“I believe the pastor of the church should lead from the front, not the rear, and should set an example. Therefore, over the next three years Wanda and I will give to our building project the funds we normally would set aside to replace my car. Please pray that God will keep my aging Oldsmobile running while we make good on this commitment.”
For me it was a bold, faith-filled speech. I made it as my personal and pastoral appeal to the church at a stewardship dinner we held to boost fund-raising for a much-needed new church and school.
I soon regretted my words, stunned by disappointment and worry.
We had made sure the members were well-informed and supportive of the project. Everyone knew that we would need to give a minimum of $650,000 as our immediate share of the total project. The typical formulas, when applied to our giving records, showed that our members easily were capable of giving that amount of money. Our pledges, combined with the proceeds from the sale of our old church property and a loan from the union revolving fund, would just cover the cost of our new church and school facilities. Anything less would jeopardize the plan and seriously delay the project.
After the dinner we gathered the pledges and counted them up. They totaled only $400,000—a quarter million dollars short. I was devastated and started thinking dark thoughts. If the members themselves didn’t care more than this for the building project, why should I sacrifice? Some of my closest friends had already questioned my judgment in making such a personal commitment. They reminded me that we had a son entering college and another at a boarding academy—quite a drain on the family economy. My faith wavered.
For the next few days my prayers went something like this: “God, are You really going to hold me to this pledge? Lord, with the church’s level of commitment (or lack of commitment), nothing will ever be built anyhow. My money will probably sit in the church’s savings account indefinitely. I could be putting it to good use. Besides, the car I need to purchase with this money will be used in my pastoral duties. How will I do Your work, Lord, if my car breaks down?”
I never heard a voice from heaven telling me what to do. Nor did God send a dream or vision. He didn’t have to. I knew the answer.
My wife and I kept our commitment and wrote 36 checks over the next three years. During that time, when I drove up to the church, someone usually said something like “That thing is still running, Pastor?” When I parked in front of a member’s house to make a pastoral visit, my old gray car was a witness that we were building a house for God. The Lord and a member with mechanical skills kept my old car ticking for, not three, but four more years. Then out of the blue, just as we were moving into our new church and school facilities, a relative straight out gave us a beautiful, new, bright-red Mercury.
More marvelous yet, my precious church members went beyond their initial pledges and gave the full $650,000.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, NIV).
By Charles Ferguson
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