Published May 1, 2019
LOUISVILLE—Don't let the historic marker in the yard of the Immanuel Baptist Church property fool you. This rejuvenated congregation is anything but a relic of the past as more than 700 people gather weekly for prayer, praise and the preaching of God's Word.
The celebration of the Kentucky Historical Society's marker drew representatives from all three congregations who have used the South 4th Street church building as a home base. Members of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) were responsible for the construction of the beautiful facility built in a French renaissance beaux arts style in 1911.
Years later the building became home to one of Louisville's oldest African American congregations, Lampton Baptist Church, as they met there from 1977 until 2015. The historic building sat vacant for two years until a revived Immanuel Baptist Church moved into the property in 2017 and brought new life.
At the marker ceremony, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Dr. Albert Mohler spoke of the conviction of seminary students who were being trained for international missions in the late 1800s but responded to a need in the Louisville area. The handful of students first began meeting in the Shelby Street Brewery in 1887 until the church was founded and relocated. The present work of Immanuel Baptist Church continues in that vein.
The 20th century provided ups and down for the young church as well as the building it now utilizes. Immanuel Baptist almost dissolved in the early 2000s when the congregation was down to 17 members.
Mohler said it was by God's grace, though, that Ryan Fullerton took on the challenge of pastoring the dwindling congregation in need of revitalization. Under Fullerton's guidance new life began to grow.
"There is no secret to the vibrancy of Immanuel Baptist Church. It is the gospel, and the gospel alone that makes Immanuel vibrant. From the pulpit ministry to the ministry of every single believer in the pew, we all take the responsibility of a Christian to share the gospel to an unbelieving world and to each other seriously," said Fullerton.
Church members are grateful for the legacy of their church building, and they see it as a gateway to be a faithful gospel witness in downtown Louisville.
"We want to be good neighbors to the community, loving school children, caring for the local businesses and especially preaching the gospel in such a way that it fills our whole downtown core and the whole city. We're delighted to have the opportunity to be good neighbors here in Louisville and to spread the gospel throughout our city," Fullerton said.
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