Guest post by the Rev. Mr. Jared Beaird. He took his B.A. from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and his MDiv from Westminster Seminary California. He’s a native of Montana.
Covenant Reformed Church of Missoula, Montana was provisionally accepted into membership in the URCNA by the Pacific Northwest Classis last fall and awaits ratification by the next synod. What started as a Bible study, with only a handful of families, has grown to about thirty-five souls in attendance every Lord’s Day.
The Lord has blessed us with a great location, an ELCA church on the busiest street in Missoula. It is our prayer that the Lord would plant, preserve, and increase His church here in a location desperate for the gospel.
Missoula is a vibrant growing western city. The US Census Bureau’s 2009 estimate has Missoula’s population at 68,876. It is the 2nd largest city in Montana after Billings, and Missoula county with 108,623 is also the 2nd largest county trailing Yellowstone. It might just become the largest population in Montana. Some predict it to grow to about 160,000, making Missoula the largest community in the state.
According to Best Places report on religion only 30.54% of the people in Missoula affiliate with a religion, which is below the national average of 48.34%. Only 14.75% are Protestant, which is below the national average of 22.43%. If these numbers hold then 85.25% of Missoulaians hold beliefs different from that of historic Christianity and concerning our historic reformed perspective are un-churched. It is obvious that the field is ripe for the harvest and the population of the target area should be able to eventually support our church. In addition, it is home of the University of Montana.
This is a church plant, no family came from a mother church, there was no replanting with previous Reformed peoples. We began with only one reformed family (RPCNA). The Great Commission can thrive without a Reformed core group. A Reformed church can grow, even in a small federation with limited resources, in the soil of American Christianity. Why? Because it is Christless out there. The field is ready for a church plant that preaches Christ and him crucified. Christians long for the gospel, it really is food for the soul. It grows the church.
Missoula prides itself on being counter cultural. We decided counter culture here from the beginning in Missoula. We do so with the pure preaching of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, and church discipline. When culture asks, “What may we do in worship?” We ask, “Lord what must we do?”
Many visitors have come and gone, but some stay. It has been a blessing to see God use his means. Even church discipline has been welcomed by disillusioned evangelicals. I should not be surprised; it is God’s rule. I should not be amazed, it really is chaos outside the confessional Reformed church. So many in our church have hopped around Missoula looking for stability. The Bible-only church has shown to be more than the Bible, more than Jesus Christ, but an abuse of the opinions and commandments of men. Left without the creeds and confessions, true catholicity, and communion the people have suffered. Left with autonomy they have become practicing solipsists. That is a frightening place and so there is comfort in a church who has the Keys of the Kingdom.
The soil is ready for the confessional Protestant. Postmodernism has prepared people to belong to something greater than themselves. Many are ready to belong to more than one church in Missoula, to a federation of churches in the URCNA, to our sister churches in NAPARC, and beyond. Real, relevant, and raw are postmodern church buzz words I hear in this place. What I see however is a pale shadow of authenticity. We have the real thing. To confess every Lord’s Day the same truths since 1618 in the Three Forms of Unity (the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort) and beyond to the creeds of the ancient church is genuine catholicity. To have a theology centered on Christ the Mediator of the covenant of grace is relevant. There is nothing more real than knowing the Trinitarian God who uses means. To know that the Holy Spirit effects change by way of the ordo salutis.
People are ready for a thoughtful ministry. Christians are ready for the true church. People are tired of fads. They want something solid. Change sweeps over every aspects of their lives—they are longing for something real and enduring. We believe Jesus designed the church to fill this need as part of his eternal kingdom with ageless truths that do not adapt with the instability of pop culture. Worship should feel timeless, not trendy, therefore Covenant Reformed still feels like a church, not a rock concert, comedy club, or motivational seminar. It is not old-fashioned, as in 50 years ago. It is timeless, as in 2,000 years ago.
I pray we plant churches more and more always. Please pray for us. We need what every young church plant needs: leaders and money. You can learn more about us at missoulaurc.com.