I am doing something a bit different with Dwell & Cultivate this week. The people who are my "family" at Stone Ridge Church will soon face a big decision about our future. We are becoming increasingly overcrowded and must decide if it is time to build the next phase of our campus. Regardless of the decision we make, I think it is time to tell a bit of the story of how we got where we are. The vast majority of our attenders don't know that history...
When we found our land in 1999, we made a significant change in the way we identified ourselves to the community. Some of our church leaders had quietly questioned the effectiveness of our church name -- "First Southern Baptist Church." That questioning -- over a span of about ten years -- wasn't meant to disrespect our heritage. Instead, it came from the observation that many people chose to attend (or NOT to attend) a church based solely on its name.
In our case, because we are in the West and far from the "Bible Belt", we discovered that the name closed far more doors than it opened. We began to discuss and pray about this as a church and made the decision to change our name to Stone Ridge Church. One reason for our timing was that we didn't want to put our old name on a "Future Home of..." sign, only to change the name down the road.
Our move to Otondo School was a blessing in numerous ways. The cost was reasonable, we were welcomed by the administration, we had room to grow and we were now in the neighborhood near our new campus. Even when people drive some miles to the church, it helps them to know that the trip won't be much different when the church moves into a permanent home.
One lesson we had learned early in our move was that people respond negatively to any sort of pressure. This is especially true when it comes to money. Therefore, we came up with a plan to make our people aware of our financial needs as we looked forward to construction, but to do it in a non-threatening way. This plan was something we called "Celebration Sunday."
Once each quarter, we took time out from what we were doing and used an entire worship service to hear about what God was doing among us. On that week, we would collect an offering, asking everyone to give what they could and what God was laying on their hearts. We counted those offerings and brought back a report to the people.
We also came up with a simple measurement tool that would help us know when it was time to actually begin construction. We measured several things, including attendance and total gifts to the building fund. This method helped us see each quarter how God was preparing us for the future.
As we neared the date to break ground and go to work, our Elders spent much time in prayer and discussion. We didn't want to move ahead too quickly, but we didn't want to lag behind, either. We saw ourselves as on a highway with two "guard rails." On the one side was the promise that it takes faith to please God (Hebrews 11). On the other side was the verse in today's title.
The night came when we finally, in a very long session, concluded that it was God's time for us to launch the project.
To be continued...