Welcome to First
For the past 15 years, Pastor Byars has been a part of First Baptist Church. Initially hired as the Worship Pastor, then the Senior Associate Pastor, he is now serving as Lead Pastor. Phil is originally from Northern California - near San Francisco. "Go 49ers!" Pastor Phil has a BA in Pastoral Ministries from Denver Baptist Bible College and also carries a certification from the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors. He and his wife Robin have been married for 30 years and have three children. Amber, the couple's oldest, is married to Gavin Wilkinson. They have given them two grandchildren, Audrey & Reagan. Their middle child, James, lives in Elkhart and is married to Angela. Their youngest daughter, Amanda, is married to Davey Blackburn and they recently had their first child, Weston. So what does Pastor Phil love about FBC? "My favorite thing about FBC, besides the drive into the campus, is the relentless pursuit of, and total reliance upon the truth of God's Word."
Pastor John Blodgett served as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church from August of 1993 through August of 2014. He now serves in a mentoring role as Pastor Emeritus. John believes God very clearly led him and his family to FBC after being contacted about the ministry of FBC. He and his wife Colleen, who is also involved with a number of ministries, have been married since 1973. John grew up in Wisconsin ("Go Packers") and then was privileged to pastor near his hometown for 10 years. God has blessed them with four children and their spouses: Becky and Tony Tice; Andy and Jenni; Peter and Nikki; and Philip and Martha. John and Colleen are humbled and grateful that all of their children are serving the Lord in some capacity and that He has also graciously given them 13 grandchildren! John graduated from what is now Cornerstone University. He then went on to do his graduate work and earned masters and doctorate degrees at Trinity Theological Seminary. He loves the people of FBC. He says, "They have blessed me in so many ways as we have grown together in Christ."
God led Jeff and his wife, Peggy, to FBC in 2010, having served in lay ministry for over 30 years. Residing in Michigan (Go Blue!), Jeff earned a Bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University, majoring in Sociology. He joins the staff at FBC as Executive Pastor after a 34 year career in banking, managing multiple offices. Jeff has used his business leadership gifts in the church and community, serving on and chairing non-profit organizations and civic groups, including his hometown school board. Their oldest son, Ryan, graduated from Liberty University and is managing a banking center in Lynchburg. Adam, their youngest, is married to April, a PK. Residing in Kalamazoo, they are the parents of little Nolan Ryder. Jeff, having a heart for people, continues to marvel at how God has called him and prepared him to serve as Executive Pastor. Two of his favorite things about FBC are the standard of excellence and the warmth of the people.
Dave's hometown is Cedar Falls, Iowa. His parents, Richard and Ruth Hills, had six children. He is the baby. After graduating from high school, Dave attended the University of Northern Iowa where he graduated with a Bachelor's degree in General Science (Pre-Med) in 1982. While attending Northern Iowa, Dave met a wonderful girl named Susan Vonderheide. They were married on August 27, 1983. During his college years God began re-directing Dave's desires away from medicine and toward ministry. Ultimately that led Dave and Sue to move to Winona Lake, Indiana so Dave could pursue an M.Div degree from Grace Theological Seminary. Shortly after moving to Winona Lake, Dave and Sue learned that their pastor from Cedar Falls, David Graham, had accepted the Senior Pastor position at First Baptist Church in Elkhart. Excited about the opportunity to again be a part of Pastor Graham's ministry, Dave and Sue joined FBC and made the commute twice a week. After graduating from Grace in 1989, Dave was invited to join the staff as Pastor of Children's Ministries. He began on September 10, 1989.....and he's still here. Since 2000 he has been serving as the Pastor of Adult Discipleship. God has blessed Dave and Sue with three incredible children, Nicole, Nathan and Austin. Nicole is teaching English and Spanish for ELIC at Nanjing University of Science and Technology in Nanjing, China. Nathan is a sales representative for AT&T in Elkhart. Austin is pursuing an athletic training degree from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.
God called Matt and his family to move to Indiana from Texas to serve as Worship Pastor of FBC, where he began his ministry on August 1, 2011. Matt and Shari have been married since 1996 and are blessed to have three wonderful children: Michael, Keely, and Beau! Matt grew up living all over the country but calls South Carolina (Matt's family) and Texas (Shari's family) home. Matt graduated from Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas. Pastor Cox has really enjoyed getting to know the wonderful people of FBC. Matt's prayer is for all people to genuinely worship the Lord with gladness and total surrender.
Spanish Ministries Pastor
Pastor Collio and his family arrived at FBC on November 2, 2006 when Francisco and his wife, Lisa were invited to be part of the Spanish Ministry of First Baptist Church. Pastor Collio is Chilean and on May 20th, 2011, he proudly became a U.S. citizen! The couple have two children, Amy (6) and Nathan (4). Francisco is an electrician by profession and had his own company in Chile. From 1999-2001 he studied Theology at Word of Life Argentina. The next two years were spent shadowing his Pastor as he pursued ministry. On December 14, 2003, his hard work paid off as he was ordained to the ministry by the local church and Word of Life. In his spare time, Pastor loves watching TV series with his wife, playing with his kids and spending time with friends. He enjoys playing and watching soccer matches. He also likes to barbecue at home.
Ann Lehman has enjoyed almost 20 years at FBC. She first came to do a youth ministry internship under Dwight Peterson. You can catch her hanging around the newborns and crawlers on Sunday mornings and interacting with the large volunteer nursery staff which she directs. Ann is happily married to Tim, who is also actively involved at FBC. The couple have two children, Grant and Jenna. Originally from Hudson, MI, Ann attended the Word of Life Bible Institute '89 - '90 and studied Psychology/Behavioral Science at Cedarville University until 1993. Ann's favorites about FBC are hearing Truth, corporate worship, intimate fellowship and of course, the babies!
Originally from Philipsburg, PA, Cindy Thornton eventually made her way to Elkhart to join First Baptist Church after meeting her husband Alan, who was raised at FBC. Cindy has been a part of First Baptist for 30 years and on staff for 17. Their children are Jessica and son-in-law Adam Cotti, Tyler Thornton and daughter-in-law Mackenzie, Preston Thornton and Mackenzie Thornton. Yes, they have two Mackenzie Thorntons! Cindy holds a bachelor's degree in Youth Ministry from Liberty University. Cindy appreciates the high priority the Children's and Youth Ministries have at FBC. She also likes the diversity we have in our congregation.
The importance of Bible-based teaching brought Cindy Skaggs to FBC 12 years ago. A native of Elkhart, Cindy and her husband Brad, who is also very involved in the childrens' ministry, have three children: Tori (13), Shealey (12), and Travis (10). Cindy earned her Bachelor of Science in Industrial Psychology with a minor in Business from Liberty University. The Bible-based teaching, meaningful praise and worship time, and the wonderful friendships are Cindy's favorite aspects of FBC.
Youth Worship Arts Director
David joined the First Baptist family in June of 2011 following his marriage to his college sweetheart, Brooke. He credits God and Jed Long for introducing him to the Elkhart area and FBC. Originally from South Carolina, David earned his B.A. in Worship Arts from Cedarville University in Ohio. So what does he like most about FBC? "Getting real with kids during the week and watching God turn lives around. Oh, and office birthday parties!"
Women's Counseling Director
Deanna Doctor joined the FBC staff 6 years ago as the part-time Women's Counseling Director. Deanna's hometown is Alston, MI. She was born in the Upper Peninsula of MI and didn't leave there until after graduating from college. While at Northland International University, she earned a B.S. in Elementary Education. Deanna also has a Certification in Biblical Counseling through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Deanna and her husband have been married for 20 years and have two daughters,16-year-old Linnaya and 13-year-old Alece. Her favorite thing about being at FBC is "having a front row seat to the amazing power of our God at work in changing people's lives and freeing them from their sinful patterns, habits, and practices!"