Last year, Big Valley Grace Community Church pastor Rick Countryman took the message of Christian unity to another level when he invited four senior pastors from other denominations to deliver the weekly sermon from his pulpit.
They all spoke on the subject of unity in the body (church) of Jesus Christ. It was such a positive thing for his congregation and the community, he said, that he decided to repeat the program this year.
“My heart behind this is simply that we’re all brothers and sisters in the Lord,” said Countryman. “These guys are all doing great things, and the people in their churches are doing good things for the Lord. I want to celebrate that though we’ve all got different names (of churches and denominations), we’re all one in Christ. We’re not in competition with one another. We all have our own little traditions, but we all love Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin and died for our sins and rose on the third day, and the only way your sins are forgiven is by putting your trust in him.”
Each of the guest pastors will speak at Big Valley’s three weekend services at 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday. They are Mike Moore, pastor of Crossroads Grace Community Church of Manteca, June 7-8; Randy Balling, pastor of The Well Community Fellowship of Modesto, June 14-15; Jim Applegate, pastor of Redeemer Church in downtown Modesto, June 21-22; and Matt Whiteford, pastor of CrossPoint Community Church, June 28-29.
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Moore was on staff at Big Valley when he began Crossroads Grace in 1987. Begun with 17 people in a home Bible study group, the church now includes 2,000 people who meet in a 38,000-square-foot facility on 33 acres at Highway 99 and Highway 120.
Moore also has led the Manteca Ministerial Association and helped start the Hope Family Shelter and Love Inc., which serve the needy in Manteca.
According to the church’s website ( www.crossroadsgrace.org), “We are dedicated to reaching the Central Valley with the ageless message of Jesus Christ in a loving, practical, and contemporary way. We also strive to demonstrate the love of God through tangible acts of service, which can be seen and felt in the surrounding cities.”
Balling is the founding pastor of The Well, which began in 2009. The name was taken from a biblical passage in John 4 about a Samaritan woman who encounters Jesus at a well, and through her, the nearby town is transformed. The church meets at Johansen High School and has grown from a few families to more than 500 people.
“We trust that (Jesus) will satisfy our every thirst and cause us to thrive in all aspects of well-living,” according to the church’s website ( http://wellchurch.wordpress.com).
Applegate was part of a group that planted a new church in 2007. Beginning in a three-car garage, Redeemer eventually moved to a downtown church building before it outgrew that and moved to share facilities with a Seventh-day Adventist church, also in downtown Modesto.
The Redeemer website ( redeemermodesto.com) says, “We are a group of Christ-followers trying to live on mission together for the glory of Christ and the good of our city. We gather on Sunday mornings to worship and study, and we scatter throughout the week into our homes, jobs, and city to discover more of Jesus and be about His kingdom.”
Whiteford moved to Modesto in 2010 to become CrossPoint Community Church’s college pastor. He became the senior pastor in 2012.
“I love this church and I love Modesto,” he says on the church’s website ( www.crosspointmodesto.org). “My desire for the people of this church is that we become a church that is consumed by a hunger to make much of God by becoming like Jesus. ... In turn, that the people of Modesto see Jesus so clearly in us that there is transformation in their lives.”