A Non-Denominational, Christian Church


Worship - Dove's recognition


We are a non-denominational Christian church in west El Paso.

We believe that a church is not a building or an organization, but a people. We are the Rio Church. We are a family of real people with real lives and real problems striving to follow Jesus.

Our mission is simple. We want to love God, to love each other, and together bring life to the world around us.


Roots picture

Our Roots

Over fifty years ago a man read in John 14:12 in the Bible that anyone who has faith in Jesus will do even greater things than Jesus did. That man spent hours thinking about those words and asking himself the question, "Do I really believe this?"

He decided he did and that man rallied a passionate group of young people who did the same and embarked on a journey that would change tens of thousands of lives forever. That group of people traveled all over the United States preaching about Jesus wherever they went and they left a trail of new communities in their wake.

Those communities grew and started churches, until a network of churches with national and internal impact was developed. 

Two of those churches from Colorado (Summitview Community churches in Fort Collins and Greeley) decided to send a group of about 40 people to El Paso in 2007 to continue the expansion and begin a brand new church. The result was The Rio Church.

The Rio is part of a larger association of churches known as the M28 Alliance. M28 stands for the “Great Commission” Bible verses found in Matthew 28, which form the foundation of our Alliance. M28 is a U.S. based alliance of autonomous churches and ministries called to reach the world with the good news of Jesus Christ and to help each other disciple the nations. By God’s grace M28 churches will work together with a common bond of Christian mission and unity and will engage leaders in this mission by:

  • Calling Courageously – defining and upholding unapologetically Biblical standards for following Christ in our culture.
  • Equipping Strategically – providing resources, training and conferences.
  • Supporting Lovingly – creating supportive leadership community and personal coaching and encouragement.

Also within M28 churches, The Rio is united with many other churches including churches in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah. We join together with these churches for activities such as marriage and youth conferences, leaders' retreats, and leadership training.

For more information on who M28 Alliance is, or to become part of the M28 Churches, please visit their website.


Our name - The Rio

Our Name

The prophet Ezekiel once saw an incredible vision of the temple of God. He describes a river that was flowing from the East side of the temple. What began as a small trickle of water gradually grew wider and deeper until Ezekiel was looking at a river so great that it could not be crossed. But the striking thing about that river was not it's growth or size, but it's properties.

There was something in that water that had a transforming effect on whatever it came into contact with. The trees that soaked up the water on the river banks stayed green all year round and had fruit hanging from the branches 12 months out of the year. The salty sea water that met the river at its mouth was changed and became fresh. Great swarms of fish and animals could be found wherever the river ran its course. It was no ordinary water that flowed from the temple. It was like real life holy water. Full of supernatural, life-giving energy that left a trail of abundance and vitality wherever it went.

An ever increasing flow of spiritual water that grows and spreads and transforms death into life wherever it goes. We believe that is what the church is meant to be. We believe that of all people on earth, the followers of Jesus should be the most alive of them all. The most passionate. The most carefree. The most joyous. And the same ought to be true of the church. That is our dream for The Rio.


Downtown El Paso, Texas

Our Dreams

Two thousand years ago Jesus of Nazareth was condemned by the religious establishment as a "friend of sinners". He lived life out in the streets, mixing with the non-religious masses. His message was not condemnation but salvation. Salvation through grace and mercy and acceptance - not religion.

Our dream is to create a safe place in El Paso where non-religious people can seek God and find answers to life's tough questions - just like they did with Jesus when he walked the earth. A place where sinners can find forgiveness. Where guilty consciences can find peace. Where wild and passionate people can satsify their deepest desires.

But our dreams don't stop in El Paso. Our plan is to multiply - first in El Paso, then across the border into Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, and beyond.

We won't stop until we have joined all of Jesus' followers in reaching the entire world with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ!


The pastors - Steve Nelson and Dove Cranson

Our Pastors

Steve Nelson
Steve and his wife Kathleen have two major passions in life: serving God, and raising kids! They came to El Paso from Greeley, Colorado to start The Rio. They have eight mostly-grown children, and love helping other couples pursue life-giving parenting. Steve also enjoys hiking, trail running, and fossil hunting. Kathleen loves helping women pursue God and contributes to a podcast called "Living Out Biblical Womanhood".

Dove Cranson
Dove and his wife Holly also moved from Fort Collins, Colorado, to help start The Rio. They have six kids and huge hearts for God and His people! Dove has been a tutor, science teacher, and math teacher at local high schools. He was recognized as a pastor in October of 2015.

Does God want to use your life as a leader?
Our vision is to grow and start more churches, in El Paso, Juarez, and beyond. We will need leaders, especially local leaders and pastors. Leadership in the Rio is not based on charisma or natural leadership ability, but on character. We are looking for men and women of character to join us in our mission. Who knows, you may be next!?


Our beliefs - The Bible

Our Beliefs

At the Rio Church we are not bound by tradition. We have no denominational creeds or confessions. Our standard for truth is the Bible - nothing less and nothing more. While there is value in tradition, we believe that the best approach to formulating our beliefs and values is a simple and pure love for the Bible. We teach the Bible on Sunday mornings and we study the Bible in our homes.

Our goal is that everyone who joins us has the opportunity to read and learn the Bible for themselves.

We want to understand who God is and what his plans for us are. We believe the Bible is the source for the answers.

Click here for our Statement of Faith.


Candle with water flame

Our Values

We are passionate about a lot of things. Here are a few of the things we have burning on the inside:

The Grace of God
God's grace through Jesus Christ is the basis and power, not only of our personal lives, but also of our ministry. In contrast to the burden and guilt of religion, the free and lavish grace of God given through Jesus is truly amazing.

Commitment to God and His Word
Our aspiration is that our members will be marked by a wholehearted devotion to God, through prayer and by studying, obeying and teaching His Word.

The Great Commission
Our ultimate goal and mission is to reach the whole world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to make disciples of all the nations. One life at a time, one world in a lifetime.

The local church is God's vehicle for accomplishing the Great Commission. The church is the place for winning people to Christ, building them to maturity, raising up leaders, and for preparing church planting teams to be sent out for the expansion of God's kingdom. We love the local church because Jesus does.

Church Leadership
We place a priority upon raising up pastors and other leaders of Christ-like character within the local church. We're not interested in talent and charisma, but character. In our church we give the opportunity for men and women of character to receive training and grow as servant leaders.

Love and Unity
We desire our ministry to be marked by a Christ-like, selfless love, loyalty, and unity with fellow believers. Jesus taught that our love for each other would be the greatest sign to the world that we are his people.

Raising Godly Families
Strong families are the foundation for strong churches. Therefore we make it a priority to equip members and pastors in building their marriages and families. We care deeply about our children and are dedicated to training them to be missionaries in their world.

Every Member a Minister
All Christians are empowered through the Holy Spirit to be workers in the church, not just the pastors. Therefore we seek to equip each member to utilize his/her spiritual gifts to serve others.