Canyon Springs began in 1998 with a simple dream. My wife Jilane and I wanted to start a church that we wouldn’t be embarrassed to go to. Pretty simple really. If you haven’t figured this out already, I’ll spell it out. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Fortunately, God showed up. Let me walk you through some of the stories God has taken Canyon Springs through to grow us from from the five members of our family to 500 on a Sunday.
The First Conversation
Jilane and I were winding down our ministry at Forest Home Christian Conference center and were looking for our next ministry challenge. After exploring option after option and feeling discouraged, I had a conversation with my friend and mentor Denny. He suggested we start a church. I suggested something else. Anything else. Something with a paycheck would be preferable. The thought of starting from scratch was scary. Then Denny uttered a phrase that would change our lives forever. “If I could take away your fears about planting a church would you be interested?” I said “Yes, I would.” At that moment he told us about an organization, the Evangelical Covenant Church that would not only guide us through the process, but would pay me as well. I liked the sound of that. Later that day I came home to my wife and I said to her, “Guess what we talked about?” She said, “Not starting a church!” (We were obviously great people of faith, don’t you think?) From that moment on, Jilane and I knew in our heart that God was leading us to start a church. A short nine months later we had sold our house (at a loss) and moved to Scripps Ranch and the adventure began.
The First Meeting
When we moved into Scripps Ranch we were eager, excited, prayerful, but mostly lonely. We only knew two couples here, and both of those we had only met with once. Not exactly a great foundation for a church. Come to find out that God didn’t want people to be our foundation. He wanted that job. Silly us. We put together a core team of about 12 people that were meeting in our house weekly to put our church together. And, quite honestly, it wasn’t going well. When I look back on the photo of our little gang, only 6 of those people ever came to Canyon Springs. But four of them are still coming. God bless Bill and Edie Davis and Tom and Julie Gutierez. After a few months of small groups I turned to my wife and said, “God didn’t call me to start a small group, he called me to start a church.” So we picked a date, December 6, 1998, for our first church service, found a location, the Scripps Ranch library and we sent out a flyer to our community. We knew of 13 people who would show up. 103 did. I can still remember Bill and I jumping up and down as all the cars rolled in. We had 96 for our second meeting and 6 of those people made life changing decisions for Jesus Christ. We were amazed. Turns out God is a pretty good foundation for a church.
The First Location
In truth, our first location was the Scripps Ranch Library, but they would only allow us to meet monthly. I talked them into letting us meet weekly for a few months, but our time was running short. We were scrambling to find a facility. I had been turned down by every school in our area, several times, but I decided to make one last call to the principal at Jerabek school. A month before they had turned me down, but I was desperate. Two weeks later, I got a phone call. It was from the head custodian in charge of the facility, and he told me that we could use Jerabek school on Sundays for church. I can’t dance, but I gave it my best shot as I boogied around the room in our little condo. If I close my eyes I can still see that little auditorium, 8 foot ceilings, orange walls, tacky chairs, but it was beautiful to me and became our new church home.
I could go on and on about the ways that God showed up at Canyon Springs. In year two God opened up the doors to Dingeman elementary school and we almost immediately doubled in size. In year three I got a phone call from a pastor in Texas who wanted to work at our church for two years for free. In year four we filled the stadium at Scripps Ranch High School for our Easter services. Those are each great stories of God’s faithfulness. But the real stories are in the lives of people. Thousands have walked through our doors and hundreds have made life changing decisions to follow Jesus. Multiple marriages have been restored thanks to the power of God. Thousands of children have not only come to church, but drag their parents to church because they love it. Our children’s ministry has left a lasting legacy on this community. Our youth ministry has not only changed lives but is working to develop difference-makers who will lead God’s church into the future.
Today God has brought together a great team of visionary leaders who are ready to help write a brave new story for Canyon Springs’ future. With 10 staff and hundreds of volunteers, Canyon Springs is poised to make a difference in our community like no other time in our history. So that’s our story, yet there are still many chapters to be written. What will God do to re-write your story? Come join us and let’s find out together.