The Key to the Miraculous
How Sowing Seed to Win People to Christ Will Grow Your Church
By Randy Valimont
Most people who have searched for significance have encountered divine interruptions — moments when God arrested their intentions and reshaped their outlook. I remember one such event early in my ministry. The truth God communicated to me that day is the key to the miraculous.
Whatever victories you experience, whatever accomplishments God connects with your ministry, whatever level of success Christ brings to your life, all of it will be an outgrowth of your willingness to give. In particular, your willingness to give sacrificially to the cause of Christ around the world will most determine your ability to transform your immediate sphere of ministerial influence. I am talking about world missions.
The Assemblies of God, since its inception, has dedicated itself to sharing the gospel with the lost using every available means. As a church, we take the Great Commission very seriously. So does our Lord. Since the founding of the Assemblies of God in 1914, we have grown to more than 55 million adherents around the world. When you consider that this kind of growth occurred in less than 100 years, you can understand why we, as a Fellowship, embrace and understand the miraculous.
When you communicate a passion for world missions to your congregation, two things will happen. You will see your ability to minister to distant and desperate needs begin to multiply, and you will see your ability to meet the needs of your own congregation expand even faster. But I had to learn these lessons myself.
I learned about missions as a youth pastor while working for my father-in-law, Gerald Jordan, at First Assembly of God in Springdale, Arkansas. I could not understand why he was so interested in giving to complete strangers whom he would never see, never meet, and never personally influence. I understood the need to win the lost, but were the lost not right around us? In fact, that argument would even be more persuasive today because America ranks third in the number of lost people of any nation in the world. Were the lost not in our own hometown? Were the lost not in our own home state? Should we not concentrate our efforts on these people?
As I thought about this, I asked my father-in-law why we gave so much of our church budget to missions. He took me to lunch once he noticed the consternation in my voice and the quizzical look on my face. He explained to me the heart of God in such a profound way that I have never forgotten that conversation.
He said one thing that stirred me more than anything: “Son, if you will care about God’s world, He will care about your church.”
I protested, and said, “I do care about God’s world.”
He said, “Our doing must be propelled by His going.”
What a profound statement. He was sharing with me the very core of the church’s existence. Jesus told His disciples not only to go to Jerusalem, but also to go to Judea and Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world.
True giving, my father-in-law said, was giving to ministries that would not benefit your church. As pastors, we sometimes forget that. We are so interested in winning the lost and building our churches that we sometimes get confused concerning this aspect of true giving. Nevertheless, that is what missions is all about — reaching people you may never see, touch, or hear. When I began to understand and apply this principle, my life changed. God began to bless our youth ministry as we became more and more involved with missions.
Missions was an established foundation of my ministry as I began my first pastorate. It is one thing to be convinced of a truth, but it is another to convince your congregation. Your people will only catch what you believe and what you are passionate about.
The year before I came to Toccoa, Georgia, the first church I pastored, the church had given less than $2,500 to world and U.S. missions. I knew that every church needed to give to experience God’s blessings and expansion. But the church was barely meeting its own obligations and believed its current level of missions support was sacrificial.
I shared the concept of missions giving and what it means to be a missions-giving church. I worked the concept into my sermons. I looked for opportunities to invite missionaries to minister to us. I reminded the people of the world’s needs even as we looked for ways to meet our own needs. The results were amazing. God began to bless our church in proportion to how we prioritized missions in our monthly activities.
After 9 1/2 years, the church’s missions giving grew to almost $60,000 per year. Incredibly, the overall giving of that church grew from $30,000 to $550,000 during that time.
During those years, even as we invested our funds in ministries around the world, God blessed our church. We constructed new buildings and improved our grounds. With our increased giving to missions, we experienced increased resources to meet the needs of our own growing church. During that time, God faithfully supplied. In fact, we always had more than enough. It is interesting to note how the numerical figures of the church grew proportionately to the missions giving figures.
Expanding the Miracle
When we came to First Assembly of God in Griffin, Georgia, the situation was even more desperate. The church was $5,000 behind in its bills. The church income hovered around $400,000 a year, but the budget was more than $8,000 a week. We had a $20,000 short fall that was compounding every year.
Missions giving in 1992 was nearly $10,000. Some people might feel good about that number, especially in a church struggling to meet its financial obligations. In my estimation, missions giving of less than $10,000 represents a genuine neglect of a key to the miraculous.
One of the board members asked me how we were going to get out of our financial dilemma. My response was we were going to give our way out. I am not sure that was the answer he wanted to hear, but that was how God began to do it.
I will never forget when God started the change for our church in Griffin. One of the miracles occurred when we went to a Light for the Lost banquet. The speaker shared that missionaries could use every piece of literature purchased with Light for the Lost funds over and over again. This would result in multiple decisions for Christ. It was as if the Holy Spirit turned on a light in my spirit. I knew if we sacrificially gave to Light for the Lost, we could reach thousands of people for the Kingdom. If we were in tune with the heart of God, He would use the money we gave sacrificially and multiply it back to us to meet our own needs. I knew if we wanted to grow a church, we would need to sow a seed to win people to Christ.
We sowed a seed of $3,000 as a faith promise. This church had never made a faith promise that large in its 65-year history. It is amazing what took place. Within weeks, people began to accept Christ — drug addicts, prostitutes, and gay bar keepers were attending and finding Christ as their Savior. The largest marijuana dealers in Georgia came to our church and accepted Christ. Our church changed because we became interested in God’s world, and God became interested in our church.
Five building programs and two major remodeling projects later, our annual income has grown from $400,000 to $10 million, and God continues to bless. Our church missions giving has increased from less than $10,000 a year to more than $3.6 million in recent years.
Nothing worth achieving will ever be easy. In your pursuit of ministerial significance, the seemingly impossible will often confront you. When you identify your need for a miracle, take that opportunity to dedicate even more of your resources to the Miracle Giver.
During the difficult months and years following 9/11, many in the church were suffering and needing to cut back, but God was blessing us. When the recession of 2005 hit Atlanta, the Ford and GM plants closed. Then Delta Airlines, as well as Northwest, filed for bankruptcy. Many of our people had to take 25, 30, or 40 percent pay cuts. To compound this crisis, one of our local plants that employed 500 people closed. Real estate prices in the Atlanta area — that had seemed insulated from other areas — suddenly collapsed. Builders were no longer building homes. The real estate market was flooded with people wanting to sell their homes, and foreclosures were taking place. During this time, we never gave up our core belief: If we take care of God’s world, He will take care of our church. If we have to choose between missions giving and building-fund giving, we knew we would give to missions, and we did over and over again. Why? Because we knew God would take care of our building if we would took care of what was important to Him.
Miraculously, even through the most difficult economic time the Atlanta area had ever experienced, God continued to let our church grow spiritually, numerically, and financially.
When we do something extra for missions as a church, God always does something extra for us. It is the law of sowing and reaping, and your church’s harvest field is no different. The question you must ask is: What are my priorities? Do you really believe God is your Source? The temptation is to see the numbers and then rationalize your giving. But when you prioritize missions, you connect yourself to your ultimate source for every blessing. You open the door for the miraculous.
In Malachi 3, we read God’s promises concerning the tithe. God promises if His people bring all the tithes into the storehouse, He will pour out a blessing that they cannot contain (verse 10). This passage deals primarily with the tithe, but I am convinced it also applies to missions giving. As you teach your people to give sacrificially to missions, you teach them to love God’s world God’s way. This is one of the most significant truths we communicate as leaders — teaching people to have significance in their own lives as an outgrowth of their commitment to expand the Word of God. This is finding significance in insignificant places.
If you have ever been to the mission field and seen lost people saved or witnessed the completion of a major project funded by your church’s missions dollars and had people, through tear-stained eyes, thank you for your hard work and effort, you know the chorus to the hymn,When We See Christ, applies like never before.
“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”
May we never forget the reason God birthed the Pentecostal church: to be the greatest missionary-sending agency the world has ever known. May God help us to stay focused on the task.
Some would say that we have done enough. I say a resounding, “No.” Recent missions statistics,1 as of 2006, tell us the following:
- Almost 6.6 billion people live on the earth.
- 1.2 billion people live on 23 cents a day.
- 2 billion people have no electricity.
- 80 percent of all people live in substandard housing.
- 1 billion people are without safe drinking water.
- Every 16 seconds someone dies of hunger.
- 57 million people died in 2006.
- 10.5 million of those were children under the age of 5.
- 14 million were orphaned because of HIV/AIDS.
- 2 million children have died because of armed conflict during the last 10 years.
- $8 billion was spent on cosmetics in America in 2005.
- $11 billion was spent on ice cream in Europe.
- $17 billion was spent on pet food in the United States and Europe.
- $105 billion was spent on alcohol in Europe.
Have we done enough? Have we given as much as we can? In 2006, Assemblies of God U.S. churches gave $221 million to World Missions through 2.8 million adherents in the United States. This means we gave $6.58 per person per year, or about 2 cents per day per adherent.
We must feel the burden, and we must finish the task. God wants to pour His resources into churches that will bless the world with the message of Christ Jesus. Will we be available and willing to be a conduit of God’s grace and mercy?
1. Excerpted from World Challenge, Inc., World Challenge Missions Update newsletter.