The first 100 years: 1918—2018
Despite fierce discrimination for wanting to preach in the 1800s when women had few rights, Maria Woodworth-Etter traveled the country and attracted crowds as large as 25,000. She faced scorn and skepticism and even arrest from those unwilling to believe in God’s supernatural abilities. With no evidence for a conviction, Maria pressed on by preaching and writing nine books about God’s power to heal. Near the end of her ministry, in 1918, at the age of 74, Maria had a vision to build a church on the west side of Indianapolis.
In the original 500-seat wooden tabernacle, Maria met Thomas Paino, an Italian immigrant, who took over as the lead pastor after Maria’s death. Thomas Sr. and later his son, Thomas (Tom), would lead the church until 1994. Like Maria, the Painos faced obstacles as well—including losing the church in a fire believed to be arson. Undaunted, members resurrected a new church and it thrived as the Painos added a Sunday School annex to reach the community’s youth. By the 1960s, the church could no longer adequately meet the needs of the 1,000 people who met there weekly.
Burdened by the unmet needs of the elderly, Tom began searching for land to build a new, bigger church and a nursing home. With no funds to build or operate either one, Tom found creative ways to make the seemingly impossible possible. The nursing home, Lakeview Manor, opened its doors in 1968 and the church re-opened in 1969.
Believing God was big enough to do even more, Tom began focusing on mission work. First up, Lakeview built a church in the Bahamas. As the nursing home began to thrive financially, Lakeview constructed an additional 49 churches and five Bible schools.
In 1994, Lakeview’s youth pastor, Ron Bontrager, took over as lead pastor when Tom transitioned to other ministry projects. At this time, the church was primarily a Caucasian church but Ron wanted to create a church to better reflect the diversity of heaven. Today, Lakeview represents people from more than 40 nations. Using Lakeview as a model, Ron helped launch three more diverse churches in Indianapolis. Under his leadership, Lakeview expanded again by adding 65,000 square feet to include an indoor playground, youth center and prayer tower. Additionally, Ron introduced life groups giving people the chance to meet and grow in their faith.
The next 100 years
Lakeview’s legacy is firmly established. We look forward to seeing what God will do in the next 100 years!