Spring 2003

Inside this issue:

   Rocky Mountain Presbytery

   Serving Near the Battle

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 Reach the World


Rocky Mountain Presbytery:

Embracing a Vision from God

 to 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 prayerfully prepare.

“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 midst.”

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 membership.”  



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.

Village Seven Presbyterian, begun in 1972 by the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (RPC,ES), became part of the PCA in 1982 when the RPC,ES was enjoined. The congregation has experienced exceptional growth since Joseph Wheat was called to serve as senior pastor in 1998. Now with a regular attendance of over 1,600, Village Seven is a resource leader and provides an annual church planting budget of $100,000.
Left to right, E. J. Nusbaum, clerk of the session at Village Seven Presbyterian; Alfred Poirier, pastor of Rocky Mountain Community Church, Billings, MT, a former Orthodox Presbyterian Church, which recently joined the presbytery; and Joseph Wheat. Joseph praises E. J. for his work in helping organize an enormous amount of information for the presbytery meeting when Joseph and Jim Talarico first shared their vision for church planting.


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 gifts.

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.

The campus of Colorado State University in Ft. Collins will be the site of a new campus ministry next fall when Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) begins. Kyle Parker, after graduating from Covenant Seminary, will serve as campus minister. He and his wife, Gretchen, will move to Ft. Collins this summer

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.

Deer Creek Community Church, Littleton, CO, a long-standing PCA church, has been led by Duane Cory since it started in 1987. Duane has been a key participant in the church planting movement initiated through Rocky Mountain Presbytery in 1998.
Pictured with their wives are PCA church planters who have started churches since 1999. Clockwise from left: Shane Sunn, St. Patrick Presbyterian, Greeley, CO; Jim Talarico, Rocky Mountain Presbyterian, Westminster, CO, and his wife, Kelly; Bill Nardin, presbytery moderator and ruling elder at Rocky Mountain; Sam Downing, City Presbyterian, Denver, and his wife, Leanne; E. C. Bell, St. Vrain Presbyterian, Longmont, CO, and his wife, Ardis.

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 Joseph Wheat.

Covenant Presbyterian, Wheat Ridge, Co, began as part of the RPC,E5 denomination and joined the PCA in 1982, thus becoming one of the earliest PCA congregations in the state. Evan Hock leads this church today.

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.


St. Patrick Presbyterian in Greeley, CO, started by church planter Shane Sunn in 2000, currently meets at a congregational church, but has already raised money to purchase Hope Center (pictured above), a church now occupied by a Four Square Gospel congregation. Built about 1880, the building is centrally located downtown which, according to Shane, is “perfect for our mercy ministry.” St. Patrick will move to Hope Center this summer.

  “We must be constantly mission-minded as we stand firm in one Spirit. Because we’re committed to a higher vision, God has given us exceptional unity.”

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.

Rocky Mountain Presbyterian is raising funds for a permanent structure to be situated in Bradburn Village, a mixed-use community of residences and commercial facilities. Bradburn developers see the future church as a prominent landmark and have requested an 85-foot steeple. Its Web site even promotes the church as central to this new community, which is scheduled for completion in 2005.
Steve Reese, left, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian, Parker, CO, started the church in 1995. According to Joseph Wheat, Steve provided excellent support as they prepared the ground for a church planting movement. With Steve is Rick Vasquez, pastor of Skyview Presbyterian in the south Denver area. Since Rick became pastor in 1998, the congregation has experienced substantial growth.

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 total.

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 people.

Several future church planters are pictured here with their wives. Left to right, Michael Matthews, intern at City Presbyterian, Denver (standing behind his wife, Hillary); Joey Parsons, church planting apprentice, St. Vrain Presbyterian, Longmont, CO (standing behind his wife, Fran); Steve Sage, church planting apprentice, Rocky Mountain Presbyterian, Westminster, CO. On the right are Gretchen and Kyle Parker. Kyle has been called to start Reformed University Fellowship next fall at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins
In Longmont, CO, Long’s Peak overlooks the school building where St. Vrain Presbyterian meets. One of five PCA churches that Rocky Mountain Presbytery has begun in the state since 1999, it is led by E. C. Bell. Less than 10 percent of Colorado residents attend church, and the presbytery is committed to establishing Gospel-centered churches that will increase the Kingdom.

“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.

Canyon Pines Presbyterian currently holds worship services at a high school in Castle Rock, CO, with a view of Pike’s Peak. The community is almost midway between Denver and Colorado Springs but, unlike typical suburban communities, has its own distinct identity and an appealing historic character. As a result, the town is experiencing rapid growth.

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.

  Continually, we recognize that we live on the mission field and we must be mission-minded.

  We operate on a team approach and unity is critical to our success.

  Our 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.


Tivoli, a former brewery and now the student union for three different colleges and universities in downtown Denver, is the site of Sunday services for City Presbyterian. The location is ideal for serving a growing center-city population. Led by Sam Downing, the church initiated public worship the Sunday after September 11, 2001, and is one of thirty PCA churches Rocky Mountain Presbytery resolved to plant between 1999 and 2014.

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Gospel in Uniform
Serving Near the Battle: PCA Army Chaplain Lonnie Lemuel Locke (nicknamed Lem) is stationed at Ft. Carson, CO, not far from Colorado Springs, where he is assigned to a combat support hospital, formerly termed Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH).

Combat support hospitals can be set up quickly in tents near battlefields, yet they are well equipped to handle even extreme situations. The purpose is to minimize transport time for injured soldiers. The photo above right shows a complete 84-bed hospital in a field setting, which has been set up during practice maneuvers. In the photo, above left, Lem is taking part in a training drill and plotting where to set up the field chapel.

“We often rehearse in the field in order to train for actual battlefield events,” says Lem. “Day to day, I visit with soldiers at their work sites, build personal relationships, and provide counsel with individuals and couples. I find a lot of opportunities to talk about God and to lead people to the Lord.”



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