Dare to Dream: Poncho Lowder

July 25, 2023

For years, Austin, TX, has ranked among the fastest-growing cities in America. When people are asked why they choose to move there, certain answers routinely surface: the city’s thriving economy, the creative culture (including the abundance of live music events), the celebrated dining scene, and the plentiful and spacious parks and recreation sites.

But  Northern student Poncho Lowder, ’25, and his family didn’t move to Austin five years ago for any of those reasons; they moved there because they felt God was leading them there to start a church.

Poncho and his wife, Lora, had been pastors in Portland, OR, for 18 years. But then they began praying to see if God had other plans for them, and wondering what might happen if they took the bold step of “daring to dream big” for the sake of the Kingdom. Eventually, the answer became clear: they would pack up and move to Austin—2,050 miles away—to start Dreamer’s Church.

“Austin is a city known for its musical sounds, but we wanted to bring a new sound to the city: the sound of joy, forgiveness, healing, restoration,” Poncho says. “It felt to us like Austin was a city that really needed that.”

As the church began to grow, so did Poncho’s desire to go deeper in his biblical knowledge and preaching ability.

Many years prior, Poncho had tried a cohort-style graduate program in Portland, but for various reasons the timing wasn’t right, and he abandoned the quest. Then, a few years ago, one of Poncho’s friends mentioned Northern Seminary, which also offered a cohort-style Master’s program. Although the friend had not attended Northern, he told Poncho that he should look into it and that it seemed like a great place for people who wanted to grow in their biblical education.

Poncho looked into Northern’s Master of Arts in New Testament. It fit everything he wanted: he could do it remotely, but not all of it would be distant. For one full week each year, he would travel to Chicago to gather in person with fellow students in the same program. Additionally, he could tell that Northern catered to men and women who were full-time pastors.

“Some seminaries are a great fit as long as you’re not a full-time pastor, but Northern works very well for those who are pastoring full time,” he says.

Now that he’s deep into pursuing his degree, Poncho is able to reflect on many elements of Northern’s education that have impacted him. He loves the heart and integrity of the teachers. He has enjoyed discussing doctrine with Dr. Scot McKnight and watching and hearing him translate directly from the Greek as he teaches the class. Dr. Nijay Gupta’s insights into women and leadership also stand out to Poncho.

But it’s not just the professors that are making his seminary experience so meaningful. “It’s also the students,” remarks Poncho. “I love the passion that all of them bring to the classes. I sense that we are very like-minded, seeking first the Kingdom of God.”

As you listen to Poncho talk about the future at Dreamer’s, it matches perfectly with Northern’s emphasis on Kingdom work and the local church. “We currently have hundreds of people in our church, and we’d love to grow that to thousands,” Poncho says, “But what we really want to see grow is our church’s impact on the city. If the impact is there, the church growth will follow.” That impact is happening in many different ways—from placing mentors in elementary and middle schools, to providing backpacks and school supplies to children in financially strapped families, to helping victimized women. And that’s just some of it.

“We moved to Austin so that we could bring light,” Poncho says. Through Dreamer’s, that light is growing brighter all the time. And as Poncho eagerly learns more about the New Testament and its context, he is also able to shed more light on the Bible itself for the people at his church, expanding the Scriptures for them so that they might experience God’s Word more deeply.

In the end, Pastor Poncho’s story of bold steps, new sounds, and brightening light serves as a helpful reminder that while the state capital of Texas does indeed have its Austin City Limits, there truly are no limits when it comes to the Kingdom of God—especially when followers of Jesus dare to dream big!

Poncho Lowder and his wife, Lora, serve as co-pastors at Dreamer’s Church in Austin, Texas. They are the parents of four children ranging in age from 9 to 15. When he does have free time, Poncho enjoys long-distance road biking and running half marathons.