It’s difficult to write about a church plant.

It sounds easy: listen to the worship, take notes on the sermon, talk to the people involved, scribble together a draft.

But, no. It’s not that simple. It’s so much more than another Sunday in a new location.

The Launch

On September 28th, Resonate Church expanded its reach beyond the Palouse and launched a site in Ellensburg, Washington. Students from Central Washington University piled into the Student Union Recreation Center auditorium easily exceeding the 300 available seats.  Of the 387 people present, about 80 were from Resonate’s four other sites in Pullman, Washington and Moscow, Idaho who visited for the weekend. Their mission: create buzz, meet students, and help get the new site off the ground.

The atmosphere was electric, the joy contagious. The prayers of a community, of a church, of a nation answered tangibly in the midst of a college campus. Worship leader Luis Cuevas left the room with tears of joy and an unmatchable smile spread across his face. “God has been really faithful,” he said, “I’m a bit overwhelmed to be honest.” Several years of planning, several months of community, and several days of campaigning built a momentum that overwhelmed visitors, students, and staff members alike.

Cuevas saw the fruit of Resonate’s labor, a labor that has been long in the making. Nearly ten years ago, Keith Wieser moved to Pullman, WA with the hope and vision of starting churches for college students in the Northwest.  After success at Washington State University and the University of Idaho, the Resonate Church staff began to look for where to move next. In the last 18 months, Resonate began to explore Ellensburg and Central Washington. As teams spent time with the community, they received overwhelming affirmation as students engaged immediately and wanted a church on their campus. The staff met people whose prayers collided with theirs and desires matched Resonate’s values.

With the mission of the church gaining momentum, a team began to form and invest in the lives of Ellensburg citizens. Jacob Dahl, who served as one of Resonate’s site pastors in Pullman, and his wife Jessica became the hands and feet of this plant by leading the team. In preparation for the launch, and to strengthen the new community in Ellensburg, the two led a team of WSU students on a short-term trip to CWU’s campus last spring. This short-term trip helped connect Resonate with locals as they searched for housing and venues to host a service. During this week, many people who would later move to Ellensburg had their first encounters with the campus.

The Gospel Goodbye

Every person associated with Resonate CWU has a glow on their face. Every person speaks with an unexplainable joy. Every person is genuinely engrossed in their mission. All of this was forged through cracked voices, blood-shot eyes, weathered faces, and exhausted bodies. All of this was forged through sacrifice and the gospel.

This is the result of what Wieser calls a Gospel Goodbye.

Gospel Goodbyes are inevitable experiences that happen when the church responds to the gospel call of mission. As the church expands across the globe, individuals are often brought together to do work in one place and then sent to do work in another. “When we realize the call of the gospel is not for us to stay, but for us to go,” he said, “it is something that affects all of us.” Some individuals are actively sharing the gospel with people in unique, unreached regions. Others understand their responsibility is to remain where they are planted, to love their community well, and to train those who will go.

This idea goes back to the early church of Acts, led by Paul, one of the most influential church planters to ever walk the earth. Paul planted churches across the known world and poured everything he had into the foundations of these churches and their leaders. Each time he had to start a new plant, he had to leave his community. At best he would reconnect with these people maybe once or twice in his lifetime. While leaving may have seemed difficult, the expansion of the kingdom and the hope of Jesus was well worth it.

While only a few Resonate staff members left the Palouse, there is a sense that every person is engaged in the process. Wieser doesn’t see CWU as “the launch of an independent church, but one that is connected” to a larger body of believers and a network connecting the gospel to people, people to community, and community to mission. In the end, everyone is on the same page.  Everyone wants to see the gospel transform lives, whether here or across the Northwest.

Before the theater emptied and all 387 people parted ways, Jacob Dahl humbly addressed his new community with a thankful heart. “I’m nobody special,” he said standing beside Jessica on stage. “I’m just a guy responding to a call on my life.”  

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