Anniversary Highlight: Restore Community Church
You plant a church because God calls you and places a burden on your heart. You begin to dream big dreams and craft a vision that people can rally around to make a difference in your community. You long to see lives changed and Jesus to be glorified. So, you work to recruit, fundraise, and cast vision. You pour yourself out into prayer and relationships, strategy and training, and obnoxious administration tasks all to plant a church. You roll the cases out of trailers before the sun has even risen. The work is hard but rewarding.
In January, Restore Community Church turned 5; that precious target…. Studies show, if you make it this far, you will continue to make it! That five-year journey is incredible. The things God does, the mountains that are climbed and the valleys braved. If you are preparing to plant a church, you can do your best to dream of a great story, but I can guarantee you that God can write a greater story for you and your church. Out of everything you can dream and plan for, your first five years probably look different than you thought they would. If you have been through the process, you know what they say about the best-laid plans. No matter what you do, the first 5 years are filled with blessings and challenges.
I have a confession, I am not the founding pastor of Restore Community Church. I started last summer. Things have been tough for this young church. Early in the life of the church, the school where we were meeting abruptly closed for remodeling over the summer. It meant moving service times and locations. It was tough. Some key families encountered difficult obstacles that weighed heavily on the church, some even leaving. We were never able to make it to two services and everyone was stretched; people started to experience burnout. Four years in and the church still lacked official elders. What in the world is God doing; this church had been so faithful and had such good leaders yet struggled so much.
In the midst of this, the church experienced mission creep. Most of the energy was poured into great ministries that blessed people all over our community and world but didn’t help new people become part of the church and disciples of Jesus. There is no doubt that the community was better off because of all of the time and energy that was poured into it, but the church probably wasn’t going to make it.
The founding Pastor felt like God was telling him to seek out his replacement, the church still had a purpose! Meanwhile, I had interviewed in Canada and 9 different states. As my wife and I prepared to fly to Marin County, CA for a dream job and a dream location, I was asked to grab a cup of coffee by the founding pastor. Restore wasn’t what we were looking for, but through several acts of providence, God made it clear my wife and I were supposed to be at Restore.
In July we took over leadership and began to ask, “What makes Restore the church that it is? Who are they and in the midst of all of these difficult obstacles, what carried the church through?” Of course, the simple answer is God, but what did He use to keep the church together and alive? What could we build upon to make disciples and see changed lives? The answer became clear, Restore was a family of believers. There were 4 key families that loved on the people around them. They built small groups and poured into each other. They became connected with each other yet were still welcoming and friendly. It wasn’t like one of those weird churches where you couldn’t get your foot in the door.
What we found were people committed to each other in Jesus. Each person was willing to be generous and give of themselves for the community and for others because they follow Jesus. Together, they were able to brave all the obstacles the world could throw at them from cancer, divorces, sickness, burnout, job transitions, location changes, and financial obstacles. This community, this family, had the foundation to become a lasting thriving church.
One year later, our attendance is higher post-COVID lockdowns (at least for us) than pre-COVID. Our mission is clear and reflects our identity. We have the right people in the right places moving in the right direction. Somehow, our income actually exceeds our expenses, perhaps for the first time in the history of the church. We believe the best is yet to come. People are inviting friends, tuning in online, walking the discipleship pathway, and we are scheduling our first Baptism Sunday in years.
I don’t know why God allowed all the trials and hardships this church has faced, but in the midst of them developed a deeply committed and accepting family. I could tell you the church is heading in the right direction because of flashy preaching, dynamic worship, great marketing, and awesome strategic planning; but that’s not what has helped Restore survive and move towards being a thriving life-giving church. No, its the people who have committed to each other in Jesus and continue to love each other through all circumstances. If you are going to plant a church, you need to build the right type of community that extends beyond the reach of the founding pastor to godly leaders who can invest in the lives of others. Restore celebrates 5 years and looks towards the future knowing God built a committed community in Jesus that will be disciples who make disciples.
Theo, Chelsea, and Micaiah (3) joined Restore in July of 2019. After serving the Omaha community for over ten years the Hudalla family began pursuing Lead Minister positions, interviewing in Canada and nine different states. Much to their surprise, they found Restore, ten minutes from their Omaha home! “It’s amazing to stay in the community we call home, that we love; we get to continue to make a difference in people’s lives and serve this community. #homaha”
While Chelsea, his wife, grew up in Omaha forming her own relationship with Jesus, Theo grew up moving all around the midwest living in towns as small as 19 people and as large as several million people. As a product of a broken home, he found himself in and out of jail and addicted to drugs, then someone introduced him to Jesus and it changed everything. He knew he had to help others come to know the same God who has saved him. Together, they love Jesus and His church and want to help people discover who Jesus is and what He means for their lives.