“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10 NLT
It was called the “submarine church” by the community. The church had purchased six acres, and a basement poured with ambitious plans to add the first-floor sanctuary. Someone had even bolted a ten-foot pillar about midway of the structure. You get the picture, a gray basement sticking up about 3 ½ feet above the ground, a row of windows, in the middle of six acres, and a periscope sticking up—a “submarine church.” The church had gone through some rough days, ten pastors in ten years, averaging about twenty, meeting in the basement. They called a new pastor. He would need to start bivocational, teaching school the first few years; then his wife got a teaching job so he could go “full-time.” He jokingly said, “Perhaps now you will have one pastor for the next ten years.” And the work began.
The story sounds much like the rebuilding of the temple. Zerubbabel had laid the foundation for the temple, seventeen years passed with nothing added, a visual testimony of unfulfilled hope. Those that walked by commented, “nothing is ever going to happen there.” Two improbable candidates, Zerubbabel, whose name means "descendant of Babylon"—governor under a pagan king; and Joshua, the “other Joshua” of the Bible, a high priest without a temple—minor characters in a minor prophet. But God is still here, the prophet reminded them, and He will complete what He started. (Haggai 2:3-9) How? The best-known verse in Zechariah: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)
The temple represented God’s presence, and His blessings, left incomplete it was discouraging and defeating to the people. They doubted they would ever be able to build the temple; they had been powerless for so long. There were internal dissension and external opposition. The glory of their God was at stake.
Do you have the assignment from Jesus to rebuild the temple? Church revitalization is not for the faint of heart. In some ways, it is easier to plant a new church than revitalize an existing church. However, in the work of His Spirit, we can see Him finish what He has started, even when the beginnings seem small; all things are possible in Him. (Matthew 17:20)
“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” —J. Hudson Taylor
Are you willing to do whatever it takes to restore health and beauty to His Bride; restored for His glory? (Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:7-8) Coaches trained in church revitalization are available for REACH Ohio. You can go to scbo.org/revive for more information. Contact Steve Hopkins (SteveHopkins@scbo.org) or Dwayne Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org) to connect with a revitalize coach.
Open doors are not relative to size. Jesus evaluated the church at Philadelphia, perhaps the smallest of the churches in Revelation, in a city described by one historian as “an unimportant city full of earthquakes.” There was no word of criticism or correction, just encouragement: “I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:8) When Jesus opens a door, the possibilities are limitless. Base vision on His power—not the budget, location, or size.
Remember the pastor of the “submarine church.” He stayed for twenty years. The church built that sanctuary, then added more educational space. But it’s not about brick and mortar, people were baptized and discipled, and churches planted during those years. Hope offered in the name of Jesus: A family home burned, one child killed, the mother critically injured; two boys lived with a church family until they were reunited with their mother. Mrs. Jesse, a widow, taught a boy’s class in Sunday School. Her daughter a slave to drugs. When Mrs. Jesse was diagnosed with cancer, a family took her into their home. When she came to church, those boys she had taught met the car with a chair and carried her up the steps so she could worship. The stories of hope, beneath the surface to most, may have looked like small beginnings, but heaven will reveal the lives impacted in the name of Jesus.
I know the story of the “submarine church” because I was there, that pastor was my Dad. The church licensed and ordained me into the gospel ministry. I will forever be grateful for the spiritual heritage that reminds me: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…”
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6
“‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.”