Following Jesus. Serving Others.
We endeavor to share openly with people about Jesus, connecting them, inside and outside of the church, in order to help them find their mission in life and grow spiritually.
Meet the Staff
Matt Yoder, Pastor
I was born and raised in Wakarusa, IN and grew up loving Jesus. I currently live in Middlebury with my wife Liz, and our two children: Isabella and Drew. I have been blessed to serve in a variety of churches in Indiana, Nebraska, Hawaii, and now Michigan. I began serving as an interim pastor at Locust Grove in May, 2021, then was installed as pastor in July, 2022. My passion in ministry is to help people connect with Christ, his Church, and to help them find their God-given purpose in life.
I have been at this job for quite a while, and I still love it! I have 4 children, 10 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild. Scrapbooking and going to ball games are some things I love to do.
What Do We Believe?
Locust Grove Mennonite Church, in covenant with Evana Network, embraces the teachings of the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, 1995. God is the creator of all that exists. The Bible is our fully inspired and trustworthy guide for who God is, what God is doing in the world and how we can live as God’s people. Scripture also exposes the sin that holds us and our world captive to the forces of evil. We can find salvation through Christ alone.
Through the atoning and victorious work of Christ’s life, death and resurrection we may be reconciled to God. All who open themselves to the Holy Spirit’s transforming power can experience forgiveness, healing, new life and a new community of peace and joy. As baptized believers, we proclaim and live out Jesus Christ’s good news in a broken world. We gather regularly to worship and celebrate, discern God’s will, give and receive counsel, bear one another’s burdens and be sent into God’s mission in the world. We seek to be peacemakers and wise stewards of the resources God has given us. Though we often fall short of God’s plan, the church is the foretaste and instrument of God’s reconciling activity in the world. We look forward to the day when Jesus Christ will return to make all things new.
Our history began in 1940 when Lee Miller, from Shipshewana, Indiana, felt burdened to care for the hurting people of this community. Prompted by God, he drove around the area and found others who felt the same concern. They held revival meetings in the area, and many people turned their lives over to Christ. On Easter Sunday of 1940, the new followers were baptized into the church, the living body of Jesus Christ on earth. The church met for a short time in an empty house, and then built a new building at the present location on Findley Road.
Finding the right leadership was a struggle, but after several years Orvin Hooley became the pastor and provided the stability needed for the congregation to grow and mature. During the 20 years of Orvin’s ministry, the congregation began to show its uniqueness, creativity and openness to new ideas. This was especially evident in the building program. In 1950, the back wall of the sanctuary was disconnected from the rest of the building, moved 18 feet away and the open section between the two parts was built back in. And the growth continued—only 14 years later, the congregation had grown so much that a new sanctuary was needed. This time the structure for the new sanctuary was built over the top of the existing building, and then the old one was torn down inside and hauled out, piece by piece.
These early, growing years featured frequent revival meetings, literary (youth) groups, and the mission work of Froh Homestead. Other Mennonites came from around the country in voluntary service to care for the elderly in this retirement facility. Later in this period, Locust Grove planted a new church: South Colon Mennonite Church. Nearby, Camp Amigo, a Mennonite church camp, also began its ministry. Music was an important part of congregational life, with frequent hymn sings and traveling choirs that sang at other churches.
The next period of long-term pastoral leadership began in the mid ‘60’s. Dean Brubaker came to the church as pastor. Soon afterward Jim Carpenter, a young man from the congregation, was licensed and ordained to ministry. Under their leadership, significant growth, a variety of ministries, and effective outreach marked the next 20 years. Youth groups were large with 22 young people baptized in 1971. Many pastors and church leaders were nurtured and developed here. During the Vietnam-era draft, many young men in the congregation chose alternative service and worked in hospitals and other settings around the country. In 1975 a fellowship hall was added onto the building, with extensive Sunday school space in its basement. Church attendance peaked in 1984 when 425 were present on a Sunday morning.
A few painful things did happen. The charismatic movement was strong during that time, and some left Locust Grove for churches that were more charismatic. And in the late 1980’s the leadership provided by Dean and Jim came to a close.
The next eleven years brought difficulty and transition. The congregation’s energy faded and attendance declined. Changes in worship style delighted some and disturbed others. For a time, the youth group remained strong in numbers and attendance, but a major church split in 1997 brought the end of that time of youth group prosperity.
Clashing leadership styles and differing understandings of the role of the pastor were key factors in this split. At the height of the conflict, Jay Ulrich resigned as pastor and began a new congregation. Many people from Locust Grove joined him at the new church. Average attendance on Sunday mornings dropped quickly from 250 to 150. Those who remained felt angry, hurt, and resentful over what had happened. Enthusiasm was at an all-time low. But when we were at the bottom, God helped us begin to find our way upward.
The congregation went through a painful time of building a new leadership structure, rebuilding trust, and trying to see themselves having a positive future. Tim Lichti, the new overseer, helped with the restructuring and interim pastor Gerald Sims did an amazing job of affirming the congregation, bring healing and helping them move forward. Pastor Sims suggested that the congregation put together a Christmas drama to present to the community, which was enthusiastically received. “Mary: A Mother’s Story” drew more than 2,500 people every year. More importantly, it drew the congregation together with a shared mission that got it back on its feet and moving forward.
Gerald Sims finished his three-year interim term as pastor in 2001. John Troyer was called to pastor the church and served until 2007. Bill Beck, started his time at Locust Grove in 2008 and served until April 2021. Matt Yoder began as the interim in May 2021 and was installed full-time in the summer of 2022.
Today Locust Grove is a healthy, vibrant congregation. It has a sound governance structure, people are active and engaged, and it is impacting the community. Most of all… Locust Grove brings glory and honor to our Lord Jesus Christ.