On Saturday, September 22, 2018, my wife and I waited for a knock at our door. This was to be the first evening for Gather Steveston. We knew that God had led us to this point, but we had no idea what this evening would look like. We had no idea who, if anyone, would show up. We were excited and anxious. We were feeling brave and also scared. Were we ready for this?
I had spent a number of years on the leadership team at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. Ebenezer had a pastor who introduced the church to the missional conversation. I was immediately drawn in and wanted to explore more how the church was called to be on mission. I had the opportunity to take part in a two-year training with Forge Canada, and it was at this point that I began to feel the call to pastoral ministry and, more specifically, church planting.
In December 2017, I left my job in the grocery industry after twenty-five years. In January 2018, I began my schooling at Pacific Life Bible College in Surrey, British Columbia, pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies and Pastoral Leadership. My wife Crista and I were already sensing God’s call to plant a church. We thought this would happen after I finished my schooling, but throughout the semester and into the summer we felt that we were being led to start something sooner.
We have lived in the Steveston area of Richmond, British Columbia, for close to twenty years. We had made many relationships with people in the community and understood the culture of Steveston. It is for these reasons and because of our desire to share God’s love with our neighbours that we thought Steveston would be a great place to plant. We committed to spending the first year in prayer for God’s continued direction and for our obedience to His calling. We decided to use the name Gather based on Jesus’s promise from Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (NIV).
The night of that first Saturday evening, we eventually heard a knock at our door. Dave had arrived to join us for the first night of Gather. We spent time in fellowship, began a ten-week study on the Lord’s Prayer, and prayed together. At the end of our evening, as Dave was leaving, he told us that was “the most real and raw church experience he had had in years.” God blessed, encouraged, challenged, and excited us through this first evening and beyond.
Since last September, we have continued to meet every Saturday evening, with the last Saturday of each month being a time for celebration. After we finished our study on the Lord’s Prayer, we began a series called Stories of Hope, looking at different lessons from the Gospel of Luke. And in March 2019, we began running Alpha on Wednesday nights. We have been able to connect with about twenty people throughout the year and have been reminded of the importance of community and discipleship. We truly feel that the church will grow as we follow Christ’s commandment to make disciples.
God has surprised and blessed us in a number of ways throughout the year. The biggest example of this was when we were able to connect with three other likeminded church planters in Steveston. Our four groups, all from different denominations, have been able to work together and encourage each other as we seek to share the good news with our small community. We held a Christmas Eve service together, as well as an Easter Sunday service and an outdoor summer service. We were also blessed by a fifth denomination that gave us the use of a ministry space in the heart of Steveston. We are currently exploring ways to use the “Steveston Hub” to bless the community. It has been used in a number of different ways, including as a co-work space, for meditation and yoga, for a run club meet-up, and for different church gatherings. We look forward to continue exploring how God is calling us to use this space.
As we enter our second year with Gather Steveston, we are excited in the ways that God is leading us. In September, we will begin gathering on Sunday mornings in an effort to connect with more people. We will also start a midweek growth group, which will focus on discipleship and spiritual formation. And we will continue to pray for God’s direction and share His love with the Steveston community.
We are extremely grateful for the support we have received. We have been blessed with support from Bob Krahn and the British Columbia Baptist Association. We have also been blessed with support from Sunshine Ridge Church in Surrey. And through our time at Ebenezer Baptist Church we have been equipped for the work that we are now doing. We thank God for all these ways that He has blessed us and for the work that He has called us to do.
Darren and Crista Lof, Gather Steveston (www.gatherchurch.ca)