Imagine driving into an unfamiliar small town, asking a pedestrian where one can find the local Assemblies of God church, and hearing, “Oh, you mean the old Baptist church”? That is a common refrain in Badger, Minnesota, population 355.
NorthLand Assembly of God, pastored by David Peterson, was known as Badger Baptist Church until Easter 2021. At a special meeting that day, members voted unanimously to change the name and denomination. The incredible change resulted from a unique merging of pastor and church.
NorthLand Assembly actually began decades ago as an independent ministry, which brought a different religious voice to the community. While the predominant influences in the community are Catholic and Lutheran, NorthLand tended to be more evangelical in its teachings and beliefs. However, venturing into Pentecostal waters seemed to be a step too far.
Peterson, a graduate of Global University and about to be ordained by the Assemblies of God, had an interesting route to his present ministry position. Having grown up Episcopalian, his family eventually settled in a Pentecostal Church of God congregation. A life-defining moment occurred when he attended a church revival.
“The evangelist stopped the service, pointed at me, asked me to stand up, and said, ‘I see the Holy Ghost all over you, and one day you will speak to others through the Holy Ghost,’” Peterson remembers.
A pivotal period for Peterson occurred at Evergreen Christian Center, an AG church in Winton, California. It gave him his first opportunity to be involved in church leadership within youth ministry. The church also influenced his own ministry philosophy.
“They built a foundation in people’s lives through the fruit of the Spirit,” Peterson recalls. “Once that was in place, believers were then established in the gifts of the Spirit.”
In 2009, Peterson and his family moved to Minnesota and attended Karlstad Assembly of God. Pastor Chris Thoreson became friend and mentor. Although Peterson already had attained credentials through another Pentecostal group, he spoke monthly at the local Baptist church in the neighboring town of Badger. When the church reached out to see if Peterson would fill the pulpit permanently, he was up-front about his beliefs.
“I told them, ‘This is what you get if you vote me in,’” Peterson recalls. “And they voted me in unanimously.” Clearly the congregation sought something new.
Roger Allen, church administrator and moderator of the board, started attending just before Peterson’s election.
“Pastor Peterson had written some articles in the religion section of the newspaper about brokenness and they really registered.” Having grown up Lutheran, Allen previously experienced a Pentecostal men’s ministry when he lived in Kentucky and saw men delivered from pornography addictions. “I realized the importance of the Holy Spirit leading and guiding at a church.” He longed for something like it in Badger.
Peterson found congregants longed for something more.
“This town needs a Pentecostal presence, and I have tried to be faithful to that,” Peterson says.