Brief History of Immanuel Baptist Church
Immanuel Baptist Church has experienced remarkable growth and change during its thirty-five years of existence. Dr. Tom Neal arrived in Orange Park in 1980. The church, then know as Clay Baptist Temple, was located on three acres of property on busy Blanding Boulevard. The church property consisted of a small, brick auditorium, two mobile classroom units, and less than 100 members. Additional education and auditorium space were built on that location in 1984, and two additional acres of adjoining property was acquired in 1986.
Soon, it became evident that the church ministries would outgrow that property, and purchasing the adjacent property was impossible due to the explosion of retail businesses in that area. God miraculously provided nearly eleven beautiful acres of land and a comfortable church auditorium debt-free in 1988 when Clay Baptist Temple acquired Berean Baptist Church, located on Highway 17 in Fleming Island. On June 28, 1988, the church was incorporated as a non-profit corporation under the laws of the state of Florida.
Since that time, the church built an educational building to house the Sunday school ministry of the church and Berean Christian Academy. In 1996 a 30,000 square foot auditorium was completed to seat 1,100 people. Berean Baptist College was started in 1998, and nearly 5,000 square feet of dormitory and classroom facilities were erected. Due to the growth of church ministries, a 20,000 square foot gymnasium and classroom complex was completed to house the academy and to be used for additional Sunday school space.
Each year, hundreds of people were saved and baptized under the leadership of Dr. Neal. The church grew from just a handful of members to over 2,000 members in his thirty-two years of his service, and several ministries began based on a strong commitment to soulwinning. A faith promise missions program, bus ministry, music ministry, and youth program join other ministries in reaching families for Christ.
On January 6, 2013, called Transition Sunday, Dr. Tom Neal retired from the pastorate to begin Tom Neal Ministries to reach out to churches and pastors across America and around the world to stir the hearts of Christians toward revival. We were honored to have his son, Dr. Greg Neal, become our full-time pastor. He served as an assistant pastor for twelve years and was the co-pastor for four years. His great vision to see more people reached and lives changed in our community, as well as a great burden to help missionaries and see many people saved around the world has us excited about the next chapter in our church history.
On February 1, 2015, Berean Baptist Church merged with Immanuel Baptist Church in the Oakleaf/Argyle area of Jacksonville. The debt-free, thirty-four-acre property had a small auditorium building with an office wing. It has not taken long for more buildings to roll onto the property and get set up to use for Berean Christian Academy and Sunday school space. With a steel structure ready to be built for a new auditorium, the church is working hard to stay out of debt while moving forward with the building projects needed. We are excited about the many opportunities to reach more people in our community. Feel free to join us as we write this exciting chapter of our church history.