After what can only be described as the whirwind-iest 60 days of my life, our church moved into our new building last Sunday. It would take another post to list all the things that had to happen — and did — in order for this to all come together. Suffice it to say, 61 days earlier (or thereabouts), we didn’t even know this building was on the market, and now it’s ours. It’s double the size of our previous building, with a smaller mortgage. And we bought it for half of what it cost to build it seven years ago. The blessings go on and on.
Sunday was one of the most joyful days I’ve ever known. But I want to tell you a story about Saturday. And for that, I have to first tell you about a dream I had sixteen years ago, when our church was brand new, and had just moved from our backyard into our first building.
It was a bingo hall owned by our town’s fire department. When it wasn’t being used for bingo, it was often rented out for weddings. And that meant that on Sunday mornings, we often had to clean up spilled beer that had stickied-up the floor. Sometimes we cleaned up worse things.
There were only about twenty of us back then. And pretty much everyone who called our church home was someone we had previously known, or someone we had met and invited. So it kind of startled me the first time a couple walked through our doors after seeing our sandwich board sign out front. We’d hoped for that … I just didn’t really expect it.
Twenty people in a giant, echoey bingo hall. I still remember watching the men arranging those twenty chairs all up front near the podium, and then glancing behind our small cluster at all the big empty space still left behind us.
And then one night I had a dream. In it, I walked into our church and saw a vast sea of chairs where there had only been twenty. Surprised, I stood at the front of those tidy rows and counted. Twenty-two chairs in each row, and eight rows deep. 22 x 8. In my dream, I did the math, arrived at 176, and said, “Lord, when would we ever need 176 chairs?”
The dream stayed with me long past that night. I would remember it occasionally, and wonder anew at that very specific number. To me, it just meant, “plenty.” I spoke of that dream a few months ago to our women, telling them that I sometimes walked the row of our church at that time, touching the chairs in a gesture that was understood by only God and me. We had about 120 chairs in our sanctuary in that building, and most of them were occupied during both services. I was in awe of God for filling them.
And then, we found this building, and jumped through an impressive number of hoops all at the right time in order to gain the right to call it our own. We know who helped us jump, and last Sunday we worshiped Him for that.
But the day before, on Saturday, I had my own moment of worshipful awe. The men were downstairs setting things up, and I was upstairs in my office, which has a window that looks down into the sanctuary. I was filing away some resources for women’s ministry when I had a sudden desire to watch the goings-on below my window. Sticking my head out, I saw a beautiful sight: chairs, and lots of them. I smiled. This sanctuary would be filled with people.
For no special reason, except that I was wondering exactly how many people we would be able to hold, I counted the first row of chairs. Twenty-two.
My breath caught, and I turned and ran out of my office and down the stairs. Bursting into the sanctuary past a group of people who were just walking out, I stood in the back and counted.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven …
Eight rows of twenty-two chairs. 176.
It only lasted for a moment, because after that, there were 177, and then 187 as the men kept adding chairs and rows. In another five minutes, we had a little over 200. And on Sunday morning, those 200 chairs were filled, people were standing against the back walls, and the ushers began setting up another 40 or so chairs in the foyer.
But in the moment it mattered the most, God had drawn me to the window, and shown me a glimpse of His sovereignty.
And that was the most beautiful sight of all.
You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed (Joshua 23:14).
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever (Ephesians 3:20-21).