About Northwoods Church

A Brief History

Northwoods Community Church started in 1990 with a vision to reach the 150,000 people in the greater Peoria area who did not have a relationship with Jesus and needed a church home.

Now, more than 25 years later, Northwoods continues to flourish and impacts thousands of lives every week. Originating in Peoria, campuses now serve the communities surrounding Canton, Chillicothe, and Galesburg, with new campuses being established throughout central Illinois. The Online Campus reaches even more people, not only in Illinois but around the world.

For a detailed look at key highlights and milestones in Northwoods history, check out this timeline.

What We Believe

The mission of Northwoods is to invite broken-world people to experience complete freedom in Christ Jesus.

Our strategy is to attract the unchurched by modeling the life of Christ before them, building authentic relationships with them, and offering creative and culturally-sensitive ministries for them; to introduce the unchurched to Christ by personally and corporately engaging them in encounters with God’s truth in an environment of love, acceptance and forgiveness, giving special emphasis to the process rather than the event; and to mature those who come to Christ by training them in the Word of God, teaching them to worship God, empowering them to serve God, and folding them into the community of God.


About God

God is the Creator and Ruler of the universe. He has eternally existed in three personalities: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three are co-equal and are one God.

Genesis 1:1, 26, 27; 3:22; Psalm 90:2; Matthew 28:19; I Peter 1:2

About Man

Man is made in the spiritual image of God, to be like Him in character. He is the supreme object of God’s creation. Although man has tremendous potential for good, he is marred by an attitude of disobedience toward God called “sin.” This attitude separates man from God.

Genesis 1; Psalm 8:3-6; Isaiah 53:6a; 59:1-2; Romans 3:23

About Eternity

Man was created to exist forever. He will either exist eternally separated from God by sin, or in union with God through forgiveness and salvation. To be eternally separated from God is hell. To be eternally in union with Him is eternal life. Heaven and hell are places of eternal existence.

John 3:16; I John 2:25; 5:11-13; Romans 6; Revelation 20:15

About Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is co-equal with the Father. Jesus lived a sinless human life and offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all men by dying on a cross. He arose from the dead after three days to demonstrate His power over sin and death. He ascended to heaven’s glory and will return again to earth to reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Matthew 1:22-23; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-5; 14:10-30; Hebrews 4:1-15; I Corinthians 15:34; Romans 1:3-4; Acts 1:9-11; I Timothy 6:14-15; Titus 2:13

About Salvation

Salvation is a gift from God to man. Man can never make up for his sin by self-improvement or good works. Only by trusting in Jesus Christ as God’s offer of forgiveness can man be saved from sin’s penalty. Eternal life begins the moment one receives Jesus Christ into his life by faith.

Romans 5:1; 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; John14:6; Titus 3:5; Galatians 3:26

About Eternal Security

Because God gives man eternal life through Jesus Christ, the believer is secure in that salvation for eternity. Salvation is maintained by the grace and power of God, not by the self-effort of the Christian. It is the grace and keeping power of God that gives this security.

John 10:29; II Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 7:25; 10:10-14; I Peter 1:3-5

About the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son as God. He is present in the world to make men aware of their need for Jesus Christ. He also lives in every Christian from the moment of salvation. He provides the Christian with power for living, understanding of spiritual truth, and guidance in doing what is right. The Christian seeks to live under His control daily.

II Corinthians 3:17; John 16:7-13; 14:16-17; Acts 1:8; I Corinthians 2:12; 3:1

About the Bible

The Bible is God’s Word to all men. It was written by human authors under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the supreme source of truth for Christian beliefs and living. Because it is inspired by God, it is truth without any mixture of error.

II Timothy 3:16; 1:13; II Peter 1:20-21; Psalm 119:105, 160; 12:6


Evangelistic Heartbeat

We will continue to reach out to broken-world people in an effort to bring them to Christ!  Luke 19:10

Word & Spirit Culture

We will uphold the authority of the Scriptures while pursuing the power of the Spirit!  Matthew 22:29

Forgiveness & Freedom

We will expect those who are forgiven to walk in increasing freedom from bondage!  Luke 4:18-19 

Empowered People

We will equip our people and entrust them with opportunities to serve and lead.  1 Peter 4:10

Grander Vision

We will lead people to live beyond themselves for greater kingdom impact!  Matthew 28:19-20


e4_swooshylogoWe describe the life of a Christ-follower using E4: Encounter, Establish, Equip, and Engage. E4 is about transformation in the life of an individual, with the Church serving as a catalyst for such growth. It’s about being empowered to live a supernatural life.


Encountering Jesus in the fullness of His love and power

Supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ kindles life change in us.


Established in God’s Word and in loving relationships

The Bible grounds us in God’s truth. Relationships with God’s people ground us in love.


Equipped to share the words and do the works of Jesus

Proper training enables us to effectively share the words and do the works of Jesus.


Engaged to take God’s love and power to a needy world

The goal of God’s redemptive work in us is that we might be agents of redemption in our world, taking his love and power to the streets.


Statement on Marriage, Gender, and Sexuality

We believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female. These two distinct, complementary genders together reflect the image and nature of God. (Genesis 1:26–27) Rejection of one's biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person.

We believe that the term "marriage" has only one meaning: the uniting of one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union, as delineated in Scripture. (Genesis 2:18–25) We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to occur between a man and a woman who are married to each other. (1 Corinthians 6:18, 7:2–5; Hebrews 13:4) We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that marriage ceremonies are Christian worship services that celebrate the covenant made between a man and a woman before God.

We believe that any form of sexual immorality (including adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, and use of pornography) is sinful and offensive to God. (Matthew 15:18–20; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10)

We believe that in order to preserve the function and integrity of Northwoods Community Church as the local Body of Christ, and to provide a biblical role model to the Northwoods Community Church members and the community, it is imperative that all persons employed by Northwoods Community Church in any capacity, or who serve as volunteers, agree to and abide by this Statement on Marriage, Gender, and Sexuality. (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:14–16; 1 Thessalonians 5:22)

We believe that God offers redemption and restoration to all who confess and forsake their sin, seeking His mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. (Acts 3:19–21; Romans 10:9–10; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11)

We believe that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity. (Mark 12:28–31; Luke 6:31) Hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual are to be repudiated and are not in accord with Scripture nor the doctrines of Northwoods Community Church.

Our Senior Pastor

Cal Rychener has been Senior Pastor of Northwoods Community Church for our entire history. No description of who we are, where we have been, or where we are going would be complete without knowing more about him. In addition to his love for the local church, Cal has two other great passions. First and foremost is his wife Susan and their children Kathryn & Andy Rogers, Jonathon & Michaela, Victoria & Kody Pinson, and Nathan – plus many grandchildren. Running a distant second is his love for the Green Bay Packers, for whom he has been a guest chaplain. Cal is also the author of two books, Living at a Higher Level of Faith and God Can.


It becomes apparent to those who attend more than one service at Northwoods Community Church is that Senior Pastor Cal Rychener LOVES acrostics, and uses them almost every weekend to easily illustrate the message of Christ in his sermons.  To honor this Biblically-inspired mnemonic instruction method, we hereby present:

The Official CAL RYCHENER Acrostic


Courageously transparent sermons. 

Cal often uses examples of struggles from his life as a Christian man – as a son, brother, husband, father, and friend – to illustrate the loving and forgiving characteristics of God in his sermons.  It’s encouraging to know the guy up there talking to everybody about how to walk in obedience with God is actually walking it, too.

“I live with anyone who is not proud.  I give new life to him.  I give it to anyone who turns away from his sins.” (Isaiah 57:15)

Addicted to Peanut M & M’s.  (Don’t judge. Everyone has a vice.)

In an effort to illustrate his personal struggles with temptation, Cal once showed a video depicting a life-sized Peanut M&M chasing him through the halls of the church.  “Assault of a holy man by a large peanut of candy-coated chocolate fun” is one of the most underreported crimes, according to the Bureau of Fake Statistics.  The investigation of the incident is ongoing!.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:3)

Loves his family.

Cal met his wife Susan when they were both students at Fort Wayne Bible College and they married in 1981.
Cal & Susan are the parents of 5 Christ-loving kids: Kathryn Rogers (wife of Andy & mother of granddaughters Avery & Madelyn); Jonathon (husband of Michaela; father of Arianna), Victoria & Kody Pinson; & Nathan. Their son Christopher went home to Jesus 10 hours after his birth in 1989.

"If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve… as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you walk lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)

Relying on Christ since 3rd grade.

For Cal, feeling awestruck by the righteousness of a loving God was happening as early as 4 years old.  He was baptized when he was 9, and felt directed into ministry by Him at age 17.  Reaching out to unchurched people of Central Illinois, enabling them to become fully devoted followers of God, and building a community of contagious Christ-followers has been his life’s work.

“The word of God is living and active. It is sharper than any sword that has two edges. It cuts deep enough to separate soul from spirit. It can separate joints from bones. It judges the thoughts and purposes of the heart.  Nothing God created is hidden from him. His eyes see everything…. He is Jesus the Son of God. So let us hold firmly to what we say we believe.” (Hebrews 4:12-14)

Yes, Cal is a Green Bay Packers fan.

Obviously, God is a Chicago Bears fan; udderwise, He wouldn’a put dem in Chicago.” Cal’s error in NFL loyalty is overlooked with loving forbearance by his Christian brethren.
Even the Bears fans of Northwoods Community Church find it pretty cool that Cal has served as Guest Chaplain for the Cheesehead locker room.

“I am the Lord. I am slow to get angry. I am full of love. I forgive those who sin.” (Numbers 14:18)

“Now, did God create Da Bears, and make dem superior to all da teams? Or is He simply a huge fan, and Ditka made dem superior to all da udder teams?” -- Bill Swerski, Head SuperFan

College-educated at Fort Wayne Bible College (now Taylor University)

Although the Bible is vague regarding the higher-learning credentials of those called by God (Noah’s dog probably ate his college transcripts on the Ark), it is certain that Cal graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in Pastoral Ministries.  He then attended Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, graduating in 1985 with a Masters in Divinity (M.Div).

“Let wise people listen and add to what they have learned. Let those who understand what is right seek guidance.” (Proverbs 1:5)

He’s in an Athletic Hall of Fame.

In 2011, Cal was inducted into the Fort Wayne Bible College Athletic Hall of Fame for his athletic accomplishments on the basketball court from 1977-1981.  He played in 103 games and racked up 1,810 points, 786 rebounds, and 225 assists.

However, God ensured humility would abound with this accomplishment when Cal’s little sister Betty Jane beat him into the FWBC Hall of Fame by 2 years.  (How fun is that at Rychener family gatherings?!)

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Evangelist at heart.

Cal always thought he’d be a traveling evangelist, so he’s rather amazed that other than a 4-year stint at Grabill Evangelical Mennonite Church in Indiana, God intended Peoria (and Northwoods) to be home for his entire ministry career.  Happy that God’s plans were better than his own, he says, “Sometimes God opens a door for you to examine what’s out there, but not necessarily to go through it.  That’s why it’s so important to prayerfully consider what He’s trying to put in front of you.”

’For I know the plans I have for you’, says the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper and not harm you; to bring you hope and a future’.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

He preached the name of Jesus Christ. So men and women believed and were baptized.” (Acts 8:12)

Never stops being amazed at God’s blessings & provision.

“Who else but GOD could make Northwoods Community Church possible?” Cal joyfully proclaims.  For the sole purpose of cultivating fully devoted Christ-followers out of unchurched people, what began in March 1990 with around 300 families meeting at a borrowed location has now swelled to a weekly average of nearly 5,000 attenders.

Most importantly, thousands of men, women, and children have been baptized into the promise of eternal life with Jesus Christ, and countless others have accepted their gift of salvation.  PRAISE GOD!!  But Christ seeks disciples, not just decisions; so God willing, the work He’s doing through Northwoods has only begun.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” (Galatians 6: 9-10)

Energized by the home court advantage.

Cal has an energetic willingness to go where God leads, even when it doesn’t make a lot of sense.  God has opened doors for the people of Northwoods to help spread the message of Jesus Christ to places like Brazil, India, the Dominican Republic, and Africa.  But Cal says by far, his favorite place to speak about the love of God is from the home pulpit at Northwoods.

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” (Psalm 73:28)

Raised with enough siblings for a Rychener Family 5-on-5.

Cal grew up in Archbold, Ohio as the 7th of 10 children born to Lloyd & Marie Rychener.  Impressively, his parents herded their offspring to church every Sunday to ensure God was a part of their children’s lives.

Memories of how easy it was to be “lost in the crowd” of so many kids needing the attention of two hard-working parents established the belief that connecting with other Christians in a healthy small group is important to exploring a relationship with God.

Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” (Hebrews 2:11)

Our Associations

Northwoods is part of the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches, with roots in Anabaptist and Mennonite traditions.