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Nearly 20 years ago, Pastor Shawn Sikkema was leading a new Colorado church plant that was struggling to grow beyond 100 people. These days that church, Eastern Hills Community Church, packs 2,300 people into three services every weekend and overflows with a wide range of evangelism and youth programs, small groups, and support groups.

How does a new church last so long, grow so much, and become such a presence in its community?

“It really is a God thing,” Sikkema says. “God has clearly had his hand in our ministry, and we’ve been able to keep growing and reach a lot of people for him.”

Formed in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo., in 1989 with help from Christian Reformed Home Missions, Eastern Hills wasn’t always a thriving megachurch. Like many young church planters, Sikkema struggled to attract new members and was unsure how long this new worship community would last.

“I’d planted a church in British Columbia in 1985 that didn’t work out, so I was well-acquainted with the challenge of getting a new church off the ground,” says Sikkema.

There have been many challenges along the way, Sikkema says. “We were originally very liturgical in worship style, for example, but over time we had to become more contemporary and evangelistic.” He also learned to become more focused on ministering to the youths in Aurora.

This year Sikkema will become the leader of a new ministry cluster in the Denver area. This group of churches and church leaders will work together to find diverse missional leaders and plant new churches in the region.

“I was really shaped by Home Missions, in terms of its leadership training and dedication to God’s mission,” he says. “Hopefully, God can work through this cluster to bring the gospel to this entire community.”  

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