Sunday morning, November 13th, Beth and I shared with our church how God has been working and calling us to pursue church planting in Salt Lake City. We praise God for the encouragement and support our church gave us afterward! Here's the letter I read that morning.
A little more than a year ago, God began to seriously push on my heart and Beth’s heart in the area of ministry direction. Questions like “what is our ministry going to look like in 10 or 15 years?” And “what did God uniquely wire me for in the ministry of the church?” began popping up when we thought about our family’s future. God was poking at our comfort zone and working on our heart’s about steps of faith. We sought to take some of those steps, and I put off the others for several months with the excuse that things were too good at Oak Ridge! I was too happy and satisfied here to make any kind of a move. It would be foolish to leave! I love it here… God has been answering prayers in the ministry here that we have been asking for since we came. Ministry doors have opened up that had only been dreams before! We have learned so much from the body of Oak Ridge Baptist and the Pastoral team, and we’ve so enjoyed it--a lot of days feel more like a hobby than a job!
The questions got louder and my burden for the cities of America grew. I have had a desire to church plant most of my saved life. Through college, it seemed like God was moving Beth and I to prepare to go into a city and plant a church. In fact, that was the direction we were heading until a year before graduation when God made it very clear that we were to come here. Over the last year, God seemed to be bringing up those passions for city church planting back to the surface in a way that we couldn’t ignore.
At the same time, God was also moving in three of my friend’s hearts in the same way. These friends have been serving in ministries as long as we have been here. They had been seeking to follow God as He seemed to be leading them towards a step of faith into church planting. We began to connect about what God was doing, and God ignited incredible unity of vision and mission in our hearts! The more we talked, the more we dreamed of taking what God had done in us over the last decade and sharing it with people who don’t have access to it.
About 3 weeks ago, we met in a city and prayed for a week to seek God’s will about our team and a city. Through prayer and fasting, God made it very clear that He was calling us to step out in faith together. We met with area pastors and church leaders. God used these times to confirm His will in me. Many of the men prayed back to us scriptures God had already been using in our hearts personally. My walk with the Lord has also been confirming in this. I have needed this time of prayer and seeking God. The more I’ve walked through this with God, the more I have known he has this for us. And God has used the counsel of family and the leadership here to confirm this in us. We were not seeking this out. I did not send out applications. I was not looking for a different ministry. I can only say that God grabbed me with this. I could not ignore it, and I feel at this point, this is not just a neat opportunity that I want to try. Beth and I must obey God in faith that he is moving us.
With an eye toward the future, we believe God would have us begin a church planting initiative in unreached cities of the US. The other team members are ordained ministers. Lukus Counterman is a senior pastor, Jonathan Albright is an assistant pastor and Will Galkin is an evangelist. We will all begin seeking support and moving as soon as we can secure funding.
As we surveyed the landscape of gospel luminance in America, God revealed a black hole in Utah. Salt Lake City is the most unchurced metropolitan area in the country. There are “foreign mission fields” that have more gospel light than Salt Lake City! The city has 1.4 million people and only 100 evangelical churches. That’s one church for every 10,000 people. On Sundays, less than 3% of the city attend any evangelical worship service. This is an issue of gospel luminance! There is no gospel light in several communities in Salt Lake City!
I know this is an odd time to share this with you all. It feels too early, because really nothing will happen visibly for several months. We will not be leaving any of our ministries in any capacity till next summer. We want to be here with you as long as possible! We want to transition our replacement. But, we do covet your prayers for us and with us! We covet your help in getting the gospel to Salt Lake City. And, due to the nature of planning and making things public, we must share this with you.
Honestly, I fear not being at Oak Ridge Baptist Church. God has been so kind to us through you all. I don’t have many memories of ministry (high school to today) that don’t include Pastor Tom and Kim. I was in His youth group, and we’ve been serving together for the last twelve years. In fact, I’ll never forget what he always said while I was in youth group, “It’s all about God.” “It’s always all about God.” At every turn, Pastor has served us, loved us and set us up to succeed. There is very little I do in my daily ministry that isn’t a reflection of His example. Pastor Bobby and Sarah have become such close friends. The team here is wonderful! We have loved every teen and family that God has allowed us to serve. We are also emotional over losing the daily connection to the body at Oak Ridge. You all are incredibly gracious. You’ve cried with us, sweat with us, laughed with us, worshipped with us and encouraged us. With all the questions in this move, one thing has been evident. This is “all about God.” It has to be. It would be foolish otherwise.
We are feeling the tug of intense excitement from God’s moving in us and the feeling of extreme sadness at the thought of leaving the family here. We love you all and truly only an act of God would separate us from this family. While we have had and will have many difficult emotions through this, we are intensely excited as we endeavor together with Oak Ridge Baptist to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.