College pastor finds ‘fresh foundation’ on campus

College pastor finds ‘fresh foundation’ on campus

During Jacob Dahl’s senior year at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, Washington, the civil engineering major had a “sitting-in-the-mud moment,” much like the prodigal son. Though the Washington native grew up in church, he had somehow “missed the heart of the gospel.”

Dahl crawled out of the mud and into Resonate Church, a Southern Baptist campus church at WSU, where he professed faith in Christ and was baptized.

“I had my life flipped upside down,” Dahl said of his salvation.

With a degree in hand, Dahl promptly moved home to his parents’ basement in Bellingham, Washington, a six-hour drive from WSU. The economy had tanked and there were few jobs for civil engineering graduates.

He eventually returned to Pullman for an internship with Resonate Church, where leadership was hesitant to hire him because he had no ministry experience and was a new believer.

But Resonate took a chance on Dahl and sent him and one other person to the nearby University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, to assist with a new church plant Resonate had started there. Unfortunately things did not work out for Dahl.

“I failed to see a lot of breakthrough on campus and burned out,” Dahl said. “I didn’t think ministry was for me. It crushed my soul.”

Dahl focused his efforts on his engineering career for the next two years, working at a WSU sports science laboratory.

“It was during those two years that I felt unrest and eventually experienced a foundational call to ministry,” said Dahl, who now understood what God was asking Him to do. It was time to try again.

With his new bride, Jessica, and a team of 14 others, he moved to rural Ellensburg, Washington, to be the first Resonate site pastor at Central Washington University (CWU). By September 2014, Resonate Church at CWU launched.

Within the first year, 36 students professed faith in Christ and 41 were baptized.

College students are one of the least reached people groups in the nation, Dahl said. That phenomenon is more so in the Northwest.

Dahl finds that modern students have virtually no knowledge of the gospel or biblical stories. At their fall retreat, there were students who didn’t know about sin. Others could not believe that Christ’s resurrection was real. While that lack of knowledge presents challenges, Dahl also sees opportunity.

“People coming to Christ have no preconceived ideas of who God is,” Dahl said. “It’s a fresh foundation.”

Besides worship and small groups, Dahl’s team spends many hours hanging out with the students. Somewhere in that mix, a sense of family emerges.

Resonate is a network of college churches in the Northwest begun by Keith Wieser of Texas.

Wieser moved to the Northwest in 2000 for seminary training through an extension of Gateway Seminary. In 2004 he moved to Pullman to begin a nontraditional campus ministry at WSU, from which Resonate Church emerged. He is now a North American Mission Board collegiate church planting catalyst. (BP)