This article is by a guest contributor, Greg. I met Greg at a gathering of house church leaders in Loveland who were getting together to discuss forming a network. I heard Greg’s story and wanted to share this story with you all.
Two years ago, had you met me, I was busy. Busy doing what good Christians do. My wife & I had our two wonderful sons in an organized church, and we were working to “further the Kingdom.” You could tell how much we loved God, because we never said “No.” Andrea was the Vacation Bible School director, a Sunday school teacher, and was helping run a program for teenage girls based on the Proverbs 31 woman. I was co-leading the Men’s Ministry, serving as an usher/greeter, teaching Sunday school, and mentoring.
Just prior to that time, we had finally gotten to a place financially that we could build our dream home. That included getting out of the city and moving to the country. Over three years at that home we plodded along, and life seemed right, but we were detached. Fortunately the Holy Spirit isn’t lazy.
In January 2006, I went on my first mission trip to Juarez, Mexico. While there, I saw how little those people have, but how happy they are. If you’ve not been to a place where people struggle for their daily bread, you may not realize your own blessings. I was cut to the core as I realized that my family was not living beyond its means, but beyond its needs. We could be doing so much more with our time and resources. During that mission trip, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. I was changed. I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm to follow Him anywhere.
If you could meet my wife, you’d see the compassion of Christ. She loves everyone, and seeks to make a physical impact for those in need with love, resources, or money. She has shown this time and time again. She had been telling me that the Holy Spirit was pressing on her heart to change our lives, even to sell our home. I had not heard His whispers, and therefore was not convinced. I was too wrapped up on living in silence, living with antelope and deer wandering our property, and with the separation from society.
We both had friends recommend we read the book “Organic Church” by Neil Cole. As we read, these ideas seemed to jive with what we were hearing from the Lord. “Instead of bringing people to church so that we can bring them to Christ, let’s bring Christ to people where they live.” “We are as foolish as the farmer who builds a barn and then stands in the doorway calling all the crops to come in and make themselves at home.”
We had been longing for true closeness with other believers, longing for relationships with non-believers. Can’t you love a non-believer without an agenda to get them to church? Are there really people out there just as excited about Jesus as we are? How can so many people keep Him & His salvation to themselves? We also started to have thoughts that to be honest were not easy to swallow. Was it right to leave the organized church? Didn’t that make us backsliders who were open to Satan’s advances? What would people say? We had both been in the church since our childhood. Could we really leave everything we’d known (& loved) about church and follow God wherever He led? What would this new “church” look like?
We prayed like we have never prayed before. We felt the Holy Spirit tell us to move. Move from our dream home back into society. Move from our church home to follow Him wherever He would lead. But…but, it would be such a burden. We just got here. Financially it would be foolishness. And what about the peace we’d found there? What about our friends at church? Would anyone even understand? But prayer and submittal leads to a clearer view. And that’s what we found. We both heard it. It was time to sell the house, and find the community with God’s children that we left behind. It was not an easy decision. It’s hard to pray for His will when you know it might not be your will.
Following our decisions, we received much criticism. Then the waiting……..didn’t He put us on this path? We set the price on our home way below appraisal, but just enough to break even. But it wouldn’t sell. Two realtors and 11 months passed, and we prayed….a lot. Even though I knew God sometimes asks for our patience while He develops us for what is to come, I was impatient. What I didn’t realize was how invaluable that time truly was. Andrea & I grew closer spiritually. One of our sons decided to give his life to Jesus. Our home became a more loving place where God’s instruction was a way of life instead of an hour-long ritual once a week.
When an offer did come in on the house that we could accept, we were excited & all of sudden worried. Now was the test, are we following God, will we even hear Him? Will we choose His path even if it doesn’t fit our comfort zone? We had three weeks to find a place to live. For some this may sound pressed for time, but do-able. But remember, we were driven by where God wants to build His church not just a home. All of our prayers for the past year would be for nothing if we didn’t wait to hear His voice in this one big decision. Over the next two weeks, we feverishly looked for a home. We did not want to limit God, but we did have a couple things we could not negotiate on. My job requires that my home be within 15 miles of central Fort Collins, so we opened up to all surrounding areas. We did not limit our search beyond some specific rooms & price and we looked everyday. Nothing seemed right. Even what my wife and I felt led to were different. God, how can we be sure it’s Your voice if we’re hearing it differently? We went on prayer walks through the most likely neighborhoods, but the whisper wasn’t there.
We found ourselves sitting on a Sunday evening, just one week before our closing without a home to move to. Andrea had loosely looked into rental properties but now stated she would find one for us to move into. Again, I asked God if that was what He wanted. I felt the urge to drive around one more time. I loaded my tired family into the car and we set out praying for the Holy Spirit’s direction…..no destination, just praying.
There was nowhere new. We had seen all the neighborhoods and all the houses. As the sun dipped below the mountains, we turned down a street we had been on before. We actually looked at a house there when our realtor told us to open ourselves up to a higher priced house. I had refused to compromise then, believing God put us on a path to save money for His work. Then we saw a “For Sale” sign, six houses down. How had we missed it? “That is what I want,” I told my wife. She explained that it would definitely be out of our price range. So we sat in front of the house, longing just to know where we’d be going, exhausted, just ready to do God’s work wherever that would be…..now we would settle for just knowing, God, even if it’s not where we want. The flyer said the home was way above our top price, but everything else was perfect. We went home and prayed. “Lord, You lead. We’ll follow wherever You lead. Our lives are Yours; do with them as You will.”
The next morning, I told my wife to call the realtor and tell her that we wanted that house in our price range. The realtor laughed at us & said “It’s not possible. They’ve already lowered their price almost $100K.” We told her just to call and ask. A few minutes later, we got a frantic call from our realtor saying “They’re taking your offer if you can put it in writing by noon. So we better go look at the house & see if you even like it.” (Seems funny making an offer on a home we’ve never walked through, but we knew it was from God.) And as we walked through the house, we both sensed approval, a peace that this was where He designed for us to be all along. And strange, it felt right to both of us even though through this whole process we’d been looking for different things.
There are so many circumstances, events, and details that we could share to express how we KNOW without a doubt that only God could orchestrate such an elaborate plan with every single detail pointing to Him. But that is not the point of this posting.
Where are we now? We are closer to the Lord than ever. We love, worship, and serve as a family. Our home church is simply my family and my single brother. God has led people into our lives and we have invited them to be a part of our worship. We have also invited them to just be a part of our lives. No more seclusion. No one has taken us up on our invitation to come to our church, but I am now patient. This is not our group to build; it is His. As we think back over this journey, the hardest part was stepping out of the boat, trusting that we wouldn’t fall as long as we had our eyes on Him. It hasn’t been easy. But not everything in His plan is easy. We have been tested. Our resolve hasn’t always been so strong. There have been times we long for the organized church. There have been times when my wife and I hear His voice saying different things. How do you continue your journey when times aren’t so easy and the excitement is wavering…..you just pray and know that He is God.