A Brief History of Faith Community Church 1984-2014
Faith Community Church was born out of a sovereign move of God.
Its first pastor, John Jewell, had pastored a different local church for four years. Many in the church came to a personal faith in Jesus Christ, and yet, his ministry was not embraced by that church as a whole and tension mounted. Not wanting to create a division, on May 6, 1984 Pastor Jewell felt led to resign as pastor of that church.
This decision did not come easy for Pastor Jewell because he knew that it would leave a number of people who had recently committed their lives to Jesus Christ with a decision of their own to make. Those followers of Christ, although still young in the faith, knew that the answer would only be found through prayer. The Lord’s will was sought through group prayer in homes and individual prayers, and the Holy Spirit began to move in an incredible way. The miracle that would become Faith Community Church had begun.
One of those praying was Dr. Richard Connell. Dick was a quiet man not given to impulse. It was he the Holy Spirit choose to approach John and tell him about the plan for a new fellowship which was born of God. The plan was simply that- with or without John- this group of believers would be stepping out in faith to begin a new church.
On Tuesday, May 15, 1984 at 7 p.m. Dick Connell went to John’s house and excitedly began to tell him of this plan to start a new church in Racine, and ultimately asked John to lead that church. The Lord’s timing is perfect. At 8 p.m. that same evening John had planned to accept a position in New York but instead John chose to undertake the task of leading God’s new church in Racine despite having no promise of a pay check.
Although there is a great deal of work involved in beginning a church, many people joyfully filled the roles given to them by the spirit of God. Dick also asked Darlene Holden (Larsen) to work with the children and Bev Hansen to serve as secretary.
On June 3, 1984, just over 50 people gathered in this couple’s backyard for worship and to announce that they would begin Sunday morning services at the Westridge Elementary School gym the following Sunday. With great excitement the church gathered for its first service on June 10. In the fall of that year the church moved to the auditorium of Gilmore Middle School. People were required to leave the building by 8 p.m. sharp and were often just not ready to separate. The sweet spirit that bound them together kept them singing into the night.
By this time, the steering committee, which was meeting and praying together weekly, had been led to name the new fellowship “Faith Community Church” and its mission “To Know Him and To Make Him Known” was well under way.
Over the next year the church continued to grow spiritually and numerically. Faith Community was officially incorporated as all state, federal, and IRS mountains of paperwork had been successfully conquered.
In October of 1985, the church building and property owned by Racine Assembly of God at 215 Newman Road in Mt. Pleasant became available. The congregation longed for a place to call home but simply did not have the necessary money. By faith, the challenge was met as gifts totaling $65,000 were collected during a three-week call for pledges. It happened to be exactly the amount needed for a down payment! Almost no one had dry eyes when the announcement was made that the building would indeed be purchased. On August 1 of the following year, not knowing where the first payment would come from, FCC moved into its current location. The first few months were extremely inspiring as God supplied every need. Prayers were made for daily provision and through His faithfulness God provided.
From October of 1986 until July of 1989, the Lord continued to add to the congregation. Ministries multiplied and included educational programs and small group ministries. At the leadership retreat in the spring of 1989, leaders thought that FCC could out-grow its facilities. Meeting the needs of the hurting people of Racine would demand more space. The congregation began to pray for direction. Events amazingly transpired to bring us to the possibility of acquiring 41+ acres on Spring St., just a mile from our present location. Gifts and loans from the congregation, totaling over $185,000, made it possible to close the deal on August 31, 1989.
During these years some of the staff included Associate Pastor Don Fletcher, who focused on seniors and marriages; Paul Bell, who worked in the recovery ministry; Dale Rovik, who oversaw our music ministry; Hilda Madagian, the office assistant; and Loretta Life, who served in counseling, as hospitality coordinator, and much more.
In the summer of 1991 things took a dramatic turn when Pastor Jewell resigned. The congregation was left reeling as everyone tried to cope with what had happened. Pastor John had been the driving force behind the church’s vision. Many had come to FCC because of his leadership abilities.
By the grace of God, the wait for a new pastor was brief. In October of 1991 Steve Klescewski was invited to assume the responsibilities as senior pastor. When Pastor Steve took the reins, he inherited a church that, for the most part, was weathering its first major storm.
Pastor Steve brought organization to the Session and instilled a need for establishing a vision that would carry the church into the future. With the church growing once again, this vision included restructuring the staff. Phil Bowen was hired as part-time associate pastor and director of Adult Education. Dino Galati was hired as part-time associate pastor and director of Youth and Evangelism.
The focus turned to relocating, as the facilities neared capacity once again. Moving to the Spring Street property seemed to be out of the immediate question, so investigation was made into expanding at Newman Road. Meanwhile, the financial burden of keeping up the Spring Street land due to improvements and taxes was beginning to weigh on the church’s budget. Agreeing that some of the land could be sold, the church put 12 acres on the market.
As ministry moved forward, Pastor Steve unexpectedly announced his resignation in March of 1995. Plans of relocating were put on hold as the search for a new senior pastor began. Before any formal search was launched, however, the two associate pastors were asked to serve in an interim capacity. In April of 1995 Pastor Dino and Pastor Phil, along with their other duties, assumed the preaching responsibilities and began to take a more active role in shepherding the congregation. In October of 1995, after several months of observing these two men working together in unity and passion, the Session asked Pastor Dino and Pastor Phil to make their arrangements permanent. Later that month the congregation unanimously approved a co-pastorate. A new day had dawned. We were learning to follow God even when His ways seemed unconventional.
In prayer, God impressed upon the hearts of Pastor Dino and Pastor Phil to devote themselves and this body of believers to the work of Matthew 28:16-20. While not a novel revelation, it was the clear directive of the word of God. Summarizing the essence of the passage, the slogan, “Going and Making Disciples of Jesus Christ” was adopted and agreed upon by the eldership. This event proved to be a defining moment. Through it God put the church’s attention back on what was most important - building his kingdom.
The land was still looming, however. Moreover, attendance was on the upswing again. The same old problem from years past was afresh and anew - inadequate facilities. Prayer efforts were intensified throughout 1998. God began to move. The 12 acres that had been marketed in 1995 were sold. From the proceeds, the residual improvement debts from the land, as well as the outstanding mortgage on 215 Newman Road, were paid off completely. Also, the sale of the remaining 29+ acres, which had been marketed shortly after the initial 12, was pending. In October of 1998, a final offer was accepted and approved. The chapter of a lengthy land ordeal seemed to be closed.
Shortly after selling the land the church was dealt a financially blow. As the developers started working on the land on Spring Street, they uncovered farm oil contamination that had been buried for years. With no prior knowledge of this contamination, it fell upon the church by law to clean it up. The final cost was about $130,000.
The decision to sell the entire parcel of land on Spring Street was more than a business deal. It symbolized a change of vision for FCC. Instead of moving out of the city, leaders sensed God leading the church to stay more centrally located. That began the impetus to search for facilities that would house the ministry vision from God. Even though much prayer and effort were given to this effort, God seemed to close each door that had appeared opened. This lack of momentum brought discouragement to many in the congregation.
Two significant things did happen in 1999. Pastor Richard Steinbach joined the staff and began our formal Deaf Congregation. Then in September of that same year, Pastor Keith Swehla joined the team becoming the leader of the teen ministry.
In the fall of 2000, this congregation once again faced a very difficult time as Pastor Phil Bowen resigned. Pastor Galati accepted the invitation to serve as senior pastor. Pastor Galati soon hired Scott Konitzer to focus on adult ministries. What followed were five years of spiritual growth as God lead this body through struggle after struggle. It was truly a desert time.
Elders and key families left the congregation, there was a one-year move back to Gilmore for weekend services, and ministry staff changes were hallmarks of this time. Each hardship, however, taught the leaders and body to trust God and His leading.
Pastor Dino has been used by God to point this congregation back to its mission. Racine is full of hurting people. This body knows that very well now. Perhaps better than we ever could have known. Through hard times and hurts, God walked alongside to encourage and uplift the congregation and restore vision to the church. God had begun to develop real unity based on love and caring communication that was again taking place at FCC.
In 2006 the Racine Assembly of God Church approached the church to offer its parsonage, the current Life Center at 200 Cherry Hill Drive, for sale. The extra space could be put to great use for a congregation still enmeshed in struggles with facility needs. After prayer the leadership took this idea to the body asking them to pray. God worked another miracle as his people came together in unity and pledged an amount that was accepted by the Racine Assembly of God, even though it was below the asking price.
In 2012, Pastor Keith returned to his native St. Louis, MO to pursue planting and leading a new church. Mike Hoecherl stepped in to take the role of youth leader while finishing his degree in youth ministry at Trinity University. Mike had spent meaningful time, with Keith’s guidance, learning how to lead teens. Mike has added his own stamp and personality to the youth group. In the spring of 2017, Mike and his wife took a new role as directors of a Bible camp in Idaho, fulfilling a ministry dream. Stepping into the role was Kevin Larsen who had served previously as an adult leader. Kevin was attending Trinity University at that time. Upon graduating in 2018, Kevin was ordained by Faith Community Church as youth pastor.
Today Faith Community Church continues to utilize every inch of this campus at 215 Newman Road. For more than 30 years, these two acres have served as ground zero of “Going and Making Disciples of Jesus Christ.” The Worship Center houses Sunday services, children’s ministry, special events, and the main office. The Teen Center houses teen Bible education, small groups, and hangouts. And the Life Center houses adult Bible education, small groups, ministry staff offices, and deaf church. We have even used the parking lot to host outreaches, ministry fairs, and teen rummages sales for the kingdom purpose.
More importantly is this reminder. When designing the church logo many years ago the following statement was made: “no external structures define who we are; rather, it is the living power of the cross of Jesus Christ that shapes our lives…”
Through this fellowship and from this property, the Holy Spirit has called multiple hundreds of people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ and others into full-time ministry. Even today this congregation continues to carry out Christ’s directive by “Going and Making Disciples of Jesus Christ” with the desire “To Know Him and Make Him Known.”
Faith Community Church rests in that divine and sovereign move that first brought it to life and is dedicated to the task of spreading the love of God in Christ.
Faith Community Church began its ministry proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in 1984. We are an independent, nondenominational fellowship.