by Preston Dabbs, Resonate Network staff
I’m going to attempt to explain something that I don’t think you will fully understand until you are able to be there yourself. Many of you have, and more of you desire to be. As we continue to grow as a network and plant more churches on college campuses, there are going to be more and more students, families, and young adults who leave what’s comfortable and secure to take the gospel to new places. And it won’t be easy. Maybe you’ve thought about it, or are considering it right now.
My journey of church planting began 5 years ago.
At the time, you would have found me hiding behind my computer with a guitar in my lap at my cute 1950’s rental home, in the hip, gentrified neighborhood of “Belhaven” on the northside of Jackson, Mississippi (here’s a regrettable instagram post with 14 likes from 2012 to prove it).
I spent the first 25 years of my life in Mississippi. That’s 25 years of friendships, experiences, and memories. My entire family is there. But in 2014, I crammed everything I could possibly fit in my Subaru Forester and drove 40+hrs to Pullman, Washington to join God in what he is up to on college campuses. I didn’t move because I desired an adventure, but obedience. I was responding to the clearest moment i’ve ever heard from the Lord where he showed me this is where I would lead, this is the church that would be my community, and this is where I would step into the call I had when I was in college; to church planting.
Only one year later in 2015, I moved again. To Cheney, Wa as part of the church planting team at Eastern Washington University.
Church planting in Cheney was one of the most eye-opening and challenging seasons of my life. I realized who I was and wasn’t. I came to terms with misplaced identities. It was incredibly refining. Painfully refining.
But then, only 10 months after we moved to Cheney, God led me and my brand-new wife to Ellensburg, Washington (a two-year-old plant at the time), where we served on their staff team together for 2 years before finding our way back to Pullman last Summer.
Ok, I know that’s all very confusing. So if you’re visual, or not from the Northwest, I drew you a map...
The only I reason I begin there is to say, I’ve been displaced/uncomfortable/tired of sacrificing/anxious/lonely/worn out. I know the feeling. But the truth is that many of those feelings were the result of lies I was believing.
There is so much joy now when we visit Cheney or Ellensburg. We now see how God used our obedience even if we couldn’t see it at the time. In fact, I now see how God was at work all while I was believing lies about the work we were doing.
I want to share those lies with you.
I highly doubt they exist only in teams that leave to reach new campuses. Chances are these lies exist in your own heart, where you are now. And we have to address them if we are going to continue planting churches and making disciples.
I HAVE TO WAIT FOR THE PERFECT TIMING.
When we decided to move to Cheney, it really made little logistical and practical sense. It was the month of May. Several people on our core team had already signed leases for the next year. We already had our jobs and teams set. I hadn’t even lived in Pullman a full year. Craig and Kellie, our site pastor and his wife, were several months pregnant. Everything in us wanted to say, “let’s wait until next year”. And that would have been logical.
But over the next month we watched as God would put all the pieces together. He filled leases that had already been signed, provided homes to rent in Cheney that should not have been available during Summer in a college town.
I had barely lived in Pullman a year, and was just beginning to make some real friendships. The team I was going to plant with weren’t really even my friends. Was I just supposed to throw it away and start over? Yeah. Yes I was.
What I came to discover, much in retrospect, is that “perfect timing” isn’t real, because sacrifice is always inconvenient.
Jesus said in Matthew 10, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”.
Whatever your reason to “wait until the time is right” will never come. There will always be a new excuse or a new obstacle. I promise. Ultimately, comfort and security of your life’s current situation will inevitably seem more appealing. The pathway will not always be clear or even make sense. If faith is hope in the unseen, then where are you creating opportunities to walk in to the unseen?
I SHOULD PLANT A CHURCH WITH ALL MY BEST FRIENDS.
“We all we got.” - Jacob Dahl
Look, I know you don’t choose your family. Your birth family or your spiritual family. But I do believe you choose to what level you will allow trust, truth, openness, and honesty to enter those relationships. I have essentially had to start over with my spiritual family 4 times in the last 5 years. And let me tell you, a quick way to lose is to say “they’re not really my friends” or, “they don’t know me”. That perspective doesn’t leave any room for relational growth.
Instead, we need to believe that family is forged. When I think back to the last 5 years, the people I am relationally closest to are the ones who I’ve been with in the thick of ministry and starting new communities. Sharing life circumstances over dinner is one thing. But investing significant time together as you pray to see a city or campus transformed by the gospel, relying on the Lord to make it happen, and then celebrating together - these are family forging activities. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen over time.
If you feel like you’re in a season of weak community, I’d encourage you to instead seek spiritual family through the mission God has given to us. It really is better together.
I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH… COMPARED TO THE OTHER GUY.
"Comparison is the thief of joy" - Theodore Roosevelt
God was forming me into a person, not a performer. I quickly learned that I didn’t have the same experience, or natural giftings as I saw in other people on our team. So logically, I concluded, I wasn’t good enough. This drastically affected how I viewed my calling to make disciples. I shrunk back from the responsibility. I gave less effort.
It took me almost an entire year of planting to realize that God wasn’t primarily concerned about my performance as an evangelist or worship leader as he was in using those experiences to make me in to someone. Someone who looks more like him.
And so instead of beating myself over my failures, I owned my weaknesses. I asked for help and decided to learn to go on campus to meet people and share the gospel even when it was uncomfortable. I failed. A lot. But I also got to see God move in people’s lives and increase my capacity to do what he called me to; make disciples.
Even if you’re tired of hearing this, just try letting it sink in for a moment. In Matthew 28, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The truth is that this life is for everyone. Wherever you are. We have to make disciples even if it’s not natural or we see others “doing it better”. Don’t believe the lie.
IT’S ALL UP TO ME.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me… And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” - Jesus
Want to invite anxiety and an unhealthy expectation in to your life for a pity party? Tryna crash and burn after six months? Go for this one. I entered into church planting and worship leadership with self reliance. I let the weight crush me. The moment you believe this lie is the very moment the power of gospel is removed from your life. It took years for me to realize this. Even though I began with self reliance, I ended with a God reliance. Jesus promised to be with us as we go. In fact, he goes before us as well. We should take great comfort knowing that the all powerful God of the universe, who has given us a mission and a purpose not only goes with us, but he goes before us. For me, it was one thing to understand that concept, but an eye opening, burden-removing concept to experience.
I wish I could tell you that these lies are completely eradicated, completely missing from my life. But that itself would be a lie. I still, to this day, wage war against them again and again. But the difference now, is that I know the truth. On the darkest days when I want to believe I’m not good enough, I know that I am not what I do. When I want to believe it’s all up to me, I look to the faithfulness of God that has always been at work even when i’m not.
So let this be a shortcut. Which of these lies are you believing?