Church Plant Highlight - North Valleys

As a family of churches, Living Stones puts a high priority on church planting, and we want to introduce you to our newest church plant, Living Stones North Valleys.

We asked the North Valleys Executive Pastor, Tim Woda, to tell us a little more about himself, the church plant, and what God has been up to since their launch in January 2022.

Tell us a little about yourself, your family, and how God called you into church planting.
I serve as Executive Pastor for the North Valleys church and I'm a lay elder. My day job, if you will, is that I own a small digital marketing agency here in Reno. My wife Christine and I have three children ranging from ages 18 to 28.

It's sort of a long story but in 2016 God placed it on Christine's heart to move from Maryland and He only gave her two words to wrestle through: "go" and "small." We really had no idea why we were supposed to move, and while we wanted to be faithful, we didn't have much to go on. After several months of frustrating prayer, God placed Reno on both of our hearts, and within a couple of months we sold pretty much everything we owned and moved out here to start living out on a limb with Him. We had no jobs, no relationships, no place to live, not much money, and pretty much no clue, but we were confident God wanted us in Reno. He opened door after door and it was just crazy.

That first February, I was driving and suddenly thought that I needed to pull over and listen to my car because I thought something was wrong with the engine. I pulled into a Staples parking lot and listened but heard nothing abnormal. Now I know how insane this sounds, but while I'm sitting there, I had a clear-as-day thought: "Go to the North Valleys, buy a house, and plant a church."

I immediately called my wife and told her we needed to buy a house in the North Valleys and plant a church. It had never crossed our minds to plant a church but when I called Christine from the Staples parking lot she responded, "Are you serious? Ok, let's do it!" Within a couple of weeks, we had bought a home in the North Valleys. We were all-in from day one.

For those who don't know, what exactly is "church planting"? Practically, what's this look like in the North Valleys?
Church planting is the means that God has used since the earliest days of the church to reach the elect around the world with the gospel. Typically, a local church equips and then sends out one or more people into a geographical area that doesn't have a strong gospel presence to begin to lay the ground work for a new church. Like a gardener, there is usually a season when the area is prepared before the seed is spread. This includes a lot of prayers, building local relationships, studying the area to ensure the church planter understands the area and people, and starting to pull together a small, core team and other leaders to co-labor with. Often times in these planning days money is raised to help fund the work. Eventually the core team and leaders will start to invite the public to Sunday Worship gatherings.

Church plants are not only the most effective way to spread the gospel into an area but they also breathe new life into any other churches that may already exist in the area. Church plants bring excitement and joy to the local saints and remind the church of her mission to reach God's elect that haven't been saved yet. Even the healthiest church needs that reminder once in a while. In the North Valleys, this is pretty much what's happened. Pretty quickly, my wife and I teamed up with a few pastors from Living Stones Reno who were being called long before us to plant in the North Valleys. The Reno church came alongside our small team and by God's grace, everything has played out pretty much as I described.

Describe your church's elder team. Who's crazy enough to go on this journey with you?
Nathan DuPree and Michael Cox were in it right from the start. They were elders at the Reno church and we just loved them. Our wives and kids were really good friends as well. God had been working on them for a long time prior to my wife and I getting involved. Nathan and Denise had been up in the North Valleys for many years and Michael and Nicole came up this way about when we did. Several months into our process, God called Pastor Seth Wildschut from Living Stones Reno and his wife Jess to the North Valleys plant as well. It made total sense because Seth has worked out here for years. It has been amazing to see how God was working to pull this team together.
Nathan, Seth, Michael, and I are also gifted in very different ways, so from a ministry perspective, we fit together like fingers in a glove. We work together great but we all have very naturally different roles at this point. It just works. I can't imagine this plant without God providing this team.

Describe the North Valleys - where is it, what's the culture, and what kind of challenges are present?
Super obvious, but the North Valleys is a bunch of valleys on the north end of Reno. People who live in the North Valleys often live out this way because they like the open space. The North Valleys have historically been more affordable than other parts of Reno and the area is one of the most culturally diverse parts of Reno. On any given Sunday, we always have a solid mix of races and cultural backgrounds heavily represented. It's a bit more blue-collar than other parts of Reno and, while that's changing a little, there is a lot of warehouse work in the area so there are plenty of employment options for people that don't want to sit behind a desk. And kids; there are a lot of kids out here.

What aspect of the church are you most excited about and why?
Candidly, God has been present with us and leading us so well, that nothing can compare to that. Like any church plant, the list of obstacles from the outside and mistakes we make as new church planters is long. But God, He just keeps removing obstacles and covering our shortcomings with grace. Doors open, opportunities present themselves, and we see Him working in the hearts and lives of people everywhere we look. We talk about it all the time, just how active God is in this and it is a great reminder that He's the one planting the church and we're just laborers that He's invited into this process.

What aspect of the church are you most nervous about and why?
I'm not nervous about too much. It's like Mark 4:35 when Jesus tells the disciples, "Let us go across to the other side.” There wasn't a doubt they were getting to the other side even though they were going to hit a storm along the way. The destination and outcome were set — getting to the other side. I constantly remind myself that He said, "Go to the North Valleys, buy a house, and plant a church", so that brings me a ton of peace most of the time. I know His destination and the outcome has been set. When I do get nervous about something, it has typically been about where we're going to gather since we've been a bit nomadic so far. But I'm blessed to have great elders leading this church that have a ton of wisdom. Nathan and the other guys are quick to remind me just how faithful God's been so we don't have any reason to be nervous.

How can we be praying for the North Valleys church?
Man, I just feel like God has given us a really talented elder team with four guys right from the start. A lot of church plants start with only one elder. I'm thinking that God's either planning to grow this church big, very quickly or this journey is going to be especially hard. Either way, my prayer request is the same: we need God to raise up faithful leaders for His church from the body. Arguably, identifying, raising up, and discipling godly leaders is my top priority. Being an elder-ruled, deacon-led church so that the elders can be laser-focused on prayer and the ministry of the Word and we can be faithful to God's design for the local church is really important to our future health, no matter what God has in store for us.

Last question - Clemson or Notre Dame?
This one's sort of a no-brainer. Any football program that has a representation of Jesus overlooking the football field that measures 134 feet high and 68 feet wide, and is composed of some 6,700 individual pieces of granite gets my support. Notre Dame has that, Clemson does not. Go Irish!