First Evangelical Free Church of Elkhart was birthed out of a bible study in 1989 under the leadership of Pastor Tim Rowland. Their goal was to reach Elkhart County in new and fresh ways that no other church in the area was doing at the time. God blessed the vision of the church as it quickly outgrew Mary Beck Elementary and subsequently the old YMCA in downtown Elkhart. God provided a beautiful piece of property between Elkhart and Goshen where the church planted its roots as River Oaks Community Church.
Under the leadership of Tim Rowland, River Oaks began to be known in the community as a church who valued outreach AND compassion ministries. River Oaks navigated its most significant season of transition in 2017-2018 as Tim passed the leadership baton on to a new, young leader and current Lead Pastor: Drew Richey. While the leadership has changed and the vision reinvigorated, the mission of River Oaks remains the same.
The mission of River Oaks is to develop fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ who GO to our neighbors with the message of Christ, GROW with our neighbors in the pursuit of Christ, and SHOW compassion to our neighbors with the love of Christ. Jesus himself said the greatest command we are given is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. At River Oaks, we believe the greatest expression of our love for God is to love our neighbors as ourselves.
We believe that through the way we love our neighbors, we will be set apart in our community: we speak the truth in love, we declare the freedom found in Jesus, and we fight for unity in the midst of division. We love our neighbors so that they might come to know Jesus and grow in their pursuit of Him.
Data released along with the 2010 US Census stated that 115,092 people in Elkhart County didn’t identify with a faith of any kind. Our vision at River Oaks is to reach as many of these neighbors with the message of Jesus as possible – not so we can be a bigger church – but because we believe Jesus changes lives. Simply put, we believe life is better with Jesus.
Many of the 115,092 are our neighbors, family members, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. Our vision is not to shame, guilt, or condemn, but to love our neighbors in the same way that Jesus loves us. We believe that through how we love, our neighbors might see Jesus in us and decide to join us in our mission to develop other fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
Celebrations at River Oaks
At River Oaks, we believe communion is both an ordinance and means of grace for followers of Jesus that we celebrate several times a year. We believe communion is a tangible way to remember and show our gratitude to Jesus Christ for his sacrifice for us. As a church family, we take the elements of communion to symbolize the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ as described in the Gospels.
Jesus changes lives and we believe the best way to celebrate that reality is through baptism. We believe that baptism is an outward sign of what the Holy Spirit has completed inside of someone because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. We celebrate through full immersion the baptism of adults and children who have consciously placed their faith in Jesus in our worship services every other month.
Statements of Faith
We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.
We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image, but they sinned when tempted by Satan. In union with Adam, human beings are sinners by nature and by choice, alienated from God, and under His wrath. Only through God’s saving work in Jesus Christ can we be rescued, reconciled and renewed.
We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus-Israel’s promised Messiah-was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.
We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation.
We believe that the Holy Spirit, in all that He does, glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.
We believe that the true Church comprises all who have been justified by God’s grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true Church is manifest in local Churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the Church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
We believe that God’s justifying grace must not be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed. With God’s Word, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Christ’s name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil. In obedience to Christ’s commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.
We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace.
More about our denomination
We belong to the Evangelical Free Church of America and are committed to Jesus Christ, to the gospel and to one another. The EFCA is an association of churches that aligns itself with the same Statement of Faith who are distinct yet deeply connected.