Anna Dellinger, Features Editor
Three church campus locations, thousands of members and 100 years later, Immanuel Baptist Church of Shawnee still stands as a testimony of God’s faithfulness.
IBC will be celebrating its 100 year anniversary as a church with three special services this Nov. 18 and 19.
Associate Pastor Mark Wright has served at IBC for 19 years – he served as music minister starting in 1998 and continued for 10 years until he transitioned to the position of associate pastor in 2009.
“I look back and see how God has worked through all the years that I’ve been here,” Wright said. “[IBC is] just a great church [and] I love it. It’s the longest place I’ve ever served and I’m grateful to have been a part of what’s going on here at Immanuel.”
It is no simple task for a church to thrive for 100 years, and Senior Pastor Dr. Todd Fisher has pastored IBC for the last 14 years.
“One of the most encouraging things is that for a hundred years, God has seen this church through a lot of thick and thin, a lot of things that have gone on in the world, things that have happened in the church that were great and some that weren’t so great,” Fisher said.
Not every church meets such a milestone, but the leaders at IBC can’t pinpoint exactly what makes this church so long-lasting.
“I don’t really know that we’ve done anything different,” Fisher said.
“I would like to believe that Immanuel’s health and success – however, you want to define that – has been because we’ve been faithful to the word of God and faithful to the mission of sharing the Gospel and wanting to reach people. Now we haven’t always done that perfectly by any means, but I think that we are here and we’re in the position that we’re in and the strength and the health of our church because of our faithfulness to the Word.”
Wright said that IBC focuses on many aspects in the church and not one big special thing.
“I think that’s probably the one thing that’s helped us maintain consistency through all the years, to help people to be able to serve the Lord,” he said.
“Whatever their gifts and talents and whatever they feel God has led them to, they can come here and get plugged in and I think that makes us, if we are unique, I guess that’s probably what it is. We’re trying to be all things to all people and that doesn’t always work out, but as best as we can we try to make that happen.”
IBC also takes care to focus on more than the Shawnee community. The church has held mission trips in places across the country, such as Colorado, Arizona and South Dakota, and also around the world, such as in Peru.
“Our missions emphasis here [is] a very important part of our church, kind of the DNA of our church,” Fisher said.
“We’ve got a lot of mission partnerships all over the world and we’ve been blessed to have a number of people that were in our church leave our church and go serve in the IMB in different places around the world. Wherever they have gone out, we’ve tried to partner with them and go out. Missions is a very important thing for us and it gives people a great opportunity to get involved in missions as well.”
For Wright, the missions-minded focus of the church is the main reason he has continued to serve at IBC for so long.
“I hope we continue with the same kind of focus toward missions and reaching people, whether it be in this location or some other location.”
A brief church history
In 1917, members of Shawnee First Baptist Church had a dream to plant another church in order to reach more people with the Gospel and to establish a mission church on the east side of Shawnee.
Sept. 16, 1917, on the corner of 10th and Draper Street, 77 people met to form the Draper Street Baptist Church. Two years later, the church had continued to grow and voted to expand facilities, and only one year after that, a second expansion was necessary because of the increasing size of the congregation.
They realized in 1927 that they needed a new building, because each Sunday service, about 600 people crammed into a church that would only fit 300. In 1928, the church purchased a property on Main Street and begin building.
Construction continued until 1929 when the Great Depression hit, and several members of the church put a second mortgage on their home to complete construction.
Despite the hardships of the Depression, the church construction was completed in 1929 and renamed as Immanuel Baptist Church on February 6 of the same year.
The church continued to thrive throughout the Great Depression and WWII. The growth of IBC was constant – so much so that they even had to turn people away because they would not fit inside the church building.
A decision was made to move from Main Street after so many years, from the green carpet and roof with leaks, to a new campus with a new building. They needed to raise $170, 000 and exceeded it in one day, reaching $193,000 in order to purchase the land for the new building. It was built in phases to encourage good stewardship and to keep the focus on the people of the church instead of the building.
The first Sunday in the new building was March 30, 2008. In 2009 came the decision to begin a third worship service because of such high attendance. Now, four services are held each Sunday to accommodate large the population of the church.
“It’s not about the building, it’s not about the fact that we’re in this location,” Wright said. It’s about [continuing] the same kind of focus of encouraging people and putting our emphasis on transformation of lives.”
As a marker of 100 years, Dr. John Nichols, a former OBU professor, has written a book: “Immanuel Baptist Church 100 Year History.”
100 Year Celebration Services
At 6:00 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, current members and staff, former staff, former pastors, music ministers and past members will come from out of town that haven’t been back to Shawnee or Immanuel for years.
Held at the main campus of IBC (1451 E. 45th Street Shawnee OK, 74804), there will be a time to share stories from the past and to look at historical displays.
“They’re planning on being here and sharing, kind of like the old homecomings they used to have back in the days, where they used to sit around, sing [and] have dinner on the grounds,” Wright said.
“It’s going be fun – a great opportunity for people to reminisce, talk about the old times, and see folks they haven’t seen in years and worship together and celebrate a great day.”
The Sunday morning service, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 19, will be held in OBU’s Raley Chapel, in order to allow such a large gathering of people. Instead of IBC’s normal four services, there will be one combined service.
There will be congregational singing together with worship band, choir, orchestra and acapella group “This Hope.” There will also be a showing of the 100 Year Celebration Documentary and a spoken message from Fisher as a celebration God’s work in the church.
Sunday night will be a night of worship together with the band “This Hope”. According to IBC’s website, attendees are invited to bring the whole family as they finish up a weekend of celebration with worship. For more information about the 100 Year Anniversary services, go to http://ibcshawnee.org/100-year-anniversary.
For OBU students looking for a church home, the 100 year anniversary celebration is an opportunity to see the impact of one church on Shawnee.
“Some students come to OBU and kind of don’t get plugged in and get so busy in their studies, but the church life is all part of your growth as a Christian,” Wright said. “Just get plugged in wherever that is, and it’s great, we’d love to have them.”
Fisher is an OBU alumnus and has faced some of the same struggles as students today.
“I know it’s easy when you get away from home and you’ve got the pressures and demands of college on you and that schedule, it’s easy to sleep in on Sunday morning or to not get involved or plugged in,” Fisher said.
“We have a good relationship with OBU, and that’s what I would want students to know: that this is a place where they can get plugged in, find a place to serve and continue to grow while they’re [attending college].”
With 100 years behind them, Immanuel looks to the future of the church as well.
“Moving into the future, we’re [going to] have to… stay faithful to our mission, to the mission God’s given us in the Word, the Great Commission and keep teaching the Gospel and trying to adapt as the world changes without changing the message,” Fisher said.