Chris Goeppner – Lead Pastor, Riverbank Church
Five Questions with Chris Goeppner
After living 20 years in South Florida, Chris Goeppner and his family moved to New England to plant Riverbank Church in White River Junction, VT.
1. You are originally from Florida, yet you decided to plant a church in the Northeast. What led you to that decision?
In 2009, I attended the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta and sat in a break-out led by Pastor Herbert Cooper. He challenged everyone with the question: “When was your last step of crazy faith?” This messed me up and led me to pray and fast for several days. On October 13, 2009, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit spoke clearly to me to go plant a church in Vermont. Within 3 months, my family and 2 others were on the ground in the Upper Valley of New England. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s how it went down. I promise, it was not a bad burrito!!
2. A lot of people probably don’t know how desolate the Northeast is with regards to the Gospel. What hurdles have you had to overcome as a church planter in the region?
I could write a book about this! Since our launch in April 2010, we have met in 11 different locations. We have had city ordinances created because of our church and not because we were insensitive. There is a very intolerant attitude from many in small town New England toward Christianity. One time, we had a contract on a piece of property and –without getting in too much detail– the town decided that they didn’t want a church buying the building. It was a very interesting town meeting with some comments from leaders that you wouldn’t believe!! We aren’t called to declare war on the community but to reach it, so even though several attorneys contacted us about the situation, we walked. Interestingly enough, within 4 months God opened the door for us to purchase a ridiculous piece of property where we will be able to build new!! Currently, we meet in a bar that literally sits 2 feet off of active railroad tracks. It’s what God has provided for this season of ministry. We are able to reach people for Jesus that we would not have been able to other wise.
3. What are some things you do as a Church Planter and Pastor to stay focused on the vision & mission?
I think that it’s important to keep the vision white hot. I do this by constantly communicating our vision. Whether on Sundays, through our weekly communications, groups, events, etc. we find ways to share the problem and solution.
4. Riverbank Church currently in the process of building a “Sending & Equipping Center,” instead of “just another church.” How are you guys planning on using your facility and why?
We would like to see our building used as a mission portal to Vermont and New Hampshire. Where 97% of our community does not attend a Gospel preaching church, this location is strategically placed at the junction of the only 2 interstates in Vermont. Not only will we be able to conduct our church operations, but we see ourselves as a place where we can empower other potential church planters to go into Vermont and New Hampshire to start other Gospel preaching churches!
5. Being in the middle of a building project, I’m sure you have already learned a ton. If you could say one thing to a church getting ready to start a building, what would it be?
I would say that it’s important to remember that we serve a BIG God. I think so many churches settle for “less than,” when the Lord is ready to provide “more than.” For us, after being so transient, we were ready to settle… I’m so thankful that doors closed and –through patience– the best opportunity presented itself.