by Teena Myers
When a coworker tried to share his faith with George, he knew the coworker was wrong. He searched the Bible for scriptures to prove it. Their debate continued for months. Then they got into a discussion about who was going to heaven. George looked for scriptures that proved he would go to Heaven, but his coworker would not. George could find nothing to prove his point. Suddenly he realized studying to prove someone wrong had only proved he was wrong, and he was not going to Heaven either. The thought struck fear in his heart. His parents had raised him in church. He knew the dire consequences of missing Heaven.
The following Sunday, George walked into his bedroom, where his wife dressed for church and changed his clothes. Thinking George was going out with his friends, as he often did when she was at church, Jody asked, “Where are you going?”
His answer surprised her. “I’m going to church with you.”
“I can’t tell you what the Pastor preached that night,” said George. “I was waiting for the altar call so I could repent, but he didn’t give one. I felt like God said, ‘If you really want to repent, you will come on your own.’ When the service concluded, the Pastor said the altars were open if anyone wanted to pray. I ran to the altar and told the pastor, ‘I don’t know where heaven is, but I want to go there.’”
George became a willing servant of God. He cleaned the church, changed diapers in the nursery, taught Sunday School, served as director of Sunday school, and led Royal Rangers, Men’s Ministry, and Altar Workers Ministry. He also sang with the worship team and served as a deacon and an interim pastor. The only ministry he didn’t experience was Women’s Ministry. Over the years, many asked why he wasn’t pastoring a church. He always responded, “That is not what God called me to do.”
For many years, he was comfortable in a subordinate position, serving in any role the pastor needed. His training to fulfill God’s plan ultimately came from experience and the lessons the four pastors he served taught him.
His first Pastor became sandpaper on the arrogance of a new convert. He taught George to listen to other opinions and be teachable. The second pastor instilled administrative skills and respect for the house of God. His third pastor taught him the importance of people skills and to temper his zeal for God. George’s fourth pastor taught him to embrace change and a willingness to try new things—a lesson that served him well when God severed him from a thirty-year relationship with his church.
The foundation for launching a new church began when a young lady George had known since she was a toddler asked him to officiate her wedding. George didn’t have the necessary credentials. The wedding date made obtaining credentials from his church impossible. He contacted an independent full gospel organization that could qualify him before the wedding. To fulfill the requirements, he had to charter his church.
George looked thoughtful as he continued his story. “I didn’t have a church. It was my goal to perform a wedding, not start a church. I prayed and jotted down some potential names. Then I crumpled the paper and tossed it in the trash. “Amazing Love,” a popular song at that time, came to mind. I thought, Wow, what an awesome name. Church is all about God’s amazing love.”
George charted the church in name only so he could perform the wedding.
Several years later, the Zanca’s became restless. When his term as deacon ended, he withdrew his name for future consideration and stopped attending services. George and Jody agreed that it was time to leave, but did not know where to go. As they waited for God’s direction, Jody dressed for church on Sunday mornings and sat in their living room while George preached to his congregation of one.
Desiring fellowship with other believers, the Zanca’s attended their presbyter’s Tuesday night Bible study. One night, the presbyter taught about the God of a second chance. George listened intently to the story of a successful business owner who refused to answer a call to ministry. Finally, when he was sixty years old, the man yielded his life to God, and God used him to plant four churches. The presbyter concluded his message, saying, “God never removes a calling. When you answer, he will fulfill his purpose for your life.”
On the way home, George looked at Jody. “Do you think God is saying something to me?”
Jody responded with wisdom. “What do you think? Is God talking to you?”
“I’m not sixty, but I’m getting close. I’ll have to pray about it.”
God answered George’s prayer when the presbyter asked George if he had ever thought about starting a church. “I had thought about it, but not in the truest sense,” said George. “I’d only pondered what it would be like to start a church but never intended to pursue it. Jody and I talked and plant a church. At my age, there is no more pride. If I make a mistake, it’s no big deal. I believe God is gracious, and he would put me back on the right path if I took a wrong turn by starting a church.”
The presbyter gave the Zanca’s permission to hold their first service in his chapel. They sent letters to friends and family, who were not established in a church, announcing the service. Forty people attended. The next week, twenty-eight returned, the week after that twenty-five, and George wondered if the congregation would decline to zero. It didn’t. At the fourth service, attendance rose to thirty, then thirty-two, forty, fifty, and then settled to a consistent average of sixty-five.
Jody smiled and affirmed what George now knows. “I always knew George had a call on his life, and it would not stop at being a deacon. He didn’t think he could be a pastor because he lacked education. I always told George it’s not what you can do. It’s what God can do through you.”