“Is now the right time? Should we wait? Should we move forward?”
Those were questions circling the minds of God’s people at Risen Savior Lutheran Church in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. – a small mission congregation an hour south of Tampa. In the fall of 2016, as we talked about our building project, we wrestled with the question, “Is now the right time to ﬁnish building God’s house?”
For God’s people in the book of Haggai, they said, “The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built” (Haggai 1:2). But God rebuked them for their backwards priorities, and eventually he gave his people the promise, “I am with you, declares the LORD” (Haggai 1:13). For God’s people in Haggai, now was the time to build God’s house. The LORD was with them!
For God’s people at Risen Savior – as we listened to God’s Word, as we prayerfully contemplated our options, as we discussed it with our District Mission Board – we came to the same conclusion that now is the time! The Lord is with us! We didn’t know exactly what the future would hold, but we knew whatever would come, God would be right there with us.
And he certainly was. A Building Committee was formed. An architect, contractor, and engineer were hired. Plans were put into motion, and we could see that the LORD was with us. With the project progressing, the members at Risen Savior next talked about how we could best use this project to God’s glory and to serve our community. It was decided that since we were so excited for the completion of our building, we’d throw a Grand Opening Party for our community.
The Grand Opening weekend was set for March 24-25, 2018. There was a write up in the local paper. 10,000 direct mail invites were sent to our community. Another 5,000 were put in children’s backpacks at local schools. Members and friends of Risen Savior helped pass out thousands more. Social media advertising, local mom’s groups advertisements, online calendar additions… Christians at Risen Savior were working hard to spread the good news of the grand opening of our sanctuary!
But we knew this weekend was about so much more than just the grand opening of a sanctuary at Risen Savior. This weekend was about THE Risen Savior. This weekend was about sharing the gospel of Jesus with as many people as God brought to us – and God certainly gave us ample opportunities. At our Grand Opening Festival on March 24, there were over 300 people who attended. From that 300, we were able to identify 30 families who had no church home, but who were open to receiving more information about Risen Savior. Then, at our Grand Opening Worship Service, God blessed us with a record attendance of 125, including many ﬁrst time guests and repeat prospects. We are now working together to follow up with these families so that we can continue to share the joy of Jesus with them.
As we look back at these past 18 months, there were some bumps in the road and there were some mistakes that we made. But one thing is certain: the Lord was with us, and we are conﬁdent that he will continue to be with us as we work faithfully to share Jesus with the Lakewood Ranch community.
From Rev. Caleb Free, Risen Savior Lutheran Church – Lakewood Ranch, FL
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