In 1950, a small group of people, with a desire to begin an independent Bible-preaching and teaching Baptist church, began meeting in the Oklahoma City home of L.B. and Helen Daley. This tiny assembly of believers called as pastor J. Oscar Wells, a missionary home in the States due to political unrest in his field of China. Dr. Wells and his six-year-old daughter Shannon began knocking doors in south Oklahoma City to invite people to attend services.
The meeting place soon moved from the Daley’s living room to a rented storefront and, in November of 1951, with a handful of charter members, the Southwest Baptist Church was organized and incorporated. Most of the charter members remained active in the church until their deaths. J.O. Mills was such a member. Bro. Mills, whose son later served as music director, enabled the church to acquire property at 5521 S. Blackwelder, and a small block building was soon erected. In the summer of 1953, services began to be held there.
In April of 1955, O.E. Matthews was called as pastor. A Sunday school annex was soon added to the building in the fall of the same year. In a little more than two years, the membership grew to over 350. The church called Bert Harrison as pastor in October of 1961. Under his leadership, the church experienced tremendous growth. The church acquired additional surrounding property, and in 1964, a new auditorium was completed. Four years later, upstairs Sunday school space was added to the original structure.
“He Hath Placed the World in Our Heart” was the theme of Southwest Baptist Church for many years under the pastorate of Bro. Bert Harrison. It reflected the heart of the church for missions according to the Great Commission of Christ to the church to “go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Faith Promise giving was implemented under Bro. Harrison’s leadership and the church’s missions commitment grew steadily year-by-year.
As the Lord continued to add to the church, it became obvious that new space would soon be needed for growth to continue. A plan for a new auditorium was born. In 1971, work began on the 17,000 square foot basement below the present day auditorium. Most of the labor for the project was provided by the pastor and members of the church. With church attendance running over 800, the new auditorium was completed and dedicated in the fall of 1974.
The church continued to grow and more building improvements and additions were made. Parking lots were added and the present gymnasium, which also provides much Sunday school space, was built in 1979.
When Bro. Harrison retired in the spring of 1990, the church called Sam Davison as pastor. Bro. Davison began his pastorate in May of 1990, and the Lord blessed the church with a seamless transition in leadership.
The past 20 years have been years of great growth and blessings from the Lord. The Southwest Baptist Church foundations of sound Bible preaching, soul-winning emphasis, worldwide missions support and Christ-honoring music continue under the leadership of Sam Davison. At the annual missions conference in March of 2001, Southwest hosted 21 missionary families. The members of Southwest Baptist Church made a missions commitment of $1,068,497 for the current fiscal year, realizing a vision for the church held by former pastor, Bert Harrison. Mission monies are used to support over 140 missionary families (8 of which are sent out of Southwest Baptist) in approximately 56 countries around the world. The church is also very involved in church planting here in the U.S., supporting 25 new works through the Home Missions program.
In the summer of 1998, Oklahoma City became home to Heartland Baptist Bible College (formerly Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College of San Dimas, California). The campus was renovated in large part through the members of Southwest Baptist Church. Most of the students attend Southwest Baptist Church and contribute uniquely to its ministry. Former Pastor Davison currently serves as President of the college.
Southwest Baptist Church currently has an average attendance of 2,000 in the Sunday church services. Twenty four buses are sent throughout south and northwest Oklahoma City, Moore, and Del City, bringing in an average of 500 children every Sunday. A strong youth department, a nursing home ministry, children’s churches, and annual Vacation Bible School averaging 1,000 children a day, a missions-oriented ladies ministry, a deaf ministry and an extensive outreach all characterize the life of Southwest Baptist Church today.
In 1999, the church began a four-phase building program for new nursery, office, and Sunday school facilities. These new facilities added over 100,000 square feet to meet current needs and future growth.
On November 4, 2001, we celebrated our 50th Anniversary. We have many past blessings for which to be thankful. We owe a debt of gratitude to many faithful people of the past who let the Lord use them to bring about many of the blessings we enjoy today. But it is important to remember that, though the Lord told His church where to begin, He never gave His church a place to stop. Following God’s leadership, Southwest Baptist Church will continue to press forward until Jesus comes again.
On May 2, 2010 Southwest Baptist Church transitioned in a most amazing way to our new pastor, Jason Gaddis. We are so excited as we sense the Lord’s leading on to new heights. We believe the best days are yet to come.
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.” Philippians 3:13-15