Sonshine and Water: Indiana Church Called Florida Station Celebrates Baptisms, Growth
By Carl Stagner
Though more than 800 miles away from the Sunshine State, one central Indiana congregation of the Church of God nevertheless bears the name Florida Station. More remarkable, however, than a church taking on the name of its own community (no matter how unique) is the story of steady, ongoing growth post-pandemic. While Florida is certainly known for its sunny skies and beckoning beaches, Florida Station Church of God, on the northwestern outskirts of Anderson, is becoming known for its own version of Sonshine and water—Jesus bringing light into the lives of the lost and believers following his example in baptism.
When Jerry Hilligoss came to serve as pastor of Florida Station Church of God in 1996, only about 25 people composed the congregation. As seeds of the gospel were planted, God gave incredible growth to the church in short order; by Easter of 1997, they’d run out of space in a facility that held nearly 100. An elementary school proved a useful, temporary space until February of the year 2000, when Florida Station Church of God officially opened their new building to an astounding 135 worshipers. Pastor Jerry offers some insight and reflections on those formative years.
“The church has seen these numbers rise and fall over the years because of various events in our community of Anderson,” Pastor Jerry admits. He goes on to acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic was one of those more-recent external variants. But coming out of the pandemic, something happened which could not have been predicted.
“Many of the churches were left struggling coming out of the pandemic,” Jerry observes, “and we continue to pray for them. But we have seen growth on the other side, to the point where our current average attendance is about 220. On February 26, our attendance grew to 310-plus.”
Of course, church health is not all about attendance figures; neither is it all about giving stats or frequency of baptisms. But some of these numbers might serve as indicators of something spiritual happening underneath it all. In the case of Florida Station Church of God, it seems that is definitely the case.
“We praised God as we witnessed 11 people giving themselves over to Jesus Christ and baptism on February 26, too,” Jerry recalls. “Our growth has come through youth, college-age students, and young families. They are hungry for the Word and to know God better.”
Anecdotally, the church reports individuals of all ages testifying to spiritual chains being broken. Small (“Life”) groups have started up in order to cultivate community and encourage spiritual growth and promote discipleship for these new believers. Leadership classes have formed to identify, acknowledge, and foster growth of budding leaders responding to the divine call.
“We are looking forward with great hope and expectation,” Pastor Jerry concludes. “Knowing that God is faithful to complete that which he has begun in us and through us is reason enough. Pray for us as we continue to seek God and his wise counsel during this time of blessed growth.”
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) photo: Pastor Jerry (left) speaks during a recent baptism celebration at Florida Station.