Thankful for our new location and church-house...
First, I'm grateful He kept us from building on the site where we'd planned and broken ground for a costly architectural beauty. It was to be situated on Bloomington's southeast side where we'd purchased one of the most scenic pieces of real estate within city limits. We'd received the city's approval and seen tossed out of court a lawsuit brought by the wealthy neighbors whose homes were perched on two ridges adjoining our thirty acres of woods, a creek, and a beautiful meadow. Every obstacle seemed to have been cleared.
The work of the engineering and architectural firms was largely complete and we'd held our groundbreaking ceremony. Then, the Lord intervened, and within a short time we'd sold the property and purchased new acreage out on the city's west side. Why?
The change came after one of the nasty public hearings we'd long endured where neighbors once again showed up en masse to express their displeasure at having a church built in "their meadow." But this time, our neighbors' focus was something we hadn't heard before: they complained they didn't want to have to listen to children playing.
After the hearing, my wife Mary Lee said: "I don't want to be worrying all the time about how much noise our kids are making and whether they're bothering our neighbors." We talked to the rest of the leaders and it was clear everyone had the same thought. Believing this was the Lord's direction, we decided it was time to move on, so we put our property (see pic above; the church would have replaced the barn) up for sale and appointed a committee to look for something else.
It wasn't long before the Property Commission found another parcel suitable for our church-house. But this time it was on the poor side of town--outside Bloomington's city limits and on the west side near Aldi and the Super Walmart.
If you'd guess no one's done the NIMBY thing at our new location, you'd be right. We haven't heard a peep of complaint from our new neighbors.
This change in plans was humbling, and thus exactly what I (and maybe others in our congregation) needed. It's been one of God's kindnesses to us. Our Heavenly Father didn't allow our church to sit pretty in the heart of the most educated and affluent neighborhood on Bloomington's east side.
Instead, He's given us a ton of land and such a different spirit in our new neighborhood that our children can play to their hearts' content without a single homeowner complaining.
Second, I'm grateful for a church-house whose construction was supervised by Mike Boles, assisted by Dave Curell (l. to r.: Mike Boles, David Abu-Sara, and Dave Curell (Max). Dave and Mike (with the help of an architectural firm) came up with a building plan, then Mike negotiated and supervised all our subs, as well as many men of the church like David Abu-Sara who helped with the construction. When we were done, Mike had kept the cost of the new church-house at about $45 a square foot. This did not include the property, but it did include the considerable amount of site preparation for this first, as well as anticipated second and third phases of our building program. Our church-house is rock solid and about as serviceable as any church structure could be.
And the land?
Beyond the crops, we have woods, meadows, creeks, blackberry patches--even a terminal karst. (Our property is across the street from Karst Farm Park.) And for wildlife, we have fox. We have deer. We even have a flock of wild turkeys.
Neighbors and church members ride four-wheelers and dirt bikes on our trails.
Had we built what we'd first planned, we would have spent somewhere around $200 a square foot, beginning to pay off our high mortgage just shortly before this economic downturn hit us all broadside.
Would the other pastors and I have begun to scratch itching ears in order to pay the mortgage?
Well, certainly not! How could you ask such a thing?
Of course I'm being facetious. Any time a church takes on a large amount of debt, her pastor will be tempted and often fall prey to trimming the Gospel so certain parishioners won't leave--and of course, the rich will present particular temptations. We lost our two wealthiest families in the months surrounding our move into the new church-house. I've felt the pressures and been tempted to neglect the gaps in the wall so more people would make Church of the Good Shepherd their home and share the burden of making our mortgage. But my wife and children, our deacons, elders, and the two other pastors I'm privileged to work with, and our Titus 2 women who lead in our congregation, as well as the young men of ClearNote Pastors College, have all helped discipline my own and others' sin to the end that we'll remain faithful in our calling.
Really, it's hard for me to express my love for these precious souls. I know a lot of men called to the pastorate, both to tall and small steeple churches, and I wish every one of them could have the privileges I have daily working with and serving these men, women, and children. Meekness, humility, cheerfulness, zeal in faith, tender consciences, a hard work ethic, submission to their parents, and the list goes on...