It Started in a Coffee Shop

Darren HalesAll Enews, Planting Team, Strengthening Team

How can the prayers of 5 college students in Pullman, WA, be used by God to start a collegiate church planting movement? That’s a great question! It’s an amazing story of life transformation, which is now unfolding at the University of Montana and Montana State University!

I They longed to see the Kingdom of Heaven experienced on earth! As they invited other students to capture the vision, they shared a simple challenge.  “If what we are describing resonates with you, stick around.” That’s how Resonate Church was formed. Today, over 15,000 students have been impacted with the Gospel and they have planted 19 churches across the Northwest and into Canada.  This movement of God, that started in a coffee shop, is driven by a sense of urgency and is the result of an intentional discipleship process and “calling out the called” to a life with a world changing purpose.

In the summer of 2019, two teams of collegiate missionaries, led by Preston and Traci Rhodes and Alex and Molly Robinson, landed in Missoula and Bozeman. As they established themselves and momentum began to build, the pandemic of 2020 hit. With on-campus gatherings suspended, they utilized their relational approach to connect with students. They continue to play sports on campus lawns and invite students for coffee and to hang out. From these encounters, students are invited to a Village for a meal in their homes.  In this atmosphere, they engage in Bible discussion and spiritual conversations.  Those who respond to the Gospel are connected to a Grow Group for the basics of walking with Jesus.  And with a core value to MULTIPLY EVERYTHING, each student is encouraged to start inviting friends and to share their newfound faith.  What a concept! For those that demonstrate spiritual maturity and a willingness to take the next level of commitment, they are invited to a Huddle where they are equipped to lead others. The discipleship process is simple:  the Bible is our source for belief and practice.  What is God saying?  What are you going to do about it?

Our NAMB Church Planting Catalyst, Michael Liner, and his wife Nancy have joined the team in Missoula. They love the energy and laser focus of Resonate.  “Preston is my pastor,” Michael says, “and what excites me is that they have a systematic plan to reach a new student and develop them to lead others before they graduate. Our goal is to reach 500 students and to have a disciple maker in every dorm.  In April, we were finally able to gather as a church, without restrictions, and over 100 attended.”

When my son, Hunter, returned to Montana State this past year as a sophomore, he experienced the passion and authenticity of the Resonate team.  It began with a pick-up game of football. “Do you want to play?” That simple question has changed the course of his life. He found a community in which he could thrive spiritually and he became more intentional about sharing Jesus and discipling others. He joined a Huddle led by Josiah Cagle. He and wife, Danni, serve as “multipliers” to develop leadership skills in students. Before long, Hunter was leading a Village and now a whole life of ministry possibilities is ahead. This summer, he participated in an intensive discipleship training called Elevate in San Diego, CA, where student leaders are shaped with a biblical foundation.  They believe that deep, Spirit-filled relationships are the key to life transformation.  This is spiritual growth that leads to Kingdom impact.

Collectively, these two campus churches have shared the Gospel over 1,000 times and have seen over 40 college students profess faith in Christ. This summer, over 20 students are being trained at Elevate to abide in Christ and propel the Gospel.  Do you want them to share their missionary story in your church?  Do you want to learn more about their reproducible discipleship process and path for developing leaders?  Do you want to be a prayer partner and advocate? Please reach out to me and I will connect you to a campus pastor or multiplier.

The mother church of Resonate, from Pullman, WA, is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Northwest Baptist Convention, and the North American Mission Board.  The church in Missoula was planted from the church at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho.  The church in Bozeman was planted from the church at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA.  The process for each new Montana Resonate Church to affiliate with the MTSBC has begun and we pray that our MTSBC churches will embrace them in relationship.  May God allow us to see more Montana colleges impacted with the Gospel as these churches multiply in the coming years to new campuses.

For more information or to get involved, please contact me at

About the Author

Darren Hales

Darren Hales is the Church Strengthening Team Leader of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention.