For several years now, the leaders of PCC Oakland have been looking for a building of our own. Our congregation has been growing rapidly especially over the past five years and we knew we would outgrow the space at The First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh (FBC) sooner or later. It’s a good problem to have, but it was a problem that required a solution nonetheless.
While the building search effort began in 1997, it did not start in earnest until November of 2002. FBC, our landlord for the past 10 years, started a concert series to raise money for the renovation of their pipe organ. While we appreciated FBC’s desire to improve their worship place, these Sunday afternoon concerts conflicted with our activities.
As part of FBC’s fund raising effort, they asked us to consider increasing our rent payment. FBC suggested increasing the annual rent from $9600 to $96,000. We knew right away that we could not afford paying this amount without it significantly impacting our ministries. Just as Daniel, when he heard King Darius’ decree, prayed earnestly (Daniel 6), so we also cried out to God in prayer and fasting for this matter. We knew at this point God was using the events to remind us not to be too comfortable in FBC and we sensed that God is leading us to move out of FBC. At the end of the rent negotiations, it was decided that we would pay $20,000 per year for the first year starting in March 2004 and the rent would gradually increase over the years.
In the same month we signed the new seven-year lease agreement with FBC, the pastor of New Hope Christian Community, knowing we were looking for a place of our own, informed us of the availability of their church building. Due to the change in ministry focus from family to students, they plan to move out of their building to meet on the University of Pittsburgh campus. We were very excited because the location was great, just one block away from FBC, and the size was suitable. We felt like the Israelites standing at the edge of Canaan about to enter the land flowing with milk and honey.
After much prayer by the leaders and the congregation, a decision was made to purchase the building in May of 2004. This decision was followed by several rounds of negotiations over a six month period. On March 7th 2005, almost exactly 10 years from when we had our first Oakland worship service on March 5th 1995, we purchase the building for $700,000. We moved in on May 14th and had our first service on May 15th 2005.
What started out as a building search project to identify and purchase a suitable building for our congregation in order to solve our space problems became something much more significant. Project Hope, the official name for the project, became the process God has used to train us as His children. There were many spiritual lessons that God taught us along the way. Here are some of the highlights:
- In the last eight years, we had looked at over 20 properties, none of which was suitable. Many of our leaders seemed resigned to the fact that it would be impossible to find a building in the Oakland area that we could afford and is big enough for both our current and future needs. We explored many types of facilities (e.g., churches, schools, warehouses, offices) where we could purchase or rent and even expanded our search to areas farther away from the universities. In the end, God gave us a building of the right size and right in the heart of Oakland and is very close to two of the biggest universities in the area. It confirmed for us the familiar passage “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26b)
- God didn’t give us a building earlier because He knew we weren’t ready for it. God was spending the time to train us to focus and rely on Him more than anything else. It’s easy to take our eyes off of Him and the people around us and instead focus on the building itself. When we placed our hope in Him, He knew we were ready. The lesson of waiting upon God was invaluable. “But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7)
- One test of our readiness came when we were told the asking price of the building: $3,000,000. We prayed and gave a counter offer of $800,000, which was the best we could do at that time. The seller informed us that unless we bring our offer closer to the asking price, they would not consider it. We stood firm even though we knew this could mean the loss of the deal because we were certain our offer was fair and that it was a price that would not compromise our ministries. We recognized that the purchase of the building is not the end goal and unless God’s blessing is in this process, we will not be able to purchase the building. So we left the outcome to God and He honored our obedience by performing another miracle: The $3 million price was reduced to $700,000.
- We asked God to provide the entire sum of $700,000 for the purchase plus another $50,000 to cover closing and renovation costs. It took us three years to save $350,000, so to raise another $400,000 in less than three months seemed impossible. Also, our leaders decided that we will not take out a mortgage for the building and that we would pay cash. In the end, He provided a total of over $776,000 for us; confirming what the Prophet Malachi wrote “Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:10b)
Indeed, God has used the Project Hope to bring glory to Himself. Time and again He has demonstrated His power through our weakness and little faith. As Paul states it well: “But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
We hope to use this building for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission as a Prayer Center, Sending Center, Family Center, Rescue Center and Training Center to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. “Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."” (Matthew 28:18-20)
By Philip Chang
Extracted from the PCCO 10th Anniversary History Book