A Church Started With Chump Change
By Susan Thomas
“Originally, this church started with 30 people and only $2.38 in the treasury,” said Pastor Kenneth Mendenhall of South Bend, Indiana. “We were located in the area of a city known as ‘dog patch.’ In two years, we averaged about 129 people. The church then moved to 137 East Indiana Avenue. After averaging about 275, once again the church had outgrown its location.”
Bro. Mendenhall became the pastor of United Pentecostal Church of South Bend about 54 years ago. He previously was the associate pastor of the Morningside Gospel Church in South Bend where his father-in-law N.L. Holland was the pastor. “Brother Holland left to take a larger church in Crawfordsville, Indiana,” he explained. “The church tried out several ministers. No one seemed to want the church. Out of the necessity of needing a pastor, I became the pastor.
“A local funeral director told us of an ideal location for sale on the south side of town. The current property was originally bought for $10,000. The value of the property now succeeds its original price tag and then some. We are currently located right off the Route 20 South Bend Bypass 4609 South Ironwood. The property was purchased and the church built with growth in mind!”
The current church was constructed with colonial brick and has the seating capacity of one thousand when the balcony is in use. There is a full-size gymnasium, softball field, and a five-stall garage on the property as well. Future building plans include a 20-foot bell tower and a second parking lot. The current property value is over $5.5 million.
Principles of Growth
“The most important key to having a growing church is for the pastor to have a great burden for his principality,” said Pastor Mendenhall. “This burden then needs to be implanted into each member of the church. Our responsibility is the Michiana area. This is our assignment from the Lord.
“The priority of a ‘revival pastor’ is to evangelize and to lead the church in praying for revival. The church needs to be directed toward prayer, reading the Word and training the church to reach the lost. Oikos ministry is one man telling another about the Gospel. This has always been the best method for increasing church attendance. It is good for the pastor to associate with positive people, and also to sit and talk with the reapers … as in the book of Ruth, she sat with the reapers. Always ask the successful pastors about the secret to their growth. Brother V.A. Guidroz once told me, ‘All successful pastors attend conferences.’”
“Some of our outreach and evangelism methods involve many classes such as Search for Truth Home Bible Studies, Endtime Prophecy and Bible University,” said Bro. Mendenhall. “We are baptizing many through these classes. Our church has a wonderful Spanish Ministry that meets at 9 a.m. every Sunday and 6 p.m. every Thursday at our church. They regularly host dinners for the Latino community. They also organize a clothing donation program, so new converts can obtain clothes if needed. We host a multicultural English class weekly. This class teaches English as a second language. Students from China, Taiwan, South Korea and several Spanish-speaking countries have and are being taught weekly at our church.
“Several times a year we have a Soup & Salad night at the church. We encourage our members to bring neighbors, friends and family to these events to get them acquainted. One of our biggest events at the church is the outdoor service and hog roast each Memorial Day weekend. Outreach is our main purpose for this gathering. Many have received the Holy Ghost at our old-fashioned brush arbor-style meeting. This event draws many guests, members and former members. Besides the great food, fellowship and outdoor events, it has become a wonderful way to reach our community.
We do a weekly mailer to our guests, shut-ins, military members, incarcerated and former members. We give a synopsis of each service included in the mailer. We have had great response to this.”
Bro. Mendenhall also noted, “We hold a prophecy conference each year with Rev. Irvin Baxter; this event pulls people in from all over the Michiana area. We collect data from all the first-time attendees, and many then enroll in the Endtime class that we host. We are seeing great results from this. Some people travel great distances to attend this conference. Bro. Baxter always concludes the conference with the plan of salvation. Baptisms that night are promising! We have 10 Endtime classes meeting weekly in the extended Michiana area.”
Organization & Management
Pastor Mendenhall meets often with each department and the ministry leaders individually. Each department hands in monthly and annual reports; individual job descriptions are overseen by the leaders within that department. With the verification and approval of Pastor Mendenhall, each leader within his or her department is trusted to handle any event or outing for the purpose of growth and outreach on their own.
Pastor Mendenhall says, “Eighty percent of the church members are involved in some form of ministry, and we would hope that all of them are involved in evangelism. We are all called to witness!
“We also have two large choirs at our church. Joyful Sounds is directed by my daughter, Cami Walker, and Hymnal choir, a senior choir directed by my wife at age 81. They sing six times a month. We have many pastors and pastors’ wives from this church throughout our fellowship, both in the states and on the foreign mission field. Bro. Clint Walker, my son-in-law, has recently been voted in to be the next pastor in succession.”
“One of the great miracles that happened in our church was a lady being raised from the dead,” said Pastor Mendenhall. “Service was in progress when a dear saint started to sway a bit and then slumped over in the pew. We have six nurses who came to her aid. They tried to get her pulse. She was laid out on the floor and had lost her bodily fluid. She had passed away. The service went on and as the special, “Jesus Never Fails,” was being sung, the church started worshiping and stretching their hands toward her. The ministry laid hands on her, and she was raised from the dead as the whole church witnessed. Talk about a faith builder! The ambulance had been called at the onset of the situation and by the time the ambulance and EMT’s arrived, she was sitting up and talking as if nothing happened. The EMT’s that had been notified of her death were quite confused.
“They asked what had happened. Our usher replied, ‘Have you ever heard of miracles? You’re too late; this is just how my God works!’ She did go to the hospital. The nurses from our church who were on staff at the hospital testified to the miracle. She underwent testing for one week in the hospital, and they could find nothing wrong with her. This is the second person in our church to be raised from the dead!”
How Have Things Changed?
Pastor Mendenhall said, “In our moving the church from three locations, we have not lost a saint. In the last 61 years the saints who voted me in have now all passed away. Presently there are no current saint/original voting members. I find that very interesting!”
Deep prayer and finding the will of God gives Pastor Mendenhall’s ministry direction and purpose. “I knew a man that once prayed for his heart to be broken with the things that break God’s heart. Sadly that man died young. He died of compassion fatigue. My favorite subject to preach would have to be faith. I also enjoy teaching about the lives of individual Bible characters.”
He recently started teaching the entire Bible – expository style – to the congregation. “I wish I would have adapted this teaching method a long time ago,” he said. “Holiness, faithfulness, prayer and outreach are the targeted areas I like to focus my ministry on. My ultimate goal as pastor is to give my time to prayer and the ministry of the Word. That is making the main thing the main thing!”
Pastor Mendenhall was raised in church and by the time he was 12 years old he already had six different pastors. He received the baptism of the Holy Ghost at the age of 13. His sixth pastor, R.G. Jones, greatly influenced the days of his youth and at the age of 20 he felt the call to preach. Pastor Mendenhall never had the privilege of attending Bible school, but he feels that a pastor is never out of school.
“I spend many hours in study and preparation,” he said. “I have taught seminars at ABI, the Canadian Bible School at Fredericton, New Brunswick. I received an honorary Doctorate degree from Indiana Bible College Seymour. Last year I had the privilege of speaking at the IBC commencement service. I spent four years at electrical school and became a certified industrial electrician.”
Bro. Mendenhall and his wife, Betty, are 81 years old. They have been in the ministry and held a UPCI license for 61 years. They have been married 61 years. They are both third generation Apostolic Pentecostals.
“My favorite preachers include Ray G. Jones, Mark Hanby, J.T. Pugh, Jimmy Toney, Devin Akers, and Cory Porterfield. In my leisure time, I enjoy holiday gatherings with my family and our traditional three-day trip to Mackinac Island. Another important activity I enjoy during my leisure time is reading religious books,” concludes Bro. Mendenhall. “I love to collect books. My favorite authors include David Bernard, John Mean, J.T. Pugh, W.A. Criswell and Clarence McCartney.”
Bro. Mendenhall asked, “I have a question… ‘Where is retirement mentioned in the Bible?’”