This question has been posed to me more times than I can count! Just about every time I talk about church planting in Seattle this question comes up – Why Seattle? Some people ask as if to say “Really Jon? Why are you going so far away?” I would admit, sometimes I feel like I am preparing to leave the country, since it is so far away and vastly different from the southern culture I am accustomed to. Probably most people ask simply because they want to know how we came to the decision to plant a church in Seattle. I want to give you three reasons why we are going to give our lives to church planting in Seattle. I have labeled these reasons in this way: 1) a theological reason, 2) a practical reason, and 3) a strategical reason.
A Theological Reason – An Unshakable Desire
In Psalm 37:4, the psalmist David teaches us that when one delights himself in the Lord, the Lord will give him the desires of his heart. The reason for this of course that a man who delights in the Lord is not going to be driven by selfish desires, but rather is going to have a heart that is in sync with the Lord himself. God grants him his desires because they have been given to him by God. Learning this truth is so key in discovering the will of God for our lives. There wasn’t a Bible verse that said, “Separate unto me, Jon and Bethany for the work of the ministry in Seattle.” Nor did I pray and hear some audible voice from heaven that said, “Hey Jon, I want you to plant a church in Seattle.” But as I spent time delighting in my God, he began to give me a distinct desire for it! It began with a desire to plant a church. It was shortly after that that the desire became more specific to plant churches in a city area. Then over time a desire to plant churches in Seattle became more and more strong. Now admittedly, I can tend to get a burden anywhere there is a need, so how do I know that this is really God leading me? Do I uproot my family and travel 2,739 miles all based on a desire?
One of my mentors gave this bit of advice that has proven to be true. He said that you can tell the difference between a burden and a calling in this way – burdens come and go, but a calling is persistent. So I began to ask myself is Seattle simply a burden or is it the calling of God? After a survey trip to Seattle, our emotions were at an all-time high. We wanted to start planting right away! But I told Bethany that we needed to pray at least three months before we made any decision. When we got to the end of the three months, our desire for church planting in Seattle had not diminished, yet we still decided to pray for a couple more months before making the final decision. During this time, we had two churches that had asked us to consider being their pastor. Both churches were offering a full-time position; honestly, it seemed like an open door and it was certainly an attractive proposal. Though I was honored to be asked, and the opportunity to pastor was tempting, Bethany and I couldn’t shake our desire for church planting in Seattle. It began to more evident that this was not a fleeting burden, but the calling of God. So why church plant in Seattle? Because God has given us an unshakable desire for it.
A Practical Reason – An Unmistakeable Need
There are needs for church planting everywhere, but there are areas that are excessively barren when it comes to Bible-preaching, gospel-centered churches. Seattle, according to a survey done by Barna, was in the top ten of the most post-Christian cities in America in 2017. Why Seattle? Because there is genuinely and unmistakably a need for a church planting movement in this city.
A Strategical Reason – A Remarkable Opportunity
Cities are the pace setters for our culture. With the combination of density, diversity, and the abundance of communication, urban areas are perfect for developing and shaping culture. Tim Keller, the former urban Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York has written much about culture and the city. In an article, A Theology of Cities, Keller simply states, “Reach the city to reach the culture.” He goes on to say that we cannot over emphasize the important of reaching cities in order to transform the world and fulfill the great commission.
Not only do we envision seeing Seattle transformed by the power of the gospel, but we see from this city an opportunity to mobilize the gospel around the world. Seattle is the most literate, and one of the most educated cities in the United States. Seattle is known for its technological advancement and innovation. It is the home to several Fortune 500 companies such as Amazon, Starbuck, Nordstrom, Weyerhaeuser, Costco Wholesale, Expeditors International, Expedia, and Microsoft. The resources of this city are remarkable. Could you imagine the result of these resources being used for Christ and the furtherance of His kingdom? I can and I do. Oh! I dream of a movement of the Gospel in and through this city that shakes the world and brings the glory of God to all nations in our generation. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t pray “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” in regard to this city. We are asking the Lord to shine his face upon us that his way will be known in Seattle (Psalm 67:1-2), and the rest of the world, in our generation!