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An engineer by training, Jack Tacoma is sometimes astonished about the journey God has led him on to become a ministry specialist for Christian Reformed Home Missions, coaching up to 12 churches a year toward renewal and growth.

Tacoma began this path 20 years ago when, at the urging of his wife, he reluctantly attended a workshop about discovering your spiritual gifts.

“Teaching turned out to be my top gift,” he remembered. “It didn’t make sense. I was an engineer who loved numbers and wasn’t so sure about people. I did not expect to love teaching—but discovered that I did.”

Tacoma’s surprise expedition continued as churches began to invite him to teach them about spiritual gifts. He later received his preaching license and preached at the churches where he had taught.

“I realized that nothing had changed in some of these churches, even though I had taught them about spiritual gifts,” he said. “So I began training leaders, which led to teaching and coaching about how we renew our churches.”

Tacoma’s coaching process, which takes around six months, is unique. He calls it “The Journey of Three Lands and Two Rivers” and relates a church’s progression of renewal to the Hebrews’ trek from slavery in Egypt through the wilderness and finally to the land of milk and honey.

“On the journey, these churches remember fondly the fruitfulness in their past,” he said. They then cross into the desert where important conversations happen and some things need to die. When they are ready, they advance to the land of promise, where they find new surprises.”

Some churches are worried about their very survival, having been in a state of decline for years. Others just feel stuck but know it will take more than a weekend retreat to get “unstuck.”

Whatever a church’s rationale, embarking on the path to renewal takes hard work and fresh courage. Renewal is worth it. “Courage,” asserted Tacoma, “is where vision sits.”

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