“There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him...” 1 Kings 19:9 (NIV)
These sobering words penetrated my soul one day in prayer. It was a typical Thursday morning at the office. I was performing my daily routine of checking messages, answering phone calls and sorting mail when I heard a faint, but distinct noise coming from an area near the sanctuary. Knowing that I was the lone person in the building, I went to check to see if someone was attempting to break in.
As I walked down the hallway, I felt compelled to enter the sanctuary and pray for a few moments. This decision would forever change my life. I made my way to the front of the sanctuary and knelt at the altar.
As I lowered myself to my knees, I heard a loud voice say, ‘Repent!’ My first inclination was that someone lurked in the balcony and was trying to trick me. Before I could shout ‘Who’s there?’, the voice proclaimed again, ‘Repent!’
This time I was convinced that I had heard the voice of God.
I was overwhelmed with a sense of fear and a sense that God was angry with me. I fell to the floor and began to cry out to God in repentance. I felt like Isaiah when one of the seraphs took a piece of coal from the altar and touched his lips with it.
I laid on the floor for over an hour, repenting of any sins, big or small, that I could recollect. Yet still I felt no relief. I finally asked the Lord, ‘What do I still need to repent of?’ His response was clear. “You won’t let my people give!”
I began to repent more earnestly and felt as if my heart was breaking in shame. Another hour passed and I heard the Lord gently say, ‘I accept your repentance and now I will show you what I can do when you let my people give. I will instruct you and be with you every step of the way. My people will give and I will bless them beyond measure now that my servant has been obedient.’
The next two hours seemed to pass in an instant as I sat by the altar, overwhelmed by a sense of peace and His presence. What I thought might be an intruder turned out to be my most Faithful Friend who spoke to me with great authority. The transformation was complete. It would no longer be business as usual.
Sunday approached and I was overwhelmed with excitement. The Lord had instructed me to invite key leaders within our church to dinner so that I could share my testimony with them. The time was not now to make any public announcements. Ten families were invited to the church for dinner the following evening, and they had no idea what was coming. A revival in missions was on the way.
On Monday afternoon, I sought the Lord for a message to preach to the families who would be arriving for dinner. I was convinced that this would be a life-changing event for those in attendance.
The service that night was unlike any before. This was a dinner for a few, but a message for thousands. I shared my heart, my conviction and my vision. God’s presence was so strong that a spirit of weeping fell on all those present. It came time to challenge the group to commit to missions, giving above and beyond earthly provision.
Before meeting with the group that evening, I set a goal of obtaining a $50,000 commitment for missions. I was overwhelmed when the totals were tallied, and the group committed to raising $100,000 together as a church.
One lady in attendance asked if it would be possible to receive a specific missions offering every Sunday during our morning worship service. The group was unanimous in its decision to make this weekly appeal, and since that day, we have received a missions offering every single Sunday of the year.
Our annual Missions Convention was held two weeks after our Monday meeting, and as the plea for missions commitments was presented, I rejoiced as the congregation collectively promised to raise $154,000 in the next year.
Our missions giving has exponentially increased each year, as Family Worship Center went from giving $27,000 per year to $78,000 to $163,000 to $254,000! Missions is our heartbeat, and every person at Family Worship Center is involved in continuing the mandate to spread the Message of Hope to those who are desperate to hear it.
When you hear a word directly from the Lord, you respond in obedience. The Lord loves a cheerful giver and I am having the best time of my life as we give unto missions!
C.E. Smith has been the senior pastor at Family Worship Center in Victoria, Tex., since 1995.