Have you ever had those moments in your life when you felt compelled to do something that seemed completely illogical? You were trying to do the right thing, but something called common sense kept getting in the way.
More than five years ago, the United States of America was in the throes of a recession that had stymied our economy. Florida was hit hard with the slow down of construction and tourism. Palm Bay led the nation in home foreclosures and was featured in the national news for that unenviable distinction.
The trajectory of growth in the years of the building boom and skyrocketing home values was now being reciprocated with a correction that saw the same path in reverse. In other words, the areas that had the greatest growth were now experiencing the most significant decline.
In 2010, Palm Bay and all of Brevard County had ridden the roller coaster of growth and was now in the vortex of a downward spiral. In addition to the standstill in construction and house values cut in half, the shuttle program had concluded at Kennedy Space Center, and the new Orion program had been gutted. These factors caused unemployment to rise to historic highs.
This triangular strangulation caused good, hard working people to lose their homes. Foreclosure was an unwelcome reality for many people. The members and friends of First Pentecostal Church in Palm Bay were not exempted from this environment. At the same time, in the midst of this financial fiasco, I felt compelled to pay off our mortgage and be debt free as a church.
I resisted God, good advice, and my fears in that order over a period of fourteen months. For churches to be debt free, the extra giving comes from the members of that local assembly. How could I ask people to give over and above their usual donations to pay off a church that was not in a financial crisis, when many were facing the loss of their jobs and homes?
I argued with God, but he would not let me off the hook. He challenged me with this revelation, “If my vehicle for a financial blessing is based on giving by faith, then your pride and your fear hinders me from blessing my people.” I countered with, “This is not the right time to issue such a challenge.” He concluded the discussion with this mandate, “Do it now in an adverse environment and I will show my power.”
We launched a stewardship campaign in the winter of 2012 that we called, “Breaking the Chains.” Our goal was to pay off the church mortgage of close to 1.5 million and break the chains of debt. Paying off this mortgage in three years as opposed to twenty-five years would save the church one million dollars in interest. Finances that could be put in missions and other ministries rather than given to the bank.
The Bible says God fulfilled his promise to Abraham that Israel would multiply into a great nation during the four hundred years that the Hebrew children were in captivity in Egypt. A hostile environment to say the least! The Scriptures also remind us that, “the borrower is a servant to the lender.” Based on Biblical principle, we begin to give by faith. We were startled by the immediate results!
One testimony after another dotted the early months of 2012 as people began to get their jobs back and their homes back. The sacrificial giving became joyous giving as God showed his mighty hand of power. Members who were supposed to be let go from their employment were now given raises. These reports produced momentum that resulted in sustained commitment.
Our original plan was to invest in additional ministries when this debt was completed, but our timetable was once again turned on its head. Opportunities came to us right away to open more campuses in South Brevard. Global Mission needs and local community projects beckoned us. During this time of sacrifice, we built six churches and one orphanage in third world countries. We were blessed to start three more church campuses and open the second largest food bank in Brevard County.
During the last week of December 2015, we faced the final link in the chain as we had reduced the debt of 1.5 million dollars to thirty thousand dollars. Early Monday morning on December 28th I was praying about the right path to take, as we were still several thousand dollars short of our goal. At this same time, I received a text from a member of our church with a donation of the exact amount needed. God reminded me of a scripture in Hebrews “He is the author and the finisher of our faith.”
The work that “He has begun, He will finish.” The important lesson for us is always to remember the miracle.
On Sunday, January 31st at 10:45am we will have a celebration, joint campus, service that will conclude with a mortgage burning and ministry fair. Come and join us. The main campus of First Pentecostal Church is located at 1021 Emerson Dr. in Palm Bay.