More than fifty years ago, God gave a vision to Pastor Kermit Gore and some of the leaders at First Baptist Church in Athens, Alabama. In January 1961, this group shared with the congregation their hope for a new church to be built on the west side of Athens. After prayers and consideration, First Baptist purchased 4 ½ acres of land on Highway 72 West with the intent to establish a mission.
On Easter Sunday, April 7, 1963, the first service was held in this mission with Truman Sandlin, the interim pastor, bringing the message to the 60 people in attendance. The membership named this mission, Emmanuel, which means “God With Us.”
Emmanuel Baptist Chapel was constituted into a full Southern Baptist church, becoming Emmanuel Baptist Church on January 17, 1965, with Rolland H. Clemons serving as pastor. Emmanuel adopted the articles of Faith (adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1963) and accepted the church covenant. EBC also became a member of the Limestone Baptist Association, the Alabama State Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention.
In 1963 our original facilities were completed and dedicated to the honor and glory of our Lord and included a sanctuary and a one-story education building where the offices are located. In 1967 a two-story education building was added which included our media center. The current worship center with a seating capacity of 400 and a preschool wing with the kitchen was completed in 1993. “The Lighthouse”, a multifunctional addition with an assembly area and three classrooms, was ready for use in 1998. A Christian Life Center which includes a full gymnasium, professional kitchen, and a large room built specifically for our Youth, was a welcomed addition in 2001. The preschool hall was transformed and remodeled in October 2010 and became known as the Depot. It included an outdoor area that is complete with playground equipment. After prayer and discussions, Emmanuel purchased 1.75 acres adjacent to the west side of the church on April 7, 2005, to be used for future expansion.
Emmanuel Baptist strives to honor and praise God through each and every ministry group. The ministries of our church are designed to fulfill Jesus’s commission to “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation.”
The Deacon ministries were revamped in 2011 and changed from an assigned care list to the deacons serving in areas where they knew they were gifted. Deacon Led Ministries to include men’s ministry, inreach, outreach, greeters, prayer supporting, youth and children, and children’s sports ministry.
The music ministry consists of the adult choir, the youth ensembles, and the children, all comprised of very talented people using their gifts and enthusiasm to reach others through song. The adult choir has ventured out on several occasions to perform at other churches both near and far, and at a shopping mall in a neighboring town. Our ministers of music over the years have also provided many opportunities for other Christian groups and individuals, seeking to use their musical talent, to perform at our church and offer God’s message to us in song. Music style preferences vary at Emmanuel which has led to different music worship services over the years. In the initial years, Emmanuel had traditional music services which later evolved into having two services, early traditional service, and a later contemporary service. Currently, we have one service with blended music styles.
Many youth and young adults have been impacted by the Youth Ministry over the years. Our students and their friends have found direction and growth in Christ through summer camps, retreats, outreach projects, Bible studies, and fellowship time.
Sunday school for all age groups and evening Discipleship Training classes, which changed to Small Groups meeting in homes in 2010, now called EBC Connect, offer dynamic courses structured to allow the members an opportunity for Bible study and to interact with each other.
Our Family Ministry plans special events to involve and strengthen families and build relationships within the entire church family. We also have a couple of specific events each year targeted to develop relationships with the families of our neighborhood.
In 1963 the Missions Organizations were begun to inform and inspire us to influence the world for Christ by praying specifically, giving sacrificially, and finding creative ways to support and participate in missions. Since 1985 God has opened the door for outreach through summer mission trips to various states. Members from Emmanuel have served as foreign missionaries on 6 trips to Brazil between 2002 and 2013. Planning is underway for 2015 with an opportunity to serve in India. Many of these mission endeavors have been made possible because of an annual Myrtha Smith Love Offering for Jesus which was begun in 2007.
We continue to reach out to children in our community with an annual Vacation Bible School. The AWANA program was replaced in 2010 with Praise Adventure. A project to assist with specific needs for students was created in 2008 and is called the Back to School Bash.
The Emmanuel Ladies Ministry provides opportunities for Bible study, Christian fellowship, and service each month. They also sponsor a Women’s Luncheon each year with a special guest speaker.
In August 1993 we accepted the invitation of the Limestone Baptist Association to serve as the Mother Church to a mission in the Clements community. On November 28, 1993, eighteen of Emmanuel’s members were commissioned to begin the work in the Clements area. On December 5, 1993, the first service was held at the Clements Baptist Mission on property purchased by the Association. The property was located approximately 10 miles west of Athens, and the mission was constituted as a church on October 20, 1996.
God truly has “been with us” through it all. The vision for Emmanuel was from the Lord, and He is continuously unfolding His vision to us. We look forward to the future with great anticipation to see what God has in store for us as we earnestly seek Him, continue to exalt the Saviour, and reach people for His glory.
"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."