In mid 1997 God moved our founding pastor Ron Hunt and his wife Monica from Honolulu to start New Life here in Petaluma in collaboration with Petaluma Christian Church and the Northern California Evangelistic Association. It was a small budget project with only $50k available spread over the first two years, and that had to include all start-up costs and Pastor Ron’s salary. But God had big plans for New Life, and in spite of those significant challenges, we not only launched, but began to thrive.
At first, we were a portable church. The cost of property was so prohibitive, for the first 10 years we held church services wherever we could. As we grew, we kept having to find rental facilities with greater capacities. As we would soon find out, two additional challenges awaited us. 1) Petaluma sits in the heart of the least churched (and in some ways, the most anti-church) area in our country. Churches don’t usually thrive here. They struggle and often don’t even survive. And 2) Combine that with the exorbitant cost of property, and it was understandable why no church in the prior 75 years had been able to buy any property inside the city limits of our town.
But God still had big plans for our church, and in 2008 we were able to purchase our current campus — 3 acres inside our city limits with a 35,000 sq. ft. corporate building on it. It’s no surprise that buying our campus, converting it from a warehouse to a combination church/community center/emergency shelter posed another huge challenge. But God enabled us to get that all done, and done legally, in just 11 months! So, in July of 2009 we held our first church service in our new campus, the 15th different place we had met as a church over those first 11 years.
Along the way, we have had three different lead pastors — Ron Hunt, Kevin Finkbiner, and Joel Enyart. After a 4 ½ year season as our lead pastor, God moved Kevin to southern California where he continues to work in church leadership. And after 2 ½ years as our lead pastor, God also moved Joel to southern California where he continues to work in church leadership. Our church has also had two interim lead pastors. Angela Lam led our church between Kevin and Joel, and Ron Hunt now serves as our interim lead pastor.
There have been huge challenges, seasons of deep pain, and times of fantastic victory along the way. Our experiences have pretty much mirrored the experiences the Apostles of Jesus experienced as they traversed the globe establishing churches wherever they went. We love being a Jesus-centered church that consistently endeavors to walk with Him as He leads us. We’re excited that in addition to helping thousands of people experience the life Jesus offers, He’s enabled us to build several church buildings in India and Mexico, take hundreds of people on short term trips to both of these countries, and in our local congregation to baptize nearly a thousand people since our launch in early 1998.
While we’re excited about all of that, our focus and vision is really on the future God has for us. We anticipate calling a new lead pastor in the next few months, and we believe God will use them to continue our great journey in reaching the wonderful people in our community with the good news of Jesus!