THE HISTORY OF CTK
Before Steve Mason agreed to pastor County Christian Center in Laurel, Washington in 1989, he had a few stipulations. He made the group of 50 adults commit, before they voted on him as pastor, that the church would focus its energies on only three things. He asked them to agree that the church would be 1) a worshipping church, that people would worship God as a lifestyle, 2) a church centered on small group ministry as the primary way in which it would care for people, and 3) a church that was committed to outreach. The people made the deal and the rest, as they say, is history. County Christian Center would later change its name to Christ the King Community Church, but it never changed its commitment to those three priorities.
Early on those priorities were tested. Various people asked if the church could have other points of emphasis, or initiate other programs. But for the first year, Steve actually carried in his pocket the church’s written agreement. When discussion would come up about other programs or ministries, Steve would pull the paper out of his pocket and say, “No, these are the things that we agreed upon.” This earliest expression of “deliberate simplicity” set a course for what CTK would later become.
In the early 1990s, the people of Christ the King Community Church made a courageous decision. They decided to pave the parking lot. Paving the parking lot might not sound like a big thing to you. But it was a huge decision at the time, the impact of which is still reverberating to this day. At the time there were about 50 adults in the CTK story. One Sunday morning Pastor Steve Mason looked out the windows and noticed the vehicles in the parking lot, mostly four-wheel-drives. The dirt lot was full of pot-holes and ruts. As Steve describes it, “The parking lot pretty much defined the constituency. If you didn’t have four-wheel-drive you weren’t going to be able to worship with us.” Steve brought the issue up to the people, and the people became concerned. They decided to pave the lot, not for themselves, but for those who were about to come. They had already proven that they would come to church with the parking lot in its current condition. They decided to pay the price for others. It cost $50,000, a sizeable amount for a group that small. The people gave sacrificially to meet the need. In some cases, people took out second mortgages on their homes. But God honored those sacrifices. The “paving of the parking lot” was a defining moment of faith that continues to bring definition to the CTK story.
Through the mid-nineties CTK began to develop multiple worship teams and services, eventually meeting at two different locations. One was its original site, a smaller church building in Laurel, Washington, about 10 miles north of Bellingham. The other was a converted warehouse on the north edge of town. For a couple years services were held at both locations and stagger-started in 45-minute intervals to allow for drive time between the locations. It was a chaotic, crazy, exhilarating time, but people were being led to Christ and baptized. The church was growing rapidly. It defied explanation. It was “a God-thing.” During this period, a proposal called “The Chapel Model” was put forth by Dave Browning to develop a third location in order to accommodate continued growth. Other leaders desired to bring things together in one location.
In 1997 Christ the King Community Church purchased an 80,000 square foot building on the north side of Bellingham and consolidated. Overnight CTK went from convening people by hundreds at a time in several services to convening them thousands at a time in a couple of services. On a certain level, people were excited. But on another level, there was a hollow feeling of being a crowd instead of a community. Prior to the consolidation, CTK’s small group assimilation system consisted of people looking across the room, identifying someone as new in the environment, and walking over and asking, “Are you in a small group yet? Would you like to come to ours?” It was as simple, direct and powerful as that. Once CTK began convening in a huge auditorium, nearly all of this “grass-roots” behavior ceased. With increased size, the ministry had to be carried out by professionals.
On April 4th, 1999, at 6:00 PM, CTK had its first worship service, facilitated by Dave Browning, in Mount Vernon, Washington as an Easter overflow service from CTK in Bellingham. Because of high interest, services continued on Sunday nights during the month of April, with a high attendance of 165. After prayerfully investigating the spiritual landscape of the Skagit Valley, it was determined that the needs were great. In May of 1999, CTK began to hold morning services in Mount Vernon, going to two services in September, and three services the following February (2000).
Dave and his family moved to the Skagit Valley in 1999. He told the core group that gathered, “We’re not going to ask everyone to come to us. We’re going to ask us to go to them.” The people agreed. During its first year, Christ the King of Skagit Valley grew at a rate of 12% a month, to an average of over 500 people per week. The high attendance was 763 on Easter 2000, it’s one-year anniversary. By then, 38 small groups were convening weekly throughout the valley for friendship, growth, encouragement and outreach.
As opportunities arose, the leaders of CTK in Skagit Valley decided to say “Yes, Sure, You Bet”to expanding the ministry into neighboring communities. In October, 2000 Christ the King began holding Saturday night services in Oak Harbor (25 miles SW) and Anacortes (20 miles W) in rented school facilities to accommodate growing numbers of people traveling from these locales. During its second year Christ the King grew to an average of 750, with over 50 small groups meeting weekly, and a high attendance of 1034 on it’s second birthday (Easter, 2001). On July 15th, 2001 CTK held its first Sunday worship service in LaConner. In 2002 CTK opened in Stanwood. In 2003 CTK launched Worship Centers in five additional communities in four counties. In 2005 CTK began to expand across the country and around the world and changed its name from Christ the King of Skagit Valley to Christ the King Community Church, International.
Since 2005 we have seen growth in the network through out the United States and Internationally. We now have more than twenty locations in multiple states. There are also countless CTK around the world that bear the same name and missions. In middle of our growth we have, not only experienced joy in the CTK mission spreading beyond our hopes & dreams; but we have also experienced loss. In 2017 our Lead Pastor, Dave Browning was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Only a few short months later he passed away. Needless to say since then our story has gone through many changes. We still believe, like Dave did, that every community needs a grace based church with a grace based pastor. It is our goal to find leaders and help them fulfill the calling on their lives. We hope that you will consider joining our story.