Main image for A Brief History.

A Brief History.


A Brief History.

In the summer of 1977 a church-planting team from Ames, Iowa decided to make the trek to the college town of East Lansing, Michigan in hopes of starting a church. Their first meeting had 12 people. Their one goal was to share the Gospel with college students.

“Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.”
Colossians 4:3

It’s all about Jesus.

That’s not something we just say to sound all churchy or religious; we actually mean it. We’re a bunch of jacked-up people who have had our lives changed by the person and work of Jesus. And we want to tell others about it.


Riverview Church started as a house church in East Lansing, Michigan back in 1977. The oldest person in the church was 25 but that didn’t stop these young followers of Jesus from passionately connecting the Gospel with the culture around them. They would gather in a living room, pull out a guitar, play some Kumbaya worship songs, and then open up their Bibles to learn about Jesus. The sermons weren’t abstract or heady, but a simple look at the work of Jesus and seeing how it could, had, and would change their lives. It was this relatable and engaging content that started to draw people in.

And people kept coming.

Six years into this little house church’s life (it’s now 1983) it was decided to send out a church-planting team to Washington DC. With their roots only just established in Michigan, they took on this crazy endeavor and sent out some of their core members.

Over the next five years leading up to 1988, Riverview helped send out nine more church plants. These ranged in location from Kalamazoo, Michigan to State College, Pennsylvania to Richmond, Kentucky. All the while college students and young couples kept gathering to learn from the Word.

Eleven years after the VW bus pulled into East Lansing, this eclectic group of people had a space to call their own, well, borrow as “their own.” The Kellogg Center Auditorium, on Michigan State University’s campus, started playing host to Riverview Church on Sunday mornings.

Each week a clunky brown van, that usually started most of the time, would drive from the parking garage where it was stored to the loading dock and they’d pop up a church service.

At this point they were seeing 200 people each weekend.

In 2001, the countless years of saving and praying culminated in the building of, and moving into, Riv’s first building in Holt, Michigan. With a space to really call their own, they continued in prayer, asking to have a family of 500 people by 2005.

They were at 800 one year later.

Over a six-year span, plans were made, approved, and carried out to expand to what is now the Holt Venue auditorium (with 1,200 seats). This building opened the doors for so many more people to come in and experience the life change that is found in the Gospel.

When their doors opened in fall of 2008, the MSU Venue was also launched to bring the church back to where it all started and engage with college students in their own environment (opening up the option to roll out of bed two minutes before the service would start).

Between 2008 and 2013, Riv sent out six more church-planting teams. It was decided that church planting should be such a part of Riv’s DNA that each year they’d take on two staff members with the sole purpose of training them and sending them out to plant their own churches.

On Easter of 2014, the doors of Riv’s REO Town Venue opened just south of Lansing’s downtown district. Weekend attendance was averaging 3000/week at this point. (If you’re doing the math, that’s just a few more than 12.)

Jesus said to him “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22:37-39

In the fall of 2014, Riv’s leadership (many of whom wrote the following articles in this book) took a step back to really look at the big picture of Lansing and how they as a church could play a role in proclaiming the Gospel’s message of freedom to every man, woman, and child in the Greater Lansing Area. (If you’re paying attention to Riv’s track record, you can probably guess that they decided to continue planting more churches and venues.)

With this target, they knew that it would take all of the Riv family supporting the mission to make this a reality. As Christ followers we’re called to stand out, to be different, to be marked by our love for others (John 13:35). What would it look like if all of Riverview truly, radically loved God and loved those around them?

In challenging the Riv family to live this sort of questionable life, the church was stepping out in faith, trusting God to raise up the means to continue this Gospel proclamation in Lansing.

In the fall of 2015 Riv launched their Westside Venue on a street corner that has seen the preaching of the Gospel for over 130 years.

And Jesus’ mission keeps going forward.

This isn’t about Riverview or what we have done. We’re only stepping into God’s story that has been going on for 2000 years in seeing lives changed and bringing people to Jesus.

Despite being jacked-up people, God continually chooses to use us for His purposes. We can’t change people, we can’t plant churches, we can’t better ourselves, but with the liberating power of the Gospel, we are set free to live for and in Him.