“A Journey Begins”
as told by Jason Allison, Senior Pastor
In September of 2004 God began quietly speaking to me during my prayer time. I was a teaching pastor at a very successful church in Mansfield, OH. We had grown from 30 people to 2000 in 10 years. I had been there the last 7 years serving on the Management Team. God began telling me that I needed to risk something, but He wouldn’t tell me what. To be honest, that really ticked me off! I’m a plan-it-out kind of guy. Unknown, risk, stepping out in faith…none of that really resonated with me. But God was making it clear that I needed to start preparing to risk something – I just didn’t know what.
Towards the end of 2004 I began sharing what God was telling me with a small group of guys I was discipling. That’s not actually a word, and actually all four of these guys were older than me, but it makes me feel better to say I was in charge. Really, God was in charge and I got play along. They began praying for me and with me. But none of us knew what God was trying to tell me…yet.
During this time I had taken a coaching role in a team of pastors within our denomination. Not my idea of fun, but the guys were nice and I got free meals out of it. The role of this team was to help churches in the area that might be struggling and determine where the next church plants should be. We identified 3 places where church plants could be viable: A Filipino group in Columbus, Ohio was looking for a leader to help them start a church, Wooster, Ohio was a possibility, and third, Delaware, Ohio seemed very promising. Delaware was only on the radar screen because my wife made me bring it up. Her sister had just moved there and we couldn’t find a church that was really reaching out to 20- & 30-somethings. I’m not saying they weren’t there, I’m just saying we couldn’t find them. So I did some research and found out that Delaware was the 8th fastest growing county IN THE NATION. That’s right, in the nation. Even if there were churches there, they weren’t going to be enough to handle the amazing growth.
So I told the team we should look at Delaware. Boy, was I smart (well, my wife was, I just took the credit). Soon we had hired a church planter from the Philippines to come and help start a church in Columbus. One of the churches near Wooster wanted to start a second campus and do a satellite venue, so Wooster was covered. That left Delaware. We couldn’t find a planter anywhere. We interviewed a couple of people but it wasn’t going to work out. It was during this process that God had started talking to me about risk. I was too dense to put 2 and 2 together.
Finally, in January of 2005, the team was sitting around talking about what this Delaware church planter should look like. The more we describe him, the more God was yelling in my chest, “I’m looking for you, Jonah!” I stayed silent. I went home, told my wife about the whole “God yelling at me” thing to which she responded, “I was thinking of us doing this when I first mentioned Delaware to you.”
She could’ve told me that.
I told her I would pray about it…in March. I literally wrote it in my day timer to pray about Delaware…in March. March came. I prayed about it. I honestly did not like the answer. God reminded me about the whole risk conversation and then pointed out that my current job had reached a point where it did not require any faith from me. I was working out of my own strength and doing just fine, thank you. It was time to step out of the boat (not to sound cliché). I mumbled some words that pastors aren’t supposed to say and resigned myself to think about it more and talk to a few close friends.
You guessed it. They confirmed God’s calling. In May I was traveling to a meeting with the pastor of the church I was serving. He asked me how the team of pastors was doing. I told him about the lack of a church planter in Delaware. He then asked me if I had ever considered that maybe God wanted me to plant that church. Once again, I said a couple of words that pastors aren’t supposed to say.
As we brainstormed together, Tim (my pastor) was extremely encouraging and anxious to help me discern God’s voice. He prayed for me and helped me go through the proper evaluations and channels. We brought the elders of the church on board and they also were encouraging and more than willing to ask the church to sacrifice to help get this new church going.
In September of 2005 – one year after God had started telling me to be prepared to risk – I announced to my church our intention to plant a new church in Delaware, Ohio. It was the most exciting yet saddest day in my ministry. I truly loved (and still love) the people of Crossroads Community Church in Mansfield, Ohio. They embraced me. They cried with me. They encouraged me. And they sacrificially gave to support me in this endeavor.
I am writing these words in August, 2006. Next month, I will celebrate 2 years since God began whispering scary words in my heart. Oh, and we will launch Terra Nova Community Church in Delaware, Ohio. We have gathered a launch team of close to 50 people – many of them driving down from Mansfield – to help get this dream from God started. Our journey is starting a new leg. If you have read this far, I hope you would consider joining us on the Journey.
Terra Nova – “new ground” for your spiritual journey.
“The Journey Continues”
Terra Nova has now celebrated her first “birthday” and is now meeting at 4277 Columbus Pike in a leased facility on 4 acres of land on the busiest road connecting Delaware and Columbus. It is December of 2007 and we have been meeting here for about 10 months.
How do you summarize in a couple of paragraphs over a year of history? You don’t! So let me just say that although I can’t argue with the fact that God is good, life is anything but a bed of roses. As a church, we are honestly doing really well. We are growing (close to 90 people show up every Sunday as of this writing). We are learning how to live out this “Revolution of Love” God has called us to lead. And we are learning more and more about ourselves every week.
Probably one of the most amazing things to happen this past year was God whispering in my ear again about risking and making a difference. Over the summer I sensed God was working to help us find a cause to take on. I had no idea what we could do (we are certainly not a mega-church with mega resources!). I drove by a Habitat for Humanity house and started thinking. I called Dustyn Vanzant (now an unpaid Youth Pastor who is helping us get a youth group going) and asked what he knew about Habitat. I asked him if he thought we could get a dozen or more churches together to build a house.
Wheels started turning, God started moving and the next thing I know I’m sitting in the Church Relations Committee meeting for the Delaware Habitat for Humanity. They shared with me their dream of getting a dozen churches together to do an “Apostle’s Build” in Delaware. They had been wanting to do this for some time but couldn’t find a person to lead the charge. I swallowed hard and prayed I wasn’t about to make the biggest mistake of my life.
I said that I would consider leading the charge in this.
Six months later, we have almost all 12 churches on board, we have a family selected and a lot to build on. We will break ground in April of ’08. I’ve never done this before (which is becoming a common theme in my life lately!) but I’m praying that God will lead me through this. Somehow, I’m now the pastor of that little church that is going to help all the churches in Delaware get together and build a house for a family that doesn’t necessarily go to church.
There are hundreds of other things I could tell you about in summing up this past year – growth, developing the Leadership Team, hiring a part-time children’s pastor, or struggling to renovate an old vacant building for our church gatherings. All of them come back to a common theme…somehow, things get done and God’s Kingdom keeps moving forward. And that’s really all that matters.
Each week we see new people come in and (hopefully) find new ground for their spiritual journey. I pray that we truly are becoming a healthy community of people who love God and love others.
“The Journey Continues”
In 2010 we moved into our current facility. The old building was packed and we could not grow any more there. It was quite amazing to see how God made things possible for us to move into this great facility.
Since then we have seen God continue to change lives and spread His message of hope and love through us.
We have partnered with Vision Trust International (www.visiontrust.org) as a ministry partner for a project in Comendador, Dominican Republic. Along with sponsoring the children at this school, we have sent a team to help with the facilities and worked with the leadership to begin building a long term strategic plan for the school and the church connected to it.
By moving to the new facility we were able to become a host church for Delaware Family Promise. This interfaith organization offers a program for homeless families in Delaware County. Once a quarter, the 2-3 families currently in the program (a family is usually in the program less than a month before they find a permanent home) stay at the church for a week. We provide dinner and breakfast as well as host families who stay in shifts from 5pm - 7:30am each night.
As we have worked to reach out to our community in physical ways, we continue to realize the overwhelming spiritual needs of those around us. God is love and we are working to share that love with everyone around us.
These past years of moving into our new facility and expanding our reach into the community have stretched us, but we continue to see God at work and rely on His provision and His strength.