About a month ago, I read the book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, by Pastor Jim Cymbala of The Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York. In the book, Pastor Jim recounts the story of God’s work and growing of The Brooklyn Tabernacle. The Brooklyn Tabernacle, like many churches, had seen better days. They had a small building in Brooklyn, fifteen or so faithful people, and a boat-load of discouragement. Their pastor had just thrown his hands in the air and given up on them. It was rumored that one of the long-time members and ushers was skimming off the top of the already minimal Sunday offering. In the meantime, Pastor Jim and his wife were happily and comfortably ministering to a congregation across the river in New Jersey. Pastor Jim was contacted and asked to take on The Brooklyn Tabernacle while still pastoring in New Jersey. Sensing a leading from the Lord, he agreed and began working at both churches, wearing himself thin to make the drive to both congregations. Finally, Jim and his wife began to sense that the Lord was calling them away from the comfortable full-time church to only pastor the small, struggling urban congregation in Brooklyn. Believing this was the Lord’s will, the Cymbalas quit in New Jersey, moved to Brooklyn, and took second jobs in order to pastor the then fledgling Brooklyn Tabernacle.
Pastor Jim worked and worked, yet he seemed to see no fruits of His labor. Finally, after developing a nasty cough, Jim took a short vacation to Florida to try to shake the cough and seek the Lord. It was during this vacation that God spoke to Pastor Jim – The Lord impressed on Pastor Jim that he needed to stop trying to grow the church on his own. He needed to stop trying to follow the latest, greatest church growth fads. Plain and simple, God told Pastor Jim to “PRAY.” In all of the desire to see the church grow and the lost won to Christ, Jim had forgotten to really petition the only One who could achieve those results. Jim returned to the church refreshed and with a new vision – a vision for what God could do if His people asked.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle is known for much more than their choir. The Brooklyn Tabernacle is a place where God is answering prayer. He is at work. Prostitutes continue to come to Christ and leave their old lives. Drug addicts leave a life of pain and addiction for one of fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The choir itself is filled with people who have come from these very lifestyles, and they sing praise unto the Lord for His deliverance. Most of them cannot even read music, including the choir director! AND, do you remember the rumored offering-skimmer? In the first Brooklyn Tabernacle prayer meeting, during an extended time of kneeling together before God’s throne, he was so convicted of his sin that he confessed it aloud in front of the congregation, never to steal again!
God is the initiator of salvation. God is the initiator of growth. God answers our prayers. Are you desperate for Him? Do you really want to be the person in your though life, workplace, and home He wants you to be? There is no 12-step program for Christian success. No gimmicks. No great and creative philosophies. Just a God who brings glory to His great Name by the power of His Holy Spirit! Petition the LORD to meet your desperation, and trust Him to do a great work!