A Place where Faith Creates Family
God is doing an amazing thing in Iola, Kansas. David and Shaunna are leading a fresh move of God. Dirt Roads Network believes that God uses all sorts of churches to transform rural America. The Watershed Collective is an example of God using house churches to reach the unreached. When you support DRN, you are supporting projects like this. I asked Shaunna for an update on what God is doing, here is her report.
A Place where Faith Creates Family
It’s been almost a year since the Sturgeon family took the plunge to follow God’s call to move from their home in New Strawn, Kansas and begin church planting in Iola. For us, the call was abrupt. God completely flipped our lives upside down. We were ministers in a successful church we had helped plant, and we were happy. We had all the amenities youth and worship pastors could want or need. We loved our church and the faith family God had allowed us to build. We were comfortable. God had provided us with a gorgeous home, probably the best built home we’ll ever have had the privilege to own. Dave was five miles from work. The kids were content, and I loved leading worship and dipping my toes into preaching at Radiant Life Church of New Strawn. But God…
We like to say that phrase in reference to times in Scripture when God takes what was hopeless and does the miraculous, like when God takes us from being dead in our sins and makes us alive through His love and mercy in Christ, (Ephesians 2:1-7). We enjoy those “butt-in’s” from God. However, what happens when a “But God” moment becomes a total upheaval of your life? What happens when God uproots you and replants you and takes all you’ve ever known about following Him, all you ever envisioned about what it means to be His church, all you ever experienced in ministry and shatters it in order to build something new, something you’ve never done before, something you’ve never seen done before? Don’t get me wrong, us Sturgeon folk are not creative pioneers. All across the church world, you can see this move of God stirring in and amongst Jesus followers. God is calling His people to stop playing church, stop attending church, going to church, volunteering at church, and to start being the church, everywhere, at all times, in all places where He has scattered us, in the workforce, in schools, hospitals, the local Walmart. You get the idea. We can sense this movement of the Holy Spirit taking place. We feel God leading us to lead others this way, yet we weren’t trained for this.
A month after moving to our new home in Iola, our basement flooded, and we found black mold behind the basement walls. Because we had already begun the demolition on the bedrooms in the upper level of the house, we had to move our family into the mid level part of the house. Therefore, since October to this day, David and I have enjoyed our dining room as our bedroom, while our four children have all been sharing the living room. We have no privacy. It’s great! We didn’t realize it at the time we bought it, but our house is massive. We like that because it’s God’s and not ours and totally devoted to the purpose of His mission here in southeast Kansas. However, a massive house requires a massive amount of work, so we hope to have bedrooms before Dave retires from Wolf Creek. The house also came with about eight acres all overgrown and filled with poison ivy. We have invested heavily in Calamine lotion. I could go on; however, my point is that life in this home has been nothing short of one crazy mess after another. There is absolutely nothing about our situation that would make church leaders excited about the potential future “success” of what Dirt Roads is spearheading through us in Iola. When we arrived, we knew one person. Dave is still working at Wolf Creek, which means he’s also communiting almost an hour and a half total to and from work each day. He’s had to work a ton of overtime since we moved. We have four children. I think that’s all I need to say about that. On top of this, I am working toward earning my Masters of Divinity at Indiana Wesleyan University. We are stretched thin. Finances are tight. When one problem is solved, another follows close on its heals. The enemy has thrown the kitchen sink at us on numerous occasions.
When we began meeting people in our new home town, we started having regular Sunday dinners at our crazy mess of a house. At first we simply focused on sharing a meal and opening our hearts and home to anyone who had need of a safe place and safe people with whom they could build community. Dave is very good at meeting random people, and he loves to find ways to serve them. These Sunday gatherings began to grow, and the people we had come to know as friends started asking questions about Jesus. In March of this year, we began to open up the Word together through what Dave likes to call an “interactive sermon.” In our interactive sermon, we read Scripture and talk about what Jesus said and did and what it looks like to follow Him. We challenge one another to live like He lived His life. Our mission as a faith community is to love God and love people by making disciples who make disciples. It’s not exactly a revolutionary idea, except that it is, because when Jesus birthed this idea, it changed the world, and it continues to do so today.
Sadly, I think the church in the western part of the world has forgotten that the same God who brought salvation to 3,000 people on the day of Pentecost is still capable of that same work today. We have almost surrendered to the tide of culture and retreated to our safe havens, the buildings we call church. It’s easier to hang out in huddles where everyone looks like us and believes like us. It’s easier to reduce the Great Commission to the nice invitation and call that being a good Christian. While obedience to what Jesus commanded us to do is simple, love God, love people, be a disciple who makes disciples, it’s actually really, really difficult to put into practice! It’s not easy to step outside your comfort zone and interact with people you are never going to meet at a church service. It’s not easy to open up your home to strangers. It’s not easy to bear the weight of the lost and hurting in your community, to truly be with them and suffer with them in their hardships. However, it’s what we are supposed to be doing.
Through the gatherings that were happening in our home, God birthed a family, a faith family, called the Watershed. A watershed is an area of land that directs water to streams and rivers and eventually to the ocean. As a group we seek to be a river church that directs people to the flow of the Spirit in their lives, and we want to create space where people can experience watershed moments with God, moments that will radically transform the trajectory of their lives. We want to train new leaders to do what we are doing and to start meeting in their homes. Eventually, we want to see thousands of Watersheds meeting all over southeast Kansas and beyond. This is why we call ourselves the Watershed Collective. We believe that being the church on mission where we are already going everyday, creating faith communities that become families who encourage one another to love God and love people being disciples who make disciples, can reach over 24,000 people in the region of southeast Kansas. It’s already happening. God has brought people into our home who were far from Him, and He is in the process of transforming them in powerful ways. We look forward to sharing their stories with you in the future. For now, we are pleased to introduce you to the Watershed, where faith creates family.
God is on the move. He’s always on mission. Let’s join Him!
*Many have asked how they can help us. We need help getting our house to a point where we can better minister. Our Sunday gatherings are growing quite large, and we are running out of space. We need people who know how to finish drywall, so we can start painting and laying flooring and hopefully have bedrooms before the new school year.
*We need our basement finished. We have run into many situations where it would have been helpful if we could provide lodging for those experiencing hard times. Our basement is capable of becoming a comfortable apartment for someone to have a safe place to stay.
*We need people who are willing to move to Iola or another town in southeast Kansas who are willing to learn how to start a Watershed in their home. We are in desperate need of new Watershed leaders.
*Mostly, we need your prayers, for our marriage, our family. It’s easy to focus on the positive in these updates. The truth is church planting is extremely difficult. It’s wonderful and rewarding in many ways; however, it’s draining and lonely. We need your support in prayer, and we’d also love a visit if you’re ever in the area.