Advice to my 2019 Self
It’s December 2019 and you’re ready to start a new church…
Four Rivers Church held our first in-person service in Durham, New Hampshire on Sunday, June 13th with 65 people joining our 9AM service and 75 people at 6PM. Our startup team stepped in to take on roles they’d never done before and first-time greeters, worship leaders, children’s teachers and tech team hit home runs in each and every role. Every time I saw our team serving with the ease of a professional, I had to fight back tears. After our 6 PM service, as I turned off the lights and locked the door to head home, tears of gratitude came for a day that turned out better than anything I could have asked or imagined.
I haven’t always felt this confident through the Covid season. These 18 months have been both the worst (especially the early days of Covid) and the best. Looking back, this is the advice I’d send to my 2019 self, just as Covid appeared on the horizon:
Pay attention to what is really going on.
Stop and pray and listen until you are clear what is going on in you, in others and in your community. If you don’t know what God is doing in you, in others and in your community, wait until the Holy Spirit has spoken and you have clarity. It is an incredible privilege to lead Christ’s Church in this time and you must know how to hear God’s voice as you enter one of the most challenging seasons your generation has seen.
Don’t wait around for everyone to get on board or agree. Once you’ve heard God’s Voice and the vision is clear, begin. The team will join as you take steps to validate the vision and move ahead.
Ask your community to tell you the truth.
Ask your community about their hunger for Jesus and what barriers they face in seeking Jesus. They will tell you the truth. Ask God to connect you with people in your community that will tell you the unflinching truth about why they stopped seeking after Jesus. Their stories will break your heart and it will be painful. In fact, it would be so much easier to listen to opinions of other church leaders that have never talked to anyone in your community but resist that temptation. Your community can tell when Christ has birthed a vision in you that reflects their stories and God’s grace. They won’t listen to your vision until you’ve listened to them. Do the patient and hard work of listening. The best expert to help you understand your community is your community.
Try some small experiment that only requires a few hours or days and see what works. Don’t worry about “failing”. Covid has given permission to try almost anything and it has also opened people up to try new things so don’t waste this opportunity. 50% of what you try will work and 50% will be a waste of time – you won’t know which is which until you’ve run the experiment so get started and enjoy the process.
Plan two months out.
Uncertainty will rule the day so don’t try to plan too far ahead. Once God has given a clear vision, He will provide the money, leaders and opportunities when the time is right to take the next step. Learn to enjoy the surprise of how God provides.
You will love your team.
The birth of a church is a miracle and you will get to see Acts 2 unfold before you as Jesus’ impact washes over individuals and marriages and families. As you see these walking, talking miracles take place, your heart will hurt with how much you love the team Christ is building.
Your wife is amazing and so are your children.
Planting a church will be impossible without the incredible gifting of your wife. You already knew this. You knew victory was impossible without her but these 18 months will drive this truth to a depth you didn’t know existed. Also, seeing your kids discover and use their gifting will be incredible.
One church, multiple expressions.
It was October, 2019 when we began working full-time on Four Rivers with the intent to launch in October, 2020. Covid threw off our timeline but, now, we couldn’t imagine any other way of getting to this point. 2021 is our launch season as Four Rivers launches from online to in person. We are one church with multiple expressions meeting:
- In person 1x a month
- In neighborhoods where we live, work and play.
A big thanks to Stadia which has been an amazing partner, providing incredible support during this season which allowed us to take the risks we needed to in order to navigate Covid.
We hope you’ll come see us, either online or in-person! www.4riverschurch.org
Wes and Kasey Dillon are the co-leaders of Four Rivers Church and feel so fortunate to be starting a church in Durham, in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire. One hour north of Boston and home to the University of New Hampshire, the Dillon’s, along with their 3 children, have called this community home for the last 15 years. Wes is an ordained minister and spent 10 years in full-time ministry before spending the last 15 years working with Software and Technology startups. A native New Englander, Kasey is a professor in the Physician Assistant Program at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and also an Emergency Room Physicians Assistant at Wentworth Douglass hospital in Dover, NH.