I’ve missed Willow Creek so much I’ve dreamt about it

Yes, it’s true. Every now and then I have dreamed about my days at Willow Creek. Why? Because I loved being a part of Willow Creek. Loved being on staff. Loved having my family be apart. And, occasionally, I’ve dreamed about it.

Let me back up

When I was 21 years old, I watched a special on ABC news about Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Church.

It blew my mind!

At the time, I was a youth pastor for a very traditional (both theologically and methodically) Church and I was searching for a different way to do church. Needless to say, after watching that special, I found it. Ever since that day, 17 years ago, I have admired, respected and loved Willow Creek Church.

Fast forward to 2001. I was trying to be a worship leader. I mean, I was a worship leader. But, I was a youth pastor. I loved to teach, plan events and lead worship. I did them all. At the time, my worship team and I had made a CD and on a whim, I sent it and my resume to Willow Creek Church to be considered for the Jr High worship leader position.

I never thought I would hear from them. NEVER. But, I did and I headed off to Willow for a weekend of interviews. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be and that process helped me decide to put away my guitar and my event planner hat and concentrate on teaching.

Fast forward to 2006. Through an amazing relationship with a good friend, I was asked to apply for a position on the Jr. small groups team at Willow Creek. Low and behold they offered me the position and I moved my family to the Northwest suburbs of Chicago.

We loved it.

I can honestly say it was my favorite ministry position ever. I’ve been blessed to be apart of a lot of great Churches, but my goodness, I loved being a part of Willow Creek. I loved my job. I loved the team I worked with. I loved the Church. I loved the leadership. I loved it. I pinched myself everyday when I walked into the church to head to my office.


  • I loved the Leadership Culture.
  • I loved the teaching.
  • I loved the direction of the Church.
  • I loved the passion!
  • I loved the heart to reach those far from Jesus.
  • I loved the emphasis on excellence.
  • I loved the way they took care of their staff (Not only the best staff benefits I’ve ever had, but the training and as well)
  • I loved the team I had the honor to work with.
  • I loved the fact that I could be a specialist. (I could concentrate on Jr. High Small Groups)
  • I loved the Children’s ministry and I loved that my kids were a part!
  • I loved the Student ministry and I couldn’t wait for my kids to be a part

You get the idea. Not only did I love it, but my family loved it. 

My Dream

To use what I learned and experienced from my time at Willow Creek for the Church that God’s called me to plant here in Central MI.

I love that God has me and my family right where He wants us and that He has is bringing a great team together to build a…






and Real Church.


The Ministry of Panera Bread

Pretty frequently I use Panera Bread as my preferred office location. I do that because of a few reasons:panerabread

1. My home office is in my unfinished/unheated basement. But, I have a fireplace right next to my desk and that’s awesome. But, it still gets cold. So, I use Panera Bread.

2. I wan to be around people. I would crazy if I had to work in my basement all the time…alone…by myself.

3. I want to desperately be Jesus and share Jesus and being around people at Panera Bread is a great way!

I’m not there everyday, but sometimes I’m there 2-3 times a week. I know most of the managers and staff by name and they know my name. They know I work with schools to help end bullying and now they know I’m starting a church.

2 Super Cool Panera Moments…Today

The first…The manager gave me a cookie and drink on the house today. He said he’s thankful I’m a great customer and he sees me meeting w/people and he said he appreciates my business. That was awesome and it made my day.

So, I invited him to our new church!

The Second…I had my books laid out all over my table, including my Bible. I had 2 CMU students walk by and look at my table kind of weird. Well, a little time went by and they came back by and said that they’ve been searching for a church they fit in and haven’t been able to find one. Then one of the guys said…”You don’t know any great churches in the area, do you?”

DO I???? Well, Yes I do!!

I proceded to invite him to our next gathering and it’s not till March 24th and he said he was bummed it’s so far away. Well, that made me think…maybe we need to do one sooner!!!

What a Great day!

2013-02-28 08.53.56

Church in a Bar????

Yes, why not!?!2013-02-24 17.13.04

On Sunday night, we had our 2nd ever worship service and yes…it was at a bar.

Ok, it was in the bar’s side room, but it’s still a bar! And I love it. It has already communicated to some people that we’re interested in doing ‘church’ differently.

Actually, we might have outgrown our Bar location! Uh Oh!

Highlights from Sunday Night

1. It was Gloriously chaotic. We had ages from every generation there…including kids! I think it was a glimpse of the early church. Next time, we’ll have a room for the really young ones, but still…it was cool to have kids a part.

2. We had a 10 year old us up in prayer and a 12 year read our scripture! It was cool! Beyond Cool! Again, I think a picture of the early church.

3. We laughed. One of our ‘must have’ values is fun and laughter. We laughed and joked and had fun.

Our worship team didn’t have time to practice because of schedules, but it was great! Just awesome to pour out our hearts!

5. We unpacked the question, Why Church? I looked at Matthew 16:13-20. It’s the first time the word Church in the Bible. I talked about how when Jesus meant the church to be a movement built on Him…not a building…not a tradition…not a place.

6. We took the next step. We’re still quite a ways off from meeting weekly, but we took the next step.

Be Apart of the Launch Team

  • What is the Launch team? This is the team that will be the leadership of the Church. They will help live out our DNA and will always make sure we have a culture of welcome and acceptance. A culture that’s not afraid of Change and will embrace it if it means reaching more people for Jesus! 
  • We are praying and believing God for 70 people to be a part of our Launch team.
  • Wanna be a part? Email me now. Yes, right now.


What’s Next? 

1. Launch Team Meeting on March 20th. 6:30-8:00pm. Location TBD. If you’re interested on being a part of this Dream Team, then come and see what we’re about. More info coming soon.

2. Worship Night on March 24th. 5:45pm. Location TBD. Worship with us, pray with us, dream with us and help us take the next steps to build a dynamic and modern Church.

3. Easter Sunday Service on March 31st. Location and Time TBD. Put it on your calendar now!!!


You Can Help Start a Brand New Church!!

Yes, that’s right…bncblack_full

You can Help Start a Brand New Church. 

Whether you live in Central MI, Upper MI, Lower MI, or another part of the Country…you can be a part!

God has given us a giant dream and vision for this new community and I know God is going to bring the right people together for our Launch team.

Why not?

The world needs more Churches. It just does. We definitely need more dynamic, prevailing, modern and Acts 2 & Jesus focused Churches. Churches that are willing to do more than just talk about Jesus, but live out his words!

We do because there are so many people who need to know the Hope and Life that Jesus offers!

The Local Church is the Hope of the World and investing your time, your finances, your energy, and your prayer into the Local Church will make a HUGE Kingdom Investment! Windows-Vista-help

Launch Team

Yes You! You can be a part of our launch team! That’s right you! At least pray about it. Ask God if He’s nudging you or calling you to be a part.

This team will be committed to helping get this Brand New Church off the ground and up and running. It will be a labor of love. It will be living out our God given dream and being a part of an amazing community. It will also help create the new culture for this Church and live out the way that the Acts 2 community lived.

Why be a part?

1. Because Creating something from nothing is an amazing process! It’s fun, it’s exciting and yes, it’s challenging! It will be tough, but I’ve learned that some of the life’s toughest challenges bring the most reward!

2. Because we will reach new people for Jesus! I know we will! Our heart and passion is to reach those far from Jesus!

3. Because our area needs more new Churches. We have a ton a really good churches in our area, but there is a real need for more!

4. Because it will be energizing and momentum building. I have been dreaming of this for 15 years. Many on our team have been dreaming of this day as well. We are energized, we are ready to climb the hill and we are ready to ban together to live out the Acts 2 community.

5. Because it will be Fun! Yes, you read that right! Fun and Laughter are high values of mine and I believe more Christians and Churches need to live them out!

6. Because it’s awesome to be a part of a huge vision! Here’s part of our dream and vision…

  • A Church who is love with Jesus.
  • A Church that helps people grow spiritually through their small groups.
  • A Church where no perfect people will be allowed.
  • A Church that values the arts.
  • A Church that is about fun and laughter.
  • A Church who will span all generations, but who will invest ruthlessly into the younger generation.
  • A Church where it is ok to have and enjoy loud music.
  • A Church that values Stories and will be continually sharing them.
  • A Church that cares more for the inside of people than the outside.
  • A Church that is for the Community, not just in the Community.
  • A Church who radically gives to God and to those in need.
  • A Church that’s not stuck on tradition and loves Change.
  • A Church where the dechurched and unchurched will feel accepted and wanted, no matter their beliefs.
  • A Church where those who are centered on Christ will be pushed to grow and not become comfortable.
  • A Church that will bring Hope.
  • A Church that will give people next steps every week.
  • A Church that will Love Others Selflessly and Love God Passionately.

Email me.

Yes, do it now. Even if you don’t know for sure what you think about all this, but for some reason there is a twinge in your spirit, let’s get together and grab coffee!




Why am I Launching a New Church?

Ever since I posted about being called to plant a church last week, I have had a lot of really fun Bevins-How-to-Get-Involved-in-Church-Planting-Quoteconversations/texts/messages/emails this week!

I mean, holy cow!

They have ranged from…

  • So incredibly excited for you
  • I have the felt the call to do the same
  • Can I be a part?
  • You are crazy! But, I love it!
  • Why now?
  • Why plant a new church, aren’t there enough Churches already?

So, I thought I would write a brief post about the WHY behind our decision to plant a new church.

Here we go, The primary reasons I have decided to Launch and Plant a New Church:

1. The undeniable, unbelievable, and ridiculously CLEAR call to plant a Church. 

God has been talking to me about this for quite some time. 15 years actually! And then, all of last year it was on my heart and head the entire year. This was not and is not a rash decision. It has been bathed in prayer for a LONG time!

There were moments when the voice of God was so intense on my heart that it felt like I was under a waterfall!

2. There is a need for more Modern, New, Life Giving, Passionate about Jesus Churches in Central MI! 

I’ve been studying the demographics since I moved here 2.5 years ago! Yes, there are a lot of Churches. But, I believe we need more!

3. People Need Jesus…More than Ever Before!

My work with Live Now Leadership has confirmed this in my life over and over. I have heard hundreds of extremely painful life stories and it has been a constant reminder that there is a GIANT need for people to find Hope.

I believe (Like Bill Hybels says) that the Local Church is the Hope of the World.

New Churches are never a bad thing in my estimation!

4. I never stopped being a Pastor. 

Yes, I made the extremely painful decision to leave my last church (many reasons behind that), but I never stopped pastoring. I have prayed with hundreds of people in Panera Bread, McDonalds, the Hospital, Walmart and Gas Stations!

I have even prayed with Principals in their office! It’s been amazing!

I get stopped all the time in stores by people who say…”I still see you as my Pastor…so…will you pray for me”? WHAT AN HONOR!!!



Again, even though I left my last church, I never stopped loving the Church or Church Leadership or Student Ministry or Family Ministry or Church Growth!

I spend so much time reading books and articles and websites about the Church. Researching other Churches. Talking with Church Leaders.

I love the Church!

6. My family needed a Church home.

We have been searching far and wide for a place that we felt God was leading us to. There are many great, GREAT, Churches in our area, but none that we felt was suppose to be our home Church.

Part of the reason is…I’m just skeptical about denominations. After having worked for two of the country’s most amazing non-denominational churches (NorthRidge and Willow Creek), I just have a tough time with the structure, philosophy, lack of perceived vision (my own opinion) and lack of perceived movement (my own opinion) with some mainline denominations. Again, I know many wonderful leaders in denominations, so this is not an attack at all. Just my own opinion.

7. God brought together a wonderful Core team. 

In an extremely awesome and I believe divine way, God starting bringing person after person together to form our core team. They have been our church for months! We meet weekly, we pray for each other, we help each other, we love each other’s kids, we have fun together and we dream together about this new Church.

It’s been truly humbling and an honor!

We’re not done though! If you would like to be a part, email me (jason@jasonraitz.com) and let’s grab coffee!

I love the place God has me. 

I get to bring hope into schools and

I get to teach God’s word to group of people who really believe that we can live out the Acts 2 community! 

So Blessed!

Be a part of a Brand New Church!!

You’re invited to check out the beginning stages of a brand new Church.

That means…we’re not quite up and running yet, but we’re praying that God would send people who have a desire to help launch a new kind of church for the Central Michigan area. 

Our area has a lot of really good churches!

But, there is a GIANT need for more Churches because there a lot of people who need Hope!

The dream for this Church is that we will be a

A Church where no perfect people will be allowed
A Church that will value the arts.
A Church that is fun and laughter.
A Church who will span all generations, but who will invest ruthlessly into the younger generation.
A Church that will be Loud.
A Church that values Stories.
A Church that cares more for the inside of people than the outside.
A Church who radically gives to God and to those in need.
A Church who is love with Jesus.
A Church that’s not stuck on tradition and loves Change.
A Church where the dechurched and unchurched will feel accepted and wanted, no matter their beliefs.
A Church where those who are centered on Christ will be pushed to grow and not become comfortable.
A Church that will be bring Hope.
A Church that will Love Others Selflessly and Love God Passionately.

Come Check us Out

If you’re wanting to know more about how to be a part of this exciting Church Launch, I hope you will come on Sunday night.

Here are the details:

Sunday Night, February 24th, 5:45pm, Shepherd Bar, 324 W. Wright Avenue, Shepherd. 

We’ll meet for about an hour. There will be worship, some laughs, some stories and a look into the question…Why Church?

Oh, bring anyone you want! Bring your spouse, your kids, your family, your neighbor, etc. (There isn’t regular child care, but kids sit right among us and aren’t a distraction.

To find out more about this, check out this blog post

God has called me to Plant a Church in Central MI!

Wow, typing those words is a long time coming! church_plant

Actually, 15 years! It was 15 years ago that God first put the seed in my heart to someday plant a Church. I was on a youth retreat and was watching students be baptized and I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I was so overwhelmed by their faith and I thanked God for the opportunity to tell students about Jesus.

Standing in that lake, He put it on my heart that I would be sharing Jesus with students and adults for years to come and someday it would be to plant a church that was passionately in love with Jesus. 

Fast forward to 2012. 

Pretty much the entire year I wrestled with God about planting a new church. I’m not talking easy wrestling. Not watching wrestling on TV. Nope.

All out struggle. All out wrestling match with God. 

Then in the fall and winter of 2012 it became a level of intensity that I can’t even adequately explain.

Holy Cow! 

Lot’s of prayer. Lot’s of conversations. Lot’s of getting alone with Jesus. Lot’s of talking with my wife, counselor and mentors.

Affirmations all Around

Ever since I left my last Church, I’ve missed it. I loved preaching on Sundays. I loved leading staff and volunteers. I loved meeting with people over coffee and hearing their stories.

I would wake up on Sundays and feel lost! And when some Churches and Retreats started to ask me to teach, it helped. But, wow, I’ve missed preaching/praying/leading a community of believers on a regular basis!

That’s when I realized…

I never stopped being a Pastor.

I would run into people around town all the time and I heard the same questions weekly…

“Why aren’t you preaching in the area?”

“Would you pray for me?”

Finally it was my wife that pointed out to me something I knew in my heart, but I needed her voice and wisdom.

She said…“I believe God has us here in Central MI because He’s calling us to plant a New Church”. 

Moving Forward

My life mission is to bring LAUGHTER and HOPE to the hurting and introduce them to Jesus.

I believe this fits exactly into that mission statement.

I will continue moving forward with the work and ministry of Live Now Leadership. Holy Cow, it’s awesome ministry!

And, I will continue moving forward with a great group of fellow Church Planters as we plan and dream and pray about starting a new church in Central MI. We’ve actually been meeting together for months and we’re looking for people called to plant a new kind of church!

I believe that this area needs a NEW kind of Church. 

It needs more Churches that are Modern, Fun, Laughter Filled, Come as You Are, Opposite of a Country Club, Passionate about Jesus and a place where no perfect people are allowed. 

A Church that is willing to live out the original Acts 2 Vision for the Church. 

More on the vision in my next post! More about why I believe a new church is needed. More about our plan and dream. Much more to come!

But, I’m excited. God is opening huge doors and daily, He is sending people to me who ask about this dream and our Launch team is expanding and growing! (If you’re interested in finding out more about being on ourLaunch team email me RIGHT NOW…jason@jasonraitz.com)

Oh…Check Us Out…

Our 2nd worship night is happening on Feb. 24th at 5:45pm at the Shepherd Bar! Yes, it’s at a bar!

We will worship, laugh, pray, seek God’s voice and hopefully answer the question…Why Church?

I would greatly appreciate your prayers! I love that God has me in a place to bring HOPE into


Churches and Camps and Retreats

and now…

A New Church.