The past seems almost foreign to church planter Jacob Dahl. Like many college students, Jacob went to school anticipating four years of fun and freedom. He dreamed of the secure financial future his engineering degree had practically guaranteed him. But during Jacob’s senior year at Washington State University (WSU), everything changed.
“I remember going to an engineering job fair in 2007,” Jacob says. “There were so many businesses and firms offering opportunities with high starting salaries. I thought, ‘I have nothing to worry about. I’ll graduate and be a success; I will have this lifestyle forever.’ And then I went to get a job at the career fair right before graduating in 2009. There were only two companies there—alone in an empty auditorium.”
The recession felt like a personal blow to Jacob. He grew up knowing about God, but never had a relationship with Him and when he realized what he had been working toward was not going to happen, he lost it. He was caught cheating in his final semester of school.
“I had stopped caring about rules and right versus wrong,” says Jacob. “I should have gotten kicked out, but my professor gave me another chance. It was one of many turning points the last first months of my senior year.”
Resonate Church, a North American Mission Board church plant in Pullman, Washington, located near the WSU campus, was hosting a mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico. Jacob had visited Resonate before with a friend. When the pastor mentioned the trip to the congregation, Jacob felt an unexplainable desire to go.
“I wrestled with myself and with God that night around midnight,” says Jacob. “I asked, ‘Have I done too much bad stuff to go on this trip? I’m not sure if I’m allowed to go, but if I am, that’s cool.’”
A few days later, he received a letter from his grandmother with a check for the exact cost of the trip. Jacob called her, curious of what prompted her gift and she told him God had woken her one night and told her the exact amount she needed to send him. She never asked any questions, she just sent the money.
His grandmother’s faith moved him, and he knew he was suppose to go to Mexico. There, he met his best friend and future wife, Jessica.
“In Mexico, everything began to really shift,” says Jacob. “I had realized, before, that my worldly life was falling apart, but the Tijuana mission trip was what sealed the deal. After that trip, everything was stripped away. I became a new creation, and I got to know Jesus personally.”
Six weeks after the mission trip, Jacob had was baptized and graduated college. While searching for a full-time job, Jacob interned at Resonate Church, where he ran into Jessica again.
“She was on staff at Resonate, and she was just as beautiful as I remembered her being on the trip,” says Jacob. “And she was walking with Jesus.”
Dahl left the church internship to work for WSU at the campus lab.
“I was an engineer there for about two years,” says Jacob. “It was a fun job, and I made great money, but, eventually, I was restless in the soul. So, I did what I had done before the Tijuana trip. I prayed.”
“I was no longer trying to do it all myself,” Jacob says. “Instead, I was giving it to God and asking Him what He had for my life.”
One Saturday, Jacob was reading Isaiah when he had a remarkable experience.
“It was like God was in the room,” says Jacob. “And He told me, clearly, that He was calling me to lead ‘My people.’ All I had been asking for was what He wanted me to do next with my life. And He answered.”
In fall, 2013, Jacob joined the pastoral staff of Resonate Church, and in May 2014, Dahl left Resonate at WAU to plant Resonate in Ellensburg, a city that is home to 11,000 college students at Central Washington University (CWU). During that time, he also married Jessica.
“Shepherding was the last thing I saw myself doing,” Jacob says. “I’m strategic thinker and an introvert. I get to lead this church plant with my wife by my side. She ministers to students on college campuses and helps everyone, especially the women’s ministry and young girls.”
At Resonate Church, Jacob is currently the lead pastor. Approximately 1,000 out of 11,000 college kids are attending church every week. That’s less than 10 percent of students who are engaged in the gospel weekly.
“It rocks me that about 10,000 kids are not in church or even a Bible study,” says Jacob. “Without His Word and a solid community of believers, kids can get lost and easily distracted in the world. I did.”
Jacob and other pastoral staff at Resonate Church plants have planned and planted six sites around college campuses that connect the gospel to people, people to community and community to the mission of Jesus. The Resonate Church staff, including all plants, are currently praying and preparing to plant 21 churches in the next five years.
“In 2021, we hope to have 21 campus church plants across America,” Jacob says. “We’re calling it the 21 to 21 campaign.”
And the 21 to 21 plan is already in action. In 2017, Resonate Church planter Colin Luoma is taking a team of 15 people from the Resonate Church plant in Ellensburg to develop one in Monmouth, Oregon.
“We’re looking to go deeper and reach more people with the gospel,” says Jacob. “Anything is possible with the Lord. I’ve witnessed it and been a part of His limitless plans. I am where I am today because of Him.”
Southern Baptists gave more than $58 million to the AAEO in 2016. Everything given to this offering goes straight to the mission field in North America and helps start and support church plants like Resonate in Ellensburg.
You can give to AAEO any time at AnnieArmstrong.com.
Published March 8, 2017