It was a word from God.
Executive Pastor Steve Beyer remembers the day well. Senior Pastor Denny Duron of Shreveport (Louisiana) Community Church (AG) came to his staff and told them he felt God was telling him the church should give $1 million to missions.
"I remember Pastor Denny saying, 'I believe God wants us to be a million-dollar-a-year missions church," Beyer recalls. "But then he paused and said, 'but my faith for the first year is $500,000.'"
Beyer was excited about Duron's vision, but he was also realistic. As the executive pastor, he knew full well that the largest single offering the church of 2,000 had ever received was $130,000. A single offering of $500,000 (much less $1 million) for missions had never entered his mind prior to this.
"I thought, 'My goodness, what is the Lord doing here?'" Beyer admits. "We decided to go ahead and put this offering before our people, shooting for $500,000 and just believe in God . . . , but $500,000 was pie in the sky for me."
Gathering his staff together along with key visionaries in the church, Duron and the team planned a missions week (March 9-15). They determined that they would not take an offering at all during the week and just ask the people to pray and allow the Lord to lay a number on their hearts.
Beyer says that each night of the missions convention had a different emphasis. Special speakers included Mikel French, John Bosman and Irvin Rutherford, a prayer concert with Forever Jones and even a musical night with the Katinas.
"We have 43 different missionaries, missions projects and social organizations that we support - all who we can personally vouch for," Beyer says. "Prior to the Sunday service offering, we had checks made out to each of them, just waiting for an amount to be filled in, based on the offering we received."
On Sunday, March 16, after what Beyer describes as a great service, the church began taking its missions offering.
"People kept coming and kept coming," Beyer says, his voice still reflecting his amazement. "I don't think there was anybody who didn't give - from children all the way up. A miraculous day, a miraculous move of God - it's the only way I can explain it."
When the offering was finally tallied, a total of $857,834 in cash and checks had been given - far exceeding anyone's expectations.
The excitement was only just getting started. With staff in place to properly record what was about to take place, all the money from the offering was divided and 43 checks were filled in one by one with a designated amount - thousands of dollars going to each of the ministries.
"As each check was filled out, we stopped and prayed over that check and for the missionary, ministry or social organization that was going to be receiving it," Beyer says. "People were weeping and crying as we lifted up these checks to God and prayed over them." The service that began at 10:30 a.m. wouldn't conclude until almost 2 p.m.
Beyer explains that there was no secret formula to receiving such an incredible offering, except to just follow God's instruction.
"We wanted to hit all the social needs in different areas, such as human trafficking, church planting, ministry to orphans, feeding the poor - all the areas Jesus talked about in Matthew 25," Beyer explains. "We wanted to be able to say, 'You were hungry, and today we fed You; You were naked, and today we put clothes on You; You were thirsty, and today we gave You something to drink . . . "
Some of the missionaries and ministries the church blessed included Teen Challenge, Mikel French in the Ukraine, Louisiana Tech Chi Alpha, One Child Matters, Friendship House (orphanage) in Vietnam, Light for the Lost, Speed the Light, church planting in South Africa and many others including numerous domestic and foreign missionaries.
"To get a check like that out of the clear blue, is something that just doesn't happen," says Gary Sapp who works for One Child Matters, formerly known as Mission of Mercy, a ministry started by AG Missionary Mark Buntain. "With that money we'll now be able to finish two well projects, which will bless two of our schools and their communities with fresh drinking water. It will also help buy a vehicle for one of our schools to haul food and supplies in. The money was just a God send!"
But the giving hasn't just blessed missionaries and ministries, Beyer says that those who gave are also experiencing blessing in their lives now as well.
"Testimonies are flooding in, unbelievable testimonies of things happening in people's lives since we took the offering," Beyer says. "In one instance, a woman, who lives paycheck to paycheck, gave her entire week's worth of grocery money in the offering, determined to fast that week in order to afford to do so. That Monday morning following the Sunday service, she received a phone call from her tax person, informing her she didn't have to pay any taxes this year, and as she checked the woman's last two years of taxes, she discovered a mistake had been made - they would be sending her a $1,000 check that day!"
Beyer says he's still amazed at how God orchestrated this incredible missions offering, which has now increased to more than $913,000. But he says one of the church members put it into perspective for him.
"He pulled Pastor Denny aside," Beyer recalls, "and said, 'Pastor, one day, we're going to look back and say this is the smallest offering we ever took for missions and laugh about it.'"
For more information on Shreveport Community Church, see its website.