The History of South Tulsa Baptist Church
A Rich Christian Heritage Since 1978
Men and women with vision, a heart for South Tulsa and a desire to see their neighbors hear the Good News led the drive to establish South Tulsa Baptist Church nearly a quarter of a century ago.
The growth of South Tulsa Baptist Church has been nothing but dynamic in the 35 years since the mission-minded people of First Baptist Church, Tulsa, answered the call to establish a body of believers in south Tulsa in the 1970s.
STBC began with an air of anticipation during the spring of 1977 when the Missions Committee of the Deacon fellowship began searching for a site in south Tulsa to establish a new work. Chairman of the committee was Deacon Paul R. Henry. Others on the committee were F.H. Gilmore, Neil Layman, Lawrence Peitz, Roy Thomason and Ed Wolf. The previous October, the Tulsa Baptist Association had already stood in the gap, purchasing the land at 103rd and Sheridan Road for $61,500.
A year after buying the property, the FBC leadership felt led by the Lord to reach out to the community and discover the needs of the people in south Tulsa. First Baptist conducted a house-to-house survey in a four-mile radius around the newly bought property. Nearly a fifth of those responding to the survey said they were interested in a church being erected south of the intersection of 101st Street and Sheridan Road.
Ten months later, in August 1978, First Baptist Church approved the purchase of the land at 10310 S. Sheridan Road by making the final payment of $23,579. First Baptist wanted to establish a “satellite” church to be called First Baptist Church South. A satellite church is one that meets in two locations with one staff, one committee system, one deacon body and one budget.
The newly organized church in south Tulsa was, in effect, a mission. But, even then it was obvious that because of the location the church had to be a first-class organization. The FBC leadership wanted a satellite instead of a mission church because the facility had to be compatible with the neighborhood.
"We did not feel we could call South a mission," said Paul Henry, chairman of the Missions Committee. "We always expected them to become an independent church."
Sunday School and worship services started on Nov. 5, 1978 in Thoreau Junior High School near 71st Street and Memorial Drive. Dr. Jerry Hopkins became the interim pastor and led the inaugural service that was attended by 75 people.
Groundbreaking for the new church building came two months later, on Sunday, January 7, 1979. Because of poor weather, the ceremonies were held indoors at Thoreau. Dr. Garnet Cole, Executive Director of Missions for the Tulsa Baptist Association, brought the message. Dr. Ralph Bethea Jr. answered the call and became the first pastor a few weeks later. He preached the first sermon for the congregation while it was still meeting at Thoreau on April 29, 1979.
The fellowship of First Baptist Church South moved from Thoreau Junior High School into its new building at 10310 S. Sheridan Road on November 4, 1979 – one day shy of a year after that inaugural meeting at the junior high school. The chapel, education space, furnishing and land were valued at $750,000. Dr. Duke McCall, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and president-elect of the Baptist World Alliance, was the guest speaker for the dedication.
From the start, the growth of South Tulsa was overwhelming. The church body launched two worship services on their second Sunday in the new building. Within five months, in March 1980, two separate Sunday School sessions were necessary. Three years and four months after being organized, First Baptist Church South became an autonomous church on Valentine’s Day 1982. Expansion of the sanctuary from 275 to 400 seats and the addition of a two-story education building were completed in January 1983.
Ralph Bethea Jr. resigned as pastor the following May. Bob Post served as interim pastor for three months, followed by John Meadows, who served as interim pastor until February 1984 when Larry Wileman was called as pastor. During the nine month interval, South Tulsa Baptist Church proceeded with plans to build the Fellowship Hall Education Facility.
One of Larry Wileman’s first recommendations to the church was that the ongoing church building program be named “Building in Faith.” This appropriate theme guided the church to the conclusion of the financial goals in July 1984. The construction contract was awarded at that time.
John Parker was called as Minister of Education in 1987. The church ministry grew over the following 15 years and today includes Philip Stephens, who answered the call in 1990 to become Minister of Music. Connie Faurot, Minister to Families with Children, came to STBC in 1994.
In 1999, the fellowship launched “Mission Possible.” The goal of the campaign was to retire more than $1 million in outstanding debt on the church property and facilities. That campaign was a success and the church became debt free within a year.
Larry Wileman resigned in April 2000. Dr. Mack Roark served as interim until Dr. Lonnie Latham became pastor in January 2002. Lonnie resigned in January 2006.
Dr. Ted Kersh was called as senior pastor in November of 2006. In 2007, Dave Bender became the Minister of Administration and Media and Brian Baldwin came to STBC as Minister to Families with Youth.
In 2007, ground was broken for the new Worship Center, Music Suite and Office Suite with actual construction starting in February 2008. Over $1,000,000.00 was given on the first Sunday of July 2007 to begin the actual building process.
South Tulsa Baptist Church was started by people ready to take the gospel to the world. That vision is still alive today! Come and join us.