Many people know Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, as a beautiful resort city. Located on the north shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene, which is twenty-five miles long, the town is also appropriately called the Lake City. There is no shortage of captivating views in and around this city, and the area provides many opportunities for hiking, boating, golfing, and skiing. Barbara Walters described it as “a little slice of heaven” and included Coeur d’Alene on a list of the most fascinating places to visit.
While the Lake City provides many opportunities for recreation and rest, it also is in great need of biblical and Reformed churches. Along with neighboring Spokane, Washington, the region is home to almost 700,000 people. The Presbyterian Church in America supports a church plant in Spokane, but that group meets forty-five to sixty minutes from Coeur d’Alene. The need for biblical and Reformed churches in that area led to the formation of Coeur d’Alene Reformed Church, a new church plant of the OPC.
Ryan Vander Feer and Brad Salie are brothers-in-law who moved their families from Southern California to Idaho. They were members of Branch of Hope OPC in Torrance, California, and looked for a similar church near their new homes in the northern panhandle of Idaho. Unfortunately, no such church existed. About four years ago, five or six families that were interested in establishing a new Reformed church got together. In August 2013, the group contacted the local presbytery of the OPC to express interest in forming a church plant in Coeur d’Alene.
The Presbytery of the Northwest provided support, encouragement, and prayer. Pastors Mark Collingridge (Kennewick, Washington) and Paul Johnson (Colville, Washington) travelled regularly to Coeur d’Alene to lead Bible studies and services, and many other members of the presbytery also travelled there. In a relatively short period of time, that group of five or six families grew to sixty people, and now eighty to ninety people gather every Lord’s Day for worship.
With steady growth and significant distance to the nearest OP congregation, it became clear that this new work needed a pastor. Last fall, the presbytery installed the Rev. David Graves as an evangelist to serve as the organizing pastor in David grew up in an Army family, living in Germany and many other places before his family settled in Columbus, Ohio, during his high school years. He was raised in a United Methodist family, but during high school he was captured by God. Through several events—the gift of a Bible from an aunt
and uncle, the commitment to read through that Bible entirely (out of feelings of guilt and the duty to honor the gift), and a message at summer youth camp—the Lord saved David. God then used many other instruments, such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, First Baptist Church of Gahanna (Ohio), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and eventually Grace OPC in Columbus, Ohio, to bring David to pastoral ministry in the OPC.
After several years of service in Franklin, Pennsylvania, David left for Coeur d’Alene with his wife, Rebekah, and their five children (Annie, 10; Zachariah, 8; Josiah, 7; Samuel, 4; John, 2) in October. The Lord has blessed their family during this transition from Pennsylvania to Idaho. David hit the ground running, enjoying the opportunity to preach and serve the church plant and to meet new friends and neighbors. The children love the adventures of a new place with many things to see and do. The Graves family and the people of Coeur d’Alene Reformed Church already share a deep bond of fellowship. They pursue the opportunity, together, to introduce people to their Savior and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What defines the character of this new work in Coeur d’Alene? First and foremost, the people are defined by the gospel of Jesus Christ. They recognize the beauty of their own salvation—that though Christ owed them nothing, he became a man, lived a perfect life, died a perfect death, and was raised from the dead on the third day in order to save them. By faith in Christ, they stand in a right relationship with the one true God and call him Father.
What a glorious message! And this message calls for a response. As a church defined by the gospel, Coeur d’Alene Reformed Church is called to at least two things. First, they are called to worship their saving God, who is worthy to receive their praise. Second, they are called to witness to those who do not yet know the joy of God’s salvation.
They live out these commitments in their gatherings for worship. On Sunday mornings, there are typically eighty to ninety people worshipping together at Lake City Senior Center in Coeur d’Alene. Approximately half of those in attendance are covenant children. The children are everywhere, and they are excited to be at their church. The service is both serious and joyful. The people love to sing, and they also love to hear the Word of God opened by their minister.
Their commitment to worship is also accompanied by a commitment to witness. The members of the church regularly invite family, friends, and neighbors to join them for worship. Visitors are in attendance every week, and they receive a warm welcome from a friendly congregation. This congregation takes seriously the description of the Lord as the one who seeks worshippers who worship in Spirit and in truth. They long to be an instrument in the Lord’s gathering of worshippers in Coeur d’Alene.
How can you pray for Coeur d’Alene Reformed Church?
• Give thanks for the many people whom the Lord has already gathered, and for the many visitors who have been introduced to this new work.
• Give thanks for the blessing of many covenant children within the church.
• Give thanks for the example of a warm, welcoming congregation.
• Gives thanks for the facilities of Lake City Senior Center, but pray for another location, as they seem to be quickly filling the space.
• Pray for the Lord to continue to add to their numbers—that their commitment to witness would bear fruit in a growing number of worshippers.
• Pray for the Graves family to continue to enjoy new friends, even as they live far away from their relatives.
• Pray for the Lord to raise up elders and deacons to serve alongside Rev. Graves through the officer training soon to begin.
God appears to be building a gospel oasis in the midst of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. What a beautiful picture and a beautiful place for such an oasis. Surrounded by examples of physical and earthly rest—resorts, golf courses, lakes, and sunsets—the Lord is building a church that proclaims the glories of Christ, the only one who is able to give spiritual and heavenly rest. Earthly rest is necessary and good, but heavenly rest is better. We can pray that even as people enjoy, in the words of Barbara Walters, “a little slice of heaven” in Coeur d’Alene, they might find through Coeur d’Alene Reformed Church the eternal rest for souls and true heavenly citizenship that is only available through the Lord Jesus Christ.