One evening while driving home from the DOVE Leadership and Ministry School, my husband Todd said, “Maybe we might actually plant a church someday. I kind of feel like, maybe in Pottstown.”
“Pottstown!” I exploded. “I don’t even like Pottstown! If God wants me to move to Pottstown and plant a church, He’ll have to kill me and start over!”
As it turns out, God did have to “kill” some parts of me, the ones that were solely my flesh and needed to go in order for Him to bring new life. We now live in Pottstown. This year was the ninth anniversary of Koinonia House, the church we planted in Pottstown.
Todd and I had known early on in our marriage that we were called to ministry. Over the years, we served as youth leaders, led various Bible studies and even led a marriage ministry. In 1999, the clear call to church leadership was confirmed by our pastor, elders and mentors. But how? Did it mean schooling? Full time pastoring? What would be my role in ministry (as the church we were part of did not include women on the eldership team)?
We had more questions than answers, but we did have a definite sense that God was prompting us to press forward in seeking Him for direction. About this time, a friend shared a message that he had heard from a guest speaker named Larry Kreider. The theme of the message was “approaching the point of no return.” Larry used the analogy of an airplane on a runway, moving ahead and picking up speed, and eventually reaching a critical point where it must either take off or crash.
Both Todd and I sensed this analogy meant that we were to act on something. As a result of hearing Larry’s message, we checked out DOVE and found out about the DOVE Church Planting and Leadership School (now called the DOVE Leadership and Ministry School). Within a matter of weeks, and through a series of God-planned events, Todd enrolled. Since we had two small children and one on the way, I did not enroll but sat in to audit classes whenever my schedule allowed.
Initially our mindset was not at all to plant a church. Todd and I felt that we were attending the school more for the “leadership” part. We envisioned remaining comfortably in our local church where we had been for many years, and maybe taking on more responsibility there. We loved the people in our church family and were in no way looking to “jump ship,” which made Todd’s comment about church planting in Pottstown all the more shocking to me.
After Todd finished the classes at the DOVE school, we continued for a few more years of involvement with our church. At the same time, we were maintaining and growing connections within DOVE. Our sense of leadership not only grew, but also our clarity on what ministry could look like for us became clearer. We learned the importance of cell groups. All the while, we continued to share openly with the leaders at our church.
Eventually, we sensed that God was directing us to start something new. Our home congregation, our personal friends and mentors and DOVE leaders agreed and voiced confirmation. We were entirely blessed to have the affirmation of our current church leaders, who expressed that support not only to us but also publicly to the congregation. They even encouraged people who might be interested in joining us in this new venture to begin meeting with us for prayer on a weekly basis. For about six months, we had a small group of people gathering in our home for what started as a prayer meeting and later emerged as our church planting team. Not everyone who met with us to pray helped us to start Koinonia House. Some felt called to remain at the church from which we were sent out but still came often to pray with us and offer support.
In July 2005, our family and a team of thirteen adults and several children were commissioned to begin Koinonia House. Brian Sauder attended the commissioning to accept us into the DOVE family and as a DOVE church.
Our journey as a church has been a rocky one . . . certainly not the smooth “dream” venture we had initially hoped for. We have never had our own building and have moved our meeting location seven times in nine years. It’s become a bit of a joke among us. However, we’ve learned to be okay with the fact that things didn’t go quite according to “our” plan.
In hindsight, we can see how much work God needed to do in us in this time, and we are quite sure He’s still doing lots of teaching and renovation. We have had lots to learn, but one of the biggest lessons has been not to judge “success” by the world’s standards, but rather, by weighing if we are being faithful to what God has called us to do. The things He calls us to—even things that fall under the umbrella of church planting—may look vastly different from the vision and plans He gives another church planter. We’ve had to learn to stop looking at others to gauge if we are doing well. Constantly we need to remember to look to Him alone for the “well done.” Sometimes the things we want to do aren’t actually the things He is asking us to do.
One of the hardest lessons has probably been to let go of our expectations and lay down our own desires (or what we think they should be), and seek out the desires of His heart. Often, we have found, the things we thought we wanted, we are thankful we didn’t see come about . . . and we are incredibly blessed by embracing some things we thought that we would want nothing to do with. Along the course of our journey, for instance, there were two specific buildings we thought we should buy. At those times, we felt certain they would be perfect, only to discover in hindsight the properties either would quickly have been too small to accommodate our group or would have created major financial problems. We are thankful that God spared us from things we could not foresee.
There have also been dreams we were sure were God-given, and yet they seemed so impossible, we eventually just laid them down. When we started out, our “crazy” idea was to have church in a café as a “third place” where we could invite the community to come, hang out and find a safe and welcoming environment for both believers and non-believers. Years later, we are actually seeing some of this come about—not by our own doing but by God’s orchestration in ways we could never have imagined. Although this dream did not happen in the way or timing that we had expected, we are in awe of God’s better ways and better timing!
Even now, we are eagerly waiting to see what He will do next!
Read Chapter 10. This is our story here