Excerpt from: A Burning Bush
Just As I Was Talking About Money ...

BT - Loving the City

mikIm000294We couldn't understand why the roof of our church building kept leaking and would not hold a repair. Finally, we called in the big guns and they confirmed what we had suspected for a while, majoy truss failure. The whole thing would need to be engineered again and structurally rebuilt from the inside out. It was going to cost us.

First, we had to decide if it was worth it. Churches were moving from the city to the suburbs. Our members had been gradually doing the same and joining churches with attractive buildings and programs where they could get lost. The decision came down to calling. Were we called to serve the city or not? Was our location stratgic for God's purposes. Were we willing to stay and minister in an urban setting.

The answer was to stay. After that was made, we had to raise what was for us a great deal of money - nearly three times our annual income. We did. Not only that, we met in a construction zone for over a year.

There is a story to tell about a price that has been paid and is continuing to be paid. There is never enough money and not enough manpower, but here is what is happening:

Never in the history of Baptist Temple, the church with a name so funny, we call it the Fellowship of Joy, has such a tiny core group gotten as much done in the city. We host four congregations: Hmong, Set Free, Spanish and English, have a bilingual service every Sunday, co-sponsor a men's home, host the Christian Women's Job Corp, take care of Graffiti for a square mile and a half around the church while mentoring at-risk kids, have an active skate church ministry, keep a food pantry going, participate in Angel Food, conduct Bible Studies or some ministry on and off site every day of the week, are about to launch a new church start in a farming community, and provide chaplains in several areas of the city.

And that is not the whole story.

And this has happened while losing the biggest part of our giving and leadership base through death, attrition, job movement, and weariness.

We aren't going anywhere. We have great dreams and great faith. Sure, we'd love to have some folks come alongside us and catch the vision, but if they don't we don't intend to lose it.

God loves the city and the people who live in the city. The city is Fresno, California and we are the Fellowship of Joy.

My dream is to be able to continue to serve God in that community and beyond without regard for whether it can pay or not (at the moment, it does and that's the way my church likes it) - and to train other young men and women who will do the same in the city and in hard to reach outlying communities in the U.S. and around the world.

It can get pretty exciting sometimes.
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