By 1977 more people than there was room for were trying to fit into the pews of Brooklyn Tabernacle in Sunday morning and Sunday night services. Down the block was a YWCA with an auditorium that could seat nearly 500 people and we were able to rent it on Sundays.
Meeting at the YWCA was a temporary solution to the overcrowding. We purchased a lot across the street in the hope of building a real church one day. It required a big step of faith, but God provided the funds.
We scheduled a groundbreaking ceremony, excited about starting a new building, a permanent home. Would you believe that on that special Sunday, it rained so hard we couldn’t go outdoors to put a shovel in the ground? Disappointed, we packed ourselves back into the Y auditorium that evening. But in that meeting God clearly spoke to us that it was not the ground across the street He wanted to break. Instead, He would break our hearts and build His church on that foundation.
The downpour, as it turned out, was providential. A few months later, a large 1,400-seat theater on the main north-south artery of Brooklyn became available. We were able to sell the lot at a profit. We still needed to sell the run-down Atlantic Avenue building in order to buy the theater, so at a Tuesday night prayer meeting we laid the problem before God.
On Wednesday afternoon the doorbell at the church rang. I went downstairs to answer and encountered a well-dressed stranger, a Kuwaiti businessman. He walked in and looked around while I held my breath lest he look too closely at crooked walls, dingy bathrooms, and questionable plumbing.
“What are you asking for this building?” he asked.
I cleared my throat and weakly gave him a figure. He paused a moment and then said, “That’s fair. Just get your lawyer to call my lawyer. Cash deal.” And with that he was gone. Our prayers had been answered in a surprising way.
God formed a core of people who wanted to pray and who believed that nothing was too big for Him to handle. No matter what roadblock we faced, God could still change people and deliver them from evil. He was building His church in a tough neighborhood, and as long as people kept calling out for His blessing and help, He was fully committed to respond.
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.