By: Raelenna Ferguson
“I want you to start something like this” those are the words I heard.
Jeremy and I were standing in a worship service at Austin New Church, the church founded by Brandon and Jen Hatmaker. The music was incredible (I mean it’s Austin, funky cool people and awesome music) but it wasn’t the music that God was talking about when He spoke those words into my head. It was the culture around us, it was the mix of people, it was the colors of the people worshipping together, it was the ages, it was the different style and ways each person was worshipping, the unity and sense of togetherness. It was the freedom and feeling of true community in the atmosphere that day that took my breath away.
During the rest of the service I quietly and internally panicked. I was determined to not tell anyone what I just heard in my head. I was terrified that God had just spoke into me and called us to plant a church and the last thing on my life plan would be to start a church, and by last I mean VERY last thing. So I decided I would tuck that little nugget away and keep it tight and safe, telling no one not even Jeremy.
Service ended and we headed to our rental car so we could hit up downtown Austin before flying home that night. As soon as we got in the car I could tell something was up with Jeremy. He just looked off and I was afraid to ask, so I didn’t. I didn’t have to. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said I heard something in that service (my inner voice was like well crap or maybe something worse). He said I heard “I want you to start something like this”. There it was, the exact same 8 words I heard he had heard at the exact same point in the service I did.
I would love to tell you that sitting in our rental car in that school parking lot after we knew without a doubt that we just heard a calling from the Lord that there was all kinds of magical feelings of excitement and trumpets were blowing. Nope nothing like that, actually the exact opposite. I sort of lost my mind and started spitting stupidness out of my mouth, lots of selfishness and lots of whining and crying about how this is not what I want in this phase of life. How I don’t really even like church, how I had been a pastor’s wife before and it didn’t work out real good for me. Do you see the pattern of the “me” and the “I” here? Again, at this point we both really felt it was a calling to start a church. I knew I would be obedient, but I had made up my mind I was going to go kicking and screaming.
God was very gracious with us after that morning, even that night our flight was canceled and we had to stay in Austin another night. It was actually perfect, we had an extra night away from real life and could be alone together and process and sort of wrap our heads around what was happening. We had some more time to capture our thoughts and realize maybe it wasn’t the literal version of a church God was calling us to, maybe it was a new way of doing community together with the church.
We came home from Austin on a soul journey. It was game time, we both knew it. What the Lord spoke to us was not a prophetic word for 10 years down the road, it was for now. The time was now! We met with our pastors and shared what had happened, we wanted them to know first because we knew we would either be leaving our church to start a new one or we would be starting something new that hopefully our church would want to be part of.
One thing Jeremy and I knew when God said to us both “I want you to start something like this” he meant diversity. He meant relationships, connections and life with people that look different than us. He meant people lifting each other up, sharing life and resources, coming together as one, as a true community. We knew this because we had already felt this conviction for a while, that our world was very white and very homogenous, that we had no friends of color. Three things really hit us hard: First, we have an adopted African American daughter who has no one that looks like her in her life. Secondly, we have no one in our life that looks different than us. Three, there are needs in our community and we know people with resources. We need to figure out ways to connect the dots
Here’s one thing about me, I may kick and scream for a little bit about something I don’t want to do, even when I know the Lord is calling me to it. But once I become obedient, I am all in. It didn’t take too long and both Jeremy and I were going all in.
We knew we had to start forming relationships and friendships within our diverse community. We knew without a shadow of a doubt it was time for us to get around people who did not look like us, more than anything to learn and just listen. We knew we needed to get to know and hear from our neighbors who live in different socioeconomic areas of town than we do. God was stretching us more and more and challenging us. We began having hard conversation with people. Have you ever had to have a super awkward conversation with anyone? Like just plain uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone? Well that is just what Jeremy and I had to start doing. Yet, through these uncomfortable phone calls or meetings we have been met with grace and love and the same desire to get to know our community as a whole without preconceived racial or economic barriers. It has been refreshing, inspiring, fun and so very hopeful.
We know God has been preparing us to lead this new calling for many years, we can go back a full decade and see His hand all over this. It has became more and more evident as we have dug in deeper on this journey of searching out what the Lord was calling us to. A little bit of this is shared on the Behind the Scenes page here at our One City website. (can be found here: https://onecityunite.org/the-team/)
There is a lot more to this story and many details that have been perfectly orchestrated, one day I may put the entire story into words. For now I want to share a few personal things and how God confirmed One City very specifically to me. I journal almost daily, every morning I wake up before everyone else and write out my thoughts, my prayers, my dreams and just anything that comes to my mind. When we were praying about this new possibility for our community I decided to go back and read some of my very old journals, specifically looking for direction or confirmation.
What I found in my journals were paragraphs and paragraphs of me asking God to show me my place in this city, over and over again. Asking him to reveal ways for our family to serve and make a difference together. I have one specific prayer in my journal asking God to please reveal our purpose and mission to Jeremy and I at the exact same time (hello Austin). There are prayers of empathy and determination, prayers of frustration and fears. It’s all there in my own words, in my own handwriting, almost a decade of searching and asking.
I am sharing a few pictures of my journal entries that have been confirmation to my hesitant heart. While re-reading my journals I found things I don’t even remember writing or feeling. I also found my heart was stirred for our community as far back as 2007. I found where I had journaled the name One City and how it had came to me while vacuuming my floor one day in 2013, with no idea what it was meant for, until it was revealed this year. Back in 2013 when our church did the Circle Maker series by Mark Batterson. One City was the name I wrote inside my circle for 21 days, without an hint of what would be coming 4 years later. Isn’t it crazy 4 years ago God gave me the name One City with no other instructions. I was actually so confident that that name would mean something one day that I went straight to godaddy.com and bought the domain, again 4 years ago. Then I sort of forgot about it, until God spoke again 2 years ago when this whole new adventure was beginning. We knew without a doubt the name was One City and our mission would be to unite our city as ONE. I hope you go check out our website, sign up to stay in the loop and get involved!! We are excited and hopeful and we would be lying if didn’t say we weren’t a little bit scared…taking one step at a time and walking in faith and settling for nothing less than unity in Jesus.
We’ve had some amazing friends and spiritual mentors who have had our back, heard our cries and fears but kept us focused and
moving forward. This is just the beginning.! Do not miss this shorten version of how One City came to be. The story can be found here on the website on the Behind the scenes page. Here is the link https://onecityunite.org/the-team/. Be sure to go read that short story and also visit the full website www.onecityunite.org. Sign up to stay connected and ways to get involved and follow us on social media. One City needs you.
We are ONE–Ephesians 4:4-6 T’here is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Raelenna Ferguson, Co-Founder One City