Pastor Brad Eckerley is approaching 30 years of marriage to his wife, Natasha. Together they have raised 3 boys, one of whom brought a daughter into their family by marriage.
As the church was planted in March 2020, Pastor Brad worked full-time in management up until the end of September 2021. He then took a part-time role as an academic advisor with Grace Theological Seminary at Winona Lake as he transitioned into full-time ministry beginning in July 2022. He has remained with Grace as a faculty instructor within their Deploy program, teaching MDiv/MA classes in both church leadership and intercultural studies.
He has been greatly impacted by Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God. He tries to absorb anything associated with the ministry of 9Marks. He values Biblical counseling. He appreciates the Puritans. And he believes the Bible is sufficient in providing all that we need to know while allowing God to be God in the things we do not yet understand.
Pastor Brad has a ThM (Master of Theology) from Southern Seminary (with a focus on expository preaching), an MDiv (Master of Divinity) from Asbury Theological Seminary, and an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Purdue University. He has 14 years of pastoring experience, 15 years of industrial experience, and 35 years of farming experience helping on his Dad's farm. He enjoys gardening, smoking dinner, making homemade ice cream, reading, being with his family, and talking with anyone in need of help and wanting to grow regardless of where they may be. He recently took on a role of coaching other church planters.
Natasha was a stay-at-home mother until their youngest son was old enough to go to school. She was a public school teacher with Peru Community Schools for 15 years up through May 2022, most of those years with the high ability students in sixth grade. You will often find Natasha filling in the gaps and doing anything that needs to be done with the church. She engages. She teaches. She counsels. She is willing to be used in any sermon illustration as long as it helps the cause. Her transition out of teaching into a role as quote clerk with Ford Meter Box has given her more time to be involved with ministry. She is very invested, and she loves her church family very well. She is a tremendous help to her husband and to her church. Natasha is also training to be a coach of church planting wives, and she is taking on a leading role with spousal care across the state.
Here is some history concerning what led to the church plant...
I (Brad Eckerley) and my wife Natasha are excited to experience what God is doing because of how He has led us to this time and place. For I resigned from full-time, fruitful ministry in Roann in September 2018 after a twelve year stint, and while we were asked to consider other full-time ministry opportunities in the area (including starting a church), Natasha and I were very unsettled with the opportunities. I accepted an offer to return to industrial work while seeking to be open to the Lord's leading.
For the next 15 months we were blessed to be a part of a home Sunday night Bible-study where we were encouraged and challenged on a weekly basis as we shared leadership and worked our way through several books of the Bible. Meanwhile, on Sunday mornings we visited church after church attempting to find a fit, and we found ourselves becoming increasingly concerned for our local community. After attempting to make contact throughout the year with the existing SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) church in Peru, we finally made contact and were able to visit the church - only to hear it announced they would be voting to close their fellowship the following Sunday. The conversation that morning as we drove home was in resignation that perhaps feeling restless was not wrong...but exactly the place where the Lord wanted us to be. We embraced the restlessness and continued praying for the Lord's leading.
Our visit with the Peru SBC would soon lead to an inquiry from a pastor in Tipton via a Facebook message. It was an inquiry that was ignored for a while. However, when I finally responded, the pastor from Tipton was insistent that we meet. It was not until we had lunch at a Subway in Kokomo that he learned I was a pastor, and I found a man and a ministry with whom we had common values and a shared calling. I was eventually asked to meet a member of the NAMB (North American Mission Board), and the four of us had supper on a Monday night in our home. In those two hours a restless journey began to make sense, we were made aware of a support system that wanted to come around our biblical values for ministry, and we were more encouraged than ever to jump back into pastoral ministry. It became so clear that we were talking to men representing a ministry who cared more about God's Kingdom than they did their own. Before they got out the door, we said "yes" to something I had said I would never do - be a church planter.
You can certainly know when God is at work, and it is just amazing how God can orchestrate events and channel the heart. Before the end of the week, we were approached by two separate families who were unaware of these events. One asked if we would consider planting a church, and the other was seeking a church to attend. And along the way we have already been blessed by others who were either seeking or waiting. Yes, God is so good! It is amazing what God can do when we wait on Him. The journey can be troubling and certainly unsettling at times, but when you look back you can certainly see His hand. So, regardless of how hard church planting can be, we are excited to see what God will do next. We would like for you to come and be a part!!