After decades of being tucked in the back of a neighborhood, the 50-year-old Ridgeview Hope Church formally opens its new church on a main thoroughfare next Sunday (Feb. 10).
The congregation, thanks to the foresight of earlier members, had owned 9 acres at the west end of the Valley Trails Drive loop. Suffice it to say, people didn't just happen to drive by the church.
That changed last year when the congregation started worshiping in the parking lot of its new building at 5901 Coronado Lane (right off West Las Positas) from June until mid-October. Pastor Bob Slack, who has led the church for nearly 20 years, said the congregation had dwindled until the decision was made to sell the Valley Trails land, and it already has doubled in 18 months.
It's one of the more than half of Protestant churches in America with fewer than 100 members, a situation he hopes to see changed in the next few months.
After entering into an agreement with Pleasanton-based Ponderosa Homes to purchase the land, the church leadership undertook a review of its mission. The core Biblical values remained the same, but it was time for fresh outreaches and other initiatives. A key move was bringing on board an associate pastor, Ted Mendoza.
That's a bold step of faith for a small congregation.
Another key step was asking whether the church's name, the Evangelical Free Church, would serve it well in a very public location. The answer was No, so Pastor Bob said they wanted to build a name around a "marker." In Pleasanton there are three, he said: Mount Diablo, the Altamont and Pleasanton Ridge. Using "devil mountain" made no sense for a Christian church (words do count) and Altamont also was a non-starter.
So, it became Ridgeview and they added Hope because of the hope that Christians have in Jesus Christ.
"I will lift my eyes to the hills where my help comes from -- our prayer is to offer the hope of Christ to everyone within view of that ridge," Slack said.
The building process has been challenging because the second floor was removed for the sanctuary and a basketball court separated by a folding wall. That allows seating for up to 300 and likely will make Ridgeview Hope an ideal site for weddings and other events. It has a full commercial kitchen.
To ensure the building remained safe, engineers and the city required what amounted to a huge steel roll-cage. Most of it is behind walls and thus not visible. The steel frame is anchored in huge concrete footings with rebar that was so heavy it took three guys to carry one piece during construction (200 pounds). So, if a major earthquake hits, one of the safest places to be will be Ridgeview.
The church closed escrow on the Coronado site in June 2017 and rehab work started at the end of 2017. A temporary occupancy permit for the ground floor was issued last fall just before it started to rain.
The leadership selected the Coronado office building after visiting more than 40 other buildings in the area. It was a stretch because it was bigger than the congregation needed.
When the second floor is completed over the next few months, the church will lease space out to other users. It already shares space with a Chinese church and a Filipino church as well as with the tiny Lighthouse Christian School. Lighthouse has used space for about 20 years.
The ambitious Ridgeview plans call for the church to plant another church by 2022. Research has shown that new church plants are the best way to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ. Churches should strive to do so within three to eight years of their launch or it's unlikely to happen, Slack noted.
"We needed to replant ourselves with a new name and a new vision. The most important thing we can do is revitalize ourselves and use the new building as a tool as opposed to just a new building," Slack said in an interview.
"The church should be serving the community. We are grateful to all people who have helped us -- the mayor, the council, commission, the city building department and Hacienda Business Park. This is a great opportunity for us to serve," he concluded. He welcomes anyone on Feb. 10.