What a wonderful Festival we had! I believe everybody was pleased with the new Tabernacle, and much impressed by its hugeness —but already we are having to start operations to expand it 50% larger for next year!
We could not possibly seat more than an additional 500 in the present auditorium. This year attendance was about 1300 more than last year. We expect an increase of about 1500 next year over this. That would mean that a thousand people would be unable to get in, unless we proceed to enlarge the Tabernacle.
The Church and attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles has been growing so rapidly that, in designing this new Tabernacle, we planned in advance for its enlargement. That was one of the reasons for selecting this aluminized steel type of building construction. It permits of continuous enlargement up to a seating capacity of somewhere between 12,000 and 16,000 people.
Architects and engineers are already working out blue- prints for extending the long width from its present 250 feet to 378 feet—an additional 128 feet, or an increase of a little over HALF. Also they are trying to work out a method of recessing the stage, which will be moved to the middle of the new 378-feet width, ten feet into the front wall. This will add some 10% additional seating capacity. Later, it is planned to extend the depth of the auditorium some 100 or 125 or more additional feet in the center of the rear on a width of 121 feet. Then our last and final addition will be a huge balcony.
Some have asked: what if attendance continues increasing until this Tabernacle will not hold all the people, even after we have enlarged it to its very limit? If God grants such a great attendance, then we will build a second tabernacle on the grounds. The people in the first tabernacle will hear the same sermons as those in the second, by having each minister repeat his sermon a day later in the other tabernacle. So it appears that God has provided a way so that His great Feast of Tabernacles may grow and grow and never have to stop growing. We already have 152 acres, clear and paid for. We feel sure additional ground can be purchased.
However, the big new Tabernacle IS NOT YET PAID FOR—far from it. I am happy to report to you that every payment has been met promptly ON TIME, according to the agreement made with the Behlen Manufacturing Company, and we have paid them to date $178,000. BUT, NOTICE CAREFULLY!! The total cost is more than $330,000 for the work already done. It is just barely over half paid for. WE NOW ARE BOUND TO MAKE LARGER PAYMENTS OF $18,000 PER MONTH, until paid out.
The present Tabernacle should be paid out by July of next year. BUT—we have to make the huge building 50% bigger by next October! I do not yet have any price from the manufacturers and contractors, but it probably will cost somewhere near an additional $170,000. If the Behlen Manufacturing Company will assume contractual responsibility for this entire additional project, and will agree to let us pay for it at the rate of $18,000 per month, beginning next July, with a special double-payment to be raised at the next Festival of $36,000, then we would have paid by the end of the next Festival $412,000 of a total of a half million, leaving five additional months' payments at $18,000 per month. Thus it will take us until March, 1960—year after next—or another year and a half, to get it completely paid for.
But this is a truly H U G E operation, as I know all of you realize who attended the Festival and saw this monstrous, gleaming. aluminum-coated building with your own eyes.
THINK OF IT, Brethren! Already in five short months, we have paid in $178,000. In less than two years, IF WE KEEP UP OUR PAYMENTS, we shall have erected and paid for a HALF MILLION DOLLAR BUILDING—one of the largest auditoriums anywhere in the world.
Perhaps, when finished, it will be the largest CHURCH auditorium, so far as actual seating capacity is concerned, on earth! Perhaps Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome at the Vatican is larger in actual area—I think it is. Perhaps the world-famous Episcopal Church's Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York is larger in area. But these vast cathedrals are mostly great halls and lobbies which people walk through, and are not filled with seats. We may be building the largest Church auditorium, or true tabernacle, on earth! I will try to do some research into this and find out. And to pay for it in less than two years—21 months is paying for this tremendous operation IN LESS TIME THAN MOST PEOPLE PAY FOR THEIR AUTOMOBILES. Do not most of you buy cars on 24 or 30-month contracts?
I say that this is something to REJOICE over!
But it also lays on us a STERN RESPONSIBILITY! As I have said before, the Behlen Manufacturing Company have extended us this great amount of credit on faith. Up to now we have given them no security, although upon complete finishing of the present building (which was not completely finished before the Festival) we are to give them a mortgage on that part of the ground on which the Tabernacle stands. Mr. Walter Behlen, president of the Behlen Manufacturing Company, has extended this large line of credit primarily because of faith in me personally. I have made three or four trips to their factory in Columbus, Nebraska. I have had to sign PERSONAL responsibility for these payments, as well as the Church responsibility. And in turn I have assumed this tremendous responsibility thru faith in GOD—that He will lay it on YOUR HEARTS to back me in this, THAT WE MAY CONTINUE TO MEET EVERY PAYMENT ON TIME!
Now DO NOT FORGET! Payments from now on are 50% larger than originally scheduled. We have pledges for only about $12,000 per month. That means every one of us will have to try to keep sending in, EVERY MONTH, half again MORE than pledged, if possible —or that those who have not pledged special monthly payments will have to make up this difference. REMEMBER, this special BUILDING FUND offering must be IN ADDITION to regular tithes and offerings for GOD'S WORK of GETTING OUT THE GOSPEL, and of maintaining our churches and ministers. It must be a SPECIAL monthly offering, OVER AND ABOVE regular tithes and regular offerings for the regular work.
Brethren, I believe GOD IS PLEASED with the way His Church, as a whole, has responded for His big Tabernacle up to now. I am personally very grateful to you all. I know God will abundantly bless you all. But since the Festival the SPECIAL OFFERINGS for the Tabernacle Fund have been falling off! LET'S ALL TRY TO INCREASE THEM A LITTLE IF WE CAN! And THANK YOU IN JESUS' NAME!