ARC Women Spotlight | Dianna Nepstad
This month’s ARC Women Spotlight comes from our beautiful, vibrant friend Dianna Nepstad. She is one of those women who you meet and immediately want to be friends with, filled with joy and wisdom. She pastors an incredibly diverse, multi-cultural church outside of San Francisco alongside her husband, Shaun, and still makes sure she pursues her other passions, which include home-schooling their four beautiful teenage daughters. We hope you enjoy her transparency and honesty today, which she so graciously chose to share openly with us, reminding us that our backgrounds all look incredibly different, but the path that God has for us within His Church is full of redemption and grace.
Name: Dianna Nepstad
Church and City: Fellowship Church – Antioch, CA
Launch Date: October 2012
Current Role (if any): Pastor and home educator
Family: My husband, Shaun and my four daughters; Hadassah (17), Moriah (16), Victoria (15) and Alexandra (15).
What were your feelings when your husband told you that God had called him to plant a church (or in some cases, when you both felt that way)?
I was 25 years old and, literally, two years into my walk with Jesus when I married Shaun and into the ministry (smile, don’t be scared for me). I knew I would marry a pastor, yet, never heard the coined-term “calling.” However, I was very aware that I had a deep, internal sense of doing something for God. We would have conversations about the future and my husband naturally knew he would plant and pastor a Church one day. I, on the other hand, was willing to do anything to be a help, but never in my wildest dreams had I thought it would lead me into prophetic and teaching ministry: my “calling.” That calling naturally grew bigger from my role as a wife, mom, home educator and now teaching new people how to start their journey with Jesus at Fellowship Church. EVERYONE starts somewhere!
For you personally, what has been your biggest challenge through planting and/or pastoring and what have you learned from it?
Normally, in a written piece such as this, the nature of what I’m about to pen is sensitive in nature and so I would probably choose not to share. However, for the sake of future generations and Church planting leaders, I’m willing to risk it so they won’t forfeit the plan of God over their own lives. Offense is the big spiritual millstone wrapped around leaders’ lives today. For me personally, it could have taken me out of our church-planting journey all together in the beginning if I had let it. I’m not just talking about hurt feelings. No. I’m talking about legitimate, sin-based offense. It could be sexual abuse that happened to you or lies, maybe slander that undermined the health of the church that you’re coming out of. For me, it was the offense where my spiritual leader was a deceiver and hid his sexual sin that affected not only his own family but also caused collateral damage of my husband and I as leaders as well as the Church as a whole.
For me, I was angry, and that soon turned into bitterness which hardened my heart to relationships. I wanted to write the whole ‘Church planting thing’ off because of the deep wound of offense that affected me. But, with the kindness of God and His good plan for me, He wouldn’t let me get away with a diseased life of carrying the offense. Forgiveness is the huge ‘F’ word! I had to forgive daily for the sake of my brooding heart and to halt my mind from mulling it over and over. I confronted my own dreary personal monologue of what happened and came face-to-face with my own root of bitterness. I had to admit that “all of us have fallen short” and missed the mark. I needed to forgive with or without an apology from the offending party. Once you cross the threshold of forgiveness, every time afterward the practice becomes quicker. To be honest, offense can be ruthless and breed polluted leaders. If not dealt with, we, in turn, can give birth to a wounded generation within the Church to become the harshest of critics, not knowing that one day we too could fall prey to the merciless hands of those same critics. Leaders who have not healed from that kind of offense don’t understand that there might be a moment that arises where they too may need that same forgiveness and mercy that they were so unwilling to give initially. This is a ‘Goliath’ that every leader must master and conquer when offense takes opportunity to take root; not once but several times over through our leadership walk. Please, friend, win this battle for your sake and for the sake of the anointing over your family.
What is your favorite thing about the church you’ve planted (if you can even choose one thing!)?
Our “oneness” and unity in our diversity. It’s so fun to see that in age, seasons in our walk, our cultures, gender, educational background, and economic status, we can find common ground through the Name of Jesus and serve Him as one. I think it’s the beauty of the Bay Area!
What is something your family does to manage the balance between raising a family and pastoring a growing church?
Sometimes, when people think of balance, they think of separation: one thing on this side and something else on another. Instead, we have learned to do everything together. The non-negotiable in our lives has been doing everything as a family. It’s a BIG deal! Whatever we do as a family helps calibrate our health and time. For us, in seasons past, we’ve taken every Monday off (now Fridays) as a family. We plan that carved-out time with fun family activities in mind. We’ve scheduled time at beaches, museums, swimming at hotel swimming pools, enjoyed theme parks, long drives in the car, dollar store trips, and walked through nature parks. These are really healthful outlets that ground us when life gets intense or a little too fast. Just remember, ‘ebb and flow’ or ‘feast and famine’ so you can prepare for those seasons with your family. So eat those ribs, take that mini vacation, drive in the car, wear those Spanx and buy the shoes! Don’t ever apologize for having fun with your husband and kids and being creative with your family time. Your babies will grow up thanking you, and the Church will be grateful to have healthier leaders!
What is one thing you wish you would have known before planting a church?
The gift of my own life- of being uniquely me. I am not living in the shadow of someone else’s “could’ve been” dream, but am my own person who makes my own choices unto God and am not restricted by the rules or opinions of critics. Previously I was so shy, so young, and so concerned with people liking me. Now, I DON’T CARE…just kidding! Over time, I have discovered the source of that unhealthy, naive mindset which came from an insecure sense of not having a spiritual heritage within my own immediate family like the way my husband did. That insecurity opened my life in a vulnerable way to controlling, toxic voices and intrusive, harmful opinions. For many of us, we haven’t had the dream family or a great family upbringing, but the Holy Spirit and His word has a way of maturing you, so, trust His process and the wisdom of TRUSTED voices. We are individuals with a God-ordained path. No two female pastors or pastors’ wives are the same, but we share a common bond of a leadership experience. So, enjoy your journey and trust God in equipping you and bringing the right relationships into your life. He’s the one who dictates your steps!