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Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

Pastors predict bleak future if local casinos open (12/28/03)

Soap, figurines, candles keep books company in Christian stores (12/21/03)

In order to form a more perfect union (11/30/03)

Federal Marriage Amendment receives Fellowship’s endorsement (11/23/03)

Drug czar congratulates Teen Challenge (11/16/03)

Christian fiction no long back-shelf item (10/19/03)

DREAM3 benefits churches (10/19/03)

Youth rise to DC03 challenge (10/12/03)

Ministry uses drama, music to touch city for Christ (9/28/03)

Displeased viewers protest raunchy programs (9/21/03)

Grit, determination key to cities blocking cable pornography (8/31/03)

Economic slump doesn't always derail giving (8/24/03)

Ruling threatens family, Christian leaders say (8/17/03)

Anti-aging options require balanced approach to health, beauty (8/10/03)

Convoy of Hope reaches out to inner-city neighborhood (7/27/03)

Fight for the flag moves to nation’s schools (7/20/03)

Drama speaks volumes to alienated veterans (7/13/03)

Church's integrity well received following nightmarish ordeal (6/29/03)

Tornadoes cut wide swath across nation's midsection (6/22/03)

Accountability partners provide human feedback that filters don't (6/15/03)

Checking out your horoscope? God advises you to skip it (6/8/03)

Christian filmmakers pursue wider market success (5/25/03)

Intervention is key to preventing suicide (5/18/03)

Adoption often right decision for young expectant mothers (5/11/03)

Dallas-based ministry keeps inmates out of jail (4/27/03)

Medical analysis of Jesus' death generates interest (4/20/03)

Small-town church reaches community (4/13/03)

Young married couples lulled by false sense of security (3/30/03)

Virtual gambling days may be numbered (3/23/03)

Contemporary Christian music copes with its continuing success (3/16/03)

A/G prayer event set for gathering in nation's capital (3/9/03)

Volunteers give church voice in community (2/23/02)

Federal law protects churches in zoning battles (2/16/03)

Singles find cyberspace dating not always match made in heaven (2/9/03)

Predators often plan strategies long in advance (1/19/03)

The Cross and the Switchblade still makes impact 40 years later (1/12/03)

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Small-town church reaches community

By Isaac Olivarez (April 13, 2003)

There’s not much competition for attention in the small town of Sheldon, Wis., population 250. Highway 194, which bisects the township, doubles as the main street. People shop and visit at two small, privately owned grocery stores, a senior citizens facility and a bank. Two bars, a dance hall and a restaurant vie for patrons’ business.

The town’s limited attractions are one reason Barry Johnson, senior pastor of Sheldon Full Gospel Tabernacle, sees opportunities to share the gospel. What’s more, Johnson says a dedication to prayer and a renewed openness to the Holy Spirit have revolutionized the Assemblies of God church and are spilling over into the community. Attendance at SFGT has grown steadily from eight people in 1987 — when Johnson became pastor of the formerly independent full gospel church — to more than 150 today.

“It all comes back to servanthood,” Johnson, 41, says. “Jesus was a servant, and we want everyone in our church — Sunday school teachers, ushers and Communion servers — to love people even in their failures.”

That attitude has helped establish friendships between SFGT church members and others in the community, and has taken Johnson into virtually every nook and cranny of Sheldon, including the taverns, to preach the gospel.

When he visits, discussions turn spiritual, Johnson says, noting a day in 1994 when he was called to a saloon following a fight. “I noticed blood on the floor, and before long I was teaching about the atonement of Christ’s blood to 15 men.”

As a girl, Ruth Ann Cizek attended the church with her parents. But as she grew older, she turned away from God and bought a tavern in Ladysmith, 17 miles northwest of Sheldon.

When Cizek’s father, who attended SFGT for 58 years, died in 2000, Cizek received an unexpected challenge from Johnson, who spoke at the funeral.

“Pastor Johnson looked me in the eyes and told me, ‘I pray you follow your father’s footsteps,’ ” Cizek, 60, recalls. “It was gripping. It was like he was telling me I was supposed to be there.” A month later, Cizek and her husband shut down their bar.

The next year at SFGT’s building dedication, Cizek accepted Christ as Savior. “I went to the dedication for my father because I wanted to be part of it for him,” Cizek recalls. “That was my first trip to the altar, and I’ve been attending since.”

Others have been drawn to the church by the seeker-friendly environment.

Doug Groothousen, a self-proclaimed former bar hopper, began attending SFGT at the invitation of his sister, Donna. Groothousen says curiosity and conviction kept him coming back, until he committed his life to Christ four years ago. Today he is the drummer on the worship team.

“The Word was presented in a way that related to me,” says Groothousen, 30. “The amount I was drinking was unbelievable, and God just took the desire away.”

SFGT’s penchant for servanthood is exemplified by discipleship. The church facilitates growth by offering 13 Sunday school classes and a commitment to discipling newcomers. The youth group, Ground Zero (zero tolerance for sin), reaches out to area teens with youth rallies every other month. At the inaugural rally in 1999, 16 teenagers accepted Christ as Savior.

“There is an atmosphere here that’s been implemented by the Holy Spirit,” Johnson says. “It is important to our congregation that we have a Spirit-filled service, and it is drawing people to the altar.”


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