Miles of ministry
Pastor & writer
- Church planting & multiplication
In 2017, Rob Steele desired an open door from God to learn more about starting churches in North Dakota.
That’s why, five years later, Steve Krier stood beside a rented SUV. The engine was running, the air conditioner was blowing. The Toyota RAV4 was so blue they named it the Smurf.
All Krier wanted was a wheelman. “It’s a lot of driving,” he said.
Steele agreed, noting their different styles at the Smurf’s helm.
“He’s a cautious driver,” Steele joked. “I’m more of an aggressive driver; I enjoy driving more than he does.”
No matter who drives, it’s easier than traveling by air. There are no direct flights between Converge Heartland cities.
A lot of windshield time
To be clear, less wheel time is hardly why Krier invited Steele to a five-day road trip from North Dakota to Oklahoma and back. Krier, a Minnesota church planter and Converge Heartland’s director of church planting, wanted Steele to meet church planters. Plus, spending time with God’s servants brings joy into Krier’s heart and faith.
“We’re relationally devoted to each other,” he said of Converge churches. For that reason, he knows his ministry partners will make time for each other and deepen their relationships.
Further, Krier knows Jesus spent time with his disciples on the roads of their day. As Christ and the disciples walked from place to place, they maximized the downtime between ministry opportunities. Krier sees a road trip as miles in ministry, as one more empowering answer to Steele’s prayer five years ago about being part of new churches.
“We need more churches in this area,” Steele realized about communities stretching from Canada to the northern border of Texas. That includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, the Kansas City metro area, Missouri and Oklahoma, where more than 16 million people live.
Related: Great progress, greater opportunities
Krier explains that Wichita, Sioux Falls, Fargo and cities along I-29 are growing. Their population is increasing by more than 1% a year. Such growth equals at least one whole small town moving into those cities, a sign to him that God is at work and gospel opportunities await.
“There’s a lot of fast-growing cities in the Heartland,” Krier said. “You would never guess how much is actually happening here.”
A joke turns into a journey
In college, Steele studied hospitality because of his passion for welcoming others into a positive experience. A few years after graduation, he was hanging out with Chase Selcer, a friend from high school. Selcer and Steele were student leaders of their high school youth group.
Then Selcer joined Ignite, the church Krier started in Morehead, Minnesota, and became a staff member. Steele half-joked one day with Selcer about moving to Bismarck because a church sought a hospitality director.
Related: The mysterious beauty of starting churches and cultivating disciples
The next thing Steele knew, Krier wanted to have lunch at Doolittles, a wood-fired grill in Fargo. Selcer had shared the joke about being a hospitality director with Krier, who saw God at work.
During the three-hour lunch, Krier shared the vision of his church, which included a priority of excellent hospitality. He invited Steele to lead and revitalize Ignite’s hospitality toward church guests.
“Every single thing Steve said was this huge door just opening wider and wider,” Steele added.
A new perspective eases the future pastor’s mind
Years later, Steele is preparing to barge through the opening. The trip with Krier helped to amplify Steele’s development as a church planter in notable ways.
The drive across a group of states roughly the same size as Spain revealed to Steele that he could plant a church and be the man God made him to be ― and not have to try to be someone he’s not. Several church planters in different types of communities showed there’s no right personality or perfect identity for a church planter.
Krier has mentored Steele for a few years, giving the future church planter one perspective of how a pastor starts and leads a new congregation. (Krier’s Minnesota church parented a church plant in North Dakota.) On top of those lessons, Steele saw other alternatives Converge Heartland church planters have put into practice.
- Some started their teams and their congregations in different ways.
- Some started with large groups or a fellow pastor.
- Some began with an extroverted pastor.
- Other pastors are more introverted.
“Seeing other church planters who are more like myself reassured me that I could handle this,” Steele said.
Related: Training pups and planters: there’s no typical church planter.
Krier makes a road trip like this around once a year. He wants to visit his brothers in the church planting ministry. He loves seeing how God works in different communities through different personalities and philosophies.
As he asked them about praying for their ministry, he said their answer echoed a similar heart: pray that God would reach our cities through his church.
“There are a lot of really great guys that are pastoring in the heartland,” Krier said. “They’re faithful and they’re biblical and they all want to reach their cities.”
Frequent prayers and in-person preaching matter
Arrows Church, started by Robert and Shelly Conn in Papillion, Nebraska, credited the new church’s strong start to prayer, Krier and Steele said.
Steele heard how the volunteers and Conns pray several times by the time Sunday worship starts. The worship team prays, the leadership team prays and people pray over empty seats before the doors open to the community.
“They have such a huge focus on prayer,” Steele said. “To see tangible results of prayer was super encouraging.”
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The four-month-old church averages more than 100 people each Sunday and had its first baptisms in August.
The end of the road
Steele is getting ready to participate in Converge’s Church Planting Assessment Center in October. That’ll be one more of the Fargo native’s many steps toward discovering God’s will.
What he’s learned after visiting several church planters and observing them and hearing their journeys has him more sure than ever of what Christ does to build his church.
“To have a pastor that can shepherd the flock of God among you, as 2 Peter says, to preach the word in person, I don’t think that can be overstated how vital that is to a church,” Steele said.
A lot of miles, a lot of lessons
Not surprisingly, 2000 miles in a RAV4 stirred up a few good laughs for Krier and Steele. Steele drove the Smurf for all but six hours during the 2000-mile trip. That’s a lot of time in the driver’s seat, even for someone who says he enjoys driving. Yet, Steele recognizes how much he gained from the church planters he met.
Together, the Lord drew Krier and Steele into a deeper faith and commitment to church planting as they glimpsed God’s power and people’s needs throughout the region.
“It has all these people who need to experience the love of Christ,” Steele said.
Converge’s 10 districts united to deploy 312 church planters before 2026. Read more inspiring church planting stories and learn more about the goal to help more people meet, know and follow Jesus.
Ben Greene, Pastor & writer
Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.Additional articles by Ben Greene