Real Life Stories: "The Miracle of Valley Center"

Jim Miller is a husband, father, and the founding pastor of Real Life Church. This is his story of God showing up in the life of our church, in his own words…

There’s a story about the ancient Greek philosopher, Thales. One day he was walking along staring at the sky and making astronomical observations (back then, philosophers and scientists were the same thing). As he walked along, he failed to pay attention, and he fell in a well. Ever since then, people have snickered at the uselessness of philosophy and of starting at the stars.

To the contrary, staring at the heavens has made me the man that I am.

Since founding Real Life Church of LA, I have experienced more miracles of God than I had ever imagined possible. I spend each day talking to Jesus in a deeper and more personal way than I ever have before. And the latest move of our church out of a school and into its own building has God’s fingerprints on all sides of it.

Aware of the fact that our church was approaching its three year anniversary, and consequently its agreement that we would move out of the school in three years, I sat down to pray. I hadn’t written down my prayers in maybe twenty years, but that night, I wrote down a prayer. I said, “Jesus, I’m willing to pastor this church until I die, but I don’t know how to do this. I didn’t find the school in which we now meet – someone else did that. I don’t know how to find a building. If this is what you want, I need your help.” The next day, I was driving around with my Executive Pastor, Anthony, to look at properties. The ones we were looking at weren’t promising. However, we happened to drive past a church. There was a piece of paper taped to the door, so we parked and got out to look. The paper said, “Please join us at one of our other locations.” I could hear a smoke detector chirping inside, because no one had changed the batteries in a while. I realized the building was vacant.

Then something strange happened.

I looked at the sign in front of the building, and I thought I recognized the name, “Valley Center Nazarene Church.” It occurred to me that a friend of mine used to be the pastor of this church. To call him a friend is an understatement. He was a mentor and an inspiration. He is now in heaven, but weeks before he died, his family flew me out to see him and to celebrate his life with him and his friends. I told him on that occasion, “I hope that by the time I am your age, I’m like you.” CS Cowles is perhaps the most encouraging human being I’ve even met. It occurred to me, standing in front of that church, that he had told me that he pastored a church in that area, and I thought that that might be the one. So I texted his family and asked, “Was this your church?” His daughter replied, “I just got chills. It is.” Within minutes, I had found out who owned the church and who I needed to contact.

The next day, wheels were already turning. I discovered that the church is not actually located in any city, but rather, in between several cities in an unincorporated part of LA County. How appropriate, I realized, because the name of our church is “Real Life Church of LA.” I have always had the vision that our church would be bigger than a single city, and now we would literally be located in LA but outside any given city.

So don’t forget this – we found the church by accident; I have a historic connection to this church I’ve never seen before, one that I cherish deeply; and the church serves to make us more of exactly whom we say we are. No one in their right mind can question the working of God in this move.

As we gathered for worship for the first time at the Valley Center location, many of the Cowles family flew out to be with us. I stood where my friend once stood to preach. My staff, which is the best staff of any church in the world, looked as calm as they could - while frantically lining up all the details needed for our move-in.

Today I am a different man than I was even a year ago. I can honestly say that I trust Jesus like I never have. I worry less. What Jesus wants, he will bring about, and all I have to do is trust him and obey him and follow him.

Our church, in its first almost three years of existence, is filled with stories of healing miracles, prophetic moments in which God spoke directly to people in the congregation, stories of conversion and salvation, and dozens of baptisms. I have never before felt as clearly that I am surfing on top of the wave of God’s activity in the world. There is more risk and uncertainty for me than I’ve ever faced before, and I’m more confident than ever before that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

So, thank you Jesus, for who you are and what you do. I would not want this any other way. I don’t ever want to stray from your will, even a little, to the right or the left. Lead the way, Jesus, and may it all be for your glory.

-Jim #RLLA