|Twenty years ago, Kirbyjon H. Caldwell was a fast-track bond broker with an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. But he turned away from a six-figure income to answer the call of his Divine purpose. With the explosive power that comes from combining prayer with action, Caldwell transformed a struggling twenty-five-member congregation into a lean, mean Kingdom-building machine. The Windsor Village United Methodist Church now has more than 11,000 members and 120 ministries for everything from job placement and financial planning to weight loss and alcohol rehabilitation.|
Gospel of Good Success: A Road Map to Spiritual, Emotional, and Financial
(click title to order this book on-line now)
Author: Kirbyjon H. Caldwell
Format: Paperback, 256pp.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade Paperbacks
Pub. Date: October 2000
Chapter Three: The Faith Walk
"Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
-- John 20:29
He had beaten bullets, Nazis, thousands of miles of treacherous desert, and his own fears and insecurities. But in the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indy is still one whale of a leap away from the Holy Grail, the cup Jesus is believed to have sipped from at the Last Supper, a goblet that, the movie promises, blesses those who drink from it with eternal life.
Of course, our hero had already come farther than the soldier who had preceded him into the cave where the Grail is resting. Recruited by the Nazis, the fool had no respect, much less belief. He bumbled his way into the cave with his sword drawn, nervously sidestepping the dead bodies that littered his path. Suddenly, spiderwebs swirled, music swelled, and -- snap! -- his sword was broken in half by some invisible force and the fool's decapitated head came rolling out of the cave like a bowling ball.
The chief-Nazi-in-charge then looked over to Indy, who is being held prisoner with his daddy, the senior Dr. Jones, played by Sean Connery.
"The Grail is mine and you're going to get it for me," the Nazi snaps, pointing a pistol.
When Indy refuses, the Nazi turns to Connery and fires a bullet into his gut.
"The healing power of the Grail is the only thing that can save your father now," the Nazi cries. "It's time to ask yourself what you believe."
Indy turns toward the cave and begins walking, reading commands from his daddy's diary, knowledge gained from a lifetime of studying about and searching for theHoly Grail.
"The penitent man is humble," he says, sidestepping the dead bodies of previous seekers in his path. "The penitent man is humble before God, kneels before God."
Suddenly, two giant circular blades slice the darkness and Indy gets the message.
"Kneel!" he shouts, falling to his knees as the blades narrowly miss him.
He's passed the first test. Walking farther, his next feat is to cross a cobblestone section of stones, each stone marked with a different letter.
"Only in the footsteps of the name of God will he proceed," he reads from the diary.
"In the name of God!" shouts Sean Connery from his deathbed outside the cave. "In the name of God, Jehovah!"
Indy begins walking on the steps to spell out the name of Jehovah. Only in ancient days, Jehovah is spelled Iaehova. He steps on a J first and -- boom! -- the square piece of path bearing the letter J collapses beneath him, leaving him dangling over an endless drop. Pulling himself out, he follows the letters, to the other side, only to find himself in an even more impossible situation.
He stands at the lip of an endlessly deep chasm. A doorway, presumably leading to the resting place of the Grail, awaits him on the other side. There are no limbs, no ropes, no stepping stones -- just this endlessly deep canyon. Beside him on a canyon wall is a lion's head, and he remembers the words of his father: "Only in the leap from the lion's head will he prove his worth."
"Impossible," Indy says. "Nobody can jump this!"
His father's painful cries ignite an idea.
"It's a leap of Faith," says Indy to himself.
"You must believe, boy!" cries Dad from his deathbed. "You must believe!"
Hand to his chest, eyes to heaven, Indiana takes a deep breath, lifts a leg, and steps into the void. And there -- miraculously! -- he steps on solid ground. A walkway now stretches before him where, only seconds ago, there was only thin air. He walks across the chasm into the passageway leading into the resting place of the Grail.
Yes, it's only a movie, but it illustrates the concept of a Faith Walk, the next integral leg in your journey to Holistic Salvation. The concept of a leap over an endlessly deep chasm is as old as time. The movie version resembles the ancient fable of King Arthur, in which Sir Lancelot steps out on Faith across an equally bottomless pit. Once he takes the first step, an equally magical bridge appears beneath his feet.
You, too, have invisible bridges waiting to support you in crossing the seemingly bottomless chasm between your present and God's vision for your optimal future. But you'll never see bridges, much less walk across them, until you have the Faith and courage to embark upon the Faith Walk. Those who desire Holistic Salvation walk by Faith, not merely by sight. Like Indiana Jones and Sir Lancelot, you can attain the impossible, cross the uncrossable, defeat the invincible. But the first step is Faith.
"You must believe, boy!" Indiana Jones's daddy cried from his deathbed. "You must believe!"
I love that line. People marvel over the power of rocket fuel, the properties of oil and gas, the propulsion of petrochemical fuels that can fly the Concorde from New York to London in 3.5 hours or send a man to the moon over the course of a weekend. But there is an even more astonishing way of traveling, a fuel that renders gasoline obsolete and makes rocket fuel seem like useless primordial ooze.
No engine, whether it's an airplane's or a human brain, can get off the ground without it. Without Faith, no pilot would ever climb into a cockpit. Without Faith, an astronaut would be crazy to even suit up. Without Faith, who would dare to step across a green light on a busy urban street corner, much less begin the long and arduous journey toward the hallowed gates of Holistic Salvation?
In this chapter, I'm going to tell you how to embark upon a Faith Walk, in which Faith combines with action in an incredible explosion of power. Every great achievement is the result of a Faith Walk -- a one-step-at-a-time trudge toward the God-given Vision for your preferred future. Whether it's the Vision of the great explorers who crossed mountains, continents, oceans, and eventually moons, or the inventors and entrepreneurs who revolutionized twentieth-century business and industry, Faith in the power of God is a prerequisite for achieving the vision.
A Faith Walk is a journey that has the ability to rocket every aspect of your existence into brave new realms. By aligning your desire with God's preferred state for your future and by walking confidently and obediently toward that Vision, you will find the impossible becomes possible in startling ways. The first step is, of course, usually the toughest. Most Faith Walks begin in darkness: you just don't know where that road will lead you. This uncertainty, this fear, leads the majority to abandon their Faith Walks before even beginning them. If you have any doubt about this, a brief glimpse at the armies of easy chairs parked in front of television sets on any street will give you all the proof you need. These folks spend day after day, year after year, stalled at the starting gate.
Fear, however, can be a mere mirage. Remember: its individual letters stand for False Evidence Appearing Real. Still, fear stops many folks, and many Faith Walks. The opposite of a Faith Walk is, of course, a Death Stall, and Death Stalls begin in the same place as Faith Walks. Only the people in a Death Stall become bogged down in fear, secured by Satanic cement. This inaction invariably leads in the opposite direction of God's preferred state for your future.
So how do you begin the march toward your Vision, toward your dreams?
You have to literally step out on Faith.
The Power of Faith
When we walk to the edge of all the light we have
And take that step into darkness of the unknown,
We must believe that one of two things will happen.
There will be something solid for us to stand on
God will teach us how to fly.
-- Patrick Overton
Faith is a gift from God. Are you using yours or squandering it?
Some folks deny their gift of Faith. Others believe, but not enough to act upon their beliefs. Action is as important to Faith as the wind is to the sail of a ship. Like the wind, you can't see Faith. But that doesn't mean you doubt its existence. Just as a ship is propelled by wind, a life can be propelled by the power of Faith. Faith is not bound by fact or intellect.
Faith is sailing off the edge of a world that everyone else believes is flat; it's leaping from a cliff with metal wings strapped to your sides when everyone else is saying man was not meant to fly; it's creating a new TV sports network by borrowing the $8,500 start-up fee on your Visa account, then have your Vision evolve into the sports powerhouse ESPN while everyone else is saying that your idea "will never work." If you want to know the power of Faith, just ask Bill Rasmussen, who created ESPN, or Ted Turner, who publicly announced his twenty-four-hour CNN network before he knew for sure how it was going to happen.
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen," says the Bible.
"Faith without works is dead," reads another passage.
"Faith is believing what you know ain't so," wrote Mark Twain. To which, I would add that it's believing what you know ain't so, "at least not yet!"
Many of us pray in wishes, mired in the childlike view of God as grantor to those who pray hardest and most eloquently. But Faith is not wishing. It's way deeper than that. Faith is like alchemy, the practice of the ancient scientists who sought ways to turn base metals into gold. The alchemists never found the secret. But we have the ability to turn ordinary existence into something very close to gold by employing the Alchemy of Faith. Faith is your connection with God. If you believe enough to act without a guarantee, to believe against all logic, evidence, and advice, then you can activate the energies of Faith, the "God confidence" to realize that God has your back and you can move forward.
Faith is like a tree seedling, constantly fighting the elements for its survival. It is a battle for Faith to survive amid the constant storms that life rains down upon it. You must guard your almost childlike ability to believe like a flickering candle in a hurricane.
If your Faith has waned, perhaps you can pinpoint the stage where your Faith was not nourished. But always remember this: as it is written in the Bible, "The Kingdom of God is within you." Faith is within you, not without. No matter how many times you allow evil to extinguish your Faith, you have to choose to exercise your Faith over and over again. The devil specializes in extinguishing your Faith. That's his job! When your Faith begins to waver, you must reignite it by first fully understanding the circumstances that caused your Faith to wane.
What do you do when your Faith wavers or wanes? You decide to believe again, in spite of whatever circumstances caused your Faith to wane. There are a number of ways to "insure" your Faith against circumstances or the constant attacks of the devil that all of us face. First, feed your Faith by reading God's Word. Second, fortify your Faith by fellowshiping with folks of like-minded Faith. Third, fuel your Faith by acknowledging and celebrating the wonders and works God has accomplished in your life. Fourth, pray. Prayer increases your dependence upon God, heightens your sensitivity to God's voice, and encourages your obedience to God. Don't allow the devil to lock up your mind so that you only remember the pains of your past.
Realize that Faith begets Faith. All who have
Faith ought to do good works. Those good (and faithful) works produce more
faithfulness. In other words, your Faith should give birth to faithful works,
whether it's creating an inner strength within yourself or within your family or
community as a whole.
Walk by Faith
Come now!...Were everything clear, all would seem to you vain. Your boredom would populate a shadowless universe with an impassive life made up of unleavened souls. But a measure of disquiet is a divine gift. The hope which, in your eyes, shines on a dark threshold does not have its basis in an overly certain world.
-- Marcel Proust,
By Way of Sainte-Beuve
Okay, you've identified the Faith within you. Now, it's time to Walk by that Faith into the uncharted waters.
It's easier said than done. A Faith Walk involves an acceptance of things you can't prove scientifically or empirically. After all, if it can be proved scientifically, what need is there for Faith? Arguably, then, a Faith Walk is a stepping out on what God has promised you. It's believing God is going to do what God said He was going to do in the Bible -- meet your needs, make provisions, heal your body, bring you joy in the midst of sorrow...and much more.
The pioneer psychologist Carl Jung wrote that around age thirty-five or forty, "Youthful illusions are shed, repressed childhood ideals resurface. Early interests and ambitions lose their fascination and more mature ones take their place. A person gropes toward wisdom and a search for enduring personal values begins. Either we begin a quest for meaning at midlife or we become simply an applauder of the past, an eternal adolescent, all lamentable substitutes for the illumination of the self."
In the end, we really have no other choice. To move forward, we must walk...but to where? Toward a place that you can only imagine with the eyes and ears of your soul. Most folks deny the guidance of the heart and soul. But then most folks never arrive at the destination of their God-given dreams. In doing so, they deny themselves of the blessings of wholeness that flow as a result of being in God's primary Will. It takes incredible trust, the trust of a child reaching up to his parent's hand. You must learn to look to God with that same brand of trust, with that kind of heart. That's what Faith is all about. It's an equation: Trust = Belief + Action. Trust puts your belief in God into action. Belief is static; trust is dynamic. Remember that childhood is where the Faith development process begins; it's where, if you've lost your Faith, you must return in your heart to retrieve it -- and then move forward with maturity and determination.
In the case of our Church, we began our Faith Walk on the first day. When I stood before that dwindling congregation and delivered my first sermon about the prophet and the prostitute, we began a collective Faith Walk. We did not leap from a place of safety or security, just as you probably won't. But we began. We walked from a mostly empty Church while rumors of our imminent demise swirled around us, surrounded by seven acres of land about to go on the market in hopes of paying off my predecessor's salary.
As I said before, we had Faith, and that Faith led to action. But before we could act, we had to have a Vision. This is the prerequisite for a Faith Walk. To put it simply, a Vision can be defined, according to the author George Barna, as "God's preferred state for your future."
In previous chapters, we discussed a Calling, which is the crucible for the Vision. A Vision is the outcome, the destination, the realization of God's preferred future. If your Calling involves your career, then your Vision is a specific pinnacle of achievement. If the Calling is the path, the Vision is the destination. If you're an entrepreneur, you ought to have to have a Vision for your business. If you're the head of a household, you ought to have to have a Vision for your family. If you're a student, you ought to have to have a Vision for your educational accomplishments.
Remember this: Once you hear lots of folk saying, "No," you might have found your true path. One way a true Vision can be recognized is that everyone around you will not agree with it. By definition, a Vision stretches reality; it's not a quick and easy fix. It's a mountain that rises up in your line of sight, at first foreboding, seemingly impossible. But the closer you get, the more attainable it becomes -- if you can persevere in the face of the negative forces that are going to rise up against you.
Consider the story of the unnamed woman in the book of Luke, who had been bleeding for twelve long years. In the ancient culture in which she lived, any woman bleeding was supposed to stay indoors. She had spent all the money she had on doctors; the medical industry had given up on her. Socially, she was viewed as a nobody; in those days, women couldn't even own property. She had been ostracized by her cohorts and exiled by her culture to stay inside for twelve years. In every area of Holistic Salvation -- physically, socially, financially, educationally -- she was flat broke. Busted. But she had Faith. She pressed her way until she found Jesus, who, she was convinced, could and would heal her. Jesus had so much power and she had so much Faith that when she touched the hem of his garment, her bleeding ceased and she was made whole.
No matter how depraved, devoid, or discombobulated you might be right now, you can still exercise Faith. But of course you must also walk by Faith. More often than not, that means walking against the prevailing winds or status quo.
This is where some folks literally fall off the Faith wagon. They basically refuse to give themselves permission to succeed. They are afraid that somebody's going to talk about them, scandalize their names. Well, let me tell you this: They're going to talk about you anyway. So you might as well -- what? -- pursue good success!
Until you make the decision that you don't care what evil-oriented, myopic-minded, low-or-no-vision folk say about you, you're wasting your life on them, instead of giving your life to God! If the first time someone threatens your Vision, or doubts your Vision, you're ready to turn tail and run, you're not going to get anywhere. I decided a long time ago that if I cared about what folks say, then I might as well bow down to them. You must ask yourself, Do I want to hear God say, "Well done my good and faithful servant," or do I want to hear my colleagues, my so-called friends, affirm what I'm doing? I dare you to take a God-given Vision to some human for affirmation.
If God gives you a Vision, you do not need affirmation from some human being!
1. There are Visionaries among you. Listen to their wisdom.
The Bible states, "Without a Vision, people perish." I have discovered that without the right people, a Vision can perish, as well.
Once God gives you your Vision and you begin your Faith Walk, you never walk alone. Others appear to walk at your side. People with talents crucial to your cause appear. At this point during your journey, your Faith Walking will attract other Faith Walkers.
God frequently meets our needs through people.
It happened to our little Church, just as it can happen to you.
When we received our Vision for the reincarnation of Windsor Village as a powerhouse of Holistic Salvation, helping our members meet their needs in every aspect of their lives, we were joined by an army of allies to help us in our cause. Once we took the first step on our Faith Walk, a flood of extraordinary folks arrived to join us.
Some might have seen it as a coincidence. But we knew better. We knew that once a renaissance begins -- either in a Church, a nation, or an individual -- the right people show up to share in it.
Renaissance. That is one beautiful word! Derived from the French term for rebirth, it's been used to describe peak moments in history. In the mid-fifteenth century, a Renaissance of art flowered in Northern Italy, led by great artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Titian. In the sixteenth century, a literary Renaissance was sparked in England, and from it came the works of Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Christopher Marlowe. More recently, in 1940s New York, the Harlem Renaissance produced a great confluence of African-American art, music, and letters, an amazing gathering of remarkable talent settling in the same place at once.
Whether it's great artists, musicians, or the blue-jeaned armies of the computer revolution, when like minds gather together, they can accomplish what a single mind cannot.
At Windsor Village, we discovered that a Faith Walk could produce a renaissance when a group of people begins to move toward a common Vision, a common goal.
All you have to do is ask -- and walk.
"We asked God for everything we needed," remembers Pam Calip, one of the original members of our Building Committee, "and God delivered."
We needed an attorney, and one day, a man named Sherman Stimley, a Harvard-educated attorney, approached me after services and asked if there was anything he could do for the Church.
We needed an accountant. We were sent Rodney Graves, who at the time was a partner at one of the largest minority-owned accounting firms in Houston, and J. Otis Mitchell, a CPA with awesome strength and talent.
We needed an investment banker, and my old cohort from the investment banking business, Gerald Smith, offered his assistance.
Do you see the pattern? We asked and it was given.
Our ministries did not go to waste. The Parking Ministry soon had plenty to do. With an average of fifteen people joining the Church each Sunday, the parking lot was crowded with cars. We started a Greeters' Ministry, figuring that if supermarket chains can greet customers coming into their store, surely the Church can, too. People catch enough Hades from Monday to Friday. When they come to the Church, they ought to be surrounded by smiling faces and positive affirmation. Pretty soon, the Greeters' Ministry was bustling; the Church was filled with new and expectant faces. The Music Ministry was ordering new choir robes and sheet music and filling our little church with resounding musical manna from heaven each and every Sunday.
Windsor Village was on a roll. Pretty soon, our little sanctuary was bursting at the seams. People were literally lined up in the aisles, searching for a seat. It was obvious to everyone that we needed a bigger sanctuary. We had to grow merely to contain the people who were joining us. We had a small, intimate setting through which the Holy Spirit made a big, wall-shaking, ground-rumbling noise. Our enthusiasm, music, ministries, and prayer began attracting dynamic folks from across Houston, some of whom would drive an hour or more to join our worship services.
With a Vision of a new sanctuary in our minds, we began walking by Faith, trusting that God would deliver. We started a feasibility study to check out what it would take to build a new sanctuary. Meanwhile, we did not wait on a new sanctuary to accommodate our growth. When the first service filled up, we started a second, then a third. It's important to blossom wherever you're planted, even while you're waiting for something better to come along through your faithful response. Be a good and faithful steward of what you already have, even while you're stretching to grow.
Our Feasibility Study Committee returned with a number that was staggering for a small Church -- $2 million. Still, we didn't close the door on the possibility. We created a finance committee to study how to get $2 million, and the finance committee returned with the conventional reply: you get that kind of money from bank loans. So we began knocking on doors...in the middle of the Texas oil bust, when banks were going under and once-wealthy oilmen were seeking shelter in bankruptcy. The slamming of doors served as a steady backbeat to our dream.
"Church financing?" the beleaguered bankers would say. "Not interested."
We didn't know it then, but we were thinking halfway instead of holistically. We were missing out on our fair share of blessings, because of what we did not know. Knowledge is power, and if you don't have the current knowledge, whatever your Vision, then you're probably keeping your life stranded in the familiar instead of reaching up to the fantastic.
But we had something great in our corner, something that is critical for you to instill early on in your own Faith Walk. We had what we began calling The Audacity to Believe, borrowing a phrase from Martin Luther King. That audacity, coupled with the knowledge that we couldn't do it alone, opened up the floodgates of possibility. This is the true secret of champions. They're willing to seek help. They aren't deluding themselves -- or being deluded by the devil -- that they know it all. They checked their egos at the door, enrolled in the vision, and decided to walk by Faith.
One of our new members, Sherman Stimley, a Harvard-educated attorney who was one of the few African-American attorneys authorized in Texas to serve as bond counsels at that time, had the perfect answer to our situation with the new sanctuary.
"What about Church bond financing?" he asked.
What about Church bond financing? Could there be a style of financing specifically designed for growth-oriented Churches? Well, yes, there was. Sherman taught us another lesson. When you embark upon your Faith Walk, the ground where you're walking is likely to have already been well tread. There are answers, resources, valuable information to be gained merely by researching, understanding, and then implementing what others have done in similar circumstances before you.
Bond financing was perfect for Windsor Village. While traditional financing involves payments to a bank or mortgage company, bond financing involves payments to a coalition of investors that may include individuals and institutions, even members of our own Church. The Church would pay the bond holders back through tithes and offerings over a period of fifteen years. In a sense, we were borrowing from ourselves, instead of being beholden to a bank, which, to me, is the essence of Holistic thinking -- the unconventional yet empowering, instead of the conventional route.
In our case, even getting the approval to obtain bond financing -- before we could secure the actual financing -- was no easy task. We had to convince our Houston Board of Missions to approve our financing plan. The board, empowered by the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church to approve or deny Church financing proposals and architectural plans, was at first taken aback. A Church with big, challenging, unorthodox plans? This was something new and different! It took us three petitions on three different occasions before the board would approve our financing plan.
Finally, when the financing was secured in 1986 and work on the new sanctuary begun, we felt a surge of power, a shared knowledge that we had moved into a new economic realm. By the time we got our new sanctuary built, it was already too small. The congregation had outgrown it. Once again, we had to think creatively. We came up with a schedule of multiple worship celebrations: four services on Sundays (one at 8:00 a.m., two at 10:00 a.m., and one at 12:00 noon) and one on Saturdays (6:00 p.m.), each service with a different flavor and different appeal.
One Vision had been realized, but our Faith Walk had just begun. We kept the Faith, believing that before long another, even greater gift would arrive in our field of vision and we would be ready to walk confidently toward it.
We were not disappointed.
2. Give your Vision a name.
When you begin your Faith Walk toward your God-given Vision, you have to give your Vision a name. Because few things happen without language.
"In the beginning there was the Word," reads the Bible, "and the Word was God."
A rocket's blast requires a countdown.
A marriage begins with a spoken vow.
A journey requires a destination.
A Vision -- like light, marriage, rockets, or journeys -- must first be declared to be attained.
During World War II, if a soldier was encountered by the enemy, the first question would invariably be "What is your mission?" If that soldier could not state his mission immediately, he would be shot on sight. No further questions asked.
Now, that was a way to get a soldier to know where he was going! These days, a great many of us would get the bullet. We bumble through life, taking whatever we can get, accepting instead of striving, getting by instead of glorifying our lives by becoming all that we were meant to become. A mission statement is your purpose for being, your mission described in an easy-to-remember sentence, or even better, a phrase.
If you phone my sister, Dorothea Caldwell Pickens, you'd probably get her answering machine, and in her outgoing recording you'd get an anthem-like statement of her mission:
"Oooh, we're blessed that you called! Be driven to your dreams! This is Dorothea Caldwell Pickens, future million-dollar director of that awesome and powerful Multi-Million Dollar Divine Dynasty! You can if you think you can! Today is the first day of the rest of your life! Faith, focus, and follow-through! Puttin' God first! Live your dream. Have an awesome and powerful day. Leave a message at the end of the tone."
In the middle of that entrepreneurial war chant, my sister, a sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics, illustrates the power of naming your Vision. In Dorothea's case, the Vision is to lead her sales unit to a million-dollar sales year. But she doesn't merely say, "A million." She makes it emotional, visceral, exciting. She calls her vision "Dorothea's Divine Million-Dollar Dynasty." Each of those five words has intense meaning to her personally, so that merely voicing her mission statement gives her a real sense of empowerment.
"The name gives me something to focus on," she says. "A million dollars is too general. Be specific in the language you use. By defining what you want, what you want will be done. I truly believe that God doesn't give you a Vision without also giving you the means to make it a reality."
By giving your Vision a name, you make it real. As the adage says, "What you can imagine, you can achieve." Whether it's a business success, an athletic goal or victory, a straight-A report card, or a Million-Dollar Dynasty, naming your vision transports it from the realm of dreams into the territory of reality.
3. Set your Vision to music.
This sets the mood for the Faith Walk. If you like to exercise, you know that it's far easier to ride a stationary bike or climb a Stairmaster if you have inspirational music in your ears. The same is true for the Faith Walk. Like a human life, a worship service can be a conduit, an instrument -- a piano, a horn, or a bass drum -- that draws us closer to God. Few lives, and even fewer congregations, grow in absolute silence. Triumphs usually occur in loud, clanging, full-voiced symphonies of success, capped off by loud anthems and victory marches. Think of the stirring melodies from the movies with those inspirational names like "Chariots of Fire" and the inspirational theme song from the movie Rocky II, "Eye of the Tiger." The heroes of these films marched to their victories in blaring music, not deafening silence.
You, too, can energize your Faith Walk simply by adding some music. Music is an integral component for movement, for motivation, for growth. Just ask any sports figure training for a championship match: music jump-starts the mind and makes the muscles move! Think about it: what sports team goes onto the field without music, whether it's a theme song or a send-off from the band?
Stop here for a moment and consider your own life. Is it set to music? Is that music a riotous song of celebration or a dirge? If it's a funeral march, you have to stop the stereo in your mind and change the song! How? Just start singing. Realize the power of sound. It can dramatically change your life if you'll only let it. Pick out an empowering, spiritual and healthy song that inspires you -- moves you -- and makes your spirit rise. You'll be amazed by the encouragement you immediately feel surging through your mind, body, and heart. One song will lead to another, then another, until you have established an empowering new sound track for your life.
Music allows us a closer connection with God. It fuels the spirit in the same way food fuels the body. So make a joyful sound; music is a conduit through which your Faith can flow.
4. Just start walking!
We've come this far by Faith
Leaning on the Lord.
-- Traditional Gospel hymn
Few true Visions are delivered on silver platters with roads revealed and directions given. Faith, however, gives rise to roads and directions. Faith can become the passageway through which your Vision is revealed.
So if you haven't received the God-given Vision for your life, employ Faith.
And start walking.
Your Vision will come soon enough. But one word of warning: that Vision may not be immediately clear. Just as Columbus stumbled across America while searching for a new route to the exotic East, your Vision may be cloaked in everyday clothing.
At least that's what happened to me and Windsor Village.
5. Create a receptacle for your dreams.
Ever since she was a child, Genora Boykins believed...believed hard enough to act upon her beliefs. Her Faith took her to pinnacles she couldn't have achieved by prayer alone. A corporate attorney with a Houston industrial entity, she joined Windsor Village shortly after my arrival. But while Genora worked in the cold, hard world of decrees and depositions, she lived by Faith. Even when she and her husband began building their new house -- before their old one had been sold -- she employed Faith against the prevailing wisdom of a then recession-plagued Houston real estate market, never doubting. "I just knew the Lord would provide a way," she says.
And the Lord did. Her old house sold before her new house was completed. Once again, her Faith saw her through.
When Genora Boykins walked into Windsor Village, she was seeking a way to serve. Eventually, she came to serve in precisely the way we most needed. It was extraordinary timing, but that's the way God works. People have probably walked into your life seeking to serve. But you might not have recognized them as potential allies in your cause. All of us are literally surrounded by potential support, but we must step out of our own shadows to find it, much less receive it.
Genora joined the Greeter's Ministry, a ministry that primarily consumes time only on Sundays. Perfect for a busy corporate attorney. But then one day she heard about our Legal Ministry, which was set up primarily to offer legal advice and educate our members in the world of law. Genora began talking with the ministry's coordinator, who was leaving to take care of her two small children. She asked Genora to take over the ministry, and Genora graciously accepted.
I was interested in her thoughts about the potential of the Legal Ministry and asked her to meet me one morning for breakfast in southwest Houston. After all, if Holistic Salvation involves enlisting the power of God in every aspect of our existence, what truly sanctified soul, or congregation, can exist today without a lawyer? We discussed a few potential projects and came to the same decision: Our first step would be to create a community development corporation (a CDC), a nonprofit corporation under which Churches and other nonprofit entities had developed housing and other projects. In our case, we weren't thinking about subdivisions. Not yet. But a small amount of property had been donated to the Church, and a CDC could help us develop and eventually sell the property. I asked Genora if she would set up the CDC.
Genora said she'd "pray on it," which you might think is a strange way for an attorney to make a decision. But for Genora Boykins, it's a perfectly effective way of decision making.
"If I have a peaceful night's sleep, if I don't toss and turn, if I don't feel any trouble in my spirit, then I know it's right," she says. "The way the Lord speaks to me is by giving me a sense of inner peace."
Genora called the next morning. She'd slept well. She would set up the CDC.
We called it the Pyramid Community Development Corporation, the name representing a building in ancient Egypt, which, we felt, was a good representative of what we were trying to do: build something that would last longer than ourselves. In retrospect, in establishing our own CDC we were doing something incredibly vital to the future development of our Church, something that you also must do to lay the groundwork for your own optimal future.
You have to create a receptacle for your Vision, even if that Vision has not yet become apparent.
Of course, we didn't know any of this back then. We soon had our own CDC, but aside from the small amount of property we'd been given, nothing to put into it. Something incredible happened, though, when we started that CDC. We became qualified in a field where we'd been unqualified before. We had opened ourselves up to receive. We had created a receptacle to hold and manage whatever blessings appeared.
What could serve as a receptacle in your life -- an education? a loving home? a stable psychological foundation? -- to hold your Vision once it appears?
Rules for the Road
A Faith Walk is further propelled by good stewardship, which essentially means being a good steward, a good manager, of whatever God has given you: talents, gifts, spiritual gifts, properties, and finances. Let's study a few principles of good stewardship:
The Who's-in-Charge Principle. God is the owner; we are the manager. Once you come to understand that God is in charge of your life, you'll have a whole new perspective on things. Once the who's-in-charge principle is resolved, everything else becomes matter-of-fact. You serve; God gives.
The Give-and-Grow Principle. As we learn how to give and sow seed in God's kingdom, we grow in abundance. You cannot give back to God without growing spiritually, relationally, financially. When you give, God gives back to you. When God blessed you, He did not have you in mind. God expects the blessings to flow through you to those who are around you. You reap what you sow.
Identify Your Spiritual Gifts. When you practice stewardship, you're able to find your spiritual gifts. I cannot pray as long and as effortlessly as Barbara Hicks does. My teaching gift is not as strong as my wife Suzette's. I can't sing like our Minister of Music, Hanq Neal. And I don't worry about the gifts that I don't have and others do. I just want to do what God is calling me to do. Sometimes we sit on our spiritual gifts because we can't do something as well as somebody else. Nobody's asking you to do something the way somebody else does it. There's nobody here like you! Do what God is calling you to do! And do that to your very best.
Increase Your Faith. When you discover your spiritual gifts and practice them, your own Faith increases. If you want to grow in your Faith, practice it. In East Texas, there are some pigs that eat and eat and eat and never grow. That's the definition of a runt. The world is full of spiritual runts. People who come to Church, who come to Bible study, who suck up all the meat and the milk but never grow.
Become Spiritually Sensitive. God wants you to have an advantage over the children of darkness. You are a child of light, who's led by God's Spirit, and God wants to show you things before they happen. When you're spiritually sensitive, you can hear God in other places than your ears. No matter how much racism, narcissism, sexism, or any other kind of "ism" is operating against you, when you are grounded in God and you've been a good and faithful steward of what God has given you and Who God is, the very gates of hell cannot prevail against you.
Be a Blessing. God's blessing of you is dependent on your willingness to be a blessing. After all, why should God trust you with more when you haven't proved to be a good and faithful steward of what you have right now? If you're a cantankerous single person, why should the Lord bless you with a spouse? If you're an unproductive employee, why should the Lord bless you with a raise? If you can't show up on time for the 9-to-5 job you have now, why should God promote you to manager? We should want to be a blessing and not just receive a blessing.
Remember Your Indebtedness. We're not talking strictly about financial debts, but a twofold indebtedness. Remember, you're indebted to both God and your previous generation. Your parents and grandparents may have made less money in six months than you make in two months. But they managed to lend you money. They prayed for you when you didn't know what prayer was. They sacrificed to get you through college. Honor them, just as you honor God.
Vision: Your Sign from Above
Vision....It reaches beyond the thing that is, into the conception of what can be. Imagination gives you the picture. Vision gives you the impulse to make the picture your own.
-- Robert Collier
It arrived in the spring of 1992, a mountaintop at first shrouded in clouds, then startling in its size and majesty. It was so big, so vast, so impossible that we didn't even recognize its potential at first, much less think such an immense project could be meant for us. But when the doubts began arising in our minds, and the naysayers began carping negatives, we took it as a sign that we might be on to something.
I had seen it countless times on my way to the Church. Coming off the 610 Freeway, heading south toward Windsor Village, you couldn't miss the big, asbestos-choked vacant Kmart. It was a 104,000-square-foot reminder that boomtowns don't always last, one more sign of Houston's economic downturn in the late eighties.
This abandoned building was the site of a bona fide Vision. But I couldn't see it at first. It didn't ignite neon signs in my mind or even whisper, "Slow down, Kirbyjon, there's an incredible Vision in the middle of your windshield!" Burning bushes, sadly, never really blaze until you pour the gasoline of your intellect, and your Faith, upon them.
But once you begin talking to God, and start walking by Faith, God begins communicating. Sometimes His answers arrive in a language far more majestic than mere words. God often speaks in actions, blessings, and words, through humans, and an infinite number of other forms. These actions, blessings, and words will probably encourage you, ask you to step up and do something to claim the prize that God has in store for you.
That's what happened to our Church.
"Can you think of anybody in the community that might have a use for this place?"
It was July 1992, and Buster Friedman, president of United Equities, the real estate consulting firm for Fiesta, Inc., which operates mega-supermarkets across Texas, was on the telephone. The "place" that he was referring to was a vacant, rat-infested 104,000-square-foot Kmart store. Fiesta, whose supermarket sat next-door to the Kmart, owned the land and was eager to lease it. To most people, it was an eyesore.
In retrospect, I should have seen the promise that the vacant building held.
For ten years I had been preaching about Holistic Salvation, about a God that blesses every aspect of our existence, and now God was placing a bona fide Vision in our path. As I said, at first I was too blind to recognize it. But God found a way to show it to me and our Church.
The real estate folks have a generic term for the strip malls popular in the Southwest, the ubiquitous shopping centers anchored by a few big, usually national chains, which are surrounded in the strip by smaller, usually local merchants. They call these collections of buildings "power centers." When Donald Bonham, the chairman of Fiesta, Inc., and Buster Friedman asked me if I had any ideas for rejuvenating the site, I didn't immediately have any ideas. But I didn't say, "No." I didn't close the door. I said, "Give me a few days to think about it and pray on it."
Remember this when potentially empowering situations seem to literally fall into your lap: The shoe does not tell the foot how fast to grow. Which is to say, once God has given you His preferred Vision, then it's very important for your mission statement and your structure and your systems and your principles and practices to line up and bow down to the Vision. The Vision and the mission should never have to bow down to the structure.
When you're growing, your shoe does not tell your foot how fast to grow. Remember when your foot was growing? What did you do when you outgrew a shoe? You got another shoe. You didn't try to stuff your bigger foot into that old small shoe. Every living organism grows. Things that grow naturally stretch the status quo. Real growth always involves change.
So when opportunities seem to fall in your lap, don't toss them out because you do not yet have the "structure" to support them. Things happen for reasons. Many gifts from God wind up in the garbage merely because the receiver is unable to see the gift for what it is or what it can become. Always try to recognize the reason behind the happening. And most important, remember this: When in doubt, ask for enlightened advice.
I took that all-important question "Can you think of anybody who might have a use for this place?" to some very enlightened allies: our regular Bible-study meeting at Windsor Village. Almost reflexively, several people immediately replied, "What about us?" Now, that's a healthy response! They recognized a Vision in the vacant storefronts. They didn't see the decay of the vacant shopping center but the promise of what it could become. Their focus was on one four-letter word: jobs. If we could somehow develop the vacant power center ourselves, what kind of jobs could we offer our congregation and our community?
What about us?
Think about it. What about you? When an opportunity arises -- when something is practically thrown in your lap -- what about you? The old folks say, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." You might mistake diamonds for decay.
As I've said, I had been endlessly preaching about Holistic Salvation, about a God who stands ever ready to grant fulfillment in every aspect of our existence. But our members had to go outside the Church to find fulfillment in many important areas of their lives. We wanted our people employed, but we didn't have any jobs to offer. We wanted our congregation uplifted, but what were we doing to salvage the recently empty shopping centers and abandoned storefronts plagued by the eighties oil bust? We wanted the children in our congregation educated, but we didn't have our own school. We wanted our community economically fulfilled, but we couldn't even cash their checks, much less offer them investment opportunities. Our entire community did not even have one bank branch!
I didn't realize it then, but now I can see that we were a classic case of "left-brain thinking," and were thus missing out on one-half of the possibilities that "whole-brain thinking" -- or Holistic Thinking -- can bring. The brain is, of course, one of God's most awesome creations, a universe unto itself in which an estimated one million chemicals and ten million individual nerve cells are constantly reacting. It's been proved that the brain, which is physically divided into two halves, and separated by a bridge known as the corpus callosum, divides thought dominance in most humans into one of the halves.
All of us use both sides of our brains, but most of us rely on one half more than the other. Left-brain thinkers are strong in language, logic, reason, and computation, but weak on the right-brain, creative aspects that could allow them to apply their intellect in new and creative ways. Right-brain thinkers -- whose strengths are imagination, rhythm, musical appreciation, images, and pictures -- can be highly creative and intelligent. But they can be disorganized when it comes to logic, reason, and computation, all of which lie in the territory of the left brain.
Maybe you're a classic left-brain thinker, but without the right-brain "logic," you may have jettisoned creativity in your life. On the flip side, perhaps you're so right-brain-oriented, you've become fogged in by your own creative nature and are missing the propulsion that logic and linearity could bring to your life.
If you recognize yourself as a primarily left- or right-brain thinker, seek out more information on the subject. Plenty exists. But the most important thing is to realize that God graced you with a whole brain, not a half. You can jump-start the less utilized half of your brain merely by realizing that you were given a whole brain to use both halves.
Then allow the Lord to bless you by seeing your Faith Walk through His eyes and not just your own. That's when the transformation really occurs. Once you entrust your Faith Walk to God, then you can truly experience whole-brain thinking. In pursuing God's primary will for your life in general and your projects in particular, the Lord will provide you with whatever is missing. In the case of our Church, whenever we found ourselves looking at a project in some of our typically left-brain ways, God stepped in and gave us the right-brain perspective.
Realize that Satan is a master of deceit, a magician of chaos. One of his favorite and most effective cons is to convince us that we suffer from shortcomings and slights that block our path to growth and rejuvenation. That we're not good enough, smart enough, young enough, old enough, tough enough, left- or right-brain enough...Was Satan trying to convince me and my Church to remain mired in the status quo belief that Churches are meant for prayer and not social development? He was certainly doing his best to do so. But the mere fact that our Vision was against the common wisdom was a sign that it was the real thing. Real Visions usually encounter "Why-you-wanna-do-that?" people. It's like gravity. The conventional world will always attempt to keep the striver's feet firmly planted on the ground. But you have to first recognize, and then resist, these evil forces. You have to say, as Israeli prime minister Golda Meir once stated, paraphrasing Hillel, "If not me, then who? If not now, then when?"
But I must admit that I, too, was gripped by conventional thinking -- until I took a trip to Jonesboro, Arkansas, for a family reunion in 1992. During my visit, I paid a visit to the local Wal-Mart, and God gave me a Vision right there between the housewares and the cleaning supplies. There I was, standing in the middle of that smorgasbord of commerce, when a Vision reached down and knocked me off my feet with its power and clarity. If a commercial store could offer "one-stop shopping," with everything under one roof, why couldn't a Church? Why couldn't we become the Wal-Mart of Holistic Salvation, offering a smorgasbord of services -- medical, financial, educational, emotional -- to our community?
If every step of our lives eventually serves God's Vision for our life, then perhaps my degree from the Wharton School of Business and my years in the investment banking business had been part of God's purpose and plan. It certainly seemed that way. Windsor Village was going into the business of empowerment.
We were going to step up to the plate and claim what was ours.
We had the audacity to believe -- the Faith -- that we were entitled to Holistic Salvation, fulfillment in every aspect of our existence. Then and only then could we begin our Faith Walk toward achieving our Vision.
We began new discussions with Fiesta Mart, with important new emphasis. We shifted the vague to the specific. We had some ideas about how to revitalize the vacant building, and that idea could be stated in a three-word sentence: "What about us?"
God's Got Your Back
"Hey, what about us?"
This was the question our Pyramid CDC committee, consisting of four Church members and myself, began asking, first once and then a hundred times.
We could use that empty asbestos-filled building. In a nation where more than a hundred folks get murdered daily, where every day thousands of our young women become pregnant before they are ready, where people use folk and love things, what Church couldn't use a shelter from the escalating storm? We asked ourselves the single most important thing to consider when presented with a possible Vision: If God meant this for us, what would He have us do with it?
The answer was immediately clear: God would have us use that building for Holistic Salvation, to serve our congregation and our community in every area of our existence: financially, emotionally, educationally, medically, and physically. Ideas bubbled forth from our group in a deluge: We'd have our own bank, school, health clinic, college branch, social service agencies, meeting rooms, and much, much more. We wouldn't be an island, however; we'd be a bridge to our community and to the outside world. The building would empower us in infinite ways. We would finally own, not rent; employ, not merely be employed; we'd be the landlord, not the lessee; we'd become our own bosses, instead of remaining employees enjoined by conventional jobs, leases, and loan payments.
We would follow a passage from Isaiah 61 in the Bible, "They shall rebuild the old ruins, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the ruined cities."
We had found our mission statement. Soon, we gave our Vision a name. All we had to do was capitalize it: the power center became The Power Center.
We knew we were on to something incredible, something akin to what film director Steven Spielberg must feel when he finds a great story. How does he know it's great? "When I read, I count the goosebumps," he once said.
We had serious goosebumps.
If we could dream it, we could do it. And you can, too. As we discussed, God won't give you a Vision without also giving you the means to fulfill it. That doesn't mean it's going to be easy. You're going to have to walk. But once you do, your road will eventually become clear.
Our committee of five was not a collection of moguls. We were absolutely everyday people, each equipped with his or her own special talents: Al Scarborough, the human resources specialist; Genora Boykins, the attorney; J. Otis Mitchell, the CPA; Maude Collins, the local homemaker; and me. Tina Moore served as the executive director of our Pyramid Community Development Corporation.
What separated us from the pack is what also has the ability to separate you from the masses: our audacity to believe. That belief, we soon discovered, was half the battle. We knew that God had our back, and with that knowledge, we could forget the past and move forward into the future.
"God's got my back." That's a line I keep hearing from members of our congregation. I hear it so often, I think of it almost as a motto for the Faith Walks that the people who say it are usually taking.
I think of young people like Andrea Sadbury, a sixteen-year-old Houston high school student, who valiantly tried to keep her parents together during a particularly rough period in their marriage. Andrea tried so hard at "saving the world," as she puts it, her grade-point average plummeted in the process. Only when she learned to trust God to resolve the situation and step out onto her own Faith Walk did Andrea find peace. Her grades returned to honor-student status and her parents eventually reunited.
I think of Lemuel McNeil, a young home builder, who placed his r’sum� on our altar one day, asking God to bless his career. Then, he grabbed that r’sum� and began a Faith Walk to daily interviews, hopscotching through three different firms over the last ten years, first doubling, then tripling his salary and status in the firms before eventually landing what he considers his dream job. "You have to believe," Lemuel says.
I think of Lynn Gooden, a young elementary school teacher, who says she's been on a Faith Walk since she was sixteen. "I pray for something and -- bam! -- it eventually happens," she says. But that bam! never happens while Lynn's sitting in some easy chair, flipping channels on a TV set. This woman walks! She walked out of a tortured marriage to a crack-addicted husband to become an amateur gospel singer. She walked from praying for a home of her own to realizing that Vision. "Every time I walk on Faith, it's like the windows of heaven open up," she says.
But most of all I think of our congregation in October 1992, when we were able to tell them that Donald Bonham and Fiesta Mart had agreed to donate the vacant Kmart building and 25 acres of land to our community on or after March 31, 1993. Mr. Bonham's generosity, community sensitivity, and civic commitment were astounding and should be vigorously applauded.
We had our Vision spread out before us, and the Holy Spirit listened to our Vision.
Now, we had to walk toward creating that Vision in that empty building. It was a long and arduous journey. But in the beginning we followed a few simple, yet critical guidelines. In reading about our Faith Walk over the next few pages, please substitute your own Vision and focus on it. I hope you'll be able to see how a Faith Walk can lead you into the real world of achieving your dreams.
We discovered that most Faith Walks essentially have four main legs:
1. Faith. This is the audacity to put God's promise into action. God's Vision for your preferred future is going to be greater than your present situation...or what kind of Vision would it be? Admit in the beginning that you're going to need help from others. This admission opens your life up to receiving help, advice, information, and assistance. There are talented people eager to help you. All you have to do is ask and accept. Never consider yourself above criticism, beneath redemption, or beyond hope. Allow yourself to receive help! Know-it-alls will soon lose it all.
2. Focus. Your mission statement is your purpose for being. It is the present tense of your "Vision statement," which is future-oriented. Once your Vision becomes clear, construct a mission statement and give your Vision a name. Then, keep that Vision always in mind, never allowing the "decoy demons" to steer you off track. Remember Peter in the Bible, walking on the stormy sea of Galilee, after having being beckoned by Jesus to walk toward him? As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, the Author of his Faith, he was able to walk on the water just fine. But as soon as he took his eye off Jesus and began to focus on the elements, he began to sink. You've got to keep your eyes on the prize -- on the Vision -- and not be distracted by the elements. In our case, we had to remember that our Vision wasn't merely about building buildings or raising money to build buildings. Our Vision was about creating a Power Center that praises God and empowers people. We kept our mission statement forever foremost in our minds, using it on letterheads, on signs, and in conversation, and that kept us afloat in even the rockiest moments. Post your own mission statement in a place where you will see it daily, and don't be distracted as you move toward your Vision.
3. Action. This is, of course, the "Walk" of the Faith Walk, the toughest part for some folks. This is where the rubber meets the road. When you step out into that void, step with the confidence that when you take the first step, God will take two steps behind you. That's God's majesty at work. He doesn't always show you the entire journey before it begins. Sometimes He shows you just enough to keep you going, growing, moving. If we had known that our Power Center would take eighteen months instead of eight months to complete, if we had known it would take $5 million instead of our estimated $2.8 million, if we had been shown all of the close calls and narrow misses that would litter our path, we might not have taken even the first step. We might have been paralyzed at the starting gate. We learned that you walk by Faith the way you would eat an elephant: one bite, one step, at a time. God will show you just enough to keep you moving forward -- if you can just take that first step.
4. Prayer and Praise. This is the continuous power of Faith, the constant glory that you give to God. Prayer is the most underutilized asset in America. We started our prayer ministry at Windsor Village thirteen years ago. It's proved to be such a crucial component of our Church that I recently asked my wife, Suzette, to head it up. In the next few chapters of this book, you will see how prayer lifted our Church and congregation to heights of which we wouldn't have dared dream. But we discovered that when you pray, God will direct your path.
Finally, once you embark upon a Faith Walk, be sure to relish the journey instead of constantly focusing on the destination. When God gives you the glory of a Vision, employ your Faith and begin the walk, appreciating the wonders that will soon stretch out before you.
In the case of our Church, we began our walk. Our Faith was strong, our Vision in sight.
Now, only the devil could trip us up -- if we allowed him to do so!
And sure enough, he began to try.
Copyright � 1999 by Kirbyjon H. Caldwell