Community missionary

Don Wilson: Senior Pastor, Christ’s Church of the Valley, Peoria, AZ

By Ronald E. Keener

Thirty years ago this April, a number of families joined together to form Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria, AZ, which now has grown to 17,000 weekly attenders. Their purpose was to impact the north Phoenix valley for Jesus Christ – “acting like a missionary,” says senior pastor Don Wilson.

“To act like a missionary means we have to think strategically about how to reach an unchurched culture, instead of thinking like a pastor where our primary concern is how to keep the church members happy,” Wilson says.

What did the church do to observe the anniversary?

We decided to celebrate by giving to the community instead of doing something for ourselves. We adopted 300 elementary schools and honored the teachers and provided paper supplies to the schools. We served 300,000 students, 11,000 teachers and 300 schools.

Was there a “train wreck” or two during those growing years that you had to get past?

I had four staff turn on me and make false accusations regarding my integrity. I went through a three-hour congregational meeting and lost my energy for ministry for about six months. They resigned and left the staff, but the hurt remained for a long time.

The congregation has a somewhat distinct marketing or growth strategy. How do you define it?

Our major growth strategy is three-fold: We want to reach the man so we can reach the whole family. Statistics overwhelmingly say that if you reach the man you will have a much greater chance of reaching the whole family. We want to reach the younger generation so we have a future.

We want to reach our neighbors so we can change the culture.

Can you expound on the challenges to the congregation you spelled out in your State of the Church message?

One of the biggest challenges for our church as we move ahead is being the church instead of just coming to church. We have to continually develop a ministry philosophy and strategy that pushes our people off of the campus and into the community and the marketplace.

What did you mean when speaking of what Jesus loves vs. what people love? Something along the lines that Jesus loves lost people, but is the church concerned?

I believe the longer the local church is in existence, it naturally wants to turn inward. We have to continually fight the consumer mentality in the church where people think it is all about meeting their needs. One way we do that is by constantly focusing on reaching people who are far from God.

How would you describe Arizona in terms of the Christian church losing its influence?

I don’t know the exact statistics in Arizona, but I have heard that between 80 to 90 percent of people in our state don’t go to church. If that is true then we have lost most of our influence and found ourselves on the defensive.

You have a story of your family moving to a new home and reaching out to your next-door neighbor.

My wife and I moved into a new home in a new community more than two years ago. My mission field is the 20 homes next to where I live. After two years of inviting my neighbor to church and trying to build a relationship with them, they came to church.

I asked them what finally got them to come and the wife made a very interesting statement. She said that you can only tell your friends “no” so many times and that sooner or later you are going to have to say “yes” to them. The moral of the story was: Don’t give up too soon. Keep planting seeds and watering and God will give the increase.

Why do many people find it hard to share their faith?

I think most people find it hard to share their faith for several reasons: One reason would be the fear of the unknown. Another reason would be they don’t know the Bible well enough. Another reason would be we really don’t think people are going to hell without Jesus. And another reason would be because they don’t know how to share a salvation message and lead someone to faith in Christ.

You’ve used the expression that the church is the visiting team and needs to be trained to be the home team? How so?

When I say the church is the visiting team, I mean that most of our culture today does not like the church. The mention of the church creates lots of emotion and hostility, much like a visiting team going to play in their rival’s stadium. Most of us as pastors were trained at a time when the church was still the home team and people respected and valued the church. So we are going to have to change our strategy to win the hearts and minds of those who oppose us.

You had a recent trip to Uganda for leadership.

I as well as our church are involved in John Maxwell’s EQUIP leadership training. I have trained pastors in Peru, Portugal and am presently training pastors in Uganda. Our church staff and key laypeople will be training more than 8,000 leaders in more than 15 different countries this year.

What is the church’s strategy for multisite?

We have a large 100-acre campus at our Peoria location that attracts almost 17,000 people on a weekend and 2,000 people on our Surprise campus. We realized that no matter how big our campus is, we can never impact the city at just one location. So we decided to be one church in many locations. We will be opening up a campus in Scottsdale this August. We currently have more than 1,500 people in the Scottsdale area that drive to CCV. If we can get a campus closer to where they live, it will be easier for them to invite their neighbors.

What are your plans for succession or transitioning? How do you feel about being a “grandfather figure” to many of your young parishioners?

Our elders have an emergency plan in place and we are also working on a succession plan together. In the last few years I find that I am being perceived by the younger generation as a grandfather figure instead of a father figure. For some reason that has allowed me to still be able to connect with the younger generation on a different level and from a different perspective. I am really a frustrated youth pastor at age 64. I love students and am honored when they ask me to speak to their student groups.


Being pastors of influence

I have been asked to lead what is called the Pastors of Influence in our city. This is a group of larger churches from different theological backgrounds that have decided to work together to serve our city.

We are now calling it UNDIVIDED – one church serving the valley. We want to encourage and include all sizes of churches in our city to work together to serve the needs of our city.

Our focus is on the needs of our communities. This includes three initiatives: Adopt every school, eradicate hunger, and empty foster care by serving and collaborating with existing organizations, agencies, and institutions that are doing good in the community.  — DW


One Response to “Community missionary”

  1. Beloved,
    Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ the soon coming king.Just went through your site/newsletter and we thank God through you in reaching your world.

    The course of human history has never been left to chance,to mindless evolution,or to the presumptuous power of humanistic technology or philosophy-its outcome was predetermined before the beginning of time by the One, True, Living and Eternal God,the Creator of our being.

    If The foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do? The events of this end time are unfolding rapidly daily, we are already witnessing Biblical fulfillment of prophecy of Political,Economic and Spiritual distress on the Nations of the earth.With the end of year 2000,we have entered injury time.

    The church of our Lord Jesus Christ is also passing through times of serious and dangerous coolness.The love of many is waxing cold.The zeal for the work of the Lord and vision to go to the remaining unreached people is becoming softer. It is now difficult to find people that are committed to the will of God regardless of the cost.In times like this,it takes only spiritual tough people brought forth by grace to submit to the will of God and stick to it,whether good or bad. The church began in the upper room,but is going towards the supper room.The church began in the spirit,but flesh has come in.The church began with power, but pride has become the order of the day.WHAT A PITY ! Jesus said;”I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” Rise up oh child of God and go back to where we began, more of holiness and righteousness.Remain rapturable!

    Yeah, note this: Millions of people are in hell because some Christians are hiding their light under a bushel.Almost every christian knows enough scripture to lead a soul to Christ,but they are either ashamed of Him,or they don,t care. I thank God saving us and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
    Can God really count on US to do whatever He asks us to do? It,s to show God that we will listen to that still small voice and obey it.To show God that our paramount goal, regardless how big or how small the job is,God can count on us to do it.It may be inconvenient,we may have other plans.It may cost us even our lives just like the martyrs of old, or we may have to disappoint people,family, but regardless, we will obey promptly and put Him first.
    I remember the Apostle Paul in Romans 8;35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ.”Glory be to God! God looks over all of His saints and says to himself, who can I promote to do my work? The Bible says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards Him.”I am coming soon and my reward is in my hands to give everyone as his works shall be” Revelation 22;12.

    I am a Messenger.I was not appointed by any group or human authority.I was selected by God Almighty.Grace brought me to serve the Lord and my world. It is my responsibility and privilege to proclaim to my generation the Good News of Jesus Christ,That believing in Him as Savior and God is the exclusive path to eternal life.It may not be politically correct but it is the truth. And I will carry the message with ultimate resolve ’till the end of my days!! Yeah, it is my life and purpose for living.I I am presently pasturing a church here with Full Gospel Mission
    I have a calling to reach Phoenix Arizona with the gospel,discipleship and prayer on long term VOLUNTEER missions.Please,you,your church or any missionary body you could link me up can write An Invitation Letter I will use to book appointment for visa interview with the U S embassy in my country.By the grace of God, I will take care of my air ticket to and fro,housing,and my welfare while in Phoenix Arizona.
    Looking forward to hear from you even as you pray.
    Yours In Christ.
    Pastor Godden Nkweta.Republic Of Cameroon. Tel +23776062083

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