Our True North
We’ve Been Called By A New Name
The commute between Eagle River and St Germain is just one example of the beauty on display in the Northwoods. The Wisconsin River is outlined by lush green trees in the summer, an iconic color scheme in the fall, and frozen, sparkling branches in the winter. There is also a large church along the south side of the highway just outside of St Germain proper. Its building and its community have grown since its humble beginnings, and the sign out front now displays a new name.
St Germain Evangelical Free Church began nearly 30 years ago when several dozen people were stirred to establish a community that focused on biblical teaching and mutual encouragement. The gathering moved from place to place before landing at its current location. A pattern of stirring and gathering continued over the years. Pastor Josh Reese reflected on this history saying, “It has been an honor for me to serve as pastor here for 12 years. This has always been an obedient, growing, and vibrant community of faith, which has been humbling for me to lead.”
The church and its members now represent 2 counties and 17 communities, stretching as far north as Watersmeet and as far south as Rhinelander. In 2018 the building was expanded, and in 2019 the idea of launching a second campus began. In September 2022 the Rhinelander campus of St Germain Evangelical Free Church was established. Since then over 100 people have gathered weekly to worship together. Campus Pastor Justin Olson commented on the rapid growth there saying, “God is clearly moving in our local community. People are inviting their friends and neighbors to Sunday service and connecting throughout the week as well. We are excited to be part of what God is doing in Rhinelander.”
Not only did the community outgrow its facilities, it also seemed to be outgrowing its name. As work began on the Rhinelander campus, careful consideration also began around changing the name of the church to more accurately identify as “one church—two locations.” Over many months, the elders and staff prayerfully worked through a process that involved the input of the church and the guidance of a consultant. Pastor Josh explained that it was important this change did not send the wrong message. Nothing about the church’s mission or doctrine was changing. “We will remain an EFCA church with the same doctrine and the same mission—building a community that loves Christ to influence a community for Christ.” After more consultation and a recent congregational vote, St Germain Evangelical Free Church became Northlife Church of the Evangelical Free Church of America.
Pastor Josh explains the rationale behind the name, “There is something special about the Northwoods, both its land and its culture. At times it is quiet and peaceful. Other times it is bustling and welcomes visitors. There is a unique way of life here in the Northwoods. As Christians, we also believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life—He is our True North. The name Northlife is a reflection of both our place here in the Northwoods and our identity as followers of Christ.”
Northlife Church has many well-established ministries, including youth and family, senior, women’s, and men’s groups. These groups range from ongoing studies to single events, growth groups, and social groups. At the St Germain Campus there is Wednesday night children and youth programming, Sunday morning children’s church at their 10:15 AM service, regular youth studies and gatherings throughout the week, and a summer VBS program. The Rhinelander Campus also offers Sunday morning children’s church, several adult small groups, and regular community gatherings following their service. Discipleship Pastor Tom Kammel says, “Everything we do here is intended to help us make disciples in a relational environment with intentional leadership development that leads to a reproducible process.”
Northlife also values the community outside of their church walls by supporting a variety of global missionaries and local partnerships, some of which include: The Needs Ministry at The Rock, Milestone Senior Living Center, the St Germain Chamber of Commerce, and the World Championship Derby Complex. “Loving Service” is one of their core values defined as, “a community of believers loving their neighbors and caring for one another with joy.”
The pastoral and support staff invite everyone to join them on Sunday mornings at their St Germain Campus for an 8:30 AM or 10:15 AM service located at 6065 Hwy 70 in St Germain or their Rhinelander Campus on Sunday mornings at their 10:00 AM service located at 903 Boyce Dr in Rhinelander. “Whether it is your first time in a church, the first time in a long time, or you are searching for a church home, we would love to connect with you,” Kim Haas, Communications Director.