As a church we are working our way through the book of Daniel. Right there at the start of the book is a dilemma for Daniel, a guy who has found himself in the service of a foreign king in a foreign nation. How do I hold true to my God and serve the king of this nation, Nebuchadnezzar. The answer? By drawing a line and sticking to it, saying “look, this is what, because of who my God is and who I am, I am compelled and in faith to do”.
For Daniel, at that moment, it was about not eating food dedicated to other Gods so he could keep himself pure for his God – he had to trust God that in doing that he would still have as much energy as the other recruits. The story ends in chapter one with him having 10 times as much wisdom and strength as any others – he drew a line and stuck to it.
For The Oak, right now, it’s about being honest with the council as to what we intend to use the new church building for and how many people, in faith, we would like to see using the building at any one time. It’s not primarily about being honest with council, although that is certainly something we want to be as we live and serve the people and authorities around us. It’s about being honest with God about how we respond to the authorities around us, about having integrity in everything little decision we make. It’s about drawing a line and sticking to it. We believe God has this for us… …so we’ll stick to it.
Easter has passed and we haven’t completed on the purchase of the building… not yet anyway. Let me tell you why.
We have applied for a ‘change of use’ on the building. It was built as a church (category D1) building almost 200 years ago but was changed into a gym (category D2) sometime in the past 30 years – we are applying to change it back to a church, which unless we want to start every meeting or gathering with a fitness session, is a legal requirement in the purchase.
Wonderfully there have been no objections to our request.
The one is from the Highways department who have a responsibility to make sure traffic flows and parking is suitable. Their objection is fair and reasonable.
In order for us to grow as a church to 200 people we have been told we have enough parking on our site to satisfy The Highways Department. However, we have asked to be able to use the building with up to 300 (!!!) people in it – maxing it out but making it usable for one off and special events. It would seem the difference between 200 and 300 is quite considerable when it comes to parking requirements and so we are in negotiations with planning and highways over a way forward.
We could have asked for 75 people, our current need and, once we had the change of use application accepted, just grow the church anyway. But this is a moment where we get to love our city, to bless our city and to be honest with our city. This is a moment to have integrity with our God and with our city. This is a moment to draw the line and stick to it.
It appears our honesty is being graciously received. The planning and highways departments have extended our application and are committed to finding a way forward – for this we are thankful to God, the council and all those who are helping us (local councillors, friends, lawyers and fellow property owners).
So at the moment we pray for a way forward. As soon as we have the 'change of use' we will purchase the building and begin the refit. Until then…we pray.
In the meantime miraculous things are happening amidst trials and difficulties. Someone gave their life to Jesus last Sunday.