In the spring of 1979, three couples began to share the vision which would eventually become Lakeland Church. They were involved in North Shore Bible Chapel in Zion, IL, which at the time was looking into relocating. In the process they had studied Gurnee, finding it evident that it was a town with a bright future. Great America had just been built, other industry was moving in, and the town of about 3,000 was expected to hit 20,000 within the next few years. At that time, there were no churches in Gurnee committed to Scripture and evangelism within the community.
North Shore Bible Chapel decided not to make a move of that distance but gave the couples involved their blessing to leave the church and start a new work in Gurnee. It was decided that they would prayerfully wait for ten families to show a commitment to the new church before proceeding. By July 1 of 1979, that basic core group had come together and Lakeland Bible Fellowship had its first meeting on Sunday Morning at the Gurnee Grade School.
The members decided that new church would be an independent body focused on two things: the expository teaching of Scripture and an excellent program of instruction for children. Initially, the church was guided by a steering committee and the preaching was done by local Bible school and seminary faculty. By the end of the first year, the Lord blessed the church with a group of elders recognized to lead the congregation.
During these early years, more and more of the people coming into the church shared the common background of a Christian group known as the Plymouth Brethren. Over time the church began to take on more of the flavor of the group, though never choosing to officially adopt that identity.
By 1982, the congregation was growing and began to look into the possibility of purchasing a property. At that time, after extensive searching and study of the village plans, the church decided to purchase five acres on Hunt Club Road. In the summer of 1983, ground was broken for the first building. The congregation was thankful for a very favorable loan which had been given by the Steward's Foundation to allow a small group like Lakeland to build at that time. The first service in the building was held in December of 1984. Later that year, a number of questions came concerning Lakeland’s identity: Was it an independent church or a Plymouth Brethren Assembly? At the same time several of the key leaders from the congregation moved from the area. The leadership decided to call a full time worker to fill a pastoral role.
Late in the summer of 1985, Doug and Kay Halsne visited the church. Doug served as the Senior Pastor from that time until February of 2000. It also became evident that the church needed greater stability than it had as an independent church and after careful investigation, the church body decided to apply for membership in the Evangelical Free Church of America.
In the time that followed, the church saw a number come to faith in Christ, be baptized and continue to grow in their faith, and was been able to have an increasing impact on its community. A further addition to the staff came in 1986, when Dan Weyerhaeuser visited the church with his future wife Lisa. Dan became the full-time Associate Pastor for Youth Ministries and together with Lisa served the youth, not only for the church but also for the larger community, until the fall of 1999.
By 1995, the congregation had filled the first building beyond capacity. The leadership at the time believed the Lord’s leading included a move to a local Grade School for Sunday services to give space enough for the congregation to continue to grow as they prepared to build the current facility. This move lasted three years and was a rich time of continued growth, both spiritually and numerically. In the fall of 1998, the current facility was completed, incorporating portions of the old building, but adding a new sanctuary, a gym, and a great deal of classroom space.
In January of 2000, after 15 years of God-honoring service to Lakeland, Doug accepted a call to join the staff of a large Evangelical Free Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Dan was asked to step into an interim role as Sr. Pastor, and then in July of 2000 was called by the congregation to serve permanently in that capacity.
In 2009, Lakeland celebrated it’s 30-year anniversary with an initiative called “30/30 Vision: Exalting Christ, Transforming Generations,” a capital campaign to renovate and expand the church building and to purchase a larger property for future ministry. Within two years, the renovations were completed and a 28-acre plot of land in Grayslake, IL was purchased.
Throughout the course of Lakeland’s history, the Lord has drawn many people to innumerable encounters with Himself through Lakeland. Yet for all the growth and change that God has brought, His church has remained solidly anchored in the unchanging values upon which it was founded, and has continued its mission to “worship God in all things and share Him with all people.”