News Articles

Christmas is family celebration for Washington State church

A candlelight service at Valleypoint Church.

SPOKANE, Wash. (BP) – For many people, Christmas means family – even family that may not be kin.

Pastor Jim Shiner

Valleypoint (the former Pines Baptist) Church plans to celebrate that vision this Christmas. The two churches it sponsors will join Valleypoint and its Learning Center for a multi-cultural, multi-generational, spiritually significant Christmas Eve service, and more than 15,000 shoebox gifts for children already have been forwarded to their final stateside destination before distribution around the world.

“If you want to know the heart of our church, Scripture says a pastor ought to be able to manage his own family,” Jim Shiner told Baptist Press. The Washington native has been Valleypoint’s pastor since 2015, after two stints at other Washington churches. 

“Our attitude at Valleypoint is we’re not a business, we’re not an organization, we’re a family. Everything we do is built on relationships, caring for one another, treating each other with love and respect.”

Valleypoint has four separate yet related entities. Valleypoint Church, Valleypoint Marshallese Church, West Plain Marshallese Church and Valleypoint Learning Center, a five-day-a-week preschool and daycare.

Marshallese people come from the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific.

Pastor Jim Shiner and his wife Tammy (shown in photo) direct a non-profit coordinating a sponsorship program for children in Kampala, Uganda.

In addition to Valleypoint’s many discipleship and ministry opportunities, the pastor mentors men called to the ministry – he’s on his second team of three – and directs a non-profit coordinating a sponsorship program for children in Kampala, Uganda.

Valleypoint’s focus on being a family stems from the pastor’s three-year military service at Elemendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. Far from home, he happened upon Muldoon Road Baptist Church.

“That was my first experience with Baptists,” Shiner said. “They became my family. After three years there I was ordained.” His next (and final) three-year tour of duty was to Fairchild AFB in Spokane, where he and his wife Tammy joined what then was Pines Baptist Church.

“Those six years I spent in a local church, growing, serving, changed my life,” Shiner said. “I believe in the local church because my life was changed through the local church.

“The work God has done in me has been through the local church. This [pastoring] is the best job in the world, to serve God and serve people. I still have a passion for doing it after 30 years.”

When Shiner invited the Marshallese church to move to Valleypoint, he made it clear they would not be treated as a separate congregation but as part of the church family. At this year’s annual meeting of the Northwest Baptist Convention, Valleypoint Marshallese Church was accepted into the Northwest family of churches.

About 200 people attend Valleypoint’s Sunday service. About 200 attend the Marshallese congregation, which meets Sunday afternoons at the church.

Last year, worship pastor Freddy Joklur started a second Marshallese church, this one in west Spokane. 

“I felt led to start another congregation in West Spokane because there’s no Marshallese-speaking church in that area,” Joklur told Baptist Press. “I want to reach as many Marshallese as I can for the Gospel.”

West Plain Marshallese was given the building of a church that had disbanded, Medical Lake Baptist Church, and already more than 100 people attend services there. Joklur also has a sizable (500 to 1,000 viewers each week) online Marshallese congregation. 

“Our main ministry is fairly traditional,” Shiner said about Valleypoint Church. “We’re called to make disciples and to help people find and follow Jesus, so we put a lot of emphasis on encouraging people in daily Bible reading. We’re a family on mission together. “

People aren’t drawn to Valleypoint because of great music or stirring worship, but by its members who are learning to share their faith, the pastor said.

“They come here, and they feel welcomed,” Shiner said. “In our culture today, church isn’t something you go to and are a part of. We encourage our people to get into the community and meet people they can invite to church. It’s a slow work these days because COVID and social media have isolated us, but it’s life-changing when people feel welcomed, when they feel they’re a part of a community.

“The good news is people are still empty, lonely, searching, and the solution is still Jesus,” the pastor continued. “The culture has changed but the solution hasn’t. It’s exciting when people find Christ and their lives change!” 

As part of the Southern Baptist community, Valleypoint allocates 5 percent of its budget to missions through the Cooperative Program. When asked why, Shiner said it was because of relationships he’s built with the staff of the Northwest Baptist Convention.

“I trust their hearts,” Shiner said. “They’re great people who want to serve the Lord.” 

He knows from personal experience the value of the Cooperative Program, the pastor continued.

“With CP, missionaries are free to do the work God has called them to do. In the non-profit I direct, I have to constantly communicate with sponsors to keep the money coming” for children in Uganda, Shiner said. His non-profit has raised more than $2 million since it began over 10 years ago.

“It’s hard work,” Shiner said. “The funding that comes from the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon gives Southern Baptist missionaries freedom to do what God has called them to do.” 

God has called Shiner “to be faithful to minister to the people God brings to our building, and to equip our people to be ministers where they live,” the pastor said. “I just want to seek first His kingdom and let God worry about tomorrow.”