Cincinnati, Ohio – specifically an area northeast of Cincinnati… Warren county.
Here’s how it all came about…
Pre-move to Georgia
- I sent out an e-mail to ten church planters asking them how they knew when it was time to plant and how they knew where to go. I talked with many of them and received wise counsel.
- Gary told me that he had written down ten cities, prayed over all of them, and visited seven of them.
- I came up with three: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and somewhere in North Carolina. My pick was North Carolina… I love the sun, the sweet tea, and the low taxes!
- I Read Bob’s blog (click here to read it) and a holy discontent began stirring with regards to location.
After moving to Georgia (August – September)
- I did a tremendous amount of research on Wake County North Carolina, but never felt it “click”.
- Had a conversation with Shawn about possible areas (Cincinnati, Wake County North Carolina). He talked to me about the value of being “first on the beach”. In other words, if possible, go to an area where what you’re doing will be unique. That resonated with me.
- One of my teammates (i.e. a person I’m going to plant this church with) asked me a question, (the following is a “cut and paste” from the e-mail sent to me) “Who do feel called to reach? I know the unchurched, unsaved, whatever you want to call, but any sense of what type of people? Who do you see this church connecting with? I guess am just realizing where I keep feeling pulled to…just wondering your thoughts and where you’re feeling a call…” I thought about this and called this individual back… “I most clearly identify with people who have lost hope, who are broken, discouraged, and empty. And then, by virtue of my own stage of life, I identify with and feel a strong pull towards young families.”
- I called my buddy, Dan (who lives in Cincinnati), and shared with him what I was beginning to feel… a stronger pull to the Cincinnati area. I asked if what we’re considering doing was happening as much in the Ohio area as it is in the south. He said, “No.” (I was standing in the ninety-degree sun while having this conversation… and I had goosebumps.)
- I sat down and began researching the Cincinnati area. As I read through the demographics, it occurred to me… “I fit here.” I realized that “I fit here better than in NC. I fit here socially, economically, age-wise, etc.”
- I shared with Shawn that I was really feeling a pull to Cincinnati. He pumped his hand in the air and said, “YES! Man, you fit there!” Dang…
- I came home and shared with Sherri what I was thinking. She COMPLETELY agreed! See, when we were first married… we lived in Cincinnati… and loved it. In fact, we can both recall saying, “It wouldn’t surprise us if someday we come back here and do ministry.” We know people there, we love the area, our favorite restaurant in the world is there, some of our best friends live there, and the list goes on. As we stood in the kitchen we both felt the peace of God settle in on our hearts and we knew… we knew that we are going to live and start a church in the Cincinnati, Ohio area.
- I called my buddy Dan and told him what we were thinking. We both cried… yes a fireman and a preacher cried. See, a few years ago Dan and I planned and were working towards doing ministry together, but it fell through right before it happened. Dan and I both struggled with disappointment and wondered why God would let something that seemed so right fall apart. Now, eight years later… we know. As we talked, again, it seemed that the Spirit of God was stirring in both of our hearts and we confirmed, together, the “rightness” of this call to Cincinnati.
- I was scheduled to go to Holly Springs, North Carolina, get a hotel, and spend a night and a day in the area just praying and listening to God. I was asking Him, “Is this the area.” Even after all of the above mentioned experiences, I was still going to go and check it out. But then I decided… I told Sherri, “Interest in any other place has died. I know where we’re supposed to be. I’m going to Cincinnati to walk, pray, and listen to God. Hearing Him in Cincinnati will be the final confirmation.”
- I called the two people I’m going to be planting this church with to tell them. One of them said, “I’ve not been convinced that NC was the place. I’ve been checking out some other areas in the Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia area… Cincinnati ‘clicks’ with me” (In case you didn’t make the connection, click on this link to view a map and see where Cincinnati is in regards to Kentucky, Tennessee). The other one said, “You’re not going to believe this… I’ve got a map of Ohio on my desk right now! You told me to study and pray over North Carolina, and I was, but I also picked up a map of Ohio and I’ve been praying over that too! And oh, by the way, my spouse’s best friend lives in Cincinnati!”
- Sherri and I laid in bed that night and celebrated the clarity and confidence that we feel in this decision.
- The next morning I got up and the first e-mail in my inbox was a note from a pastor… the lead pastor of a large, exciting, growing church! He has recently resigned from his church and felt that perhaps I would be a possible replacement. Dang… I am honored beyond belief, but not moved from my conviction that God has called us to start a new church… a church in the Cincinnati area.
- I made the trip to Cincinnati and spent a lot of time in Warren County. I drove around, talked to people, did demographic research, ate in various restaurants, walked in the park, researched the local churches, and listened for the quiet whisper of God.
- As I sat at this park asking God “Is this the place?” I knew that indeed it was. We are ready to plant and live the rest of our lives in the Cincinnati area.
- Since that point I have talked with various networks who are looking to support church planting in the Cincinnati area. I have talked with church planters and church planting experts who say that there is a need in the Cincinnati area for church plants. It seems as if all the post-decision information is confirming the decision that God led us to.
So there it is… we are planting in the Cincinnati, OH area.
Thank you to all of you who are praying and supporting us in this amazing venture! Now the journey really begins!