My brother gave me a book on church strategy entitled, The Intentional Church, by Randy Pope. I must admit that I am not a good strategic planner and I am not drawn to such books. However, this book is really good. I will post some thought on it soon. In this post I want to share a story that he tells of something amazing that God did.
Randy and his wife convinced a denomination to fund their church planting in Atlanta. But they did some miscalculation. They had not accounted for the money that they would need from the time of his graduation until their first pay check (after their first month on site). So they arrived with an apartment without utilities, an empty refrigerator, and an obligation to pay the first month's rent. All they had left was ten dollars.
They were confident of their call to Atlanta and that God would provide their need. But as the day for paying the rent approached that confidence was tested. On the day the rent was due, Randy went to explain the situation to the apartment manager. However, he was greeted with an apology. 'I am so sorry, I forgot about your payment and have already taken our money to the bank today. I am not allowed to leave money in the office over the weekend. Would it be okay with you if you paid first thing Monday morning?'
Their minimum budget for the remaining weeks, including the rent, was approximately $600. Randy had renewed confidence given that he had two extra days to come up with the money.
He explained to his wife, Carol, his belief that God waits until the last moment to provide His people's needs so as to build their faith. 'God will supply our money through the Saturday mail.' This made sense given that he had left his new address with friends who were aware of what he was doing in Atlanta, he did not know anyone in Atlanta who could supply their need, and he had heard of many Christian leaders receiving exact amounts of financial need through the mail. But the next day they got no mail. That night he got on his knees, burdened by the responsibility of providing for their newborn child, and cried out to God in confusion and unbelief. 'I was honest with God and told Him that I felt abandoned in a mission to honour him.'
The next morning they decided to attend church together. As they approached the church they met an old college friend of Randy's. He was leaving the earlier service. This friend had sent him financial gifts a couple of times while he was in seminary. Although on both occasions Randy had returned the money urging him to give to someone with a greater need.
As they spoke in the parking lot the friend suggested that they sit together in the back pew and catch up. Although his friend said that he would leave before the sermon, having already heard it. However, Randy felt that God was telling him not to mention his financial need.
As the offering plate was being passed around Randy noticed that his friend was writing a cheque. He thought nothing of this, assuming that he may have missed giving in the previous service. But his friend handed the plate to the usher without adding the cheque and immediately stuck it inside Randy's shirt pocket.
Randy wanted to know if the amount would be sufficient for his need. But thought that it would be inappropriate to ask his friend how much he had given him. He anxiously awaited for the beginning of the sermon, when his friend would leave and he could look at the cheque. But his friend decided to stay on for the sermon.
'That was unquestionably the longest sermon I have ever sat through! I would watch when he turned his head and I would quickly glance into my pocket to see if the amount was in sight - never successfully. Finally, the service ended and my friend left. I quickly pulled out the cheque to find it to be $600 - just what we needed. Some might call that coincidence - but not me! In fact, I'm convinced God intervened in time and space and divinely provided us with that gift. And He did it in a unique and memorable way.'