On a Sunday morning, two days before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Edmond Church of Christ—my home congregation in a growing, affluent suburb north of Oklahoma City—made a long-awaited pilgrimage.
A thousand fellow Christians and I marched from our old building, hidden behind trees in a quiet residential neighborhood, to a new, $6.5 million worship center at a high-profile intersection.
Immediately, our red-brick building with a simple, distinctive steeple became a new community landmark, standing right across the street from a busy city park known for its youth baseball fields, walking trails, and picturesque duck pond.
"As we move into our new location, we believe God's light will shine even more and that he will do amazing, incredible things through us," our senior minister, the late Don Vinzant, said that Sunday.
Just two nights later, that belief proved true—for the first of many times—as we opened our sanctuary to a community prayer service to seek God's comfort and guidance in the wake of our national tragedy.
But for all our spiritual hopes and dreams, we also carried something else with us to our sparkling new digs: millions of dollars in debt.
In the years that followed, even as our congregation kept adding members and giving sacrificially, the escalating debt payments became a burden. As John Trotter, one of our elders, put it, "It was wearing us down."
The payments threatened to hamper the church's ability to minister at home and around the globe.