Faithlife Sermons

Brooklyn Tabernacle Story

Illustration  •  Submitted
0 ratings

Jim Cymbala - The Brooklyn Tabernacle.


"God normally calls us along the line of our gifted-ness, but the purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness."

Os Guinness,

1971 The Brooklyn Tabernacle had 30 people

The choir began with a group of 9 people in the early 1980’s

Today 10,000

I can't remember the first time I heard the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir perform. Their name is synonymous with passionate, energetic worship. At first glance a person might assume this is one of those success stories of a megachurch that never had to struggle to reach its potential. But underneath the dynamic music of a choir lies the story of God's faithfulness in meeting the needs of His church when His people follow His call.

Jim Cymbala, in his book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, describes one of his earliest encounters with God's call in his life. As a young businessman in Manhattan, he married the daughter of a minister. They were both believers in Christ and had a desire to serve Him but understood their place to be the crazy New York marketplace. They, like many others in New York City, were on a fast track to success and financial security. But God had other plans and used Jim's father-in-law to encourage him in the direction of pastoral ministry. After surviving the first year as pastor of a small church in Newark, New Jersey, Jim was asked to preach on Sunday evenings at an inner-city, multiracial church in Brooklyn. On his first evening he found a discouraged young pastor, a chaotic worship service, as well as a small and most unusual assortment of people. Within a few weeks the pastor resigned, attendance was down to a handful, someone accused an usher of stealing from the offering plate, and Jim found himself suddenly responsible for two small struggling congregations. Burning the candle at both ends best describes the life he and his wife, Carol, were living as they tried to keep both congregations functioning.

Jim struggled with whether or not God had actually called him to pastor, much less address the severe needs of a church in the midst of a community of drug addicts, poverty, materialism, and a host of different cultural backgrounds. The day came when he had to choose between the two churches: devote full time to the one in New Jersey that actually paid him a modest salary or turn his energy to the one that could not even pay its own mortgage payments, much less provide him with a salary. But he and Carol both knew God was calling them to serve in Brooklyn. They took second jobs and made the commitment to serve Brooklyn Tabernacle Church.

Serving as pastor of this church became one of the most difficult challenges they ever faced as a couple. At one of Jim's lowest moments, when confronted with an illness that would not heal and feeling totally inadequate as a pastor, Jim confessed his deep feelings of inadequacy to God. With tears flowing at this deeply critical juncture in his life, he experienced God's presence and heard Him speak deep in his soul. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church were to survive, they would have to commit themselves to earnestly pray and seek God's heart. Only God could help them become the church in the city that He would use to transform lives and the entire community. Tuesday night prayer meetings became the most important service of the week. Individuals in the church came to authentic faith and others recommitted their lives to the Lord. They began to minister to hurting people in their midst and God began to build His church. He gave the people a song of praise in their hearts, and before long, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir emerged and began to share their song with all who would listen.

Jim and Carol Cymbala, an ordinary couple, sought to live the good life in New York. Since they never trained for the ministry, God's call came as a surprise to both of them. But because of their willingness to hear His call, to step out in faith and give God all that they had, they found great joy in embracing God's design for their lives. They discovered the greatest pathway to success was through prayer. They learned what it meant to be good stewards of God's gifts by persistently focusing their attention on God's desires instead of their own. As a result, countless thousands of people have entered into God's kingdom through the testimony of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church and its choir.

Rabbi Bernard Raskas says, "God does not want us to do extraordinary things; he wants us to do ordinary things extraordinarily well."' When God calls us to something we have not been trained to do, and we feel inadequate to serve, Jim would remind us that if we first give it all to God, He is sufficient to provide for our every need. More than that, He has promised to walk with us through the valleys as well as on the mountaintop of success. What God requires is submission of all that we have and are to His purposes. He takes whatever we offer and makes the ordinary, extraordinary, multiplying it for His sake.

Related Media
Related Illustrations