“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Almost immediately after arriving home from a month in southwest Missouri, I spent Monday and Tuesday in Worcester at the Assemblies of God Southern New England District Council. (That’s essentially an annual convention for the Assemblies of God churches and ministries of southern New England.) A highlight of every District Council is the Tuesday night Ordination service. This year, twenty-four were Ordained, which I believe is a record high number for our District. Our speaker was Dan Betzer, and he was great!
Virtually every Assemblies of God church member in America knows who Dan Betzer is, but for those of you who DON’T know who he is, he’s the pastor of the (very large) First Assembly of God of Ft. Myers, Florida. Betzer is a captivating speaker with a very interesting background. Now in his 70s, he’s got the energy of a 40-year-old. Dan Betzer graduated from a state university around fifty years ago and began a career working in T.V. news- mostly as an anchor man in small and medium-sized markets. People must have thought he was crazy when he left that career to become an Assemblies of God minister- in the beginning pastoring the small struggling churches that NOBODY wants.
Dan doesn’t SOUND like a typical preacher. He frankly sounds like a combination of a standup comedian and a television news anchorman. The content of his messages is very Biblical and inspiring. Dan’s topic on Tuesday night was “Faith”. He shared a very powerful true story with us that I am excited to post on my blog. Over thirty-five years ago, Dan was pastoring a small “startup” church in a small Ohio town. The church was holding their Sunday services in a hotel. Each week, Dan cashed his small paycheck at a beautiful bank building in the community’s downtown. The bank building had four stories, which is pretty big for a small Ohio town. It probably dated from the very early 1900s and was a very ornate and impressive facility. Each time Dan Betzer went to that bank, he admired its beauty. One day, as he was cashing his check, Dan got a strong and overwhelming impression that God was saying to him, “This bank building will one day belong to your church!”
That sounded SO crazy, that he did not tell anybody about it. Several weeks later, Dan picked up the local newspaper and was stunned to read a story saying the bank building was going up for sale. The bank’s directors were selling it because it did not have a drive-up window! Betzer went to his church board and told them God wanted them to buy the bank building. Of course, they thought it was pretty nutty. They did some checking and found out the Town had assessed the value of the building at over 6 million dollars! Dan Betzer and one of his Board members made an appointment to go and see the President of the bank and offer $200,000 to buy the facility.
They went to the Bank President’s officer with fear and trembling. Upon learning of their desire to buy the building, the Bank President was stunned. Ultimately THEY were stunned when he Bank President said that the asking price was $80,000! (I suspect the bank figured the building was a “white elephant” and would be difficult to sell, but it still doesn’t explain an asking price which was THAT low!) Betzer told him, “We’ll take it!” The church entered into the process of buying the building.
Their next step was going before the Town’s mayor and Zoning Board to get approval to change the zoning and use the building as a church. At the public meeting they were flatly turned down. There was NO WAY the Town was going to lose the tax revenue on that building by having it turned into a church. The news of the church’s denial hit the local newspaper. Then, to Dan Betzer’s surprise, the head of the Chamber of Commerce phoned him and told him the downtown business community was IN FAVOR of his plan to turn the bank building into a church. The Chamber insisted on a meeting with the mayor. A public meeting was held with the mayor and zoning board. Scores of the community’s businessmen and “movers and shakers” showed up asking them to reconsider the proposal to allow the bank building to be turned into a church. The Town backed down and gave the approval!
But there was one thing Dan Betzer and his church leaders hadn’t thought of: They didn’t HAVE $80,000! After the meeting, a powerful local businessman walked up to Dan Betzer and asked him directly, “You’re buying that building for $80,000. Do you even HAVE $80,000?”
Betzer was jolted into reality and admitted that he DIDN’T. The guy said that was not a problem. He pulled out his checkbook and wrote the church a check for $80,000! It ultimately cost the church $120,000 to renovate the building for church purposes (I assume they financed the $120,000) which meant it cost a total of $200,000 which was what they’d planned to offer for the building in the first place.
For many of us preachers pastoring struggling churches in difficult situations, like “yours truly”, Tuesday night’s message was very powerful!
Incidentally, if there is anybody that wants to write our church a check for $80,000 we’ll gladly accept it!