Who We Are

We are a faithful church…committed to preaching and teaching the historic, orthodox Reformed faith, based on the foundation of Holy Scripture as the Word of God and living a passionate commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The church is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA and stands solidly with those in its fellowship who seek to preserve traditional beliefs and morality.

We are an active church… providing opportunities for worship, spiritual growth, fellowship and service to people of all ages and places of life.

We are a caring church… mobilized to provide support, counsel, prayer, friendship and practical assistance to all in our fellowship when they experience various needs and crises in life.

We are a going church… following the Great Commission of our Lord, who told His followers to “go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28). Because our lives have been transformed by the love of Christ and His message of eternal life, we share that good news in words and deeds—not only in our own communities in Southwest Florida but also by direct support and involvement in worldwide missions.

We are a growing church… now numbering over 2500 adult members, with many more seasonal attenders. The growth of the congregation matches the growth of the surrounding communities of southern Lee and northern Collier counties.

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We believe this is the basic message of the Christian faith and expresses who we are as followers of Jesus Christ:

  • We and everything else that exists was created by a great God, who is without limits in His power, wisdom, holiness, and love. This God, for His own good pleasure, has chosen to seek a relationship with human beings. He offers to be our Father if we will be His trusting and obedient children. God granted to each person a soul and a will, allowing us to choose to obey or disobey Him. Each person has freely chosen to sin.
  • God has made Himself known to humans throughout our history. His fingerprints are seen in the natural universe. He has revealed Himself through the Word of God, the Bible — which is the only fully reliable and trustworthy guide for what we are to believe and how we are to live. Supremely, God revealed Himself by becoming a human, in the wonderful miracle we celebrate each Christmas, called the Incarnation.
  • Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity who became also fully human, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, demonstrated holiness to perfection, proclaimed the full truth of God, and then willingly allowed Himself to be executed on a cross by sinful men (the righteous dying in the place of guilty sinners), and physically rose from the dead by divine power on Easter morning.
  • All men and women are given the invitation to come to Christ, humbly receiving His mercy and forgiveness, and so may be made right with God their Father. This act of faith can be taken at any time and place — and once done from a sincere heart, a person is eternally saved and a child of God.
  • The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, comes to each believer and fills him or her, giving strength to obey God’s Word, resist temptation, and serve Christ and others in His love and power. The Spirit unites believers together and draws them to one another for mutual fellowship and worship in a church. The Spirit also sends us out in love and compassion for a lost world, to offer the life-changing Gospel of Christ to all, and to demonstrate His love by acts of practical ministry and service. Scripture reveals that the earthly life we experience in our bodies is just a prelude to an eternity with God, through faith in Christ alone.

The congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs was officially chartered in April 1972, with 65 full members and three affiliate members. The original sanctuary was located in the current Price Chapel—so named in honor of the first pastor, Rev. Harry Price, who served until his retirement in 1979.

Rev. Joe McClure succeeded him and guided the congregation through a growth phase leading to the construction of a 400-seat sanctuary in 1982, currently the Great Room. In 1986, with an active membership of 417 members and 131 affiliates, the attendance during peak season was surpassing the 1,000 mark! Few could have imagined that this was only the beginning…

The decades that followed brought significant growth to First Church—in membership and facilities—a growth that mirrored that of its community. As the population of year-round retirees increased, so did the number of young families coming into the area to build and support the infrastructure.

Rev. McClure retired in 1995, and Rev. Paul Kirbas was called as Senior Pastor in 1996. Under his leadership, the Wonder Years Preschool was launched, and the current 1,400-seat sanctuary was opened in November 2001. Rev. Kirbas resigned to take another call in 2003. A new chapter in the life of this congregation began in 2004 when Rev. Douglas Pratt was called as Senior Pastor. With combined active and affiliate membership exceeding 1600, the church seeks to fulfill its unique calling as a year-round congregation that joyfully welcomes and nurtures the many winter residents and visitors God brings our way!

Learn more in our History Issue of the Epistle!  

First Church is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA, the largest Presbyterian denomination in America with approximately 2.3 million members in 11,000 congregations. The PCUSA has struggled in the past several decades with dramatic membership loss, internal conflict over beliefs and morality, and a growing disconnect between the national bureaucracy and local congregations. The Session of First Church has taken a clear stand with other churches within the denomination who are seeking to preserve the historic faith and values as expressed in our Constitution. In addition, the pastoral staff has been active in renewal movements within the denomination (including the Fellowship PCUSA).

Reformed Theology

The Presbyterian Church traces its roots to the Protestant Reformation, nearly 500 years ago. Reformers Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox helped Christians to rediscover forgotten biblical truths including, most importantly, Salvation by Faith Alone. Special emphases of Presbyterian and Reformed theology include:

  • Predestination (or God’s Initiative) — the conviction that no one turns to Christ in faith unless the Holy Spirit has taken the initiative to soften the heart and lead a person to believe.
  • The Priesthood of All Believers — the conviction that all Christians are equally precious in the sight of God, have equal access to the Word and Spirit and are equally called to serve the Lord in His Church.
  • Eternal Security — once a person has truly become a Christian (been “born again” or “born from above,” in the words of Jesus in John chapter 3), they can never lose their salvation.


The Presbyterian form of church government was originated in Scotland in the late 16th century. It is based on the principle of representative democracy — a pattern of self-government that pre-dated and had a tremendous influence on the Founding Fathers of the United States. Each congregation elects Elders (the Greek word for Elder is “Presbyter,” from which we derive our name); those Elders have the authority to lead and direct the entire ministry of the church. Pastors and Elders together form the Session, the local church’s governing body. A separate Board of Deacons (from the Greek word for servant), provides practical help and ministry to the congregation and community, under the direction of the Session. The national structure of the Presbyterian Church includes four levels of government: the local church’s Session, the Presbytery (a regional body of churches), the Synod (an ecclesiastical council), and the national General Assembly. First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs is a member of Peace River Presbytery and the Synod of the South Atlantic.

In the Presbyterian Church, there are three types of ordained office: Pastors (ministers of the Word & Sacrament), Elders, and Deacons.

The Session

The Elders and Pastors together form the Session, the governing body for the local church. As identified in the Book of Order (the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church USA), the Session is given the authority and responsibilities to lead and direct the entire ministry of the church. Both men and women may serve as officers.

At First Church, the Session is comprised of 18 elders, divided equally among three classes. Six elders are elected annually at a meeting of the congregation to serve a 3-year term. In addition, the congregation may choose to elect a Youth Elder (an active member of the congregation under the age of 25) for a one-year term.

The Board of Deacons

The current Board of Deacons is comprised of 18 deacons, equally divided among three classes. Six deacons are elected annually at a meeting of the congregation, for a 3-year term. The responsibilities of the Deacons as identified in the Book of Order (the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church USA) are to provide practical help and ministry to the congregation and community, under the direction of the Session.

Corporate Officers

First Presbyterian Church is incorporated in the state of Florida. The elders in active service fulfill the role of Trustees of the corporation, having the power to receive, hold, encumber, manage and transfer property, real or personal, for the church; to accept and execute deeds of title to such property; to hold and defend the title to such property, to manage any permanent special funds for the furtherance of the purposes of the church, subject to the authority of the Session and under the provisions of the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church USA.