Shortly after we accepted the call to plant a church, I came across a study the Barna Group had recently released called "The Most Post-Christian Cities in America: 2019". As I skimmed the list, I was brokenhearted to find Des Moines at number 26, putting it higher on the list than several other cities including Chicago, Portland, L.A., Las Vegas, and more.
The study went on to reveal a number of other distressful statistics: 48% of the population can identify as post-Christian; 77% haven't read the Bibe in the last week; 55% haven't attended a church within the last six months; 37% haven't prayed to God in the last seven days; 33% disagree that faith is important to life; and 49% have never made any kind of commitment to Jesus! Nearly half of the population of the Des Moines metro are living life outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ. In other words, Des Moines, IA is in desperate need of more churches!
Another reason I believe God has placed such a heavy burden on my heart for the Des Moines area is because it is a place I consider home. I was raised in a north suburb of the city in a Christian home by parents who love Jesus. My father has pastored a church body there for nearly 30 years. Through his example of faithful sacrificial leadership, I have seen and learned first-hand of the difficulties involved in ministering to this area. For me, planting a church in Des Moines has led me to empathize with Nehemiah's story from the Old Testament like never before.
While Nehemiah served as a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, he received news that the walls of Jerusalem were lying in desolation.
This news left him with such grief that in the presence of the foreign king he said,"Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruin, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?" (Neh. 2:3) To be clear, Des Moines isn't lying in ruin. In fact, it has
an affluent metropolitan area with rather high median household incomes.
In 2010, Forbes ranked the Des Moines metro area first on its list of "Best Places for Business and Careers" based on factors such as the cost of doing business, cost of living, educational attainment, and crime rate.
The majority of people are not "down-and-out" nearly as much as they are "up-and-out". "Up" in nearly every material way imaginable, but "out" in the only thing that truly matters: Jesus.
Knowing that the spiritual climate of Des Moines will not be changed with only one church, God has cast before us a future picture of what central Iowa could look like someday by what we are calling the 2020 Vision, which is to see 20 churches planted in and around the Des Moines area and beyond in 20 years starting in 2020. When my wife and I stepped into God's call to plant a church, we thought that's all it was, to go and plant "a" church, which would have absolutely been challenging enough.
However, it turns out God is actually calling us to plant churches. Although to some this would sound crazy, to others maybe even impossible, I
believe, as someone once told me, that if your vision does not overwhelm or terrify you, and you are confident that you will be able to accomplish it by your own skill, then the vision you have may not be a vision from the Lord.
Therefore, we stepped into this vision to plant 20 churches in 20 years a few months ago and have not looked back. God has time and time again continued to bless and provide all that we continue to ask for and more. He has surrounded us with four families who are committed to uprooting their lives in southern Indiana to transplant to Des Moines to help be a part of bringing this vision to fruition.
He has connected us with other area
church plants and long-standing church bodies for support and partnership. And he has continued to set divine appointments for us with individuals who don't know Jesus.
In the short time we've actually been able to be in the Des Moines area, we've met Danyielle, a 27-year-old single woman who serves as a notary at a local bank who has only ever been to a church three times in her entire life and who has been thinking
about getting involved in a church for no other reason than she's just interested in volunteering in some way.
We've met Dawn, a woman in her mid-50's who has struggled with addiction her whole life, was widowed when her husband lost his fight with cancer a few years back, and who can't explain where she's at in life with any other words than to say, "I'm searching for something."
We've met Chari, a 23-year-old African American female who has never stepped foot inside a church, has been an alcoholic since age 14, was sexually and emotionally abused by extended family, lost her father
to drugs at an early age, and whose mother wanted nothing to do with her until she learned of the tax benefits she would receive from claiming her as a dependent.
In other words, there are hundreds of
thousands of people in the Des Moines area of various ages, races, and social statuses who don't know Jesus! We know we are not the answer to the religious state of our city, nor are we the only ones called
to church planting there. The Holy Spirit has been at work in the hearts , minds, and neighborhoods of people in Des Moines long before He called us to it. However, in His grace and mercy He has invited us to join His mission of getting the people of Des Moines into heaven by getting heaven into the people of Des Moines.