Is God Leading Us?

For the past few weeks, I have been asking the people in our church to give me feedback and to be praying for wisdom regarding the possibility of us purchasing the building at 2301 Concord. In many ways, it looks like the perfect opportunity for us at this time, but there are also two major concerns. The location isn’t near a residential area and it is right next to an adult store and a “gentlemen’s” club.
So, as a result, I have been asking people to pray about it and to offer me their feedback.
There is one kind of feedback that I wasn’t expecting to get, however. I have appreciated it, but it has also surprised me.

The feedback that has surprised me is the sentiment that the church leaders should simply be listening to God and take the church wherever He leads.
I’m thrilled with the heart behind those words, and I’m once again overjoyed that we have people in our congregation who simply want to follow God where he leads. However, alongside those comments have been some hints that because I am asking people to pray and because I am asking people for their feedback, I must not be getting any clear guidance from God or I’m not looking for it, or the leaders of the church aren’t in agreement about it.
The truth is, I just haven’t been letting on how I really feel because I believe God can speak to us through my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I want to hear that voice without overly affecting it with my own.
However, I think it’s time to show my cards… at least a few of them.

How God Leads Me

A few weeks ago, I shared with our church my basic framework for making decisions in line with God’s will. It was Sunday May 17, my anniversary, so my marriage to Jen was on my mind, and the framework I learned from God that helped me decide to marry her was the same as the framework I used to decide everything in my life since then. You see, I knew that I loved her, but guys tend to fall into love with girls all the time, and I wanted to make sure my decision to marry her was based on God’s will for my life and not just my momentary passions. Anyway, the framework I used to figure that out is the same framework I taught to my congregation on that Sunday morning.

First, Understand the Principle of Priority

In Psalm 37:4, I learn that if I delight myself in the Lord more than anything else, he will give me the desires of my heart, and in Psalm 1:2-3 I learn that if I delight myself in what God says (his law), then I will experience the prosperity of living according to his will.
My way of understanding this principle is this:

If God and his Word are my number one desire, then I can follow my heart.

Now, I didn’t mention this in my message on May 17, but when it comes to this principle, I also want to highlight one additional consideration. Consider this verse:

(22) Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. — Proverbs 15:22 NIV

Combining that verse with this next one gives us a pretty clear warning.

(9) The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? — Jeremiah 17:9 NIV

The one additional consideration when it comes to the principle of priority is that I shouldn’t only trust myself. You see, I’m terrible at determining my own motives. I can think I’m doing things “for the right reasons” and still end up really hurting someone else. So, I add this additional consideration to the principle of priority:

To check the condition of my heart and my understanding of God’s Word, I must be accountable and in submission to others wiser than I.

 Second, Understand the Principle of Wisdom

James 1:5-8 clearly says that if anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask for it and then believe that God has given it. Well, the only way I can make sense of this verse is to describe the principle like this:

If I really want wisdom from God, all I need to do is ask and act.

Third, Understand the Principle of Sovereignty

James 4:13-16 teaches me how silly and arrogant it is to claim that I have all my plans worked out when I can’t even predict what will happen tomorrow. The principle I draw from that goes like this:

I can’t predict the future, so I shouldn’t pretend to have it under control.

Fourth, Understand the Principle of Evident Action

James 4:17 adds this:

(17) If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. — James 4:17 NIV

The previous passage just told us not to be presumptuous about the future, and this verse simply says, if you know the right thing to do, and you don’t do it, that’s called sin. But my problem is that I often don’t know the right thing to do. I mean, I have an idea of what is right, but I don’t know the RIGHT THING to do all the time. Can’t I just wait around until I have total confidence about what the right thing to do is?
Actually, I think in light of the previous principles, I call this the principle of evident action:

I do the next good thing and let God handle the rest.

Five, Trust the Promise of Strength

Finally, if all these other principles are in my life, then I can apply the promises God gives in his Word to empower those who follow him (2 Chronicles 16:7-9, John 16:24, Acts 1:8).

Okay, But Is God Leading Us Now?

So, you might be thinking, “Thanks for the detour, Jeff, but I really just wanted you to tell me if God is telling you that we should relocate to 2301 Concord! Can’t you just tell me that?”
Alright, I’ll give you my answer.
I don’t yet know if God intends for our church to relocate to 2301 Concord, but I’m convinced 100% that He wants us to pursue the purchase of that building.
If you think that sounds a little wishy washy, let me explain where that comes from.

1. The Desires of My Heart

Moving to Lafayette, I always had a dream on my heart to try to reach the southside. Many of you know that my love for Lafayette started in 2005 when I drove from 500S toward 350S on 18th street and saw the neighborhoods there. However, I have also consistently felt that building a safe, sterile, suburban-style church, though fun, wouldn’t really accomplish the goal of reaching the entire county. My heart has always been to reach the families seeking security and stability on the southside while also trying to rescue people who have no sense of spiritual security whatsoever.
Even when we were going through the “Everyone Needs a Home” series of messages, I was beginning to dream of the safe, sterile, suburban-style church building, and I didn’t like myself for it. Something was tugging on my heart the whole time that I shouldn’t sell the safe, sterile, suburban-style church building too much because there are too many people in this county who won’t be reached by that kind of church.
Regarding 2301 Concord, something strange has happened in my heart. I have suddenly realized that if we play our cards right, we can create something at that space that pulls together both sides of my heart. It’s in a part of the city that’s obviously not sterile and suburban, and we might be able to reach people who couldn’t be reached with a suburban-style church. At the same time, it’s in a part of the city that has high traffic flow (from Sagamore) and could become something “cool” enough to draw the suburbanites who are looking for more meaning in their lives.

2. We’ve Been Praying

I’ve been asking God for an open door for years. The reason we are in our Braddock location now is simply because God opened a last minute door. In 2010, we were looking at a lease over by Hunter’s Pub when I got the call of the opportunity at Braddock.
Similarly, for the past year, I and others in the church have been praying about our next location. We did research, we talked to a couple realtors, and nothing opened up for us at all. But during the last week of my “How to Build a Home” messages, Billy found this property on 2301 Concord that has an amazing set of coincidences going for it:

  • The Realtor who found God’s open door for us at Braddock is the same listing agent for 2301 Concord.
  • Last summer, we started praying specifically for a building with at least 10,000 square feet that would be around $5500 per month or less, and the square footage of 2301 Concord is 10,700, and our monthly payment including utilities will likely be around $4000.
  • One of our own, Aaron Lucas, is the manager at Eyeglass World (located just behind 2301 Concord) and felt a need to start praying for this specific building at the beginning of June.
  • Our original goal for the Capital Campaign was $550,000, and when we didn’t meet that goal, our consultant said, “Don’t give up on this goal! I’m still believing that God will provide that much over the next three years.” The list price of the building is $500,000.
  • Even though the numbers from our Capital Campaign were significantly lower than what we had been shooting for, they appear to be exactly what we need to be able to afford purchasing 2301 Concord.
  • Because of the way commercial lending goes, we can purchase this building and build it out for our use while spending maybe as little as $25,000 out of pocket, but purchasing even five acres of land on the southside would require downpayments of $75,000!
  • Finally, there are at least two prayerful people I trust who have received a clear sense of confirmation from God that this is the next step for us as a church family and that our fears/concerns aren’t going to materialize.

This is key: At every single step of the way for the past year and a half, every single opportunity that we have explored has brought us to a closed door. Either the opportunity was too expensive, or it just wouldn’t work for us. However, this door has opened and it hasn’t yet shut.

3. We are Relying on God

I can’t predict the future, and I am honestly scared about it. I don’t know how many people will follow us to 2301 Concord. I don’t know if people will see the vision of that location. I don’t know if we will be able to build out the building to be attractive enough that people will feel excited to go there. I don’t know if the financing will continue.
However, I don’t know those things because they are the future. If I claimed to know those things, I would be as foolish and arrogant as the people James criticizes in his letter, and that’s why I don’t stand up on stage each week making promises that everything is going to be perfect with this move even though there are at least two people I trust who have told me that God has confirmed that very thing to them.
The bottom line is that I don’t really know what next month will bring, but I know that no matter what decision we make today, God will be at work tomorrow and we will continue to rely on him.

4. We Know the Next Good Thing

Because of all the amazing coincidences I listed up in #2, I’m convinced that I know the next good thing when it comes to this building: We pursue it.
We have signed a document stating that we have 30 days to do our due diligence on the property and no one else can buy the building out from under us, and we are doing that right now. We are applying for a loan, we are talking to contractors and architects, we are getting inspections done, we are scoping out the location, we are asking people for feedback, and we are creating strategic plans of action for the next few years if we make this move.
If all those things continue to fall into place, we will consider it God’s will that we go all the way with the purchase, but if they don’t fall into place, we won’t get all upset that we somehow “misheard” or “misunderstood” God on this one. As far as we know, God only wants us to take this very next step. So we will.

5. I’m Excited to Watch God Move

Finally, the principle I mentioned above was to trust God’s promise of strength, and I’m just really excited to see what that means in this context. What will the strength of God be like for us as a church family if we make this move?
Like I said, I don’t fully know if we will close on the building because that is in the future, and there are questions remaining to be answered and doors that still need to be opened, but if we get to that point and all the doors are still open, I am going to sign that paper with a giddiness in my heart like a child the night before seeing Disneyland.
I have no doubt that if God keeps these doors open and takes us all the way to the purchase of that building, we are going to see some really cool things happen in our midst. I’m dreaming of hundreds of new people getting baptized and discovering life in Christ. I’m thinking of people leaving the spiritual doldrums and discovering what it means to actually live out the life of Christ. I’m imagining a part of our city gradually being transformed by the light of Christ. And I’m seriously excited about it!

Photo Credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie

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