Feature

Company’s Comin’

What’s under the rug at an Iowa church?

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To be honest, you could call it pride or you could call it ego. But as the superintendent of the MidAmerica District talked to me about going to a little church in Boone, Iowa, my thoughts were not exactly, Is this what God is calling me to do? After all, I was pastoring a church in Minnesota that was still growing with more than 200 people.

I was pretty comfortable in my own home. My wife had a fun job. My sons were stable in high school. Why would I ever dream of moving to a smaller church that needed to be redeveloped?

Nevertheless, I promised the district superintendent that I would pray about the situation and agreed to talk with the Governing Board. After doing both, I still felt that this was not what I wanted my future to look like. I pulled away from discussions about Cornerstone C&MA Church, the Iowa congregation, and tried to bring my focus back to the church where I was still the senior pastor.

But God would not let me off the hook.

You’ve Got Mail!

Although I had turned down the offer, I started to receive e-mail messages from members of the church in Iowa. They thanked me for taking time to pray for them and wondered if I could give them advice about how to help their church. Cornerstone Church had a rich Alliance heritage. It was started after a tent meeting by A. B. Simpson and had been pastored by the late Paul Bubna, a C&MA president. It had once been a thriving ministry, but now attendance was hovering at around 60 to 70.

During this time my wife, Cindy, discovered a lump in her breast that her doctors were very concerned about. Between our future in ministry and Cindy’s health, we had many sleepless nights. Deep down, I knew that I was making the call for God and not letting Him make the call for me.

I ?nally submitted to the Lord and wrote to tell the members of the Iowa church that He was continuing to deal with me. If they were still interested, our family would spend a weekend in Boone to explore God’s will for all of us.

It did not take the whole weekend for God to show us that a move was on our horizon. There were several major hurdles that had to be jumped to make this transition right for all of us. One by one, God showed that He was indeed sovereign. We accepted the call to leave Minnesota and go to Iowa.

Not a Smooth Move

The day we were to leave Minnesota we found that the mysterious lump Cindy found was indeed cancerous. Treatment was going to require surgery and eight rounds of chemotherapy, followed by 33 shots of radiation. Cindy had to turn down the job in Iowa that she had been offered, and because income levels had changed, the deal on the house that we had agreed to buy fell through.

I asked God what the meaning was in all of this, and He continued to assure us that this was indeed His will. I took the family to Iowa so the boys could get adjusted before school started in the fall. Cindy also immediately had surgery to remove the lump and 19 lymph nodes.

For four weeks, I spent weekdays in Iowa and then drove 500 miles back to Minnesota for the weekends to wrap things up at the church. It was definitely emotionally draining, but God continued to bring me peace and the confidence that what I was doing was according to His will for our lives.

Ready for Guests

As I spent time with the leadership at Cornerstone, I was convinced that God had great plans for this little church. But ?rst I had to build trust. I began an eight-week preaching series on breaking away from habits that may keep us from discerning God’s plan. I built relationships with the congregation by practicing an open-door policy at my office. I took the leaders out to lunch one by one to get to know them better. Each week I boldly and clearly presented to the members the vision of where God was taking this church. I continually told them to anticipate company because God was going to make their church grow.

And if we were going to have guests, we had to prepare our facility. The sanctuary the church had started to build was less than half complete, so we contracted with a company to install a false ceiling, purchased carpet for the cement floors and covered the walls with a fresh coat of paint. We added an awning to the front door and purchased an illuminated sign with our new logo.

Before the carpet was installed, members of the congregation wrote the names of unsaved family and friends on the floor, praying that someday these people would kneel on that spot and receive Jesus. We were now ready for company.

Powerful Prayer

The last week of February we brought in an evangelistic group from Texas known as The Power Team. Fifteen people from our congregation took vacation from their jobs that week to aid in the evangelism campaign. During a four-day event, hundreds of people came through the doors of our church. More than 175 people made decisions for Christ! Word was getting out that something special was happening at Cornerstone.

We then took the boldest step of all. Just before Easter Sunday we sent out more than 10,000 flyers asking the community to check out the “new” Cornerstone Church. Members of the congregation put signs in their front yards that read, “Come to church with me this Easter.”

More than 240 people came to worship with us at Cornerstone during two identical Easter services, and 15 made decisions for Christ. Some who knelt to pray were those whose names were written under the carpet!

In the weeks that followed we have seen many people come to worship again. Small groups and assimilation are hot topics at Cornerstone. We are busy discipling the new believers in order to help them find their best place in ministry.

Get Un-Comfy

I’m so thankful that I decided not to stay comfortable. God is indeed doing a marvelous work in Boone. Cindy has completed her treatments and has been declared cancer free. My sons have made several new friends and are now preparing for college. God has continued to show Himself faithful.

Someone once said, “If you want to make God laugh, just tell Him your plans.” It is funny how we sometimes think that we can tell God what is best for us—as if we know ourselves better than He does. There comes a moment in our lives when we have to trust Him more than we trust ourselves. God knows our heart. But often His way of giving us what we need is different from what we expect.

Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Proverbs says it best: “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track” (Prov. 3:5–6, The Message).

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