You can’t miss a guy like Joel.
Tall and gregarious, he’s the type of person who stands out in a crowd. This makes Joel’s journey towards church planting ironic, because for Joel that was the last thing he wanted to do—stand out at church.
In 2011, he was a single guy attending a local megachurch. The vastness and vagueness of connection afforded him the luxury of anonymity; community without commitment. It was nice. So when his friend, Brian, told him he was thinking about planting a church, Joel didn’t like it one bit. He didn’t like it, because he couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Joel had no desire to be a part of a church plant. He had no dream of working or serving in ministry. He was just a guy going to church who loved God. And yet, the internal nagging wouldn’t let up. He kept thinking about that conversation over and over. At one point, Joel even wrote a check to help the church get started in hopes to alleviate some of the guilt he felt, but it sat sideways in his heart. So he tore it up.
A couple of months went by and he withstood what he described as “Holy Spirit torment”. One day, Joel was driving to the gym and he reached his breaking point. Crying out to God he prayed, “If you want me to be a part of this Reach thing, then either You or Brian will have to verbally tell me.”
Moments later, Joel walked up onto the treadmill and the phone rang. Brian was on the other line. “We can talk about this later, but for whatever reason you came to mind and I think that you need to be a part of Reach.”
Joel has been at Reach ever since.
Since that phone call Joel’s life has changed a lot.
He married his beautiful wife, Lindsey, who was also a Reach church planter, and they now have a baby. In the short span of their time at Reach, they’ve undergone several life changes. From singleness to newlyweds to parenthood, Joel and Lindsey have experienced the gamut of personal growth under the umbrella of being “church planters”. So when they were asked what is was like to plant a church, they felt honored to share what a blessing it has been.
Where were you in your life when you first started attending Reach?
Joel: I was just another church goer in the multitude of the congregation. I felt like a consumer and didn’t really feel the need to be connected. I thought it was interesting that I felt like I was being led to church plant, because I really had no desire to be a part of one. I knew that being a part of a church plant meant not being able to blend in with the crowd anymore and that I would have to be intentional with a new group of people.
Lindsey: Joel and I had been dating less than a year when Reach was planted. At that time, I was a somewhat passive attender at another local church, but still in no rush to pick up and follow a guy to his church just because we were dating. I went with Joel to a very early service just to visit. When I walked in, people from two or three significant phases of my life were there. I kept turning around and seeing another face that had shown me Jesus at one time or another. I had this immediate feeling that Reach was my next church home, whatever that ended up looking like.
What was the most noticeable difference being a part of a church plant?
Joel: There is something special about a church plant and being one of only 25 people. It forces you to be real and vulnerable. Doing life with those people is raw and beautiful. The bonds that are formed are life giving and hopefully, life lasting. That is something that I had never experienced before.
Lindsey: There’s no hiding in a church plant. People see you, and you feel known. Once your giftings are discovered, you are called to use them. And I’ll say this: being asked to serve doesn't feel like an obligation at all, it feels more like you've found your place. Also, if you want to see the hands and feet of Jesus pound the pavement in our community? Join a Group. I have never seen a small group of people mobilize to serve both within and outside like I have witnessed within our Group. And I know this is replicated among the other Groups at Reach, because of the way Reach fosters the importance of being the church beyond Sundays. I’ve seen it lived out with compassion, sacrifice, encouragement and tangible support.
How did you serve in the church plant early on?
Joel: I have been serving since the very first “preview service”. The night before, I had completed a 72-mile benefit hike from Stevens Pass to Snoqualmie Pass. As I pulled into my driveway at 1 a.m., I got a text saying, “I need you to show up at 7:30 a.m. to help set-up...there will be donuts.” I have been serving ever since. The first couple of years, a number of incredible guys and I got the privilege of setting up almost every Sunday. I say privilege, because even though sometimes it was difficult to show up at that early, we all believed and felt that we were a part of something special; part of something bigger than ourselves.
Lindsey: I hopped on the Gathering Team early on, as I always lean towards hospitality. That role is always a joy. I have also been involved in serving opportunities that were not quite as “easy” of a yes. I was never more nervous than co-leading one of the women’s Bible study groups. My insecurities and reservations almost prompted a big fat, no. But the Holy Spirit guided me to a yes. Was I still nervous every week? Yes! Did the Lord use this time to challenge and grow me and build my confidence in my ability to serve in that role? Yes!
Did either of you have any reservations about being a part of the church plant?
Joel: I had the benefit of knowing Brian for a number of years before the church was planted. So I had complete faith in him, Josh, and the other leaders to make it work. The only reservation I really had was that I would have to step out of my comfort zone. There is something a little uneasy about stepping out and doing life with a completely new community.
Lindsey: I honestly did not. I just sort of came and fell into it. If anything, it felt like, “Oh! Now this is what the Church is supposed to be.
You have a unique story within the Reach story: singles, dating, married, parents. This means you've experienced quite the emotional spread in the short lifespan of Reach.
How has the church played a role in those important phases?
Lindsey: As a dating couple, it brought us back into the fold of a true church community before getting married. This was key, because we each needed to be refreshed and refined in our faith individually–though that never ends, does it? As marrieds, we have experienced a support network to celebrate and laugh with, mourn and cry with. We were prayed with and prayed for when we didn’t have the words and challenged to serve our spouses better. As parents, having this network of other moms and dads who have come before you is absolutely incredible. We have gleaned so much from the trailblazers before us.
But whatever the season, our Reach family has been a steady presence of support, prayer, friendship and pointing us to Jesus. This church will always meet you where you are without judgment. Just as the Lord always meets us where we are. How freeing is that?
Why should someone who is considering being a part of the Reach Everett church plant jump in with both feet?
Joel: I would encourage anyone to explore the idea of joining the new plant. It is an incredible opportunity to get in at the ground level and get a glimpse of what the church was like in Acts. I have never cried so much and yet I have never laughed as much as I have as a church planter. It is not easy. It will stretch you. It will leave you vulnerable. It will keep you accountable. But if you decide to step out of your comfort zone, I firmly believe that you will grow time and time again. The Lord will meet you where you are.
Lindsey and I are so thankful that we said “yes” when that opportunity presented itself. I hope others will take that same leap of faith. And when they do, I trust that they will find the same community and joy that we did.