Kevin Gibbs was a minister to college students at a church in Arlington, Texas, the first time he traveled to Seattle. He had connected with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) to lead a GenSend mission trip that focused on several church plants in the city.
The last week of his summer-long trip, Gibbs spoke with a mentor who asked a question that initiated a major transition for him and his family.
“He asked me, ‘Where would you be if money and resources were not an option?’” Gibbs said. “I lost it and told him it would be Seattle.”
Gibbs grew up in Austin, Texas, and Seattle’s unique culture reminded him of his hometown. When Gibbs called his wife Rebecca to let her know that he felt like God might be leading them to make a cross-country move, she said that God had confirmed the same thing to her.
“Church planting wasn’t on my radar when I started leading the trip,” Gibbs said. “I mostly just wanted to grow in my ministry experience by leading a mission trip.”
That trip took place in 2014. What struck Gibbs most about his visit to Seattle then was the key lesson he learned: church planting requires constant living with “gospel intentionality.” Planting a new church in a city that needed more gospel-proclaiming churches required embracing the gospel as a lifestyle, Gibbs said.
Gibbs and Rebecca served through a residency with a church in Arkansas and moved with their son Barrett to Seattle in 2018 to start a residency with Roots Community Church, a Send Network church in the Roosevelt and Ravenna neighborhoods of Seattle.
When the pandemic forced shutdowns of large groups in 2020, Gibbs led his core group of 13 people to start meeting virtually. They officially became Discovery Church.
“There were a lot of open doors,” Gibbs said. “Where COVID did close doors – it’s hard to do mass gatherings and block parties – it has forced us to equip our people in evangelism and discipleship.”
They began by serving those in their community in whatever ways they could, starting with sweeping the floors of their neighborhood community center. After consistently serving over time, the community center invited them to meet there for church.
“God has given us favor in the community so that people are open to church because of our connection with the community center,” he said.
Gibbs has trained his team to view their evangelism as a part of their identity rather than a special project the church does from time to time. They find that the members of their community are searching for hope and meaning. Whenever others ask Gibbs or his church members about their lives, they take the opportunity to talk about all that God is doing.
One man Gibbs was able to lead to the Lord had been homeless and wrestled with the shame of losing his job to the point that he would not even share where he was with his family.
“I got to share the gospel with him,” he said. “It was an emotional conversation, and he just realized that he couldn’t do this life on his own. It was a really sweet moment.”
Another friend in the city reached out to him to ask about baptism because he wanted to get serious about his faith. Gibbs could tell that his friend simply wanted to step up his religious commitment, so he presented the gospel using the 3 Circles evangelism tool, and his friend accepted Christ.
“Every relationship is a gospel opportunity,” Gibbs said. “We’re having tons of gospel conversations, and I can tell that many people have yet to see their need. So, we are praying for open eyes.”
Gibbs is one of 51 missionaries or chaplains featured in NAMB’s 2021 prayer calendar, which can be ordered at nambstore.com or by calling 866-407-6262. The calendar is also available in a downloadable version.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.)