“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” Luke 4:5-7
It was the hardest decision I had ever made in my life, but looking back – it was also the easiest decision to make. There are times in your life when making the right choice is tough. You know what your supposed to do, but doing it…that’s rough.
It’s Detroit in March of 2009, I had prayed for God to bring us help. We have never had good offerings (still to this day) and have never had an affluent wealthy crowd. Detroit is made up of so many different social-economic statuses, and yet ours has always been the blue collar/no collar city crowd. Our mission type church had grown from nothing to 15 in a year. We had several good days of 30 and even a big day with 61 with 31 first time visitors in one day, but the offering that day was $29. I have never prayed for God to make it easy, but I have prayed for God to show himself strong and give me a big back & understanding. Through a serious of invitations and thousands of doors knocked we started to grow and a family came that seemed to want to help our church. They joined and showed up at every service, they gave occasionally and their giving weekly was more than the churches monthly gross offerings. I remember thanking God that He had brought this family and it was blessing after blessing. They were nice people who helped in many ways disguised as something they were not.
After a few months of membership they came to and told me that God told them to buy the church some property and my family a house so the church could grow. I was ecstatic to say the least. I saw this as God opening a door. I was preaching, I was doorknocking, people were getting saved, the church was getting out of debt and now here is a family that wants to help with a big financial push. I listened to Godly counsel and had several meetings with other pastors from around the state. We drew up a plan for how this would happen. My father, my uncle Doug, R.B. Ouellette and many other pastors met this family as I would bring them with me to meetings and show them what I was trying to build for God here in Detroit. I had my good family friend who was a realtor setup the buy of the property & house, I had my family friend who was a builder meet with the family and discuss all the details of building a church on this property. This family announced to the church publicly that they would buy property and a house and give it to the church. All the t’s were crossed and all the i’s were dotted.
The week before we were suppossed to get the title for the property & house, we started moving in and setting things up for us to live. I put over $4000 dollars of the little money we had saved into this house. I spent long days, work days getting this house into living order and the church was pumped…we were getting property & a house! The church was seeing blessings…then it happened.
I have gone over and over again in my mind that Tuesday night several years ago. I did nothing wrong. You can try to figure it all out, but to make a long story short – before handing me the title to the property & house…this family demanded that I change our leadership structure of the church and that I become a hired pastor and that their family would run the church. I sat there in a stupor. Would I take what they were offering me. I knew it wasn’t in the Bible what they were offering me, I knew immediately that this was a controlling family that saw a young pastor and wanted to put some reigns on me before we started growing. Looking back now I can see some of the signs that should have tipped me off, but hindsight is always 20/20.
I got in my truck and drove home…to that house I mean. All that work, all my money, all of what I thought was God’s plan was now obviously a test allowed by God to see if I could be bought off. I had no money..where would we live? The church would be devastated and I knew that since this family would leave, they would take others with them. What did I say….I said no. I just told this family that the property was theirs, the house was theirs…I would not sell out, I could not be bought with a house or with a church. I turned down Satan’s offer.
I cried every night for a long time. Bitterness and resentment no…but anger and a feeling of betrayal was daily. I had several pastors try to contact this family to try and reason with them. I setup meetings with a few of the leaders in our church with this family and too no avail. I had 60 days to get out of the house with no money and with a hurt church. My wife took it hard…I took hard. This family changed the story so many times as they told the church people different things that weren’t true…it was a weekly occurrence to straightened out the story and tell people the truth. I look back now and see myself in Luke 4. I see the temptation to just bow here and bow there for gain today. I see myself being tempted to take the easy way out. I lost people over this decision, I personally went in debt for this decision, my little church lost several families over this decision…but it was the right decision.
It’s been two years since then. I’m writing this two years and one day removed from the day this all happened. Our church has had so much change with people moving away and coming and going, only a few people in the church now were even present at the time. Most of the people in our church have never heard and will never hear this story. I tell this story for you, my pastor friends, my church planting colleagues, my seminary buddies and future pastors. I had good friends say I wasn’t a good pastor after this event. I had pastor’s who at one time supported me, now say that I was in the wrong even though they didn’t know the story. I had supporters call me up and tell me that I was wrong to not listen to these older Christians, and that I should have taken the deal. I had pastor’s tell me I was dreaming to think BIG, and that I was over-reaching to see God do big things in Detroit. I was crushed. I was hurt. In my own inner circle of close friends…it’s just sad. I only got one phone call during this entire event from a single pastor saying he was praying for me.
There will come a day when you must choose to do right. I pray that if the Devil knocks on your door…no matter what he offers you…say no.
let the redeemed speak louder,