In August 1932, a few committed and dedicated people led by the Holy Spirit and the guidance of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ met to plan and organize a church. Deacons C. A. Harris, Luther Williams, H. J. Maxey, Rufus Stewart, and others met nightly to pray for God’s blessings as they progressed. The Olevia Missionary Baptist Church was permanently organized August 31, 1932. Today, there is one living member, Sis. Sally Wynn.
In February 1934, property was purchased for a church site at 1610 Jamison Street. Building of the sanctuary began in May, 1934 and was ready for worship on October 7, 1934. Reverend H. B. Bennett was the first pastor. His pastorate ended during the later part of 1937.
June 21, 1938, Reverend Howard Watson Branch, A.B., D.D. was called as the second pastor of the Olevia Missionary Baptist Church. (In August, 1938, Sis. Rosalee Gray and Sister Isabella Anderson, the author of this history, stepped on board the “Old Ship of Zion”). Sis. Isabella Anderson, who is still an active member, was Financial Secretary from 1940 to 1948.
Upon Reverend Branch’s acceptance of the church he was informed that concerned members wanted to correct the spelling of the church’s name. Therefore, on September 1, 1938, the church became Olivet Missionary Baptist Church. From the beginning of Reverend Branch’s pastorate the church began to grow. Consequently, the old church building soon became inadequate to accommodate the growing membership.
Pastor Branch’s method of raising finances for the church was initiated to God’s Financial Plan, Malachi 3:8-10. He eliminated the ticket selling and the patron lists. Using God’s Plan the old building was torn down, and a new edifice was erected in 1938. During his leadership, the membership grew from 100 to 1800 members.
The members and all who knew Rev. Branch were saddened and mourned when he died at the early age of thirty-seven years old and thirteen days on February 23, 1943. At the time of his death, he was Vice Moderator of the Southwest Central District Association, Reporter for the National Baptist Convention of America, Secretary of the Missionary General Baptist Congress of Texas and a member of the teaching staff of the National Sunday School Congress. Reverend Branch served as pastor for four years, six months and twenty-three days.
In December 1943, a third pastor, the Reverend D. C. Mitchell, accepted the pastorate of Olivet. During his reign he was Assistant Secretary of the South Central District Association and a member of the Evangelical Board of the National Baptist Convention of America. He was pastor for eleven months and succeeded in splitting the church.
January 10, 1945, Reverend Nathaniel T. Burks, Sr., A.B., D.D. was elected as the fourth pastor of Olivet. He took the pastorate on the first Sunday of May 1945. The members soon discovered they had called a preacher, teacher, pastor, and builder. The church felt blessed at having such a man as pastor again. He was the planner and builder of the present edifice. The address changed from 1610 Jamison to 3115 Lyons Avenue. This was on the same property, but the building that previously faced Jamison was rebuilt to face Lyons Avenue.
Under Reverend Burks’ leadership, Olivet was proud to host the National Board, the State Board, the State Congress, the National Baptist Sunday School, and B.T.U. Congress. He served as lecturer in the National Congress for 25 years, Corresponding Secretary of the State Congress, and Parliamentarian of the Missionary General Congress of Texas.
The church burned on August 8, 1983, and was rebuilt and made ready for worship within the next few months. Again, Rev. Burks had to act as builder. In 1988, the Lord called him home. His pastorate lasted from 1945 to 1988, a period of forty-three and one-half years.
May 22, 1989, Reverend Kenneth B. Spears was elected the fifth pastor of Olivet. Although he was only Twenty-Seven years old, he possessed great spiritual wisdom. Under his leadership, the church engaged in a new theme: “EXALTING THE SAVIOR, EQUIPPING SAINTS, AND EVANGELIZING SINNERS”, Matthew 28:18-20.
With the Lord as his guide, Pastor Spears led the church in developing a Mission Statement as well as clear and concise goals. He organized a Trustee Board, developed the Department of Christian Education, initiated the Monthly Prayer Breakfast, Nursing Home Ministry, Tape Ministry, Monthly Communion for the Sick and Shut-In, Seniors On The Move, Soul Winners Action Team (S.W.A.T.), and the Fifty Day prayer Revival.
During his pasturage, Olivet hosted the State Mid-Winter Board, and the 96th Session of the South Texas Regular Missionary District Association.
Renovations and repairs were completed to the roof and ceiling; sanctuary restrooms; pastor’s study; Education Building; light fixtures; and kitchen. Remodeling the front elevation by putting in new windows. Purchased a van, bought and installed an air-conditioned unit; computer with automated bookkeeping capabilities and fax machine; Phone-Tree System; and a new secretary’s workstation. Through the generosity of several of our members we now have a new Baptism pool; additional computers; freezer; flags; and conference room furniture.
On June 4, 1995, Rev. Spears accepted the call to Pastor First St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas.
The first Sunday in July, the Olivet Church Family accepted Rev. Raynard Hillis as the Interim Pastor. He served until the last Sunday in December. He was committed to bring the congregation God’s Holy Word.
On May 23, 1996, Rev. Booker Wesley Austin, Jr. was elected the sixth pastor of Olivet Missionary Baptist Church. He gave the church a new focus. Giving the church a new motto: “We Are The Downtown Church With An Upton Message: We Exist On Behalf Of Others”. Under his leadership, the church steeples were repaired, the finance room was renovated, and the Fellowship Hall windows were replaced. The Mt. Olivet Community Development Corporation was also established. He was instrumental in acquiring several parcels of land in the Fifth Ward Community, and surrounding areas.
Rev. Austin felt the need to move in a new direction in ministry. On August 31, 2003, he announced his resignation.
Once again, the church was without a shepherd. But as the scripture so clearly states, “I will not leave you nor forsake you”. Rev. Robert L. Thomas, Jr., Associate Minister, and the Youth Pastor was in place and at the helm of the Olivet Ship. Staying on the course that the Master has set before the Olivet church is a spirit that the family who endures much, is rewarded richly in the end. Bible Study, Weekday and Sunday Services continued to take place.
October 28, 2003, by a unanimous vote, Rev. Robert L. Thomas, Jr. was appointed to serve as Interim Pastor.
Then on February 29, 2004 by a unanimous vote, Rev. Robert L. Thomas Jr. was elected as Olivet’s seventh Pastor.
In the short time that God has been leading Pastor Thomas, Olivet has accomplished a number of significant milestones. Including, re-insuring the church, revitalized ministries, paying off all outstanding bills, renovating the fellowship hall kitchen and restroom plumbing, new church office furniture, new exterior lighting, replaced entry flooring and carpet, new sanctuary heater, new electrical meter for fellowship hall, new church sign, new ceramic tile in the fellowship hall, Pastor’s study and vestibule and additional parking surfaces adjacent to the church.
Olivet has weathered many storms. She has witnessed God accomplishing a mighty work in the lives of those that “Seek Him where He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6). Membership has dramatically increased, and ministries have been restored. The hearts and minds of the church have been encouraged to once again fervently serve on God’s program.
The Olivet church is leaning, depending and trusting on God’s Word. The prayer continues to be that God’s will be done.
“But it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the hearts of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Corinthians 2:9). With a promise so prophetic as this, the Olivet Missionary Baptist Church will never, ever be the same.
As our new church theme indicates we are “Prepared to Praise and Motivated to Minister”