My wife and I came to Prineville in the fall of 2001 to start a Thursday evening Bible study that would ultimately become Calvary Chapel Crook County. (we named it that because the area is known by the county more than the city)
Our first Sunday morning service was held on May 5th 2002. We had about 30 people that first Sunday and we quickly grew to 50 people crowding into our little elementary school library (the chairs were Lilliputian made for people without years of carbs in their backside).
After our move to Crook County Middle School in the fall of that year we grew to about 75 people and like most church planters I thought we were going to have a mega church in no time.
However after a few years in the Middle School, and several original families gone for one reason or another, we were still about 75 people and I was getting discouraged.
Why isn’t the church growing? Why do new people come once and never return? Why do key families have to leave the church? Why is this so stinkin’ hard?
It was about this time that the Lord spoke to me and gave me the focus and vision that is at the core of who we are as a church to this day. A vision that looked beyond the 4 walls of our church to a lost community that would much rather sleep in and watch football on Sunday than sing songs to a God they don’t know and listen to some young punk teach a book they don’t believe.
The Lord showed me that He doesn’t need a lot of people to accomplish this plan. He could reach our entire community with a few people who were on fire for Him.
“I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me.” (Isaiah 45:5)
He began to put big ideas upon my heart that we didn’t have the man power or budget to pull off.
One of the ideas was an outreach to sportsmen. Hunting is huge here…(shocking right). For this area where less than 10% attend church hunting is the god of choice. I would say that 80-90% of the men (and many women) in this community hunt. Therefore what better way to reach this community with the gospel than by appealing to what is closest to their heart. Quest Outdoors was born out of this vision and several conversations with one of our leaders, Shawn Jones, who owns and operates a hunting/fishing guide business called Go West Outfitters.
Shawn and I had the idea of creating a banquet that would look a lot like other sportsman’s banquets (like Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, or Oregon Hunters Association).
The first Quest Outdoors banquet was held in 2004. We put together an awesome catered dinner, a top notch speaker in the field, world class taxidermy and thousands of dollars in prizes. There was no way a church of 75 people should be able to pull this off. But not only did we pull it off but we had about 250 people come our first year and it has doubled since. Each year men and women who would never darken the door of our church come to this event and hear the message of the gospel in a way that meets them right where they’re at.
This local outreach which has become a yearly event has motivated our church to do several other events and outreaches in our community…and has given our church the reputation of the “little church that does big things.”
I remember when I first heard someone describe our church this way. I was offended. Calling a church planter’s work small is like kicking him in the groin. But as I thought about it I realized that it was perfect because people were giving God the glory as they recognized that our little church with puny numbers and a tiny budget couldn’t possibly pull this off without divine intervention.
1 Cor. 1:26-31
Over the years our church has grown but we continue to take steps of faith taking risks for the sake of the Kingdom.
Many of these outreaches and events have bombed big time…some of them have been incredible successes. I will talk more about these things in Part 2 of this post.