How to Build a Church with Just One Board

How to Build a Church with Just One Board
Kent Carlson

Several years ago Brother Lloyd Shirley contacted me about a specific need to raise money for a project for missionary Jerry Sawyer in Belize. The reason Brother Shirley contacted me is that we both share the same passion for working with wood and making pens. Brother Shirley asked if I would help him turn some pens for Brother Sawyer to sell to raise money for this project. I was delighted to help out! Incidentally, I had several species of wood right in my workshop that grew in Belize.

Brother Shirley provided the kits, I provided the wood, and Brother Sawyer provided the platform. Between the three of us, Brother Sawyer was able to go home with the money for the building project!

Not only was I honored to be included in this opportunity, I also learned some valuable lessons.

Lesson #1: You don’t have to be rich to be used by God!

In the early summer of 2013, I was talking to a friend who had been appointed to the mission field and was currently on deputation. Many people may not be aware of it but deputation is a lengthy and sometimes expensive process to raise partnerships for financial support. In order to help out, I provided some pens that I made to this friend. On August 1, 2013, I also sent some pens to my wife’s uncle as well who had just begun his missionary deputation.

For both of these missionaries, I asked them to just send me enough money from each pen to cover the cost of materials. The rest of the money (about 80%) for each pen would go to support their individual projects. For example, we are currently trying to raise enough money to build a new church in the country of Belize, about $7,500. That means that one board measuring 40″ x 4W x11/2″ could make enough pens to build this church! (Thus the title of this article!)

Nearly every month, I was asked to send more pens. Sometimes I fell behind, and sometimes I got ahead. On some occasions, I would text the missionary at the end of the week and they would have enough pens. The following Monday, they would be texting me that they ran out in a single service and needed more. Then in April 2014, my wife’s uncle, missionary Mike Sponsler, finished his deputation and went back to Argentina with project money to help remodel the Bible school’s kitchen.

I asked my in-laws, Dorsey and Bev Burk, who they would suggest I support next. Their answer, “We’ll help you pray for direction.” So, I asked God. He said, “Do what you can!” Instead of taking on one new missionary, God impressed me to reach out to seven, which leads me to the second lesson.

Lesson #2: You don’t know what your capacity is until God shows it to you!
I might not have mentioned this, but I love to fish! Out of a boat, off of a dock, in a river, through the ice . . . it doesn’t matter. I love to fish! It’s one way that I feel able to communicate with God and find the time I need to just relax. Sometimes the need to make pens can interfere with my plans to drown some worms.

Strangely enough, I began to realize the time spent in my workshop was meeting this same need for me. The smell of a new species of wood, the sound of the lathe, the beauty of seeing something that only God previously knew was there . . . . And most importantly, the understanding that out of this tiny room, something much bigger is happening!

Surrendering part of my fishing time was not even a sacrifice. I found that if I properly planned out my process, I could still get out and get my hands all stinky with fish. I also learned methods to complete more pens in less time.

Out of these seven missionaries, five of them asked for more pens to keep the process going, and two had other directions they wanted to go.

Lesson #3: Don’t be discouraged if God doesn’t use you in one particular way!

Historically speaking, I know myself and the rejection and/or frustration I often felt when I wasn’t able to get involved in some area. One thing that God has done for me is that He has not allowed me the time to get upset about not being used because of the needs of those who are using me.

So, as of May 17, 2014, there were six missionaries allowing me become a part of their work. Since I was easily keeping up with their needs, I felt led to reach out to more. In August 2014, I followed up on this leading and reached out to nineteen more missionaries about this, urn, whatever this is. (Do you mind if I call it a ministry?)

Of that nineteen, ten asked me to keep them supplied with pens for their deputation. For those of you keeping score at home, that brings the total number of missionaries to sixteen. And, during General Conference this year, two more missionaries agreed to let me help with their projects.

Lesson #4: If you are willing to take a risk and let God use you, don’t be surprised if the work grows!

So here’s some numbers. From August 1, 2013 to the time of this writing, October 6, 2014:
– 1,131 pens have been made for missions.
– An estimated $45,000 has been raised for special projects.
– Over 20 different projects are being supported.

I have never been in a position to give this much money to missions or any other ministry or work of God. However, God opened my eyes and allowed me to see that something, which was just a hobby, can become a tool to spread the gospel around the world in ways I can’t even imagine!

Lesson #5: And this is important! Don’t try to control through your giving!

By this I mean a few different things.

1. Leave it up to the recipient (in this case the missionaries) to know how to best apply the money. They know the different needs far better than you or I do! I do ask the missionaries what kind of projects they are raising money to accomplish. I only do this so that I can picture their goal as my goal. This helps me through some of the more tedious tasks with pen making.

2. Have confidence in the recipient that there is no wrong project! Money from pens has been used towards gas money for deputation, gas money for the SFC vehicle overseas, training for national evangelists, Bible school repairs and remodels, building a church, office equipment, educational supplies for the missionary kids while they are in the field or traveling on deputation, and even RV repairs during deputation. There is no wrong answer!

3. Be sure that you aren’t creating expectations with your gift. Stay the silent partner! We sometimes (myself included) feel as though our efforts have earned us something. If you have a chance to go out to dinner with your recipient, pick up the check! If you think they owe you a dinner, then you haven’t understood the idea of giving!

If you run across them during a large event, don’t try to capitalize on their time. For example, I was trying to schedule a time to take a missionary family out to lunch. However, other meetings were going on that they needed to attend. In this situation, I was the lower priority for them, which was the way it should be. Be flexible!

If you have a chance to see them while they are out in their field, don’t expect them to play host or tour guide to your vacation. They are there to work, and your sightseeing could be interrupting a special service or outreach project that they had planned. Besides, your $100 gift might not be the equivalent of the $500 worth of services you are expecting them to provide.

A final thought . . . I would encourage you to look at the things you do and/or are capable of doing. Then, look again at the needs that are out there. Talk to your pastor or a passing missionary about what they need and see how your skill set can fit. You can find some way to be a blessing to the work of God and it might not even cost you a cent!

The above article, “How to Build a Church with Just One Board” was written by Kent Carlson. The article was excerpted from May2013.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”