Since launching a little more than a year ago, River Church in Clinton, Iowa, has grown from 70 attendees to a weekend average of more than 600. At just over a year old, it is now one of the top six-largest churches in Iowa.
Lead pastor Jeremiah Randleman and his wife, Ashley, first felt the call to plant a church seven years ago. At the time, Randleman was working at First Assembly in Jefferson, Iowa.
A few years later, Randleman met with Superintendent Tom Jacobs, who showed him some locations where the Iowa Ministry Network saw the need for a healthy church. Clinton, a town of about 27,000, was on the list. An AG church had formerly been in the area, and profit from the sale of the land would be available to help the launch.
"We just began to fast, and pray, and seek the Lord's direction for our family," Randleman says. "It was quite some time later before we realized that God was calling us to Clinton."
Jeremiah and Ashley decided to visit Clinton with their two young boys and arranged to meet with a local Christian business owner who knew one of their friends. It turned out he had an empty warehouse available for River Church to use as worship space.
Later in the day, they visited a local park where they met a woman with three children. The Randlemans had dinner with the family and learned that they had AG connections and expressed interest in attending.
In less than 24 hours, the church now had a meeting place and its first attendees.
As Randleman moved forward with the process, Todd Jones, Iowa church planting director, organized a partnership with three Iowa pastors, including himself, to assist Randleman with advice and financial support.
Randleman also had attended a Church Multiplication Network Launch in Minneapolis, an event to equip pastors involved in the church-planting process. Through this event, Randleman qualified for CMN's matching funds, which provide up to $30,000 to help congregations with start-up costs. Churches later return the borrowed money to the fund to help future church plants.
In the months leading up to the church's first service, a team hung black plastic to cover the warehouse walls. River Church held three preview services prior to the official launch.
After River Church's first service on Feb. 2, 2014, the congregation kept growing steadily. By Easter last year, the church added a second service, and by October the church moved to three weekend services.
Jones says he has never seen a new church grow so quickly.
"It kind of goes against church planting in some ways," he says. "They tell you that you're going to have a big crowd in your launch service, and then the next week you might get like 40 percent of that. But he started with about 70 and each week just began to grow."
Randleman says the approach has been simple.
"We listen to the Holy Spirit and do what He says," he says. "We tell people about Jesus, they get excited about Jesus, tell others about Jesus and the Lord causes the increase."
As the church approached its six-month celebration, the owner of the warehouse suggested the church buy it for permanent use. While buying a 28,000-square-foot building so soon seemed daunting, the church made the goal to pay it off by the one-year anniversary.
The church received a reduced rate - one-third of the market value - the amount the company still owed on the property. By River Church's one-year anniversary, the amount had been paid in full.
"It's another testimony of the faithfulness and provision of God," Randleman says.
Jacobs says that from its beginning to its growth to the recent purchase of the property, God's hand has been evident in River Church's establishment.
"God has favored them in a unique and powerful way," Jacobs says. "It's been very exciting to watch."