Our first conversation about this church happened at our house. We were having dinner with two other families. Afterward, our children were all playing happily in the backyard, and we were happily talking together inside. Then, one person asked me, “Have you and Kimberly ever considered starting a church? And we said, “No, way.” Then, we listed all the reasons why this would be a terrible idea.
For the next few hours, we ended up talking about a church: Why would we start a church? Was God calling us to start a church? What are all the risks of starting a church? What are the opportunities in starting a church? What would it look like? What dreams do we have about it? We talked about all of it. And you know what it felt like? It felt like we were standing at the bank of a river that was at flood stage—like a river that seemed impassable. It felt like we could never cross that river.
We ended our conversation late that night by praying—on our knees—for God to give us clarity. God, if you are calling us to this, make it clear. God, if you are not calling us to this, make it clear. And then we didn’t talk about it…for months. In the silence of those months, we ended up sensing something become clear. God didn’t say yes or no. God did say: Take a step.
And we wondered: What step? Then we understood: Take the step of discernment. So, we invited two older, wiser, and more mature couples to join us. And for several months, we met every week with one goal: Discern if God calling us to start a church. We prayed. We read parts of the Book of Acts about the early church. We studied. We talked. We checked in with each other. We walked and prayed through neighborhoods. We looked at city demographics. We opened our eyes wide to where we live.
After a few intense months, we realized that we couldn’t keep meeting and doing what we were doing forever. We had to set a deadline. And we needed clarity by a certain point. That was October. We figured that 40 days was a fairly Biblical and holy amount of time, so we looked ahead 40 days and found Thanksgiving. By Thanksgiving, we asked:God, if you are calling us to this, make it clear. God, if you are not calling us to this, make it clear. And on Thanksgiving…we had no idea what to do.
But, we did know one thing: We had to take another step. I had sifted through to find the best books on starting new churches. And I ordered them all. So, we passed them out, each took one, and for the next month we read them. We gathered other people’s ideas and weighed what God was doing in us with what God had done in them. And then we came back together and kept discerning.
Within a couple of months, we were getting more certain that God was calling us to start a church, but we weren’t sure what to do first. Everything we talked about filtered back to needing to be official—like needing to be a corporation. So, an attorney friend helped us form a corporation. When we thought everything was just about done, he said that he couldn’t file the papers until we had a name for the church. That threw us for a loop. How do you name a church? One person likened it to naming your child. It’s a big deal and there’s a lot riding on it.
After weeks of discussions, brainstorming, suggestions, and a good amount of frustration, we said this: We want our church name to be meaningful—meaningful to us and our journey, meaningful to Jesus, and meaningful to the people who live around us. We thought about how God had led us. What was our journey like? What steps did God lead us on to get to this place?
That’s when we remembered a river. Specifically, we remembered the Jordan River. We had studied Joshua 3 as part of our discernment phase, and how God’s people stood at the edge of this overflowing, flooded river. It seemed impassable. Nobody in their right mind would try to cross that river. But, God called them to cross the river. And that hit us hard. It hit us because that was our journey. God had called us to cross a river, step by step.
God said to us: Take a step and then I’ll move. Get your feet wet and then I’ll lead. Step in and things will start happening. That’s when we knew who we were: RiverCross Church.