Pastors Roger Valci and Daren Laws have become good friends since Laws moved here eight years ago to lead Brave Church in San Ramon.
Brave, called Church in the Hill in those days, has enjoyed some publicity when Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and his family worshipped there and preached on occasion. It has a 25-year history in San Ramon and has built momentum.
Valci has served as lead pastor at Valley Christian Center with its k-12 school and its 50-are campus on a hilltop in west Dublin. It has a 55-year history here.
So, imagine Valci’s surprise when Laws and his son, Samuel, came to see him and asked how they could help. They serve as co-pastors at Brave. Their question came about six months into the pandemic as Valci started shifting the dialogue at Valley Christian Center away from dealing with health and safety and county orders to asking what type of church should Valley Christian Center be when the pandemic ends? That included consideration of whether he should sit in the lead pastor’s seat.
Discussions grew serious between the leaders and then someone suggested they get an attorney involved to see what worked legally. His conclusion—one church needed to formally die with the assets and debts transferred to the remaining church. He suggested Brave because Valley Christian was larger and had a 50-acre campus with the school and worship center. After praying and thinking about it, the Brave leaders said they were willing.
Valci also wanted to fill a gaping hole in Christian education and ministry training in the Bay Area. They involved John Jackson, the president of William Jessup University. Both pastors have been involved with meetings with Jackson when he discussed his vision for higher education moving forward. That includes robust offerings on campus as well as online and satellite facilities. Jessup was founded in the Bay Area as San Jose Bible College and then moved to its campus in Rocklin in 2004. Since Jackson took the helm, enrollment has tripled and the number of majors have grown significantly and graduate programs have been added.
About four years ago at a fundraising dinner at Blackhawk Country Club, Valci asked that Jessup return to the Bay Area and fill the gap that had been left as many colleges and seminaries closed their Bay Area offerings. Jackson joined in the vision.
On May 2, Valley Christian members voted to move ahead with Brave and Jessup. As Valci observed, it was a remarkable show of Christian unity. Valley Christian is legal entity, but the church will be known as Brave San Ramon and Brave Dublin.
As Valci and Daren Laws discussed it, he suggested that the 33-year-old Samuel be the lead pastor while the two seasoned pros moved into associate roles. For Daren, it marked the first time in 40 years he had not been the lead pastor. Valci observed that they have set Samuel Laws up to succeed—he has 25 years of experience and Daren Laws and Jackson have both been in ministry for more than 40 years.
Samuel Laws now heads an organization with 50,000 square feet of buildings, 60 acres of land and 120 employees.
Daren Laws called Valci on Monday, May 3 and simply said “we’re married now.” Valci said they have no business plan or any other specific actions, but they’re working on it day-to-day.
Meanwhile, he’s strongly called to work in the educational side—something he’s done throughout his life. That means Jessup offering collegiate level classes so students can graduate with one or two years of college credit at minimal cost. Jessup also will bring undergraduate and graduate level instruction to the Valley Christian Center campus and equally importantly will partner to offer a ministry training center in the Bay Area.
Valci said the Tri-Valley is a center of innovation with more people holding doctorate and masters degrees than any other place in the world. He believes it’s critical to raise up pastors who understand the Bay Area culture and can be effective in this area.
He summed up the series of decisions by noting that Jesus gave up his status in heaven to become a man and entirely dependent on his heavenly father. He said we are called to do the same—give up control and let go of things so God can open up bigger things.
I look forward to seeing how this works out over the next season.