Friday, March 30, 2012


[Urged on] by faith Abraham, when he was called,
obeyed and went forth to a place which he was destined to receive as an inheritance;
and he went, although he did not know or trouble his mind about where he was to go.
 (Hebrews 11:8 - AMP)


Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012, will be the final service of Church In The Now East at 1873 Iris Drive in Conyers, our address for the last 15 years or more. This Resurrection Sunday falls nearly exactly a year to the day (4/5/11) of the foreclosure of the property, which was appraised at $25,000,000 a few years ago, and consists of three buildings on 43 acres facing I-20. Last year it was put up for public auction on the Rockdale County courthouse steps for 18.5 million, and was recently acquired by another local church for a lease purchase price of 13.9 million. To say that I am experiencing a flood of mixed emotions, even as I write this, about having to leave the place that has represented my life's work, and was the manifestation of all that I have dreamed for as long as I can remember would be an understatement, to say the least. Just pick any emotion or feeling, and I've probably had it some time today.


I came to Conyers at the age of 26, in the spring of 1985, to found a church that would hopefully do what hadn't been done in church that much (if ever) before. I walked the neighborhoods of Conyers, knocking on doors and inviting people to come visit the little storefront that I had rented, not far from where we ultimately ended up building. Our first sound system consisted partly of the receiver off of my stereo (remember, this was the mid 80's). In a word, we didn't "despise the day of small things."

Our first service was on Pentecost Sunday of that year, with 54 in attendance.

The church was multicultural from its inception, at a time when the population demographic of Rockdale County was nearly 95% white.

Initially, it was called 'Word of Faith Assembly of God'. After some years in that first location, we moved to an abandoned grocery store, which we totally renovated, and the church became 'Word of Faith Christian Center'. After seven years in the grocery store, we moved to the location on Iris Drive, where we had purchased 15 acres on which to build a 30,000 square foot edifice. At that time, the church became 'Church In The Now'.

In that first year on Iris Drive, the church experienced unprecedented growth, and completely doubled in size in just a few months. During that time we built a second building, a 15.,000 sq. ft., state-of-the-art youth facility which doubled as a church fellowship hall, that at the time was called 'Teen Planet'.

We soon purchased the adjacent 28 acres, and began to plan building a main facility, a 103,000 sq. ft. building which we completed in 2005, with a sanctuary that could seat 3,000. In these years, we became a megachurch, gaining both national attention and a global pulpit. We developed a strong presence on national TV, developed a network of ministries and churches that connected people from all over the world, became a strong philanthropic force in the community and a major contributor to world missions, and evolved into Rockdale County's largest church, one of the largest, in fact, in the Metropolitan Atlanta area.

I could relate story after story of miracle upon miracle that has occurred as the CITN story was being written...amazing things that happened over the years as we built (Church In The Now has basically been in a building program from day one)...things that literally boggled the mind, and demonstrated the power of the strong arm of the Lord before our eyes again and again.


When I sat down with the architect of the main building to explain to him what I visualized, I asked for a design that would be timeless...a building that looked like the way people in the past pictured the future...and from that description he came up with a modernized version of the art deco style that I love so much. He captured in brick and mortar the vision of the church that emphasized living in the now. The opening service (which was our 20th anniversary) was one of the happiest and most exciting days of my life. I could insert here many of the reasons that we experienced certain challenges, beginning that very first Sunday in the new building, which ultimately lead to its foreclosure, but at this time the point is moot. I suppose it should also be noted that in all the years since we began, we never experienced any kind of real financial problems to speak of until we built the main structure. I will say, however, that what we built, even with its many imperfections, was and is a thing of beauty, and something that has been a source of pride and joy for me. Not only have we experienced the powerful presence of God and amazing manifestations of the supernatural in that building, it is also the place where my daughter Christina was married, where my sons Judah and Jonah both had their high school graduation ceremonies, and where I dedicated my granddaughters, Sofia and Olivia. It's where I assumed I would host the memorial services of both of my parents when they go to be with the Lord. In a word, I'm not only spiritually connected to it, I'm also very emotionally connected.

Let me say here that the foreclosure had little, if anything, to do with events in my personal life, or with self-disclosed revelations since October of 2010. About a year ago the Atlanta Journal did an interview with me for an article about church foreclosures, and at the time they told me that there were 40 other churches in the metro area that were in the same situation. Since then, I've heard that there are as many as 90. All things considered, we've actually done pretty well, and I give God the praise for that. His hand of favor has never left us.

Jonah Swilley graduating from Eastside High School at CITN


Let me also say here that I could easily replace the pronouns "I", "my" and "me" in telling this story with "we", "our" and "us", because it wasn't just my vision, it was our vision, and I'm well aware that many people are equally invested in it, not just financially, but spiritually and emotionally, as well. I know I didn't build it by myself, and those of you who have stood by me and with me through it all know who you are.

So here's where we find ourselves in the spring of 2012. Since the foreclosure, we have been aware of several churches and megachurches which have expressed interest in purchasing the property. Rockdale County even approached me at one point about trying to buy it for the county to turn it into a performing arts center, with us remaining on the property in our original building, leasing the space from them. That scenario would certainly the best case for me, but, alas, it did not materialize.

For many months during the last year we very aggressively searched for a facility in either Rockdale or Newton county...a place to move our now smaller, but still very vibrant and amazingly resilient congregation. We have been aware from the beginning that once the property sold, we would have 60 days to vacate. So some months ago, because nothing was really happening, to our knowledge, that indicated it was about to sell, we just stopped looking. We decided to wait to see if and when it sold, and once it did, at that point we could realistically search for another place.

It never occurred to me that we would remain there on Iris Drive a full year after the foreclosure, and at a certain point, I actually wondered if we were indeed ever going to leave at all. I didn't know how it could possibly happen, but I began to entertain the idea that perhaps we wouldn't or couldn't leave until all the many prophecies spoken over CITN and its presence there on Iris Drive, by a host of credible prophets over the years, were completely fulfilled.

I still don't know what to think about all of that. I am having to process a lot right now.

I do know, however, that when Joseph spoke out his dreams, the exact opposite reality occurred in his life, and that downward trend in his circumstances went on for many years until the time of his fulfillment. In the meantime, the Scriptures tell us that he was literally tormented by the Word of Lord, because his "reality" was so diametrically opposed to what had been prophesied. It says that when he was in prison, not only were his feet in fetters of iron, so was his very soul.

It's not my intention here to equate myself with Joseph of the Bible, but I can tell you that I completely understand that kind of torment.


On the other hand, even though we lost it, at least we built it. For years I've said that I'd rather be a "wet water-walker" than a "dry boat-dweller". Peter may be known for being the one who sank beneath the waves, but he is also known for being the only man besides Jesus who ever walked on the water. The other disciples couldn't bring an accusation against him because of his lack of faith, because he had at least done something that none of them had even imagined.

Anyway, when we heard last week that the property had been acquired for lease purchase by a church which has been trying to obtain it for over a year, we weren't really surprised. We've known for some time that that was certainly a possibility. What we didn't know...what came as a total and complete shock to us...was that they were occupying the property immediately. In all of our many conversations with the bank over the last year or so, both before and after the foreclosure, they never once told us that that was even a possibility. So we just assumed that once it sold, we would then have 60 days to locate a new place, so that the new tenants could move in at the end of that period.

That's why we had stopped actively looking for a new location, because in our minds, until the Iris Drive property sold, there just wasn't any point in really pursuing another place. And I should probably add that we have looked at nearly everything available for rent, and there just has not been anything that we have seen that could realistically meet our needs, even with a smaller congregation.

So when we heard that they were going to be here next week...well, let's just say we didn't see that coming at all, and were completely unprepared for it.

So what happens now? Well, we'll have church this coming Sunday (Palm Sunday), and we'll have church on Easter Sunday (also the new tenants first Sunday in the main building), and then we have no idea where we will go.

We're looking at and calling places non-stop, but at this point, we are just having to stand on the Scripture that I posted at the top. In the Amplified Bible it says that not only did Abraham not know where he was going when he left Ur (Hebrews 11:8), it also says he did not "trouble his mind" about it. I guess you could say that we're trying to walk in the faith of Abraham..."the just shall live by faith"...

God has always provided for us, and He always will. This year on the property post-foreclosure has been hard, but it has also provided some healing time for the congregation, and has been a season of stabilization for us. Our steps are ordered.

So there it is.

I wish I could tell you more, but that's all I have right now.

Abram was called "Abraham" for about 27 years until he actually became "Abraham, the Father of Many Nations"...we've been called "Church In The Now" for a long time, and as we approach our 27th anniversary in a few weeks, we have no choice but to actually become the church that lives in the now.

One day at a time.

As soon as I know something about where we're going, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, stay tuned.

All of you who have stayed with me, many from the very beginning, you can't imagine how much I love you.

So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.
(2 Corinthians 4:16 -18 - The Message)


Anonymous said...

Seems to be some re-occurrence of 27 going on here...
Not sure what that is all about, but looking forward to all that transpires prior to our 27th anniversary this year that just happens to fall on the 27th of May (this year's Pentecost Sunday)...
It is well!

Anonymous said...

This showed up on my "Notes from the Universe" a couple of days ago... seems very timely for us and prophetic...

It's been so long, I'm quite sure you've forgotten our secret handshake, haven't you?


How about our code for saying, "I love you"?


Then I doubt you'll recall my solemn promise to let you know once you began approaching exactly the right time and exactly the right place, with enough life lessons under your belt to enable you to finally stop struggling, start soaring, and begin living the life of your wildest dreams?

Well, if not, the following might not make much sense:

"You're getting hot! Steaming hot! Really HOT!! Ouch, you're so hot! Smoking, red-hot-chili-pepper, volcano, extremely, DOUBLE-HOT! HOT! HOT! NOW, NOW-W-W-W-W-W-W!"

I love you,
The Universe

You didn't think I'd forget, did you?

Bishop Jim Swilley said...

Wow...I didn't know that about the Pentecost Sunday date...that's a trip...

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim, while I was reading your blog concerning the church- two thoughts occured to me. You are a man of amazing courage and Faith and you have seen your congregation through some formidable trials that would have stumped others. I wholeheartedly know the attachment you feel to the building and the memories you have. The bank can coldly take the building but No one can take your memories bittersweet they may be presently. The second thought is You and your Congregation will prosper and presevere and grow in Strength Faith and Love Together; Good Lord willing. I wish you a Happy Birthday and a Happy Easter. Remember He is risen and as such so will your Church. A new Day Is Coming with an Energy and Excitement that is Joyous and full of Wonderment and Rebirth!!!!!!! ;-) :-) ;-) ;-) Bless you, Jim Your friend, Lila Bell

Erik said...

Easter Sunday is actually a very fitting and freeing, rather sudden, unexpected departure from Iris Drive.

Erik said...

Anon, 033112, 0845 Am, Good job.

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