GARRETT — Josh Ashenfelter began feeling the call to become a pastor a couple years ago, but didn’t see it in his immediate future.
But God had other plans, directing him to lead a local congregation in January.
“When Marcia Weller decided to retire as our Garrett campus pastor after three impactful years of service, I counseled with various members of our Garrett campus to discover what they wanted in a pastor,” said County Line Church of God Senior Pastor Stuart Kruse.
“Combining that list with my own thoughts, we found the perfect fit in Josh Ashenfelter. I am confident, with his passion for Christ and his heart for people, the County Line Garrett Campus will have a positive impact on the Garrett community,” Kruse said.
Ashenfelter previously worked with the nondenominational global organization Bible Study Fellowship for about 10 years and served locally as a leader with the men’s class that meets at Pine Hills Church in Fort Wayne.
He was impressed with the quality of training the organization provided both locally and at national seminars.
“It was very, very good, like classes you would pay for,” he said with a smile.
That experience led him to know his call to become a pastor was not a question of if, but when he might take the next step. That calling became very clear.
Ashenfelter was among recipients of a recruiting email from Kruse seeking a head pastor for the Garrett congregation.
“I stared at the message on my phone and looked up at God and asked, ‘Are you sure about this?’” he said.
While not an audible “yes,” he said it became very clear this was what he was supposed to do right now.
Ashenfelter interviewed for the position with senior leaders at County Line, but the door was not all the way open, he said.
If he didn’t hear the Holy Spirit speak to him directly, he said, his wife was going to intervene.
“I am a big believer God will use our spouse to guide us,” Ashenfelter said.
While at home isolating with one of his children on a Sunday morning, his wife, Cassie, filled his duties as usher at main campus. He had been praying hard about the decision. It was Dec. 6, his 37th birthday.
That night, Cassie told him, “We have to talk.” She came home that day with a clear confirmation that now is the time. He phoned Kruse to accept the position the next morning.
Ashenfelter began his role as Garrett campus pastor on Jan. 10 in addition to his full-time job in outside sales with Hunter Engineering. He and wife, Cassie, a teacher, are the parents of two young daughters.
He grew up at County Line Church of God south of Auburn and, since 2007, has attended the main campus with more than 1,200 attendees on a regular basis.
The smaller satellite congregation in Garrett numbers about 85, with the Auburn site having about 100 attendees.
During Sunday morning services at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. in Garrett, Ashenfelter begins with announcements for the local church and leads in prayer. Following a live-streamed message from Pastor Kruse geared for the Auburn and Garrett congregations, he closes with remarks to apply the message to their everyday lives.
“The Bible is an incredible book because it is so old, it still applies today,” Ashenfelter said. “I don’t question it at all — it is God’s word. Hearing the message is great, but what we need to know is how it applies to our daily life.”
In the coming months, his goal is to complete the renovation of the sanctuary in Garrett so the congregation can move from the gathering room where it now meets.
“We have lots of support from the main campus to keep a connected feel with the other sites. A lot of thought and prayer has gone into this,” he said of the new campuses.
“I am looking forward to working with Josh as pastor of our Garrett campus. His family has been very involved at County Line for many years,” said Mary Ellen Rayle, who serves as County Line Pastor of Church Multiplication.
“I see God’s calling on his life, and I’m impressed by his passion for the people of Garrett and his genuine desire to serve the community,” Rayle added. “I believe Josh and the church family there will continue to expand their reach to others with the hope and purpose that comes from walking with Jesus.”
Ashenfelter’s future plans are to continue training to become an ordained minister, along with his full-time job and growing family.
“I am very much looking forward to working with other churches and growing God’s Kingdom, not ours. That’s the one that really matters,” Ashenfelter said. He also looks forward to going out into the community with various service projects.
Another area is focusing on family issues — in particular with dads — but he is awaiting God’s guidance on what the role will be.
“God sees all the pieces of the puzzle,” maybe like a chess game, “and He is going to be the ultimate winner, so I want to be sure I’m on his team,” he added.
A special observance to officially affirm him as pastor of the County Line Garrett Campus will be held during services Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Kruse will hold a ceremony to acknowledge Ashenfelter’s calling and his pastoral leadership of the Garrett campus. Church leaders and congregational members will offer prayers of commissioning and words of blessing on his ministry.
A nursery will be provided for newborns through age 5, with a kids’ ministry for kindergarten through grade 5, and a midweek service is held on Wednesday nights.
The church is located at 105 W. Sixth Ave., Garrett, in the former Nazarene Church site.