Last night, Matt and Rachel Setliffe who are prayerfully planning to Church Plant in Glasgow were over at our flat and we were talking and it got me thinking about all these different moments where God clearly did ‘unreasonable’ things so that our church could begin.
Matt asked how we paid the rent for the church at the beginning before we had people and an income…
It was Autumn 2004, and I really felt it was time to try again and plant a church. Wade, Melanie, and I started meeting together to pray for a location we could afford. In my heart I knew that whatever rent were going to commit to, Kellie and I had to be able to cover it out of our giving and pocket for a bit so that meant we needed cheap, unreasonably cheap.
For 2 months we prayed and searched and searched and prayed looking for a location that we could afford to plant a church. We looked at churches, and rental spaces, libraries… we looked everywhere we could think of and the only place we could afford was renting a back room in an old church on a Monday night, and if we wanted a piano or overhead projector or another room for kids the cost was going to be more than I felt we could afford. Most of the places were going to be £1000 per month, in my memory this Monday night thing was going to be £500-£600.
I remember lots of prayer walking in those months, and one day when walking to the Gym (yes, back in those days I worked out) I stopped at a quiet place to pray. I could find nowhere I could afford to start this church and Monday night sounded wrong.
I remember praying to God. “Father, open my eyes so that I can see and find a place I can afford to start this church.” And at that moment I looked up and “saw” the same old church building I passed everyday in a new light. I had always assumed like every other old church building that it had been all diced up on the inside into flats or offices, but when I looked up I could see light through the windows and thought to myself, it looks like that is one big room.
As I was pondering this, Tommy the janitor came up behind me and said, “Can I help you?”
And I replied, “Does that old church building still have one big room in the main hall?”
“Yes, would you like to see it?”
Of course I did, and Tommy walked me through this old building, which the school used for plays and as a gym hall.
Then I asked, “Is it rentable? Is it currently rented on Sundays?”
He told me about one rental in the morning but knew it was available after 1pm.
I remember looking at this huge old church building, the largest space I had ever seen that was rentable. It not only had a huge room to meet but rooms downstairs for the kids. It was 7,500 square feet larger than what we needed, so beyond what I could dare to hope for, but I dreaded the final question was going to hurt.
“How much would it cost us to rent this on Sunday afternoons?”
“Well,” said Tommy, “Lets find out.” And without asking he picked up a phone on the wall, and dialled the one who was in charge of letting the space and handed me the phone while it was ringing.
Heart thumping loudly in my ears I heard a woman’s voice on the other end pick up, and I introduced myself and asked if it was possible to rent the whole church building on Sunday afternoons and then the question… “How much would it cost to rent this whole building for 4 hours a Sunday?”
The woman on the other side of the phone replied, “How about £300 a month?”
Our experience starting this church has been moment after moment of zero options, not enough money, nowhere to go, and then… unbelievable miracles.
All we have needed God has provided no matter how unlikely or unreasonable. He has heard and answered prayers in such obvious and glorious ways.