Ben Harris couldn’t fathom God would use him for much — let alone to plant a church.
He grew up in a Christian home, but like so many, he stopped going to church and gave his energy to pursue other things. He married and became a police officer, and his Christian heritage slipped into the background of his life like white noise.
“My whole world was crashing down as my marriage was falling apart. I sensed God telling me to get on one side of the fence or the other. I told God I wanted to know Him, and I surrendered my life to Christ,” he said.
“My wife didn’t want any part in it. She left me when I chose my faith in Christ,” Harris explained. “Deep down, I believed God was done with me because I was divorced, and God hates divorce. He couldn’t use me.”
Invitation: Will you share your testimony?
Harris was discipled by another father on his daughter’s soccer team. When his mentor asked him to give his testimony at a men’s conference, Harris was hesitant.
“God says he won’t use a divorced person. He said he hates divorce,” Harris responded to his mentor’s invitation.
After deeper discussion — and his mentor showing him all the people God used in the Bible who had major moral failings — Harris reluctantly agreed.
He shared his testimony at the men’s conference, and nine men were facing similar struggles. Harris spent the remainder of the weekend sharing about what God had done in his life, encouraging them in the faith.
Invitation: Will you lead a Bible study?
After 20 years of being a police officer, Harris left the force and became the security guard for his pastor — well-known pastor and author, Dr. David Jeremiah.
“After I spoke at the men’s conference, I began to disciple those guys and was asked to lead a men’s Bible study. But I was still convinced God didn’t use people like me,” he said. “I told Dr. Jeremiah about my hesitancy, and he said, ‘God used a lot of people who blew it. The next time someone asks you to speak or teach, say yes.’”
With some reluctance, Harris accepted the invitation to lead the Tuesday night men’s Bible study.
“Twelve guys showed up, and within six months, 100 men were coming. I started taking classes at a nearby seminary my mentor was a professor at; I loved it. I couldn’t do my homework fast enough,” Harris said with a chuckle. “Someone eventually asked if I believed God was calling me into ministry.”
Harris admits this was his growing desire, but the familiar rebuttal reverberated in his thoughts — “God can’t use me, can He?”
Invitation: Will you plant My church?
Harris met his current wife, Debbie, when she was serving as an administrative assistant for Dr. Jeremiah. A Bible teacher in her own right, she led a Bible study of 200 women, and the two faithfully served their church for eight years. Then they began to feel God was preparing them for a change.
“I told Debbie I felt God would have us start a church. Not long after, a friend repeatedly asked me to come to see their new home in Idaho. I turned him down multiple times but finally agreed,” he said. “Three days into the visit, he confessed he kept inviting me because he wanted me to be the men’s pastor at their church.”
While God wasn’t calling Harris to serve as the men’s pastor at his friend’s church, a week after being home, it was undeniable God was working in their hearts. They couldn’t shake the love they had developed for the people in Idaho.
“Our desire kept growing. The people and place were in our thoughts and prayers,” Harris said. “We led a person to Christ while we were there and were consistently praying for him. It felt like God wanted us back there, so we prayed about moving to Idaho permanently.”
A simple prayer
“God led us forward. When I mentioned our desire to plant a church in Idaho, Dr. Jeremiah gave us his blessing. He stood up, placed his hands on my head and blessed me. It was very emotional. He’s my spiritual father. Seventy percent of what I understand about the Bible came out of his mouth. I got more out of his teaching in 10 years than I did out of seminary,” he said. “He asked me who we were taking with us, and I said, ‘no one.’ I didn’t realize we were supposed to have people go with us,” Harris said. “We only want what you want.” As they prayed about planting in Idaho, that’s how they ended each prayer.
Within the coming weeks, members from their church began coming up to them and asking about their church plant, eager to join.
“Debbie was praying for 12 people to come with us — because Jesus had 12 disciples. And when we left, 12 people came with us and started the church in our basement.”
A dying man and answered prayers
The new church planting team consistently asked God two things: they would impact their neighborhood for Christ and God would lead them to the neighbors who would have the maximum impact for Christ.
God answered both prayers.
One woman got wind of a pastor in the neighborhood and collapsed into Harris’ arms, sobbing. Her husband was in hospice, on the precipice of meeting Christ face to face.
Harris went to their house — her husband surrounded by their three children — and he explained the hope in their father, a Christian. Their youngest couldn’t understand why her father wasn’t afraid to die. “He knows where he is going,” responded Harris.
He died that night. To this day, the woman is an integral part of their church.
Dying church and free building
“On December 4, 2016, the day we invited our neighbors to our home for church, 32 people showed up in our basement. After three weeks, the homeowner’s association said we couldn’t have church in our home anymore.”
As Harris’ friend was driving by an old church, he saw a man leaving and asked if he was the pastor. “I was until about five minutes ago,” the man responded. With only 12 members remaining — 11 women and one man — the church was dying, taking its final breath.
Harris’ friend explained how Harris could be a provision from God for their church.
“I met them, and they attended four services in our basement before deciding to give our church their church building. The building was completely paid for,” Harris said.
God can use anyone
Restored Community Church is thriving. Even since the pandemic, they’ve grown by 400% and have had more people come to Christ and more people baptized than the previous four years.
God took a man who didn’t know anything about church planting — convinced he couldn’t be used by God — to plant a thriving church and restore a dying one.
He uses whomever he chooses to accomplish his purposes. Whether you’re poor, young or even divorced, God delights in using each of us. If we come to him with willing hands and an open heart, the ways he can multiply our efforts is bountiful.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This article was originally published by the North American Mission Board and Send Network.