I’ve never felt God’s undeniable leading so tangibly in my life and ministry as I have in these past couple of months.
I’ve been eyeing a certain house for over three years. I thought it perfect for our young church, ONE Community Church, in San Tan Valley, Arizona outside of Phoenix. Never could I have imagined how God would write this next chapter of our story. The house sits on over an acre right on the main thoroughfare of our growing area.
It is, no exaggeration, the only such property a church could own along a 10-mile stretch on this main road through the heart of our ministry area. While it couldn’t replace our Sunday worship space at the local school, it could serve as a perfect central ministry location for mid-week ministries like youth, discipleship classes, staff office and meeting space, and community outreach. So when I saw the For Sale sign go up this past summer, I jumped to find out more. Could it really be?
Unfortunately, they were asking way too much. The highly visible property had sold for $315,000 a few years ago and they were still wanting $250,000. We had to move on… but it seemed so perfect. Then, last fall, I happened to be driving by and noticed the door to this vacated, unsold house was open and the owner was inside. I stopped in. The house was going into foreclosure. I asked the owner if he was willing to try a $145,000 short-sale offer. He gave me two weeks. I certainly tried, but there was no way I could get the financing that quickly. But I would keep trying. I committed to taking one step at a time and doing everything I possibly knew how to try and get this place.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s passed. Finally in mid-January, I got word that we would likely get a loan, but we’d have to come up $35,000 or so. I knew time was not on our side and that represented a significant financial challenge to our church – we’ve never tackled anything like that before. Two days later I learned just what challenge was before us: a foreclosure auction was set on the house for March 17. We had to act fast.
In late January on our fourth anniversary as a church, I announced our vision and plans. A rapid six-week campaign with prayer and fasting was on. Our goal was to raise the $35,000 down payment up front and another $130,000 in pledges to pay this whole thing off including renovations and furnishings in just two years. This ambitious goal stretched our young Christians and newly back-to-church families like nothing before. To many it seemed too great a hurdle, too lofty a goal. I knew I couldn’t guarantee we would raise all the money or even get the house, but I could guarantee that we wouldn’t just give up and move on. That wasn’t an option. I knew God was in this and leading. I didn’t realize just how much though.
By our target Sunday, March 6, $41,000 was raised by ONE along with help from outside the church. Another $51,000 was pledged over the next two years – a huge win for our young church, although still short of our two-year pledge goals. But we could move forward! To preempt the auction just over a week away we made a $100,000 short-sale offer, hoping to get an amazing deal. To our surprise, the owner refused to even accept the offer – twice. The house would go to auction. We could do nothing more to get it since we would have to be able to cash role the likely opening bid of $150-250,000. Without a miraculous intervention, the house seemed to be lost. Maybe it would surface on the market again after an investor upped the price and made his profit. I was planning how to break the news to the church on Sunday.
Then, 24 hours before the auction, I got an email from our realtor. The opening bid was announced: $86,134. Are you kidding? I was stunned. At that price, I know we had to get in on that auction or someone else would certainly snatch it up. The next 24 hours were some of the most tangible God experiences of my life. Amazingly, with just a few phone calls, I was able to secure enough short-term loan cash to be able to bid up to $125,000. We were in. I’d never been to an auction, let alone tried to buy a house at one, but what the heck, follow Jesus one step at time.
March 17, Auction Day. Our prayer was that the house would actually make it to auction and not get pulled last second for a loan modification like many others. The auction began and, you guessed it, our house hadn’t cleared. We waited, watched, learned, and prayed. We quickly observed that we were up against veteran investors and bidders representing investors. They were bidding each other up just for fun. Not good. An hour later and still no clearance for our house.
Just after noon, one investor rep who’d already bought a couple houses approached me and asked which house I was bidding on. I told him. As he started walking away I asked him if he was interested in that property too. He was. In fact, two separate investors he was representing saw the great location and commercial potential. I half-jokingly told him, “Don’t bid against me. We’re a church. You can’t outbid God.” Amidst the laughter of on-lookers he replied, “Seriously? A church? I don’t want to go to hell!” I texted my wife and asked her to pray harder, there were others interested and we’d be bidding against them.
Now two hours since the start of the auction and still no clearance on the property, but the auctioneer seemed confident it would go. About this time the investor rep casually walked by me and to my great surprise said, “I got one of the investors to drop out on that house.” I couldn’t believe it. Another quick text to my wife, “One down. Keep praying!” A couple minutes later the house was cleared for auction and would soon be open for bidding. How high would we have to go to beat out this other investor?
A couple minutes later the rep walked by me again. This time he held up his phone to me, pointed to a number and said, “Call this number. You talk to the other interested investor.” I called the number, not sure how to make such a call and praying for quick Godly intervention. “Hello, I’m Mark Krenz, Pastor of ONE Community Church. We’re interested in the same property you are. I’m calling to ask if you would be willing to bow out of the auction.” The investor goes on to tell me he was going to buy this house for his church and give it to them. My first thought was, “Why doesn’t he go to our church?” He told me they didn’t know anything about it though. After a couple minutes the investor said, “From one Christian man to another, since you’re a church, I’ll bow out. Now get a great deal!” My heart was pounding. I could not believe what was happening. God was on the move.
Finally, after two-and-a-half hours of waiting, pacing, fretting, and anticipating, the house cleared for auction – the last one of the day. I wondered if anyone else was interested in our house. A few bidders were still lingering around, but they seemed to be packing up. Sure enough, they all left - every last one. After the bidding chaos of the preceding hours, the calm and quiet on the steps of that courthouse when our house came up for bidding was almost eerie.
With no one else around, the auctioneer opened the auction at $86,134 and asked for bids. I said “Plus $1.” As required, the auctioneer announced to the now non-existent investors, “Do we have any other bids?” Birds chirping. A tumbleweed blows by. A distant cricket’s chirp. “$86,135 going once, going twice, three times…SOLD to ONE Community Church!” I burst out a huge, “Yea!” and exchanged a high-five with my friend. And just like that, like a good Old Testament story, we took possession of the land. God had truly gone to battle for us and delivered the land almost effortlessly into our hands.
Just two weeks earlier on the Sunday when we gave our gifts and two-year commitments to this project I shared Ephesians 3:20-21 with our church. I read that passage again this past Sunday when I told our church this story. This passage has certainly come to life for me and our church. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” How completely true.
Our faith has been energized. We feel so affirmed as a church knowing that God’s hand is truly on us. This is undoubtedly the path he wants us to continue on. Now the renovation begins to create a place where life-change happens and God is glorified. May he continue to write the story and blow us away as we follow one step at a time.
Dr. Mark Krenz, Lead Pastor, ONE Community Church, San Tan Valley, AZ
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