the shape of leadership

From Doubting to Believing

A Q & A with Preston Ulmer

Influence Magazine on June 27, 2017

Preston Ulmer is lead pastor of The Doubters Church and co-founder/facilitator of The Doubter’s Club in Denver. He is uniquely attracting skeptics, agnostics, and atheists, inviting them to experience an unchanging God who isn’t afraid of uncertainty.

Influence: You speak about God writing a story of hope and redemption for the world. Where does the story of The Doubters Church begin?

Preston Ulmer: What seemed to be a coincidence turned out to be the start of the church. When searching for a neighborhood to plant in, I asked a random coffee shop owner what type of church he would go to. Immediately he told me he was an atheist, but that he would go to a church that allows questions to be asked and isn’t judgmental. Well, that’s exactly what our team intended to do.

A few months later, he agreed to host something I wanted to start and call “Doubter’s Club.” It’s a place where people can bring their uncertainties to an unchanging God. The Doubter’s Club was really the launch of our church. Some of those attenders joined our launch team, and others came to faith. And from there, we started holding regular worship services.

How does your own story connect with The Doubters Church?

My own story is much like the many stories we hear at the The Doubter’s Club. I believe the kingdom of God is especially gracious to those who are perplexed with questions, but still seeking.

“The most important relationship is with Jesus.” — Preston Ulmer

When I was in college, serious doubts about my faith drove me into depression and anxiety. After having a season of doubt and leaving the faith personally, I found someone willing to disciple me, patiently helping me reconstruct my faith. Through the seeking and doubt, I returned to the faith and found God to be an unchanging God who I could commit to even in the face of uncertainty.

One of your values is partnering with what God is already doing. What did you find God already doing in your community?

We noticed that families were uniting around neighborhood block parties, and people were constantly gathering around local businesses on Tennyson Street. We also observed values God approves of, such as community, justice and love. We joined in with those already in the neighborhood, hosting movie nights and other events to bring families together. But really it’s just about opening dialogue with someone who may think differently than us, but who shares some of the same values as us.

What are a couple of things that have been key to your launch and growth so far?

Constant coaching in every stage has been foundational to our launch and growth. Without that, I’m not sure we would have survived through those initial steps. I would advise anyone planting a church to find someone who is familiar with the scars and troubles you will incur along the way.

Too many times church planters focus on church names, logos, websites or staff positions before anyone has ever joined their team or come into God’s kingdom. Instead, give your time to building relationships within your team and especially in your community. And of course, the most important relationship is with Jesus. So, lean into the voice of the Spirit of God.

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2017 edition of Influence magazine.

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