On January 11, 1959, Bear Valley Church began as Lakeridge Baptist Church. Billy Joe Davenport started a Bible Study at the house of Betty Saffrick in Denver, CO with the Davenport family and four others grew. The Bible study grew steadily and soon they began to hold Sunday services at Doull Elementary School in the Lakeridge Subdivision. Brentwood Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church of Englewood recognized thirty people as charter members of the new Lakeridge Baptist Church. These thirty people voted to approve their own constitution and by-laws and called Rev. Billy Davenport to serve as the Senior Pastor. Land was purchased at the corner of S. Sheridan Boulevard and W. Vassar Drive in Denver for the first church building.
In 1960, a groundbreaking service was held at 2600 S. Sheridan Boulevard. The building was approved for approximately $64,500 with seating for 263 people. Five churches in Texas underwrote the building costs.
In 1971, Riverside Baptist began sponsoring Lakeridge, changing the name to Riverside West. With an average attendance of 40-50 and an annual income of $12,000, Several families and individuals came from Riverside Church to help encourage the growth of the church. A few months later the church was re-named Bear Valley Baptist Church, and Frank Tillapaugh became the Senior Pastor of the church.
Frank Tillapaugh challenged churchgoers to see not only pastors and missionaries as the “ministers;” he focused on the biblical truth that every Christian should seek direction from God for a focused “target group” ministry on the “front lines” outside the walls of the church. Frank was convinced that suburban, middle-class Christians needed relationships that transcended race, class, and culture. Thus, he pointed his congregation to the needs of the city and especially the poor. Starting in the 1970s, what had been an inward-focused congregation began reaching out to international students, addicts, street people, and high school dropouts. Bear Valley became known as a suburban church with “A Heart for the City.” Frank’s book The Church Unleashed was one of the best-selling books of the 1980s on church leadership.
During the 1980s, Bear Valley experienced a time of “Kingdom growth” as we sent out members and pastors to revitalize Trinity Baptist, Heritage, Hoffman Heights, Centennial, and Sherrelwood churches.
In 1983, Dr. Bob & Jan Williams, members of Bear Valley Church, caught the vision of ministering to the medical needs of lower-income individuals in the city. They founded the Inner City Health Center as a “Christ-centered healthcare home for underserved individuals where consistent, high quality treatment is provided in an atmosphere of genuine respect. We express our love for Jesus Christ and our compassion for those in need through our deep concern for their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.” Today, the Inner City Health Center serves thousands of patients a year in the Five Points area of Denver. In 1984, Open Door Fellowship was started as an extension of Bear Valley Baptist Church. The church was started for the specific purpose of reaching low-income populations in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of downtown Denver. Out of Open Door Fellowship Church, Open Door Ministries grew as an outreach ministry with the following mission: “to provide practical help and hope to people in urban Denver who are homeless or low income. Our primary objective is to move people toward self-sufficiency by helping change the circumstances and life patterns that have held them captive to poverty and addictions.”
In 1985, Tom Tillapaugh, another Bear Valley Church member, came to Denver with a single vision: to establish the Denver Street School. Tom dreamed of catching high school dropouts to give them a second chance in a very specialized and very Christian environment.
Denver Street School offers struggling students a second chance to earn a high school diploma through a fully accredited program in a small classroom setting. Denver Street School “believes that a quality education is the most effective approach to transforming many underprivileged members of our society into productive citizens, and serves the population of students in Metro Denver that have struggled with, dropped-out or been expelled from the public school system, helping them towards self-sufficiency through education.” Denver Street School’s amazing success story later birthed the National Association of Street Schools.
In 1986, Bear Valley members and pastors were sent to revitalize Trinity Baptist, Hoffman Heights Baptist, and Open Door Fellowship. Andy Connon became the director of Jesus On Main Street, a ministry founded on Colfax. Andy’s tireless energy and endless love for the poorest of the poor has led to the development of about a dozen buildings of full-time ministry.
In 1988, Mile High Ministries was launched out of Bear Valley Church and led by Jeff Johnson. It continues to serve the poor and marginalized in downtown Denver, and their vision is to “engage our communities and equip leaders for God’s transformational work among the poor.” Their three-fold mission is to Engage our communities, Equip leaders, and Empower the poor.
In 1989, Green Gables Chapel merged with Bear Valley Church. They owned the 3.5 acres on the southwest corner of Kendrick Lake in Lakewood that would eventually become home to Bear Valley Church.
Construction of our current building on 10001 W. Jewell Avenue began in 1990.
In 1991, the construction of the current Bear Valley Church building was completed. In 1996, our vision was updated to Loving People into Living Passionately for Jesus. “Move The World" became the rallying cry for a three-year strategic plan launched in 1998. The strategic plan included paying off the building debt, creating the “Disciples Institute,” and focusing on spiritual renewal.
In 1999, Bear Valley member Katherine Hines started Hines Ugandan Ministries (HUM). HUM ministers to the village of Kamonkoli, Uganda, providing support that benefits the whole family, not just the child. They seek to train and equip the children & youth to be future servant leaders and overcomers for the kingdom of God. Hines Ugandan Ministries strives to meet the spiritual, educational, and physical needs of children and families in Kamonkoli Village through their sponsorship program, orphanage, medical clinic, AWANA program, and primary school.
In 2000, Jim Walters became Senior Pastor, and under Pastor Jim’s leadership a greater emphasis upon world missions, small groups expansion, and caring connections became focal points for expanded ministry.
Karl Wheeler led out The Community in 2000, which became the church at Joshua Station. Joshua Station grew out of a desire by staff at Mile High Ministries to help homeless families in Denver. Joshua Station helps families move from homelessness to stable housing and self-sufficiency through transitional housing, holistic support services, counseling, skill development, parenting guidance, and educational support. Joshua Station allows homeless families to stay together and receive the assistance they need to successfully transition into stable housing and decrease likelihood of recurring homelessness.
In 2001, Mission 98 was started as the Multi-Housing Ministry of Bear Valley Church. This ministry began with a small group and some community-building activities in an apartment complex near Bear Valley Church. Multi-housing ministry became Mission 98 in 2017. It is building healthy communities through education, resources and caring ministries in apartments, mobile homes and motels. By the end 2019, Mission 98 had shared more than 1,700 Bible lessons with students and adults living in Denver’s multi-housing communities, as well as providing more than 1,000 hours of encouragement, friendship, and one-on-one help with homework and mentoring.
Once the church building debt was paid off in 2002, additional building campaign funds provided more money for equipping our church family and friends to advance the ministry of the Kingdom of God. We are committed to investing funds in new Kingdom ministries and to helping existing Kingdom ministries reach their next level of effectiveness through a unique grant program called Move the World. To date, Move the World has granted over $2,265,720 to a variety of mission endeavors around the world.
In 2006, Steve Thompson, a former Student Pastor at Bear Valley, started The Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Center (JAMLAC) with the mission of providing free legal services to those who struggle with poverty, oppression, and daily hardships. They especially focus on serving low-income victims of crime and domestic violence.
In 2008, Bear Valley Church underwent a large renovation to the facility and enhancements to every ministry program in the church, and in the fall of 2009, the new expanded facility was opened. Through the amazing generosity of our people during a difficult economic season, all of the remodeling expenses were paid off by 2011.
Standing Against Trafficking was launched in 2009 as a mission outreach of BVC that supports the rescue, prevention, and restoration of trafficked individuals in Denver and around the world.
Bear Valley Counseling was launched, and in 2013, it became Get Good Counsel, an independent, Christ-centered, Christian counseling ministry in Lakewood. Get Good Counsel is “committed to a good, solid counseling approach that inspires reflection on past experiences, develops new skills to affect current life situations, and a trust in God to face the changes and challenges of each new day.”
Vision Puerto Rico was started in 2014 by a Howard Waller, a former staff member at Bear Valley, and his wife, Connie. Vision Puerto Rico continues to reach out to the people of Puerto Rico with the love of Jesus. Their mission is to “share Christ while building partnerships with the people and churches of Puerto Rico. We believe we should engage, equip, and encourage local pastors to grow their churches and plant new ones.”
We currently support 48 local, statewide, national, and global mission partners as we seek to obey the Great Commission of Jesus to make disciples in our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.
In 2019 we celebrated 60 years of ministry in Lakewood and mission partnerships around the world. We are excited about the future that God has planned for us as we enter the next 60 years of ministry and mission opportunities, and we hope that you’ll consider becoming a part of what God is doing through Bear Valley—a local church with a global impact!