Recently a headline caught my eye: God Provides Nearly Homeless Megachurch $5 Million. John Bishop, the pastor of Living Hope Church near Vancouver, Washington, appealed to his congregation and other churches to help raise the remaining money needed to keep their home, a revamped K-Mart. Outreach magazine listed the church as one of the fastest growing churches in the nation. The church raised $4 million by itself before Bishop started the campaign, asking churches around the nation to give $1,000 toward the $1 million shortfall. They actually ended up raising more than what was needed, and they plan to use the excess in homeless outreach.

It got me thinking. Although I love the heart of this church and in no way disparage God's provision for their building, underneath reports like this is an assumption: When God's in a thing, it will succeed. We experienced quite the opposite when we tried to plant a church in southern France from 2004-2006. Constant spiritual warfare, financial stress, and team issues contributed to our return to the States. When we came home earlier than expected, someone emailed and asked me if I thought we missed God by going there in the first place. What she basically meant was that God must not have led us there because it didn't "succeed." Therefore the simple formula is this: God leads + We obey = Outward success.

I wondered about the small churches around this nation whose pastors might've read the report of the $5 million in provision. When a church closes, grief enters in. Even so, churches have found joy in the grief. In March this year, Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas, shuttered its doors. The grief they experienced, though, was tempered by another church ...

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