In Retrospect: 30 Years and Counting

The men who went to try to rescue the five brought back to me from Jim’s body his wrist watch, and from the Curaray beach, the blurred pages of his college prayer-notebook. There was no funeral, no tombstone for a memorial…. No legacy then? Was it “just as if he had never been”? “The world passeth away and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.” Jim left for me, in memory, and for us all, in these letters and diaries, the testimony of a man who sought nothing but the will of God, who prayed that his life would be “an exhibit to the value of knowing God.”  from the Shadow of the Almighty by Elizabeth Elliot.

by Jeff Martin

October 1, 2021, marked our 30th anniversary of serving here in Chetek, Wisconsin.

Martins News Clip

That was us in 1991, as pictured in The Chetek Alert.

Since arriving in the “City of Lakes” back on October 1, 1991, a lot of water has flowed under the Long Bridge on the north end of town. Over the course of 30 years, we have lived and raised a family here. To date, I have preached 1,022 regular Sunday morning messages (not including uncounted youth and other special event messages). 

Over 30 years I’ve preached and taught the Scriptures, prayed for people, and conducted numerous hospital and pastoral visits. I’ve ministered to young and old, single and married. I’ve led Sunday school classes for kids and shared the Word with “old folk,” too. I’ve presided at weddings and funerals, dedicated babies, and prayed over more people heading out on mission than I can easily recall. I’ve listened to those who are brokenhearted and disappointed, and I’ve sought to console those who have described themselves as lost.

All these activities (and many more like them) are standard fare for a “one-horse” parish like the one I serve. But in my particular situation, over three decades I’ve also moonlighted in many other capacities—whether that’s driving the hearse for the local funeral home, coaching kids at the middle school and high school, writing for the hometown newspaper, performing in community theater, and presiding at church, school, and city meetings. And, of course, the most significant addition to my resume in recent years is serving as mayor of our city since 2016. I think it’s fair to say I get around.

Since October 1st was a beautiful day, I drove out to Lakeview Cemetery and went looking for Rev. Runar and Ruth Mattson’s marker. Rev. and Mrs. Mattson founded Chetek Full Gospel Tabernacle (now renamed “The Refuge”) in 1956. It was during his time of service that the lots where our sanctuary now stands were purchased, the building built and the mortgage satisfied prior to his untimely death on January 1, 1975. By all accounts he was a good and godly man revered by his wife and children. While the church was small at his passing (frankly, it still is), what greater legacy could he have left other than being loved and respected by his family and the community he had so faithfully served.

Printed at the bottom of Pastor Mattson’s marker is his last sermon: “There is a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2).

Since his death, six have followed him as pastor of  our church: Jonathan Reine (1975), Del Grandstrand (1975-1977), Chester Logelin (1977-80), David Bakken (1979-1980), John Tuttle (1981-91), and myself. Del, Chester and David have long since gone to their reward, Jonathan no longer is in pastoral ministry, and John presently has been serving a congregation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for many years. Each in their time here made deposits into the life of the kingdom of God in our town and beyond, but only God can say—and, ultimately, will say—which was of eternal value and which was not (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). The same goes for me.

For the last few months I have been reading Shadow of the Almighty: the Life and Testament of Jim Elliot. Following his death in 1956, his wife, Elizabeth took the journals he had kept and the letters he had written to put together a biography. As it happened, it was on October 1st—30 years to the day since arriving in Chetek—that I came to the end of the book. 

Upon his death, all Jim Elliot left was a wrist watch, some well-worn clothes, and a one-year-old daughter. He had no life insurance policy. Their home in the wilds of Ecuador would rightly be considered a crude shack by any definition. But considering his influence on the cause of missions and the ongoing life of disciples worldwide, he “done real good” for his nearly 30 years of living. (He was 29 when he died.) Ultimately, only God can evaluate the worth of his ministry—and mine—rightly. Best to leave it there.

Honestly, I’m just grateful to be here. I’m thankful for the life we’ve made here, the friends we’ve made, and the things we’ve been able to be a part of. When I re-read Psalm 16:6-7 “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me” (NIV), I see our home at the corner of Fifth and Banks, the “church behind the Dairy Queen,” downtown Chetek and the nature trail behind Chetek-Weyerhaeuser High and Middle School.

Chetek Sign

Boundary lines in pleasant places.

I see it all, and the multitude of lives that have touched ours over three decades of living here. However long my service to this fellowship and this community may last, I pray to be found faithful to my call, to my post, and to them. 

As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you” (Daniel 12:13, NLT).

Jeff Martin has for 30 years been pastor of The Refuge, Chetek, Wisconsin.

Growing Needs Lead to Changes

Our Lead Elder, John Sprecher, is excited to announce some major changes in the support structure of the Fellowship and the way in which ministers and churches will be served. The changes are the result of extended discussions over several years on how FCA member churches and ministers can be more effective in shared ministries and can collaborate better—both nationally and internationally.

When the Fellowship was incorporated in 1999 an individual Fellowship Coordinator (now called Lead Elder) was tasked with connecting the regions as well as the nations. Over time it became apparent that all the tasks connected with that assignment was beyond what a single individual could accomplish. As a result, the business meeting in April, 2021, elected to divide the work into three categories, resulting in two new positions being created. All three part-time positions will operate with more tightly focused job descriptions.

Sprecher is pleased that former FCA board president, Sam Snyder, has accepted the ¼-time position as Missions Coordinator.

Sam Snyder

Sam Snyder, Missions Coordinator

Sam brings a wealth of experience to the new role, having been raised in Mexico by missionary parents and serving as a church planter in the US. As Missions Coordinator, he will focus on:

  • Coordinating efforts of our regional missions board representatives;
  • Connecting with missionaries in the field or on furlough;
  • Consulting with and advising church mission boards;
  • Assisting new missionaries preparing to go to the field; and
  • Relating to our international Partners and Affiliates from other lands.

Meanwhile, Sprecher is happy to introduce Dave Bechtold as FCA Ministry Coordinator with a focus on ministry needs and resources for U.S. churches and pastors.

Dave Bechtold

Dave Bechtold, Ministry Coordinator

Former Family Life Pastor at City Church in Madison, Wisconsin, Dave has been a core part of the Wisconsin Connections. As a facilitator and leader of multiple ministries, he brings significant gifts and heart to this ¼-time position. His assignments include:

  • Relating to regional representatives assigned to address ministry needs;
  • Encouraging best practices in regional and national meetings;
  • Being available to consult with pastors and churches;
  • Helping pastors and churches in any way possible; and
  • Enhancing Fellowship connections, communicating about God’s work.

Fervent Faith in Turbulent Times

Some are perceiving it, others are not, but everyone is experiencing it. We are living in days of darkness when evil is reigning.

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1 ESV).

We are seeing our government and other entities being overtaken by spiritual forces of evil. We are accepting the marching orders of radicals, the breakdown and overturning of social and sexual mores, and the abandonment of basic law and order. Our religious liberty is being threatened while lies, deceit, and hypocrisy go unpunished. The fear of God, our Creator, has been subordinated to the fear of man, merely part of creation. Of special concern is the apostasy, the falling away of believers.

Although the wicked continue to conspire and plot evil, the time is coming when God will suddenly shoot his arrow of judgment and bring the wicked down. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Until then we must now, more than ever, stand up and contend for the truth (Jude 3). We need to be bold and courageous, unwilling to compromise, and unmoving in faith. “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).

These days are calling us to have an unwavering faith and to be a bright light. We are set apart by God and for God. We trust in the name of our Lord! Having that kind of trust means that we have a confidence to stand firm based on the character and reputation of God himself. Our relationship with God is built on his character and his reputation. And because of that relationship, we have every reason to be encouraged during these times of testing and tribulation.

God is faithfully moving according to his plan and his purpose for glory. We are obliged to continue to shine brightly in our faith and for the truth knowing who God is, whom we belong to, and why we are here. True believers are not to be entangled with the world and these evil spirits. We are called by God to be separate and stand out and up for the truth, clean, pure, and undefiled.

We must remain in the Word to know the Word to live the Word and to share the Word. Whether it be from the pulpits or in the streets, we believers must stop telling stories to connect only on an emotional level with people. Rather, we must be letting God’s word speak for itself, allowing the Holy Spirit to convict the heart and change the spirit and person.

I personally believe we’ve become people so sensitive we’re afraid to speak the truth for fear of causing others to feel offended. I’ll let you in on a secret, truth offends us all. Don’t be afraid of it!

This is the hour to stand fervently proclaiming the truth to a nation and a culture adamantly rejecting the truth, but needing it so desperately more. This is not a time to retreat, but to stand up for truth moving forward and advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Messiah! “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16 NIV).

Thomas Yerman is an FCA pastor ministering at Living Hope Church in Elk Grove Village.

New Youth and Family Ministries Director Hired

On Palm Sunday, Bethel Christian Fellowship (St. Paul, MN) announced the appointment of a new Director of Youth and Family Ministries, Justin Finton.

Justin Finton comes from his role as youth pastor of Abundant Life Church in Blaine, MN, where he grew the youth program even during the worst months of the pandemic as well as through a pastoral transition. Raised as the son of a pastor, Justin is credentialed for ministry through the Assemblies of God.

“We were really attracted to Justin for several reasons,” reports Steve Rasmussen, pastor of Bethel Christian Fellowship, recounting his love for God, the Word, the church, and youth. He also noted Justin’s experience and success in youth ministry along with his desire to grow in intercultural relationships and understanding, which are high values at Bethel Christian Fellowship.

Justin began his duties in April, bringing his wife, Michelle and their new baby, Ezra.

Pentecostals You Should Know

If you grew up in a Pentecostal church, as I did, you may think you’ve heard all there is to know about Pentecostals, charismatics, and their history.

I know I did.

I thought I could list the important names, the movers-and-shakers connected to the twentieth-century outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I could recall the anecdotes. I knew the exploits from the lives of Charles Parham, William Seymour, Smith Wigglesworth, and Aimee Semple McPherson. I had read about the trail-blazing, innovative ministries that brought a fresh encounter with the power of God to spiritually hungry people.

This was my tribe, and I thought I knew them pretty well.

That, however, was before I picked up Dean Merrill’s new book, 50 Pentecostal and Charismatic Leaders Every Christian Should Know (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group [2021]).

Merrill, well-known author and FCA friend, has done it again! In his inimitable style and engaging manner, Merrill introduces us to 50 key influencers of the modern Pentecostal movement, beginning with stories from the mid-nineteenth century! Here are names you’ve heard before (David du Plessis, Gordon and Freda Lindsay, Kathryn Kuhlman, Reinhard Bonnke, Jack Hayford) but also names you may have missed in history class (Maria Woodworth-Etter, Francisco Olazábal, Leo Josef Suenens, Bernard E. Underwood, Ithiel Clemmons, Wonsuk and Julie Ma).

Turns out there was a lot I didn’t know! In uncovering details of our spiritual roots, 50 Pentecostal and Charismatic Leaders delights even as it informs. You’ll discover new personalities in the Pentecostal family tree, of course, but you’ll also discover new details and insights about familiar Spirit-filled leaders you thought you knew.

The stories are inspiring, but they are not sugar-coated. You’ll read about both the miraculous and the missteps, both doctrinal insights and theological idiosyncrasies. In his introduction, Merrill notes that “none of the fifty was perfect” and that many displayed “human flaws and misassumptions.” He does not gloss over their faults, but he reports them charitably, displaying a respect for leaders who, while daring to seize the kingdom, occasionally went too far.

What impressed me most about Merrill’s book, though, was how it inspired me. I found myself wishing I had been there when these pioneers sought God and prayed. Reading the book sparked a desire to have seen the early days of the Pentecostal renewal, as well as a desire to pray yet again for a new day.

Merrill’s book is sure to inspire and stir its readers to seek for more from God.

—Richard Doebler