SPOTLIGHT: Christ’s Church of the Valley, Phoenix, Arizona
SPOTLIGHT: Christ’s Church of the Valley, Phoenix, Arizona

The consistency of challenging their congregation to be bold in furthering the kingdom over the years paid off throughout 2017.


By Natalee Jones

Change isn’t easy but it’s necessary for growth. That’s what Don Wilson kept in mind as he was deciding to retire as senior pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley (CCV) in Phoenix, Arizona, a church he helped launch.

Wilson and his wife were meeting with three other couples in the Wilsons’ living room just over 35 years ago when they felt God calling them to start a church in the Phoenix area. CCV’s first service was in a local movie theater on April 1, 1982. Since then, CCV has grown into one of the largest Christian churches in the nation, with eight campuses and more than 25,000 in weekly attendance.

In late January 2017, Wilson announced it would be his final year as senior pastor, and Ashley Wooldridge would replace him in November.

“The hardest part is knowing when to leave,” Wilson said. “I wanted the transition to be as smooth as possible and that takes a lot of time in prayer.” Wilson listened to God for timing and guidance.

Nearing the conclusion of a very successful and spiritually impactful 2016, Wilson felt that the timing was right. The church leaders had continually challenged the congregation to invite their unchurched friends and create an environment that people would want to come back to.

The consistency of challenging their congregation to be bold in furthering the kingdom over the years paid off throughout 2017. The church had the most baptisms in its history, with more than 3,500 dedicating their lives to Christ last year. They also opened their eighth campus, in Chandler, Arizona.

“Most people that start a church stay too long,” Wilson said. “Part of that problem is that they do not have something to retire to.”

Wilson, 69, and his wife will continue to focus on helping young couples serving in ministry. They started Accelerate.Group, an organization that focuses on encouraging young leaders through the challenging parts of ministry and assisting with leadership selection and church transitions.

Wilson felt CCV was well-prepared for such a transition because a team of good, youthful individuals capable of taking over was in place. His replacement as senior pastor, Ashley Wooldridge, had been serving on staff as an executive pastor at CCV for more than 10 years and on the teaching team for three years. Wilson believes Wooldridge’s leadership skills and energy will help him to successfully lead CCV.

Ultimately, Wilson knows the impact of CCV is not determined by the people in leadership positions. Any and all accomplishments are God’s handiwork. These past 35 years, Wilson said, “show you just how good God is and all of the grace that he has for us.”

Natalee Jones is a multimedia journalist who is passionate about using her abilities to bring joy to others and glorify Christ.

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  1. April 30, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    Awesome! I love my church, CCV. We never looked back since first attending 7-11-04.

  2. Vern Moore
    April 30, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    I can’t understand why no mention was made about sponsoring 11,011 children in Colombia, South America. That’s momentous.

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    Editor’s Note: Mr. Moore is correct — CCV’s child sponsorships are, indeed, worthy of reporting. It wasn’t mentioned in this article because the focus of this piece was on the transition from one minister to the next. Here’s an item about the child sponsorships that we published in our December 6, 2017, Christian Standard Newsletter:

    “Christ’s Church of the Valley, Phoenix, AZ, has kicked off a ‘Compassion at Christmas’ campaign to plant eight new churches and sponsor thousands of children in Colombia, South America.

    “The church plantings and child sponsorships are in partnership with Stadia and Compassion International.

    “Senior pastor Ashley Wooldridge says the church realizes it can’t solve the global child poverty crisis, but “what if I told you we could transform poverty in one country? That is our vision and that is what we’re going to do together in Colombia.”

    “CCV concluded each weekend service by offering attendees an opportunity to sponsor children through Compassion International. All children registered with Compassion in Colombia were available, and by the end of the weekend, all were sponsored—more than 8,000—and a waiting list of people interested in sponsoring children had been established.

    “It was a record-setting weekend in two ways. CCV’s eight new church plants is the biggest commitment by one church at one time since Stadia partnered with Compassion International six years ago, and in Compassion’s 65-year history, no church has ever sponsored more children at a single event.”

  3. Jill Hall
    May 1, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    I LOVE my church! Great story and GREAT comments above. The [sponsorship of the] Colombian children was a powerful display of love for God’s people.

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