Last Friday morning, I got a call from our landlord, saying these words, “You have an enemy..” A man had shown up at his office the day before, saying critical things about our brand new little church. Then on Friday, the fire department came by to say they had received a “complaint” about us. Funny thing, we are at the end of an industrial street with no residential homes anywhere near us. So we obviously weren’t bothering anyone, but someone certainly wanted to bother us.
Long story short, they said the building we rent had not been inspected in the past year, and that we couldn’t have services there on Sunday. The fire inspector was simply doing his job in responding to the “complaint”, but it was soon clear what was really at work here.
I try not to blame Satan for things that are human error – many times in the church we give him too much credit, when the problem is really our own ineptness. But the events of the past week were clearly the machinations of some persons or people who wanted to shut down our church. And that level of evil intent is not something I really understand. Surely, there are churches I’m not a fan of, but I have never wished to shut them down.
But the enemy that our landlord alerted us to was of a different caliber. After we learned through some back channels just “who” this person was, it was clearly a case of religious people trying to destroy a work of God. If it had been Satanist or even atheists, I might have understood. But church people…that’s mind-boggling!
So after the initial shock, I prayed and asked God what I was supposed to do. Thankfully, His direction came quickly, and by that evening we were setting things in motion to have an outdoor service. The only problem was that torrential rain was forecast for the entire weekend. But God told me to have the service outside, so we started planning on nothing more than faith.
THEN CAME SUNDAY
During the wee hours of Sunday morning, I was awakened by thunderstorms. I wish I could say I wasn’t nervous, but that would be a lie. I’ve never considered myself a person of great faith, and I can tend to see more problems than solutions sometimes. But I eventually got back to sleep after a few more reminders to God that He was all I had. I’m sure He was honored to hear I was trusting Him now since I had no other options. Needless to say, God is very patient with me…
When the sun came up, it was still raining off and on. But we went on over to the building and started to set up our 10×10 tents and church chairs around the awning that stretched out in front of the building. God decided to push things right to the last minute, but at 10:30am the last of the rain ceased and we were able to start our service right on time.
It was nothing short of glorious. The music was simple, but passionate and heart-felt. The spirit of the people was electric, and we all sensed we were in the middle of a “God moment”. My preaching came easier than it had in the three weeks prior, and I felt indestructible. And at the end, the people rose up and gathered around the building, praying and praising God for His provision now and in the future. It was obviously a day our church would always remember.
I ended the service by reminding them of the “Whos down in Whoville”, and the Grinch who thought that by stealing their presents, he was stealing Christmas. But just like the Grinch, Satan learned that stealing a church building doesn’t shut down God’s church, it just moves us out into the world where God wanted us as a light in the first place.
So, as the pastor of Legacy Church of Naples, I’d like to thank the person who complained on us and caused us to have to move our services outdoors. You meant it for evil, but God used it to give us one of the greatest services our church will probably ever know. What a great gift you gave us, Mr. Grinch!