In 1921, Ernest R. Henderson had a passion for reaching the lost in Effingham. With the help of Rev. Sam J. Miller, a two-week tent revival was held on West Jefferson Street. That Fall the two men were unsuccessful in finding a building to rent for a meeting place. Undaunted, the two continued in earnest prayer. Other families were revisited and invited to become a part of the new church plant. Mrs. James (Elizabeth) Moody and her daughter Mrs. Ezekiel (Ollie) Hanna were some of the first people to join the effort of beginning a Church of God congregation.
By the Fall of 1925, the small group rented a second-story room over the Locker Plant located on Railroad Avenue. The hall rented for $8.00 a month. Miller and Henderson shared preaching duties. They were later assisted by Mr. Lem Childers who had recently moved here from St. Elmo. Here the first Sunday School was organized and a piano was purchased for $5.00. The Lord blessed these early beginnings. Soon there were about twenty-five to thirty people were attending the Sunday afternoon and evening services.
Evangelist Eva Fair came to Effingham in the Fall of 1926. Following that revival meeting, a few more people were added to the church. By year’s end, the group had moved to a larger hall above Mr. Paul Eiche’s grocery store. That building is now Steven’s Hardware on West Jefferson Street. Evangelist Raymond Hensey held the first revival meeting at this location. Several more people were added to the congregation.
The first recorded minutes of a business meeting are dated November 7, 1926. In that meeting, a Pulpit Committee was formed to seek for the congregation’s first pastor. The people also established a Building Fund with the goal of raising $100.00 by November 1927.
On August 5, 1928, the congregation borrowed $2,100.00 to erect a church building. Building lots in the 400 block of Clark Street were donated by Realtor J. F. Butler.
A business meeting on December 15, 1935 was held in which the church voted to call Rev. Albert Crim to serve as the church’s pastor. Rev. Crim assumed the pastorate on January 1, 1936.
From 1936-1967, the congregation had several distinguished pastors, many of whom were just beginning their ministries: Rev. Alvah Crim, Rev. Kenneth Crose, Rev. O. W. Sidener, Rev. Gerald Weaver, Rev. J. O. Sarver, who held the longest pastorate during this period--11 years, Rev. James Earl, Rev. Herbert Probst, Rev. Chester Kline, Rev. Sam Pickens, and Rev. Silas Sugg.
With growth at the Clark Street site, the congregation realized a need for more room and modern improvements. In 1940, a basement was dug and central heat was installed. Continued growth necessitated relocation and on May 15, 1955, the congregation purchased the Methodist Church and parsonage at 401 S. Fifth Street for $30,000.00. The congregation remained at this site for the next 15 years. However, during the mid-sixties, Pastor Sam Pickens encouraged the church to purchase four building lots on S. Route 45. Later in 1969, under the leadership of Rev. Delmar D. Holbrook, (pastored from September 1968 - May 1976),the congregation averaging 70, began construction of a new church plant. On August 2, 1970, a lighted motorcade of members traveled from the Fifth-Street church to the newly-finished building on Route 45. Later, the church purchased a house at 2606 S. Banker Street for the parsonage.
Rev. Edwin R. Beasley followed Pastor Holbrook, and Rev. Beasley was installed as pastor on October 3, 1976. By then the congregation had grown to 113. In May of 1984, Rev. John D. Fozard assumed the pastorate here. By 1986 the congregation, averaging 155 in attendance, realized it needed more facilities. A successful Building Fund campaign was held that year and on July 27, 1987, construction began on a $310,000.00 building project. The church erected a new two-story addition, remodeled its existing facilities and expanded its paved parking areas. The new facilities were dedicated on February 14, 1988.
Under Rev. Fozard there were several terrific associate pastors. Fred Hazen 1988-1990, David Colp 1991-1995, Jamie Ward 1996-1997, and Bill Burry 1997-2000.
"Celebration Sunday", March 7, 1999 we paid off our mortgage and celebrated with a mortgage burning. What a thrill to pay off our $310,000 mortgage.
On June 20, 1999 Rev Fozard resigned as pastor. John and his wife Brenda moved to Oklahoma City where he became president of Mid-America Bible College.
Rev. Michael Cox, assumed leadership responsibilities on September 19, 1999. Pastor Mike served the church well during his pastorate here until he was called back to Danville, Kentucky in the spring of 2003. Peter Hall was called to serve as associate pastor in March of 2001 and served as both Associate and Youth Pastor until early 2003 when he also relocated to Kentucky.
A special congregational meeting was held on July 27, 2003 to vote on calling Rev. Keith Heberer as our new senior pastor. The vote was positive and Pastor Keith accepted the position. September 7, 2003 was the beginning for our new pastor from Pekin, Illinois.
On June 7, 2004 we hired a new youth pastor from Texas, Tim Busch. Tim graduated from Mid-America Christian University in May of 2004. He has served as a youth intern at Kilgore, Texas. On September 23, 2007 Tim and his wife Becky moved to Oklahoma.
On January 23, 2005 Debbie Vickers joined our staff as Worship Pastor. This was a new position. Debbie is from Scott Depot, West Virginia. She has seventeen years experience in pastoral ministry. Debbie left our church in 2008.
January 2, 2008 Pastor Wayne Absher was voted in as our Senior Pastor. He was the first pastor to receive a 100% of the congregations vote. Bro. Wayne has 40 years experience in the Church of God ministries. Pastor Absher moved to Alabama in July of 2010.
Pastor Matt Taylor became our next senior pastor on March 6, 2011. Pastor Matt, Pam and their daughter Hannah came to us from Fredericksburg, Virginia. He comes to us with twenty years of experience as a pastor in the Church of God movement.
Rev. Jared Chesnut is our Senior Pastor. He returned to us in the Spring of 2016 after serving for four years as the Worship and Discipleship Pastor at Sapulpa Church of the Nazarene just outside Tulsa, OK. He previously served as the Production Manager of the Bindery & Finishing Division at Kingery Printing Company here in Effingham, IL. Jared married his hometown sweetheart Shealyn Rae Royse here at Effingham First Church of God after completing his two bachelors degrees at Greenville College (Religion/Philosophy & History/Political Science). Jared also serves as the worship pastor of our church when he’s not pursuing his passion for everything related to music, baseball, and history. Jared’s primary passion and ministry is discipleship.
From the vision of two men, the First Church of God in Effingham has grown to over 220, at times, in regular attendance. From a rented room above a Locker Plant, the congregation now enjoys properties appraised at over $1,214,800. Yet one thing has not changed from that vision Ernest Henderson had in 1921. We are still committed to reach the lost for Christ and to equip believers for spiritual maturity and service. We have many exciting plans ahead of us as we approach a new century.