Dating Your City

Ernest Smith

In 2012, my wife and I were trying to figure out where God was calling us to plant a church. Through a dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, we landed on a few things we were looking for in a city that we would move to, plant roots in and raise our family. We had this mentality that if we were going to love the people of our city, then we had to love our city. Meaning, if we hated things about our city, like the traffic, the growth, the lack of good restaurants, etc, then that would come out in our interaction with people. It would be very difficult to love the people of a city, if we hated the city.

After we decided God was calling us to start Front Range Christian Church in Castle Rock, CO, we packed up our house, loaded up a Uhaul and moved 1700 miles to our new town. It was a parachute launch, meaning we were going to a city where we knew almost no one. However, the plane we jumped out of was a large 757. By the grace of God, we had over 60 people move out to help us start the church.

When we landed, one of the greatest pieces of advice we were given was to “date our city.” Someone told me, “Ernest, you have a little bit of a runway (7 months to be exact) before you launch. Take time to date your city. Go on hikes. Find out what the tourists come here for and do that. Visit different coffee shops and restaurants. Before you jump in and get to work, take time to date your city.” This piece of advice gave us the ability to build a foundation of love for our town and for the people God was going to allow us to minister to. My wife and two kids (1 and 3 years old at the time) took a couple weeks to just travel the state, we went on hikes, we explored caves, we found great ice cream (Little Man Ice Cream to be exact), we visited the zoo and much more. I gave myself grace to not just jump straight into the hard work of planting (although I was doing a lot of work throughout this time), but to slow down long enough to let myself and my family find the beauty in our new home. We wanted to love our state and our town, because we knew it would not only help us love the people, but it would help us thrive as a family.

If you are moving to a new state or you have recently moved to a new place or you find yourself disgruntled by the place you are currently living, take some time to date your new home. Take time to explore, to eat, to meet new people, to do touristy things and much more. If you do, you will not only gain a greater love for the people who also call your town home, but you will plant greater roots in a place God is using to encourage, challenge and develop you and your family.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. If I were to visit my town as a tourist, what would I do?
  2. What are 2-3 places that people in our town say we must go there to eat, have fun or explore?
  3. What could you do that would allow your kids or spouse to gain a greater love for this town?

Ernest didn’t grow up in the church, but when he was finally introduced to Jesus, he has sought to serve the Church ever since. He was on staff at Seacoast Church for over 15 years, where he led many ministries including Students, Family Ministry, College Ministry and Campus Pastor. In addition, Ernest was on the teaching team and a part of the executive team. During this same time, Ernest completed two master’s degrees and started his Doctorate of Ministry at Liberty University, which he finished in 2019.

In 2013, Ernest and his family moved from Charleston, SC to Castle Rock, CO to start Front Range Church. Ernest has the honor of serving as the lead pastor, as well as the president of a mission’s organization called Bread of Life Mission, that he helped start in 2005.
Ernest has been married to his best friend, Sara, for 20 years and together they have two incredible kids, Wyatt and Waverly. In addition, their house is inhabited by a Yorkie (Pearl) and a French Bulldog (Winston). Together, the family loves to travel, play games and cheer on the Georgia Bulldogs.
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