The church on Main Street felt trapped. The congregation of Immanuel Baptist Church of Shawnee, Oklahoma wanted to grow, but they were stuck in a dilapidated, high-cost building, lacking handicap accessibility.
The 103-year-old church has a long history. It began as a plant from Shawnee First Baptist in 1917 named Draper Street Baptist Church, and in 1929 moved to Main Street and was renamed Immanuel Baptist Church.
“It was time to be in a new location,” says Dr. Todd Fisher, who has served as senior pastor of Immanuel for the past 17 years. “Our growth and ministry were greatly hindered and landlocked. The church had outgrown that property long before moving – it was past time.”
The congregation began making organized efforts of fundraising and planning for relocation in the mid 1990’s. By 2003, the membership had raised close to $1 million. They found a great deal on a 32-acre piece of property and bought it for only $175,000 that they raised all in one day.
By the time the church broke ground in 2006, they had fundraised nearly $2 million. They coupled that money with a $2.5 million loan from WatersEdge Ministry Services to construct a campus at the new location, which was opened in 2008.
“When we relocated, we almost became a new kind of church. It changed the mindset from a small church into a large church mindset,” Fisher remembers.
Within 2 years, the membership grew 65 percent in Sunday School and worship attendance. After the first year there, Immanuel started a third worship service in 2009.
In 2011, the church took out a $500,000 loan with WatersEdge to build a youth facility to accommodate their continued expansion.
“We chose to work with WatersEdge for three main reasons,” explains Fisher. “First, the interest you pay to WatersEdge goes back to Kingdom causes. Second, because of our relationship with them as a Southern Baptist entity, we knew that customer service would be great. Third, their rates were just as good as any bank. You add all those up and it was kind of a no-brainer.”
In the years since building and relocating, Immanuel has not only increased in population but also in ministry impact.
“We have been able to expand our reach because we got that loan from WatersEdge. With new people, our budget grew exponentially,” Fisher adds. “We started all of these mission partnerships that we couldn’t have done before.”
The church’s missions output has increased at least tenfold. They maintain partnerships within the country in Colorado and New Mexico and internationally in Ecuador, Turkey, North Africa, Panama and Peru.
“Relocating to this new facility changed so much for us,” Fisher says. “The only thing it didn’t change is our commitment to the Word of God and to Scripture.”
Today, Immanuel holds four services with an average total attendance of 1,300 attendees each Sunday.
“We would not have had the footprint we have now had we stayed on that Main Street campus,” Fisher says. “At the end of the day, God did all of that.”
By Anna Dellinger