I just returned from the IMN Ignite conference and it reminded me of how God ignited a fire in me that I could not refute.
My early years were spent serving my country in the US Army as a Special Forces Operator. As is typical for this position, I was away from my family the majority of the first years of my time in the service. I separated from active Army to the Army National Guard in October 1997 feeling that I had already spent too many years away from my family. I stayed in the Special Forces with the Army National Guard and also worked full time as a small business banker.
It was during these years at the bank that I met the Lord. A client of mine was an associate pastor at a local church. Every Monday, he would come to the bank to make a deposit and we would talk. We developed quite a friendship and every Monday before he left, my friend would invite me to join him for service on Sunday. This friendship went on for more than a year until one day I responded yes. I was thirty four years old, and this was the first time I had ever met a Christian that did not condemn me or tell me I was going to hell. Instead, he had become a friend that I trusted. I did not have a lot of respect for Christians since all the ones I knew preached to me about my morals and told me I would go to hell while at the same time they were doing the things that they preached against. I did not have much respect for them, but I had come to respect my pastor friend. I did attend the church service at his church the following Sunday. No one questioned me about my sins but just seemed happy that I was there. I kept going back and six weeks later, I accepted the Lord Jesus as my personal savior.
At this time, I had been living a life of a typical Special Forces operator. I had loose morals, used chewing tobacco, and cursed and drank regularly. I announced to my wife that I would not be trying to quit any of these things proclaiming that “if this God is who people say that He is, then I’m not quitting anything…He can love me for who I am.” A few months later, I asked my wife how it was that we had extra money in our account. Upon investigation, the extra money was the result of me no longer desiring to drink. A few months after that point, my soldiers noticed that I was no longer cursing. My transformation was through God—He transformed me through His grace in His likeness. I was freed by Him and Him alone, not by any might of my own. All Glory to God!
Fast forward a few years to December 2010, and I was working in Tacoma, Washington. My superior, Major Allen, came into my office and asked if I would consider a transfer to Area Five in Eastern Washington. I promptly said no. The major requested that I take the night to consider the matter and respond in the morning. That evening, I prayed about this new opportunity although I did not want to pursue it. God responded clearly that I should take the job, adding that I would be working for Him! I thought that if this was indeed from God, then I needed confirmation. At this time only four people were aware of this job offer, but the next morning I received a call from a pastor that I had not spoken with in five years. He said to me, “I heard that you are moving to the Tri-Cities and wanted to know if you would help me with my church and be my executive pastor?” Other confirmations came as well, and I responded, “Yes, Lord, I will work for you.”
That simple “yes” became a fire that God ignited in me. I have always been a driven person, but this fire He ignited is nothing like anything I have ever experienced on my own; it is an all-consuming fire. Hebrews 12 tells us not to refuse Him who speaks and in Hebrews 12:29 it says; “For God is a consuming fire.” With this fire God ignited in me, He led me to a little country church in Kennewick, Washington. This church needed a pastor and had struggled to find a pastor willing to take the lead pastor position. It was not an appealing church; a doublewide trailer, nine people in the congregation and no room for expansion. But because of God and His plans He has for me (Jeremiah 29:11), I was elated to be considered. A few days passed and I did not get a call and I was getting discouraged; I knew God had called me to this little church. In short, they were considering an experienced pastor. I had never been a pastor and most of my Army career had been spent as a Green Beret. But God woke up Pastor Barney several times one night telling him “I sent you a man.” The next day I was offered the lead pastor position.
After taking the position of pastor at this church, my wife and I were doing much to promote the church to bring in new people. Nothing was working. I prayed and prayed, asking God for wisdom and help. One day as I was praying God spoke to me, “This church has been here since 1987 and it has never grown; take off your sandals, shake the dust off your feet and move (Matthew 10:14, Luke 9:5).” By this time the church had five people and only a few visitors every few months. I prayed and God placed Pasco, Washington on my heart. I continued to pray for three months until I received indisputable confirmation. Then, we experienced another four months of frustration before God opened the doors.
One day after months of trying to find a new location for our church, Teresa and I were driving past the TRAC (Tri-Cities Activities Center, 84,000 square feet). Teresa asked me, “Have you called the TRAC?” I responded with a reverberant “NO!” I then offered, “I am tired of hearing ‘NO’; you can call them if you like.” Thankfully, she did! The TRAC had two smaller rooms (3000 and 2000 square feet) we could rent for $5,200 a month. I told Teresa, “even if they give us a 20% discount we still cannot afford it” as we only had six people in our church at this point. Teresa replied that they were having a board meeting and encouraged me to have faith in God. God came through for us, and we pay 22% of the total, a 78% reduction!
God is good and if we are faithful with the little, God can trust us with much (Luke 16:10). New Heritage Church and Teresa and I have always been faithful with our little by tithing to the district and the church. Now our church is growing. We have more visitors in one month than we ever had in six months at our old location. God not only has ignited a fire in my soul, He also has ignited a fire in our church.
As I returned from the IMN Ignite conference, I was reminded of the way God ignited this Green Beret and want to encourage each of you as well. I say to you: God ignited the fire in you and your obedience demonstrates your faith in Him.
– Pastor Gordon Walsh