When Steve Andrews from Memphis, Tennessee met Dave Wilson from Findlay, Ohio and Mark Nelson from Lapeer, Michigan, I don’t think they had any idea what God was going to do through their desire to reach those far from God. It was the 1980s, a time of big hair, Pac Man and breakdancing—and churchgoing was starting to decline as the world grew more interesting and religion grew more stale. At a time of church fatigue and turnoff, God gave these three men a vision for creating a church that looked much different than their childhood church upbringings. After several closed and slammed doors, a core team of just 40 people held their first service in 1990. That was the start of Kensington Community Church.
I arrived at Kensington almost 10 years after that first service. The church had grown from just 40 core people meeting in a rented school to thousands of people showing up every weekend in a permanent church building in Troy, Michigan. It was January 2000 when a friend invited me to play original music at an event called The Listening Room held on Friday nights once a month. At the time I was not a follower of Christ, I quickly let my friend know upon entering the auditorium at the Troy campus that this place must be a cult. At the time I was studying Buddhism but honestly, I had studied all the “isms” at that point in my life; Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufiism, Atheism, and even new age studies like A Course in Miracles and others. All of this was in search of some truth I knew must be out in the universe that could help me navigate my struggles and find peace in this life. I had no interest in typical church and certainly no interest in Jesus. I was the one far from Christ—the one who Steve, Dave and Mark had in mind back in 1990, and the one we still have in mind today.
The rest of the story went like this. I was invited to come back and take part in the Easter service that same year. It was in the back of the auditorium, underneath the exit sign, listening to the message when Jesus broke open my heart and my life was never the same. Dave Wilson was preaching that day and he kept saying the phrase “God is calling you home.” After letting those words permeate in my heart, the Holy Spirit entered into my life and I began to weep. I wept for over 30 minutes until my friend Angela explained to me that when the Holy Spirit moves this is what it feels like. I never looked back. I said “yes” to Christ in my heart that night and 20 years later I’m still following Jesus.
As I reflect on these past 20 years and the history of Kensington, I cannot help but be profoundly grateful for three men and their wives for saying “yes” to Jesus and stepping out in faith to create a church for people like me who were far from God. The “yes” of the Nelson, Andrew and Wilson families helped lead my family to Jesus and ultimately to a new life and reality.
If you are reading this, you may be someone just like me who has been the beneficiary of someone’s “yes.” I know this has been the reality of countless of people here in our city, region, nation and even around the world. Kensington has been able to be a part of seven Kensington campuses in Michigan reaching nearly 13,000 people weekly, over 80 church plants across the country, and 10 global partners reaching countless amounts of people for Christ each year around the world. To be a part of this journey with God is deeply humbling and is one of the great privileges of my life.
This past weekend Kensington church announced the plan for succession of leadership moving into the future. After leading Kensington church for more than 30 years, Steve Andrews, Dave Wilson and Mark Nelson are stepping out of their leadership roles and into a new phase of their lives. (If you missed any of the announcement, head to kensingtonchurch.org/succession). As I reflect upon the history of Kensington, I am reminded that God is always working through his people and always whispering new dreams and visions.
The stories in scripture of the great acts of faith from men and women who are faithful followers of God have always fascinated me. Esther risking her life to approach the King. Daniel refusing to worship and pray to idols. Deborah leading an army into battle. Moses standing up to Pharaoh and leading God’s people out of slavery. Joshua crossing the Jordan river and leading God’s people into the promise land. Peter testifying before the powerful religious leaders about Christ. Paul preaching the gospel to new and often times hostile environments.
In all of these accounts and many others in scripture, God drew these people to himself first and then whispered a dream into their ears and put a call into their heart that would help accomplish God’s mission and build God’s kingdom here on earth. All of these people had something in common…they simply said “yes” to what God was asking of them and took one step of faith.
Every yes to God leads to more than we could ever ask or imagine. Of course, it doesn’t mean that all of us will be church planters, but it does mean that God has something unique for each person and community. What is God whispering to you today? What call, dream or vision has God placed on your heart? What “yes” could you say today that would lead you to people who God wants to reach for His glory and His Kingdom? One step of faith, one “yes” to God, always leads to more than we could ever ask or imagine. I’m grateful for what God has done at Kensington these past 30 years and I look forward to more whispers, dreams and visions He has for the future. I pray our response is always “yes” and our hearts are courageous enough to take the first step.