This post is part 2 of 4 in a series explaining my vision to plant a church in the Stanwood-Camano community. Here are the other posts: part 1, part 3, and part 4.
I never wanted to plant a church. For most of my life, I’ve been keenly aware of the needs present in existing churches: in particular, of the power of comfort, wealth, and busyness to deaden believers’ commitment to the gospel (myself included). Because of this, I’ve always had a heart to get involved in existing churches and stir people out of their comfort zones. I saw that every church was full of brokenness and needs and felt that my calling was to serve amidst this brokenness.
However, through a variety of situations, conversations, and personal reflection over the past couple of years, my thoughts regarding the local church, and my role in it, have shifted.
First, the areas of church life that I found myself most passionate about began to change. I had spent several years serving in music and youth ministries, and really enjoyed those areas. I had preached once or twice and knew that I didn’t ever want to do that on a regular basis. I also didn’t have any desire to be in a leadership role over a church. I liked leading in the special areas of youth and music, but was content there.
But over a roughly 10-month period, God changed my desires 180 degrees. I’m not exactly sure how it happened. I went from not ever wanting to preach to not being able to sleep at night because I was mulling sermon ideas over in my head. I started looking for any and every opportunity to teach or preach so that I could get more experience. During this time, I was also taking seminary-level classes on church leadership, as well as participating in my church’s elder meetings. These experiences started to develop in me a desire to be more involved in the leadership of a church.
As time went on, several factors combined to instill in me a desire to pursue greater responsibility in church leadership. My understanding of the role of a pastor began to develop. I saw the great opportunity pastors have to steer people towards God’s grace and truth, and what great hurt pastors can cause when they misuse or neglect their responsibilities. I began to feel a growing frustration with pastors not leading their churches well and not fulfilling, or even understanding, their God-given roles. I also began to have a better grasp of the gospel, and to notice when it was absent in a message or ministry. These and other factors bred in me a discontentment with the way things were in many churches and a growing passion to do something about it.
While I was thinking through these things, I spent a couple weeks in the Stanwood-Camano area (we were currently living in Texas). I had always had a heart for the community: I knew it well, felt at home there, and wanted to see the town thrive. But with what God had been doing in my life at that time, my thoughts towards the Stanwood-Camano community started to take a different shape. Namely, I wanted to see the gospel proclaimed and lived out in this community in greater ways than was currently happening. My newfound desire to be involved in preaching and leadership at a church was connecting with a particular community and people.
It took me a while to even consider church planting as a legitimate option. Like I said, it was never something that I saw myself doing. I had previously worked at two churches in the Stanwood-Camano community and was familiar with several others. I mulled over what it would look like to get involved with one of these churches. I had discussions with three different churches in the community about possible staff positions. While the idea of coming on staff at one of these churches was appealing in some ways, it didn’t feel completely right. As I mulled these things over and solicited advice from others, church planting slowly came to appear as the best option.
Though frightening and uncertain, I felt that planting a church in Stanwood was what I was supposed to pursue. One thing led to another, and we ended up leaving our church in Texas to move to the Stanwood-Camano area with the conviction to plant a church. I had been in touch with a small church network called 3-Strand that was involved in church planting in the north Puget Sound area and that also had an established internship for church planters. Upon moving, we got involved with the closest 3-Strand church, Communion Church in Mount Vernon, and I began the church planting internship.
One year into the internship and I am excited to take the first public step towards planting a church in Stanwood: we will be starting a community group on October 5 at our house to begin gathering a core group and discussing the vision of this new church plant.