The book was perhaps my fastest read – one week. However, my wife read the 184 pages in one day. The book was an easy read, full of humor and real life engagement. The book gently, but confidently story’s their spiritual commitment that propels them through difficulty and doorways of blessing.
It was spring 2003. My business was starting to do decent and I had a good bit of residual income. I was also doing ministry full time as well with Raffa Front-Line Ministries. We had formed a discipleship school that was growing.
The purpose of Raffa was to help people to know and hear God. We had several different locations throughout Georgia. We had a school campus in Dalton, Blairsville, and Dacula. Our home campus was in Dacula at our home church Cornerstone Fellowship.
The school was experienced tremendous momentum.
We also hosted area meetings every month where the students were able to practice what they learned in the classroom and for the public to experience what was happening in the school. The meetings were high impact and full of energy. I would usually lead Praise and Worship for these meetings and Brother Larry would bring a message and speak as the Lord led him.
The campus of our home church was strong and some of the church leadership began to have some concerns. We were approached by leadership with the idea of starting our own church. At first, we balked. It was not our intention, ever, of starting a church. But, the leadership insisted, saying that we have all the ingredients already present.
After prayer and discussion and various meetings with other leaders in our lives, we accepted the call for this next season and founded His Presence Training Center and Church on March 7, 2003.
The leaders in our lives decided for the church to be run by the young leaders, so Jay Powell was given the position of lead pastor, Chris Brasfield was over discipleship, and I was given the position of worship leader and administration.
Personally, I was excited! This was everything I had dreamed of as a kid. I always dreamed of traveling doing music and preaching the gospel. Then, I wanted to pastor and lead a church. Here was the opportunity to have it all at the age of 25.
For the next five years, I poured myself into the church. There were several pivotable moments and stories of faith and transformation that I could share, but perhaps another time.
We launched the church at Bogan Park Community Center that March. We had a group of about 70 that first service.
A month later, we found a location in Lawrenceville at Airport Road. During the summer of 2003, we began renovations on the space. I worked closely with Chris to buildout the space. Chris and I did a majority of the day to day buildout. We would host church work days where the people could come and help out.
Nothing tests the quality of friendships like doing a renovation project with your friends. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but the fabric of our relationship was beginning to feel strained. Fortunately, these projects don’t last too long and soon we were finished and the church moved in.
For the next few years, we experienced and built a wonderful community of believers.
Our leadership was young and we all lacked the business decision experience of church. We relied heavily on the leading of the Lord (as any pastor would), but we did not have any outside mentors in our lives to walk us through decisions and vet our leading.
In 2005, we made a decision to move the church from our small location that we were maxing out to a facility nearly 10x our current size. We had big dreams. We wanted a place that would host a training center for all types of people. We had a community center idea to invest in low income neighborhoods that surrounded the church. We wanted land to host activities and community.
The problem was the price tag. The initial price tag was also close to 10x what we were paying. Even with faith, we knew that we could not do that. With what we felt was the leading of the Lord, we approached the owner over the next several months and got a reduced rate that was a stretch but “kind of” manageable. We were only going to pay about 3x what we currently were paying and the facility was ready to move in. So, we made the decision to move.
Shortly after moving in, the church hosted a block party at the Collins Hill Wal-Mart. We had the unique idea at that time to give away 100 backpacks to low income kids. We got several donations from area businesses and the backpacks were filled with school supplies. At the event, we provided a band, jumpy houses, free activities, and even had a few sports mascots show up. The best part was the kids and the support we received from the community.
At this point, we were starting to experience momentum again and had a desire to have a community center that would host afterschool programs for these neighborhoods around us.
We had amazing ideas, but soon the reality of having to manage the day to day of the facility began to tax us. The economy was starting to tank due to the war on terrorism and bailouts and the people in church were starting to feel the strain. Churches around us were closing left and right. Churches and ministries everywhere were struggle to make ends meet. We just did not have the backing or reserves to make it through.
Our landlord was amazing. He never demanded payment from us and always extended grace. The writing was on the wall. We went through series of last ditch experiments to find purpose and continue the fight, but it seemed we were at the point where it was time.
Jay and I talked regularly. Jay was experiencing a lot of pressure and as a young leader he was having trouble managing it as well as working fulltime and providing for his family of six. He was ready to end the church. My wife was ready to end it. I was ready, but uncertain. We all felt compelled that we would start it back up in a few months after “taking a break”.
We met with our mentors who were divided on our decision. Brother Larry encouraged us to keep the church for the sake of the people. But, ultimately, Jay and I decided it was time.
We had a dinner for the people at Jay’s house and talked about the decision.
I loved the church. I loved the serving and building. The decision deals with me a bit, even to this day. I wonder at times what could have been. It seemed that everything I had dreamed for my life had just happened and I was entering my 30’s wondering what I was going to do now. I needed a new vision for my future.
Karen and I just enjoyed our first Christmas as a married couple. We were excited for the New year as any newly wed would be. Karen was now working a stable job. She decided to forego going back to school for a while (at least during our first year).
I began to think about what Brother Larry prophesied a few months back. I was thinking through the process and the word that was spoken: “In three days, the Lord will show you what you are to do next.”
The only thing that happen was our wedding photographer talking with me about creating a website for his business sometime down the road.
I had been building websites as a side hustle for ministries. I began building sites by accident when someone in the ministry I was serving decided he could no do it. I took over and began learning FrontPage. I know … crazy! Who remembers FrontPage? If so, you are giving away your age!
I built the website for Raffa Front-Line Ministries and our discipleship school. Soon fellow friends in ministry started asking if I would create them a website. Soon I was creating websites for several ministries we were in relationship with.
Could this be what the Lord was referring to? It didn’t seem productive. I didn’t have any real clients. There were so many people that were better than I was. The excuses came pouring in.
Suddenly, I realized that God was calling me to be an entrepreneur. At the time, I didn’t even know what that word meant. No one taught classes in college for starting your own business, obtaining clients, pricing, or even how to get the ball rolling.
I began to rest in this new journey and accept that it was God’s leading. I knew if He called me, then He would equip and promote me when it was time. I knew I needed to start learning and growing.
So, I talked with Karen and, without having any real plan, she worked and provided the income necessary for our daily expenses. I purchases my first book on pricing websites (I still have that book to this day).
We were grateful for Karen’s job and it was obvious that God had blessed her with great favor and allowed me to receive zero offers no matter how hard I searched them out.
For the next several months, I began growing my business. I acquired Dreamweaver (the website design program the professionals were using). I began branching out into database design and PHP coding.
Within a few months, I started getting more ministries reaching out, and during this time I started getting regular customers that were willing to pay me!
In Fall 2002, I was invited to join a group of guys from Raffa that wanted to start their own IT company. All of the guys were involved in one aspect or another of IT. The problem was that none of them had clients nor were they doing any side hustles. My friend Jay was leading the group and suggested that I join it because I was already in business and growing.
We had a few meetings and the guys officially accepted me in to the new venture.
We now had a purpose but no name or direction.
While I was praying one afternoon, I began to consider the trades we were going into – web design and IT. I started thinking about networking and access to the Internet. Within a few minutes, I came up with the name NetLine Access. I presented the name to Jay and he presented it to the guys at our next meeting. We all agreed on the name and we officially incorporated ourselves.
The Lord seemed to reward our efforts and we soon had our first IT client (which was currently a web design client). Then, we got another client. It seemed like the ball was rolling.
Unfortunately, we were not making a lot of money and the company was not growing as fast as many of the guys expected. Over the course of the next year, one by one each of the guys got out. Jay was the last one. He told me that he was in it with me if I ever needed him. Jay served our IT clients until they moved on. Eventually, Jay moved on as well to support his growing family.
The web design side of NetLine began to prosper. I started getting big projects and building all sorts of really cool web applications.
The Lord was truly faithful to the word he spoke back to me that one afternoon. He had a “next” for me and He never left me. He had my new wife, my future family, and my hidden desires all in mind when He began orchestrating this “next” phase of my life.
To this day, I still have NetLine Access and it provide and grow.
After a few months of marriage, the financial burden of making rent weighed heavily on me. Each day, I went to the mailbox with less and less expectancy. No one was “miraculously” hearing from God to send us money.
The spiral was set in motion when we were late with rent. I called the leasing office and asked for some grace, explaining the situation and using the “ministry” card. No grace was extended.
Two weeks later we received notice that we had two weeks before eviction proceedings would begin.
After the honeymoon, the struggle of managing our life together began.
From the very beginning, Karen and I agreed to be a team. No matter what. We were together in everything.
Karen had taken a break from school and I was still serving and traveling with a ministry that gave honorariums as it could afford to. So, there was not an abundance of money coming through.
Despite the financial struggle, our marriage was strong.
It was a beautiful September day. The sun was shining, the grass was super green, and flowers were at their peak.
Our venue was a small traditional church in Lawrenceville.
The wedding had come together with the assistance of many friends.
We had little money and what we had went to securing the church venue. We had nothing left for flowers or musicians let alone a reception. Nearly every facet of our wedding ceremony (from flowers to music) was performed with excellence and grace by the generosity of friends that pitched in and utilized their individual talents to help pull off an amazing wedding event.
I was now convinced more than ever that I needed to ask Karen to marry me. So, I arranged for a time when I could meet alone with Karen’s parents. We decided on a morning that Karen was away from the house. I went over and presented my case for her hand in marriage. Karen’s dad was tough on me – the typical toughness a dad would bring to any fellow suitor.
I thought things were going great between Karen and I. Her parents however were not as thrilled or excited about our relationship. When they found out that Karen and I were talking about the future together, they decided it was too soon and they went to their church youth group pastor to discuss how to stop this before it went too far.
On the road, Larry and I were returning from an out of town meeting. We were just talking when out of the blue he began to prophesy me. He simply said, “The Lord is bring your wife to you.” Believe it or not, I was interested in getting married. I wanted to be in ministry and serve the Lord. However, there was a girl at church I had my eyes on.