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Michael Spurlock
The Saving of All Saints Episcopal Church

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By Mike Toth

John 10:27:  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me Matthew 7:21: Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

Imagine you have left a successful sales career and took a huge leap of faith to give it all up to follow God. You graduate from seminary, ready to start your new career with a great church. And your first assignment is to go assess a church that may be ready to be closed.

This was the experience of Michael Spurlock when he arrived at All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, TN. The church had an $850,000 mortgage, $5,500 a month in interest payments in addition to all other expenses, $10,000 in the bank, and 25 church members. While he pastored the church and contemplated shutting it down they began to receive an influx of the Karen (kuh-REN) refugees from Burma. The Karen are persecuted both for their faith and for their ethnicity, and while some governments have taken them in it was surprising to see a group of them settling in the small Nashville suburb of Smyrma.

“We lost 2 or 3 people from the congregation who couldn’t handle the influx of the refugees,” says Spurlock. “The rest of the church opened up their hearts and their homes.”

“The language was the biggest barrier, but culturally it was a stretch, too,” he laughs. “The Karen take off their shoes and leave their hats on in church, whereas our traditional congregation leaves their shoes on and takes off their hats.” Despite the influx of new worshippers, the church was not in any better shape financially, and preparation was being made to close it. The Karen wanted to plant gardens on the church land, but the church had an offer on the property, which consisted of 22 acres, including 17 of prime bottom farm land. Spurlock took a last prayer walk of the property before they made the decision to sell it. “God said, ‘Michael, I’ve given you farm land and 65 farmers from the other side of the world,’” says Spurlock. “I knew we weren’t supposed to sell. When I told the Bishop what God told me, he said, ‘Isn’t it just like God to show up at the 11th hour.’ That was my confirmation.”

Spurlock’s history is one of this type of trust in God. He had all sorts of arguments against leaving his career, but he was told by God that he could walk away from his career and his family would go to seminary with him. He does caution, though, against simply believing everything you “hear.”

“Not every voice is from God. Test the spirits, talk it out with other believers, lay people, pastors. If you drag it out into the light of day, the light burns the devil away.”

“When Jesus called us to follow, He didn’t promise it would be easy or that all trouble and temptation would be swept away,” says Spurlock. “He did say, ‘I will be with you every step of the way.’ God is with us and it will all work out.” The story of the saving of All Saints Episcopal Church has been turned into a motion picture called “All Saints.” It is currently playing at many theatres across Canada, including Cineplex Odeon Westmount in London.