first Sunday, they had a clown, a fog machine and 500 in attendance. From 500 to 1,000, from 1,000 to 5,000, the church continued to grow. Not only did they have their own place to meet, they quickly opened up satellite campuses across the state. By comparison, here we were, almost totally unknown and with no budget to spend on billboards or other such branding. But rather than getting impatient and rushing ahead, we continued to preach the Word and wait on God.
Within a year office space became available at the right price. Not before and not after, but the exact time we needed it, God sent a large sum of money to us and we were able to purchase all the needed church furniture. Moreover, my grandfather donated and delivered a custom built, Spurgeon quality pulpit to our new location. Things came together supernaturally and so quickly that all our little group could do was give God the glory. In this, I am thankful that we waited on God!
While in this office space, God brought us more members and it was not long before we needed a little more room. So we looked to God and waited some more. And as God promised, those who wait upon the Lord shall not be disappointed (Psalm 25:3, Romans 10:11). Right when we needed it, God provided us a mobile home almost free of charge. We were so thankful—it was everything we needed. I am thankful that we waited on God!
While meeting in the mobile home, we continued to grow. And there came a point that we felt cramped. Though we needed a larger place, we still did not have sufficient funds to secure a facility that would accommodate us. As we continued to minister and trust the Lord, the dean at the local Baptist college visited one particular Sunday morning. He recommended that we try to rent the chapel at Central Baptist College (CBC) where he worked. I remember responding by saying something of the nature: “That would be awesome, but there is no way they would they agree to allow a non-BMA church to meet on the campus of the BMA Baptist college and even if they did, then there is no way we could afford it.”
But I had forgotten that it was God who had always taken care of us and who had promised to continue to supply our needs. While not thinking much more about the advice of the visitor, the next morning he called me with the news: the keys to the beautiful chapel with its $80,000 grand piano and stained glass windows would be waiting for us. I couldn’t believe it. When I called the president of the college to confirm and learn what they would charge for rent, I was even more surprised when he said: “fifty dollars a month.” We could only say “Thank you God!” “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). With this too, I am thankful that we waited on God!
It has been over four years since we moved into the CBC chapel and what a blessing it has been. We doubled in size the first year and doubled again the next year. God has not only brought growth, He has entrusted us with many young men who desire to dedicate their lives to the ministry. I would have never imagined that our church would also be starting a seminary with the opportunity to train the next generation of ministers, send out missionaries and possibly plant new churches. But here we are in the process of doing just that. If I would have put all my energy into trying to make something this big happen, I know I would have wasted my time. Therefore, I am thankful that I waited on God!
Well, having no contract with CBC, we knew it was just a matter of time before we would need a building of our own. CBC has been more than gracious and we have stayed twice as long as we anticipated. The Sunday I broke the news to the congregation that we had been given six months to find a new place, I reminded these saints about God’s past faithfulness and His ongoing promise to provide. I explained that we were neither going to hammer them each week to give to the building fund nor were we going to start fundraising. It was evident that we needed to trust and wait on God.
Learning that it could take close to a million dollars to purchase a property that could accommodate our growing needs, with the clock ticking and the pressure mounting, we received the amazing news that a 7,000 square foot building in the middle of town could be ours free of charge if we wanted it. And what could we have said but “We will take it, and to God alone be the glory!” The building is in a great location, is large enough for growth and we had sufficient funds to remodel without going into debt. Perhaps we could have moved ahead faster in our own efforts, but I am thankful that we waited on God!
After all these years God has been faithful. We have no right to take any credit, but all the glory and praise belongs to Him who richly provides us all things. Though we have labored hard, it truly has been God who has built the house. It was discouraging that lonely Sunday when I was the only one to show up for church those many years ago, but with all the discouragements and growing pains, I am thankful that I waited on God!