Loving people, meeting needs
By Jim Ryan
Turning a house into a home takes more than a few coats of fresh paint and some new carpet; it takes hard work and a lot of love. That recipe for success is apropos for Lakeside Church and its new location in Liberty Lake.
Pastor Don Calkins recently moved the church a few blocks into its new home at 23129 E. Mission Ave., and he and his staff and volunteers are working feverishly to have it ready for a "Grand Opening" service Oct. 21. He also likes the versatility of having the facility's location in the heart of Liberty Lake.
"Our heart isn't just to be a church, although that is one of the things we do, but our heart is to impact our community," he said. "Obviously, we want to impact our community with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but when you think of Liberty Lake you ask what the community needs."
Calkins sees part of that need as a lack of space for Liberty Lake businesses and organizations to hold events, meeting and programs, enabling Lakeside to potentially meet a need as an event center.
Calkins is a native of Whidbey Island but grew up in Portland, Ore. He recalls feeling a calling to ministry as early as age 9, and he said he would invite his friends over to share the Gospel - and his grandmother's homemade cookies.
"I would tell them about the Gospel, and afterwards they would get their cookies," he laughed. "Now, obviously, the only reason they came over was for the cookies, but that's what really propelled me. I grew up in a Christian family and so just being part of a church, and youth programs and missions, I felt I should go into a ministry."
Calkins entered Portland Bible College right out of high school, where he met his wife, Joy, who is a native of Spokane. They were married in 1977 and moved to Spokane a year later. When he first arrived in the Lilac City, he didn't immediately utilize his theology degree. Instead, he took several positions in the private sector, including as a Spokane Transit Authority driver for a dozen years.
The Calkins spent years in lay ministry, including at Prairie Avenue Christian Center in Coeur d'Alene, where they assisted with the church's music and worship program.
Within three to four years after moving to Prairie in 2000, and after several conversations with the pastor about forming his own church, Calkins was backed by Prairie to plant a nondenominational church in the Liberty Lake community.
Lakeside Church held its first services on Easter Sunday 2005 at Liberty Lake Church, 704 S. Garry Road, which was meeting in Telect at the time. There were about 20 people in attendance. Almost a year later, Lakeside moved to a small office warehouse facility at 23424 E. Knox St.
"The owner was very kind and gracious to us, and we were there for about six years before moving here last month," he said of the new location.
A member of Lakeside Church for the past three years, longtime friend Grayden Jones has watched Calkins grow and develop as a pastor.
"Even though Don is about five months younger than me, I've always kind of looked up to him as my spiritual leader," Jones said.
"Plus, he's gregarious and funny and witty," Jones said. "The creative and performing arts are important to him, and it's really part of the vision of Lakeside Ministries to provide a place for the expression of the gifts and talents God has given to people. He carries that vision in part because that is how he is made; he enjoys the music and the drama."
Jones continued that even those who attend Lakeside Church on a regular basis might not know how talented Calkins is because he has been so busy growing the church to keep up with the music he would like to compose.
"He focuses on people first. The music and performing and creative arts are second," he said. "Lakeside is a more contemporary church where we are more relevant than we are reverent. It isn't your grandma's church. The only time we sing hymns is when we are over at the Guardian Angel on Sunday afternoon. Personally, I think with the exception of the big events done by the Friends of the Pavilion Park, what happens every Sunday at Lakeside Church is the most exciting thing in town. If I was in my 20s or 30s, Lakeside is where I would be."
Jones also pointed out that Calkins is very honest, and he doesn't pretend to be perfect - something Calkins himself freely references.
"We almost didn't make it very early in our marriage," Calkins said of he and his wife, Joy, who leads women's ministry at Lakeside. "And that is quite a testimony to what God has done in our lives. It shaped us for who we are today. What it did for me is that when I was very young, I was cocky and very confident. What it did was to break me down as a young man from thinking I was going to be the holy man, the righteous man. I realized how human I was and how human Joy and I were, and it caused a complete change in how we perceived life. Our broken world actually caused us to have a united world."
Because of their past marital problems, they prayed and knew that when they started Lakeside Church, one of the things they wanted to center on was to minister to marriages.
When he talked about what he gets out of serving as pastor of Lakeside Church, Calkins said that eternity is so important that it drives and propels him to do what he does each day.
"The satisfaction in the short-term is seeing lives changed and seeing people come to the faith," he said. "You see marriages restored and families coming together. Those are great, I love that. The other satisfaction is helping people develop their passion to serve the Lord with the gifts God has given them."
Wife, Joy; three boys and nine grandchildren
Music, basketball and golf
Favorite place to visit
Cannon Beach, Ore.
If you could meet one person in history
Other than Jesus, it would be Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who died in 1945 in a Nazi prison camp