Do you remember what you were doing four to five years ago? In 2012 what were you considering and contending for? What was consuming you?

Here are some of the headlines that caught our attention five years ago:

  • Will and Kate announce Royal pregnancy. 
  • Whitney Houston dies at 48.
  • Gunman kills 14 at Batman Premiere in Denver.
  • London hosts Summer Olympics.
  • President Obama is elected to his second term.
  • Pastor Marty is writing his book, A Life That Thrives.

In 2012, I was beginning to wonder if God had something “more” for me than what I was currently doing at The Sanctuary. As I look back, I realize there were a lot of factors both positive and negative that prodded me to ask the question. Some of them had to do with my age, place in life, responsibilities at work, and growing trust in the presence and faithfulness of God.

The “more” question wasn’t a momentary case of acid reflux to life. But, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I began to pray and journal about it. I also began to talk with trusted (tested) advisors: GROWth Group guys, Diane (my wife), Pastor Marty and even a marriage/spiritual director-type counselor. None of them told me what do to, but they all encouraged me to continue to trust the Lord’s leading in my life and to continue to seek out options.

In January 2014, I met with Pastor Marty’s boss (Dennis Easter, who is the District Supervisor of our area) to asked him if he thought there might be something “more” for me. He didn’t give me the answer, but he did invite me to take the next step by joining a nine-month learning process for being a lead pastor.

We thought that might lead to taking over the leadership of a small congregation in Ojai. That didn’t happen. So I started another learning track related to planting a church, which I’m just now close to completing.

What a topsy-turvy journey we’ve had. It has felt like two steps forward and one step back. There have been moments of great clarity and blinding uncertainty. There has been incredible joy and excitement and sadness and insecurity. We’ve had wonderful support and yet felt alone at times. Did I mention that all three of our kids have gotten married in the last eight months?!

As I reflect back on the journey with tears in my eyes, I am overwhelmed with a sense of the nearness of God. He is present even though the future is uncertain. We hope to plant a church in Ojai. We’re working and positioning ourselves in a manner to do so. But the reality is … we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

We just try to do the next thing that we feel He is asking us to do. We move forward in humility, with confidence, because we truly believe He will continue to be faithful.

NEXT STEPS for the Ojai Church Plant:

  • The Church Plant team will be prayed for THIS SUNDAY, February 26th. If you can, please plan to attend one of the services (9 & 11am) and be a part of this milestone event.

  • I am in Ojai several times a month meeting with pastors and others with community insight and influence.

  • A small Church Plant team from The Sanctuary is currently developing by meeting every other week through June.

  • Since September 2016, I’ve been working a couple of days a month as an electrician for Ojai Electric. Starting in May, I’m hoping to work there full time.

  • This summer, individuals on the Church Plant team will decide if they believe God is calling them to move to Ojai.

  • The team has begun to serve the people of Ojai as missionaries through developing friendships, as well as performing service projects in the area. Through these friendships we will eventually begin a Sunday service.


ZACK TOTTEN  Ojai Church Plant Pastor

Ojai Church Plant Pastor

  • That each person on the Church Plant team would sense God’s presence and leading.

  • That each of us on the team would live in humble confidence and that fear would not seize our thoughts.

  • That the team would find good jobs, homes and friendships in Ojai.

  • That God would be preparing people (Christians and pre-Christians) to join our congregation.

  • That this church plant, which is just a tender seedling at this point, would grow strong and fruitful.