The Difference

Over the summer, as I’ve written about before, I was involved with a discipleship/leadership project called Elevate. One of the requirements on the project is to get a job and work 30 hours a week (a nice feature for cash-strapped college students). By the grace of God, I secured a position at Staples for the summer as a cashier, which meant a lot of my time was spent standing alone while people perused what we had to offer.


About halfway through the summer, during one of my shifts, a song came on that reminded me of my time spent in Pullman last year. I can’t tell you why, but at that moment it fully hit me that I wasn’t going back there at the end of the summer.


Out of the 72 students who were spending those 10 weeks down in San Diego, all but 3 of them would be returning to the same place together once it was over (Kylie was moving, Austin Carter and myself were going to help plant Resonate Church on CWU’s campus). Again, I don’t know why it hadn’t hit me before, but I was suddenly struck by the fact that I wouldn’t be going back to the place where I’d made so many memories and friends.


I literally felt nauseous all of a sudden, and had to bend over and support myself on my knees. I felt like I’d just been punched in the stomach. At the time, there were no customers in the store, so I took the opportunity to write down what I was processing in my mind. This is what I wrote on the backside of a receipt lying next to the cash register:


“I hold it together pretty well, but every now and then there will be something – a song, a memory, a feeling – that will remind me of my time in Pullman. Honestly, it nearly makes me nauseous to think that I won’t have those moments any more. I know I made the right decision in transferring to Central, but it’s really tough knowing how much I’m gonna miss while in Ellensburg.


I guess that’s life, though. No matter which path you choose, you always give something up. Now I’m realizing why so many people are astounded that there are students transferring schools for the church plant. I know that the relationships I develop in Ellensburg will be even deeper than those in Pullman, but it’s still incredibly hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that I won’t be returning to WSU next year.


It’s interesting to think about how I’ll feel about this time of my life 10 years from now. How will I view these next years as I reflect on them?”


I was thinking about that moment of doubt, loss, and fear the other night, and how much has changed since then. Recently, I had two guys, Devon and Alex, hanging out at my apartment. Both are students here at Central, and neither of them knew each other or had any involvement with Resonate last year.


As they sat in my living room while I did (or at least attempted) homework, they spoke with each other about guys who they were currently praying for, trying to hang out with as much as possible, and have gospel conversations with. It struck me then how cool it was that they’d been brought together and were strengthening one another as they lived on mission to pursue the campus of Central Washington University with the love of Christ.


Just last year, there was no way they would be having conversations like that one. Devon had brought one person to the ministry he attended last year, because he didn’t think any of his friends would like it. That one person never came back, and Devon was not surprised. Alex planned on leaving Ellensburg because he didn’t feel the sense of community that he craved, both in college and in Christianity.


Those are the moments that blow my “back of the receipt” thoughts away. If we hadn’t moved here, their lives would have been way different, along with dozens of other stories that are very similar to theirs.

Praise God that He did not allow feelings and emotions to override the call he placed on our lives last year. I’m so glad that I’ve had the chance to be a part of the work He’s doing here, especially as we’re about to have our baptism service this Sunday, where we’ll be celebrating 17 death-to-life or rededication stories! Church planting is not always easy, but it’s always worth it.


From Darkness to Light

Over the summer, I was posed this question:


“What determines whether or not a church plant is ‘successful’ in your mind?”


My answer was simple: if just one person came to know Christ, it would all be worth it. All the sacrifices, hard work, and energy put into launching a brand new church would be surpassed by the fact that someone had his or her life changed. Not only that, but their entire ETERNITY would be altered. Clearly, that’s worth any temporary sacrifices that we might have to make to get there.


By the grace of God, that simple answer has already come into fruition over our time here. Less than three months since the launch service, our church has been encouraged by the stories of people accepting Jesus as the Lord and Savior of their lives.


– This is one of those stories –


I met Braxton the day after I moved into my apartment. I was coming back from taking out the trash while he and his roommates were moving a sofa into his apartment, just two doors down from mine. I had recently come back from a leadership/missional living project called Elevate, so I was psyched to meet new people and start building relationships with them.


I went over and introduced myself to him and his two roommates, Devon and Nico. We talked for a couple minutes about majors and what year in school we were, and then I let them be.


The next day, I happened to be walking by as Braxton was going to his car to grab something.


“Hey Jonathan,” he said, “we’re inside just hanging out and drinking some beer if you want to come chill with us for a little while!”


What a blessing this invitation was. It was exactly the type of situation I had been hoping for over the past months as I imagined moving to a new town.


“I don’t really drink, but I’d love to come and hang out with you guys!” I responded.


Braxton said that that would be cool, so I went back to my house and let my roommate, Tyler, know that we were invited to go over to their place. We walked over and proceeded to shoot the breeze with them for a couple of hours. At some point, Braxton asked us why we ended up transferring to Central Washington University.


“Well,” I said, “we’re actually part of a team that’s planting a church on campus.”


“Oh, that’s cool,” he responded. “You should talk to my brother, Devon, about it. He loves that kind of stuff.”


That topic of conversation ended really quick.


Nevertheless, we still invited him into community every chance we got, and he eventually started going to village. I spoke to him after he went the first time, and his eyes lit up as he talked about how much he enjoyed it and couldn’t wait for next week.


Slowly, we started to witness changes in Braxton as people throughout the church started to pour into him and invest in his life. He began processing through what he believed about himself, about others, and about God. Finally, a few weeks ago, there came a point when it all came to a head and enough was enough. He wanted the hope that we all had: Braxton decided to surrender his life to Jesus.


Last week, a few of the men who were instrumental in demonstrating the love of Jesus to him got together for dinner to celebrate his decision and presented him with a bible they had bought. Later that night, he posted this picture of it on Instagram:


It carried a caption with it, which read:


“I can’t thank you guys enough for the Bible you have given me. I am excited that I get the chance to be reborn, and live my life through Christ. It’s the best decision I have ever made and I only wish I could have made this decision earlier. Each one of you have shined a bright light into my life, and I couldn’t appreciate it enough. And last but obviously not least, I thank God for everything he has done for me in my life, and all of my glory goes to You.”


So. Cool.


These are the kinds of stories that make moving to Ellensburg more than worth it. Braxton’s life has changed, and so has his eternity, simply because a group of people were obedient to God’s call on their lives.


Since moving here and planting this church, we’ve been encouraged and humbled by seeing fourteen stories of people coming from spiritual darkness to light. Each story is different from Braxton’s, but they all share a common theme: God’s pursuit of their lives.


So, to come back to that question that I was asked this past summer: it’s already been a success — fourteen times over. Christians all over America pray for miracles every single day, and we’ve been lucky to be a part of fourteen of them over this past quarter. Certainly, people accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior is by no means anything of our doing – we’re just as broken as the people we’re leading – but it’s all up to Him.

Every person on our team here in Ellensburg has sacrificed something in order to be here, but none of us wish we had stayed behind. No one claims that church planting is easy, but I can guarantee you that it will be worth it.

Looking Forward to the Present

Time is such an odd thing to me.

Over the summer, I was involved with a ten-week leadership development/mission trip project with Resonate, called Elevate. Fifty-eight students and fourteen leaders moved down to La Jolla, California for two and a half months, living, working, and just doing life together.

It was an incredible experience that I wish everyone could have, and many hours were devoted to envisioning what Elevate would be like during the cold winter months, when spending my summer down in San Diego seemed more like a dream than reality.

One of my posts on Instagram: a screenshot of the weather in San Diego while Pullman was suffering from subzero temperatures. You could say I was excited to fly down there.

One of my posts on Instagram: a screenshot of the weather in San Diego while Pullman was suffering from subzero temperatures. You could say I was excited to fly down there.

I remember sitting in class with one of my best friends, TJ, and looking at pictures of the hotel instead of listening to the professor (who cares about business law, anyway?).

I remember talking with Brittany about how exciting a California adventure seemed as we drove to the grocery store, the car acting as a metal barrier separating us from the seven degree weather outside.

Most of all, I remember touching down at the San Diego airport:

“Lord,” I prayed, “in ten weeks I’ll be looking at this same exact view of the airport, but I’ll be heading in the opposite direction. I pray that by that time, I’m not even close to the same person I am now.”

Elevate was a character-shifting period, and my prayer was clearly answered.

Over the winter and spring months, I projected forward into the future to imagine what the summer might hold for me. Now, that future is my past.

Of course, all this is obvious — it’s just the way life works.

But, it’s interesting to be aware of time. It brings a certain appreciation to your present. It makes a moment so much sweeter when you can remember looking forward to it for so long.

Currently, I’m helping plant a church in Ellensburg, Washington on the campus of Central Washington University. It’s so easy to take this time for granted, and it’s helpful to remember all the times that I talked, prayed, and casted vision with people for the very moments that I’m living in right now.

The first "Resonate CWU" interest meeting. The beginning of the movement.

The first “Resonate CWU” interest meeting. The beginning of a movement.

The launch service, the first week of villages, meeting people who will eventually become some of our closest friends — these are all moments that we looked forward to as we prepared to move out here, and these are things that should overjoy us, not things that we should just view as yet another step in the evolution of the church.

As we move forward, please be praying that my team and I would all have a full appreciation for each moment as we come across it.

Until next time — grace and peace.

Beyond All Expectations


Six months ago, 14 students went with Jacob, Jessica, and Luis over spring break as they led a mission trip to Ellensburg, WA. We conversed with students on campus, explored the surrounding area, and prayed for the community that was there and the community that was to come.

Six months ago, none of us expected what happened last night.

In the spring, we discussed closing off parts of the 320-seat auditorium so that it wouldn’t seem so “open” and “empty” when 150 students (an optimistic estimate for a new church plant) showed up for the first service. College students wouldn’t want to go back to a church that feels cavernous in comparison to the amount of people there. We also brought up the possibility of focusing on building a community through villages (our small groups) and launching our first official church service later on in the fall or winter.

We went back to the Palouse after that week and started praying for the upcoming year and envisioning what it would look like for everyone.

In May, several members from our team moved to Ellensburg and started establishing connections with students and faculty on staff at Central Washington University. The first Sunday in June, they held a preview service and invited everyone they’d met. When Keith saw that 80 students showed up to support Resonate Church after being on campus for only four weeks, it was quickly decided: we would be launching the first Sunday of the quarter.

Our team kept pursuing students relentlessly, spending long hours on campus handing out candy and flyers, throwing the biggest parties in town (getting a $513 ticket for being too loud, in the process), and praying that people would actually show up on Sunday, September 28th.

Last night, it all paid off bigger than we planned.

We got there to set up all of our equipment three hours early, at 3 PM. By 5:00, we were done putting everything together, so we gathered together as a team and prayed — the calm before the storm. Matt Lyon, one of the students who transferred to Central Washington University for the sake of planting a church here, prayed that “there would be so many people that show up, that the auditorium couldn’t hold them all. That there would be people sitting in the aisles because this community’s hunger for God is greater than 320 seats.”

Sure, Matt. I envy your conviction and your faith in big prayers, but I’m also a fan of not setting your expectations too high, because that’s when you get disappointed. I was just hoping it wouldn’t feel too empty in there.

At about 5:30, a steady trickle of people started showing up. Great, we weren’t complete failures. There would actually be people there!

At 5:45, that trickle had turned into a rushing stream. People were coming up the stairs in droves, 20 or 30 people at a time. This place was actually going to feel pretty full!

At 6:00, we opened the doors, and the floodgates were released. High-fives, handshakes, and hugs filled the entrance as person after person after person walked through the double-doors into the theater.

At 6:05, I looked into the theater and started going to all our friends who had come from Pullman to support us.

“Make sure you all go in last. We actually might run out of seats, and we want the Central students to be the ones who are able to sit down.”

Six months ago, none of us expected this:


Not one empty seat in the house. We had about 30 people – mostly those from Pullman – standing in the back or sitting in the aisles. The final count tallied 387 people there, and roughly 300 of those were Central students. It was wild.

I’ve been going to churches my whole life. I’ve been to small churches, mid-size churches, and huge churches.

But I’ve never been to a church that was louder than last night. That was more excited than last night. That was more ALIVE than last night.

God had done the impossible. He took a group of normal people, and did something very abnormal. Launching a church with 387 people on a college campus rife with an apathetic, sex-crazed, partying culture isn’t supposed to happen.

History would have told us to wait and slowly build our community as we ease into a church plant.

History would have told us that college students are a lost cause. That hardly any of them would actually choose to go to church if their parents aren’t there.

But His story told us different.

His story told us that all things are possible through Him, and that all we needed to do was trust that He would show up and provide.

Lots of things are changing right now. My responsibilities are changing — going from primarily a college student to primarily a church planter. The venue is changing — we’re moving from the SURC theater that seats 320 to Hertz Hall, which seats 500.

Last but not least, the culture is about to start changing at Central Washington University. Students are about to have their lives wrecked by the best possible things that could happen to them. They’re about to experience the hope, love, joy, peace, and grace that comes from having a relationship with their Creator.

We’re certainly on an adventure over here in Ellensburg, WA, and no one knows what to expect next, but we’re eager to find out.

See you next week in Hertz Hall, CWU.


The Whirlwind

I’ve been in Ellensburg for under 72 hours, and I’ve already spent the night on a friend’s couch, watched a movie past midnight with a group of people – twice – and had way too much popcorn, helped hoards of freshmen move into their dorms, and ate, played Spikeball, and hung up a hammock in a tree on campus during a University-wide barbecue.


I think “whirlwind” properly sums up how it’s felt these past three days, but that’s why I moved here and I’m ready for more times just like this throughout the year!


Unfortunately, freshmen move-in didn’t go exactly how we’d hoped. We viewed it as more than just an opportunity to be able to serve new students and their families, but also to connect with freshmen and invite them into a supportive community before the pervasive party culture surrounds them.


In theory, it’s great, but it didn’t really pan out in practice. There were hundreds of people running around like crazy, a ton of other volunteers carrying stuff from cars to rooms, and parents saying goodbye to their child for the first time.


It didn’t create an environment to actually talk and hang out with students in the midst of all the chaos, so there weren’t very many connections made.


Lucky for us – on more than one level – there was a free barbecue for everyone after move-in was done. It was there that we were able to meet people and actually have conversations with them. After sitting on the grass and waving away bees for an hour, it was decided that it was a perfect time to go run and grab the Spikeball net from Jacob and Jessica’s house.


It was an immediate hit as a few other people joined in to play, and many more people looked on with a curious look on their face. If it weren’t for a mandatory new student orientation event that evening, we probably could have played and met people there for a couple more hours.


As I write this, I’m realizing that pursuing conversations with people is great, but it’s much more effective to attract others to you by doing something out of the ordinary. By hanging up a hammock in the tree, it caused everyone in the courtyard to look at us and what we’re doing, even prompting a girl just walking by to climb up and lay down in it for a little while. By playing Spikeball – something that’s completely foreign to the majority of people – it draws attention and people naturally want to learn the rules and see if they can play.

As a collegiate church, doing something that no one else is doing will cause people to notice you, watch you, and ultimately join you. This is true for hammocks, Spikeball, and lifestyles. As Christians, we’re called to live a life that’s much different than the cultural norm, and people should notice. In ministry, we need to constantly be asking ourselves, “Am I living in such a way that gets people’s attention and draws them in, or am I keeping my faith private so that people have to actually ask me to find out what I believe?”

A Battle Before It Begins

I follow 343 people on Instagram.


Of those 343 , I’d give a quick estimate that half of them live in either Pullman or Moscow, and many of them are very proud of their university and the city they live in, which prompts them to post a lot of pictures. Normally, I love seeing what’s going on in their lives and being a part of the things they’re up to.


But this week is hard.


This past Saturday was Freshman Move-In day for the dorms at WSU, and this whole coming week is dubbed “Week of Welcome” by the university.


So why is this hard for me?


Well, last year at this time, I was a wide-eyed transfer student, soaking in my new life as a student at Washington State University. I was on cloud nine.


This year, it’s different.


This year, I’m spending WSU’s Week of Welcome at home in Vancouver as I await Central Washington University’s start date.


Like any 19 year-old kid (young man?…nahhh) I’m on social media for – admittedly – a gross amount of time every day, so I see all these pictures, tweets, and Facebook posts about what some of my closest friends are doing in the town I fell in love with over the past year.


Like I said, it’s hard.


Over the past 54 weeks, I spent 45 of them living in deep community with these people that had such a profound impact on my life. Now, I’ve been ripped away from it and I’m forced to watch it develop from the outside as they throw dance parties, invite freshmen to join our crazy, Jesus-loving community, and spreading love by offering snowcones to everyone walking by.


I know that I’ll be doing all that and more over this next year in Ellensburg, but it still takes its toll to see what I’m missing out on right now.


Resonate is a disciple-making, multiplication-seeking, sending-focused church. And that means you don’t stay with those people forever. It’s the nature of what God calls us to. In Matthew 28, Jesus tells us to “GO,” and He doesn’t promise that it will be easy. There’s no guarantee of comfort or security in the great commission.


But it IS necessary. It IS a command. And it IS worth it.


Be praying for me over this coming week that I’ll have peace of mind, knowing that this experience is one that will produce a stronger desire to see the Hope of all hopes spread throughout the Central Washington campus like a wildfire.

I’ll update you all soon!

The Beginning

I went to my bedroom on the night of November 17, 2013 with every intention of simply going to sleep like any other night. Instead, I changed, turned off the light, and then…just sat there.


For an hour and a half.


Just me and my thoughts.


That one night radically altered the trajectory of my future, and now I’m transferring from Washington State University to Central Washington University because of it. Now let’s rewind a little ways and see why that night was so impactful…


I came to WSU in the fall of 2013 with the vision that it would provide me with a more memorable college experience than I had been getting from its satellite campus, WSU-Vancouver, over the previous year. The Vancouver campus is a commuter school, which means that people drive up there, go to class, and then go home. I yearned for more interaction and close relationships than it could offer me, and felt that, frankly, I was wasting my college years.


This prompted me to move to Pullman, WA to seek memories, stories, and connections over the next three years. Little did I know that I would certainly get those things, but in a very different way than what I was expecting.


I arrived on August 4th, and God immediately started working in my heart and hasn’t stopped ever since. He surrounded me with a community of people my age who were on fire for Jesus, and I started viewing my life in a completely different way. My relationship with God started to become paramount to any urges I might have to party, to seek attention from girls, or to pursue a career just for the sake of making as much money as possible.


That’s certainly not to say those things weren’t temptations. More than ever, they were. But God put such a strong community into my life that was willing to keep me accountable and offer encouragement every single day.


As I went about my new life in Pullman, I would hear some people talk about planting a church in Ellensburg every now and then. It was one of those things that always struck me as cool for other people to do, but I never considered it an option for myself and would quickly dismiss any notion that I might transfer schools to be a part of it.


So, what happened on November 17th?


It really was just like any other Sunday: I came in the morning to help set up our equipment in Todd Auditorium, sat there during the service, helped put the equipment back, went to lunch with some of the setup team, and then hung out for the rest of the day doing homework (…okay, maybe I didn’t do any homework. Don’t tell Mom). Nothing out of the ordinary happened.


But then, like I mentioned, I started the process of hitting the hay. I sat down in my room to relax for a few minutes before climbing into bed, but my mind had other ideas. For the next hour and a half, I started envisioning what it would look like for me to be a part of the team that would move to Ellensburg. I thought about all the possibilities, all the people I could have an impact on, all the ways that I could help Resonate as they plant their first church outside the Palouse.


I finally got to sleep that night, but over the next couple of days I just couldn’t shake the thought of me transferring to CWU. I didn’t have a “snapping point,” but I slowly developed from thinking “this is something that intrigues me,” to thinking “I’ve never felt called by God to do something before…but I think this is what it feels like.”


When I started to begin the process of reconciling with myself that this was actually a possibility for my life, it was one of the scariest, most invigorating, and confusing times I’ve been through.


“How am I going to afford it?”


“Who cares, this is gonna be so amazing!”


“But, WHY do I even want to do this?”


The vision I had for my college experience was being swiftly shoved into a closet and replaced with a greater vision for these next two or three years of my life. And – slowly – that started to become okay with me.


After all, isn’t that what the Great Commission is all about? Matthew 28:19 — “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations [and universities], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”


As a follower of Jesus, I have a desire to make His name known among people who don’t have a hope in the greatest of all hopes, and I believe that I can do that most effectively among college students. If that requires me to lay down my vision for my life for a much, much greater vision, then bring it on.


Do I ever feel sad that I’m not returning to Pullman next year? Yes. Sometimes the thought makes me nearly nauseous and my knees get a little weak.


Do I feel prepared to go to help plant a church when I still lead a broken life that needs His grace everyday? Not at all. But if we wait to spread the gospel until we are perfect, there will never be an utterance of His name.

Am I scared of this next year? You bet. It’s gonna be intense. But through it all, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is the right decision for me and for His Kingdom.