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.”
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.