By Rosanne Bowman
Christian Convention Center will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary. The church is bringing in singer and traveling evangelist, Elaine Hollmer at 7 p.m. Thursday through Sept. 22 to help mark the milestone.
“She’s been singing in mainstream churches since she was a little girl,” said the Rev. Steven F. Wash, senior pastor at Christian Convention Center. “She’s been in ministry 35 years as a traveling evangelist crossing the globe. She’s a great speaker and entertainer, and God uses her in an extraordinary way every time she comes.”
This will not be Hollmer’s first trip to the Christian Convention Center, as they host her each year, but this time will be special since it will also mark a decade in ministry.
Wash and his wife, the Rev. Verna Wash, started the church in November 2002, but he had the vision for the church in 1994.
“I didn’t do it then because it was not the right time,” he said. “My wife and I had the ministry of helps, and we worked with other pastors to help their churches grow.”
During those years, Wash gained a lot of great experience working with other pastors and meeting the needs of the parishioners.
“I learned about church growth by helping other leaders,” he said. “I finally decided to put that experience to work in 2002. The name for the church didn’t come off the top of my head either – a vision was given to me in 1992 with that name.”
The church started out with four people beside Wash and his family, which includes two sons and a daughter, who are now adults. They met in the family’s living room.
“A former pastor I worked with gave us a check for $800 and the chairs,” he said.
Every week, Wash and his two sons moved the furniture out of the living room into an enclosed patio. Then when the service was over, they moved everything back.
They met there for about a year. When the group outgrew Wash’s living room, they moved to a building on North Street beside the Red Wing Shoe Store. In 2007, they moved again to their current location at 695 S. Leonard Ave.
One of Wash’s passions is to bring unity to the body of Christ as a whole. “I want to bring people from all different ethnic backgrounds, different races and different styles of worship together,” he said. “We are a non-denominational church. We hold meetings so people in the region can come out, worship together and just have fun together.”
Wash describes his church as, “a church like no other.” He explained that his goal is for everyone to feel welcome.
“It’s come as you are around here,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about attire. The number one answer people give when asked to church is, ‘I don’t have anything to wear.’”
Wash’s other goal, in addition to unity, is that his church will meet the needs of the people it serves. Those needs include not just hearing the Gospel and meeting spiritual needs, but also the practical needs of those who are struggling to pay the rent or put food on the table.
“We believe that the body of Christ is supposed to take care of the orphan and the widow,” he explained. “Jesus said the poor will always be with us, so we need to take care of the poor, feed the hungry and bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.”
Currently, the church has about 50 members, but Wash is expecting a very large turnout for Hollmer. “We bring her in every year and we usually have 400 to 500 people for those three days,” he said. “What Elaine does is she comes in and uses her gift of the Spirit.”
Wash’s goal for the event is not necessarily to increase the numbers at his own church, but to promote unity among believers in the community. “We’re not looking for people to leave their own churches and come to ours. We’re looking for people to fellowship with us and have a great move of God with them. Yes, we do share the Gospel during this time, but that’s not the main focus.”
In addition to Hollmer, Christian Convention Center will be bringing in Dove Award winner and gospel singer, Ben Tankard on Oct. 21 at both the 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday services as another way to mark their 10-year anniversary in ministry.
“Our celebration this year is more about unity rather than evangelism,” Wash said. “People do receive Christ and join our church at these events, though. The main thing is just as long as God gets the glory – that’s what we are all about.”