IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY......
Our story doesn't really begin that far away, but it does sometimes feel like launching a brand new church was like plunging into the unknown abyss of space. You see, Aaron was never supposed to be a Pastor. Let alone be a church planter. No. He was supposed to be a businessman, have 3 kids and a wife, and live in a quiet neighborhood. He never imagined the adventures that God had in store for him.
Launching Simple Church started long before our May 12th launch date in 2013. It started in Aaron's heart 3 years before. Though he had grown up attending church and following Christ, the offense had led him to a place where he had been far from Christ for many years. Broken, bitter, hurting, and addicted, with a failing marriage, he accepted an invitation to attend an Easter service. It was a fresh breath of air that his family needed. So he went back the next Sunday. And the Sunday after that. And after that. He wound up making friends and enjoying the experience.
It was then that his pastor took him to coffee where Aaron told him "I'm not gonna serve. I'm not gonna give or tithe. And the only reason I'm coming here is that you make me laugh." He proceeded to ask his pastor if he'd still have him. He said he would. Aaron was shocked. Here he had given him his worst and yet he said he'd be glad to have Aaron aboard. It didn't make sense. But it was this kind of acceptance and love of God that had so permeated the pastor's heart and his church that broke down the many barriers in Aaron's heart.
The next thing you know Aaron was attending a Starting Point class. Then he started serving. He started to attend one of their small groups. Then he started to give. God turned his life upside down and began to heal every part of his brokenness. He and his wife both got baptized later that year and rededicated their lives to God.
Fast forward a year or so to a meeting with his pastor where he'd asked Aaron if he felt like he might have a calling to be a pastor. Aaron hung his head and said "yes", and he confessed he had been hiding from it. From there on, he began to learn the process it would take to step into this daunting role. It would mean education, interviews, diving into his personal and spiritual life in very revealing ways. But when God has plans, He makes a way.
And that was that. Aaron was going to be a pastor. But much more. As God revealed his plan, Aaron was going to be a church planter.
THE SECOND BEGINNING
Once Aaron knew he was going to be a church planter, his team began looking for a location and it was time to decide upon a name for the church God was calling us to plant. At first, the church was to be called RESTORATION CHURCH, but another friend of his was planting a church and had intended on using that name.
So there he was, back at square one with no name for the church. He recalls being frustrated as he looked through a thesaurus for descriptive words. Nothing was resonating with the Holy Spirit and his spirit. He shared his frustration with his wife. She reminded him that the church name should have something to do with him. To which he retorted, "I'm just a SIMPLE guy." He recalls the smile that slid across his face as the name came out of his mouth. It was perfect. Simple Church it would be.
FINDING A HOME
Our team began our search in typical places. We contacted real estate agents and drove around tagging empty buildings and spaces that might work. Door after door after door closed in our faces. Spaces that had been vacant for years were refused to us because we were a church. The city's schools were closed to our use as well. One place we walked in to was such a mess that Aaron offered to take the building off their hands for FREE. They laughed. He laughed. And they never spoke again. Some call that silly, we call it faith. At least we knew the building wasn't for us.
We tried to take over an old Hooters Restaurant building too. But instead of leasing it to a church, they bulldozed it instead. Makes sense. Now it is just a patch of grass along I-270 and Main St.
The point is, we were beginning to wonder what God had in store for us with all these doors closing on us. One night, Aaron was meeting with some other local pastors who shared that they had used a funeral home's meeting space as their church. With furrowed eyebrow, he reached into his wallet for a business card. He had met a young lady from a funeral home many months prior to that chat with those pastors. So he decided to give her a call.
Upon checking out the place, we decided to move forward with utilizing the space. Aaron asked how much it was going to cost monthly. They responded with a smile and replied that they wanted to bless us. We appreciated that, but we needed to know what kind of a discount that meant. So Aaron pushed a little harder. He thanked them for the "blessing", not really knowing what it was yet, and pressed for a bottom line number.
This time they smiled bigger and realized Aaron wasn't getting it. Their desire to bless us was more than he was anticipating. They were not going to charge us a dime to use the space. No rent. No utilities. No custodial fees. Nothing. Nada. Zip! This is what God had in mind for his church plant in Reynoldsburg! A plan not any of us would have ever come up with especially not in a funeral home.
We worried people wouldn't come because of the location, but God was going to surprise us yet again. Because not only did they come, but we got to where a second service was needed! In a funeral home! Nobody could believe it. But it just speaks to what an incredible God we serve.
God has continued to bless our journey with wonderful partnerships and opportunities to serve in the community and the world through missions. And He continues to grow His church. In 2014 we moved into our new facility on Main Street where we reside as of the writing of this story. I cannot wait to see what else God has for us.
There has been much more that He has done since we launched, and there's much to share about the lives that have changed because of the Holy Spirit's work in and through our church, but those are stories for another day and another time.