“I am in it for the long haul. If God called me to care for these people, I was going to be faithful,” says Eric Durso, who is now the lead pastor of Grace Rancho, a Charis Fellowship congregation in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., as he reflects on God’s faithfulness to the revitalized church over the last year.
The congregation of Grace Rancho (formally known as Grace Fellowship of Alta Loma) is a product of what churches within the Charis Fellowship are known for: caring for one another, training leaders, and mobilizing existing churches to plant new fellowships.
Three years ago, Grace Fellowship of Alta Loma had become a struggling congregation. Simultaneously, the pastors of Grace Church of Simi Valley, a Charis Fellowship congregation in Simi Valley, Calif. (Jordan Bakker, senior pastor) began praying about expanding their ministry with the possibility of either planting a new church or rejuvenating an existing one.
In early October of 2017, Simi Valley was invited to attend a meeting of the Southern California-Arizona district ministerium (now operating under Grace Churches Network) to discuss the plans of Alta Loma after Roy Halberg’s (the lead pastor at the time) retirement. At the meeting, Roy expressed that the church needed to be revitalized. Upon hearing this statement, the pastors of Simi Valley felt as though God had answered their prayer to rejuvenate an existing church.
It was shortly after the conversation with Alta Loma that Eric Durso was commissioned to take on the task of restoring the church back to health. Eric began praying every day about the mission that was laid out before him and some members of Simi Valley became interested in joining Eric in the process.
As of January 1, 2018, Eric Durso became the lead pastor and in May of 2018, he and his family made the move to Rancho Cucamonga. In June, 20 faithful members of the Simi Valley church sold their homes, quit their jobs, and transferred school districts to follow the calling of the Lord to a new city where they were met with 20 existing congregants of Alta Loma. Michael Sciarra, an intern at the time for Grace Church of Orange, Calif. (Mike Sciarra, senior pastor) had also joined the team at Alta Loma leading worship and becoming the pastoral assistant. The church officially changed its name to Grace Rancho.
At first, Sunday meetings were small. The earliest gatherings consisted of between 20-30 adults. The light attendance did not discourage the new leadership but instead, expanded their faith in waiting on the Lord.
God began to show his faithfulness and within weeks of being a new congregation, two young families, who had not been to the church before, began to attend and were humble, hungry, and eager to serve. Since then, almost every Sunday new families began to show up. People are coming with the desire to learn and serve.
Although Grace Rancho is just over a year old, the church desires to be a sending church. The vision is to not only have enough money in the bank or people in the seats, but to train up men to lead and revitalize other churches.
“Revitalization is something we always talk about. It’s in our DNA,” says Eric, “we are waiting on the Lord to provide the people and the church.”
As the young fellowship continues to grow in attendance, the church is praying for people to be saved in the process, a fruit that they know the Lord will be faithful in bearing. Grace Rancho hopes to become a fully autonomous church in the coming years.