BY COLIN LUOMA
I’ll never forget the first Resonate service I went to.
It was in this old movie theatre with dated wallpaper and old theatre-style seating that had bright royal blue fabric lining the seats. The seats squealed as people sat down and had worn spots on top where people had sat for decades.
This church was anything but old; it was quite the opposite actually. The band was loud and full of 20-year-olds. I looked up to them like they were celebrities.
I grew up in a wealthy megachurch that seemed polished and perfect. Resonate had none of that. It gave me a breath of fresh air. It seemed like for the first time people weren’t pretending. Fast forward and here I am about to plant Resonate’s 7th site.
You’ve probably never heard of Monmouth, Oregon. No, not Mammoth or Multnomah. Mawn-mith. There we go.
Truth be told, I grew up about 30 minutes away from Monmouth. When people asked me where I saw myself after graduating college, I always said that I’d love to move back to Western Oregon.
The worst thing about Monmouth is that no one knows it’s there and the best thing about Monmouth is that no one knows it’s there. The first time I Googled "Monmouth", I took a look at about two and a half pictures and got kind of sad and shut my laptop as quickly as possible. I got this eerie feeling like I was going to move there someday or something… and my stomach twisted a little bit. I didn’t want to admit this feeling I had.
The funny thing about Monmouth is that it will slowly grow on you. It’s the city off the beaten path… literally. It’s the city of the underdogs—kind of like me. Only the faithful understand its beauty and charm and perks.
But my story doesn’t start here. No, some may say this is just the start of a greater plan from our Creator.
I always looked up to my older sister. She was smart and had a cool boyfriend and knew where she was going in life. When I was in high school, my sister and now brother-in-law were a part of starting this church at their college. This didn’t surprise me; it was their thing. Me, I honestly didn’t care. But now I look back and wonder if foreshadowing is a real thing. It may or may not be, but God’s sovereignty sure is. Was it coincidence that the first two students Keith and Paige Wieser met on campus when starting Resonate were my sister and brother-in-law? I’d like to think not.
When I graduated college in 2014, I was poor, eager, scared, and still loved staying up late and ordering pizza. I had known since my junior year of college that I wanted to move to Ellensburg to help plant our first church outside the Palouse. Church planting will make you the most insecure person in the world. It’ll wear you out if you’re not careful. It’ll make you cry and laugh and get depressed from time to time. I'm still figuring out how to bear people’s sins and remain emotionally resilient at the same time. But one thing I know is that church planting never gets boring. For that, I’m thankful. You meet hundreds of people and do so many things. It’s where 5 years feels like 25 years. It's the fullest life possible, I believe. It’s the craziest ride anyone could ever ask for.
But it’s funny how saying yes to church planting in Ellensburg was saying yes to eventually planting another church at Western Oregon University—I just didn’t know it yet.
That’s really my story. Saying yes even when I didn’t know what was in front of me or if I was “ready” or not.
My theology of God has always been behind my experience of God. Through many experiences and tests, God was preparing me to be a pastor my whole life, I just didn’t know it until now. Maybe it’s a good thing He didn’t reveal to me the specific plans of my life when I wanted to know them the most. Chances are I would have run away or screwed it up. It’s like He intentionally withholds information from us because it’s actually for our good to have the plans kept hidden from us in the moment.
I still get scared. I stutter sometimes when I speak in front of people. I can be pretty quiet and awkward. I still look like I'm 18, although I guess my beard helps. I’ll never be the loudest or coolest guy in the room. My whole life I discounted myself from ever leading people, yet God kept on putting opportunities in front me to simply say yes. Dare I say He didn’t give me the option to say no to Him. It’s like His power was saying yes for me. The more I learned about the characters in the Bible, the more I learned that God is seeking to use humble, faithful men that risk everything for Him because they know He has their back. It was in this realization that I thought, well God could certainly use me.
I used to think that I could never lead people (or a church for that matter) because of my lack of self-confidence. I was too hard on myself. Regardless, the day I stepped foot into Resonate I felt this call to be a pastor one day.
I never told anyone though.
I learned that self-confidence for the Christian is actually idolatry mixed with pride.
I am confident because of who my God is. So my lack of confidence as a proclaimed follower of Jesus portrays what I think about God. If I am confident, then it tells the world who my God is. My world was turned upside down when I realized that my overly humble attitude of ‘woe is me’ was actually dishonoring and sinful.
Sometimes I don’t want to keep going, but I do. I know it’s only God.
Some days are hard to get over. Like the day where you counsel a guy through getting his girlfriend pregnant, or the day the guy you discipled for the year just walks away from you and the church altogether. Or the day when someone in your church tells you they’ve been sexually abused and abandoned by their parents. Or when you have to tell someone they might have to be single for the rest of their life because of their same sex attraction.
It’s like there’s this external force that holds me together. I am reminded that every day it’s Jesus who sustains me and makes me wake day by day. I (and too many other Christians) think I am the one holding my faith together, when in reality God is the only reason I decide to follow Jesus every single day. What a relief to know that our faith isn’t about our strength to sustain it. Sometimes church planting makes me sick inside because of fear, but it’s the Spirit who sustains me to keep taking one step forward. What a joy to know that it’s not that I am holding onto Jesus, but rather Jesus is holding onto me.
In Romans chapter 10 the greatest missionary ever passionately says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'” There are people at Western Oregon that need to hear the Gospel.
We plant Resonate WOU in approximately 317 days. It’s the first 3rd generational church plant in Resonate history. That means a church plant sent a church plant that is now sending its own church plant. That’s a lot of church plants. Pullman to Ellensburg to Monmouth. 3rd generational. Some say this is the true test to see if we are really a multiplying church. Don’t worry, I’m just a little sweaty. This is the stuff that makes my heart beat fast. It makes me beat my fists on the table in passion and it’s the only thing that could make me get out of bed at 5AM… (besides looking for waves on the beach or driving to the mountains in the winter).
Monmouth and I get along pretty well actually. We’re both chill. We both aren’t loud or distracting. Monmouth is like a substitute teacher you get in class that seems boring at first, but is surprisingly cool in real life. Or it’s like a house that seems small and underwhelming on the outside, but when you step inside it has secret rooms, a huge backyard, and a garage full of surprises. It has all the perks of a small town with access to the city, beach, and mountains within an hour.
As you read this, would you take this moment to consider moving to Monmouth with us or possibly transferring to Western Oregon University if you are a student? Yes, it costs. Everything costs, it’s inevitable. Just like the cost of Jesus’s life was inevitable.
Please don’t champion this like it is what only the super-Christians do. No, this is normal Christianity. This the natural and normal response to the Gospel.
Someone asked me the other day why we leave the church to plant another…why go to other cities? I said because Jesus came to us, so we go to them. Jesus changed the world with a couple of faithful men. His same spirit lives in us.
So, would you go with us? The offer is right in front of you. All you have to do is say yes.
If you connected with this story and want to speak with someone about it, email firstname.lastname@example.org.