In the early 1990's the fourteen original members who had been meeting in homes for Bible study and prayer decided to plant a church that adhered to biblical teaching. Pastor Wayne Kirk suggested they contact Rev. Wes Johnson of the Evangelical Free Church of America. Rev. Johnson and associates from the EFC met with the fourteen original members to explain Evangelical Free Church doctrine. Convinced that the denomination was true to the Bible, the fourteen original members decided to plant an Evangelical Free Church in Ottawa.
Under the guidance of Wes Johnson and Ivan York, of the EFC, the Illinois Valley Evangelical Free Church held its first service on April 5, 1992, at the Ottawa YMCA. Each member gave their personal testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. They chose a name, filed incorporation papers, and adopted the constitution and bylaws.
Various professors from Trinity Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois, including Curtis Foss, Dr. John Feinberg, Dr. Paul Feinberg, Dr. Tom Nettles, Dr. Calvin Hanson, Dr. Nigal Cameron, and Dr. Barry Beitzel filled the pulpit each Sunday.
In June of 1992, Rev. Wayne Kirk answered the call to become the pastor. Shortly thereafter, the church outgrew their meeting space at the YMCA and moved to the TV35 Christian Television station on Stevenson Road, Ottawa. Sunday School classes for various ages began. In June, 1993, they installed a platform and podium and added mission items to the budget.
By March, 1994, they outgrew the TV35 meeting space, procured a loan and purchased the former Knights of Columbus Building at 215 West Washington Street. The building had at an earlier time been a Nazarene Church. During the remodeling process, services were held in the basement.
Various members and friends of the church assisted in remodeling the building, removing the chandelier from the sanctuary, expanding the stage, and building a children’s room. The existing stage was expanded and carpeted, the balcony closed off, new doors installed, walls repaired and painted, and sound cables run to a new sound room. The bar was removed from the basement, the kitchen updated, two stoves purchased, and a kitchen island installed.
Bible studies continued and the congregation grew in number.
In 1995, Pastor Kirk answered a call to another church and Mike Shields, a member of the church who was an ordained minister, agreed to be the interim pastor.
In 1996, Pastor Shields left to answer a call to enter the ministry full time at another church. Rev. Jeff Reed was called to become the new pastor. Under his direction, the church developed a value statement, a mission statement, and a vision statement, as the church continued to grow. Many improvements were made to the building, including a new roof, a new sign on the outside of the building, a new ceiling in the sanctuary. Nursery walls were installed and an office was built, which later became the church library.
More mission projects were added to the budget and an outreach effort begun. The Church purchased musical instruments and sound equipment, installed a dehumidifier in the basement and converted an unused area to a high school and youth room. Small group sessions were begun. A divorce care program was started and a Tuesday night prayer meeting began.
In April of 2001, Pastor Reed answered a call elsewhere and Pastor Ron Ayers was called to serve as Interim Pastor. Pastor Ayers served until March of 2002, and Pastor Don Hockmuth was called as Interim Pastor.
Pastor Tim Underwood answered the call to the church in July of 2002. Under his leadership, the church did extensive remodeling, began a children’s ministry called KidStreet and small group studies were reestablished. A game room for the youth was completed, along with other building projects, as young families began to attend.
Along with expository preaching through First Corinthians, Hebrews, Romans, Revelation and Ephesians, Pastor Underwood has emphasized Bible memorization and composes Scripture songs which are available on CDs and can be listened from this website.
In November of 2014, IVEFC combined resources with another congregation from the Ottawa area. The new shared location was the Faith Lutheran Church Building at 1611 Adams Street in Ottawa. In the summer of 2015 Faith Lutheran Church's members agreed to sell the building and property on Adams Street to Illinois Valley Evangelical Free Church. In October of 2015, IVEFC sold the Washington Street building and purchased the 1611 Adams Street property.
The church in our new location continues on in a variety of ministries including a number of small groups. One of our current emphases is to develop our overall discipling ministry-to sharpen it and help each of our current church family members consciously work on specific areas in their relationship with Christ.