It’s pretty common in the northwest for people to come from a non-spiritual background. I had a spiritual background growing up, until my dad passed away suddenly at age 47. Tragedy has a way of driving people either to God or away from God. For my family, most of them were driven away. For me, I sought comfort in an unchanging God who promised to work out everything for His good. That conviction became very real to me when I discovered in high school that not only is God in control of everything and never changes, but also that He wants a personal relationship with me. It was not that I needed to earn His love and affection, it was because He gave everything that I could know Him and be loved by God. That Gospel message changed my life the day I heard it sitting alone in the back pew of a church in Vancouver, Washington.
My life started to change dramatically as I got to know this God who loved me unconditionally. I grew to have a very personal, intimate relationship with the Jesus I was discovering in the Word. Jesus was my rock and a means to lift my gaze during a time in my life when what was right in front of me was challenging, lonely, and full of tension.
In college Jesus had a lot to say to me about my life and the way I saw people. He grew in me a love for people that wasn’t there before, and a sense of purpose that I didn’t previously have. Our church network had a dream of planting 21 churches by the year 2021. I started leading a mission-minded large group in college and then began discipling women to know Jesus and love His Word. I met my husband in college and pretty soon both he and I were caught up in the beautiful joint vision and mission of our church to see the Kingdom of God advanced on the college campus, where our lives had been changed so dramatically. We were college freshmen in 2015, and by 2021 were sent to Salt Lake City to plant a collegiate church at the University of Utah.
It was challenging for me in many ways when my husband and I were preparing to move to Salt Lake City. One was the fact that my mom and stepdad weren’t believers and didn’t understand or support what we were aiming to do with our lives. Mom often expressed grief that we were moving so far away. Both sets of my grandparents had passed by the time I was a senior in college – two of them gave their lives to Jesus on their literal deathbeds. But, one person really stood out for me during this time: an elderly gentleman named John.
John’s son was the pastor who led the church where I first heard and understood the Gospel. One day after I attended there for a few weeks, John and his wife hosted an open breakfast at their home for people interested in becoming members of the church. I went and found myself in a deep spiritual conversation with John. We talked about John Piper and books we were reading about the character of God. John encouraged me greatly, and never stopped encouraging me the rest of the way through high school. When my husband and I came on staff years later as vocational ministers with Resonate Church, we needed to raise our own support. He was one of the first people I called because I knew it’d be an easy “yes” from John. He strongly believed in the work God was doing through us and our ministry, and supported it not only in word but also in deed.
One thing John told me that I’ll never forget was at a time when I expressed anxiety about church planting. I was so worried about all the unknowns and what ifs and the lack of knowledge we had about leading a church as 25-year-olds. But John looked me dead in the eye and told me this: “McKayla, no matter what happens, you cannot fail. God has done the work and He will call whom He calls.” My job is only to be faithful and obedient.
John wasn’t my earthly grandpa, but in a way he filled a hole in my life where a godly grandparent might be, pointing me to Jesus and encouraging me to keep running the race. Even now, when I call him or when he receives newsletters from me (especially the ones expressing hardship in ministry), he continues to encourage me with these words: “You cannot fail.”
You might be in a stage in life where your grandchildren are too young to have deep spiritual conversations with you, or maybe they are all grown and walking away from Jesus right now. Maybe you don’t have grandchildren at all. Reader, take heart: you might be the “stand-in” grandparent of a young person who needs to hear the Gospel truth that Jesus has accomplished the work on the cross for them.
Reader, take heart: you might be the “stand-in” grandparent of a
young person who needs to hear the Gospel truth that
Jesus has accomplished the work on the cross for them.
Who in your circle of influence might be in need of a little encouragement, a listening ear, or a warm meal, like a grandparent might do for their grandchildren? Consider reaching out to them today.
Learn more about Resonate Church, Salt Lake City