An Uncompromising Message: Valley Bible Fellowship

Valley Bible Fellowship Welcomes an Eclectic Crowd

Even the gym marks a place for Pastor Ron Vietti to evangelize. During a recent workout, the pastor of Valley Bible Fellowship in Bakersfield, Calif., spotted a man sporting tattoos and “looking like a gangster,” he says.

Vietti walked up to the man and said, “I don’t know you, but I believe God wants you to be part of his kingdom,” he recalls. “This guy looked at me like I was crazy, but he came to church the following Saturday, and he’s been there ever since.”

Vietti says the man felt comfortable at VBF because he saw other people with tattoos.

The church boasts an eclectic mix of congregants, including high-income professionals, single mothers and “a lot of rough people,” according to Vietti. The church stands out for its ethnic diversity as well, with Hispanics making up more than half of worshipers.

A combination of good worship music, relevant and entertaining sermons and social media outreach has led VBF’s congregation to balloon over the years, Vietti says.

“I think we’re a musically-oriented society. I think music is so important,” he says. “I spend over 10 percent of my budget on worship leaders and worship music.”

He cites practical Bible teaching as another driving force, and asks himself, “How do I make this message practical, relevant and even somewhat entertaining and yet drive home my spiritual truths?”

Fun plays a role in each service as well. Vietti routinely shows funny videos during services because he believes “humor is medicine.” To boot, the church organizes Vegas-style celebrations on holidays such as Easter, booking Beatles impersonators and performers from the television show “America’s Got Talent.”

Children get their share of fun from puppets and riding a train that travels the church grounds. For memorizing Scripture, they win prizes.

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To give all attendees at the church a sense of connection, Vietti spends at least three hours on Facebook daily, answering messages and reaching out to congregants by name.

While these strategies have helped VBF expand its fold, Vietti says the church faces challenges. Responding to social issues can be a struggle. “How do we love everyone and maintain biblical purity?” Vietti asks at times.

Running a megachurch also takes a toll financially and the staff needs constant support. That’s why Vietti installed a gym at the church for his team to use for one hour daily.

Through it all, the pastor says, “We still preach an uncompromising message, a really good message, and have great worship.”

Bakersfield, Calif.
Senior Pastor: Ron Vietti
Twitter: @RonVietti
Founded: 1975
Affiliation: Nondenominational
Locations: 7
Attendance: 11,625
Growth in 2014: +699 (6%)
Fastest-Growing: 88
Largest: 30