“I think about Jesus telling Peter he would make him a fisher of men.”
This is what Pastor Nathan DuPree says as he reflects on his story. When Simon Peter met Jesus, it caused him to change careers from fishing to proclaiming the gospel. For Nathan, this meant pastoral ministry instead of becoming a professional running back. While Jesus told Peter he’d be fishing for men, Jesus handed the ball of good news off for Nathan to rush down to the lost—specifically those in the northern outskirts of Reno, Nevada.
“Follow Me . . . ”
Nathan grew up in the small town of Vance, South Carolina but moved to Reno, Nevada in his junior year of high school. During this time, football became the love of his life, and he had big dreams of playing in the NFL. But when that dream came crashing down for various reasons, he spiraled. He didn’t know what to do with his life or where to turn but said, “my mother constantly prayed for me, so please keep praying for your children.”
God answered that prayer using football. DuPree attended a Saturday church service in which NFL running back Napoleon Kaufman shared his testimony of how he achieved his dream of becoming a number one draft pick, but still felt empty inside. That night Nathan was saved and says, “God used football and Napoleon as bait to draw me to him.”He didn’t know what to do with his life or where to turn but said, “my mother constantly prayed for me, so please keep praying for your children.” Click To Tweet
“ . . . and I Will Make You . . . ”
Nathan served his uncle’s church for years after coming to faith but felt called to plant a church in 2006. Over the next nine years, he went through the tough process of planting, growing, and eventually, dissolving a church.
“I planted without any church-planting knowledge or training. It was equally difficult and fruitful. But in all of that heartache, God formed me in so many ways, I wouldn’t take it back for anything. When God’s preparing you for something, he loves to train on the backside of the desert,” he recalls. When that chapter ended, he began looking for a church in the area that was living out the gospel and came across Living Stones.
Living Stones is a family of churches across northern Nevada, which at the time, had four locations. Nathan says, “I met with Harvey Turner, who was the founding and lead pastor, and he introduced me to Acts 29. We built a great relationship, and our remaining members joined the Living Stones fold in 2015. Over the next few years, we made Living Stones Reno our home.”
Time passed and Nathan sensed God was still calling him to plant a church even after the first one phased out. As he transitioned into leadership at Living Stones, others began to affirm and encourage him in that calling. The elders knew that along with Nathan’s family, about a hundred of their congregation members were driving into downtown Reno from an area about 10 miles away known as the “North Valleys.” So, with much prayer and discernment, they began the process of planting their seventh church, Living Stones North Valleys.
“Fishers of Men”
When asked to describe the context, Nathan says the region is scattered with suburban and rural communities. People move from central Reno to the North Valleys for newer housing, to get away from the urban population, or because they can’t afford to live in the city. Since people come for various reasons, the ethnic and socioeconomic makeup is more diverse than the rest of the city.
It seems in the North Valleys, people don’t want to be known and don’t have to be known. Many value independence, believing they don’t need anyone and definitely don’t need God. Nathan says, “You’ll come across signs on homes that say, ‘no solicitation of anything or God.’ That’ll give you a sense of the North Valleys.”
But since launching on Christmas Eve of 2021, they’ve seen God move in significant ways. Just as when Jesus told Simon to let down his nets for a catch, our church is following God’s Word and witnessing him bring growth and provision.Just as when Jesus told Simon to let down his nets for a catch, our church is following God’s Word and witnessing him bring growth and provision. Click To Tweet
- Since North Valleys neighborhoods are either scattered or still developing, options for worship spaces are limited. DuPree and his team knew finding a permanent location to gather would be essential for the growing church, and God quickly answered. “God gave us the perfect spot. He made a way for us to get into a brand new building, including funded tenant improvements.”
- An older Christian couple recently moved to the North Valleys from Southern California. They attended different churches but didn’t feel like any of them were a good fit. But after hearing about LS North Valleys, they felt like it was where God was calling them. They feel they have a new church family and recently took the membership class.
- Emiliano and Nate accidentally wandered into the church’s vision night, thinking it was a worship gathering. They were new believers and recently moved from San Francisco to get away from their former gang involvement. Although it wasn’t a Sunday service, they believe God brought them there to hear the mission and vision of Living Stones. Emiliano is now a member and God continues to work through them.
Someone once asked Nathan’s wife, Denise, why they went through the process of church planting all over again. She answered, “because God is worth it.” This second time around, they had the support of the Living Stones family and the Acts 29 Network. Both have provided them with training and fellowship to face the challenges of church planting. Nathan says, “there are many leaders I can gain support from on a personal level. I feel like there is nothing you need as a church planter that Acts 29 doesn’t offer.” May God continue to raise up church planters who are supported and equipped to be fishers of men.