In the Beginning:
(For more detail see Church is a Team Sport Introduction authored by Jim Putman)
In May of 1998, Real Life Ministries began in a living room, with a small group of believers. Jim Putman and Aaron Couch, along with their families, had recently moved to join a small number of couples who had been praying for a new church in the area for some time. Jim and Aaron had worked together at the church in Oregon City, Oregon for a short time, before they felt called and encouraged to take on the church plant adventure together. Jim and Aaron began their adventure by consulting with the Church in Oregon City, and received their blessing and support to move forward. They then consulted with several church planting organizations in the Pacific Northwest to see if they would be receptive to the idea (The I.C.P.A, the M.C.E.A, and the O.C.E.F).
After receiving encouragement, they then met with churches in Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington to see if there would be willingness to help partner on the church plant. Several churches were excited to support through prayer and Sandpoint Christian Church, and Grangeville Christian Church agreed to come along beside the new church plant financially. With this, the team was off and running. Because Jim, Aaron, and the families involved believe in accountability and Eldership oversight, they created a management team to oversee the work until an Eldership was identified, trained and ready to take on the leadership of the new Church. The Management team consisted of Larry Bennet (Chairman of the Board, Oregon City Christian Church), Steve Edwards (Leader of the Idaho Church Planting Assoc.), Tony Nelson (Sr. Pastor Sand Point Christian Church), Charlie Couch (Leader of the Montana Church Planting Assoc), and Bill Putman (Leader of the Oregon Church Evangelistic Fellowship).
None of the churches or church planting organizations had much money for this work so God graciously provided start up money from a man that Jim had met through wrestling in Oregon, where he had been a coach. This unexpected gift further encouraged the team to move forward and it began a series of God-inspired events that moved the work forward. Honestly, there is no way to convey to you all what God did and if you could hear it all, you would know for sure that there is a God in heaven and what has happened here is a work of God –He alone gets the credit.
After 5 months of meeting in homes and in an old house that doubled as offices, the church had their first weekend service. On October 18, 1998, 147 people met in a movie theatre for the first service (about 40 of which were kids from Jim’s youth group from Oregon City that came to support him). With this start, they were off and running and within six months Real Life saw dozens of baptisms and had to add a second service. Within a year, they were at three services and had outgrown the theatre.
God continued to step in to provide support and help for the fledgling work in astounding ways. Doug Crosier, who at the time was leading the Church Development Fund, helped Real Life get its first building and immediately it grew to over a thousand people. Hundreds of people accepted Christ in the short time Real Life had existed and God was truly being glorified. After a year in the new building, the church was having 4 services and had grown to over 2300 people in weekly attendance.
With no room to continue to grow, the church moved its Sunday services back into Post Falls High School using the church’s building for Children’s Ministries. After another building project, the new larger building was completed and Real Life continued to grow. During this time, Real Life began to seek the Lord’s leading on how the church could minister to the community at large. The Lord led RLM to begin its Lifelines (Benevolence Ministry) to the poor and hurting and the Thrift Store that helped to generate money to fund that ministry. Real Life also began its Celebrate Recovery Ministry to help those who struggle with addictions.
Relational Discipleship in home groups has always been a defining characteristic of Real Life and during this time the church sought to disciple everyone, train people to share their faith, as well as use their gifts and abilities to serve individually and corporately in ways that bring glory to Jesus. Within 7 years Real Life was averaging almost 8500 people every week, and was forced to make some hard decisions. Thousands had come to know Christ and the services were filled but the financial load would become too great if they were to build again. At this point, (2008) Real Life decided that it would be better to start planting churches in the area rather than expand the building again. Real Life also believed that if it is to function as God designed, new leaders would emerge that could lead churches or campuses in other areas. Not only this, but we believe that it is better for our people to have a local nearby place to meet rather than having to drive long distances to Post Falls.
For the next few years Real Life planted churches in Kellogg Idaho, North Spokane, Spokane Valley, Newport Washington, Moscow Idaho, Boise Idaho, as well as a Campus in Coeur d Alene, the most recent church plant is in Houston, Texas. Many of the leaders who once helped Real Life Post Falls grow are now leading these plants. Real Life also decided that it would move to a campus approach and began a campus in 2012 in downtown Coeur d Alene. Real Life is now one church in two locations and will continue to look into this approach in other nearby areas.
Real Life has also made decisions along the way to think outside of the immediate area by training churches in small group discipleship strategy all around the United States and the world. Real Life began the Relational Discipleship Network and now does ongoing Discipleshift trainings monthly.
Again God has led the way and glorified Himself here in ways that would be ridiculous for any person or team to take credit for. We look forward to what God will do next as we seek His glory and spread the good news that God wants to save lost and broken people –we all qualify.