This is an original post from Brandon & Jamie on their Facebook and it quickly became popular, received hundreds of likes and numerous shares. We felt that since it struck a chord with so many people there, we should share it here for others to read (with permission from the author of course).
Maybe you’ve asked the question, “why would someone go to a new, small church when they could go to a big one that has better music, programs, and is more polished/professional?” We don’t have all the answers to that but here is an answer from one of our members who had the same question.
Hey FB this is Brandon. You know I don’t get on here unless there is a story to be told and this one will be a little long but I believe it’s worth the read. (otherwise I wouldn’t have taken the time to write it... twice) SO let’s just jump right in
Most everyone who knows me knows that I grew up at First Pentecostal Church in Pensacola, FL. FPC is a fairly large church so naturally as the Navy moved Jamie and I around the country we looked for churches that were like what we grew up in. The one thing they all had in common (Besides being UPC). Size.
When we got stationed here in California we visited the churches that would typically fit us. We soon found out that search was futile, but I’ll get to that later. As we went from church to church we just didn’t get the feeling like we belonged anywhere. It wasn’t because the Holy Ghost wasn’t present or that the people were unfriendly, because we went to some really nice places that we thought could be it. It was more like we got the feeling that GOD was just saying… Nah… This ain’t it. Keep looking.
So keep looking we did and during our search we came across Coast Church. Sunday comes and we punch in the address, but when we get there it looks like it’s in an abandoned warehouse. I’m getting ready to keep on driving because, let’s be serious I’m not trying to become someone’s blood sacrifice at some cult service in a warehouse. But Jamie, being the ever adventurous one, was like “Well, we drove all the way over here might as well check it out”. So I huff loudly as I back into a spot close to an exit just in case we have to make a quick escape. Check my CCW pistol… Locked and loaded… Take a deep breath… think to myself remember the details on the way in so you know how to get out!
We walk inside and the music was instantly recognizable as was the worship. So with that putting me at ease we walked into the sanctuary. It was really nice and the praise was so powerful you could feel it. But we there was a “small” problem. It was well… Small (pun intended). There were all of 10 adults there including us. So Im thinking to myself kinda telling GOD… You see GOD, Jamie and I just aren’t comfortable in a small church. Both of us have always been part of larger assemblies so “small" just isn’t going to work for us ok? Soooo we are gonna keep looking. Except during the next week neither one of us could shake the feeling like GOD was saying NOPE… Sorry guys, this is it. This is where you are supposed to be. So after a little struggle and a lot of prayer we decided to make Coast our home away from home.
Some of you may be aware that the cost of living out here in California is a little ridiculous. To put it into perspective. Single wide mobile homes on a lot in a park START OUT at $200K. So it should be no surprise to find out a church with just a few members was sharing a building with another church. This other church however was Trinitarian and while for the most part they were friendly, we did have things we didn’t really agree on. One Sunday we came in to all kinds of pictures and art put up all over the sanctuary and it didn’t exactly jive with the Apostolic doctrine. So asking if we could cover it or take it down for our services coupled with a few other small disagreements started a rift that culminated in them asking us to find a new place to worship by the 1st of the year. The only problem with that is, it was already Thanksgiving which left us basically a month to figure something out. That service we sang a song of faith called Made a Way. The lyrics say “when our backs were against the wall and it looked as if it was over. You made a way.”
Well we started looking for other buildings but everything kept falling through. Jan. 1 came and we were basically on the street. Bouncing around from one community center to the next and watching the attendance seemingly drop to nothing. It was honestly starting to look as if it really were over. That’s when a store front opened up. I mean it’s right next to a laundry mat and a liquor store. Not exactly an ideal location for a church but hey it’s a place and it would be our own.
Now that we have our building we run into a new problem. We have to turn a store into a church. It requires an entire renovation on the inside that was going to cost almost everything the church had and not only that we would still have to furnish it. Now I don’t know if I mentioned it or not but we are a small church. How in the world are we even going to do all this? Spoiler alert… WE aren’t. We have to let go and let GOD.
Now with the time difference between Pensacola and Ventura I can still live stream most of the FPC services. While watching one night I got to wondering what happened to the chairs that used to be in the choir loft at FPC. So I asked my dad to talk to Pastor Kinsey and see if maybe they had them in a closet or storage somewhere and if so maybe he would be willing donate them. Because just the choir loft chairs would be plenty enough for our church. Pastor Kinsey instead of donating some old used equipment responded a few weeks later with a check that completely covered our renovation costs. Our Coast family was blown away and SO very grateful for the generosity of a church that was 2000 miles away on the complete other side of the country. A church I have been proud to call home since birth. By the grace of GOD, it wasn’t just FPC but people from all over started donating. Some people who were not even Christians but saw what we were doing and said they just felt compelled to give. Words just cannot express how big a move of GOD this was nor how thankful we are to everyone.
Now remember I said I would come back to the folly that is finding a church to fit you? That’s is probably one of the biggest mistakes we run into. You see, you need to fit where GOD wants you, not the other way around. When you try to do it your way it will only end up in failure. For us it was an exercise in growth. There is a certain amount of comfort that comes with being part of a large church. You know when they say "Hey we need a someone to lead the choir” someone else will step up and do it. Or “We need a Sunday school teacher” someone else will step up. Or “Hey we need to move all this stuff for the church” someone else will DEFINITELY step up for that one. In a large church I don’t really need to do much of anything and I can be comfortable because someone else will do it. Up until this point I could live with the excuse that someone else will do it. There is this thing with small churches though… Surprise, surprise, there is no one else. If you don’t help, then there really isn’t anyone else. Almost as if GOD purposely pulled us out of our comfort zone and said “Now if not you then who?”
Easter Sunday was set as the day we wanted to have our first service in our new building. So last Saturday morning we meet down at the church to hand out fliers and invite as many people as possible to the service. Jamie and I spent a couple of hours doing that and I could count on my fingers how many times I have done that before… if I had no fingers. Afterward we stayed until 10pm hanging lights, door knobs, shelves, installing towel holders and soap dispensers. All these things that typically "someone else” would have done.
We started our first service at our new location in the same manner we ended with at our last location. Singing “YOU MADE A WAY! When our backs were against the wall and it looked as if it was over, YOU made a way, and we’re standing here only because you made a way!!!” Make a way he did, Easter Sunday was a massive success. We had 40+ people at each service and then again this week we had over 50. But the thing is most of them were new people who just came for Easter service. Suddenly it turns out the same spot I thought was far less than ideal to us to put a church… GOD says… “Nah, see that’s EXACTLY where I wanted it.” The amount of people who walk past then stop and ask about it is amazing. I’ve never heard so many people say “I’m really glad a church is going in here”. So after all the doubts and reservations I had now I’m really starting to believe that anything is possible. Now I’m just waiting for the person walking to the Liquor store who is empty inside going to try to fill the void with Fireball liquor to stop here first and get filled instead with the Holy Ghost and fire. I BELIEVE THAT IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN!
I know this was really long (thanks for staying with me!) but I really felt like it needed to be told in its entirety. There are two very important lessons I learned along the way that I would like to impart with everyone. The first is be ever vigilant of complacency. It’s the #1 Killer in Naval Aviation. Every day our maintenance control warns us about the dangers of it and to keep your head on a swivel. Complacency KILLS! But wouldn’t you know it the Bible also warns us that it’s just as dangerous in the church house. We are warned by the attitude of the church of Laodicea. Never let complacency set in, otherwise you may find yourself just going through the motions and thus spewed out of his mouth. Or even worse rocks may just cry out in your place.
The second is a message that Pastor Kinsey preached a little while ago about Shamgar and his oxgoad. The lesson is simply to start now where you are, use what you have, do what you can, and with GOD it WILL WITHOUT FAIL be enough. Coast Church is living proof of that. Pastor Scott (the pastor here at CC) talked about intimacy with GOD and his blessings this morning. Which made me realize every time I turn around he is blessing us, so much so I literally can’t remember all the blessings. So keep the prayers for us, the city of Ventura, and the nation as a whole coming. Because while churches all over the country are closing their doors, I can’t help but believe that Coast Church in Ventura is just getting warmed up. I know FPC feels the same way!
FINAL THING I said twice in the beginning because I spent a couple of hours typing this up only to have the FB app force close as I tried to post it and erase the whole thing. But you know what… as aggravated as it made me I had time to write it again… SO NOT TODAY DEVIL!!!