For years the staﬀ and church family at Seven Rivers Church in Lecanto, FL prayed and dreamed of planting a church in The Villages, FL, which is the largest retirement community in the United States and also one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas. The population has grown from around 50,000 in 2010 to 128,000 in 2019. Rapid growth continues with the recent unveiling of a new, expansive area of land currently under development, which will include a new recreation district, a medical complex that will serve all of Central Florida, a second charter school to serve the growing population of young families moving into the area, and new housing areas for both retirees and families. The Villages is moving towards encompassing a 70 square mile area. Currently, we are looking to begin our plant in the Oxford/Wildwood area, with the hope of planting several churches over time to serve the growing population. This plant will be the first PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) plant in or around The Villages.
The launch date for the plant’s first weekly worship is set for September 2021. Over the next year, we plan to introduce ourselves to the community, establish small group studies, offer seminars on various Bible topics, explain our vision to potential partners, and assemble a team to serve as our launch team for the Fall.
Our vision is to establish a multigenerational church of families and retirees in the Villages area. We want to help foster the growth of a church community that understands both the good news of Jesus and the unique dynamics of The Villages area so that we communicate the gospel effectively and personally to all. We think that what we want to say and do will make a unique and distinctive contribution to The Villages and the surrounding areas.
At this first stage, our goal is to begin to reach out to and minister in the Wildwood and Oxford areas, but we welcome participation from people in every area around The Villages. As The Villages continues growing every year, our vision is to continue to plant churches to embrace and share the good news of Jesus with our growing population.
Since moving to The Villages area, I have talked to several people who feel disillusioned and disconnected from any faith community. They haven’t fully heard or grasped the reality that when God brings us to himself, he brings us into a family of faith, a family in which we need each other. The Church is the people, and not a place, a building, or an event. It is a family that does life together.
Our prayer is that we may lead people into a growing relationship Jesus, embracing them with the open arms of renewing grace, bringing them into redemptive community, and empowering them to respond with relentless mission. (Seven Rivers has a good summation of the following ideas on our What We Believe Page.)
RENEWING GRACE in Jesus Christ as explained in the Bible. In a world of brokenness, we seek to be a place where hearts and homes are healed by the love of God. We want people to hear and respond deeply in faith to the message of how God in his great love has reconciled us to him by forgiving all of our sins in Jesus Christ.
REDEMPTIVE GRACE of acceptance, nurture, and growth in the gospel of Jesus. In a world of disconnection, we seek to be a place of unusual devotion to one another. We need each other. Christians are called to live life together in a revitalizing faith community that accepts broken people in the gospel while offering the hope of transformation within the distinctive theological framework encompassing all of scripture.
RELENTLESS MISSION in active service to the broken world around as representatives of Jesus. In a world of self-absorption, we seek to bless our world with deeds of compassion, mercy, and grace. We invite you to join us as we seek, serve, and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel in the lives of other people.
If you are not a Christian, we welcome you to explore the claims about Jesus, ask questions freely, and receive thoughtful answers that help you to figure out what following Jesus might mean for your life.
If you are a Christian, we want you to experience the transforming grace and truth of God in a community of people who want to see you grow, explore, and live out your giftedness in the kingdom of God. We want to cultivate vibrant, heart-engaging worship including celebration and contemplation.
Rebekah and I moved to Wildwood, FL on June 25, 2020 to plant a church in The Villages. We were both born in SC and later attended Clemson University. Our years in college were spiritually formative, particularly through the ministry of Reformed University Fellowship. After graduation, we married and moved to St. Louis, MO where I received an M. Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary. We then moved back to Clemson and served for almost 20 years with the same college ministry that had been so instrumental in our spiritual growth. After leaving campus ministry, I pastored a church in MS before being called by Seven Rivers to plant a church in The Villages. We have three children – Kathryn, Connor, and Paul. Our family enjoys exercise, movies, books read aloud, the mountains and the beach, good food, hammocks, long walks, family time, kayaking, all kinds of music, hot tea (Stephen), good coffee (not Stephen), deep conversation, and rain on the rooftop.
Personal Ministry Statement: Our goal is to introduce people to and explain more fully the truth, grace, love, and glory of God in Jesus Christ, whether at church, home, or in a town square. That’s what we are about. It is what we love. We want to receive and communicate the love of God in Christ, loving people so that they know and grow in Jesus. We want people to enter into a restored and vibrant relationship with God as Father through Jesus Christ his Son in the powerful presence of his Holy Spirit.
If you have questions, or would like to get involved, please email Stephen Speaks.
PRAY. We are deeply aware that we cannot build a church, so we ask you please to join us in praying for God to build His church in The Villages. Pray specifically for Him to guide us in the planning phase, especially in finding the best location for an initial meeting space that will be accessible and welcoming to both retirees and younger families. Pray also for our family, for new relationships, and for our ministry as we begin. The news tells us daily that we are living in an historic time. Pray that God will bring people into our path whose hearts have been uniquely prepared to hear the Gospel of Jesus.
GIVE. The next year will require some of our most important startup costs. Your help is vital.
Funding for the church plant comes from a variety of sources. Seven Rivers Church, who saw the need for a church uniquely centered on the Gospel, gave the seed money. The Florida Church Planting Network has committed to provide some support for the next few years. We are also in the process of raising support from churches, individuals, and families who have a heart for supporting this venture in the advancement of the gospel.
Would you consider giving to The Villages Church Plant? Click here to give directly to The Villages Church Plant. Or click on the GIVE link at the top of the Seven Rivers Church website and follow the steps. Make sure to direct the gift to the Villages church plant in the dropdown box.
Let me tell you a little about who we are. This church is being planted by Seven Rivers Church, which is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
Something that may be helpful for you to know about the PCA is that we hold to the historical truths Christians have expressed from the very first. The world has changed, but God’s truth has not. It still gives life and direction. The beliefs of the PCA can be found in a document called the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.
The PCA comes from what is called the Reformed tradition. If you don’t know what the label Reformed means, let me give you a brief summary of some of the distinctives of being a Reformed church.
We celebrate the Glory of who God is. People are drawn to beauty in the world, but all that is beautiful, good, and excellent, finds its source and its greatest purity, perfection, and intensity in God. When we talk about the glory of God, we mean that all that makes life worth living is a reflection of who he is, in the way that a song reflects its composer, or a novel reflects its author. As the Creator, he is the origin, source, standard, and fullness of all that we love in life. Being a Christian is a lifelong adventure of growing closer to this God, being revitalized by his grace and truth, and experiencing the deepest joy in his presence.
We emphasize God’s Word. We think that God spoke clearly in the past through appointed spokespeople who wrote down precisely an account of God’s words and actions in the world in the historical collection of letters and books that we now call the Bible. Reformed Christians believe that God gave us the Bible because he loves us and wants us to know him truly.
We rely solely on God’s Grace for us salvation. We believe that we were too important to God for him to leave our eternal salvation in our hands. So, our heavenly Father devised a plan to rescue us. Jesus, the Son of God, accomplished and secured our salvation by his perfect life and sacrificial death. And the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and brings all of the necessary abilities and redemptive benefits that Jesus accomplished and the Father planned. What God requires from us in response is summarized in the comprehensive term Faith, which is the inner response of trust and dependence in our minds, hearts, and wills to the person of Jesus Christ.
We orient our lives around the mission of God’s truth and grace. Jesus is more than a religious figure who can be relegated to the sidelines of history or of day to day living. He is the centerpiece of history and everyday life. He cares about all of it, which means that we bring him by faith into every part of life – family, marriage, career, community, finances, time, and pursuits. Faith in Jesus is more than a personal matter. It determines how we live in private and how we live in public. Every part of life is oriented around and directed by him as communicated in the Bible.
We are committed to the community of people called the Church. Since Christ welcomed us into the family of God when we were sinners, we are compelled to love and welcome one another in the same way. In the earliest churches people from every walk of life—rich, poor, Jew, Gentile, slave and free—responded to the good news of Jesus Christ. Life can be messy, people can be messy, and that means that the Church can be messy. And yet Jesus loves the church and calls us to love it, too. It was in His love and forgiveness that they based their hope and identity, joining together as one body. You may feel like you don’t need church. Maybe not. Maybe the church is not what you need. But maybe the church can help you get to what you do need. We believe that in our segmented and segregated culture, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the one thing that can and should cut through all lines of division and draw us together. We are at our best when we are worshiping with the same variety that makes up our larger Villages community.
Our immediate goal is simply familiarizing ourselves with the area and making contacts. We want to know the people who live in and around The Villages and to understand the unique needs they face. We also want to see what other faith communities are doing in order to decide how our goals can best complement what others are doing.
As we meet interested people, we want to establish small groups where we can share in life, share the good news of Jesus, and share our vision for The Villages community
We have planned some larger teaching and informational gatherings to find people who prayerfully sense the Holy Spirit’s leading to be a part of a church plant. We want to further inform them who we are so that we can make sure that we are in agreement as we move forward. We will also spend time assessing our strengths and gifts, and training and equip them.
Our plan is to begin public worship Fall 2021.