Denver: Days 3-4

Our team is sitting in the Denver airport about to fly home, so I thought I’d take these few minutes to finish telling you about our vision trip to Denver, CO. Thank you so much for the prayers and encouragement via comments, Facebook, email, and text. They have been an invaluable part of the trip.

On day 3, we spent the morning with a precious family in the northern Front Range, who is a friend of one of our team members. They were so gracious. They prepared breakfast for us, mapped out a tour of the Fort Collins area, and took most of their morning to show us around. Thank you Matt and Becky!

In the Fort Collins area we found a culture that felt familiar to us North Raleighites, along with more affordable housing. We also drove by the newly constructed Mormon temple.

There seems to be a stronger church presence in Fort Collins than Denver, but there is still great need.

For example: the Alliance for Suicide Prevention of Lamier County states: “On average, one person in Larimer County [the county in which Fort Collins is located] dies from suicide every 4 to 5 days.” Our team talked about how hard this is for us to understand. Fort Collins is highly educated and affluent, offers almost unmatched opportunity for recreation, and has the Rocky Mountains for its backyard. Why then is there such depression and hopelessness?

I would never want to oversimplify a problem as big as this, but as believers we understand that beautiful landscapes were never meant to offer lasting peace. Their beauty is intended to cause humans to recognize the Creator and worship Him. No amount of knowledge, money, or fun will quench our spiritual thirst for love and joy. This is why a continued and ever-growing gospel witness through church-planting is so important.

We finished our morning tour with an even clearer vision of the need for church planting along the Front Range and with excitement about where God might call us. And since we weren’t able to secure any more meetings for Saturday afternoon/evening, we decided to head into Rocky Mountain National Park for some fun and to talk through all that we’d experienced over the previous 48 hours.

Once inside the park, it’s not hard to see why the mountains are such a draw. They are magnificent! God was just showing off when He formed those jagged peaks and crystal clear streams.

After our time in the park, we headed back down to the city of Denver. What a contrast! We transitioned from taking pictures of Elk (who couldn’t care less if we were around) to attempting to navigate the city’s public transportation system.

I’m really glad that we ended our exploration of the Front Range by spending Saturday night walking around the city. To me cities accentuate most vividly the brokenness caused by sin. How can a person who has limitless parties, partners, entertainment, food, and drink never find contentment? How can someone who has lived in the city for almost a decade soberly and sincerely state, “I have no friends” (True story told to us by one church planter, and apparently not an uncommon one)?

They need Jesus – the Friend of sinners – to heal their brokenness and satisfying their longing. And they need the church – His body – to be the tangible representation of that healing and satisfaction.

On our last day, we visited a brand new church plant (in only their second week of public worship services), which is working hard to be the hands and feet of Christ; and after worship, we had a final team meeting to discuss where we need to go from here.

There is still a lot of work to be done before it can be decided if Denver is where we will plant. Many follow-up emails need to be written and phone calls made. Further study needs to be done on specific neighborhoods. But more than this, as all of the knowledge we’ve gained and experiences we’ve had begin to settle in our minds, we need God to direct us.

Pray that He would continue to direct us.
Pray that if Denver Metro or somewhere else on the Front Range is where He wants us to plant a church, He would make that clear.
And pray that when steps of faith need to be made in the coming days, we will not shy away from them but move forward in obedience to our King.

For His sake and for the joy of the nations,
Andy

Denver: Day 2

Our team’s second day was spent in the city. We met Dave, the city missionary, downtown at 8:30 AM and spent the whole morning driving around two sections of the city. First, we drove west from the heart of downtown to the edge of Denver Metro. Houses went from packed-in and fairly small to huge and more spaced out. I thought to myself, “Urban, suburban, or somewhere in between? Are you calling us to this city, God? And if you are, where specifically do you want us to plant our lives?”

To be honest, Friday was a difficult day. The whole group was filled with mixed emotions, and it seemed like the more real estate we surveyed, the more muddled things became in our minds. Dave did an amazing job giving us snapshots of the city. (I can’t imagine doing this without his help.) But it’s daunting to consider where you should plant a church when over 100 are needed in Denver Metro, and there are 30 more cities in our nation in the same kind of spiritual shape (or worse).

In addition to this challenge, Denver has become a very expensive place to live over the past few years. The metro area has become one of the fastest growing cities in America, and housing construction has not been able to keep up. For this reason, homes cost around 40 percent more than the national average. Obviously, this is a big factor to consider in church planting. As I said before, there are reasons why the most underserved cities in our country are as they are.

So Friday was tough, as all of these realities began to sink in.

But that afternoon, as I was sitting in the hotel lobby trying to get some perspective from the Word, a lady walked up to me; and, seeing one of my books sitting on the table in front of me, she struck up a conversation. She was Catholic, but also held to some tenants of other religions. We had a great conversation, and I was able to speak truth into her life a little; but I believe that this encounter was mostly what God knew I needed in order to get my head back in the game.

You see, talking about facts and figures is important, but it is also, by nature, impersonal. It’s the conversations like the one I had with this lady that remind me why we’re doing what we’re doing. She needs the gospel. She is working so very hard to “stay in grace” with God. But this is a position/state which Jesus has already purchased for her! And it’s our job to tell her this. I certainly tried, but discipleship takes time, which takes presence, which takes believers planting their lives in a community.

So for the sake of the souls of people like this lady, I ask the same thing that Paul asked the Colossians: “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…” (Col. 4:3). Pray that He will make it clear to us where we are to plant our lives that we might plant His gospel and His church.