by Nori Nicholas
A New Location
As our congregation grew it became obvious that we needed larger and better meeting facilities. In Boca at that time it was very hard to find a plot of land of a suitable size. Eventually David was able to cobble together a parcel of 6.5 acres. It was made up of four house lots and one parcel of land that was landlocked without street access. One of the house lots fronted on 40th Street, which later was renamed Spanish River Blvd. This gave us access from a main thoroughfare, which was excellent. The owners of the house lots were persuaded to sell, and the owner of the landlocked parcel couldn’t wait to sell us his piece! In all, the purchase price was $59,000.00. That was all the money on the world to our small group.
There was a large church in Miami named Granada Presbyterian Church. They had expressed an interest in our little church plant. David asked to speak to their home mission committee to which he presented a request for help in purchasing the property. With the blessing of the pastor, Bob Ostenson, and the chairman of the mission committee, Ken Ryskamp, they decided to give us the full amount that was needed. How we all celebrated!
Because of the generosity of the Granada Presbyterian Church we were able to pay cash for our land. With this equity in hand, we were able to get a mortgage to build our first church building. We moved into our first church building in 1971. When 40th Street was renamed Spanish River Blvd we also renamed our church – Spanish River Church.
Almost immediately it became obvious that our classroom space was woefully inadequate. What to do? We could not get another mortgage. So one Sunday David asked that any member of the congregation who was involved in the building trade please stay for a meeting after the church service. About a dozen men came forward after the service for an impromptu meeting. David presented our predicament and asked for suggestions. In about an hour the men had come up with a strategy: they would donate their labor, the church would buy the supplies and the congregation would volunteer time and muscle. In a few months, we had a classroom building of which generous subcontractors had covered nearly every facet, from foundation to roof.
A New Denomination
In 1973 there was an upheaval in the Presbyterian Denomination with which we were associated. There was a significant movement away from the doctrine of the infallibility of the Scriptures. Many of those who held firm to the Bible were afraid that this trend would only get worse. There were ten churches in South Florida that decided to leave the “mother” denomination and start a new denomination.
An “Exodus Sunday” was chosen, and a congregational vote was conducted at each of those ten churches on that day. All ten churches voted to leave. The next day the pastors from those ten churches met at Spanish River Church to form the Florida branch of the Presbyterian Church In America. Other groups in other states used the same strategy and also met on that same day, In that way the new denomination was formed.
Church Planting And Seminary
In this brand new denomination there was a zeal and excitement about growing, and this meant that we needed to start new churches. David was made Chairman of the Mission to North America Committee. Basically, that meant that he was in charge of planting new churches all over the state of Florida. The very first church planter that he chose and mentored was Chuck Greene, who planted Orangewood Church in Orlando.
David continued to oversee the planting of many other churches in Florida. He found this experience exhilarating, and it played a significant role in shaping his learning curve for church planting. In the process, David saw the need for better training for pastors to do the actual work of the ministry. Seminary training was often so esoteric and theoretical that men graduated without being equipped to do the job that they have been called to do.
One of the great needs that David saw was for a greater emphasis and clarity in the Gospel. David always had a passion for the Gospel and a deep love and concern for people. The Gospel was always articulated clearly in every sermon and shared with as many people as possible. An invitation to lunch with David always meant an invitation to hear the Gospel explained! David wanted to train seminary students to be truly Gospel-centric.
David approached Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia with a proposal for a partnership. Their students would have the option to of taking their last year of seminary and turning it into a two-year internship at Spanish River Church. Westminster Seminary agreed, and several other churches in South Florida also agreed to participate. Westminster hired a professor, Dr. James Hurley, to provide classroom lectures to augment the internship program.
Spanish River Church was able to provide housing for the seminary students and their families at White Winds apartments. The White Winds apartment building was located next door to the church. It was a “leftover” from the days when Boca Raton had been a base for the Army Air Corp during WWII. It had been a radar school but had been transformed into an apartment building. There were five apartments on one wing, and these became home to many seminary students and their families over the next several years!
The middle section of the White Winds building was a very large open room. Two of the wives of internship students, Holly, wife of Duane Cory and Sue, wife of David Gieb, saw this room as an opportunity to start a Mother’s Morning Out program. They presented a proposal to the elders of the church and were enthusiastically approved. This rapidly grew into Sonshine Preschool, and it became the foundation out of which grew the Spanish River Christian School. That building today is now home to the Torah Academy of Boca Raton.
Coming Up Next Week
Some Special People And The Move To Yamato Road