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On February 7, 1935, before the dogwoods would bloom that year on the grounds of the Florida Supreme Court several blocks away, a new church, Immanuel Baptist Church of Tallahassee, was born.  For the previous month, a group of 34 Christians from the largest Southern Baptist Church at that time in the City of Tallahassee, First Baptist Church, "spent much time in prayer," praying God would show them a way to form a church.   Understanding God’s call, the group agreed, "Why not call our church 'Immanuel,' God with us?"   As a “neighborhood church” in downtown Tallahassee at the corner of Boulevard Street and St. Augustine Streets, Immanuel’s first congregation was drawn mainly from an area whose boundary began at present-day Doak Campbell Stadium and ended on the property now occupied by the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.  A vacant, former African-American Methodist Mission, erected in 1885, became Immanuel’s first church building. Purchased on the “word” of its first pastor for a $25 down payment and the promise thereafter of $25 dollars a month, it had no heating, air-conditioning, or running water. 

Immanuel’s story has been the story of the Lord working through its membership as they invested in the lives of others so that they, too, can live for Christ.  It is the story of church building and church planting.  In this story of investing in God’s kingdom, Immanuel’s members have understood the importance of sacrifice. After World War II, recognizing that the old wooden church, now nearly 60 years old, lacked Sunday School space, its members built a new church in 1947 utilizing its membership's labor and professional skills.  In the 1950s, Immanuel planted churches in Indian Head Acres (Parkway Baptist) and on Tharpe Street (Forest Heights Baptist Church).  Planting these churches resulted in a loss of vital membership and leadership to these new churches, reaching new heights in the early 1980s with Celebration Baptist in the subdivision of Killearn. As these members moved from downtown and joined the churches planted by Immanuel, Immanuel’s close-knit community became a thing of the past. In the midst of declining membership, God prepared Immanuel’s remaining members to be the foundation for the future of His church, ushering in a new chapter at a new location.  After almost a decade of prayer, planning, and negotiating with the City of Tallahassee over the sale of the downtown church property, the church moved to its current location on Mahan Drive.   Before the doors were opened for worship in 1976 at its current Mahan Drive property, a tent revival was held on the property, and soon after, members engaged in a building program, “Together We Build.”

After the move to Mahan, Immanuel continued to grow closer to God as He provided new opportunities to serve and trust in Him.  Since the late 1990s, God has blessed Immanuel with a fourfold increase in Sunday School units and a threefold increase in average class attendance.  With the advent of these increases in worship and Sunday School attendance, Immanuel sought guidance from the Lord through prayer.  "Dream Night,” a church forum held several times in the sanctuary in recent years, was a memorable time when members dared to dream and earnestly seek the Lord’s will.  Immanuel began to provide an additional contemporary worship service in addition to the traditional service to accommodate the growth. "Challenge To Build" commenced in February 1999 with the idea of "Equal Sacrifice ... Not Equal Gifts” to help fund the building of educational space, now occupied by preschool through fifth grade Sunday School classes.  Soon after, Immanuel purchased property that became available on Concord Street, across from the church, for immediate use by Youth Sunday School and for possible future development. 

At the start of this decade, Immanuel began the “20/20 Vision, “a multi-phase, multi-year plan for reaching more people for Christ.  Phase I, which called for the creation of additional parking and the construction of a Fellowship Hall, was completed in August 2012.  In early 2015, Immanuel celebrated the retirement of one of the loans taken out to build the Fellowship Hall and the commitment of members who pledged to give sacrificially for another three years to pay down the remaining debt.   Missions involvement has included partnering with Builders for Christ in North America and with missionaries and church planters in Wisconsin, New Orleans, and Guatemala.  Most recently, members have ventured to Cuba.

Immanuel’s spiritual roots run deep in the community of Tallahassee.  God has been faithful to growing Immanuel from a few founding members to over 3,100. While much has changed at Immanuel, the church’s focus on Jesus Christ and our community has remained the same. God remains at work in His church, and we rejoice that He is Immanuel ... God with us.

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