About 10 years into our ministry, people outside our church started asking to purchase our weekend messages. Back then, most large churches regularly sold their messages on cassette tapes for a considerable profit.
And that’s when one of my close friends, a staff member named Bobby Gruenewald, asked me a question that crashed head-on into my deepest fear and changed my story: “What if, instead of selling our materials, we just, you know, gave it all away, like, for free?”
Bobby’s simple question inspired my faith, even as I felt fear crashing over me like a wave. The opposite sides of my heart pulled so hard away from each other, I thought my heart might tear right down the middle. I realized that what Bobby was suggesting was the right thing to do and could be a game changer for the church world. But it was still terrifying.
In the back of my mind I had always known that selling messages could one day be a source of personal income. That idea had always helped soothe a fear of not having enough. But losing that comfort wasn’t the only reason for my hesitation. A bigger reason wasn’t as selfish or personal but was very practical. At the time, our church had more debt than ever (and I hate debt). We were so strapped that we often barely made payroll. I felt daily pressure to make ends meet in the church.
I won’t overspiritualize this and tell you that I faithfully sought God in prayer. The truth is I just decided to do what was right and then trust God with the results. We’d give our messages away, free to anyone who wanted them.
Now, here’s what’s amazing: the moment we made that decision, it seemed like God blessed our church with financial provisions in a way he never had before. During our first 10 years, we had existed hand to mouth. We never had extra money. Most weeks were so tight I had knots in my stomach. But when we decided to trust God, it was almost as if he decided he was going to trust us.
We love to say as a church that “we will lead the way with irrational generosity because we truly believe it is more blessed to give than to receive.” One decade ago, we had 10 locations and $26 million in debt. As of today, we have 26 locations, and we don’t owe a penny to anyone. Even better, we have had the honor of blessing tens of thousands of pastors and millions of people with free resources designed to draw them closer to Christ. In the last year alone, more than 180,000 churches have used free resources that we made available. Tens of millions of people received free messages. And to date, our free YouVersion Bible App has been installed on more than 250 million devices.
I could have continued to doubt, but trust changed my story. Just imagine how choosing to trust could change yours. Because the decisions you make today determine the story you’ll tell tomorrow.
New York Times best-selling author Craig Groeschel is the founding and senior pastor of Life.Church, which created the popular and free YouVersion Bible App. He is the author of several books. This excerpt is taken from Divine Direction: 7 Decisions That Will Change Your Life by Craig Groeschel. Copyright © 2017 by Craig Groeschel. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.Zondervan.com.