Case Studies

Proclaiming the Truth, relationship unfolds

First Free is a growing evangelical church in the largest suburb of La Crosse, Wis.

Service: Investments

A 110-year-old church in southwestern Wisconsin with Norwegian roots has found people hungering for truth and is expanding God’s Kingdom in multiple ways.

“We go book by book in the Bible, so we don’t shy away from the hard things,” said Mark Brockberg, Executive Pastor of First Free Church in Onalaska. “We want to love people and care about them, but we are going to love them enough to share the truth, and at the same time, let them wrestle with that in a safe place.”

“We know that this relationship with CIF also means that they can be another asset in that,” he said. We can consult with CIF as we think about any future expansion or building.”

Executive Pastor Mark Brockberg, First Free church

Shared Kingdom expansion goals
Brockberg and Operations Director Kirk Guest recently sat down with CIF to talk about Kingdom expansion, the operations side of ministry and partnering with CIF.

Brockberg said First Free wants to be a brighter light, shining the light of Jesus around them. “We do that by being generous, by being kind and gracious. So, some of that has to do with money, right? … We want to be a blessing to others through that money.”

The church numbered about 100 in the 1990s, but later grew to rent space in a high school. By the early 2000s, it purchased the 20-acres in Onalaska as donors gave sacrificially for the work, he explained.

Today, more than 4,000 people are connected to First Free Church. The congregation’s influence is substantial in an area where the population is close to 100,000. “That is a significant imprint in the community, and we feel like God has given us a means to be a blessing,” he said. “It’s about His Kingdom, being faithful to the call He has given us.”

‘Come as you are’ based in real life experiences
There’s a prominent “Come as you are” theme at First Free that exudes a freedom and authenticity among people. Brockberg said everyone has brokenness, pain, struggles and a life story or narrative, and this is a place to freely experience the gospel.

The church’s growth has been highly organic, people telling other people about how their lives have changed, the executive pastor explained. When they’re helped, healed and supported, he said people want to bring their friends and family into it.

“We know that this relationship with CIF also means that they can be another asset in that,” he said. We can consult with CIF as we think about any future expansion or building.”

Much is happening, something for everyone
Staff coordinate multiple groups to study the Bible, discuss sermons and care for acute needs. Multiple classes are offered. People gather to pray.

A group of five staff members serve in children’s ministries for multiple ages while youth ministry focuses on the heart of God and a solid foundation in His Word. College students gather to enjoy food, worship and teaching, while “Prime Timers” ministers to people aged 55 and up.

First Free’s Local Outreach values unconditional love, courageous risks and stepping out of one’s comfort zone to serve the community. Current missions work centers on Laos and Panama with ministry partners in those countries.

Mission-minded, relational ministries share Kingdom values
“We’ve really enjoyed partnering with you guys,” said Guest. “It’s been a pleasure.”

As a mission-minded steward, CIF partners with many churches like First Free, providing faith-based financial solutions that serve Kingdom expansion.

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