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. In 1987, 6.2 additional acres of land was acquired. 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 South Tulsa 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. Our church acquired 8.8 additional acres of land. 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 2006, 4.3 acres were sold to pay for the increase parking lot and drainage for our new worship center. 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.
On Sunday, November 8, 2009, the new facilities were dedicated to the Glory of the Lord. Since that dedication Sunday we have been blessed with a special moving of the Holy Spirit in our services.
In 2014, Dru Finley came to serve as our Minister of Discipleship & Development. Debbie Steen joined our staff to serve as Minister to Families with Preschool Children.In January 2015, Dr. Ted Kersh retired as our Senior Pastor and was awarded the title of honorary Pastor Emeritus to dedicate his ministry to Equipped by His Word.
In May of 2016, our Pastor Selection Committee invited and our church voted for Dr. Eric Costanzo to come as our new Senior Pastor. We are excited to continue our ministry under his leadership.
South Tulsa Baptist Church was started by people ready to share the Good News of Jesus with our community and around the world. That vision is still alive today! Come and join us.