Ashlee and her husband Jesse have been serving at Harvest Rockford since 2012 where Jesse was on staff as the Student Ministry and Outreach Pastor. They are currently transitioning their family to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where they will be planting a church through HBF Global. They have four children at home, and two who have gone to be with the Lord.
Lianna: Share with us how being sent as church planters helps the lost hear the proclamation of good news.
Ashlee: 1 Timothy 3:15 reveals that the church is “a pillar and buttress of truth.” It is through the church that God has chosen to fulfill His mission—the mission that we have all been given as believers—to make disciples. It is with this goal in mind that we are being sent as church planters. It is of the very heart of God that all nations, tribes, and tongues hear the truth of the gospel, and He has commissioned the church to accomplish this.
The idea of planting a church is going out in order to further the spread of the gospel. Our purpose is to engage with the people around us, build relationships, share the hope of Christ, and create a community where lost people are saved, saved people are matured, and mature believers are replicating this work for God’s glory.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where my husband and I are being sent to church plant, has a population of approximately 600,000 people. When I reflect on the sobering reality that likely over 80% of these souls are entering eternity apart from Christ, my resolve to fulfill the commission of the church is strengthened. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Luke 10:2), and it is an incredible honor to continue the work that Christ began.
L: In addition to the very significant area of financial support, what are some of the most helpful ways you have been supported by the church?
A: One of the biggest ways we have been supported by the church is the constant affirmation we have received concerning God’s call on our lives to church plant. Our church family has given generously of their time and resources to support our calling to plant in Milwaukee. Some have even committed to move with us in order join us in this great work.
Our sending church has come around us in many practical ways. This year, we were without a home for the entire summer. Our church family opened up their homes for us to stay, continually provided food for us, and were constantly looking for ways to provide for us. It was an incredible blessing to me, as a momma to four little ones, to know that my family was being taken care of so well in this transitional season.
We are also a part of HBF Global, a church planting network. There is so much wisdom to be gained from men and women who have been serving the Lord faithfully for years. They have continually poured in our ministry, filled our hearts with truth when discouragement tried to creep in, and worked hard to equip us for the challenges that lie ahead. Planting a church is no easy task, but there is much comfort in knowing that as we go, we are being supported by countless others who love God, are passionate about His church, and deeply desire to sacrificially come alongside us as we go.
L: What have you learned about the power of prayer?
A: We can only move forward on our knees. Christ has promised that He will build His church, and it is extremely humbling to consider that He chooses to use us to accomplish this. I know that we are powerless to do anything apart from Christ. I have found myself increasingly in a posture of prayer.
- Prayer connects me to my power source! As I turn again and again to God to meet my needs, and the needs of the church, I am tapping into limitless resources. There is nothing that is too great for God to accomplish.
- Prayer keeps me humble. It is easy to accredit ourselves with the victories or successes we see in ministry. As I continue to call upon the Lord, it reminds me that all of this is God’s undeserved favor. It is God who deserves all the credit.
- Prayer keeps my faith grounded. Prayer directs my focus back onto the Lord instead of on myself and the seemingly impossible circumstances that we are facing. When I am tempted to fear what lies ahead (or often what lies directly in front of me) I am able to recall God, who is greater than anything we face.
- Prayer redirects my priorities. I have often found myself longing for the comfort and stability that we were afforded before we took the step to plant a church, and it is easy to stay fixated on those things. Prayer adjusts the desires of my heart, so that I am long for God to be glorified and lives to be transformed by the power of the gospel, rather than seeking my own contentment.
L: For those who sense a calling to be church planters, what wisdom would you share about how to prepare?
A: Pray. Pray often. Pray boldly. Church planting is exhausting, stretching, and humbling. Keep a journal of the ways you have seen God answer those prayers, so that you can easily recall His faithfulness in the seasons rippled with difficulty and discouragement.
If you sense God’s call on your life to church plant, is this calling affirmed and supported by others? Seek wisdom and counsel from those who are close to you. Don’t go in alone. Surround yourself with people who will support you in prayer, financially, and in the day to day work of the church.
Be on guard. The enemy will stop at nothing to discourage and defeat you. Stay rooted in God’s Word. Saturate yourself in truth. Arm yourself against the spiritual attacks that will certainly come. But don’t be afraid. God, who goes with you, will also fight for you.
As a wife and mother, my ministry to my family must come first. It is easy to lose myself in the demands of the church and begin to neglect my husband and children, but I must first watch over my own heart, and then seek to serve and support my family. As a pastor, my husband bears a heavy responsibility, and it is my great privilege to encourage him and help him in that role.