River City Community Church began as a group of believers meeting in Pastor Sean and Lauri Azzaro’s home. This small group of people was involved in a musical worship band and an inner city outreach. They didn’t really set out to begin a church, but as they met together they discovered they were becoming a church. This group, with a core of 5 families and a couple of singles, began to meet together on December 3rd, 1995. They met for almost 2 years before beginning the process of “going public”.
In the fall of 1997, the group’s leaders connected with the Missionary Church, an evangelical Christian denomination committed to fulfilling the great commission through the planting of culturally relevant churches. They began the process of launching the church and had the Opening Celebration of River City Community Church on March 15th, 1998. The church has grown at a very healthy pace since that date, moving three times to accommodate the rate of growth.
A God-Inspired Merger
River City’s previous home, on Redland Road, was acquired through a merger with Christ Redeemer Church in December of 1999. The merger is an incredible story of God’s grace and provision for 2 fellowships. Christ Redeemer was a small church with a big heart and a difficult past, in need of an infusion of growth and life. At the time, River City had grown considerably and was in desperate need of space. The Lord led the elders of both fellowships to join and grow together. In the process, He met the needs of both fellowships beyond our wildest dreams! River City is a church that has seen God’s powerful, miraculous provision!
Then, in 2004, River City acquired the 5 acres adjacent to the Redland Road property and completed the construction of a new worship and education facility. God had blessed River City with a 10-acre campus with multiple buildings to accommodate this growing church family. Within a few years, the 10-acre Redland campus could no longer accommodate the church’s growth. River City added more services and launched 2 multi-site campuses in New Braunfels and Northwest San Antonio to make room for growth.
A Big Vision and New Home
However, in 2008, the pressing need for more parking spaces, more seats in the auditorium, and more kids’ classrooms led the Elders of River City to start looking for a new location that would allow them the space to continue reaching out to the broader community. A friend of the congregation, who was a commercial realtor, told Pastor Sean that the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater was available and asked if he’d like to arrange a site visit. Pastor Sean invited the Elders to join them for a tour, and what began as an unlikely exploration became an unexpected and powerful encounter with God’s vision for River City Community Church.
The leaders who prayed on the hill of the amphitheater that day were surprised by an overwhelming sense that God was showing them their future home! With its 110 acres and numerous buildings—including the amphitheater—there would be more than enough space for the church and its school, River City Believers Academy, to grow and be a blessing to the community.
The Vision Tested
In early 2009, after some serious prayer and consultation, River City made an offer on 100 acres of the site. They quickly found a buyer for the Redland campus, had several interested lenders, and rallied the congregation around a vision campaign to raise funds for the acquisition. All seemed to be going well; but, as 2009 unfolded, the rapidly deteriorating financial climate caused lenders who had previously expressed interest to back out, and no new lenders could be found. What seemed simple just months before, was now virtually impossible. River City’s contract expired in November of 2009, forfeiting hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnest money and due diligence fees.
It seemed like the Verizon opportunity was history…but there was one complication: the leaders couldn’t shake their belief that God had spoken. So, in 2010, they just prayed and waited. At the end of 2010, Pastor Sean got a call from the owners of the Verizon complex, informing him they had been unable to sell the property. They offered the entire 110 acres to the church for $1.5 million less than the price contracted in 2009. What had been a good opportunity in 2009 became a God opportunity in 2011! River City closed on the property in May 2011, built a multipurpose Auditorium and Children’s Center, and moved in on Easter Sunday 2012. It has been a truly miraculous journey!
River City has plenty of room to continue its amazing story. Home to a large, growing church family and a Christ-centered Christian school, River City has also connected with multiple youth sports organizations that now call our sports fields home. Most weekends, thousands of people gather for kids’ sports. We have even put in a disc-golf course near our Evans Road entrance. God has given us an amazing gift and we intend to share it with our community in as many ways as possible!
New Church Plants
In 2013, River City planted the 2 multi-site campuses as new church plants under the leadership of 2 of our staff pastors. Where there was 1 church, there are now 3. The Real Life Network was formed as an association of the 3 churches with hopes of adding more in the future. River City Community Church is an excited, grateful church family, and we recognize that the best is yet to come! We serve an awesome God!