I was 23 years old when I first learned how to play Dominoes. I had just started a one-year internship at Grace Church in Powell, Ohio. My wife and I were playing dominos with Ed and Polly Jackson.
Ed and Polly were in their 70s at the time. They were a sweet, wonderful, godly couple, but they played cutthroat Dominoes. There was not much getting past Polly. She would crush people when playing Dominoes.
Growing up, I thought Dominoes were used for one thing –standing them on end and watching them topple. I didn’t know what the numbers were for. I thought you placed them into a chain and tapped them over.
Just as I had to learn how to play Dominoes by the rules, I was sitting around the table with people who were modeling by example what ministry looked like.
At the church, I shared cubicle space with Ed. If you anybody knows Ed, he’s a World War II vet; he was an undercover officer for the Ohio State Highway Patrol, then he moved on to church planting in Alaska and Florida, before coaching church planters with Grace Brethren North American Missions.
There was just a short wall between us. I could ask him questions, and I could watch. Ed spoke encouragement into my life, matching the example of what he showed me.
The word “encouragement” means to give advice, support, hope, and confidence. That’s one meaning of what it means to encourage somebody.
I got to see example matched with encouragement, someone saying, “I believe in you. I believe in what you have. I believe in how you’re gifted. I believe in what you can do.”
A couple years later, I was now on staff at the Powell church. I heard of a couple of crazy guys named Tony Webb and Nathan Wells. They were just walking around telling people about Jesus. I’m sitting in my office and I’m doing ministry work, but I’m not telling people about Jesus the way that I knew I should be.
I saw their example and what was happening. I asked Tony, “Can I follow you sometime? Can I watch? Can I be a part of this?”
Tony, along with Nathan, began to encourage me. I did crazy stuff with them — going into Section 8 housing apartments, knocking on doors, and doing prayer walks. I was reading through the book of John with people in apartments that reeked of marijuana smoke.
I wouldn’t have done it without an example or encouragement. It’s what I needed to take that step forward. It’s what I had to see happen in my life.
As God began to work in my life, I was comfortable. I was in a large church. I loved the staff I served with, and my wife and I loved our lives. But I felt like God was saying, “I want you to go and do something more.”
I called a guy who I saw his example — Clancy Cruise. I asked, “How did you know when it was time to leave [the staff position at] Wooster [and move to Marysville, Ohio to begin a church]?”
We met for coffee. Clancy, with his example, encouraged me. He gave me support; he gave me confidence, he gave me words. He gave me the courage to move forward.
Throughout my career, I have seen examples before me. There was encouragement that matched and hope that believed in me.
That is how God has structured the Church to work. The Church is the bride of Christ. It’s not mine, it’s not yours. It’s the bride of Christ.
And so, God, in His supernatural ability, He’s set up a chain reaction. He’s set up people in our lives to go before us to set the example and then to encourage us to do what He’s calling us to do.
I believe that’s what our family is about, that’s what Access is about, that’s what we’re about. We want to encourage people.
You’re going to go home and you will experience the conference gap. That’s when you share your idea with the people at your church, and they look at you like you have three heads.
“What are you talking about?”
What do they say? “We’ve never done that before. There’s no way that will work. I don’t understand what you’re saying. I can’t picture what you’re saying.”
To make the conference gap close, we have to tell our congregations, “Listen, there’s a church that’s doing it. Here’s an example. Here’s somebody that we can call, there’s somebody that we can talk to, and they’re going to coach us and give us encouragement.”
They’re going to give us courage, confidence, hope, support, and advice. When we get stuck, and we don’t know how to push past stuck, they will be there. They will give us encouragement and we see a chain reaction.
It’s hard when you’re here [at conference] by yourself to go home and try to share this. I am excited I was able to bring seven people to conference from my church in York, Pa., because we’re a small church, but we’re growing.
I went to York, Pa., as a solo pastor. Each weekday morning, I sit in my car and look at the building. “I’m the only person going into that church today.” I approach the building, I take out the key and unlock the door. I turn on the light switch and I sit at my desk. I’m like, “What am I supposed to do now?”
It’s a change, it’s different. But I get on my phone and I start calling people and I start working with people [throughout the Fellowship]. I start talking and saying, “What is it…? How can I…? Where can I…?
I’m received with huge support and encouragement from fellow pastors – men like Scott Feather or Tim Hodge, who have been beside me as I’ve ventured into this new step in my life. Because I could see their example, I knew they cared and were investing in me, and it made me more successful.
That’s the way God has prearranged the Church.
We need to encourage each other. We need to say, “Listen, here’s my example. Here’s where I was, and I believe you can get past that. I believe you can push past it. I believe you can lead past it.”
This church I’m pastoring is not mine. It’s Christ’s. He’s supernaturally arranged our Fellowship of churches. He’s arranged the connections and the relationships, and we are stronger together.
As you go home, don’t let the conference gap stall down the vision that God has been placing in your hearts. Leverage technology. Leverage relationships.
Keep at it because God wants to use your church to reach more people for Jesus, and you can’t let things stand in your way. You’ve got to network, you’ve got to support each other, you’ve got to invest in each other.
When I say, “I need help, I need this; I need that.” I even get more on top of that, given things I didn’t even ask for. Because we’re a group that loves to bless each other. We love to take care of each other. at’s who we are.
We close the conference gap with encouragement. We offer support, we offer advice, we offer hope. With our words, we put courage into people so they can take the next step forward. And that’s what I’m excited to do as I go home because I’ve been equipped with relationships. And that’s what this conference has been all about. It’s been about encouraging each other to see God do more in our lives. — by Dustin Godshall
Dustin Godshall has been the pastor of Grace Brethren Church, York, Pa., since 2014. He and his wife, Kelly, have three children. is is an edited version of his talk at Access2017, the national conference of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, which was held in Fremont, Ohio, July 25-27, 2017. This article first appeared in the Fall issues of GraceConnect magazine. To receive your personal copy of the magazine mailed directly to your home, click here.