Transcribed by: Gregg Stone
The worship is vibrant, the preaching is passionate, and the people have a heart to serve. Welcome to the Pentecostals of Sheboygan County.
Nestled on the west coastline of Lake Michigan and beautifully encircled by the Sheboygan River, with its 6-foot waterfall from where this city derives its name, sits Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, a pristine city of incomparable beauty.
Sheboygan Falls is a city of 7,000 residents in Sheboygan County, which has a total of 112,000 residents and is acclaimed for being the cheese capital of the world. Millions upon millions of cheese is produced in the county and sent all over the world each week. It is also the golf mecca of the Midwest, where you find three professional golf courses. Most notable would be Whistling Straits where the PGA championship has been played and where the Ryder Cup will be held in 2020.
Located at 621 Broadway Street is the Pentecostals of Sheboygan County, a church that actively lives out its motto: “We serve, He saves.”
“We truly believe,” said Senior Pastor John Putnam, “that if we will serve our families and our community, God will save. If you will serve, they will come!”
Pastor Putnam grew up in a minister’s home. His family lived in a number of areas of the U.S. and around the world. “My parents served in Indianapolis at Calvary Tabernacle under Bro. Urshan and Bro. Larson,” explained Bro. Putnam. “They then served in Stuttgart, Germany as missionaries for 5-plus years, then in Stockton, California under Bro. Kenneth Haney. They served in Stow, Ohio under Bro. Tharp, and then we moved to Wisconsin in 1991, where my dad served as pastor in Monroe.”
Bro. Putnam’s spiritual journey began in 1984 at a retreat for the German Military District where he received the Holy Ghost in unusual fashion. “I slept through the entire message that Bro. Tenney preached but woke up during the altar call,” he explained. “My dad asked if I wanted to get the Holy Ghost, I said yes, raised my hands and within moments was speaking in tongues. I was baptized in our bathtub back home in the Stuttgart area. I was almost six years old. I first felt the call to ministry when in the 10th grade at our district family camp. Our former superintendent Bro. John Grant was preaching about being used of God and responding to the call. God called me that night and I knew from that moment on, my life would never be the same.”
After high school graduation, Bro. Putnam went to Indiana Bible College where he graduated with an associates in Theology. From there he returned to Monroe, Wisconsin to assist his dad at The Potter’s House, first as youth pastor and then associate pastor. He served there until December 2005 when he moved three hours away from home to Sheboygan Falls to start his pastorate.
Bro. Putnam loves spending time with his wife, Michelle, and their three boys: John Avery, Joseph and Michael. “I love spending time with my family, just relaxing in the country home that God has blessed us with,” said Bro. Putnam.
He is an avid bow hunter and all three of his boys enjoy sitting in the hunting stands with him. “It truly is a way that I am able to refocus without distractions,” he explained. “We’ve had some great God moments in the woods, away from technology, away from people, and truly just enjoying God’s creation.”
Principles of Growth and Revival
Bro. Putnam’s principles of growth and revival consist of three key elements: prayer, serving and teaching. “Prayer can never be understated,” he said. “We have church prayer each Tuesday night with different emphases such as corporate church prayer, men’s prayer, ladies’ prayer, leadership prayer and house-to-house prayer. Beyond prayer, we place a huge emphasis on two areas: serving within our community and teaching Bible studies. We have found that the more we are exposed within the community as a church that serves, that more and more opportunities open up for us to connect with people and offer home Bible studies to start the process of leading them to Christ.”
The time pressure on a pastor is great, thus prioritizing is key to Bro. Putnam. “Make sure you have great church,” he said. “Prepare people to serve and start serving through leadership training. Teach them how to reach people and teach Bible studies, getting their focus on the fact that ‘what we are is not what we will be,’ and getting involved in the community! In the early years, it wasn’t unusual for me to have upward of 20 people in home Bible studies each week. It was priority to cast the net broad. Again, all of this has to be bathed in prayer and fasting. You can only do so much; God must bring the increase.
“As the church grew, my priorities were able to shift to training leaders, continuing to develop community relationships, and still teaching Bible studies. Now, at this stage, my priorities are setting vision, training the trainer, equipping the church for ministry, serving as a police chaplain, and still teaching Bible studies.”
Pastor Putnam lists four key ingredients that he believes will make a huge impact on your church and community. “Number one, we are Apostolic, unashamedly,” he said. “Number two, pastors must lead by showing, not by talking. I teach Bible studies and encourage the church to do so. I serve two police agencies as their chaplain. I’m at the parades. I’m involved, leading by serving. “Number three is servant leadership. God is the head; we are the feet. The church’s focus must be about serving others to help lift them up toward Christ! Number four: This is God’s church, not my kingdom. God could call me anywhere, but the legacy is that the people have been won to God, not to me.”
The Pentecostals of Sheboygan County have done just about everything possible to boost evangelism efforts. From billboards to a large passion play and a few things in between, the results have been incredible.
“Billboards have given us great exposure in the community as well as door hangers,” said Bro. Putnam. “Both efforts have given us name recognition as well as a number of guests. Our community does a large festival yearly where we offer a ‘free kids’ zone.’ We rent 10 large bounce houses for the event in the city park and have had as many as 1,000 kids come through. It has been great exposure to our community as we’re serving. People are shocked that we do not charge a fee. We just want them to know that we are here to serve.”
The Pentecostals of Sheboygan County take part in three parades each year: Memorial Day, July 4 and Christmas, and at each parade have handed out nearly 5,000 invitations. “A church has been birthed in Malawi and many lives are being changed and all of this was a result of our church participating in a community parade,” said Bro. Putnam. “Mavuto, a graduate student at Lakeland University, was handed an invitation to our church during a Christmas Parade and he began giving Bible studies to his family in Malawi via Skype. He has since returned home and has helped establish a church that is running well over 100 weekly, while connected to our local missionary, Bro. Gibbs.”
During the spring, the Pentecostals of Sheboygan County perform a passion play, which has been a blessing to the community as well as the church. “We have had as many as 350 guests attend,” said Bro. Putnam, “and have regularly seen at least one new family come to our church because of this venue.”
Organization and Management
With a variety of ministries, Bro. Putnam believes that teamwork and organization are critical to keeping everything working like a well-oiled machine. “We have a great team,” he said. “We believe in the ‘servant leadership’ model. I teach leadership training to our leaders on a monthly basis. I also often give them books to read, then do a collaborative discussion on the topics.”
Bro. Putnam schedules a weekly meeting with his paid staff and a monthly meeting with his area directors. The paid staff have job descriptions and hand in weekly reports detailing what involvement they have been a part of.
Every year, the pastor schedules a director brainstorming session to discuss the prior year and the vision he hopes to cast for the coming year. Ministry by ministry, they discuss where they have been and where they want to go. “It’s a very productive meeting in helping us always keep focused on our mission,” said Bro. Putnam. “We then, after prayer, decide which events we will conduct for the coming year and set the calendar. Certainly God can change that but not much else.”
Awhile back, the Pentecostals of Sheboygan County established an assimilation process called Journey to Service, which consists of six steps: Bible Study, Sunday Worship, Life Class, Wednesday Disciple Night, Leadership Training and Serving. It was discovered that usually by the time new converts went through all these steps, they had committed their life to Christ and were usually filled with the Spirit and baptized in Jesus name.
“Each January, we take a Sunday evening service and do a whole-church job fair,” said Bro. Putnam. “We have each ministry leader come forward and present their ministry, challenging folks to volunteer. Our Life Class is our new convert class. At the end of the class, we conduct a job fair introducing all of the areas to serve within our church. We also did a large push for people to get Bible studies a few years ago. I took four Wednesday night services to teach about teaching Bible studies, then we equipped everybody, teenager and up, with a manual and chart. Over 45 people were actively involved in teaching a combined total of 70-plus people per week in a Bible study. It has worked very well for us. We have 65 percent of the congregation involved in some sort of service within the church.”
Meeting in the basement of the church on a cold concrete floor in the middle of a Wisconsin winter with 15 adults and a few children was Bro. Putnam’s introduction to being pastor of The Pentecostals of Sheboygan County. “The building was in great need of extensive work, which fortunately we were able to accomplish in the first five months of our pastorate,” said Bro. Putnam. “Our current building is an old Lutheran building, built in 1890 with a 165-seating capacity which we have now outgrown. We are diligently looking for an existing structure that we could renovate to further grow within. Our current facility is land-locked, but we have found a buyer for our building and just need to locate the right building for our move. We are endeavoring to, in the meantime, work within our current facility to continue growth. We are looking at adding an additional Sunday morning worship service this fall.”
Vision for the Future
Bro. Putnam is excited about the future and has plans to continue to evangelize the surrounding county, establishing as many satellite campuses as possible. “Our vision for Sheboygan County is to establish a preaching point/satellite campus in every population base within our county,” he explained. “We are the only English-speaking Apostolic church in our county of 112,000 people, yet we have 12 population zones. This will be established by continuing to grow the mother church to a point where we can send forth teams and support the ministry in each new area. Literally a network of satellites but one church.”