Celebration Banquet 2022 Recap

“This is the best Celebration Banquet we’ve ever been to!” That’s the feedback I heard from countless attendees of the Converge MidAmerica | Southeast | Caribbean Celebration Banquet this year. Now, maybe that’s because we haven’t gathered in person for the banquet since 2019 due to the pandemic. However, I actually do agree with them: this year’s Celebration Banquet was the best one I’ve ever been to. In fact, there were so many things to celebrate together, that we made the decision to forgo a keynote speaker and focus on sharing all that God has done in our midst in the last two years.  We maxed out our capacity with 490 people.  While many from the Chicagoland area were there, we had people travel from 8 states and from the Virgin Islands to attend. And the attendees hailed from more than 64 churches in our district, which made our gathering a diverse variety of Christ followers who came from every kind of church context.

During the Celebration Banquet presentation, we shared that 20 Together Groups in 7 states have been meeting regularly, made up of over 200 pastors within our district. We also stated that 69 existing churches have joined our district to affiliate with Converge, and the ongoing ministry in Haiti and the Dominican Republic has seen 268 believers baptized in 2022 so far. Finally, since our last banquet, we have deployed 30 new church planters and awarded $642,100 in Church Planting matching grants. As we worshiped, ate and listened together, it was clear that the Lord is moving in great and powerful ways within our districts and among each other.

We hold a Celebration Banquet every year to give glory to God for all that’s happening within our churches. But it’s also a time for us to raise additional funding for this mission. This year, the extra funds are earmarked for Church Planting grants and Haitian and Cuban Church Planting efforts. So far, the Celebration Banquet has raised $158,000 and we hope to raise $200,000. If you or your church haven’t given toward this banquet offering and would like to give, please click below to donate.

The prevailing pastor award is given to pastors who have pastored a single congregation for over 20 years. This year’s recipients included Mark Albrecht of Northbridge Church in Antioch, IL, Jessy Padilla of Iglesia Emanuel in Waukegan, IL, Delbert Thompson of Bethel Baptist Church of Marion Oaks, Ocala, FL, Will Washington Woods of Altona Baptist Church in St. Croix, VI, Anthony Tyler of Higher Ground Community Church in Calumet City, IL awarded posthumously and accepted by his widow Marlene Tyler and daughters, and others.
Danny Parmelee shared that even in the midst of pandemic, we have had a record breaking number of church planters deployed. We are going to shift gears into an initiative called Home Grown, in which we will focus our efforts in raising up church planters from within our congregations.
Roberto Launched Casa Church in Memphis, TN on September 12 of 2021. Danny Flores is Roberto’s coach, and he helped translate as Roberto shared with us about how their church is growing. Roberto also shared an amazing story about a drug dealer and gang member who turned their life to Christ in his church.
Our Vice President of Church Strengthening, Bryan Moak, gave remarks about our Together Groups, as well as about the 99 recipients of the Minister’s Assistance Program, 40 completed NCD Assessments and 11 pastors placed into Converge Churches since our last banquet.
Robert Gentry, Pastor of High Hill Christian Church in High Hill Missouri, gave testimony about the remarkable healing and growth of his church after a difficult season of stagnancy and pastoral transition.
Ernie Cabrera, our VP of Church Partnerships, shared that 69 existing churches have joined our district to affiliate with Converge, and the ongoing ministry in Haiti and the Dominican Republic has seen 268 believers baptized in 2022 so far.
Mardochée Bellerice of The Ark Church in West Palm Beach, FL, shares his testimony of joining Converge Southeast and the benefits he has seen through partnership with our districts.
This year’s Celebration Banquet worship team, led by Abram Delgado, offered a powerful time of corporate worship that was both enthusiastic and reflective.

Here are a few more images from this year’s Celebration Banquet. Remember, it’s not too late to make a financial contribution to help us close the gap in meeting our goal!

Forty-Two Years of Grace: Finishing the Pastorate Well in Rural America

This article was written by Rob Nash, a Pastor at Sawyer Highlands Church.

In 1852

● There were thirty-one states in the Union

● Peter Roget’s first thesaurus came in print

● Uncle Sam debuted as a cartoon

● Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin

● Calamity Jane was born

● And Centreville Baptist church opened its doors


One hundred seventy years later, Pastor Dave Peterson will be retiring as the longest-serving pastor at the Centreville Baptist Church. He holds the record tenure with forty-two years of service.

When the Apostle Paul was facing the end of his ministry, he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 2:7). From all accounts, by God’s grace, Dave has done that.


In 1979, Dave graduated with a Masters of Divinity from Bethel College and Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. While studying, he served as a youth pastor and then as an associate pastor. Not too long after graduation, he applied to be the pastor of Centreville Baptist Church. At the time, Centreville had a booming population of 1200. The job came with a parsonage and a modest salary.

Dave interviewed, they offered him the position, and he accepted. He thought he would stick around for a couple of years and move on like the thirty-nine other pastors who preceded him. God had different plans. Dave and his growing family fell in love with the church and town. His wife began working for the library. Outside of his church engagement, he taught at Glen Oaks Community College, volunteered on the school board, and served on the Nottawa Township library board. Later, he became the president of each. After decades of service, he retired from those positions only to be asked to run for the Nottawa township supervisor. He did and won and continues to serve his town faithfully. He is a community leader, pointing people to Jesus wherever he goes. Dave is a shepherd through and through.


Vickie and Carl Davis have attended Centreville Baptist for thirty-two years. Vickie said, “He is a great speaker, teacher, and caring friend.” She recalled, “One time, a bat came down from the belfry and flew around during the service. It was flying right at Dave as he preached. We have a pulpit that sits up higher than everyone. So, Dave was the bat’s prime target. Dave would sway one way and then another as the bat flew at him. But, he just kept on preaching,” That is the kind of pastor Dave has been. He keeps on keeping on, no matter what comes at him.

Mike Eley has known Dave for thirty-eight years. In his mortuary business, he has relied on Dave to help families in crisis and heartache. “He was very good at getting to know someone [who has passed away] through their family and providing [them] a meaningful funeral service… Most pastors are willing to fill the role [of doing a service for a non-church person]. But they all don’t have the knack to make the funeral about the person.” Dave did. He did because he knew his Bible, related to people, and took the time.

Rodney Chupp, who worked with Dave on the School board for about eight years, said, “James 1:19 tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. That verse embodied Dave’s service to the school… Everything is pressure-packed these days. You want to get someone riled up, tell them something about their kids.” With Dave on the school board, “People felt heard. He had a real calming effect.”

It has been said that behind every great pastor is a greater spouse. Dave’s wife is no exception. Karen “is a jewel. She has a passion for the needy and underprivileged and the unborn. Her love for the unloved goes so deep,” says Dan Peterson, Executive Minister Emeritus for Converge MidAtlantic and the older brother of Dave.


Gary Rohrmayer, President of Converge MidAmerica, once said, “You celebrate what you care about.” We want to recognize what God has done through Dave. It is extraordinary. We need to hear more stories like Dave’s.

A majority of pastors don’t stick around for forty-two years. LifeWay research published the statistic that, “The average pastoral tenure in a church is 3.6 years.” In addition, Barna’s research recently revealed that thirty-eight percent of pastors have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year.

Dave’s longevity and success have not been because ministry came easy. He has taken his lumps along with the joys of conversions, baptisms, weddings, and church growth. People have left, passed away, and hurt others and him. Finances have been tight. He had to approach his board about needing to work outside of the church to supplement his income early on. Yet, God has been faithful and blessed him, his church, and his community, all the while. Ultimately, God deserves the credit.


Join us in thanking God for Dave, his family, and his church. Let us pray that God will help us persevere and remain faithful for the long haul. Pray also that God would bring a pastor to bless this rural community so that another couple of generations would come to know the love of Christ.

Why Participate in an NCD?

My name is Gary Ricci and I am the pastor of New Hope Christian Community Church. Our church was planted in 2009 in Round Lake, Illinois. I was the associate pastor of another church in a nearby town but often came into Round Lake. At the time, Round Lake had 50,000 people, no churches, and was a working middle-class city with a strong Latino presence. God called my family to serve there, and after the assessment and fundraising process, we launched in October 2009. The church has been focused on reaching our diverse community, serving the felt needs of our neighbors, and raising leaders to reach towns like ours. We have since grown to a substantial size, own a building in the heart of town, and are involved in various church planting efforts and mission works. I am the original church planter, currently serving in my 13th year as senior pastor.

Our church recently conducted an NCD (Natural Church Development), an assessment of your church’s health based on an international study of 1,000 churches in 32 countries that discovered principles of church health that are universally valid across cultures. The research findings confirmed eight quality characteristics, or eight systems, that keep a church engaged in God’s mission in a healthy manner. We felt that an NCD would be beneficial because we had hit a stopping place in our growth and were struggling to figure out our next steps in hiring and strategy. It was recommended to us by Converge. I had read the book about NCD and was somewhat familiar with it from my previous church.

The first NCD we did showed us that we lacked effective structures. At that point, we were 18 months old and had grown from our 30-person launch team to a group of about 120. Our systems of communication, pastoral care, and finances were particularly stretched. This led to us hiring our first administrator and developing a more cohesive financial team. It also gave me back 10-15 hours a week to focus on outreach and discipleship. Within six months, our church started to grow again. Two years later, we repeated the NCD process, which led to us hiring a worship director and a full-time administrator. Each cycle removed a blockade for growth for us and we grew from 120 to over 350. Our decision to conduct an NCD was worth it, not just because of the successful changes we made, but the confidence it gave us in our decision making. We now knew why we were making the choices we were making. We also learned that we can’t grow deeper or numerically without taking an honest look at how we function. We discovered that there were many “unspoken” things we were all thinking that needed to come to light in order for us to change them.

I would encourage other churches to participate in an NCD because it reflects the truth about what’s happening in your church in areas you might be blind to because of familiarity or history. NCD puts these issues on the table and gives you the language to talk about them and the confidence to take the next steps. I don’t know a church that wouldn’t benefit from it. Churches that take NCD need to remember that it is not a judgment of your church but simply information to help you as you seek God.

You can find out more about Natural Church Development or register for one here.