I always knew that I would plant a church. It was not a matter of if, it was a matter of when. Everytime I thought about it, I figured it would probably be ten years away. All that began to change at the end of 2018.
Earlier in the year, I felt the Lord leading me to finish my bachelor’s degree. I’ll be completely honest, it was not something that I was excited about. I literally waited until the week before Fall 2018 classes began to register. I’ve always loved to learn and am a voracious reader, but have struggled with the constraints of a formal education. Yet, my decision to follow the leading of the Lord has led me down a path that was completely unexpected.
As I began to work through my classes, the Lord began speaking through the course material about church planting. It began to seem like something that was more real and a lot closer than I had ever expected. Instead of thinking about church planting as something that would happen in ten years, I began to consider it happening in the next couple of years based on how the Lord was leading.
Where To Go?
In October/November 2019, my wife Brooke and I decided to buy a house! At the time, we were renting an apartment in Carrollton, Texas where Brooke worked. We got a killer discount and knew that it was only temporary.
We began talking with our real estate agent about where in Denton we wanted to purchase a house and ended up touring three others within the next week. The home we ended up purchasing is in a fast growing area in town that is full of shopping, dining, and entertainment options that have all been added within the last few years.
We closed on our house mid-December and moved in after doing a little painting. That week was when our timeline for church planting really began to change. I began reading two books that struck me deeply The first was Richard Heitzenrater’s excellent book, Wesley and the People Called Methodists, and the second was Francis Chan’s book, Letters to the Church.
I wrote the following after reading through both books:
“Can the church be reformed from within? Our chief end cannot be numbers! We must produce quality disciples who spread the gospel of Jesus, root out sin in their lives, and are fully devoted to God. I feel God calling me to pursue this.”
This struck me so heavily that I took the next day to pray and fast as I sought the Lord for direction as I began to feel the weighty call of planting a church much sooner than expected. I began sketching out a model influenced by both John Wesley’s structure in the early days of methodism as well as a church in Houston called Church Project.
Over the next month, I was struck by what I felt the Lord calling me to do, but was still wrestling with the timing and the place. I knew that the Lord had birthed a vision in me, but I wasn’t exactly sure when and where that would happen.
In January 2019 is when I felt the Lord reveal that the reason we had moved back to Denton and that the reason we had purchased a house where we did was because he was calling us to plant a church in North Denton. So, I did what any faith-filled person would do… I started to do research on all the reasons we shouldn’t plant a church in Denton.
As a data nerd, one of the first things that I did in my research was to find as much data as possible. What I found, was actually pretty shocking to me. The first piece of data that I came across was how much Denton had grown. In less than two decades, the population increased by about 70% from 80,537 in 2000 to over 136,000 in 2017. On average, our city added a net increase of 3,278 people per year in population.
While this was certainly compelling, it wasn’t enough to convince me that the Lord knew more than me. I began trying to uncover data related to the number of churches in town. As someone living in the Bible belt, there are seemingly innumerable churches all around. I was sure that I was going to find data showing that there are already enough churches in Denton.
Yet, what I found was that Denton ranks number 3,042 out of 3,143 counties/parishes in the United States for lowest ratios of churches to people. In other words, about 97% of all counties in the United States had a higher ratio than Denton.
Denton County averages 7 churches per 10,000 people, a statistic it shares with Providence, Rhode Island and Baltimore, Maryland. Interesting to note, Denton County does rank as one of the top 100 counties with most churches, which gives the perception of effectiveness, but is also one of the 50 largest counties by population.
Armed with this data, I recognized that the Lord did indeed know more than I did. By the end of January, I was 100% confident that God was calling us to plant in Denton and a sense that it would be within the next 18 months.
The next month and a half was spent having a lot of conversations with Brooke about what it would look like to church plant and praying through the nuts and bolts. In late February/early March we began to tell others about what the Lord was revealing and were very encouraged by the response. We were dreading a few conversations, but in every conversation we felt affirmed and encouraged in this calling.
On Easter, we publicly announced that we were planting City Church in Denton, Texas in early 2020.
Advice For Others
This is my story of sensing and confirming the Lord’s call to church planting. As I have read countless others stories, I recognize that most are different. You may be sensing the Lord’s calling and approach it completely differently than I did.
My biggest piece of advice is this: take it slow. It can be easy to want to run as fast as possible once you’ve sensed something from the Lord, but there is wisdom in going slowly and ensuring that what you are sensing is indeed from the Lord. God was faithful as we sought him to confirm what we were sensing.
Also, if there’s another piece of advice I could give it’s this: your calling doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. We’re planting a church in a way that is different than the way most are planted. We’re intentionally continuing to work full-time jobs. We’re not planning on a big initial launch. We’re not raising a huge launch budget. We’re simply following the Lord and allowing him to direct our steps. Consulting outside resources is great and I highly recommend it, but don’t get too caught up in how everyone else is doing something so much that you listen to their advice more than what the Lord is calling YOU to do. Only you can answer the question of, “Am I called to plant a church?”
If you have any questions/comments/prayer requests, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, if you’re interested in learning more about our church plant, head over to citychurchdenton.com.
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