A couple weeks ago I was meeting with several leaders who are part of my Executive Pastors' Coaching Network. We were talking about casting vision and raising money for projects. During that conversation, I said to them:
We have launched six stewardship campaigns over the history of the church, and every time the consultants tell us that if we are going to reach our goal, we will need to have a significant pledge from several families in the church. In fact, they say, "You will need to have one family give $1 million, and you'll need to have 3 or 4 give in the range of $300k to $500k." And we just look at the consultants, and nod and smile, because never in our 25-year history have we received a gift of that size. We remind them that we are not located in southern California or Miami or Houston or the suburbs of Chicago. "We live in South Flippin' Bend. People don't stay here if they want to make a bunch of money."
And yet every time, we pray our guts out for a gift of that size. But year after year, the ministry continues and grows because a whole bunch of "average" people do what they can. That is how the church has been built. And we have been so grateful that we have a broad, grass-roots buy-in from hundreds of families in the region.
That is background for what happened last week.
I had just returned from a lunch meeting, and had messages waiting for me from a couple whom I had never met. They were five minutes away and asked if they could come right over to ask some questions about the vision and the New Normal Project.
What happened next still makes me shake when I think about it. We had an amazing conversation, talking about life, faith, their story, and the new vision that Granger is chasing. They brought with them a copy of our vision magazine, and it was like a well-worn book. They had taken it home on the weekend during our "Picture This" series, and had been living in it. They were astounded at how closely their own spiritual journey aligned with the vision that we were presenting to the congregation.
They said God had spoken very clearly to them in last weekend's service. (Side note: On that previous weekend, for the first time ever, Mark Beeson publicly told the church he was specifically praying for a family to give $1 million to the New Normal Project. Even though we've prayed for a gift of that size for years, up until that service, Mark had never felt the release to say it out loud to the weekend crowd). It was at that point in the service, when this couple knew God was asking them to be that family.
"We believe God wants us to commit $1 million to the church for this new vision."
I have no idea what I said next. I think I may have said "no way!" very loudly, I'm not sure. I'm not an emotional person, but at that moment I felt as close to tears as I ever have with total strangers. I had goosebumps on every inch of my body and was somewhat in shock.
After we finished the meeting, I sat in my office for a few minutes soaking in what had just happened. I wrote down some of my thoughts...
- We have talked for more than a year how there will be people who will be drawn to the church because of the vision. These people have been completely captured by the vision of where God is taking us. How affirming!
- What would have happened if I had not responded to their message, or had been too busy to meet with them, or had encouraged them to drop me an email rather than stopping by the office?
- Why now? Why did God wait 25 years to give us a million dollar commitment? What does this mean?
- Sometimes, in my flesh, I think, "If God is going to give us $1 million, it's going to come from one of these three people." Like I can figure it out. And yet this came from someone who wouldn't have been on any of my lists. God is so much bigger than anything we can manage or strategize or manipulate.
- This is just the beginning. We've been putting in so much work over the past year with very little tangible response. This commitment feels like God just returned our homework with a smiley face on it. And yet I think it is just the beginning of what God is going to do with and through us.
I am so energized by this commitment, yet humbled at the same time. And it was awesome to feel the excitement shared by the congregation as Mark told the good news to the congregation this weekend. I truly believe their example is going to motivate scores of others in the coming weeks and months.