Where We’ve Been
Grace Church was born in the hearts of best friends Rick Long and Greg Stier who asked, “What could you do with a church that was surrounded by and focused on the grace of God and still preaching the clear gospel?”
It’s a neat success story, with Grace now attracting more than 2,000 people to worship services each week. But it’s the rest of the story that Paul Harvey would love. Rick and Greg were in junior high when they planned their church.
“When I share this, people envision that we were two nerds locked in a room,” says Greg, who denies that was the case. Both 12-year-olds were involved in athletics and school activities.
“We just felt God laying it on our hearts,” he says. “We were involved in a Christian school and in a ministry that had so many good qualities, but unfortunately it was stifled by legalism.” We said, “You know what, here’s what the church could look like, and we started planning it.”
After high school, Greg went off to college at Liberty University in Virginia, while Rick stayed home to attend Colorado Bible College. But, sure enough, five years later the two friends were back together again as youth directors at a Colorado church. Soon, however, their hearts were yearning for the ministry they had envisioned in their youth.
Grace Church started in a friend’s living room, where 23 people showed up the first Sunday, March 12, 1989, and in four weeks about 75, when they moved from the house to a day-care facility. Grace has since moved six more times including the old Colorado Bible Church building, where Rick and Greg grew up. The last move was to 6969 Sheridan Blvd., where we continue to meet today and by God's grace were able to purchase in 1997.
In 1996, after Rick and Greg discovered The Purpose Driven Church on a bookstore shelf, church leaders turned to Purpose Driven for help with discipleship. An evangelistic church without an infrastructure to disciple hundreds of new Christians, Rick says, “can become incredibly frustrating.”
“We grew from 200 to about 400 almost overnight, but we should have been a church of a thousand at that time,” he says. “We didn’t know how to move people from the community to the core.”
Early in the transition to Purpose Driven, Rick was surprised to discover that in only seven years the church had developed some “serious tradition we had to break free of.”
Today, Grace Church is fully Purpose Driven, helping and even training other churches to become Purpose Driven. Greg has since resigned as a pastor at Grace and has gone full time with Dare 2 Share, a ministry he started in 1991 with the help of Rick and others.
Rick and Greg continue as partners in ministry, encouraging each other in the same passion they had as young boys, still sharing the same vision, as Grace and Dare 2 Share work side by side.
In 2003, using curriculum the pastors wrote, the church launched 40 Days of Grace—focusing again on the five purposes, but this time through the GRACE acronym personalized by the pastors for our church.
G lorify—you were planned for God’s pleasure.
R elate—you were formed for God’s family.
A spire—you were created to become like Jesus.
C ommit—you were made for a ministry in the church.
E vangelize—you were made for a mission in the world.
Every day, every week, Grace Church is reaching out. People are plugging into the Growth Connection classes and are making their way from the community (spectators) to the core (committed and serving).
"That's really our major focus," Rick says, "but we have balanced our passion for evangelism with teaching people all five purposes. In the early years we just shared Christ's crucifixion and saw lots of people get saved. Praise God, they are on their way to heaven. But it was kind of like having a baby in the hospital, looking at the baby, kissing the baby, and then throwing it out in the world. We're not doing that anymore." We are seeing lives saved by God's grace and changed by walking in the same faith that saved them. Giving people hope through Christ and purpose in life is what we're all about!