While our first attempt at planting a Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Iowa City (1988-1990) had shown some encouraging signs of success, we realized it would be better for our family if we were more attached to a larger group of people as we attempted to do Jesus’ ministry. Church-planting can be lonely work, and Sandy & I realized that our family really needed more interaction with others as they were growing up.
In the fall of 1989, while attending the national Vineyard Pastors conference in Denver, we became better acquainted with River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids. At the time, ROL’s pastor, Francis Frangipane, was working closely with our Vineyard leader, John Wimber, so after returning from Denver, we started building a friendship with him and the church. By the winter of 1989/90, we realized our family would be much better off if we laid down our church-planting efforts in Iowa City and simply waited on God for our next ministry assignment. We decided that our “waiting” would be better accomplished while worshiping with the good folks of ROL.
These early years in Iowa City (1987-1990) had been very difficult for us, and my dear parents, George & Dixie Boller, had become our financial lifeline throughout these tough times. Fortunately, in January of 1989, I had secured a fairly dependable job, working as a mail clerk with the UI Office of Admissions, but it was becoming obvious to us that we couldn’t keep living in our home in Iowa City, simply because we didn’t want George & Dixie to feel the pressure of subsidizing us.
So, putting all these matters together, we began looking for a cheaper place to live and we decided to look in Cedar Rapids. By June of 1990, we had found a nice affordable home on the SE side of town, and on June 23, we made the move, never giving a thought to the idea we’d be living in Cedar Rapids for the next 30 years!
In September 1991, Pastor Frangipane invited me to come on staff full-time at River of Life, fulfilling my long dream of finally being involved with full-time pastoral ministry! What a blessing! In the process, our years at River of Life exposed us to many wonderful ministry opportunities that we would have never had in Iowa City. I was not only an associate pastor, serving a growing congregation in a variety of ways, but it was at River of Life where God restored Sandy and me into our deep love of music.
One small part of our pastoral assignment at ROL was being part of the worship team. As a church-planter in Iowa City, I had learned the fine art of worship leading by picking out tunes on my keyboard, and at River of Life, Sandy added in her beautiful singing voice, so we started making music together. In 1992, we put together our own cassette tape (anyone remember those?) called One Desire.
One Desire was made up of worship songs we had written, and if you’re lucky, there still might be a few unsold copies of that ‘classic’ floating around the family tree! Keep in mind that it’s David Boller who is worshiping on that cassette cover, and the best cut on the album is one covered by that amazing vocalist, Debbie Boller.
For more about my interest in music and the arts – and to listen to all 11 cuts from One Desire – click here.
Maybe the biggest blessing of all during our River of Life years (1990-1998) was the fact that our children were truly encouraged to explore both their musical abilities and spiritual interests as they grew up in Cedar Rapids. David and Debbie, being the oldest, were particularly blessed by developing their strong musical abilities in worship and even traveled to Israel with ministry teams from River of Life!
Jenny and John saw the many opportunities their older brother and sister were experiencing through music and found it easy to follow in their footsteps as they grew up as well!
The truth is, our hope of finding a healthy family setting for our four kids was fulfilled by moving to Cedar Rapids and involving ourselves at River of Life. Though we missed the Vineyard family in those earliest days, between 1990 and 2005, all four of our children made big impressions, not just at the church, but also at Grant Wood Elementary, McKinley Middle School, and Washington High School, as well. More on the Boller Kids here.
One of the exciting aspects of my pastoral job at River of Life was that I was able to involve myself with city-wide and state-wide church activities such as March for Jesus and Promise Keepers. The church released me to coordinate city-wide efforts that brought churches and pastors together for the common purpose of glorifying Jesus.
As we gave more attention toward these city-wide efforts, eventually Promise Keepers – the men’s ministry that began in 1994 bringing thousands of men into major stadiums across the USA for worship and encouragement – asked me to come on staff full-time, serving as a ministry coordinator for Iowa and the Midwest. I kept my home office at River of Life, but traveled the state, meeting with pastors and church leaders between 1995-2000.
I spoke at countless rallies and training events around the state, taking all I had learned in ministry to equip and empower hundreds of men into lay ministry in their local churches and communities. It was a true blessing, indeed.
All the while, I worked hard at being a good Promise Keeper with my wife and kids back home!
Though my Promise Keepers job would extend into 2000, by 1997, Sandy & I were praying seriously about returning to the Vineyard family, getting back into pastoral ministry and possibly planting a new Vineyard church in Cedar Rapids. We had kept close tabs with the Vineyard folks throughout our River of Life and Promise Keeper years, so on January 1, 1998, we birthed our second Vineyard church in Iowa! Father’s House Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Cedar Rapids. Quite the name, huh?
Over the next 22 years, our church met in numerous facilities around Cedar Rapids, beginning as a small group in our home, then moving into some introductory classes at River of Life. Next we found two downtown locations: the first was an old store-front adjacent to the Paramount Theater, then later, moving down 3rd Avenue to restore the old World Theatre.
Along the way, there were plenty of opportunities to serve the good people of Cedar Rapids while extending the love and mercy of Christ to many. In 2002, we bought our first building, an old bar on 16th Avenue on the SW side of Cedar Rapids, restoring it into a modern worship center. Quite the transition!
When it was all said and done, Sandy & I, with the help of our kids (who led amazing worship throughout the years), and dozens of co-laborers in Christ, we had quite the ride extending the Kingdom ministry of Jesus into Cedar Rapids, the City of Five Seasons. Motivated to serve others through the compassion and mercy of God, we often encouraged folks to simply let Jesus love “the hell” right out of them and then go, in His name, and do the same!
As part of our work, I began writing about all these things, and over the years, produced two books, The Perfected Self (2002), and the fairly popular overview of the Vineyard’s founding pastor, John Wimber – The Wisdom of Wimber – As I See It (2014).
In 2010, we also started a blog series entitled As I See It, (below) which brought Jesus’ Kingdom message of love and grace to countless others during its successful ten-year run (2010-2020). You can still access many of our writings here…
As it happens with most ministry done for the glory of God, Sandy & I found ourselves in a tough place after several successful years into our building project on the SW side. The church had grown to well over 350 people, but money was very tight and the hope of adding staff and improving facilities was not good. And then, it hit…
In 2008, Cedar Rapids was struck by a massive flood, which on one hand, brought our church to life – serving the city like we’d never done before. But, as the flood relief work continued, well into the fall/winter of 2008/2009, our small band of leaders began burning out one by one, leaving Sandy & me to solve nearly every major leadership question that laid before us. This crisis took a huge toll on both of us, and by the grace of God, we were encouraged by some of our Vineyard leaders to slow down, giving more time, energy and resources toward exploring the inner life of Christ, versus just working harder.
In 2013, we signed up for a life-changing two-year training course developed by Sustainable Faith, and by 2015, we had become so radically transformed, we actually began teaching and equipping others in these ancient disciplines of Christ-centered spiritual formation. As we share with others today – this new direction moved Sandy & me away from church-work where everything seemed to revolve around the 3-B’s – Buildings, Bucks, and Butts in the seats, turning us more toward a Kingdom-based ministry where we learn to care for our own souls and then simply, go and care for others.
As you can read here, with the growth of these new exciting ministries, combined with the continued decline in our church attendance (Butts in the seats), on June 1, 2020, Sandy & I decided it was time to put a period at the end of our 30-year Cedar Rapids adventure.
While doing the Kingdom ministry of Jesus in Cedar Rapids was a true joy, the real blessing from those thirty years was seeing our four children, David, Debbie, Jenny & John, grow up before our eyes, becoming amazing men and women, who today, are impacting their world in amazing ways we could have never imagined. Which brings us now to our next page…
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.
Tall Trophies For Poster Contest, Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 19, 1991, p 32
River of Life Worship Seminar, Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 23, 1993, p 15
March for Jesus set in C.R., Douglas Neumann, Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 24, 1994, p 11
Promise Keepers, Tom Fruehling, Cedar Rapids Gazette, August 6, 1995, p 2
March gathers faithful, Mary Zielinski, Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 18, 1997, p 19
Lot of work to be done, Tom Fruehling, Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 11, 1997, p 13
C.R. Students pray at the pole, Cedar Rapids Gazette, September 17, 1998, p 21
Downtown Cedar Rapids church flourishes, Pam Hinman, Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 20, 1999, p 8
Born again, Pam Hinman, Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 31, 1999, p 18
Issues of faith, Sue Davis Smith, Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 28, 2000, p 18
Making down payment on Father’s House, Sue Davis Smith, Cedar Rapids, November 9, 2002, p 15
Vineyard multiples, Tom Fruehling, Cedar Rapids Gazette, September 6, 2003, p 11
Food for thought, Keith E. Gottschalk, Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 24, 2004, p 20
Homecoming Royalty ’04, Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 18, 2004, p 23
Father’s House ad, Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 10, 2005, p 22
Christmas connection, Carly Bossert, Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 24, 2005, p 1
Stress under the steeple, Molly Rossiter, Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 14, 2015, p 19
Marty Boller -author, Amazon.com
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