Our Story

Over the phone came the caustic response, “What are you doing here? Can’t you see all the stone churches downtown are cold and empty? Why don’t you go out to the suburbs like the rest of them?” This response was given to a group of Bible school students attending the World Harvest School of Ministry, who had conducted a survey in the West End of Vancouver. The purpose of the study was to ascertain whether launching a new church in this community would succeed. Unlike the neighbouring East End, with its numerous soup kitchens and homeless shelters, the West End was a self-satisfied high-rise community that clearly sends a message for churches to stay out.

My wife, Cheryl, and I found ourselves leading this group of students into a mission field that we knew very little about. We both were raised in Christian homes on the prairies of Canada with rural backgrounds. Our spiritual journey had led us to leave our jobs in the corporate world and give our lives to church work. The survey of the land revealed a pocket of city dwellers with a vanishing Christian presence. In this setting, God was calling us to change the spiritual climate, and in doing so reveal transformational leadership principles. This led to the start of the urban church known as Coastal Church.


In February of 1994, with the help of the Victory Christian Centre congregation, the church planting team conducted an extensive study in the downtown high-rise community of Vancouver, to understand the spiritual climate. At that time, we found just over 12 percent of the population attended a church. The results indicated only 3 percent were committed Christians. Our search to find a meeting space confirmed the anti-church attitude of the community – only one hotel would consider hosting us. At that time, there was just one other recent church plant downtown, plus the existing seven traditional churches which had served the community for decades.

After much prayer and preparation, an outreach service began on the night of Friday April 15, 1994, at the Landmark Hotel on Robson Street. Throughout the spring and summer, church was held on Friday night until enough of a core group was formed to begin Sunday services on September 11, 1994.

Coastal Church met every Sunday at the Empire Landmark Hotel from 1994 - 2000

At that time, we found just over 12 percent of the Downtown population attended a church. 

Early Outreach

We began the Alpha course in 1996 when new believers expressed to us that they needed a greater understanding of the basic questions about Christianity. The first time we used the course the entire church went though the material. The lessons were taught on Sunday, and then each small group discussed the topics in their homes.

We discovered the “Alpha” course served a twofold purpose for us. First, it served to provide a foundation for the new believers and for those who were returning to church. Secondly, we were pleasantly surprised that it developed into an environment that newcomers came to faith in Christ.

In 1996, we saw, yet again, God’s hand of provision for us. After months of renting in the hotel, we found a company that was willing to lease us office property. They agreed to rent us space there for our office needs and to hold training meetings. The price was amazingly only ten dollars per month! When we asked why, they responded that they understood that a church brings stability and wholeness to the community, and the city here was in need of it. We did find humour in the agreement. Although our office space cost was ten dollars per month, our parking stall included in the lease was one hundred dollars!

The single biggest issue in the urban centre, despite the dense population, is loneliness. Approximately 60 percent of Vancouverites live alone in the community with the average number of people per household being 1.6. This sense of isolation was recognized when we first began to hold our church services in a hotel breakout room.

From there we began small group settings, which struck a chord with those who were coming, and soon they were inviting their friends. Finally, we began to see an increase in our attendance. People bonded when they were encouraged to truly do life together the way they saw fit in the heart of the city, while keeping Christ as the focal point.

Move into 1160 West Georgia Street


God had placed a strong desire in our hearts to acquire a building to worship in. Little did we know he would position us on the new anchor block in the changing landscape of our city.

As we look back over our short church history, we clearly see that major breakthroughs were accomplished as the church came together so fast. There is a spiritual force that breaks through the powers of darkness when we pray and fast. Our church had grown to a point where we could no longer meet in hotel ballrooms, so we began the familiar search for a permanent home.

With a conviction to stay in the heart of the city, where land is at a premium and no further church zoning would be given by the city, our backs were up against the wall. So as a congregation we went to the Lord in prayer and fasting asking him to show us a plan. 

It was in this time of fasting that the opportunity to purchase the heritage building owned by the First Church of Christ Scientist came to us. We had requested they sell it directly to us but they put it on the market, and a Muslim developer purchased it. In Spring 2001, through an amazing set of events, this Muslim developer agreed to lease us the building at no cost until he started construction on the site. Later we found out that he had turned down a lease rate of twenty thousand dollars per month for us. I attribute this spiritual breakthrough to the power of prayer and fasting.

In April of 2002, after a series of very difficult negotiations, the developer agreed to sell under some challenging conditions. God graciously brought us both the counsel and the financial support to put together the deal. Our only real asset going into this multi-million dollar deal was the power of prayer and fasting. 

The day after we dedicated the building, on November 4, 2002, the city of Vancouver called and asked to meet with us. They informed us of a plan to develop the property next door to us, where a 600-foot tower was to be built. The challenge for the developer of this site was that this plan exceeded the height limit by two hundred feet. In order to get the additional height, they would have to purchase this invisible two hundred feet of real estate from a neighboring location. The owner of this location would have to agree to not ever use this density on the site after selling it. Since our church was a perfect candidate, the city planners called us and asked us to sell our right to build higher on our site, and also to designate our church a heritage site. It was obvious to us, and many others involved, that God was orchestrating this transaction. After several weeks of negotiations the church was awarded $4.427 million to renovate the building and to help pay down our existing mortgage.

40 Days of Purpose

In 2003 our church congregation was united by a campaign called 40 days of purpose. This season would be a time of incredible growth for our church.

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