Tonight, we are moving into Lang Auditorium. This has been quite the journey of prayer, strategizing, and trusting in Jesus. What I hope to do in this post is give you insight into this journey and encourage you with three thoughts as we move into our new home.
Last spring, we realized that the Communication Arts Center would not be able to facilitate our gatherings for much longer. With 87 seats and an average attendance of 60 students during that semester, we knew we had to get a game plan for the future if we wanted to grow.
We then went on an exploration of every classroom on campus to see where we could move next. With the remodeling of Schindler, there was really no logical next room for our group. A logical room would be a room with 200 or 300 seats, but there really isn't a room like that on campus, especially one that is fit for a worship service.
One afternoon as Lovensky and I were checking out rooms, we decided to look at the monstrous room of Lang Auditorium just for fun. We got one of the employees in Lang Hall to open the room for us and we checked it out for the first time. Lovensky's eyes widened as he looked around the room and dreamed of what could be. My response was a bit different - yes, excitement, but also scattered thoughts and questions. At this point, we were having 60 students at our services. As I looked around at the 800 seats, an internal struggle began. One part of me thought, "It makes no sense to move to a room that is over 10 times bigger than our attendance." The other part of me thought, "Where else can we go? The CAC is too small. We are dreaming for more. Why not take a step of faith and believe God to fill the seats?" Over the following weeks, we prayed as a team for guidance from Jesus and sought wise counsel from other pastors. God squeezed our hearts and challenged us to step out in faith.
We unanimously felt that the Lord was giving us the green light to move into Lang. We then went to reserve the room for this fall, but realized that many people had already reserved it on Tuesday nights and that we couldn't get it consistently until November 1st. I felt that the Lord wanted us to move on this date for a reason. We decided to go for it and planned for a November 1st move date. This all happened before April. So for the last 7-8 months we have been preparing for this move.
Since then, we have went over maximum capacity twice in the CAC. Now, here we are on move day looking into the future with expectant hearts and nervous anticipation. As we move, I want to encourage you with three things.
1. Stay faithful
It's tempting after a move like this to let your hunger for more wane. Just two years ago, we were a small ministry with about 20 people plugged in. There is so much to celebrate and thank God for as we have grown by almost 500%. However, we cannot take our foot off the gas. We have to keep pressing into the Lord, serving with passion, praying hard, and casting the net for new students to plug in.
2. Think long
It's also tempting to expect God to fill the room right away. This is certainly possible and I believe the Lord may do a quick work. However, we didn't sign up for quick growth or for an easy task. We signed up for faithful ministry over the long haul. We signed up for the daily grind of loving students, maturing in the Lord together, and preparing the way for a long-term sustainable work of God on the campus. Let's think long and refuse to be discouraged by the daily struggles. We are working for something so much bigger than this year or even this week. We are working to provide UNI students for generations to come with an opportunity to respond to the gospel and mature in their faith through the community of Chi Alpha.
3. Dream big
Finally, keep on dreaming big. Dream and pray for revival each and every week. Dream that God could wake up hearts all over our campus in a moment. Dream that God could fill up Lang Auditorium on Tuesday nights. Even dream that we would have to have two services in Lang on Tuesday nights to facilitate all of the students. God is capable of far more than our wildest dreams.
Tonight is the beginning of a new chapter in the life of Chi Alpha at the University of Northern Iowa. I pray that Lang Auditorium could be our home for many years. I'm eager to get started on the long mission ahead tonight. Keep being FAITHFUL, think LONG, and dream BIG.
Love you guys,
Note: I got the principles of thinking long and dreaming big from The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. In his book, he challenges us to DREAM BIG, PRAY HARD, and THINK LONG. I encourage you to grab a copy.