Sometimes however I find myself in a quandary because I believe the Lord has spoken to me through His Word or through the “still small voice” of God’s Holy Spirit to act and obey. The Holy Spirit’s leadership and call to obey always trumps the constitutional requirements set forth by the church. Such an occurrence happened this past Sunday on “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” so I’d like to tell you what happened.
I had invited Brother Phil Chatting who serves as the Treasurer and is on the Board of Directors for Women’s Choice Pregnancy Resource Center in Charleston to come speak about what God is doing through this crisis pregnancy center. As Phil shared the statistics of the numbers of abortions performed in the 2 abortion clinics in West Virginia and shared about how the Lord used a gift of $10,000 from MBC several years ago to help them purchase a building right next door to one of these abortion clinics; the Lord started speaking to me about giving this center a large gift. Phil shared that the center had been given an ultrasound machine and they were trying to raise money for a medical director and a nurse to operate the machine that would help women see the life of the baby inside them. Studies have repeatedly shown this equipment is highly effective to help people choose life. Then Phil showed the video testimony of a young woman who planned to terminate her pregnancy as a single mom and through the Providence of God, she contacted Women’s Choice and through their ministry she chose life!
As I wrestled with how to go about doing this, I have to tell you I was in great turmoil as your new pastor. I know the constitution requires certain things in terms of calling a business meeting and we have a finance board who oversees our finances. But I clearly sensed the Lord wanted us to give the center another $10,000.00 in response to Phil’s presentation but I hadn’t talked to anyone on the board of finance, the deacons, or any of the staff. In my spirit, I was a bit concerned because of the amount involved and I don’t like to manipulate or back people into a corner. However, the Lord wouldn’t let that figure out of my mind and I remembered Samuel’s challenge to King Saul from 1st Sam.15:22-23 “…Behold to obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams, for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry…” I have to tell you I thought “Lord I can take care of this by talking to them later and trying push this through”; yet the Lord was prompting me to obey. When we began the invitation, I made an appeal for people to come and pray that we’d create a culture of life. Our Pastor Emeritus, Reverend Tom Steele, came forward and was visibly moved, as I greeted him. The first thing Brother Tom said to me was “I want to give testimony about that $10,000.00 if you’ll give me two minutes.” It was like the Lord was saying “You see Ralph, that figure I gave you is correct and you need to obey me now and ask for it.” So after Brother Tom spoke, I put my arm around him and called the church into a business session and asked if we could give another $10,000.00 to the center. I had two men affirm the motion and by voice vote the congregation said yes unanimously!
Here it is Tuesday and I’m still overwhelmed by that hallelujah moment and thankful for God’s prompting and teaching us a valuable lesson. I believe this past Sunday we had what Dr. Henry Blackaby called a “Crisis of Belief” in his study “Experiencing God.” The principle at work is to see where God is at work and ask to join Him in that work. God is clearly at work through Woman’s Choice and He invited us to be involved in that work in a profound way. The rest of the story is that I went to our finance board as they were counting our morning offering; kind of expecting to be taken to task for my procedural error relating to our constitutional way of doing things. Instead I was met with smiles and gentle encouragement that they would have said yes if I’d have asked ahead of time but they told me they would cover it and would cut a check for me to give to Brother Phil immediately! Oh how they encouraged me! I was half way expecting a “tar & feathering” but received a great blessing in supportive members who want to follow the Lord Jesus in humble submission and obedience to God’s call.
After reflection however, I didn't ask ahead of time because the Lord didn't speak to me ahead of time! He spoke to me in corporate worship and not in my prayer closet. I’m reminded of what God said through the prophet Isaiah in 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” That’s how God works and I’m thankful He works in ways that often don’t make sense from a human point of view but in a way that brings Him the most praise when His people obey Him by faith.
You need to know I’m not in the habit of setting aside our church constitution. But I can also assure you I intend to obey God with my whole heart when I discern He’s calling us to respond. If I have to choose between being a constitutional church or a Biblical church, I will lead us to be a Biblical church. You all encourage me in ways I can’t even express. Your love for Jesus and each other shines through constantly and I am profoundly humbled to serve as your Senior Pastor. God has great plans for a congregation committed to the Lordship & leadership of Jesus Christ so be encouraged by the working of God among us. Oh by the way, Brother Phil was moved to tears and said the board of directors has already committed extra gifts they receive like ours to fund those staff positions to man that ultrasound machine. Our giving will encourage other churches to step up to the old plate and swing for life!
I love you and I rejoice over our commitment to being a Biblical church, from my little corner of the world to yours…