Pawnee Christian Church

Pawnee Christian Church Celebrates 50 Years

By Cindy Ladage

The Pawnee Christian Church is tucked into the southside of town. Located at 1200 Rutledge
Street, the church has a big event coming up. June of 2024 the community celebrates 50 years
since the establishment of the Pawnee Christian Church.

Pastor David Swihart and founding members Sandy and Stan Likes shared a bit about the history
and the vision of the church. Patterned after the church described in the New Testament, the
church formed from a group of local members that were active in the Auburn Christian Church.

Pastor Swihart encouraged members and locals alike to help them celebrate this half century
milestone! “We will be celebrating with a blow-up water slide, food, games, and fun for all ages
on Saturday, June 15th from 4-8 PM. We will also be celebrating Sunday, June 16th after
worship (approximately 11:30) with a barbecue potluck and games.”

The food will be cooked by the talented congregation member Vernon Brown.

Pastor Swihart’s story

“I am originally from Morris, Illinois, and went to Lincoln Christian College and Seminary in
2001,” Pastor Swihart said. After achieving his undergraduate degree, he returned for his Master
of Divinity degree in 2012.

Over the years, Pastor Swihart has served as a minister at congregations in Rochelle, Minonk,
and Springfield, Illinois where he was the First Church of God Youth Minister. Pastor has a
well-rounded background with years serving at the Washington Street Mission. While working at
the Mission, he was also the Pastor for a congregation in Tuscola, Illinois which ended about one
year before he got the call to come to Pawnee. “I came here in September of 2023,” he shared.

Pastor Swihart and his wife Liz have two children, Ellise, a Senior at Kansas State University,
and son Sam, a 7th grader in Springfield where they reside.

One wonderful aspect Pastor Swihart has is business experience as well as pastoral. “I also run a
business, Next Steps Coaching LLC. We do business development and training. I work with
individuals, teams, leadership and more.”

Stan Likes, retired science teacher at Pawnee High School who encourages everyone to have a
personal relationship with Jesus, shared about Pastor Swihart, “Dave, his wife Liz, and son Sam
are involved in the congregation, and we deeply appreciate it.”

Both Stan and his wife Sandy Likes were impressed by Pastor Swihart’s message to the Pawnee
Christian Church congregation to share God’s Word. He encourages his members to, “Get out
into the community.”

Pastor Swihart is known for his bow ties. Sandy Likes, who served as a business teacher at
Pawnee High, said Pastor Swihart’s fashion sense has even encouraged one young man to
emulate him. He has started wearing bow ties in church as well!

Pawnee Christian Church Opportunities

“Our mission is to become a prayer-formed community,” Pastor Swihart said. “I believe
everything starts and ends with prayer.”

He emphasized that through prayer the church can work with and impact the community. Inside
the church, there is a prayer wall where prayers can be tacked to a “tree branch” for a loved one,
or one needing prayer support. From this prayer tree, everyone prays for that individual.

Sunday services are offered Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m., and if you can’t make it to the
church, they also offer livestream services on Facebook Live. So that congregants can follow
along before, during, and after the service Pastor Swihart has created a Sermon Journal, that can
serve as a daily devotion.

Besides Pastor Swihart being on board, his wife Liz serves as the youth minister, “She does
youth services on Wednesdays. Every week they are working through the Big God story, where
a symbol accompanies each story, and the youth 6-12th grade draw along with the message,
“Pastor Swihart said.

Meg Hoff, who provides the Worship Ministry, is another integral member of the staff of the
Pawnee Christian Church. “Meg has been here for ten years. She arrived right after college. She
is a very good vocalist, easy to sing with,” Pastor Swihart added.

Pastor Swihart likes to combine the artistic talents of others with services like in a recent Easter
service where artist Sharolyn Bradley painted a picture depicting the message “For the World”
during the service. Besides helping at church, Sharolyn also offers painting classes at the
Pawnee Public Library as well.

Sandy Likes added the church also pairs during May and November with the Pawnee Food
Pantry helping during these two months. They will be involved at the Pawnee Prairie Days and
are active in the Pawnee Community.

Church History

“This church started originally in our back yards and homes,” Sandy Likes said. The
congregation were members of the Auburn Christian Church and their minister at the time did a
sermon on starting a church where you live. That message kicked off the beginnings of the
Pawnee Christian Church.

“The Pawnee Christian Church came into existence by the leading of the Holy Spirit and the
vision of a small group of dedicated Christians…” they share in their History of the Pawnee
Christian Church.

In the spring of 1973, a Bible Study and prayer group was established, as Sandy said in homes of
the individuals. A Vacation Bible School in June of 1973, helped introduce the church to the
community, and in 1974, a planning meeting was held. Services were first at the Pawnee High
School where they rented rooms for Sunday morning and Sunday evening worship services.

Brother Michael Pierce, a junior at the Lincoln Christian College served as the first part time
evangelist for the congregation until he graduated in 1975. A revival where the United
Community Bank now stands brought many new members into the congregation.

Land was purchased for the church in September of 1975, and the first section of the building
was built. Pastor John Henderson, an elder at the West Side Christian Church served as a part
time minister starting in July of 1976. The new building was completed in 1978, then, in the
early 2000’s, the congregants added on a new wing, with congregation members doing most of
the work, and member Vernon Brown made the building plans for the Fellowship Hall addition. 

The Pawnee Christian Church Today

Today, the church is celebrating fifty years of serving the Pawnee Community, and they look
forward to sharing the Word of God through the next fifty as well! To contact the church, check
them out on Facebook, or call (217) 646-8062, or email