The history of The Rock Church is one of daunting challenges and miraculous victories. Nine members greeted Pastor Nathaniel Wilson and his wife, Mary. The first service was held on June 21, 1981, in a small building in West Sacramento, and the first order of business was survival. With the property near foreclosure, and the building in need of much attention, the small group huddled together. Money was scarce. Pastor Wilson supported himself and his family with the position of Executive Vice President of Christian Life College in Stockton. In the early years, "shaky" was an appropriate word for everything except the faith of the small group. The pastor's family lived in a rental home. Times became so difficult that on more than one occasion families had to move into the pastor's home and into one another's homes to survive. At one point, the only transportation for the Wilsons was an old, unpainted 1959 pickup with no grill and a broken windshield. Nevertheless, God saw them through, and the little group slowly grew.
In spite of difficulties, the infant congregation was rich in vision. Knowing that property would be needed as they grew, Pastor Wilson spent many hours simply driving around and through the city, knowing that although the congregation was still small, it needed to look to the future. He also knew that where they moved would have critical repercussions far into the future of the church.
Knowing that it was financially incapable of moving directly into the present "cutting edge" location, the church was aware of the fact that their one-time chance to positively impact the entire city for years to come was to seek to know where the city growth was moving, then purchase property far in front of this growth--so far in front that it could be afforded. It was acknowledged that this was extremely risky and that the church could miscalculate and end up with a place so far out that no one would come. Nevertheless, there simply was no other way.
The members scanned the newspapers, talked to builders, and observed growth patterns while Pastor Wilson continued to drive around hour after hour. While driving by a particular piece of property on one such occasion, the Spirit impressed him with a simple message of "that's it." The church then purchased the ten-acre parcel of farmland in the country, far out of town. Later, when out-of-town friends were shown what the church had purchased, shock registered on their faces in regards to how remote the property was.
The members were, however, well aware of what they had done. Because they were determined to not be marginalized forever, they knew they were risking all on one seemingly reckless gambling decision. Thus, they boldly moved forward without a single member flinching at the daunting challenge.
The property was purchased and the old location sold. Plans were drawn. Financing was needed. Stories like the following reveal God's blessing on the little band. With no history, little money, and having virtually no business connections, Pastor Wilson literally knelt beside his bed, opened the Yellow Pages, prayed, and started calling local bankers. The third bank he called invited him to come down with what records he had. Taking the pitiful little portfolio he had prepared, he entered the bank and was introduced to a loan officer named Ed. Ed, an older man, greeted him and invited Pastor Wilson to go through his portfolio presentation. Pastor Wilson read while Ed rubbed his head. After a few minutes, Ed interrupted and explained that he didn't need to read the rest. With a penetrating stare, he looked at Pastor Wilson and said, "I just want to know one thing. If I loan you this $330,000.00 you are asking for, can you make the monthly payment?" Pastor Wilson boldly replied, "Yes, sir, we absolutely can!" The elderly banker replied, "Okay, come back in three days and sign the Note."
Construction began on a 22,000 square foot building. Cement was poured. The steel superstructure was erected. The small group did most of the work at night with rented and donated equipment. Visible progress was finally being made. Then it fell down.
The entire structure collapsed. It was, of a certainty, a difficult time. People mocked. Others criticized. The little group was devastated. But, for the first time, they made the headlines of the newspaper! The great collapse took place about 1:00 p.m. By sunrise the next morning, the entire slab was cleared, and repairs were in process. The small group of men, staggered by the enormity of the fall, nevertheless, regrouped and doggedly went to work. Over the next few months, the re-engineered and re-erected building (including the office area wood framing) was completed, inspected, and approved except for one new requirement that had not existed prior to the collapse. That is, the Fire Department was now requiring sprinklers in the building. Unfortunately, the steel was not engineered to bear the added weight of the sprinklers. The church appealed this decision and lost. They then appealed to state fire authorities and lost again. Two and one-half years later, with weeds six feet high and the wood framing weathered, twisted, and coming apart, the site appeared abandoned. The sign declaring "Future Home Of" was rotted, peeling, and falling down. All seemed lost. The steel was dismantled and sold.
In the meantime, the little band, having sold their former place of worship, finally found another place. The Grange Hall of Elk Grove agreed to rent their hall to the church from week to week. The Rock Church will never forget the kindness of the Grangers of Elk Grove during this time of dire need. Assailed with adversity on every side, the small group, nevertheless, quietly continued to grow. Unusual and powerful visitations of heavenly blessing rained down in the services, and after 12 months, the Grange Hall was too small.
An intense search for a new place resulted in a move to a warehouse owned by Jackson Properties at Hwy 99 and Mack Road in Sacramento. This was the first time Jackson Properties had ever leased to a church. The Rock Church owes an eternal debt of gratitude to Jackson Properties for that decision.
Seemingly no progress was possible on the 120' x 120' building. A wall of invisible resistance seemed impenetrable. Odd and somewhat eerie experiences occurred. About this time, Pastor Wilson, in a dream, saw a large serpent 120' long lying on the north side of the slab. In the dream, the snake was coming toward him with a sort of smile, saying, "I will consume you." In fear, with nothing but a shovel in his hands, Pastor Wilson, not knowing what to do, stood mesmerized, watching the serpent approaching. Suddenly the Spirit spoke to Pastor Wilson saying, "Run at him and plant the shovel vertically in his mouth." Though fearful, he nevertheless ran and did so, and watched as the serpent, with incredible violence, bit down on the shovel, driving its steel edge into his brain and falling dead at his feet. After this, the building was finally completed and occupied.
New plans were drawn that utilized the existing concrete slab, and construction began anew. Some 18 months later, on the first Sunday of 1985, the excited little group moved from the warehouse to the new sanctuary. 155 people were in attendance.
As the congregation grew, the need for space also grew. In the fall of 1995, the Elk Grove School District kindly made available a number of modular buildings that no longer fit their needs. These were purchased for a small fee and placed on the property behind the existing sanctuary. An additional five acres was purchased on the south side of the existing campus, providing a total of 15 acres for growth and expansion. The Rock Church campus is currently comprised of 14 buildings with over 40 active departments, involving hundreds of people in ministry.
In the summer of 1998, the church welcomed Myles and Sheila Young to the pastoral staff, along with their two children, Boston and London. Pastor Young joined Pastor Wilson (now Bishop Wilson) in leading the church onward as they focused on the expansion of the church's national and worldwide ministries. The coming of Pastor Young also significantly broadened the ministry and growth of The Rock Church and continues to do so.
With attendance well over 600 and growing rapidly, 1998 saw the purchase of an additional ten acres just south of the present campus. On December 31, 2006, with a congregation now numbering over 1,200, the first service will be held in the new 95,100 square foot sanctuary. The new sanctuary, as growth necessitates, will expand to seat up to 5,000 people (it will currently seat 2,500) and will have two floors of administrative offices, a two-story lecture hall, conservatory, and recording studio. The church is also home to a fully accredited, two-year satellite site of Patten University and is the home of the global ministries of Reach Worldwide, Inc. The church motto is "Helping People Become."
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