A church planting movement guided by Rocky Mountain Presbytery is building the PCA presence in three western states and proving what a God-given vision and mission-minded unity can do.
MNA: Reaching North America with the Gospel
...to Reach the World
Embracing a Vision from God
Reach the West with the Gospel
When PCA pastors Joseph Wheat and Jim Talarico met for the first time in June 1998 in Colorado Springs, they discovered God had given each of them a vision for advancing His Kingdom by planting churches in the West. “The two of us had a lot of synergy,” says Joseph, who had moved to that city only two months before to become senior
pastor of Village Seven Presbyterian. But even before his arrival in the Rocky Mountain region, God had impressed
upon Joseph the specific goal of
planting two churches a year over the next fifteen.
At that time, Jim Talarico had served seven years as senior
pastor of Covenant Presbyterian in the Denver area and was the current MNA
presbytery chairman. Agreeing on their common vision, the two men set
about to encourage members of Rocky Mountain Presbytery to embrace it as
well. The effort began at the presbytery’s next gathering held in July
at Northwoods Presbyterian in Cheyenne, WY, and the men were asked to
“When we came together,” says Joseph, “we spent a lot
of time reviewing the past, with several of our senior members making
extremely significant contributions.” Important contributions were given
by Frank VanLandingham of Trinity Reformed in Montrose, CO; Duane Cory of
Deer Creek Community Church in Littleton, CO; and Steve Reese of Redeemer
Presbyterian in Parker, CO. “Looking toward the future,” he continues,
“Jim and I articulated our vision for church planting.”
As the meeting concluded, every man had enthusiastically
committed to the ambitious goal of thirty churches over fifteen years.
At the next meeting, held in September at Deer Creek
Community Church, the agenda focused on the kind of churches they would
plant; the qualities of the church planters they would seek; and the
resources needed to reach their goal. Papers were presented defining each
of these issues and in the end, every person was in agreement. “This was
stunning,” says Joseph. “There was no doubt that God was moving in our
What’s more, all churches were unified concerning the
church planting budget and pledged to give 1 to 3 percent of their gross
receipts to the presbytery. “We were all thoroughly energized,” Jim
Talarico points out, “and determined to plant churches that would see
significant growth through new conversions rather than transfers of
The results since then have been dramatic. Over 95 percent of the churches have fulfilled their commitment to the presbytery’s church planting budget, so that the total budget rose
from $8,000 a year to $120,000 in 1999 and has remained at that level each year. This amount is
particularly impressive, considering that most of the churches have fewer than 100 members and their giving is sacrificial.
Rocky Mountain Presbytery has been further blessed with generous financial support from PCA churches in the Southeast, including major financial support from congregations such as Trinity Presbyterian in Montgomery, AL; Briarwood Presbyterian in Birmingham, AL;
First Presbyterian in Jackson, MS; Independent Presbyterian in Memphis, TN; and
First Presbyterian in Chattanooga, TN. In addition, a number of other
mid-size and smaller PCA churches participate through their prayers and
Since 1999, the presbytery has undertaken five new church
plants: Elkhorn Presbyterian in Helena, MT, led by Ron Ellis; Rocky
Mountain Presbyterian, Westminster, CO, led by Jim Talarico; City
Presbyterian, Denver, CO, led by Sam Downing; St. Patrick Presbyterian,
Greeley, CO, led by Shane Sunn; and St. Vrain Presbyterian, Longmont, CO,
led by E. C. Bell.
Two church planting apprentices are preparing to start new
works after they complete their apprenticeships, including Joey Parsons,
apprenticing with E. C. Bell, and Steve Sage, apprenticing with Jim
Talarico. Church planter Richard Reeves is scheduled to begin laying the
groundwork soon for an additional PCA church in Ft. Collins, CO. In the
fall of 2003, Kyle Parker as campus minister will launch Reformed
University Fellowship (RUF) at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins.
In choosing locations, the presbytery pursues a two-track
strategy: to plant churches in urban/suburban areas and in mid-size/rural
communities. Six PCA churches and mission churches have been established
in the Denver/Boulder area, and sites are being considered in smaller
communities. Currently, the presbytery has a total of sixteen churches in
Colorado and three each in Wyoming and Montana.
Joseph Wheat became MNA presbytery chairman in 1999. Jim
Talarico describes him as “a real visionary and a strong, charismatic
leader.” Since Joseph became senior pastor at Village Seven, the church
has experienced major growth and attracted a whole new population of young
people. Today, with about 1,700 members, it is the largest in the
presbytery and one of the larger PCA congregations in North America.
Consequently, this church is able to provide important resources for the
development of new PCA works in the region.
As part of Rocky Mountain’s emphasis on planting and
maintaining healthy churches, an Embers to a Flame conference was held at
Village Seven last September for members of the presbytery. Coordinated by
Briarwood Presbyterian and MNA Church Vitality, it was led by Harry Reeder
and Gary Cox of Briarwood; Archie Parrish of MNA Church Vitality, and
Several churches in the presbytery have experienced increased health in recent years. Case in point: Covenant Presbyterian in Wheat Ridge, CO, one of the first PCA churches in the state. The church had about thirty members in 1991 when Jim Talarico was called to serve as senior pastor. God used him to strengthen the church and build the congregation to about 250 people. Today, Evan Hock provides strong pastoral leadership at Covenant and the church continues to thrive.
Joseph Wheat, Senior Pastor, Village Seven Presbyterian
Skyview Presbyterian in Highlands Ranch (in the south Denver
area) represents another PCA church that has seen a renewal. In 1998, Rick
Vasquez left Covenant Presbyterian, where he was assistant pastor, along
with eight families to rebuild this struggling church. Since then,
Skyview’s congregation has grown to 120 and is consistently supporting
church planting in the presbytery.
In 1999, Jim Talarico left Covenant Presbyterian with ruling
elder Bill Nardin to plant another PCA church in the Denver area, Rocky
Mountain Presbyterian. At the same time, Covenant supported the new church
plant and, recently, gave over $18,000 toward the purchase of property for
Rocky Mountain’s first facility.
Now with about 100 people in regular attendance, Rocky
Mountain has purchased land for a permanent structure in Bradburn Village,
a planned community of 750 residences, office facilities, restaurants, and
other commercial establishments in the suburban town of Westminster.
Patterned after urban communities in the northeastern US that were built
near the turn of the 20th century, the development reflects the same
traditional architectural style.
Like a growing number of PCA churches throughout North America, several in the Rocky Mountain region are involved with mercy
ministry as a means of making contact with members of the community and
making a difference in their lives. For example, St. Patrick Presbyterian
in Greeley, CO, started in 2000 by church planter Shane Sunn, has
established the Redeemer Project. Greeley is about an hour’s drive from
Denver and has a Hispanic population numbering well over a third of the
Ultimately, the Redeemer Project will perform mercy ministry
in a number of ways. For now, services include tutoring Hispanic students
in local schools in the English language, both during the school day and
after; “adopting” at-risk children in the community and mentoring
them; and coaching community sports for elementary age children. The
church has also taken part in and helped produce special events for young
“The objective of our mercy ministry,” says Shane, “is
to create points of connection with individuals and build relationships
that can lead to sharing the Gospel.” Regular attendance at St. Patrick
is about 120, and many have come through conversion.
Rocky Mountain Presbyterian is also involved in mercy
ministry and community services. The church formed a Spanish-speaking
community group that meets weekly, conducts weekly worship services for
patients at a local nursing home and rehabilitation center, provides a
monthly outreach to the business community, and holds monthly services at
the Denver Rescue Mission as well as the Broomfield County Jail.
Village Seven, through its Village Caregivers program,
coordinates more than 200 volunteers who provide a variety of practical
services, ranging from home renovation projects for the poor and emergency
cash assistance to a ministry for single mothers. Village Caregivers
helped start the Faith Partners Ministry, a mentoring program for
post-welfare families and also partners with other community agencies to
aid inner-city families in meeting their needs.
Considering all that Rocky Mountain Presbytery has
accomplished since 1998, there’s no question that God is at work. When
asked to summarize why Rocky Mountain Presbytery has been successful in
achieving its goals, Joseph Wheat outlined the following factors:
• We have a
challenging vision given by God that can be accomplished only through
total dependence upon Him.
we recognize that we live on the mission field and we must be
• We operate
on a team approach and unity is critical to our success.
presbytery is our network, and our vision has affected everything we do.
• We’ve been blessed with incredible church planters. Each one has a burden for the West and is totally committed to working as part of our unified team.