As I scrolled the internet looking for welcome mats and wall art to put in our new home in Daytona Beach, I ran across a sign that fit my personality well: “Home is where the WiFi connects automatically.”
I liked it because of its play off the old adage “Home is where the heart is.” While I was drawn to the humor, it was the concept of settling where you’ve already been connected that made me want to purchase it.
Connection to Home
The first 17 years of my life were spent in the all-American “military town” of Fayetteville, North Carolina. As far back as we can trace our family, Fayetteville has been our home. It’s where my dad grew up, where my parents met, and where I truly rested after being adopted at five weeks old. My heart was in Fayetteville.
Yet when it came time to choose a college, I knew I needed to go elsewhere. I left Fayetteville for Daytona Beach, Florida. It seemed like an easy decision to those around me, but when I loaded a U-Haul and traveled more than 500 miles down I-95, it was more difficult than I could’ve imagined.
Fast forward to today ‒ 12 years later ‒ and we’re preparing to plant a church in Daytona.
Daytona Beach is significant in many ways: In this city I’ve graduated from college, worked a few jobs, and grown from a young adult to a man with a family. But most importantly, Daytona is where I met Jesus Christ. It’s where I shared the Gospel for the first time, led my first Bible study, and preached my first sermon. It’s where I hosted my first barbecue and fell in love with my wife.
Here in Daytona, I’ve begun lifelong relationships and made lasting memories. Daytona Beach is where I’m connected.
God tends to use the ordinary movements of life to prepare us to be moved to mission. Think about it: God didn’t just pick any man to lead the Israelites out of Egypt ‒ he chose the guy with connections to Egypt. He chose a faithful shepherd (Ex. 3:1–2) who had a heart for justice. Woven into Moses’s story were points of connection that were foundational to his call to lead the people of God.
We can see the same in Joseph and David, Matthew and Paul. The details of their stories molded how God used them in mission. This shouldn’t surprise us, since we have a God of purposeful providence.
Planting Where I’m Connected
When asked the question: “Why do you want to plant a church in Daytona Beach?” there are a range of answers I could give. For example, 66 percent of the city’s population is unchurched. In the urban area (where we’re planting), there’s even less of a Gospel presence.
I could talk about my love for the local church and my desire to see new communities living out the Gospel together.
While all of these are true and relevant, the simplest way to answer “Why Daytona Beach?” is this: It’s where God has connected us. Through my experiences in Daytona, I’ve come to know and understand the fabric of this city. I’ve seen its beauty and brokenness from multiple vantage points.
My time at Bethune-Cookman University (the city’s oldest institution) rooted me in the historic community known as “Midtown.” It was also the place I was furthest from the Lord. But in God’s providence, it was there I met and began friendships with Christians who would be faithful in both sharing and embodying the Gospel before me.
Simply being able to say that I am a B-CU alum has afforded many relationships and opportunities. After graduation, as a young public relations professional with the area’s staple healthcare provider, I had the chance to sit in board meetings with city leaders, community influencers, and world-renowned physicians.
At the same time, I was seeing the faces of the chronically ill and medically underprivileged, as well as hundreds of homeless men and women. As I worked amid people in pursuit of physical healing, I was able to speak of the Great Physician, the One who came not for the healthy but for the sick (Luke 5:31).
Connection Breeds Compassion
My passion for adoption then led me from corporate public relations to working in foster care, where I was confronted with the evils that can tear families apart and lead to the abuse of the fatherless. Since I was adopted ‒ both physically and spiritually ‒ I got to share about its beauty and power.
So now, not only can I help a teenager transition out of foster care, but I can tell him about a new identity offered in Jesus Christ. As he spends time with our church, he can see how the Gospel creates the family of God. Similarly, the former classmate I once partied with in college can see me in the community fighting for Gospel change.
As we do prayer walks through the community, we pass some of the homes of people I once served in the clinic. We walk in order to connect with our place and our people, and we pray the Gospel would penetrate these broken lives.
Challenge of Connection
After Jesus healed the demon-possessed man in Mark 5, he “begged [Jesus] that he might be with Him” (Mark 5:18). Strangely, Jesus doesn’t permit this (Mark 5:19). I can relate.
As I began to consider planting a church, I begged the Lord to call me elsewhere. Initially, I wanted to get away from the place I once lived as God’s enemy. But I sensed Christ calling me to stay. “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19). Jesus called the formerly demon-possessed man to remain where he was known, where he was connected.
We’re planting Identity Church in the Midtown area of Daytona Beach because this is our home. This is our city. Not because I was born or even raised here, but because this is where God has connected us.
Connections are key. Not only can they affect where we plant a church, but also how we do so. They are not infallible, but they are not to be ignored. Because each step taken in our lives is “established by the LORD” (Ps. 37:23).
May our steps be established as we plant churches for His glory.
This article originally appeared here.