“Spoiler alert, don’t tell God no,” Drew Thurman laughed.
A lesson learned by the Redemption Christian Church minister who has finally answered a calling from God that he’s ignored most of his life. In a few short months, he’ll be heading to the increasingly secular east coast to plant a new church.
God wasn’t the only one calling him to the more entrepreneurial side of Christianity. Many people have recognized his potential in the field, but the 31-year-old only recently decided to listen to what many have told him. A change from the first time a church planting group tried to recruit him during his senior year at Cincinnati Christian University.
“I told them then that I will never plant a church,” Drew said with the inflection of a 22-year-old’s singular vision.
Following his perceived path, he graduated and headed out to an expanding ministry in Arizona where he met his wife Bre. It was supposed to be a forever move but while they were setting up their lives, he got recruited to head up the youth ministry at a growing church in Jasper; Redemption Christian Church.
Redemption’s lead minister Darrel Land had reached out to Drew on the recommendation of an elder, Terry Enlow. Enlow had been in the hospital the day Drew was born and knew Drew’s family and its long history in ministry. He had watched Drew grow up into the ministry.
“Redemption, CCJ at the time, was a 10-, 11-year-old church plant,” Drew said. “Honestly, coming back to Indiana was not on my bucket list. I actually typed an email three times to tell Darrel no. I just didn’t send it.”
Instead, the young couple decided to check out the offer and visited Jasper. That convicted them to answer Darrel’s call. “We felt there was a great need here for the gospel,” Drew said.
They arrived in 2012 and in a couple years Drew had moved into the teaching ministry position at the church splitting time with Darrel at the lectern preaching on Sundays.
Bre was hired as a teacher at Jasper High School and the couple established themselves in the community. Making friends and building relationships as well as again, planting roots. They were totally committed to this being their forever home.
Then in late 2015, Drew was leading Redemption’s expansion into Loogootee, but as the satellite campus project began in earnest, the call for Drew to plant a church came again. Restoration House Ministries reached out to him to consider planting a church in Boston. However, in the midst of establishing the new church, Drew wasn’t ready to hear the call.
“I declined but my wife said we should at least go check it out,” Drew said.
They headed out to meet with the group and he was surprised about what he learned about the city. “Boston is the biggest mission field for a city over a million people,” Drew explained. “It is one of the least churched cities in the country.”
He was convicted by what he saw. Despite Boston’s rich past of being the epicenter of so much revival and spiritual awakening, it had surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least churched area of the country. With Boston’s 52 colleges and growing tech industry (Amazon listed the city on its recent shortlist for the company’s new headquarters), he also saw the opportunity to reach a young, influential and growing population of millennials.
The call stayed with him. After Loogootee was launched in late 2016 and the couple’s first child, Annie June, was born, the vision others saw in him as a church planter began to take hold in his heart.
“I had a lot of people tell me that not everyone can be a church planter,” he explained. “They told me I had some gifts that align with what is needed as a church planter and explained that although God could use me anywhere, could I better serve God’s kingdom doing what I am uniquely gifted to do.”
What everyone had been telling him and what he had seen in Boston in regards to the need for churches caused him to begin to reconsider his adamant refusal to consider himself as a church planter.
It also seemed like Boston was constantly coming up in his life.
The calling would no longer not be heard.
Then, during a trip home from a visit with his family in Indianapolis, Drew and Bre decided the need and calling everyone else had already seen in him coincided. He was visiting Indianapolis to watch his dad David Thurman preach when a video announcing another church plant came across his phone while they were at lunch.
“I watched the video and showed Bre and she just gave me this look,” Drew said. “She told me that she didn’t want to hear about someone else’s story of being faithful to going and living out the gospel.”
They began the drive home from Indianapolis theorizing what it could mean and by the time they arrived in Jasper, they were talking in absolutes. They were church planters.
“I decided I didn’t want to look back when I was 70 years old and ask myself why we didn’t go,” he said.
As these things go, Drew can now see the work in his life that God has done to prepare him for this moment. To give him the ability to potentially face the discomfort of arriving in a new city where Christianity is viewed as obsolete, an antiquity of backward thinking.
“All the times we had to move,” he explained about his father’s own history in ministry and where it led the family. “Showing up my sophomore year in high school in Indianapolis and throwing up in the bathroom because once again I had to learn to assimilate in a new culture. What I learned in those seasons, God has used those things for good.”
Those uncomfortable moments in his early life have built him into an individual who isn’t afraid of jumping into a new culture. One prepared to confront change and new thinking, something that will be needed in Boston.
To a certain extent Drew’s run from God’s calling including turning his back on his genealogy. His grandfather Tom Thurman was a church planter who decided to follow Christ when he was a teen.
“He was the generation that changed us to being Christ-followers,” Drew said about his family.
Drew’s grandfather had an established ministry and church in Southern Illinois when he felt a calling to head to Africa on mission. He answered it, leaving the ministry he started in Illinois and headed to what was then Southern Rhodesia. “He had three kids and had never been there,” Drew explained. “Just packed up his family and went.”
He and his wife established a printing company to support the ministry he started with the goal of creating self-sufficient Christian communities. They stayed until a civil war forced Tom to move back to the U.S.
Tom’s son Dave also went into ministry and eventually went back to what became known as Zimbabwe to work with the mission his father had started.
Drew is the third generation now. It’s difficult to run from your heritage and, contrary to where he thought his service to Christianity would take him, Drew is following in his grandfather’s footsteps and planting a church in Boston.
He’s named it Renaissance in reference to a revival or rebirth of a love for God in what was once the epicenter of many Christian movements. But Drew is also experiencing a renaissance as he excepts the reality of who he is, who he was shaped to be and how that is now coinciding with this new chapter in his life.
You can learn more about Renaissance Christian Church here.
Jace and Catie Rasche have led Young Life in Dubois County for several years but they will also be joining Drew and Bre in Boston.
Boston is the second most post-Christian city in America (Barna Group).
Only 3-5% of the population in the Boston metro area frequent a church on a regular basis.
There are over 52 colleges and universities in the Boston metro area.
The Boston metro area has the biggest concentration of Millenials in the U.S., and leads the nation in hiring them as well.
Boston is listed among the most influential cites, both politically and economically, in the country.