When I think of the legacy of the Wonder Lake Bible Church, I think of the faithfulness to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word that began as a Sunday School ministry for children in April, 1945. Wonder Lake residents Mr. and Mrs. Morris Ness brought a group of six children into their living room to teach them about the Gospel and so the Wonder Lake Gospel Center was born. Soon, Mr. Ness enlisted the support of several Christian friends and they began to gather young and old on Sunday afternoons. At that time there was no church of any kind in this small vacation community. Their aim and purpose were to establish a non-denominational, biblical outreach for the people of Wonder Lake.
After the Ness family moved away, God’s work continued in the home that had been theirs. Eventually, more room was needed, so the partitions were removed until the entire front of the house was the sanctuary. As it grew into a full-service church, the basement was made into Sunday school rooms, and the back portion of the house became the parsonage. That building is still in existence today, now known as Justen Funeral Home on Hancock Drive. They had their first worship service 75 years ago on Palm Sunday, 1947. The founding Pastor was Frank W. Anderson and the name was changed to Wonder Lake Gospel Church.
After Pastor Anderson retired with eye problems in 1955, the church called Richard N. Wright from Muskegon, MI, a recent graduate of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Pastor Wright’s first sermon was on Mother’s Day and they hired him within a week. He served from 1955 until 1981 and the church was renamed Wonder Lake Bible Church. As the church grew, it became necessary to build a new building. Property was purchased on Howe Rd at the North end of the lake and the new building was completed and formally dedicated in 1971. After Pastor Wright retired in 1982, Merle D. Conklin was called from Moody Bible Institute. I think I see a pattern here and that is how the church got its middle name. Pastor Conklin served faithfully until 2000.
A family center and new lobby and restrooms were added in the Mid 90’s. The new addition provided much needed space for a growing AWANA program for community children. Some of the funds came from money donated to the church from the Genoa City Bible Church when it closed its doors in the late 80’s.
In the year 2000, WLBC began a search for a new pastor, eventually hiring Daniel E. Cox, another graduate from the Moody Bible Institute with a Master’s degree from Trinity Seminary. Pastor Dan, as he is known in the church and community, also serves as chaplain of the Wonder Lake Fire Department.
A new electronic sign was dedicated in October 2014 to replace the original sign which welcomed the community for over 40 years. In 2019, a much-needed kitchen remodel was finally realized after years of planning and the Lord unexpectedly provided the necessary funds through the very generous donation of a local contractor. The Covid pandemic forced the church to go online with church services for a season, but through it all, the Lord provided. A link to the live Sunday services is now available through the church website. The church will be celebrating their 75th anniversary this Palm Sunday at 10:15.
Over the years there have been many changes and challenges, but for 75 years God has proven Himself faithful in this little country church in Wonder Lake. May God continue to bless our community through the Wonder Lake Bible Church for many years to come, until our Lord comes again in glory. Happy Anniversary WLBC!