I Quit! There were many times I thought it. Once or twice I prayed and asked God if I could do it; but never before had I shouted it and meant it.
It was January 2006, five years after accepting the invitation to pastor a small church located in a neighborhood in central San Diego, California, and I was done! My wife, Michelle, knew it. Our location was difficult for people to find, our attendance was declining, and our financials were flat lining. The spark was gone and the only fires burning were the still smoldering fiery darts in my back.
At this same time, we had been invited to attend a private minister’s conference in Fort Worth, Texas. “I’m not going!” I declared with righteous fervor. I hate minister’s conferences and I began to lay out the case for why these meetings were such a waste of time.
Michelle, in her lovingly assertive way, informed me that I was going. I knew that I would, but I vowed that I would not like it. I found someone to cover our mid-week service and got on the plane.
Upon arriving the first day yep, just what I expected. This person wants a meeting at our church, that person pretends to know me, another day with the who’s who in the charismatic zoo.
The Lord used Christians United for Israel to save my ministry and our church by giving us the vehicle by which to bless His brethren, which are my brethren.
Then, something changed. I began to listen to a teaching by Pastor Mac Hammond, Senior Pastor of Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, and a Regional Director for Christians United for Israel. The message changed my life. It changed our ministry, and now its’ impacting our city. He was speaking directly to me and about me. The message was an explanation of why modern churches lack the effectiveness of the early church fathers we read about in Scripture.
Pastor Hammond explained that our churches are ineffective because they lack unity and a common cause. Unlike the early church, the modern body of Christ has allowed our differences to divide us and we have no common cause greater than ourselves.How can you say you love God with all your heart and NOT love what He loves, the apple of His eye, Israel? Pastor Mac began to share how a group of like-minded leaders were coming together in San Antonio to form an organization called Christians United for Israel (CUFI).
My heart was on fire and my mind was racing. I squeezed Michelle’s hand, “That’s it, that’s it, that’s what is missing a Cause!” I obviously said out loud, as the lady in front of me turned and frowned.
I remembered a news story I had heard four years earlier while in the car on my way to church. It was about a church that had blessed Israel. I said, “Lord, I would love to be able to do that!” but I had no way or means by which to do it with. Suddenly, that wishful comment of a prayer said at a stop light now had an answer.
I came back to San Diego on full power. I had left prepared to resign and came home with a plan. That spark that had long been gone was rekindled into a burning passion to bless Israel and stand with the Jewish people. I wanted to get involved in CUFI as soon as possible, and I began to call anyone who might know how I could get involved.
I was put in contact with Randy Neal, the Western regional coordinator for CUFI and after a few phone calls we met with area pastors and met with the United Jewish Federation in San Diego. I was asked to serve as CUFI’s city director of San Diego, and I gladly accepted. We immediately began to plan “A Night To Honor Israel” for San Diego.
As all of this was unfolding it became clear that our church was going to need a much larger facility to be able to do everything that the Lord was putting on my heart. I found the ideal property for sale, a church more than three times the size of ours and sat right on the freeway at a major intersection, a prime location. I tried to buy it, but the deal fell through.
We continued to plan “A Night to Honor Israel”, but not without our share of roadblocks and delays from both the Christian and Jewish Communities. That all changed in July of 2006.
Israel was under attack from Hezbollah in the North and Hamas in the South. Providentially, I found myself with thousands of other Christians in our Nation’s Capitol speaking to our elected officials to encourage them to support Israel. We had gathered for CUFI’s first Washington, DC Summit, and for many of us in my church it was the first time we had ever spoken to a Congressional Rep or Senator. During the Summit, I received a phone call from the Jewish Federation in San Diego; they invited me to speak at a rally to support Israel scheduled for the coming Sunday. The question was asked in the form of a hopeful challenge, “Do you think any of the Christian community would join us?” I confidently answered; “Yes, we will do our best”.
I had four days to muster the support from the other end of the country. Gladly, the day of the rally several hundred Christians came with signs of support, standing arm and arm with their Jewish neighbors in San Diego. A small start; but still a start.
Following that hot day in July of ‘06, we worked together and presented San Diego’s first “Night to Honor Israel”. The Christian community in our city was able to tangibly bless Israel according to Genesis 12:3 and the reciprocal blessing promised in that verse has been witnessed in my life personally and our church corporately.
This last summer Michelle and I went with Randy Neal and our Co-Directors for California, Pastor Victor & Marita Styrsky, to represent CUFI at an event in Hollywood. During the dinner my phone rang, it was a man who wanted to help me buy a building. We agreed to meet the following week; the building he mentioned was the one I tried to buy a year earlier, the one right off the freeway. He informed me that others who were “more qualified” were already in line in front of me.
We began the qualifying process all over again. The bankers were pouring over the financials, and something interesting began to emerge. We weren’t the same church. Our membership and financials had suddenly and drastically improved. Something was different, and I had no doubt that the difference was the direct result of blessing Israel. Our church growth continues to climb.
I write this today from our new campus. Over 250,000 cars pass by this facility every day. Some are beginning to stop on Sundays. Our footage has more than tripled and we can seat over 1,000, plus room for children and youth. The inside has been redecorated with Jerusalem stone, and there are olive trees outside my office window, all as direct result of taking a stand to bless Israel.
God has been faithful to His word. On our first service in the building, the broker stood before the people and said, “You were not supposed to be here, but I suppose God has a reason.”
It’s called favor, and favor isn’t fair. The American and Israeli flags proudly stand on either side of the stage as testament to the words of Jesus, “If you have done it unto the least of these my brethren you have done it unto me”.