Dr. Koehler grew up as an absolute atheist. However, in July 1957, he had a life changing encounter with the Lord. A result of that encounter was a deep hunger for the Word of God.
In March, 1962, he was asked to teach a “young teen” Sunday School class. The five years of Bible study that had proceeded that request had made him both eager and willing to take the challenge. For the next three and a half years, he taught that class, while venturing into a number of other forms of public ministry.
In 1964 he developed a burden for Christian education. However, when he presented this to his pastor, he was told that he had “missed the Lord.” Having confidence in that Pastor, he pushed the idea into the back of his mind, only to have it return on two other occasions.
In the spring of 1967, he sensed a call to organize Bible Clubs in various high schools in the area. The result of this was not only the establishment of a Bible Club at Bristolville High School, but an invitation to serve as interim pastor at a local church.
From 1968 to June, 1971, he served in that capacity, but became frustrated when it seemed that the “Christians” were demonstrating a level of atheism that was not far from where his had been.
Sensing a great ignorance, in the people, of God’s Word, the desire to “do” Christian education returned stronger than ever and he organized a Bible School, which held its first session on Sunday, July 4, 1971.
The school was in session every day of the week for about six months. At that time someone suggested holding “Sunday Services,” so the school turned into a church.
At that time the church had no name. Then one of the ladies suggested a bake sale to help with the church’s finances, and the place where it was to be held wanted to know the name of the church, so we called it “The Church at Bristol.” After a time the Lord used the scriptures to impress Dr. Koehler with the fact that the Church has members all over the world, so we could not be “The Church” at Bristol. Recognizing that people need an identity, prayer was offered and the name Shekinah Church was impressed on Dr. Koehler’s mind. When no one expressed any opposition to this, it became, officially, the name of the church.
The church continued to grow in the number of people who were attending and, in 1974, moved into its current location.
Shortly after that a television ministry, “The Bread of Life,” was established at the encouragement of the people. For the next eighteen months, the program was broadcast on the local cable channel as many as four to six times a day.
Jim, Jr. and his wife Elizabeth were a major part of that television ministry as they, along with Sherry Randolph, supplied the musical portion of each telecast. However, when the broadcast did not generate any money, certain men determined that the cost to produce the program was not justified, and the broadcast came to an end.
Once again, on a Thursday morning, Dr. Koehler was challenged to start a Christian school. This time, when presented to the people, the idea was warmly received and, in 1975, a ten-week summer school was established. That fall a ministry to children aged two and a half to four years old was established and called “Extended Sunday School.” This was a tuition-free ministry. This school started with five children and, over the next two years, grew to thirty-six. It was staffed by Debora and Robbin Bowers and Dr. Koehler.
“Extended Sunday School” is still in operation, specializing in Bible, phonics, reading and beginning math for children who are just starting their “formal education.”
On a sorrowful note, it was at this time that two of our students were trapped in a trailer fire. One girl was burned over seventy-two percent of her body and her younger sister died. They were supposed to stay with their grandmother on that night, but chose to go home. The reason was that they had an offering to give toward the purchase of our school bus and were excited about bringing it the next day. Interestingly, the only thing not burned in the fire was that little purse with the offering in it. We have never forgotten them.
1978 saw the advent of our association with Accelerated Christian Education and the establishment of Shekinah Christian Academy as a full-time “day-school.” The Academy is a non-chartered, non-tax-supported, tuition-free Academy. Many young people and staff have passed through its doors, but only God knows for sure what benefit they received. Some have returned and placed their children in the Academy. Hopefully, we will see most of them in Heaven. Now in the thirty-sixth year of its existence, the Academy is still in operation with God, alone, knowing when this ministry will end.
1987 brought another outreach ministry to the church in the form of a radio broadcast that appeared on WLND each Sunday morning. “Common Sense” was heard by an unknown number of people every Sunday for seventy-eight weeks. Then, in the providence of God, Dr. Koehler addressed an issue that had arisen, which saw the State of Ohio beginning to oppress the Christian schools in the state. His broadcast, that morning, caused fear to arise in the hearts of some and the program was terminated. God’s purpose for the broadcast had apparently been served.
After the turn of the century, Dr. Koehler entrusted the Pastorate of the Church to “Jim, Jr.” as he is lovingly referred to by our sister churches. As a boy, Jim had a desire to serve and started his first Bible class at the age of ten. Rev. Koehler received his ordination from the John Knox Presbyterian Church and has led the church into a union with the JKPC, officially adopting the Presbyterian form of government along with its Reformed Bible doctrine. He has staunchly “defended the faith” in his regular Sunday sermons as well as in his personal and public life. He has a strong desire to see the church grow in its ministry, brotherly love and numbers in attendance.
We would like to extend an invitation for you to become a part of our history.